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Today's Climate

August 20, 2014

A $100 million fund launched on Tuesday aims to make people in disaster-prone regions of Asia and Africa better able to cope with natural disasters and crises, so that they can get their lives and economies back on track more quickly and effectively.
(Los Angeles Times)
Drought conditions may have leveled off across California, but nearly 100 percent of the state remains in the third-harshest category for dryness, according to the latest measurements. For the past two weeks, California's drought picture has remained the same, halting a steady march toward worse. But the breather has allowed the state to recover only ever so slightly.
Enbridge Inc. (ENB)'s pipeline to carry tar sands oil between Oklahoma and Illinois can proceed, a federal judge ruled, as companies expand their capacity to move petroleum in the U.S. "Because a private company is constructing the 589-mile pipeline on mostly privately owned land that is entirely within the territorial borders of the United States, no federal statute authorizes the federal government to oversee or regulate the construction project," U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in Washington said today in a written ruling.
(The Globe and Mail)
The Transportation Safety Board examined the complex series of events leading to last year's derailment in Lac-Mégantic that killed 47 people. The events included a faulty repair on the lead locomotive's engine, a lack of sufficient handbrakes, weak safety training for Montreal, Maine & Atlantic staff and a failure of federal oversight. Here's a timeline based on details in the 191-page report.
(The Hill)
The Coast Guard moved Tuesday toward increasing the maximum liability limits for oil spills that hit waterways and shorelines. The federal government is supposed to update the liability ceilings every three years to reflect changes in inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. The first increase came in 2010.
Anti-fracking protesters caused peaceful disruption at several locations on Monday, gluing themselves to the doors of a government department, occupying a building used by an energy firm and blockading access to a test drilling site.
(Detroit Free Press)
As other states ban landfills from accepting low-level radioactive waste, up to 36 tons of the sludge already rejected by two other states was slated to arrive in Michigan late last week.
(Houston Public Media)
The oil and gas industry added 10,500 new jobs over the second quarter, according to industry news service Rigzone. That’s a two-thirds increase over the same period in 2013. Between April and June, companies in the oil and gas sector added more than 4,000 new positions in Texas. That gave the Lone Star State a commanding lead in job creation for the industry. Louisiana came in second, with about 600 new oil and gas jobs. Alaska took third with 500.
(StateImpact Pennsylvania)
Drillers in Pennsylvania continue to produce record-breaking amounts of natural gas, according to new numbers released this week from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
(New York Times)
The threats from climate change are many: extreme weather, shrinking snowpack, altered ecosystems and rising and more acidic seas, to name a few. Another lesser-known issue may hit especially close to home for city dwellers. In the world's already smoggy metropolises, pollution is likely to grow worse, a phenomenon scientists have taken to calling the climate penalty.
(Los Angeles Daily News)
Respiratory illnesses, water quality, and mosquito- and rodent-related diseases will worsen across Los Angeles County in the next few decades because of climate change, according to two reports released Monday by public health officials. "Climate change is arguably the biggest health threat of this century," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
(Climate Central)
As the sea ice covering the Arctic continues to shrink under the influence of greenhouse gas-induced warming, it's causing a host of other changes in the region, including the growth of large waves in the previously iced-over areas. Those waves could potentially reinforce and hasten the demise of sea ice, leading to further changes in the fragile polar realm.

August 19, 2014

Man-made earthquakes, a side effect of some high-tech energy drilling, cause less shaking and in general are about 16 times weaker than natural earthquakes with the same magnitude, a new federal study found. People feeling the ground move from induced quakes - those that are not natural, but triggered by injections of wastewater deep underground- report significantly less shaking than those who experience more normal earthquakes of the same magnitude, according to a study by U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Susan Hough.
(CBC News)
The Transportation Safety Board is poised to release its findings from a year-long investigation into what caused the deadly train disaster that killed 47 people in July 2013. The TSB report and recommendations will be made public at 10:30 a.m. EST.
(Minnesota Public Radio)
The leader of a Native American environmental group is riding horseback across the state in protest of a proposed oil pipeline in northern Minnesota. Winona LaDuke plans to ride the proposed route of Enbridge's Sandpiper pipeline, which would carry crude oil across northern Minnesota from North Dakota to Superior, Wis.
(The Hill)
Musicians Neil Young and Willie Nelson are performing in a benefit concert to help raise money for groups fighting the Keystone XL pipeline.The concert, which will be on Sept. 27, will be held at a farm near Neligh, Neb., near the proposed route of the oil sands pipeline.
(National Journal)
Global average temperatures in July were the fourth warmest ever, based on records that go back to the late 1800s, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data released Monday. Average temperatures in May and June were both the hottest on record.
(StateImpact Pennsylvania)
The Pennsylvania Department of Health announced Monday it has updated its policies for handling complaints related to Marcellus Shale drilling. All those who file a complaint with the department's Bureau of Epidemiology will now receive a letter acknowledging their concerns and outlining the agency's findings.
(Washington Post)
Maryland's latest report on the impact of proposed natural gas exploration in the western part of the state said drilling could pose a threat to air quality and workers in a region that is ecologically pristine. But the report, presented to a state commission Monday, said the process called hydraulic fracturing would pose little threat of earthquakes, which were triggered recently in central Oklahoma by gas-drilling operations, according to researchers, and are of concern to environmentalists.
(News Observer)
Hundreds of residents will try to sway state officials for and against 100-plus proposed safety rules in the coming weeks as North Carolina gets set to lift the state's moratorium on fracking next year. With four upcoming public hearings across the state, the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission enters its final phase of rule-making, a culmination of two years of research, discussion and compromise. After public comments are analyzed, the fracking rules could be modified and will advance to the state legislature in January.
(The Globe and Mail)
The B.C. government has ordered independent investigations into the spill at the Mount Polley mine and at every other tailings pond in the province, saying the disaster has shaken public confidence and threatens to undermine other resource-sector projects as well.
The U.K. government is lobbying the European commission (EC) to keep open one of Europe's dirtiest coal power stations, even though its nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions exceed new legal limits by five times. The EC has begun infraction proceedings against the U.K. because its proposals for reducing emissions under new European laws have been littered with "inconsistent or missing" data.
(Fuel Fix)
The best way to protect the greater sage grouse while keeping drill bits turning in Western states is for environmentalists and oil companies to work together on safeguarding the bird's habitat, conservationists said Monday.

August 18, 2014

(Bloomberg BNA)
In stark contrast to their party's public stance on Capitol Hill, many Republicans privately acknowledge the scientific consensus that human activity is at least partially responsible for climate change and recognize the need to address the problem. However, they see little political benefit to speaking out on the issue, since congressional action is probably years away, according to former congressmen, former congressional aides and other sources.
(Fuel Fix)
The Obama administration is closer than ever to imposing the first minimum standards for oil and gas activity in U.S. Arctic waters, as Shell pursues permits that could allow it to resume drilling in the region next year. The Interior Department sent a draft of those Arctic regulations to the Office of Management and Budget on Friday, marking the launch of an interagency review process that typically spans months. The rule’s arrival at OMB was disclosed online by Sunday evening.
(The Globe and Mail)
About 200 kilometers before an ill-fated oil train was left idling on the main track near Lac-Mégantic, Que., Transport Canada conducted a routine inspection and allowed it to proceed. The train carried on through Quebec, carting 72 tank cars of crude bound for the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John.
Anti-fracking protesters have superglued themselves to the doors at the main entrance of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). A related protest is also underway at the offices of iGas, the U.K.'s biggest shale gas company, which has seen two entrances blockaded by campaigners.
Oil-sands mogul Murray Edwards is backing a C$100 million (U.S. $92 million) bond sale by Imperial Metals Corp. (III) that will help fund the cleanup of a mine-waste spill, the worst accident of its kind in Canada in 20 years. Edwards, Imperial's largest shareholder, agreed to buy C$40 million of the 6 percent, 6-year senior unsecured convertible debentures via Edco Capital Corp., a company he controls.
(Dow Jones Newswires)
Thousands of tank cars will probably be scrapped or redeployed as a result of recently proposed federal regulations to make cars hauling flammable liquids safer and sturdier. The loss of those cars could exacerbate the current shortage of rail cars needed to transport oil and extend the wait times for new cars beyond the current 2016 delivery dates.
(Minneapolis Star Tribune)
North Dakota added 2,578 miles of crude oil and natural gas pipelines in 2013, a 15 percent increase, but most of the state's oil is still shipped to market on trains, state officials said Friday. The newly built pipelines largely collect oil and gas from well fields, reducing the amount of local truck traffic and wasteful burning, or flaring, of gas at the wellhead, said Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.