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Today's Climate

September 17, 2014

(Los Angeles Times)
A week before world leaders will discuss how to slow the increase of dangerous gases in the atmosphere, the Obama administration announced that it has reached agreements with a range of major companies to voluntarily phase out a class of chemicals, used in refrigerators and air conditioners, and seen as contributors to global warming.
(Huffington Post)
Wildfires may cost the U.S. as much as $62.5 billion a year by 2050 as the effects of climate change worsen, argues an economic analysis released Tuesday. Wildfires cost the U.S. government $1.7 billion in 2013, but that figure only includes firefighting. It doesn't take into account the loss of private property or timber, the loss of the ecosystem benefits forests provide, or the cost for rehabilitating burned forests.
(Reuters)
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a package of bills on Tuesday to regulate California's stressed groundwater supplies amid a drought that is expected to cost the state $2.2 billion in lost crops, jobs and other damages, with no end in sight. The bills will allow the state to take over management of underground aquifers and water accessed via wells, and aim to tighten oversight of water at a time when groundwater levels are shrinking in the third year of a catastrophic drought.
(The Hill)
Four senators introduced a bill Tuesday that would set a time limit on the government's consideration of cross-border oil pipelines like Keystone XL and remove the president's role in the process. The senators said the bill came from their frustrations over President Obama's consideration of Keystone, whose developer applied for a permit almost six years ago.
(Fuel Fix)
Seeking to shave its liability for polluting the Gulf of Mexico in the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, BP asked the Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday to grant a favorable interpretation of an insurance policy. For the company, which has already spent $28 billion on cleanup and could face $18 billion more in penalties, the financial stakes represent little more than a rounding error. As the operator of the Macondo Well, it is seeking access to $750 million in insurance coverage purchased by the rig owner, Transocean.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
It's the heaviest polluter in the dirtiest city in China. Jizhong Energy Resources Co. operates six large coal mines and dozens of related facilities in this gray industrial center, which government data show has the worst air quality of any Chinese town. Five of the facilities are on a national list of top air polluters, and eight are on the Xingtai government's list, more than any other company here.
(Washington Post)
By the end of this century, as sea levels rise, as much as $7 billion worth of property in the District will routinely be threatened by storm-driven floodwaters, according to a new analysis, including 1,000 homes, three military bases and a broad swath of the Mall. With tides on the Atlantic Coast generally forecast to rise two to four feet by 2100, the nation's capital faces increasing odds that a big storm will blow up the Potomac River and raise local waters by at least eight feet, the analysis says—roughly a foot higher than the damaging floods that accompanied Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
(Guardian)
Rising sea levels are a "sleeping giant" issue that will put at risk coastal infrastructure worth up to $226 billion, a new report has found. Analysis by the Climate Council found Australia was likely to experience a sea level rise of 0.4m to 1m by the end of the century, with a "high end" scenario of 1.1m possible if the world warmed by about 4C compared with pre-industrial temperatures.
(AFP)
The Netherlands on Tuesday unveiled a multi-billion-euro, multi-decade plan to counter the biggest environmental threat to the low-lying European nation: surging seawater caused by global climate change. The project, expected to span 30 years and cost 20 billion euros ($25 billion), will see new sea barriers built and existing dykes strengthened in the country, much of which lies below sea-level.
(The Hill)
The Obama administration on Tuesday added more time to the clock for the public to comment on the president's signature climate rule on existing power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency's head of the Air and Radiation Office, Janet McCabe, said the agency would extend the comment period another 45 days.
(AP)
Leonardo DiCaprio's movie roles have made him an international star, but his long and little-known commitment to preserving the global environment has led to his new role—as a U.N. Messenger of Peace. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on Tuesday that the 39-year-old American actor will join 11 other prominent world figures who advocate on behalf of the U.N. as Messengers of Peace including Stevie Wonder, Michael Douglas, George Clooney, Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, primatologist Jane Goodall and conductor Daniel Barenboim.
(Bloomberg)
Mineral owners left out of the energy boom in Colorado and other states are mobilizing to fight local fracking bans they say are depriving them of billions of dollars in oil and natural-gas royalties. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper repeatedly invoked the rights of his state's 630,000 royalty holders to head off ballot measures that would have given local governments more control over energy drilling. Now owners of royalty interests are going public, organizing in an effort to exploit deposits that cities and counties have blocked them from developing.
(Houston Chronicle (sub. req'd))
On a cold January morning, Daniel Zambrano drove a company van with six co-workers from an isolated fracking site along Texas 72 in the Eagle Ford Shale, blasting the heat as he headed for a nearby hotel.
(The Canadian Press)
An Alberta woman has lost her appeal to sue the province's energy regulator over hydraulic fracturing on her property. Jessica Ernst launched a $33-million lawsuit against the Alberta government, the province's energy regulator and energy company Encana (TSX:ECA).

September 16, 2014

(New York Times)
A study of tainted drinking water in areas where natural gas is produced from shale shows that the contamination is most likely caused by leaky wells rather than the process of hydraulic fracturing used to release the gas from the rock. The study looked at seven cases in Pennsylvania and one in Texas where water wells had been contaminated by methane and other hydrocarbon gases. Both states have extensive deposits of gas-bearing shale that have been exploited in recent years as part of a surge in domestic energy production.
(The Hill)
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) increased the amount of coal-fired power plants that it estimates will be retired by 2025. The GAO, which serves as a watchdog for Congress, said Monday that the most current data points to 13 percent of 2012's coal-fueled electric generating capacity being retired by 2025, due to environmental regulations, increase competition from falling natural gas prices and decreasing demand for electricity.
(The Globe and Mail)
No matter how hard Imperial Metals works to clean up the Mount Polley disaster, B.C. salmon will be exposed to pollutants.
(AP)
The operator of the long-delayed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline on Monday formally asked South Dakota's utility regulators to recertify the portion of the project that runs through the state. The Public Utilities Commission must recertify that the conditions for construction of that portion of the pipeline haven't changed since the permits were first issued in 2010. State rules dictate permits must be reapproved if the construction of the project does not start within four years of their issuance.
(The Nation)
If it wasn't for the cannons, the pond might be a tranquil sight: its rippling surface reflects the blue of the sky, diffusing the harsh midday light. But the cannons fire sporadically, a warning to migrating ducks not to land in this toxic soup of arsenic, mercury and carcinogenic hydrocarbons—1,600 ducks died after landing in one of these tailings ponds in 2008.
(Rolling Stone)
As the sun rises in mid-july over andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C., Secretary of State John Kerry climbs quickly—he's positively bouncing—up the carpeted stairs of his blue-and-white government­issue 757. Kerry is heading to Beijing to talk with Chinese leaders about, among other things, one of President Obama's top priorities in the waning days of his second term: the urgent need to reduce carbon pollution and limit the damage from climate change.
(Climate Central)
While this summer may have felt like fall across much of the eastern half of the U.S., worldwide the overall picture was a warm one. This August was the warmest August on record globally, according to newly released NASA temperature data, while the summer tied for the fourth warmest.
(Los Angeles Times)
ficials plan to send a damage assessment team to the Northern California community of Weed on Tuesday, where a wildfire destroyed or severely damaged more than 100 buildings, including a church and the town sawmill. More than 1,500 residents were evacuated to the Siskiyou County fairgrounds as the Boles fire, last reported at 350 acres, tore through the town.
(Press Association)
The government has been given the "red card" for its efforts to cut air pollution, protect wildlife and prevent flooding, by a committee of MPs. The Environmental audit committee (EAC) has assessed 10 areas of environmental policy under the coalition, which David Cameron promised would be the "greenest government ever."
(NPR)
An oil drilling boom that has made the U.S. the world's leading oil and petroleum product producer has some people urging an end to the four-decade ban on exporting domestic crude. Some in the oil industry are launching a campaign to lift the ban and they hope to win over a skeptical public.
(Reuters)
The deep injection of wastewater underground by energy companies during methane gas extraction has caused a dramatic rise in the number of earthquakes in Colorado and New Mexico since 2001, U.S. government scientists said in a study released on Monday. The study by U.S. Geological Survey researchers is the latest to link energy production methods to an increase in quakes in regions where those techniques are used.
(Citizen Times)
North Carolina's new regulations for disposing of coal ash leave Duke Energy with two options at its Lake Julian plant – make fundamental and costly changes or stop burning coal altogether. The legislation says Duke must stop using water to sluice away ash from coal turbines at the Lake Julian plant no later than the end of 2018. The utility could either shutter the coal turbines or convert to a "dry ash" disposal process, a switch that would require investing millions of dollars.

September 15, 2014

(The Hill)
Democratic voters are nearly twice as like as Republicans to say the environment is "very important" in this year’s midterm elections, a new poll has found. Sixty-nine percect of Democrats said the environment was very important, making it the third most important issue for them behind healthcare, at 80 percent, and economic inequality, at 70 percent, the Pew Research Center said Friday.
(Reuters)
Hundreds of firefighters spent a second day on Saturday battling a wildfire burning out of control in a national forest southeast of Los Angeles, as the region baked under triple-digit temperatures that prompted authorities to issue a "heat alert." The so-called Silverado Fire, which broke out in the Cleveland National Forest on Friday morning, had charred some 1,600 acres (647 hectares) by Saturday afternoon as it burned through brush and chaparral left bone dry by California's record drought.
(The Globe and Mail)
Plans by Enbridge, a Canadian pipeline company, to increase the flow of Alberta oil sands crude into the United States while—in the view of opponents—avoiding the presidential permitting process, have enraged environmentalists seeking to block development of Canada's vast reserves. Opponents to the Enbridge plan are threatening legal action and demanding the U.S. State Department reverse the green light given Enbridge.
(Guardian)
Heavily-polluting industries are in line for a €5bn (£4bn) handout from Europe's taxpayers because of the way the EU is measuring their exposure to unregulated competitors outside the bloc, according to an unpublished report prepared for the European commission. Steel-making, cement and power plants have their greenhouse gas emissions capped by the emissions trading system (ETS), putting a price on carbon to encourage companies to cut emissions by trading allowances.