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Today's Climate

October 20, 2014

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday from 11 Louisiana parishes that wanted to revive their lawsuits over wildlife damage from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill. A rupture of BP's Macondo well and the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers.
(Columbus Dispatch (sub. req'd))
About 40 percent of Ohio's natural treasures—its state parks, forests and wildlife and nature preserves—could be undermined in the quest to remove valuable coal, oil, natural gas and other minerals.
(Climate Central)
Burning crude oil as gasoline in vehicles is already one of the world's biggest sources of carbon dioxide emissions, and one of the United States' largest sources of crude oil is the Bakken shale in North Dakota. NASA satellite images showing bright lights in the Bakken fields illustrate a side effect of crude oil production there that is also problematic for the climate. All the light coming from those fields are thousands of flames burning off, or flaring, natural gas.
(StateImpact Pennsylvania)
A bill approved by the state House and Senate would change the way drillers report gas production figures. The measure now awaits Governor Corbett's signature. Under current state law, gas companies have to file reports twice a year with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). House Bill 2278 would require monthly production reports—a common practice among other major gas-producing states.
The deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has accelerated rapidly in the past two months, underscoring the shortcomings of the government's environmental policies. Satellite data indicates a 190 percent surge in land clearance in August and September compared with the same period last year as loggers and farmers exploit loopholes in regulations that are designed to protect the world's largest forest.
(E&E Publishing)
The Obama administration is pushing to make climate change a focal point as the United States becomes the new leader of the international Arctic Council, a move that is winning praise from environmentalists, even though it's unclear how it may translate into action. This week, senior Arctic officials from multiple countries will meet in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, to hear the United States present its agenda for its two-year chairmanship starting next year. The council is a forum for nations bordering on the Arctic.

October 19, 2014

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Three widely cited state studies of air emissions at Marcellus Shale gas development sites in Pennsylvania omit measurements of key air toxics and calculate the health risks of just two of more than two dozen pollutants. State regulators and the shale gas drilling industry over the past four years have repeatedly used the regional studies to support their positions that air emissions from drilling, fracking wastewater impoundments and compressor stations don't pose a public health risk.
(The Sydney Morning Herald)
Pressure for the nation's leading universities to join the Australian National University and dump investments in fossil fuels will continue to mount despite the condemnation of such moves by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey.
EU leaders are likely to agree a new decade of climate and energy policy next week despite the "legitimate concerns" of several nations, Europe's climate boss said on Thursday. European Union leaders have set themselves a deadline of the end of October to agree on green energy goals for 2030 to follow on from 2020 policy.
(New York Times)
The prospects for building new nuclear reactors may be sharply limited, but the owners of seven old ones, in Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina, are preparing to ask for permission to run them until they are 80 years old.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
India will start the process of auctioning more than 200 canceled coal-mining licenses in the next three months, a senior finance ministry official said Friday. "The coal blocks, which have been canceled, are being put to auction in the course of the next three months," Financial Services Secretary G.S. Sandhu told reporters.
India launched an index on Friday to measure air quality across the country, which is home to some of the most polluted cities in the world. It will measure eight major pollutants that impact respiratory health in cities with populations exceeding one million in the next five years and then gradually the rest of the country, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters. The Air Quality Index will warn residents when pollution levels shoot past dangerous levels.
(The Hill)
The Environmental Protection Agency moved to phase out chemicals that deplete the planet's ozone layer and exacerbate climate change.EPA chief Gina McCarthy signed a rule last night targeting hydrochloroflourocarbons (HCFCs), used in air conditioning and refrigeration equipment installed prior to 2010. 
(Living on Earth)
With crude prices sharply down and the future of the Keystone XL pipeline in doubt, energy companies are dubious about investing in oil from the Alberta Tar Sands.
The dustiest portion of my home library includes the 1980s books—about how Japan's economy would dominate the world. And then there are the 1990s books—about how the Y2K computer glitch would end the modern era.
Land in the Permian Basin, the busiest shale patch in the U.S. oil boom, is worth either $1,000 an acre or 50 times more, depending. On Sept. 29, Calgary-based driller Encana Corp. (ECA) announced plans to buy a company that owns a West Texas prospect for $7.1 billion, or about $50,000 an acre. One day later, Tokyo-based Sumitomo Corp. estimated its land in the same region was worth a fraction of that price when it took a $1.55 billion writedown on its investment.
(Texas Tribune)
Susan Combs, the state comptroller, stirred controversy last month when she said Texas' growing wind energy industry should "stand on its own two feet." "Billions of dollars of tax credits and property tax limitations on new generation helped grow the industry, but today they give it an unfair market advantage over other power sources," said Combs, a Republican, upon the release of a study meant to illustrate how energy policy affects Texans' wallets.
(Tampa Bay Times)
In January, Gov. Rick Scott stood in front of a room full of Department of Environmental Protection employees and praised their hard work. One accomplishment Scott singled out: making it easier than ever to obtain a permit for filling in wetlands, pumping water out of the aquifer or pouring pollutants into the water and air.

October 16, 2014

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has corrected a controversial claim that small amounts of global warming could have overall positive economic impacts, after I pointed out that it was based on inaccurate information.
Sweden has called on the European Union to adopt a greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 50 percent by 2030s, 10 percentage points higher than current proposals.
A group of Pacific Islanders joined an environmental protest blockading the Newcastle coal port on Friday, disrupting shipping traffic by paddling canoes across the harbour mouth. Members of the Pacific Climate Warriors action group traveled from nations including the Marshall Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tokelau, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea to draw attention to the effects of climate change on their island nations, and to protest Australia's continuing commitment to coal.
(Washington Examiner)
The proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site in Nevada could safely store spent fuel long after its doors close, federal nuclear regulators said. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission determined that Yucca "meets the requirements" for long-term storage.
New York's highest court has rejected an attempt by the oil and gas industry to revive its fight against local fracking bans. In a precedent-setting decision last June, the Court of Appeals ruled that communities have the right to use local land-use authority to prohibit oil and gas operations within their borders. On Thursday, the court denied a motion by the trustee for bankrupt Norse Energy to reargue its case against the town of Dryden.
(Toronto Star)
October is not typically the month for avalanches in Nepal. It is also not the time for blizzards. The fall month usually means clear skies and sunshine in the Himalayan country when thousands of foreigners climb its tall mountains. Hikers were doing exactly that earlier this week when an avalanche and blizzard struck, killing at least 26 people, including four Canadians.
Climate change has shrunk Peruvian glaciers by 40 percent in the past four decades and the melt-off has spawned nearly 1,000 new high-altitude lakes since 1980, Peru's government said on Wednesday. Nearly 90 percent of Peruvian glaciers are smaller than 1-square-kilometer, putting them at greater risk of disappearing in coming years, Peru's water authority said in an update of its glacier inventory from the 1970s.
(New York Times)
Amid the calls to capture carbon to save the climate, a Texas company is preparing to do that job for profit. At Capitol Aggregates, a cement plant near San Antonio, the Skyonic Corporation of Austin, plans to open a $125 million factory next week that will make industrial chemicals.
(Fuel Fix)
A subsidiary of Houston-based ATP Oil & Gas will pay a $1 million fine to settle government charges alleging it illegally dumped oil and chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico. Under the settlement agreement reached between ATP Infrastructure Partners LP and the United States, the company will also be forced to remove a pipe from its Innovator platform that the government says allowed the firm to inject chemical dispersants into the water and mask illegally discharged oil.
(Midwest Energy News)
A full rainbow arched over the Calumet River on a bleak day in late September, lending a hint of beauty to the massive abandoned grain elevator, the ramshackle warehouses and the lines of barges moored by the Illinois International Port. Some of the barges were covered, but at least nine of them were uncovered and piled high with a powdery black material that appeared to be petroleum coke, or petcoke, the byproduct of oil refining that has sparked a grassroots uprising and political debate in Chicago.
Oil traders might see the 27 percent slide in global prices as a bear market. For U.S. consumers, it's more like an early holiday gift. The drop in crude has pulled retail gasoline down more than 50 cents a gallon from the year's high in April. That means annual savings of $500 for the average U.S. household, which consumes about 1,000 gallons of fuel a year, according to data from the Federal Highway Administration and Energy Information Administration.
(CNBC Africa)
Fracking could be the 100 billion U.S. dollar energy game changer that Africa needs at the risk of destroying the Karoo. It's has sparked conflict before a drill has touched the earth.