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Today's Climate

March 17, 2014

(Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Leon Rogers has lived next to crude oil pipelines for years. He's had enough. With four pipelines already buried beneath his farmland and a fifth one planned next to his house, Rogers and many of his neighbors are no longer ambivalent about the river of oil flowing through this region of forests, lakes and rivers.
For the past few years, frac sand mines in the Midwest have been popping up right alongside hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Frac sand is sold to oil and gas companies to use to prop open cracks made by drilling. It allows the collection of oil and gas. But as Kristofor Husted reports, an uproar of opposition based on health concerns is spreading down through the region into Missouri.
(Climate Central)
Stability in the rapidly changing Arctic is a rarity. Yet for years researchers believed the glaciers in the frigid northeast section of Greenland, which connect to the interior of the country's massive ice sheet, were resilient to the effects of climate change that have affected so much of the Arctic. But new data published Sunday in Nature Climate Change reveals that over the past decade, the region has started rapidly losing ice due to a rise in air and ocean temperatures caused in part by climate change.
Lawyers for the Arctic 30, a group of Greenpeace activists and freelance journalists who were detained in Russia last year, have applied to the European court of human rights for damages from Moscow. They are also seeking a declaration Russian authorities broke international and Russian law when they seized a Greenpeace ship and arrested the group protesting against oil drilling in the Arctic.
(New York Times)
Across the parched American West, the long drought has set off a series of fierce legal and political battles over who controls an increasingly dear treasure—water. Just outside this minuscule farm town, Frank DeStefano was feeding a 500-acre cotton crop with water from the Brazos River 16 months ago when state regulators told him and hundreds of others on the river to shut down their pumps.
Hundreds of police will monitor traffic in Paris on Monday after pollution levels prompted the French government to impose major restrictions. Only motorists whose cars have odd-numbered registration plates will be allowed to drive.

March 14, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama and EU leaders meeting in Brussels this month will throw their combined weight behind tackling climate change, a document seen by Reuters says, in a show of developed world solidarity on the need for a new global deal. But the guarded, diplomatic language is likely to disappoint environmentalists calling for urgent, ambitious pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
(Huffington Post)
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing Thursday to consider whether approval of Keystone XL, the proposed 1,660-mile pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Texas, is in the national interest of the United States. The State Department released its final environmental impact statement on Keystone in January, moving the decision on the pipeline into the hands of Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama.
(ProPublica, The Daily Beast)
At the end of 2011, Chesapeake Energy, one of the nation's biggest oil and gas companies, was teetering on the brink of failure. Its legendary chief executive officer, Aubrey McClendon, was being pilloried for questionable deals, its stock price was getting hammered and the company needed to raise billions of dollars quickly.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
A major snarl in railroad traffic is ricocheting through the supply chains of businesses across the U.S., causing delays and losses for shippers of goods ranging from coal to sugar. Many of the problems stem from pileups at BNSF Railway Co. in a critical northern stretch of the country where it is shipping crude oil from North Dakota's booming Bakken Shale region.
(Climate Central)
Carbon dioxide emissions are causing the climate to change and those changes come with a real cost. The big questions are what's the price tag for that "social" cost and when does it gets paid? According the a new report, current best estimates could actually be on the low end thanks to "unknown unknowns."
(Columbus Dispatch)
Geologists say there were 12 earthquakes near an active fracking well in northeastern Ohio—four last week and eight this week. The earthquakes all have similar wavelengths, said Won Young-Kim, a senior scientist who runs a regional earthquake monitoring network at Columbia University in New York.
Internal emails between staff at North Carolina's environmental agency show state regulators were coordinating with Duke Energy before intervening in efforts by citizens groups trying to sue the company over pollution leeching from its coal ash dumps.
(Rolling Stone)
Sharon Satterfield, a grandmother of six in Charleston, West Virginia, doesn't touch the water. "It's still not all right," she says, standing in her son's modest ranch-style house, almost two months after a toxic chemical spill shut down the drinking water supply of 300,000 residents in and around the state capitol—one of the largest incidents of drinking water contamination in U.S. history.
(Globe and Mail)
PetroChina Co. Ltd. is close to securing government approval for a northern Alberta oil sands project, though a dispute with a native community that dragged the process out for months shows how the industry faces increasingly tough hurdles for new developments.
(Vermont Public Radio)
At several town meetings held this past week in New Hampshire, voters weighed in on non-binding resolutions opposing the flow of tar sands oil through their communities. But the town of Lancaster, on the Vermont border, sent a resounding message of support for a pipeline company some worry will carry tar sands oil from Canada to Maine.
As oil production goes, Florida isn't much of a player. The state produced less than 2 million barrels last year, which is how much oil Texas pumps from its wells each day. That's about to change as the revolution in oil drilling technology comes to Florida.
The U.K. should designate "frack-free zones" to protect the countryside from shale gas extraction because of the risk of polluting rivers and fragmenting many of Britain's most valuable wildlife sites, according to a major study conducted for six countryside groups.

March 13, 2014

(Huffington Post)
The contractor that evaluated greenhouse gas emissions for the State Department's Keystone XL report is the latest company to come under fire for its ties to TransCanada, the prospective builder of the controversial pipeline. A conflict-of-interest statement from the consulting firm ICF International, submitted to the State Department in 2012, reveals that the company had done other work for TransCanada.
(The Canadian Press)
The Saskatchewan legislature has passed a motion supporting construction of the Northern Gateway pipeline, but the vote was not unanimous. The motion says there is an oil transportation bottleneck that is driving down the value of Saskatchewan oil. Premier Brad Wall says the pipeline may not carry Saskatchewan oil, but he claims it will benefit the province by helping to clear up the bottleneck.
(The Star-Ledger)
As the top executives plan to exit the agency charged with protecting the Delaware River, environmentalists and Rep. Rush Holt have called on it to seize the moment and permanently ban fracking in the river's basin. Since 2010, the Delaware River Basin Commission has had a temporary moratorium on fracking, the practice of natural-gas drilling, which involves injecting massive amounts of water, sand and chemicals deep underground, creating explosions and releasing gas.
(Houston Chronicle)
A plan to accelerate U.S. natural gas exports in response to Russia's invasion of Crimea failed in the Senate on Wednesday, amid criticism that it could derail a Ukraine aid package. But Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., vowed he would keep fighting for his proposal to ease restrictions on exporting natural gas to members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, during Senate debate on the broad Ukraine assistance package.
(Washington Post)
When public comment period on the Keystone XL pipeline ended Friday, opponents of the project could declare victory, since they gathered a little more than 2 million comments on their side compared to the roughly 1 million in support of the proposal. But there's a wrinkle to the slew of comments that the State Department received as it solicited public input on whether the pipeline—which would ship heavy crude from Canada to oil refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast—would serve the national interest: close to half of the comments in opposition came from people outside the United States.
(Wall Street Journal)
Leaders of the nation's building trades unions might feel like it is Groundhog Day. On Tuesday, they gathered yet again to urge President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline—this time suggesting there could be consequences for Democrats in the November elections.
Russia is considering a domestic carbon market to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and may start providing poorer nations with cash to cope with global warming, according to the country's climate negotiator. "We would like to elaborate our domestic market and eventually make it link into other markets," Oleg Shamanov said in an interview today in Bonn, where United Nations-led climate talks are being held this week.
Published in the journal Nature Climate Change, it suggests that calculations of how sensitive the climate is to levels of carbon dioxide did not account for the cooling effect of airborne particles. Since 1998, the rate of warming has been only 0.09 F (0.05 C) per decade, down from 0.22 Fahrenheit (0.12 Celsius) since 1951, leading many to question whether climate change was a serious concern.
(Edmonton Journal)
Critics say they're worried about the direction of Alberta's massive overhaul of school curriculum after it was revealed Tuesday major oil companies are being consulted on changes. A document posted to the Alberta Education website indicates companies such as Syncrude Canada, Cenovus Energy and Suncor Energy are included among partners "in helping draft Alberta's future curriculum for our students" from kindergarten to Grade 12.
The massive block of steel towers and pipes rises out of the morning fog like a sci-fi fantasy. But this coal-fired power plant could help save the climate, or at least that's the hope of the Obama administration. The plant in east-central Mississippi was repeatedly invoked by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to justify sweeping new climate change rules. When it comes online later this year, Kemper will be the first power plant in the U.S. capable of capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions.
Links and documents about climate change have recently disappeared from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources website. As recently as Jan. 21, information about climate change was available on the front page of the Division of Air Quality's website. Sometime in the last two months, the page was edited to remove the link.
(Men's Journal)
Tom Steyer is the kind of all-American overachiever who seems to exist only on paper: number one in his graduating class at Phillips Exeter Academy, summa cum laude and captain of the soccer team at Yale, a Stanford MBA who became a superstar at Goldman Sachs and then went on to create the world's fourth-largest hedge fund, turning $8 million into $30 billion in about 20 years. His personal fortune is estimated at $1.5 billion.