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Today's Climate

March 12, 2014

(Globe and Mail)
To anyone else, it might look like just another piece of moose pasture in the Canadian backwoods. But to a Chinese investor, that untouched forest might look like a way to skirt strict regulations on foreign investment in the Canadian energy sector, particularly by state-owned firms. The rules, established in December, 2012, alongside the $15.1-billion (U.S.) CNOOC Ltd. purchase of Nexen Inc., were followed by a distinct slowing in the flow of foreign money into the Canadian resource sector. In legal circles, they were also followed by a quest to figure out how outside dollars might best flow into Canada.
(Houston Chronicle)
The southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline has drained oil supplies at the Cushing, Okla. hub to their lowest levels in more than two years, according to a federal report released Tuesday. The crude supply at the major U.S. hub fell to 32.1 million barrels at the end of February, down 8 percent from the week before and the lowest mark since November 2011, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
(Washington Post)
As you slept Monday night, Democratic Senators talked and talked (and talked) about climate change. The theatrics have very little to do with the chances of passing climate legislation this year—the chances of that are roughly zero percent—but do tell us something about how Democrats are pivoting to make climate change a bigger campaign issue in 2014 and, especially, 2016.
This week's meeting is aimed at developing a framework for a 2015 treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but talks this morning were marred by fierce exchanges between diplomats. The Chinese delegation said an EU proposal to cut greenhouse gases 40% by 2030 was "ten years too late" to avoid dangerous levels of climate change, demanding the block increased efforts by 2020.
(StateImpact Pennsylvania)
The state House Environmental Resources and Energy committee is weighing a proposal to restrict natural gas companies from withholding royalty money from Pennsylvania landowners. A 1979 state law requires oil and gas companies to pay a minimum 12.5 percent royalty to landowners who lease their property for drilling.
(Think Progress)
If there's one thing January's massive chemical spill in West Virginia taught Jeremy Richardson, it's this: no matter what his power bill says every month, coal is "not cheap." "This was a chemical used to process coal," said Richardson, senior energy analyst and West Virginia specialist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "It really points to the need to not have all of our economic activity reliant on just one or two things."
(Scientific American)
Ukraine is on its own, not least when it comes to energy—and that crimps the country's ability to respond to Russia's land grab in the Crimean peninsula. Ukraine relies on Russia for roughly two thirds of its natural gas supplies, suggesting that the current geopolitical impasse will likely continue to fall in Russia's favor.
In the time since the meltdown at Fukushima's nuclear plant, there have been other mishaps. A recent tour of the reactor reveals that the facility's dogged by both technical problems and labor issues.

March 11, 2014

(Huffington Post)
Senators planning to stay up all night Monday talking about climate change say the marathon session is the "opening salvo" in a renewed effort to pass legislation curbing greenhouse gas emissions. "We have a simple message for all Americans: We're not going to rest until Congress acts on the most pressing issue of our time," said Sen. Brian Schatz, a freshman Democrat from Hawaii, who organized the all-nighter on the Senate floor.
Wealthy Democratic environmentalists are considering withholding support for a 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential bid unless she reassures them about their top priority: Killing the Keystone XL pipeline. "She's kind of a closed book on the environment," said Guy Saperstein, an Oakland-based venture capitalist and former president of the San Francisco-based Sierra Club Foundation. "I, for one, would not support her until she gives us more information."
(NBC News)
In the tense days after a powerful earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan on March 11, 2011, staff at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission made a concerted effort to play down the risk of earthquakes and tsunamis to America's aging nuclear plants, according to thousands of internal emails reviewed by NBC News.
(Wall Street Journal)
It isn't just a radical fringe of Americans who worry about the environment—and energy executives finally seem to have noticed. A couple of years ago at the energy industry's massive annual gathering, IHS CERAWeek in Houston, the people who pull oil and natural gas out of the ground were largely dismissive of the public's concerns about hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, said Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.
(Climate Central)
Oil refineries and drilling platforms in the U.S. are vulnerable to sea level rise and greater storm surge. Fuel pipelines, barges, railways and storage tanks are vulnerable to melting permafrost and severe weather. Warming seas and water shortages put nuclear and other electric power plants at risk. Power lines can be blown away by hurricanes and other extreme weather. In other words, all the infrastructure Americans rely on to heat their homes, power their lights and fuel their trains, trucks and cars is becoming more and more exposed to failure in a changing climate.
(National Journal)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez is finally making good on his long-standing pledge to hold a hearing on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The committee will hear Thursday from pipeline opponents and boosters at a hearing on the project and the State Department's ongoing review to determine whether approving it would be in the "national interest."
(Globe and Mail)
An influential liberal think tank is urging President Barack Obama to reject TransCanada Corp.'s plan to build the Keystone XL pipeline, dismissing the State Department's conclusion that the project won't lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands. In a comment submitted to the department released Monday, the Center for American Progress (CAP) challenged the assumption that the project would have little impact on the amount of future investment or production from Alberta's carbon-intensive oil sector, noting that the Canadian government and many independent analysts have said all proposed pipelines are needed to get the anticipated volume of crude to market.
Duke Energy faces a $1 billion price tag to clean its coal ash waste pits in North Carolina after the company leaked around 35 million gallons of toxic coal slurry into the Dan River last month. Who will pay the bill? Customers, says Duke's CEO. Duke, the largest supplier of electricity in the United States, was ordered by a judge late last week to address groundwater contamination at its 33 coal ash storage lagoons at 14 sites across North Carolina.
(Columbus Dispatch)
State officials shut down a fracking operation in northeastern Ohio today after two earthquakes were felt in Mahoning County. Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials say the order was a precaution and that the temblors—felt in Poland Township and the village of Lowellville near the Pennsylvania border — were not related to area waste-injection wells, one of which was tied to earthquakes near Youngstown in 2011.
Thirteen years after the United Nations set up the first carbon emissions market, the global trading system's influence is waning as it gives way to local and regional plans to combat climate change. Fewer markets are accepting UN Certified Emissions Reductions, credits created from investment in carbon-reduction programs, as nations from China to California adopt their own standards.
(New York Times)
When the temperature here dropped into the teens this winter, ice formed on the inside of Ernestine J. Cundiff's windows in the drafty 50-year-old apartment building where she lives. At 81, with diabetes, poor circulation in her legs and both shoulders damaged in separate falls last year, Ms. Cundiff said wearing leggings and fur-lined slippers was not enough to keep her warm, so she took to using an electric space heater in her bedroom.
Some of the smallest children in Koriyama, a short drive from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, barely know what it's like to play outside - fear of radiation has kept them indoors for much of their short lives. Though the strict safety limits for outdoor activity set after multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in 2011 have now been eased, parental worries and ingrained habit mean many children still stay inside.

March 10, 2014

The Utah Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday morning over the hotly contentious issue of whether a proposed oil sands mine in eastern Utah will harm ground and surface water. In one corner, attorneys for the mining operation and the state Division of Water Quality argue that the proposed PR Spring Mine by U.S. Oil Sands will have no impact on surface or groundwater because too little exists in the region.
Environmentalists are praising Secretary of State John Kerry in hopes of burying, figuratively speaking, the Keystone XL pipeline. Bill Burton, a former press secretary to President Barack Obama who is helping a coalition of environmental groups opposed to the project, calls Kerry, "one of the great climate leaders of his generation."
(The Hill)
At least 28 Senate Democrats are pulling an all-nighter on Monday to wake up "stubborn" climate change deniers in Congress.  With substantial climate change legislation all but dead in Congress, the senators involved in Monday's climate-fest just want to get to a point where lawmakers can agree that climate change is a scientific fact.
The vast majority of Chinese cities monitored for pollution fail to meet Beijing-set standards, China's vice-minister of environmental protection says. China is mulling declaring "war" on the pollution resulting from the country's rapid economic growth. Seventy-one out of 74 cities monitored in China over 2013 did not meet state environmental standards with various degrees of problems, vice-minister of the Chinese Environmental Protection Ministry, Wu Xiaoqing, has announced.
(The Daily Climate)
Work boots towered above Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott as he moved down rows of shelving at Justin Boots' distribution center in Fort Worth.  The campaign ad promised a "new era of economic opportunity." And the staunchly conservative gubernatorial candidate used the setting to make his message clear: Abbott is the one to protect Texas' record-breaking oil boom that suddenly has the state producing more oil than Iran.
(Los Angeles Times)
Anti-fracking advocates repeatedly interrupted Gov. Jerry Brown's speech at the California Democratic Convention in Los Angeles on Saturday, chanting and waving signs as he gave his first major speech since declaring his intention to run for reelection. Chanting "No fracking!" and waving signs that said "Another Democrat Against Fracking," scores of protesters repeatedly drowned out Brown as he tried to deliver a speech arguing that California has prospered while politicians in Washington, D.C., have fiddled.
(National Journal)
Communities across the country seeing a glut of trains carrying crude from America's booming oil fields could feel left behind by a new government and industry push to improve safety on the rails. The Transportation Department and the American Association of Railroads, a group representing major North American freight carriers, released a list last month of 46 urban areas where trains with oil-tank cars will be required to slow down by July 1, if not before.
The drive to weaken Vladimir Putin though natural gas exports is meeting a green backlash. Environmentalists and their congressional allies scoffed Thursday at a mounting campaign on the Hill to hasten U.S. gas exports, saying there's no reason to think gas shipments would weaken Russia's leverage over Europe’s energy supply. But exporting American shale gas could drive up prices for consumers and manufacturers at home, they warned, while encouraging the spread of fracking and lessening incentives for power companies to abandon coal-fired power.
The polar vortex may give new life to aging coal and nuclear power plants in the U.S. Masses of arctic air rolling down from the North Pole have driven electricity prices to more than 10 times last year's average in many parts of the country and have threatened some cities with winter blackouts.
(Denver Post)
The U.S. and Colorado have lost millions of dollars on public-land coal leases because the Bureau of Land Management sold them at below-market value, according to government audits. The BLM Colorado office failed to properly value lease parcels, sold parcels for the minimum price allowed and underestimated the amount of coal in leases, the reports said.