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Today's Climate

September 11, 2014

(USA Today)
The iconic pine and aspen forests of the Rocky Mountains are dying off at an alarming rate thanks to conditions exacerbated by climate change—drought, insect infestations and wildfires—a new report says. Colorado alone could lose 45 percent of its aspen stands over the next 45 years, says the report released Thursday by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization. Pine bark beetles alone have killed 46 million acres of trees across the west, an area nearly the size of Colorado.

September 10, 2014

U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres says the absence of the Chinese and Indian leaders from a U.N. climate summit on September 23 will not affect its credibility or outcomes.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
A group of Canadian oil sands producers, including some of the world's biggest energy companies, is prepared to commit to specific environmental impact reduction targets later this month.
(Agence France-Presse)
Japan's nuclear watchdog has given the green light for two reactors to restart but the operator still has to persuade local communities they are safe. Widespread anti-nuclear sentiment has simmered in Japan ever since an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 caused meltdowns at the Fukushima power plant, sparking the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl.
(The Hill)
The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Obama administration on Tuesday to release documents surrounding the controversial Keystone XL pipeline The green group filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and State Department for documents containing information on impact the $5.4 billion project would have on migratory birds and endangered species.
(The Globe and Mail)
After a summer of protests aimed at mining companies, members of the Tahltan Nation in northern B.C. say they have shut down an exploratory drilling operation by taking over the site. "HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!!!!" states a Monday night posting on the Facebook page for Tahltan elders. "The Klabona Keeper members are occupying a black hawk drill pad above Ealue Lake!!!"
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Pennsylvania regulators found an array of contaminants in the roughly 240 private water supplies they said were damaged by oil and gas operations during the past seven years. Most were the usual culprits: methane, metals and salt that had apparently seeped from well sites or been stirred up by the activity of extracting fossil fuels from the earth.
(USA Today)
People living near natural-gas wells were more than twice as likely to report upper-respiratory and skin problems than those farther away, says a major study Wednesday on the potential health effects of fracking. Nearly two of every five, or 39 percent, of those living less than a kilometer (or two-thirds of a mile) from a well reported upper respiratory symptoms, compared to 18 percent living more than 2 kilometers away, according to a Yale University-led random survey of 492 people in 180 households with ground-fed water wells in southwestern Pennsylvania.
It's been about two months since the Denton City Council agreed to let voters decide whether to ban fracking. At that time, a moratorium on new drilling permits was in place—a moratorium that was scheduled to expire on Tuesday.
(Columbus Dispatch)
No one is fracking in Columbus, and no one is injecting fracking wastewater into the ground here. But some grass-roots environmental activists are taking no chances.
(E&E Publishing)
The elusive dream of commercial carbon capture and storage may finally be moving closer to reality, in part thanks to the nation's crude oil boom. NRG Energy Inc. and its partner JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp. broke ground Friday on a project here that both companies believe will be one for the record books. The 50-50 venture aims to pull carbon dioxide from the waste stream coming from a coal-fired power plant just southwest of Houston and make money by selling the CO2 to nearby oil producers.
The World Bank seeks to expand a plan to buy emission credits from projects including those that capture heat-trapping gas at garbage dumps, underpinning demand in the carbon markets for the first time in nine years. The proposal would initially use options to help spur about $100 million in government donations to a World Bank methane-reducing facility, according to a bank consultation document obtained by Bloomberg News and confirmed as genuine by Robert Bisset, a spokesman for the lender in Washington.
(New York Times)
Long-term weather forecasters say it is now unlikely that a strong El Niño will develop this fall, dimming hopes in California for heavy rains that might bring relief from a severe drought. In its latest monthly forecast, the federal Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md., said that while there was still about a two in three chance that El Niño would develop, perhaps in the next two months, it would most likely be weak.
(Washington Post)
The Post spoke last Friday to Ben van Beurden, the chief executive officer of Royal Dutch Shell, one of the world's largest oil and gas companies with $451 billion in revenue and and $16.5 billion in profit in 2013. Van Beurden, a chemical engineer who joined Shell in 1983, became chief executive Jan. 1 promising to shed some assets and focus on the most profitable business areas and exploration prospects.  The company has major operations in the United States, Russia, Iraq, Nigeria, Europe and other parts of the world. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

September 9, 2014

(Rapid City Journal)
As TransCanada seeks to re-certify permits in South Dakota to build its Keystone XL pipeline, opponents are vowing to renew the fight against the project. In a press release issued Friday, Dakota Rural Action, a group that advocates for agriculture and conservation issues, announced it would contest the permit proceedings.
(The Herald)
For the second time in a month, a separator caught fire on one of Hilcorp Energy Co.'s gas-well sites in Mercer County. There were no injuries reported when a blaze broke out before 6 a.m. Saturday at one of the eight tanks on a site in the 200 block of Pulaski Road in Shenango Township.
(The Hill)
If carbon emissions continue at current rates, the globe is set to surpass the United Nations's (U.N.) temperature target, hitting roughly 4 degrees Celsius, according to a new report. The sixth Low Carbon Economy report by international consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released late Sunday estimates the current rate of carbon emissions will "burn" through the 2 degrees Celsius marker set by the U.N. within 20 years.
(E&E Publishing)
Despite the number of key world leaders expected to be absent from the U.N. secretary-general's world leaders' summit on climate change this month, the incoming president of the next round of global warming negotiations predicts success. Peruvian Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal told ClimateWire that he is not overly concerned by reports that the leaders of India, China, Australia and Germany are reportedly sending ministers to the Sept. 23 summit in New York.
Fracking has transformed the United States into the world's largest producer of natural gas, and now Europe is weighing the pros and cons of the controversial technique as it seeks greater energy independence from its chief gas supplier, Russia. The move comes amid the unprecedented crisis in relations between Russia and Ukraine that began when Moscow annexed Crimea earlier this year and then threw its support to pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists battling Kiev.
When parish councillor Chris Hesketh volunteered to form a local group to challenge plans to drill for gas in north Shropshire, he had little idea how people would respond. The rural constituency, held by former environment secretary Owen Paterson, is the safest Tory seat in the country and only rarely in 175 years has there been much opposition to the sitting MP.
An Ohio man who uses a biblical reference and a statement against "poisoned waters" in billboards opposing the disposal of gas-drilling wastewater says the messages will come down Tuesday. Michael Boals, of Coshocton east of Columbus, told The Associated Press the billboards' owners were ending his three-month verbal agreement after two months unless he agreed to change the text.
(The Columbus Dispatch)
Energy companies continue to report increased production in Ohio from shale formations, with 2.4 million barrels of oil and 88.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas in the second quarter of this year, according to figures released yesterday by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
(Denver Post)
Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday named the 19 members of a task force charged with defusing the sometimes bitter land-use clashes between oil and gas drilling and communities. The task force is a blend of representatives of the oil industry, local government, environmentalists and other economic interests.
Recently China dramatically revised downward its ambitions for producing shale gas—slashing in half a target of producing more than 60 billion cubic meters annually by 2020, to just 30 billion cm. Meanwhile, the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide still aims to radically increase its output of synthetic gas derived from coal—from almost nothing today to 12 percent of gas consumption by 2020. Sinopec (386:HK) alone has just announced a $10 billion investment in coal-to-gas technology.
The iconic 'Keeling curve,' a 56-year record of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, will continue with support from American philanthropists Eric and Wendy Schmidt. A five-year, $500,000 grant, announced on September 3, will help ease funding pressure on the greenhouse-gas monitoring effort run by researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.
People in Maryland love their Baltimore orioles—so much so that their major league baseball team bears the name of the migrating bird. Yet, by 2080, there may not be any orioles left in Maryland. They migrate each year and, according to a new report, could soon be forced to nest well north of the Mid-Atlantic state.

September 8, 2014

(The Canadian Press)
The president of the Northern Gateway pipeline says the possibility of a 2018 start-up date is "quickly evaporating."
The world's major economies are falling further behind every year in terms of meeting the rate of carbon emission reductions needed to stop global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees this century, a report published on Monday showed.
(New York Times)
BP fought long and hard to avoid the defeat it suffered in court on Thursday when a federal judge ruled that the oil company was chiefly responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, opening the door to new civil penalties that could potentially amount to $18 billion. But analysts say that it could be years before the company pays any of those penalties and that they could turn out to be as low as $8 billion to $10 billion. And with the company expecting cash flow of $30 billion to $31 billion this year, the environmental payments will be stiff but not impossible to make.
BP Plc (BP/) got support from the U.K. government in its U.S. court fight over the level of compensation required under a settlement of lawsuits stemming from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.