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Today's Climate

September 9, 2014

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.
(Christian Science Monitor)
An administrative court this week dealt a big blow to Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), recommending that the utility pay $1.4 billion in fines, on top of earlier state and federal assessments, for a 2010 natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif.
(Al Jazeera America)
Last summer, in a wet, remote section of farm country in Bottineau County, landowner Mike Artz and his two neighbors discovered that a ruptured pipeline was spewing contaminated wastewater into his crop fields. "We saw all this oil on the low area, and all this salt water spread out beyond it," said his neighbor Larry Peterson, who works as a farmer and an oil-shale contractor. "The water ran out into the wetland."
(The Des Moines Register)
As a Texas energy company seeks approval for its plan to build a 1,100-mile pipeline carrying North Dakota crude oil across 17 Iowa counties, documents show the state's pipeline safety record has been less than spotless. While the state has avoided large-scale disasters, records show Iowa has had 100 pipeline spills since 2004, with a majority of the accidents involving anhydrous ammonia and propane.
(CBC News)
Sending oilsands bitumen north through N.W.T. to a port in the Arctic is feasible, according to a study commissioned last year by Alberta. Dubbed the Arctic Gateway Pipeline, the proposed link would ship bitumen along the Mackenzie Valley to a port in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.
(Columbus Dispatch)
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is considering changing how it issues permits for pipelines, roads and coal mines that disturb wetlands and streams. The changes, an EPA spokeswoman said, streamline the permitting process required before things that affect waterways are built or repaired. But environmental groups say the changes could harm water quality in Ohio.
In April, Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) headlined a group of 70 companies that called on world governments to cap greenhouse gas emissions at a level that will contain global warming. The “Trillion Tonne Communique,” named for the amount of heat-trapping gases that scientists believe can be added to the atmosphere while keeping warming within 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels, was described as a "global call to arms from businesses who take the science of climate change seriously and are demanding a proactive policy response."
The so-called Bridge fire that started Friday afternoon is already threatening hundreds of homes. The blaze in Mariposa County is one of many large fires burning in drought-stricken California. Officials say this weekend's conditions will make the danger even greater.
Algae that turned Lake Erie green and produced toxins that fouled the tap water for 400,000 people in Toledo are becoming a big headache for those who keep drinking water safe even far beyond the Great Lakes. But with no federal standards on safe levels for drinking algae-tainted water and no guidelines for treating or testing it either, water quality engineers sometimes look for solutions the same way school kids do their homework.

September 5, 2014

A federal judge on Thursday ruled that BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico four years ago was the result of gross negligence or willful misconduct by the London oil company. The decision could cost BP billions of dollars more in fines for fouling the ocean, though it could be years before legal battles over the spill are resolved, as BP plans to appeal. Investors erased as much as $9.4 billion from BP's market value Thursday.
(The Globe and Mail)
Canada's transportation safety agency is raising concerns that dangerous crude oil could still be travelling by rail inside misclassified tank cars, despite assurances from the federal government that the problem has been fixed. In a recent letter to Transport Canada, the Transportation Safety Board said new requirements to test oil don't explicitly address its "variability," including the fact that different products are sometimes blended together before they are shipped.
(Think Progress)
By taking no serious action to slash carbon pollution and put the world on a path to 2°C warming (or less), humanity is voluntarily choosing to sharply boost the chances of the worst kinds of droughts—including the kind of multi-decade megadroughts that in the past have overturned entire civilizations.
Hillary Clinton never actually said the word "fracking" during her keynote address at the National Clean Energy Summit in Nevada on Thursday, but she still clearly laid out her views on the technique: She's all for it.
A federal judge plans to decide next week whether to block the release of oil and gas leases in Nevada that critics say will be used for hydraulic fracturing and cause more environmental harm than the Bureau of Land Management admits.
(StateImpact Pennsylvania)
The state Department of Environmental Protection has approved a $150,000 grant earmarked in the state budget for "independent research regarding natural gas drilling" to an industry-backed nonprofit organization. The funding was approved on a non-competitive basis– other groups were not able to apply for the money.
When oil companies mounted a public campaign in 2010 to roll back California's nation-leading greenhouse gas restrictions, the effort backfired in a big way: 62 percent of the state's voters rejected Proposition 23, which would have suspended California's goal of slashing carbon emissions by the end of the decade.
(The Globe and Mail)
The long-held dream of boosting exports of Alberta crude to Asia by the decade's end is fading, as multibillion-dollar pipelines get bogged down by local opposition and regulatory wrangling.
(The Economist)
One of the bleakest scenes of man-made destruction is the strip mining of oil sands in the forests of Alberta, Canada. The sand is permeated with natural bitumen, a type of petroleum with the consistency of peanut butter. Once dug from the surface, the sand is hauled to an extraction plant where it is mixed with lots of hot water and chemicals to liberate the oil and make it flow into pipelines or be taken by tankers to refineries. Not all of the water can be recycled and what remains is a goopy toxic waste contained in some 170 square kilometers of man-made ponds.
Two nuclear stations that play a vital role helping to keep Britain's already fragile electricity system intact could be out of action till the end of the year, EDF Energy said on Thursday. The ongoing problems at Heysham 1 and Hartlepool reactors, taken offline last month, forced Centrica, a 20 percent owner of the atomic fleet with EDF, to issue a profit warning.
Aircraft may be next in line for U.S. regulation of greenhouse-gas emissions, as President Barack Obama's administration broadens its climate-change efforts beyond automobiles and power plants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it would study the health dangers of that pollution—the first step in the regulatory process—and release its findings by next April. If it deems aircraft emissions a risk, it said it will begin the process of crafting rules. Advocates say that won't be a high hurdle.

September 4, 2014

(Wall Street Journal)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday used his first major speech on energy policy to criticize the Obama administration's delay of the Keystone XL pipeline extension. Mr. Christie's 30-minute speech in front of American and Mexican business leaders came on the first day of a three-day trade mission here that presents a test of the potential 2016 presidential contender on an international stage.
(Sydney Morning Herald)
Carbon emissions from the Australia's main electricity grid have risen since the end of the carbon tax by the largest amount in nearly eight years. Data from the National Electricity Market, which covers about 80 percent of Australia's population, shows that emissions from the sector rose by about 1 million tons, or 0.8 percent, at an annualized rate last month compared with June.
The leaders of the world's largest and third-largest emitters of greenhouse gases won't be attending a global summit on climate change later this month. China is sending a lower-ranked official; it's not yet clear if India will send its environmental minister.
(Los Angeles Times)
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is appealing a proposed record penalty for the fatal gas pipeline explosion and fire that destroyed a Bay Area residential neighborhood.
(The Hill)
Oil giant BP has asked a federal court to oust the man in charge of administering the settlement funds from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.