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Today's Climate

March 10, 2014

(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.
(New York Times)
Stored near the twin nuclear reactors here, safely above the flood level of the Susquehanna River, is a gleaming new six-wheel pickup truck with a metal blade on the front that can plow away debris from an earthquake or other disaster. Attached to the back is a trailer that carries a giant diesel-powered pump that can deliver 500 gallons of water a minute.
California's greenhouse gas reduction law already has shaken up the state's industrial sector, costing it more than $1.5 billion in pollution permit fees. It's now poised to hit the pocketbooks of everyday Californians.
(Climate News Network)
The catastrophic floods that soaked Europe last summer and the United Kingdom this winter are part of the pattern of things to come. According to a new study of flood risk in Nature Climate Change annual average losses from extreme floods in Europe could increase fivefold by 2050. And the frequency of destructive floods could almost double in that period.
Bangladesh needs $5 billion over the next five years to adapt to current climate changes, and the cost is rising each year, according to a lead negotiator for developing countries in the UN climate talks, which resume in Bonn on Monday.

March 7, 2014

(Washington Post)
Americans support the idea of constructing the Keystone XL oil pipeline between Canada and the United States by a nearly 3 to 1 margin, with 65 percent saying it should be approved and 22 percent opposed, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The findings also show that the public thinks the massive project, which aims to ship 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta and the northern Great Plains to refineries on the Gulf Coast, will produce significant economic benefits.
(The Canadian Press)
The Transportation Safety Board says formal lab tests confirm the train that crashed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Que., last summer was carrying oil that was more volatile than advertised. The board, which had discovered last September that the tankers were misidentified, says it was actually as flammable as gasoline.
A bill to curb the ability of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set limits on carbon emissions from power plants cleared a hurdle in the House of Representatives on Thursday but faces bleak prospects of becoming law. The Republican-controlled House passed the bill by a 229-183 vote but the Senate, in which Democrats hold a majority, has no timetable to consider the legislation. President Barack Obama already has threatened to veto the bill.
(Charlotte Observer)
After much debate over how to deal with coal-ash hazards at Duke Energy power plants in North Carolina, a Wake County Superior Court judge says the answer is to take "immediate" action. Judge Paul Ridgeway issued a 17-page order on Thursday that seems to cut through years of dithering over the utility's obligations and what authority the state has to order a prompt response to eliminate an environmental threat.
Proponents and critics of Keystone XL are unleashing a final flurry of pleas to persuade the government on the pipeline, which has become a flash point in a debate over energy development versus climate protection. The public has until the end of today to be part of the official review of whether Keystone is in the national interest.
(Omaha World-Bureau)
A majority of Nebraska lawmakers signed a letter this week supporting the Keystone XL pipeline. The letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged approval of the proposed pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels of mostly oil sands crude from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. The letter was signed by 29 of the 49 senators who serve in the Nebraska Legislature.
Federal regulators offered more details on testing requirements for oil transported by rail on Thursday and warned companies against skirting the rules after a spate of explosions caused by crude train derailments in the U.S. and Canada. The new order from the U.S. Department of Transportation builds on a Feb. 25 declaration that the industry's unsafe handling practices have made crude shipments an imminent hazard to public safety and the environment.
(The Daily Climate)
Oil and coal industries' reliance on rail to ship their wares may put the squeeze on Western farmers using the same tracks to get their grains to market. Montana growers are looking with concern at plans to crowd the rails even more with coal exports to the Pacific Northwest. As energy commodities are more profitable to ship, already-limited rail capacity will likely tighten and become more expensive for growers, said Gerald Fauth, a Virginia-based transportation economics expert.
(Globe and Mail)
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. said Thursday it has a solution for the problems that led to a months-long spill of tar-like bitumen at a northern Alberta oil sands property. The company, which reported a 17-percent rise in fourth-quarter profit and hiked its dividend for the second time in four months, also said it expects to complete an expansion of its Horizon oil sands project earlier than expected.
A recent radiation leak at America's only nuclear waste repository threatens the future of waste storage in the country. But leaders in the city of Carlsbad, New Mexico, still want their area to be a destination for America's radioactive history.
(E&E Publishing)
The nation's aging infrastructure makes up an interconnected web of systems that are alarmingly vulnerable to the shocks of climate change, according to a report released today that will inform the National Climate Assessment, to be made public next month.
(Houston Chronicle)
Oil companies are shielding too much information from public view in an industry-backed database for disclosing chemicals used in oil and gas wells, engineers, environmentalists and energy experts told the Obama administration on Thursday. The FracFocus registry also contains errors that undermine its role as the leading mechanism for tracking hydraulic fracturing chemicals used in unconventional oil and gas production, said an Energy Department advisory board.
While watching the turmoil in Ukraine unfold, you may feel as though it has little to do with the United States, but the conflict is stirring a contentious debate in Europe over a topic familiar to many Americans: fracking. Much of the continent depends on Russian natural gas that flows through pipelines in Ukraine. European countries are asking themselves whether to follow the U.S. example and drill for shale gas.

March 6, 2014

(New York Times)
One of the nation's biggest coal companies will pay a record civil penalty and will spend tens of millions of dollars to clean up water flowing from mines in five states, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department announced on Wednesday. The company, Alpha Natural Resources, and 66 of its subsidiaries including the former Massey Energy, will spend $200 million under a consent decree to reduce pollution from coal mines in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
In a long-expected skirmish, House Republicans are moving to block President Barack Obama's plan to limit carbon pollution from new power plants. A bill targeting the power plant rule is slated for a vote on the House floor Thursday as GOP lawmakers fight back against what they call the Obama administration's "war on coal." Obama's proposal, a key part of his plan to fight climate change, would set the first national limits on heat-trapping pollution from future power plants.
Enbridge Inc said on Wednesday that Jim Prentice, a senior Canadian banker and influential former federal cabinet minister, has agreed to lead negotiations with aboriginal groups opposed to the company's controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project.
Environmentalists vowed Wednesday to fight Enbridge Inc.'s plan to replace and sharply boost the capacity of a crude oil pipeline that runs from Canada to Wisconsin, saying the project will exacerbate climate change by carrying more tar sands oil to U.S refineries. Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge announced the $7 billion plan this week, calling it the largest project in the company's history and the most efficient way to maintain the line's reliability.
(Media Matters)
Fox News is using the crisis in Ukraine to push for the Keystone XL pipeline, an argument that an energy expert called "patently absurd." In response to Russia's occupation of Ukrainian territory in the Crimean peninsula, Fox News personalities have been pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline to be built on an accelerated timetable, claiming that it would "weaken" Russia.
(Houston Chronicle)
The oil industry hasn't made a convincing argument that the U.S. should lift its 39-year-old ban on exporting American crude, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said Wednesday. "I don't think the industry has done a very good job of clearly and concisely stating the case" for exports, Moniz said.
(Los Angeles Times)
California's parched winter brought a big surge in air pollution, pushing the number of bad air days one-third higher than the previous winter and posing a serious health threat, state air quality officials said Tuesday. Levels of haze-forming soot typically increase in winter, but this year was worse because of the persistent lack of rainfall, low winds and unusually stagnant conditions that trapped pollution close to the ground.
Devastating extreme weather including recent flooding in England, Australia's hottest year on record and the U.S. being hit by a polar vortex have a "silver lining" of boosting climate change to the highest level of politics and reminding politicians that climate change is not a partisan issue, according to the UN's climate chief.