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Today's Climate

June 20, 2014

The tiny particles in vehicle exhaust and other sources of air pollution may hasten cognitive decline in older adults, according to a new U.S. study. "We decided to examine the link between air pollution and cognitive function in older adults because there is growing evidence that fine particulate matter air pollution affects brain health and development, but relatively little attention has been given to what this means for the aging brain," said Jennifer Ailshire, who co-wrote the report.
(Huffington Post)
The Omaha Public Power District in Nebraska announced on Thursday that it will retire three coal units in the next two years at its North Omaha plant and transition two other units to natural gas within a decade. The three coal units will be retired by 2016, the public utility said. Another two units at that plant will get updated pollution controls by 2016 as well, and will transition to burning natural gas by 2023. OPPD will similarly retrofit its Nebraska City coal-fired station and implement new energy-efficiency programs to reduce demand.
Records subpoenaed by federal prosecutors show engineers working for Duke Energy warned the company nearly 30 years before a massive coal ash spill that a stormwater pipe running under an ash dump was made of corrugated metal and needed to be monitored for leaks. That pipe at a North Carolina dump collapsed in February, triggering a spill that coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic gray sludge.
(Minnesota Public Radio)
Every day, about 2.3 million barrels of crude oil crosses Minnesota through 10 pipelines, and eight trains carry another 500,000 barrels. Eight of the pipelines are operated by Enbridge Energy and the other two by the Koch Pipeline Company, which transports 465,000 barrels a day to the Twin Cities through its MinnCan line.
(Climate Central)
A four-month public comment period on the federal government's plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric power plants began this week, allowing anyone to submit feedback through Oct. 16.
(The Canadian Press)
A former Canadian ambassador says he's less confident now than he was a few years ago about the U.S. giving the Keystone XL pipeline project the green light. "Two years ago I was very confident that it would be a positive reaction, a 'Yes' would come," Raymond Chretien said Wednesday.
For more than a decade, Denton has drawn its lifeblood from the huge gas reserves that lie beneath its streets. The gas fields have produced a billion dollars in mineral wealth and pumped more than $30 million into city bank accounts. But this former farming center north of Dallas is considering a revolt.
(StateImpact Texas)
What is behind the tremors in North Texas? Starting late last fall, a swarm of quakes struck the communities of Reno and Azle outside of Fort Worth. It's hardly the first community in the Lone Star State to have to deal with damaged foundations, cracked windows and rude awakenings from quakes: there have been nine other scientifically-researched quake swarms in Texas, all of them in areas of oil and gas drilling activity.
The head of one of the world's leading groups of democratic nations has accused Russia of undermining projects using hydraulic fracturing technology in Europe. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), and former premier of Denmark, told the Chatham House thinktank in London on Thursday that Vladimir Putin's government was behind attempts to discredit fracking, according to reports.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
France, one of the world's biggest proponents and exporters of nuclear power, is losing its appetite for the atom at home. French energy and environment minister Ségolène Royal on Wednesday presented a bill to boost renewable sources in the national energy mix and limit nuclear power production at current levels.

June 19, 2014

Al Gore, who has called the Keystone XL project "ridiculous" and an "atrocity," said he thinks President Barack Obama will reject the controversial pipeline between Alberta's oil sands and U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. Former Vice President Gore, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize for advocating action on climate change, wrote in Rolling Stone magazine issue dated June 18 that Obama "has signaled that he is likely to reject the absurdly reckless Keystone-XL pipeline."
The U.S. Senate Energy Committee advanced a bill on Wednesday that would force congressional approval of TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline project, but the measure seems unlikely to be taken up by the full Senate.
U.S. transportation officials said Wednesday that details about volatile oil train shipments are not sensitive security information, after railroads sought to keep the material from the public following a string of fiery accidents, including one last July in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people.
(The Hill)
Coal mining company Murray Energy Corp. said it has filed a federal lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop its carbon emissions rules for power plants, calling them "illegal, irrational, and destructive cap-and-tax regulations." Murray filed its lawsuit in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Wednesday, the same day the proposal was formally published in the Federal Register.
(Boston Globe)
The shutdown of the Mt. Tom power plant in Holyoke earlier this month signals the end of decades of using coal for generating electricity in Massachusetts. Mt. Tom, which stopped operating as of June 2, will officially close by October, the last of the state's three coal plants to schedule a permanent shutdown. Salem Harbor Power Station in Salem closed, as previously planned, onJune 1, while Brayton Point in Somerset is scheduled to stop operating in 2017.
(The Globe and Mail)
Enbridge Inc. is making executive changes, raising the cost estimate of a major pipeline replacement and issuing $400-million of stock in a slew of announcements one day after it won federal approval for its contentious Northern Gateway project. Enbridge said Richard Bird, the company's chief financial officer and corporate development head, is retiring at the end of this year, after two decades with the company.
(StateImpact Pennsylvania)
Two retirees from the Pennsylvania Department of Health say its employees were silenced on the issue of Marcellus Shale drilling. One veteran employee says she was instructed not to return phone calls from residents who expressed health concerns about natural gas development.
(Columbus Dispatch)
A plan to sell Ohioans on the merits of fracking in their state parks was still being discussed by members of the Kasich administration in late 2012, documents obtained by an environmental group show. A 19-page memo from Sept. 10, 2012, shows that the administration was planning to tell the public that fracking on state lands is needed to avoid implementing park entrance fees.
(Denver Post)
The drive for signatures to put two initiatives bolstering local control of oil and gas drilling on the November ballot began Wednesday even as negotiations to find a legislative compromise continue. About 60 canvassers spread out in the Denver area to collect signatures on two ballot initiatives.
Numerous speakers told a state Senate committee Tuesday that they oppose the rapid increase in railcars carrying crude oil from the Bakken fields of North Dakota and Montana through the state. The Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee met in Spokane, a major railroad hub for the northern United States, to take testimony on a bill that seeks to improve the safety of those oil shipments.
(Rocky Mountain PBS News)
The transport of crude oil by rail has spiked dramatically in recent years. Even though crude oil accounted for just over 1 percent of overall rail traffic last year, there's growing public concern about the potential oil spills and other hazards.
(E&E Publishing)
Don't reinvent the wheel. That was the underlying message from two Minnesota agencies in recommending the Public Utilities Commission adopt federal "social cost of carbon" values to help guide utility decisions about electric generation.
(Grist )
Motorists in the famously lefty city of Berkeley, Calif., could one day be confronted with a "CO2 ALERT" when they fill up their tanks. Berkeley's Community Environmental Advisory Commission has approved a proposal to mandate climate warning labels on gas pumps. It would require the approval of the city council before it could take affect; a council vote is expected in the coming months.

June 18, 2014

(Vancouver Sun)
The opposition of B.C. First Nations, particularly from those on the coast, remains Enbridge Inc.'s biggest barrier to building the Northern Gateway pipeline. Legal battles and civil disobedience campaigns have been in plannings for some time.
(The Hill)
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer agreed that the Keystone XL pipeline would attain its presidential permit by April 2015, whether President Obama does it himself or Congress forces his hand.
New York's general assembly passed a moratorium on fracking Monday with a sensible question in mind—why rush? "We have heard from thousands of residents across the state about many issues associated with hydrofracking, and prudent leadership demands that we take our time to address all these concerns," said New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
(Al Jazeera America)
President Barack Obama said Tuesday that he plans to create the world's largest marine reserve in the Pacific Ocean to protect it from drilling, over-fishing, and other actions that could threaten marine life. Obama announced a series of executive actions in a video message to participants of the "Our Ocean" conference in Washington, D.C., hosted by the U.S. State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry.
(Business Green)
The U.K. and China have pledged to cooperate on the development of low carbon policies, technologies, and financing mechanisms while pushing for "a global framework for ambitious climate change action." The two countries today issued a joint statement recognising climate change as "one of the greatest global challenges we face" and arguing that there was a "clear imperative" for the two countries to work together on tackling the problem.
(Climate Central)
The proposed Clean Power Plan, which aims to slash carbon emissions from existing electric power plants burning fossil fuel, may allow some of the most polluting coal-fired power plants in the country to continue operating without having to slash their emissions.
Rising sea levels, extremes of weather and an increase in the frequency of droughts and floods will all play havoc with the world's energy systems as climate change takes hold, a new report has found. Energy companies are more often cited as part of the problem of climate change, generating the lion's share of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, amounting to around 40 percent of the total.