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Today's Climate

March 13, 2014

(Wall Street Journal)
Leaders of the nation's building trades unions might feel like it is Groundhog Day. On Tuesday, they gathered yet again to urge President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline—this time suggesting there could be consequences for Democrats in the November elections.
Russia is considering a domestic carbon market to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and may start providing poorer nations with cash to cope with global warming, according to the country's climate negotiator. "We would like to elaborate our domestic market and eventually make it link into other markets," Oleg Shamanov said in an interview today in Bonn, where United Nations-led climate talks are being held this week.
Published in the journal Nature Climate Change, it suggests that calculations of how sensitive the climate is to levels of carbon dioxide did not account for the cooling effect of airborne particles. Since 1998, the rate of warming has been only 0.09 F (0.05 C) per decade, down from 0.22 Fahrenheit (0.12 Celsius) since 1951, leading many to question whether climate change was a serious concern.
(Edmonton Journal)
Critics say they're worried about the direction of Alberta's massive overhaul of school curriculum after it was revealed Tuesday major oil companies are being consulted on changes. A document posted to the Alberta Education website indicates companies such as Syncrude Canada, Cenovus Energy and Suncor Energy are included among partners "in helping draft Alberta's future curriculum for our students" from kindergarten to Grade 12.
The massive block of steel towers and pipes rises out of the morning fog like a sci-fi fantasy. But this coal-fired power plant could help save the climate, or at least that's the hope of the Obama administration. The plant in east-central Mississippi was repeatedly invoked by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to justify sweeping new climate change rules. When it comes online later this year, Kemper will be the first power plant in the U.S. capable of capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions.
Links and documents about climate change have recently disappeared from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources website. As recently as Jan. 21, information about climate change was available on the front page of the Division of Air Quality's website. Sometime in the last two months, the page was edited to remove the link.
(Men's Journal)
Tom Steyer is the kind of all-American overachiever who seems to exist only on paper: number one in his graduating class at Phillips Exeter Academy, summa cum laude and captain of the soccer team at Yale, a Stanford MBA who became a superstar at Goldman Sachs and then went on to create the world's fourth-largest hedge fund, turning $8 million into $30 billion in about 20 years. His personal fortune is estimated at $1.5 billion.

March 12, 2014

(Huffington Post)
Police in Italy have ordered the coal-fired power plant Vado Ligure, which they say is responsible for 442 deaths, to shutdown. The plant is located in the northern district of Savona.
(E&E Publishing)
U.S. oil would constitute less than 8 percent of Keystone XL's daily crude haul under current contract conditions that also leave as much as 32 percent of its capacity open, the project's sponsor disclosed today in comments to the State Department. TransCanada Corp.'s confirmation of how much space remains open on its proposed pipeline is tucked into a 35-page document that marks a closing argument of sorts in its years-long push to win a border-crossing permit for the $5.4 billion link between the Canadian oil sands and U.S. refineries.
(Edmonton Journal)
Oil sands giant Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. made a second application last month to resume oil production on its leaking Cold Lake site before completion of the investigation into why four sites are oozing bitumen to the surface. More than 11,000 barrels have come to the surface in the last 10 months, among the province's largest spills, and there is no way to stop the leaking.
(Columbus Dispatch)
While geologists raised questions yesterday about whether a northeastern Ohio fracking operation caused a series of earthquakes in Mahoning County on Monday, state officials refused to provide any answers. On Monday, Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials ordered Texas-based Hilcorp Energy to shut down an active well at the Carbon Limestone Landfill near Lowellville after four temblors were recorded in the area.
A court injunction obtained by Texas-based Cabot Oil & Gas is preventing Pennsylvania resident Vera Scroggins from going to her local grocery store, her friends' homes, schools, or even the hospital. That's because those properties sit atop the more than 200,000 acres in Susquehanna County that the energy producer owns and leases for gas extraction - land on which Scroggins, a determined anti-fracking activist, is not allowed to tread.
(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.