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Today's Climate

April 10, 2014

(Los Angeles Times)
A bill that would place a moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in oil drilling in California was approved by a state Senate panel on Tuesday. The measure was passed by a bare majority of five votes by the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee after some Democrats abstained and Chairwoman Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) provided a courtesy vote to keep the issue alive for more discussions that could end up changing the bill.
China plans to ban imports of coal with high-ash and high-sulfur content as the nation seeks to limit the dirtiest fuels to fight pollution. The world's largest coal consumer will encourage imports of higher-quality supplies, according to Ren Lixin, the head of the coal division at the National Energy Administration. Domestic demand for the fuel may rise "slightly" this year and imports are expected to be similar to 2013 levels, he said at a conference in Shanghai today.
(Think Progress)
The concentration of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that drives climate change, hit 402 parts per million this week—the highest level recorded in at least 800,000 years. The recordings came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, which marked another ominous milestone last May when the 400 ppm threshold was crossed for the first time in recorded history.
(Globe and Mail)
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau wants to save the oil sands by imposing greenhouse gas-emission limits on the fast-growing sector that is the engine of Alberta's economy. The Liberal Leader has just returned from a visit to Fort McMurray, where he campaigned for the local Liberal candidate Kyle Harrietha in a coming by-election and toured Suncor Energy Inc.'s massive mining operation.
(The Forecaster)
The South Portland Planning Board on Tuesday endorsed a 180-day extension of the moratorium on tar sands developments, which is set to expire May 5. The board approved the extension 4-0, with Rob Schreiber and Erick Giles absent.
(Center for Public Integrity)
In New Mexico, Navajo communities worry that uranium mining could contaminate the aquifer that feeds their drinking water. In southeastern states from Alabama to Virginia, residents fear a cluster of coal-powered plants will impact their health for generations. And in the Harlem section of Manhattan, advocates say the high rates of asthma among residents are a "direct result from breathing dirty air."
A series of earthquakes over the weekend continued to break alarming records of seismic activity in Oklahoma, which some scientists say is linked to increased fracking operations in the state.
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Federal regulators have issued four permits for oil and gas wastewater disposal wells in Pennsylvania in the past six months, and those are unlikely to be the last. Industry groups and researchers are renewing their efforts to find sites in the state where the salt- and metals-laden waste fluids produced from ever more shale gas wells can be entombed deep underground.
(Al Jazeera America)
For their retirement, Pamela and Jaime Duran chose a cottage in Southwest Florida. Here, they could raise chickens, savor the quiet and enjoy the lush backdrop of the historic Everglades. They call it "a little piece of paradise." "There are no noises out here," said Jaime Duran. "You don't hear anything at night. You hear crickets, and that's about as loud as it gets at night."
(Climate Central)
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change urged immediate action on adapting to human-caused climate change in the second part of its fifth assessment report, released in March. But it may be that governments and the media are poorly equipped to deliver that dire message to the public.
Many nations want a draft U.N. report to tone down prospects for sucking greenhouse gases from the air to help fix global warming, reckoning the technologies are risky, documents seen by Reuters show. Government officials and scientists are meeting in Berlin this week to edit the report, which says time is running out to keep warming below an agreed ceiling of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial times.

April 9, 2014

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration proposed $9.78 million in civil penalties against pipeline operators for alleged violations of federal law in 2013, the agency announced April 7.
(Minneapolis Star Tribune)
The Minnesota Commerce Department has endorsed Enbridge Energy's plan to boost the capacity of its Alberta Clipper crude oil pipeline across Minnesota, warning that the state's two oil refineries face shortages if the project doesn't go ahead.
(Al Jazeera America)
Two months after a pond of pollutants at a defunct Duke Energy plant in North Carolina spilled thousands of gallons of coal ash into the Dan River, coating the riverbanks in a "toxic soup" 70 miles long, environmental groups say the state is reneging on its promise to hold the nation's largest energy company responsible for its actions.
The greatest emerging threat to the global climate may rest in the side pocket of your trousers—or wherever you keep the car keys. Emissions from transportation may rise at the fastest rate of all major sources through 2050, the United Nations will say in a report due April 13.
(Climate Central)
The federal government's efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants may be pitting utilities that rely on coal-fired power plants against those that don't.
(Christian Science Monitor)
Four years after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill released more than 200 million gallons of crude into the water, a leading environmental organization says the migratory and reproductive cycles of area wildlife have been severely altered and at least one species of sea turtles is close to extinction.
(StateImpact Texas)
Come elections in November, the city of Denton could be split between two very different futures. The Denton Drilling Awareness Group (DAG) recently got enough signatures on a petition to place an ordinance banning fracking within city limits on local ballots. Though other communities in Texas have passed restrictions on fracking, a moratorium on drilling activity within Denton could spur the rise of similar legislation across the state.
(Houston Chronicle)
Anadarko Petroleum, Chesapeake Energy and others will pay the state of Pennsylvania about $225 million in fees this year for drilling in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale—too little, according to critics of the state law setting the fee say. The fees, enacted in 2012, flow to local governments to fund basic needs like bridges, roads, firefighting equipment and environmental programs. By the end of the year, the recurring charges on nearly 6,500 natural gas wells will have brought more than $630 million to state coffers.
(Globe and Mail)
The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) wrapped up its hearings Tuesday into TransCanada Corp.'s proposed $12-billion Energy East pipeline, as the provincial government considers whether to play a spoiler role in Alberta's effort to reach new domestic and foreign markets for its growing crude production.
Responding to a series of fiery train derailments, federal regulators said Wednesday they will propose that trains transporting crude oil have at least two-man crews as part of new requirements aimed at preventing parked train cars from coming loose and causing an accident like one in July that killed 47 people.
(The Hill)
A Senate hearing on the nominee for a top Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) post had lawmakers battling over carbon emissions limits and extreme weather events on Tuesday.Janet McCabe, President Obama's nominee to be assistant chief of the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, fielded a fair amount of questions, but spent a majority of her time watching Senators duke it out over whether climate change exists or not.
(New York Times)
In December 2012, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was on vacation in Berlin when he decided to detour to the Netherlands. He wanted to get a firsthand sense of the famed Dutch approach to water management. Hurricane Sandy struck six weeks before, and in the aftermath, President Obama asked him to lead a task force, whose objective was not just to rebuild but also to radically rethink the region’s infrastructure in light of climate change.

April 8, 2014

(Globe and Mail)
As Canada and the United States move to strengthen the rules for transporting crude oil by rail, there is mounting evidence that regulators are relying on tests that underestimate the risk of a fiery explosion like the one that destroyed Lac-Mégantic. The current testing regime was not designed for unrefined crude and, as a result, can play down the dangers of shipping some light crude oils, according to industry and transportation experts.
(Washington Post)
A March 20 Washington Post Web article and a March 21 print article stated that Koch Industries was the largest leaseholder in Canada's oil sands. Further reporting has indicated that Koch Industries on a net acreage basis is the largest American and foreign holder of leases in Canada's oil sands but it might narrowly trail two Canadian companies overall.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's chief said on Monday that new carbon pollution standards due in June will be flexible enough for all states to meet but will be environmentally stringent and federally enforceable. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy gave her first remarks since the agency sent its proposed rule, which aims to curb carbon emissions from more than 1,000 existing power plants in the United States, to the White House's Office of Management and Budget for review.
Government envoys and scientists gathered under the UN banner in Berlin Monday to hammer out a list of options for curbing carbon emissions driving dangerous climate change. Fresh from issuing its starkest-ever warning about the impacts of global warming on Earth's weather system, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will meet until Friday to vet the choices meant to inform policymakers.
Unilever, Shell, BT, and EDF Energy are among 70 leading companies today calling on governments across the globe to step up efforts to tackle climate change. The companies, which have a combined turnover of $90bn, say the world needs a "rapid and focused response" to the threat of rising global carbon emissions and the "disruptive climate impacts" associated with their growth.
(The Hill)
The chairman of the Senate committee that oversees transportation issues said Monday that oil companies are dragging their feet on providing data to regulators about the safety of freight trains that are used to carry crude oil. The shipment of oil by freight trains have faced scrutiny from lawmakers since a series of high-profile derailments like a crash that spilled 400,000 gallons of oil in Cassellton, N.D. last year.
As crude oil pipelines play catch-up, adding capacity won't be enough to compete with railroads – the growth needs to be strategic. When it became the No. 1 mode of transport for Bakken crude, shippers saw the benefits of rail: flexibility in where to go and when to hop aboard.