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Today's Climate

September 15, 2014

(New York Times)
Exxon Mobil's ambitions in Russia appear to have been dashed, at least until the Ukraine crisis is resolved. As part of the latest round of sanctions against Russia, the United States government took aim at Exxon's project in the Arctic Ocean, ordering American companies to cut off exports to Russian oil exploration within 14 days.
(Washington Post)
The discovery of oil deep beneath the waters of the North Sea has made this ancient port city an energy boom town, with some of the highest wages and lowest unemployment rates anywhere in Europe. Now, leaders of the campaign to break from Britain in a Thursday referendum are counting on the spoils of "Scotland's oil" to help spread prosperity across their newly independent nation, funding schools, health care and social welfare programs. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has promised an oil fund, modeled on Norway's, to ensure that the country's wealth is broadly shared.
(The Advocate)
Texas Brine Co.'s push for a five-year state permit to discharge salty groundwater with traces of benzene and toluene into the Bayou Corne-area sinkhole has drawn concerns from environmentalists and landowners near the swampland hole in Assumption Parish. The process has been underway for a year through short-term permits to help remove potentially dangerous methane gas collecting beneath the Bayou Corne community.

September 12, 2014

(Los Angeles Times)
Some workers at oil and gas sites where fracking occurs are routinely exposed to high levels of benzene, a colorless gas that can cause cancer, according to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety. The agency, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends that people limit their benzene exposure to an average of 0.1 of a part per million during their shift.
The calmest period in more than three years for the world's biggest carbon market is set to end. Citigroup Inc., Societe Generale SA and Commerzbank AG say prices will start swinging again after European lawmakers resumed talks this week on setting up a reserve to reduce a permit glut that drove the market to a record low. Sixty-day volatility for carbon futures surged by a quarter in April 2013 after politicians threatened to block a rescue plan designed to support prices.
A University of California panel announced recommendations on Wednesday to combat climate change and make the university more sustainable, but declined to endorse shedding its fossil fuel holdings from its $91 billion invesment portfolio.
(The Hill)
More than half the Senate called Thursday on the Obama administration to extend the deadline for public comment on a contentious Environmental Protection Agency proposal to impose new limits on carbon emissions from power plants. In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, 53 senators—including 10 Democrats—proposed a 60-day extension in light of the complexity and scope of the regulation.
Just two days after being appointed by Jean-Claude Junker, the E.U.'s new climate and energy commissioner is under pressure to drop his shares in two oil companies which members of European parliament say represent a conflict of interest. The MEPs say E.U.'s proposed new climate and energy commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, must dispose of any oil company shareholdings before they consider giving his nomination a green light at European parliament hearings later this month.
(Washington Post)
During the first meeting of Virginia's newly reconstituted climate change commission, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) defended his support for a proposed natural gas pipeline, despite concerns from the environmental community. The group met Wednesday, about a week after McAuliffe, amid great fanfare, announced that a consortium of companies led by energy giant Dominion Resources wants to build a 550-mile pipeline through Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.
(Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Minnesota regulators on Thursday ordered a broader search for the best pathway to build a major new crude oil pipeline across the state. The 3-2 decision by the state Public Utilities Commission was a setback for Enbridge Energy, which wants to build the $2.6 billion Sandpiper pipeline through northern Minnesota to carry North Dakota oil to a terminal in Superior, Wis., that feeds refineries across the Midwest.
An oil pipeline called Flanagan South that is currently under construction would stretch nearly 600 miles across four Midwestern states, over three major rivers, and through about 2,000 wetlands. The pipeline would carry diluted bitumen, or dilbit—a corrosive and sticky type of oil derived from Canadian tar sands that's difficult to clean up. And it would be owned by Enbridge, a company notorious for spilling dilbit.
(The Globe and Mail)
World oil prices sank to their lowest intraday level in more than two years after the West's energy-security watchdog cut its forecast for demand growth, threatening the earnings momentum that had returned to the Canadian oil patch. The International Energy Agency said in its September oil market report that economic weakness in Europe and China prompted it to temper its outlook for global oil demand in 2014 and 2015.
(Inside Energy)
In 2013, 4,405 Americans died from workplace injuries, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And 112—or 2.5 percent—of them worked in the oil and gas industry in jobs like drilling and servicing wells, operating equipment, and machining parts.
(New York Times)
Keeping Ukraine warm keeps Andriy Kobolev up at night. Mr. Kobolev, the head of Ukraine’s state energy company, Naftogaz, is scrambling to keep gas flowing into his country as winter looms. Russia's energy giant, Gazprom, had provided a little more than half of Ukraine's total gas supply, but suspended its shipments in June in the face of fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military, citing a price dispute. Europe—itself dependent on Russia but also expanding sanctions on the country—has not been able to fill the gap.
(E&E Publishing)
Since the end of the War of 1812, the U.S.-Canada border has been one of the more tranquil boundary areas in the world, populated by American and Canadian farmers mostly minding their own business. So what could happen to disrupt this peaceful environment? Well, climate change might.
(Climate Central)
When you've got tens of millions of people living close to more than 1,000 miles of coastline, it could help to closely track the slews of steps being taken to protect homes, ports, roads, and other infrastructure from rising seas.

September 11, 2014

(The Hill)
Fifteen GOP governors say President Obama's signature climate change regulation on carbon pollution from existing power plants "exceeds the scope of federal law."In a letter to Obama, the governors from states including North Carolina, Alaska, Arizona and Wisconsin said the rule, which requires the nation's fleet of existing power plants to cut carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030, is an overreach of authority.
China is looking to impose a national cap on coal consumption and a ban on the import of low-quality coal with a new air pollution law, the draft version of which has been released, aimed at strengthening the country's efforts to fight smog. The State Council, China's cabinet, on Tuesday published the draft version of the law which will tighten the regulation of major air pollutants that has catapulted the nation into an environmental crisis in the past few years. 
Earth's protective but fragile ozone layer is beginning to recover, largely because of the phase-out since the 1980s of certain chemicals used in refrigerants and aerosol cans, a U.N. scientific panel reported Wednesday in a rare piece of good news about the health of the planet. Scientists said the development demonstrates that when the world comes together, it can counteract a brewing ecological crisis.
(International Business Times)
U.S. crude oil production will hit its highest level since 1970 next year, federal energy forecasters say. The surge, driven by the boom in shale oil drilling, will lower oil and gasoline prices and curb the need for U.S. fuel imports. The U.S. Energy Information Administration now expects America's output to rise to 9.53 million barrels per day—up about 1 million barrels per day for a third consecutive year. Last month, the statistics agency predicted 2015 output growth would slow to 800,000 barrels, but it raised the figure amid steady shale production in North Dakota, Texas and other states.
(Mother Jones)
One icy morning in February 2012, Hillary Clinton's plane touched down in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, which was just digging out from a fierce blizzard. Wrapped in a thick coat, the secretary of state descended the stairs to the snow-covered tarmac, where she and her aides piled into a motorcade bound for the presidential palace. That afternoon, they huddled with Bulgarian leaders, including Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, discussing everything from Syria's bloody civil war to their joint search for loose nukes. But the focus of the talks was fracking.
An energy company's bid to drill for shale oil and gas in the U.K.'s newest national park has been rejected. On Thursday, the 11 officials on the planning committee of the South Downs National Park Authority voted unanimously to turn down an application by Celtique Energie to undertake exploratory drilling as a precursor to fracking at Fernhurst in West Sussex.
With natural gas prices in Europe more than double costs in the U.S., Ineos Group AG has a novel solution: start fracking. The world's fourth-biggest petrochemical manufacturer bought a license last month to look for fuel around its refinery in Grangemouth, Scotland. That complements a deal by Ineos to import gas from the U.S., a step followed by other chemical companies in Europe such as Borealis AG and Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC).
(Trib Total Media)
Two academic studies exploring health and water issues in the gas drilling industry on Wednesday painted very different pictures of its potential impact and brought rebukes from advocates on both sides. A Yale University survey supported by environmental groups including The Heinz Endowments found increased reporting of certain health issues by people who live within a kilometer of working wells in Washington County.
(press connects)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was greeted by a familiar sight as he entered the Presbyterian Church of Mount Kisco to cast his primary ballot Tuesday: anti-fracking protesters. Cuomo on Tuesday made his most extensive public comments on hydraulic fracturing in recent months after he was asked about the small group of protesters outside his Westchester County polling place.
(Fuel Fix)
Statoil, the Norway-based oil company with a major presence in the North Dakota's Bakken, will expand the use of technology that lets the company power equipment with natural gas that it otherwise would burn off. The effort aims to address an ongoing challenge facing producers in the Bakken. When they extract crude oil from the ground, they also get natural gas, but because gas prices are low and transportation infrastructure in the area is slim, they often flare the gas instead of trying to ship or sell it.
(Lincoln Journal Star)
Despite the less-than-certain future of the Keystone XL pipeline—mired for six years in regulatory red tape—TransCanada is showing its commitment to the project with its wallet. The company has spent $2.4 billion on the project that has become an environmental cause célèbre, including paying $638,000 this summer to secure a 4-mile-long stretch of public right-of-way in three northern Nebraska counties. The land is part of a trust to make money for the state's public schools.
(USA Today)
The iconic pine and aspen forests of the Rocky Mountains are dying off at an alarming rate thanks to conditions exacerbated by climate change—drought, insect infestations and wildfires—a new report says. Colorado alone could lose 45 percent of its aspen stands over the next 45 years, says the report released Thursday by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization. Pine bark beetles alone have killed 46 million acres of trees across the west, an area nearly the size of Colorado.

September 10, 2014

U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres says the absence of the Chinese and Indian leaders from a U.N. climate summit on September 23 will not affect its credibility or outcomes.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
A group of Canadian oil sands producers, including some of the world's biggest energy companies, is prepared to commit to specific environmental impact reduction targets later this month.