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Today's Climate

August 25, 2014

(NBC News)
A construction boom of pipelines carrying explosive oil and natural gas from "fracking" fields to market—pipes that are bigger and more dangerous than their predecessors—poses a safety threat in rural areas, where they sometimes run within feet or yards of homes with little or no safety oversight, an NBC News investigation has found.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
The oil industry is gearing up for a postelection lobbying push to loosen the four-decade U.S. ban on exports of crude oil, saying that relaxing the prohibition would create jobs and stimulate the economy. But oil producers face several challenges in the effort, even if Republicans—frequent allies of the industry—win control of the Senate in this fall's elections.
(CBC News)
A spokesperson for TransCanada Corporation says the proposed Energy East pipeline would not endanger waterways, as a report released earlier this week suggests. Shawn Howard says the pipe would have special protective design features, including thicker walls, and would be buried well below the bottom of water bodies.
(CBS/AP)
Government officials and community groups say hundreds of rural San Joaquin Valley residents no longer can get drinking water from their home faucets because California's extreme drought has dried up their individual wells. The situation has become so dire that the Tulare County Office of Emergency Services had 12-gallon-per person rations of bottled water delivered on Friday in the community of East Porterville, where at least 182 of the 1,400 households reported having no or not enough water.
(Guardian)
The planet's two largest ice sheets–in Greenland and Antarctica–are now being depleted at an astonishing rate of 120 cubic miles each year. That is the discovery made by scientists using data from CryoSat-2, the European probe that has been measuring the thickness of Earth's ice sheets and glaciers since it was launched by the European Space Agency in 2010.
(VICE)
In July, when the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced it would move forward with its plan to construct an "ice wall" around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's failed reactors, it seemed like a step backwards. In June, the utility company in charge of decommissioning the plant—which was ravaged by a tsunami in March 2011—indicated that its initial attempt at installing a similar structure had flopped. Its pipes were apparently unable to freeze the ground, despite being filled with a -22°F chemical solution.
(The Globe and Mail)
Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio is ruffling feathers in Alberta after becoming the latest celebrity to visit the province and shine a critical spotlight on Canada's oil sands. Both the Alberta government and the oil industry came to the defence of the oil sands after Mr. DiCaprio travelled Friday to Fort McMurray, the heart of the oil-sands industry, as well as to the small community Fort Chipewyan, which has drawn world attention to health and environmental concerns.
(The Canadian Press)
Quebec police investigating the Lac-Mégantic train disaster say they've visited the United States four times to seize documents and to interview witnesses—and they expect to go back. A provincial police spokesman said Friday that investigators still have evidence to gather in the U.S. for analysis in Quebec.
(Houston Chronicle (sub. req'd))
The steady rumble of engines provides the soundtrack for operations at Anadarko Petroleum Corp.'s new "stim center," where five towering silos dispense silica into blending equipment and a dozen red tractor-trailers provide the horsepower to blast the resulting sand-water slurry deep underground.
(Denver Post)
On the second day of his vacation, surrounded by science fiction and comic book fans at Comic Con, Alan Salazar looked around the San Diego Convention Center for a quiet place so he could take a phone call from his boss.
(E&E Publishing)
A growing number of leaders are openly acknowledging that a 2015 international agreement to avert catastrophic global warming will surely fall short of what's needed to achieve that goal. But another consensus is also forming among top U.S. experts: that shortfall is OK, as long as the deal puts all major climate polluters on a serious, upward and transparent path to cutting greenhouse gases.
(New York Times)
Scientists have discovered methane gas bubbling from the seafloor in an unexpected place: off the East Coast of the United States where the continental shelf meets the deeper Atlantic Ocean. The methane is emanating from at least 570 locations, called seeps, from near Cape Hatteras, N.C., to the Georges Bank southeast of Nantucket, Mass. While the seepage is widespread, the researchers estimated that the amount of gas was tiny compared with the amount released from all sources each year.
(BusinessWeek)
Even as the shale-gas boom has dramatically changed America's energy mix and pricing, the U.S. still burns a lot of coal. Because the fleet of domestic coal-fired power plants includes many aging facilities, it isn't burned efficiently. A study by researchers at Duke University and the University of Calgary has compared coal burning in the U.S. and Korea and proposed a novel way to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions.

August 22, 2014

(The Hill)
The Environmental Protection Agency has made "substantial" progress in reducing toxic air pollution since 1990, reducing many pollutants by more than half, regulators told Congress Thursday. On a national basis, reductions include a 66 percent drop in benzene, a nearly 60 percent reduction in mercury from man-made sources and an 84 percent drop in lead.
(CBC News)
America and Canada are friends. That's the main message Americans got from phase one of the federal government's multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to promote Canadian oil in Washington and drum up support for the Keystone XL pipeline. That's no surprise to some Washington-based Canada-U.S. relations experts who say the first leg of the campaign was too polite and, well, too Canadian to have any real effect.
(Al Jazeera America)
Five-and-a-half years have passed since an earthen dam holding toxic coal ash from a coal plant failed in Harriman, Tenn., spilling more than a billion gallons of the ash into rivers and forests, and destroying several homes. The TVA Kingston Fossil Plant disaster was widely considered one of the worst in U.S. history, or at least one of the biggest by volume. And it’s still causing headaches, hundreds of miles away.
(Think Progress)
At least 10 percent of the contents of fracking fluid injected into the earth is toxic. For another third we have no idea. And that's only from the list of chemicals the fracking industry provided voluntarily. That's according to an analysis by William Stringfellow of Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, reported in Chemistry World.
(San Antonio Express-News)
The energy boom that transformed South Texas into an economic powerhouse also has created a prolific source of air pollution and wasted natural gas.   A yearlong investigation by the San Antonio Express-News shows that gas flares spreading across the Eagle Ford Shale are burning and wasting billions of cubic feet of natural gas.
(Fuel Fix)
Energy companies and an environmental group are working together to develop technology that could help cut down on harmful methane emissions. The Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Defense Fund is working with seven oil and gas companies to help identify devices that can do a better job at detecting methane emissions from energy operations. The idea is that if the industry knows when methane is being released, it can do a better job of blocking it.
(USA Today)
A series of small but unusual earthquakes near a well being pumped full of liquid drilling waste north of Denver has reignited a debate about the impacts of oil and gas development near homes.
(New York Times)
Jin Peisheng, a drilling rig foreman, knows the challenges of trying to extract natural gas from a coal seam under the cornfields here in north-central China. Cracks in the subterranean coal are flooded with water that needs to be pumped out before the gas will emerge. The coal seams are so cold that gels injected into the well, which are meant to help release the gas, sometimes become gummy and block the flow instead.
(AP)
Deep in the hilly grasslands of remote Inner Mongolia, twin smoke stacks rise more than 200 feet into the sky, their steam and sulfur billowing over herds of sheep and cattle. Both day and night, the rumble of this power plant echoes across the ancient steppe, and its acrid stench travels dozens of miles away.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
Belgian authorities are racing to map out emergency plans in case of a severe energy crunch this winter. The country could face energy shortfalls in the depths of winter after the sudden closure of three major nuclear power plants over the past months.
(Guardian)
The key to the slowdown in global warming in recent years could lie in the depths of the Atlantic and Southern Oceans where excess heat is being stored – not the Pacific Ocean as has previously been suggested, according to new research.
(Climate Central)
Climate change is driving the Greenland Ice Sheet to melt, which is contributing to sea level rise. But imagine that the same amount of water melting from Greenland each year is being lost in California and the rest of the West because of the epic drought there.

August 21, 2014

(Reuters)
The cleanup of a 5,000-gallon fuel oil spill from a Duke Energy Corp power plant into the Ohio River could stretch into Thursday, Duke said on Wednesday, as the U.S. Coast Guard reopened a 15-mile section of the river to limited traffic.
(Philadelphia Inquirer)
A coalition of doctors, nurses, and environmental groups is calling on the Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett administration to address citizen complaints more comprehensively and better track potential health effects related to natural-gas drilling.
(Orlando Sentinel)
After months of dodging questions about climate change, Gov. Rick Scott met today with a panel of climate scientists who have been trying to brief him on the human influence on global warming. Then he quickly left the office without answering any questions.
(Wall Street Journal)
U.S. economic growth accelerated in the second half of 2013 before unexpectedly contracting early this year. But growth late last year was uneven across the nation, with some energy-rich states leading the pack while economies slowed in New England and on the Plains.
(AP)
North Carolina lawmakers Wednesday passed new legislation they say will regulate coal-ash pits and clean up decades of toxic waste generated by coal-burning electricity plants. The House and Senate approved the legislation six months after a spill at a Duke Energy power plant near Eden coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic sludge and ignited debate about the safety of 32 other coal-ash dumps across the state.