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Today's Climate

September 19, 2014

China's bid to limit the consumption of low-quality thermal coal in major cities to help curb pollution will not apply to power plants, traders and utility sources said, exempting a sector responsible for half the country's coal use. China said on Monday that from 2015 it would restrict the production, consumption and import of coal with high impurity levels in a bid to fight smog, much of which is caused by using coal for heating and electricity.
(Inside Energy)
The coal pile at the Comanche Generating Station outside of Pueblo, Colorado is normally over ten stories tall, but rail delays have shortened it considerably. The red smokestacks of the Comanche power plant outside of Pueblo, Colorado can be seen from miles away. The plant supplies power to communities along the Front Range, including Denver, and consumes hundreds of tons of coal an hour in the process. That coal arrives in mile-long trains from Wyoming's Powder River Basin and is stockpiled at the plant.
(Huffington Post)
Three conservation groups accused Dominion Virginia Power Wednesday of illegally discharging coal ash waste into the Potomac River. Five coal ash ponds at Dominion's Possum Point power plant, 30 miles south of Washington, "have been illegally leaking toxic pollutants for decades into groundwater and two popular waterways," the Southern Environmental Law Center, representing Potomac Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club, said in a statement.
An oil boom in Wyoming is having a filthy side effect. A string of accidents, ranging in geography from a remote gulley in the Powder River Basin to a refinery in downtown Cheyenne, already has made this year the state's worst for oil spills since at least 2009, state records show.
(StateImpact Pennsylvania)
Range Resources will pay a $4.15 million fine for violations at six wastewater impoundments in Washington County. It is the largest penalty the state has imposed on a shale gas driller, the Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday. The violations include leaks of flowback fluid—the liquid that comes back out of a well after hydraulic fracturing—into soil and groundwater. The DEP said drinking water supplies were not affected. Residents living near Range's Yeager impoundment in Amwell Township dispute that claim and have filed suit against the company.
People living near a Canadian energy company's exploratory gas-drilling site in the Yorkshire Wolds have complained to the Environment Agency about feeling sick from noxious smells. But the company has re-assured government inspectors and local people there is no danger to human health and has been allowed to continue drilling a 9,000 ft deep "wildcat" bore hole.
(Fuel Fix)
Kinder Morgan has submitted a bid to sell pipeline capacity on one of its newest expansions to the state of Maine. The project, the Northeast Energy Direct Project, is a massive push to put as much as 2.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas capacity per day in a New England market that has been starved of fuel. If Maine bites, the state could become one of the project's major supporters, drawing in as much as 200 million cubic feet of gas capacity per day.
When the White House, working with European allies, moved in early September to tighten sanctions against Russia, President Obama promised the damage to Russian interests would be severe. "These measures will increase Russia’s political isolation as well as the economic costs to Russia, especially in areas of importance to President Putin and those close to him," Obama said in a statement on Sept. 11.

September 18, 2014

(National Journal)
A top White House adviser said President Obama will use next week's United Nations climate summit in New York City to push initiatives aimed at helping nations bolster their defenses against climate-related risks. "He'll be making a number of announcements that put America squarely on the side of building global resilience, trying to provide public goods to countries around the world, some of whom can't afford to build the kind of resilient tools they need to anticipate the effects of climate change," John Podesta said Wednesday.
(Chicago Tribune)
The Illinois legislature's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules will take an additional 45 days to review rules that would govern horizontal hydraulic fracturing in the state, saying they would like time to review the complicated regulations. The  12-member committee met Tuesday in Chicago to review the rules—one of 52 items on its agenda—which attempt to incorporate more than 30,000 comments the Illinois Department of Natural Resources received about its first draft from all sides of the issue into a final set of regulations.
(Detroit Free Press)
Consumers Energy will pay more than $10.5 million in penalties and environmental remediation projects, and will make about $2 billion in upgrades to its coal-fired power plants, to settle a lawsuit with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the plants' emissions. The settlement, announced Tuesday, resolves claims that Consumers—Michigan's largest utility, providing natural gas and electricity to 6.5 million customers throughout the Lower Peninsula—violated the federal Clean Air Act by modifying five of its power-generating facilities in a way that caused the release of excess sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, EPA officials said in announcing the settlement.
The secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, is to join a public march calling for action on climate change this weekend. "I will link arms with those marching for climate action," Ban told a press conference. "We stand with them on the right side of this key issue for our common future."
(Press Association)
Institutional investors managing £15tn of assets have called for an ambitious global climate deal to give them certainty to invest in clean technology. More than 340 institutions including BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, AXA Group and Legal & General Investment Management, have called for strong policies to drive action on climate change.
(Climate Central)
As summer draws to a close, the Arctic sea ice melt season is coming to an end. And while the season didn’t top 2012's astounding record melt, it has still resulted in what will likely be the sixth lowest September minimum ice extent on record.
(Fuel Fix)
More details came to light Tuesday on Shell's plans for exploratory oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea north of Alaska, as federal regulators released a copy of the company's broad Arctic drilling blueprint. Shell filed the document with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management last month, a milestone in its quest to resume drilling in the region after its previous, attempt two years ago was marred by mishaps.
China's largest producer of offshore oil and gas CNOOC said Monday that CNOOC 981, the country's first deepwater drilling rig, has made its first deepwater gasfield discovery in the South China Sea. The Lingshui 17-2 gasfield, some 150 kilometers south of Hainan Island, is in the east Lingshui Sag of the Qiongdongnan Basin, the company said in a statement.
Even as it faces $50 billion in potential liabilities from the worst U.S. offshore oil spill, BP Plc (BP/) is leading the effort to extract crude from deep below the sea, a place as extreme and inhospitable as the surface of Mars.
(Christian Science Monitor)
Can an independent Scotland run on North Sea oil and gas? That's one of many questions Scottish voters will have to consider Thursday as they vote for or against breaking with the United Kingdom in a hotly anticipated referendum on Scotland independence.
(Think Progress)
An algal bloom in Oregon's Willamette River prompted a health advisory from the Oregon Health Authority Tuesday, with the agency warning Oregon residents not to touch, drink or inhale droplets from the river. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has taken samples of the bloom and is waiting to get back test results, which will determine the species of algae and the amount of algal cells in the bloom.
(Columbus Dispatch)
An Ohio Supreme Court ruling may clear the way for strip mining for coal in many state parks, forests and wildlife areas. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources had argued that strip mining would "utterly destroy" state lands and was not permitted unless it was specifically authorized in the mineral-rights deeds held by former landowners.

September 17, 2014

(Los Angeles Times)
A week before world leaders will discuss how to slow the increase of dangerous gases in the atmosphere, the Obama administration announced that it has reached agreements with a range of major companies to voluntarily phase out a class of chemicals, used in refrigerators and air conditioners, and seen as contributors to global warming.
(Huffington Post)
Wildfires may cost the U.S. as much as $62.5 billion a year by 2050 as the effects of climate change worsen, argues an economic analysis released Tuesday. Wildfires cost the U.S. government $1.7 billion in 2013, but that figure only includes firefighting. It doesn't take into account the loss of private property or timber, the loss of the ecosystem benefits forests provide, or the cost for rehabilitating burned forests.
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a package of bills on Tuesday to regulate California's stressed groundwater supplies amid a drought that is expected to cost the state $2.2 billion in lost crops, jobs and other damages, with no end in sight. The bills will allow the state to take over management of underground aquifers and water accessed via wells, and aim to tighten oversight of water at a time when groundwater levels are shrinking in the third year of a catastrophic drought.
(The Hill)
Four senators introduced a bill Tuesday that would set a time limit on the government's consideration of cross-border oil pipelines like Keystone XL and remove the president's role in the process. The senators said the bill came from their frustrations over President Obama's consideration of Keystone, whose developer applied for a permit almost six years ago.
(Fuel Fix)
Seeking to shave its liability for polluting the Gulf of Mexico in the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, BP asked the Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday to grant a favorable interpretation of an insurance policy. For the company, which has already spent $28 billion on cleanup and could face $18 billion more in penalties, the financial stakes represent little more than a rounding error. As the operator of the Macondo Well, it is seeking access to $750 million in insurance coverage purchased by the rig owner, Transocean.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
It's the heaviest polluter in the dirtiest city in China. Jizhong Energy Resources Co. operates six large coal mines and dozens of related facilities in this gray industrial center, which government data show has the worst air quality of any Chinese town. Five of the facilities are on a national list of top air polluters, and eight are on the Xingtai government's list, more than any other company here.
(Washington Post)
By the end of this century, as sea levels rise, as much as $7 billion worth of property in the District will routinely be threatened by storm-driven floodwaters, according to a new analysis, including 1,000 homes, three military bases and a broad swath of the Mall. With tides on the Atlantic Coast generally forecast to rise two to four feet by 2100, the nation's capital faces increasing odds that a big storm will blow up the Potomac River and raise local waters by at least eight feet, the analysis says—roughly a foot higher than the damaging floods that accompanied Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
Rising sea levels are a "sleeping giant" issue that will put at risk coastal infrastructure worth up to $226 billion, a new report has found. Analysis by the Climate Council found Australia was likely to experience a sea level rise of 0.4m to 1m by the end of the century, with a "high end" scenario of 1.1m possible if the world warmed by about 4C compared with pre-industrial temperatures.
The Netherlands on Tuesday unveiled a multi-billion-euro, multi-decade plan to counter the biggest environmental threat to the low-lying European nation: surging seawater caused by global climate change. The project, expected to span 30 years and cost 20 billion euros ($25 billion), will see new sea barriers built and existing dykes strengthened in the country, much of which lies below sea-level.
(The Hill)
The Obama administration on Tuesday added more time to the clock for the public to comment on the president's signature climate rule on existing power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency's head of the Air and Radiation Office, Janet McCabe, said the agency would extend the comment period another 45 days.