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Today's Climate

April 4, 2014

(Financial Post)
As greater preoccupation with the environment translated into more opposition to fossil fuel projects, Canadian energy industry leaders say they could have done a better job of addressing the concerns.
(Pittsburg Post-Gazette)
Even when pollution discharges from shale gas well pads and impoundments contaminate private water supplies, those violations often go unrecorded or publicly reported by state environmental regulators, according to documents filed in the Pennsylvania Superior Court case challenging the constitutionality of the state's oil and gas law, Act 13.
(National Journal)
When a chemical spill that left 300,000 West Virginia residents without clean tap water, lawmakers lined up to promise legislation that would crack down on chemical storage and safeguard the nation's water supplies. Thus far, the rhetoric has far outpaced the reality.
(Houston Chronicle)
Coast Guard investigators on Thursday rapped Shell Oil Co. and its contractors for failing to heed the dangers of towing a drilling rig across stormy Alaska waters in late 2012—a voyage that ended when it ran aground on New Year's Eve.
Billions of barrels of untapped shale oil in the U.S. are counted by companies relying on limited drilling history that exaggerate future production, casting doubt on how close the U.S. is to energy independence.
(The New Yorker)
On the morning of Thursday, January 9, 2014, the people of Charleston, West Virginia, awoke to a strange tang in the air off the Elk River. It smelled like licorice. The occasional odor is part of life in Charleston, the state capital, which lies in an industrial area that takes flinty pride in the nickname Chemical Valley. In the nineteenth century, natural brine springs made the region one of America's largest producers of salt. 
(Denver Post)
Colorado coal production—hobbled by mine closures and a decline in demand for power-plant coal—hit a 20-year low in 2013. The state's nine mines produced 23.8 million tons of coal, according to the federal Energy Information Agency, a 17 percent decline from 2012 and down 41 percent from the 2004 peak. In 1993, the state produced 21.9 million tons.
(StateImpact Texas)
From the first geyser to burst from the salt domes of Spindletop to the Texas fracking pioneer George Mitchell, who helped unlock massive oil and gas deposits in shale, the Lone Star State has always been willing to gamble on drilling. And the bets are big. The latest boom has been mostly the work of companies and investors with access to plenty of capital—it's estimated each oil well in the Eagle Ford shale of South Texas costs between $5 and $10 million to drill.
(Inter Press Service)
Scientists warn that large-scale fracking for shale gas planned by Mexico's oil company Pemex will cause a surge in seismic activity in northern Mexico, an area already prone to quakes. Experts link a 2013 swarm of earthquakes in the northern states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo León to hydraulic fracturing or fracking in the Burgos and Eagle Ford shale deposits – the latter of which is shared with the U.S. state of Texas.

April 3, 2014

(The Hill)
Eight Democrats in the House have asked Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reopen its investigations into water contamination incidents in Wyoming, Pennsylvania and Texas that they say may have been connected to natural gas drilling, including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
The U.N.'s climate chief called on the oil and gas industry on Thursday to make a drastic shift to a clean, low-carbon future or risk having to leave three-quarters of fossil fuel reserves in the ground.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency failed to disclose cancer risks to people it exposed to harmful pollutants in research studies, a government watchdog says. The EPA, which warns of dangers from diesel exhaust and tiny particles in its rules to cut pollution, recruited people for tests on those pollutants in 2010 and 2011. Consent forms they were given didn't mention cancer because the agency considered the risks minimal, the agency's Office of Inspector General said today in a report.
(Minnesota Public Radio)
State regulators have already signed off on Enbridge's plan to increase capacity to 570,000 barrels per day. Now the company is asking the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to approve an increased capacity of 800,000 barrels per day.
(Platts (sub. req'd))
Enbridge's view of the evolving U.S. crude-by-rail market has "changed pretty substantially," and the company has concluded that pipelines will never regain all of the market share being taken by railcars to the U.S. East and West coasts, a company official said Wednesday."Rail has proven to be very successful in getting [barrels to] some of these refineries on the East and West coasts that are not well accessed from pipeline, and we have now concluded that pipelines are probably never going to get those barrels back," Guy Jarvis, Enbridge's president of liquids pipelines, said during a webcast Enbridge Energy Partners Investor Day presentation.
The U.S. Environmental Agency expressed concern last year that a proposed deal between North Carolina regulators and Duke Energy to settle pollution violations at two of the company's coal ash dumps was too lenient. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources released more than 13,000 pages of public records in recent days as a response to media requests following the February 2 coal ash spill at a Duke plant in Eden, which coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic gray sludge.
The EU will not levy a carbon emission tax on airlines when their planes are outside European airspace, the European Parliament has decided. The exemption for airlines will apply until 2017, by which time a global deal on aviation emissions may be in place.
(E&E Publishing)
Structures that are usually considered permanent have a habit of getting moved around on North Carolina's Outer Banks. Roads, for example, are often pushed westward as waves eat away at the nearby shoreline. Three-story beach homes are frequently jacked up and carried farther inland. And in 1999, even the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was placed onto a system of rails and roller dollies and pulled 2,900 feet away from a swiftly encroaching Atlantic Ocean.
(Think Progress)
An official at a national radioactive waste cleanup company has put out a warning for North Dakota oil producers: Clean up your act, or risk turning parts of the state into Superfund sites.
(Chicago Tribune)
Faced with public outrage about gritty black dust blowing through Chicago's Southeast Side, Mayor Rahm Emanuel talked of forcing towering mounds of petroleum coke out of Chicago and outlawing new piles with costly regulations. But the fine print of a zoning ordinance unveiled Tuesday by the Emanuel administration opens the door for greater use of the high-sulfur, high-carbon refinery byproduct in the city.
(National Geographic)
Carbon capture and storage has been hailed for decades by some as an essential solution to the climate problem, and pilloried by others as unworkable and a dangerous distraction. This year, at last, it will be tested at full commercial scale.
(Climate Central)
Warming temperatures, scientists say, can tip places into drought conditions by increasing evaporation and sapping soil of its moisture. A new study suggests up to a third of the Earth's land area could be subject to drier conditions because of warmer temperatures, not just changing precipitation patterns, by the end of the century.

April 2, 2014

(Think Progress)
As President Obama's decision on Keystone XL nears, opposition from Native American tribes—many of whom have long spoken out against the pipeline—is getting louder. Last weekend, members of South Dakota's Rosebud Sioux tribe set up a prayer camp near Mission, SD in protest of the Keystone XL pipeline. Tribe leaders say their plan is to send a message to the White House that Native Americans won't back down on this pipeline, which they say would run through land guaranteed by an 1868 treaty for tribal use.
The oil industry has failed to share important data on oil-by-rail shipments that may help regulators prevent future mishaps, a leading U.S. Department of Transportation regulator said on Tuesday. Cynthia Quarterman, chief of the DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, specifically cited the American Petroleum Institute, the industry's top lobbying group, for not keeping its promise to share data about oil-by-rail shipments.
(Denver Post)
A plan for a detailed analysis on the potential health impacts of oil and gas development on the Front Range was approved Monday by a state legislative committee.
There are more than 6,000 active gas wells in Pennsylvania. And every week, those drilling sites generate scores of complaints from the state's residents, including many about terrible odors and contaminated water. How the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection handles those complaints has worsened the already raw and angry divide between fearful residents and the state regulators charged with overseeing the burgeoning gas drilling industry.
(The Hill)
Senate Republicans want the Keystone XL pipeline and natural gas exports to ride the coattails of unemployment benefits. Republican Sens. John Hoeven (N.D.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) on Tuesday proposed an amendment to the jobless aid bill that finds a path forward for Keystone and expedites natural gas export applications.
(Vancouver Observer)
B.C. Premier Christy Clark was a partner in a lobbying firm that was contracted by Enbridge and lobbied the federal government on the company's behalf, according to documents obtained by The Vancouver Observer.  The Premier's spokesperson, however, stated that Enbridge was no longer a client of the firm by the time she joined the company.
(Charleston Gazette)
After weeks of study and debate in the Legislature, West Virginia finally has a new law that regulates aboveground chemical storage tanks and requires a study of the long-term health effects of the Jan. 9 Elk River spill. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed the legislation—known as the "spill bill"—into law Tuesday afternoon.
Duke Energy is asking a judge to prevent citizens groups from taking part in any enforcement action that would make the company clean up nearly three dozen coal ash pits across North Carolina. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources filed a complaint against Duke last year. Several citizens groups got involved in the case, saying the waste dumps polluted groundwater.
(Houston Chronicle)
The first time the Miss Susan skipper contacted the pilot aboard the bulk carrier Summer Wind, the two ships already were on a collision course in the Houston Ship Channel. In that brief conversation, the pilot issued a strong warning to the smaller towboat to get out of the way, according to audio recordings of ship-to-ship conversations the Houston Chronicle obtained Monday from the U.S. Coast Guard.