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Today's Climate

October 16, 2014

Climate change and invasive mussels may have made Lake Erie a more inviting host for toxic bacteria in recent years, suggesting that ambitious goals are needed for reducing phosphorus runoff that feeds large blooms like the one that forced a temporary tap water shutdown in and near Toledo, Ohio, scientists said Wednesday.
(The Hill)
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is calling out federal agencies for not implementing part of a 2009 law meant to reduce ocean acidification. The GAO said a federal task force has outlined a plan to increase the government's understanding of ocean acidification, a process caused by carbon dioxide that harms marine life and shores, along with how the government could respond.
Beijing has a color-coded smog alert system, but its deployment is as much political as technical. According to Beijing's environmental protection bureau, when the "Air Quality Index"—a figure derived from real-time measurements of such pollutants as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, PM 2.5, and PM 10 (the last two refer to the size of airborne particulate matter)—exceeds certain levels, the city should declare "yellow," "orange," or "red" alerts.

October 15, 2014

(Financial Post)
Canadians with an interest in the proposed Alberta-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline will be watching closely as Americans go to the polls in next month's mid-term elections. While President Barack Obama is not on the ballot, he has acknowledged that his policies are, and whether he should approve completion of the long-delayed, increasingly costly Canadian project has emerged as a major campaign issue.
(Battle Creek Enquirer)
Lawyers expect a trial of two or three days for a man charged with obstructing police and trespassing as he protested construction of an oil pipeline. Prosecutors and a lawyer for Christopher Wahmhoff told Calhoun County Circuit Judge James Kingsley on Monday they have not reached an agreement on a plea agreement and they expect the case to be tried.
(USA Today)
Melting glacial ice and ice sheets have driven seas to levels unmatched in the past 6,000 years, says a study out this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers studied examples of past sediments in Australia and Asia that dated back 35,000 years and found that overall, the planet's sea level was fairly stable for most of the past 6,000 years.
Crude extracted from the largest U.S. oil field weakened against the U.S. benchmark after producers lost access to Midwest markets when a 4,000-barrel spill in Louisiana forced the shutdown of a key pipeline. West Texas Intermediate in Midland, Texas, weakened by 75 cents a barrel to a discount of $7 relative to the same grade in Cushing, Oklahoma, at 11:47 a.m., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It's the largest discount since Oct. 1. Midland is the pricing point for the Permian Basin, which produces about 1.76 million barrels of oil a day.
(Washington Post)
The roller-coaster ride of oil prices is speeding downward, carrying with it bickering members of OPEC, anxious U.S. shale oil producers and a Russia that relies heavily on petroleum revenue. With a weak global economy, the customary swing producer of oil—Saudi Arabia—has cut prices instead of cutting production, setting off a scramble on world markets.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC are emitting more carbon dioxide despite tapping less oil and natural gas. For every barrel they pump, the two biggest Western oil companies generated 10 percent more in greenhouse gases each last year than they did in 2011, according to company data.
Former U.K. Environment Secretary Owen Paterson will say government targets to reduce the emission of gases linked to climate change are "utterly implausible," in a speech that puts him on a collision course with his party leader, Prime Minister David Cameron. In a speech in London today to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which is opposed to much of U.K. government policy aimed at tackling climate change, Paterson will argue that a target in the Climate Change Act of cutting emissions by 80 percent by 2050 will push up energy bills.
(The Globe and Mail)
TransCanada Corp. faces a rough ride in Central Canada over its proposed $11-billion Energy East pipeline as industrial users and natural-gas distribution companies warn they'll be short-changed by the company's plan to switch the pipeline to gas from oil. Both Quebec and Ontario governments plan to intervene in the National Energy Board review, which will kick off when TransCanada files for regulatory approval later this month. Both provincial governments are being urged to defend their natural gas customers who say their interests are being sacrificed to western oil producers.
Another rare case of fracking-caused earthquakes has jolted Ohio. A new study connects some 400 micro-earthquakes near the town of Canton, in Harrison County, to hydraulic fracturing wells. The three wells operated from September through October 2013 in the Utica Shale.
(Chicago Tribune)
The director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources testified Tuesday that if state legislators do not act to set rules governing horizontal hydraulic fracturing the agency will not issue fracking permits "absent a court order to the contrary." The rules were on the agenda Tuesday of the 12-member Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, but the committee defered action until Nov. 6. The committee has until Nov. 15 to adopt the rules or the process of formulating fracking regulations would start over again.
The GPS showed David Morgan still on dry land—but the waves bumping beneath his boat revealed the reality of this lost Louisiana landscape. Rising seas have obliterated 30 points on the map in the last three years at Plaquemines Parish where Morgan lives.
(The Times-Picayune)
The U.S. Department of the Treasury on Tuesday (Oct. 14) gave final approval to rules governing the distribution of some Restore Act money to states and local governments, clearing the way for officials to apply for and receive BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill recovery grants.
(New York Times)
This summer, California's water authority declared that wasting water—hosing a sidewalk, for example—was a crime. Next door, in Nevada, Las Vegas has paid out $200 million over the last decade for homes and businesses to pull out their lawns.

October 14, 2014

A saltwater spill estimated at 42,000 gallons flowed into a tributary of a Missouri River reservoir in western North Dakota, damaging vegetation in its path but not threatening drinking water sources, a state health official said. Inspectors and cleanup crews have been on the well site since the spill earlier this week in McKenzie County, said Kris Roberts, an environmental geologist with the North Dakota Health Department. Houston-based Oasis Petroleum Inc. reported the spill Wednesday, Roberts said.
(New York Times)
The inquiry, to be led by Representative Darrell Issa of California and Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, will look at whether the Environmental Protection Agency allowed an advocacy group too much sway in developing a regulation to curb carbon emissions.
(Climate Central)
Like August before it, September 2014 was the warmest September on record, according to newly updated NASA data. The warm month makes it even more likely that 2014 will become the warmest year on record. This September was about 1.4°F above the 1951-1980 average temperature for the month, data from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) showed. That makes it the warmest September in GISS records, edging out the previous September record set in 2005. GISS records extend back to 1880.
Once a day, a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken oil fields rumbles through Bismarck, N.D., just a stone's throw from a downtown park. The Bakken fields produce more than 1 million barrels of oil a day, making the state the nation's second-largest oil producer after Texas. But a dearth of pipelines means that most of that oil leaves the state by train—trains that run next to homes and through downtowns.
(The Bellingham Herald)
BP Cherry Point has announced its rail terminal will no longer accept or unload any Bakken region crude oil from pre-2011 standard tank cars. By the first week in October, the facility had stopped using older DOT-111 cars for crude, BP spokesman Bill Kidd said.
The U.K. government plans to allow fracking companies to put "any substance" under people's homes and property and leave it there, as part of the Infrastructure Bill which will be debated by the House of Lords on Tuesday.
Bakken shale-oil producers are under pressure from tumbling prices to scale back their 2015 drilling plans in a region that accounts for one of every eight U.S. barrels of crude. Bakken oil fell 1 percent to $79.40 a barrel today, the first time it's dropped below $80 in 11 months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Crude prices have been declining worldwide as ample North American supplies tempered the U.S. appetite for imports and Persian Gulf producers signaled they're prepared to keep output high to protect their market shares in Asia.
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
A few months ago, a Marcellus Shale operator approached Leong Ying, business development manager at the radiation measurement division of Thermo Fisher Scientific, with a problem. The driller, whom Mr. Ying declined to name, was trying to dispose of oil and gas waste at area landfills but the trucks kept tripping radiation alarms.
When the state Department of Environmental Protection upgraded design standards for Marcellus Shale water impoundments in early 2011, Range Resources had just completed construction of eight centralized frack ponds in the previous two years using now-outdated technology. The ambitious construction timeline by Range in 2009 and 2010 to aid the burgeoning natural gas drilling industry resulted in leaks and other problems at all of the company's centralized water impoundments in Washington County and the largest-ever fine levied by the DEP against a Marcellus Shale driller.
(Think Progress)
Courtrooms could be the next battlefield in the fight against climate change, according to a new report out of Canada. The paper, put out Thursday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and West Coast Environmental Law, argues that climate science has advanced enough that current and future damages from climate change could start being divvied up amongst various polluters and companies in fossil fuels.
IKEA Group, the world's biggest furniture retailer, may introduce an internal carbon emissions price to help its drive to protect the environment and create a "new and better" company, chief executive Peter Agnefjall said. IKEA, seen as global trend-setter among retailers on green issues, is also on target to invest $1.5 billion in solar and wind power by 2015, and bought a higher proportion of its wood and cotton from sustainable sources in 2014 to aid consumers shift to greener lifestyles.

October 10, 2014

Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that the country and the world need to confront the threat of climate change while there's still time.
One small spot in the U.S. Southwest is the surprising producer of the largest concentration of methane gas seen across the nation. Levels of methane over the Four Corners region are more than triple the standard ground-based estimate of the greenhouse gas, reports a joint study of satellite data by scientists at NASA and the University of Michigan.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
China's finance ministry on Thursday said it would impose tariffs not seen in a decade on imports of certain types of coal starting next Wednesday.   The move reintroduces taxes Beijing had scrapped, and is seen by analysts as an attempt by the government to help its ailing domestic coal production sector.