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Today's Climate

July 17, 2014

(Climate Central)
Weather- and climate-related disasters have caused $2.4 trillion in economic losses and nearly 2 million deaths globally since 1971 according to a new report. While the losses are staggering, the report also shows that we have learned from past disasters, lessons the world will need as development continues in hazardous areas and the climate continues to change.
(Washington Post)
A years-long drought and a warmer-than-average winter have Western states worried that they face extraordinary challenges in what by many estimates will be a record fire season. The National Interagency Fire Center says the threat of wildfires is already above normal in much of Oregon and California, and the high desert in Washington, Idaho and Nevada. Parts of Arizona remain under heightened threat, too.

July 16, 2014

(The Times-Picayune)
About 160 barrels of a crude oil and water mixture spilled on Monday near a residential community in Belle Chasse, according to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and State Police. While cleanup crews and DEQ officials remained on the scene Tuesday, residents were told that there was nothing to worry about in terms of health effects.
(The Canadian Press)
The City of Burnaby's refusal to cooperate with Kinder Morgan has forced a seven-month delay in a National Energy Board review of the company's proposed expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline through British Columbia. The NEB announced Tuesday it has deferred the deadline for the final report to cabinet until Jan. 25, 2016, while Kinder Morgan completes necessary studies.
Japan's nuclear regulator vouched for the safety of two reactors in the country's south, setting in motion the re-adoption of atomic power even as most Japanese remain skeptical after the Fukushima disaster of 2011.
(The Hill)
In a slew of actions Wednesday, President Obama is unveiling new assistance tools for state, local, and tribal leaders that will better prepare them for climate change impacts. The unilateral actions, in line with Obama's year of action pledge and climate change agenda, will provide millions to tribes for adaptation training, establish awards for states to improve rural electric infrastructure, and make available mapping and data tools for climate resilience.
(Los Angeles Times)
Cities throughout California will have to impose mandatory restrictions on outdoor watering under an emergency state rule approved Tuesday. Saying that it was time to increase conservation in the midst of one of the worst droughts in decades, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted drought regulations that give local agencies the authority to fine those who waste water up to $500 a day.
Beverly McGuire saw the warning signs before the town well went dry: sand in the toilet bowl, the sputter of air in the tap, a pump working overtime to no effect. But it still did not prepare her for the night last month when she turned on the tap and discovered the tiny town where she had made her home for 35 years was out of water.
(Poughkeepsie Journal)
A state judge on Monday blocked attempts to force Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration to decide whether to authorize large-scale hydraulic fracturing. Acting Supreme Court Justice Roger McDonough of Albany County tossed a pair of lawsuits Monday afternoon, ruling that a group of upstate landowners and the bankruptcy trustee for a defunct oil-and-gas company lack the authority to bring the legal challenge.
(KQED Science)
Opponents of hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—have pushed for a statewide moratorium on the controversial oil production technique. With those efforts stalled in the state legislature, activists are taking the fight to the county level.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
Carbon dioxide isn't just a greenhouse gas that federal officials want to curb: It is also highly prized by the energy industry, which injects it into aging oil fields to increase their output. Coal-fired power plants vent carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, while oil drillers generally have gotten their CO2 from underground caverns or industrial plants.
(Mississippi Watchdog)
The cost for Mississippi to meet proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations governing carbon dioxide emissions from coal power plants could run into the billions. Guess who'll be footing the tab? Everyone who pays an electric bill.
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Ameren Missouri says it must decide quickly on how to comply with proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules limiting carbon pollution. But with a state plan likely three years away, it's unclear which steps it should take and whether it can get credit for all of them.
(High Country News)
Last winter, when Rick Schreiber saw the photos of two abandoned flatbed trailers heaped with thousands of pounds of low-level radioactive garbage, some spilling onto the ground, he'd had enough. A landfill director in western North Dakota's Bakken oil field, near where the waste was left, Schreiber turns illegal industrial rubbish like that away from the McKenzie County municipal landfill weekly.
(Al Jazeera America)
For more than a decade, the country around Ronald and Sallie Cox's home, 25 miles south of Pittsburgh, has been an unchanging landscape of rolling green foothills. Sitting atop a modest promontory, their property is ringed on three sides by a border of woodland, and to the east, the ground slopes down into a neighbor's horse paddocks.

July 15, 2014

(KERA News)
The city of Denton could take another step Tuesday toward becoming the only Texas city to permanently ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The city of Denton sits above the Barnett Shale, one of the country's largest natural gas fields. There are already nearly 300 active gas wells.
(Baltimore Sun)
Two dozen protesters were arrested in Washington Monday after they blocked entrances to the federal commission reviewing a proposed natural gas export terminal and liquefaction plant in Southern Maryland. Protesters opposed to exporting liquefied natural gas through Cove Point in Lusby sat down in front of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's headquarters. Some held signs, including one calling the agency the "Fracking Expansion Rubberstamp Commission" and another warning that the project was "risky business."
(The Globe and Mail)
Oil sands producers are facing an increasingly troublesome eastern front in their battle for market access, as environmental groups focus their efforts on the growing use of Canadian oil on the Atlantic seaboard.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is drafting regulations to improve the safety of rail shipments of crude oil following a series derailments, explosions and fires. With billions of dollars at stake, the railroad, oil, ethanol and chemical industries have been trying to shape the rules to their advantage in a series of meetings with the White House and PHMSA. A key issue is tougher standards for tank cars used to ship oil. The public has weighed in primarily through letters, emails and phone calls to the agency.
The oil industry and the railroads that haul its crude have offered U.S. regulators a joint plan to phase out a type of older tank car tied to a spate of fiery accidents, according to two people familiar with the proposal. The plan also calls for slightly thicker walls for new cars to make them less vulnerable to puncture, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private communications.
(The Hill)
An independent analysis of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposal to limit carbon dioxide pollution from power plants concluded that states are "well positioned" to handle the federal government's requirements under the rules. The Analysis Group said Monday that there will be costs associated with compliance, but "such costs will be much lower than the benefits to public health and to the overall economy from lower CO2 and other air emissions."
(West Virginia Gazette)
The U.S. Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers could not carry out policies related to climate change and climate science under an amendment proposed by Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and passed Thursday night by the U.S. House of Representatives.
(Minneapolis Star Tribune)
North Dakota is poised for another surge in crude oil output, but new state regulations could soon force well operators to cut oil production unless they reduce wasteful flaring of natural gas. The state's top oil regulator said Monday that oil production rose 3.6 percent in May to a record 1,039,635 barrels per day, and is poised to increase at a faster pace. The report comes one month after the state for the first time surpassed 1 million barrels of oil production per day.
(Washington Post)
The current debate that Oklahoma is having over the potential link between hydraulic fracturing and the unprecedented spike in earthquake activity in recent months offers a warning lesson: every innovation comes with tradeoffs. In this case, the reward of cheaper, more bountiful energy promised by hydraulic fracturing appears to be offset by the risk of increased seismic activity. When it comes to innovation, there is no such thing as a free lunch.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
China's once insatiable appetite for coal is cooling, raising questions about mining companies' big bets on new projects. Beijing's figures on coal imports and domestic production this year indicate sharply weaker demand, which experts say stems from slowing growth in the world's No. 2 economy.
The coalition's flagship insulation programs have failed to put the U.K. on the right track to meet its commitments on cutting greenhouse gases, a review by the statutory advisers on climate change has found. The number of cavity wall insulations – one of the most effective measures for cutting energy use – has plunged by more than two-thirds owing to a change in government schemes to encourage insulation.
(Think Progress)
Cutting greenhouse gas emissions will not be easy for South Africa. It has a large and intensive coal mining industry that it uses to meet growing energy demand and it also consumes the second-most amount of petroleum in Africa behind Egypt. South Africa's greenhouse gas emissions actually rose 25 percent between 2000 and 2010, with many of the emissions coming from coal-fired power stations and vehicle tailpipes. Energy-related emissions make up about 85 percent of the country's overall emissions, with farming, forestry, and manufacturing accounting for most of the rest.

July 14, 2014

This is the last summer the Kalamazoo River will be the scene of heavy dredging activity, as Enbridge Inc. cleans up the mess from a pipeline leak that sent an estimated 800,000 gallons of crude oil into Talmadge Creek and the river.
(The Canadian Press)
Two legal challenges were filed Friday against the federal cabinet's approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline. The Gitxaala First Nations, who hail from the North Coast of British Columbia, filed an application for judicial review with the Federal Court of Appeal.
(Washington Post)
The oil and gas groups that want the Keystone XL Pipeline built lobbied significantly harder for the project than the environmentalists fighting against it. But the pressure and passion is so intense on both sides that the lopsided lobbying hasn’t been enough to move the needle. The Obama administration continues to punt the ultimate decision of whether to allow construction of the crude oil pipeline crossing the U.S.-Canadian border, yet the sectors lobbying in support of it keep on pushing.