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Today's Climate

September 8, 2014

(CBC News)
Sending oilsands bitumen north through N.W.T. to a port in the Arctic is feasible, according to a study commissioned last year by Alberta. Dubbed the Arctic Gateway Pipeline, the proposed link would ship bitumen along the Mackenzie Valley to a port in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.
(Columbus Dispatch)
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is considering changing how it issues permits for pipelines, roads and coal mines that disturb wetlands and streams. The changes, an EPA spokeswoman said, streamline the permitting process required before things that affect waterways are built or repaired. But environmental groups say the changes could harm water quality in Ohio.
In April, Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) headlined a group of 70 companies that called on world governments to cap greenhouse gas emissions at a level that will contain global warming. The “Trillion Tonne Communique,” named for the amount of heat-trapping gases that scientists believe can be added to the atmosphere while keeping warming within 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels, was described as a "global call to arms from businesses who take the science of climate change seriously and are demanding a proactive policy response."
The so-called Bridge fire that started Friday afternoon is already threatening hundreds of homes. The blaze in Mariposa County is one of many large fires burning in drought-stricken California. Officials say this weekend's conditions will make the danger even greater.
Algae that turned Lake Erie green and produced toxins that fouled the tap water for 400,000 people in Toledo are becoming a big headache for those who keep drinking water safe even far beyond the Great Lakes. But with no federal standards on safe levels for drinking algae-tainted water and no guidelines for treating or testing it either, water quality engineers sometimes look for solutions the same way school kids do their homework.

September 5, 2014

A federal judge on Thursday ruled that BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico four years ago was the result of gross negligence or willful misconduct by the London oil company. The decision could cost BP billions of dollars more in fines for fouling the ocean, though it could be years before legal battles over the spill are resolved, as BP plans to appeal. Investors erased as much as $9.4 billion from BP's market value Thursday.
(The Globe and Mail)
Canada's transportation safety agency is raising concerns that dangerous crude oil could still be travelling by rail inside misclassified tank cars, despite assurances from the federal government that the problem has been fixed. In a recent letter to Transport Canada, the Transportation Safety Board said new requirements to test oil don't explicitly address its "variability," including the fact that different products are sometimes blended together before they are shipped.
(Think Progress)
By taking no serious action to slash carbon pollution and put the world on a path to 2°C warming (or less), humanity is voluntarily choosing to sharply boost the chances of the worst kinds of droughts—including the kind of multi-decade megadroughts that in the past have overturned entire civilizations.
Hillary Clinton never actually said the word "fracking" during her keynote address at the National Clean Energy Summit in Nevada on Thursday, but she still clearly laid out her views on the technique: She's all for it.
A federal judge plans to decide next week whether to block the release of oil and gas leases in Nevada that critics say will be used for hydraulic fracturing and cause more environmental harm than the Bureau of Land Management admits.
(StateImpact Pennsylvania)
The state Department of Environmental Protection has approved a $150,000 grant earmarked in the state budget for "independent research regarding natural gas drilling" to an industry-backed nonprofit organization. The funding was approved on a non-competitive basis– other groups were not able to apply for the money.
When oil companies mounted a public campaign in 2010 to roll back California's nation-leading greenhouse gas restrictions, the effort backfired in a big way: 62 percent of the state's voters rejected Proposition 23, which would have suspended California's goal of slashing carbon emissions by the end of the decade.
(The Globe and Mail)
The long-held dream of boosting exports of Alberta crude to Asia by the decade's end is fading, as multibillion-dollar pipelines get bogged down by local opposition and regulatory wrangling.
(The Economist)
One of the bleakest scenes of man-made destruction is the strip mining of oil sands in the forests of Alberta, Canada. The sand is permeated with natural bitumen, a type of petroleum with the consistency of peanut butter. Once dug from the surface, the sand is hauled to an extraction plant where it is mixed with lots of hot water and chemicals to liberate the oil and make it flow into pipelines or be taken by tankers to refineries. Not all of the water can be recycled and what remains is a goopy toxic waste contained in some 170 square kilometers of man-made ponds.
Two nuclear stations that play a vital role helping to keep Britain's already fragile electricity system intact could be out of action till the end of the year, EDF Energy said on Thursday. The ongoing problems at Heysham 1 and Hartlepool reactors, taken offline last month, forced Centrica, a 20 percent owner of the atomic fleet with EDF, to issue a profit warning.
Aircraft may be next in line for U.S. regulation of greenhouse-gas emissions, as President Barack Obama's administration broadens its climate-change efforts beyond automobiles and power plants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it would study the health dangers of that pollution—the first step in the regulatory process—and release its findings by next April. If it deems aircraft emissions a risk, it said it will begin the process of crafting rules. Advocates say that won't be a high hurdle.

September 4, 2014

(Wall Street Journal)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday used his first major speech on energy policy to criticize the Obama administration's delay of the Keystone XL pipeline extension. Mr. Christie's 30-minute speech in front of American and Mexican business leaders came on the first day of a three-day trade mission here that presents a test of the potential 2016 presidential contender on an international stage.
(Sydney Morning Herald)
Carbon emissions from the Australia's main electricity grid have risen since the end of the carbon tax by the largest amount in nearly eight years. Data from the National Electricity Market, which covers about 80 percent of Australia's population, shows that emissions from the sector rose by about 1 million tons, or 0.8 percent, at an annualized rate last month compared with June.
The leaders of the world's largest and third-largest emitters of greenhouse gases won't be attending a global summit on climate change later this month. China is sending a lower-ranked official; it's not yet clear if India will send its environmental minister.
(Los Angeles Times)
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is appealing a proposed record penalty for the fatal gas pipeline explosion and fire that destroyed a Bay Area residential neighborhood.
(The Hill)
Oil giant BP has asked a federal court to oust the man in charge of administering the settlement funds from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
(Charlotte Observer)
Environmental advocates filed more lawsuits Wednesday against Duke Energy, claiming the company's coal ash practices broke federal clean-water law and dam-safety standards at three power plants. Groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center cited problems at the Buck power plant in Rowan County, the Cape Fear plant in Chatham County and the Lee plant in Wayne County.
Fracking should be completely banned from national parks, according to a strong majority of the U.K. public. The controversial issue of shale gas exploration in some of the country's most precious landscapes forced ministers in July to claim they were tightening planning guidance on drilling in national parks, but a new poll for the Guardian shows the public has been unmoved by the assurances.
A report released by the state Department of Environmental Protection shows just two residential water sources in Washington County have been affected by natural gas drilling in nearly seven years, prompting a local environmental group to question those findings. The DEP's list of water supply determination indicates the agency completed investigations that showed 243 confirmed cases of water contamination "liabilities" across Pennsylvania with most of them located in the northern and eastern parts of the state.
(Denver Post)
Some Aurora residents are questioning the transparency of city staff over administrative waivers that may be granted to Houston-based oil and gas developer ConocoPhillips to build 30-foot-tall towers for hydraulic fracturing near residential developments.
Dawn Gioia lives just two blocks away from City Hall in Brighton, Colo., just north of Denver. She never expected to receive a thick envelope from Mid-Con Energy in the mail, proposing she sell mineral rights for oil and gas drilling. At first, she thought it was a scam.
(Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Farmers and grain shippers are increasingly worried about where they'll put millions of bushels of Minnesota-grown corn and soybeans because the rail system is far behind.

September 3, 2014

(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
California regulators want PG&E Corp.'s utility to pay $1.4 billion in fines and penalties over a fatal natural-gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif. The state Public Utilities Commission proposed fining Pacific Gas & Electric Co. $950 million over allegations that the company violated federal and state pipeline safety rules before the 2010 pipeline explosion.
(Think Progress)
Four U.S. energy companies announced Tuesday that they were joining together to build a 550-mile natural gas pipeline that, if approved, would run from West Virginia to North Carolina. The newly-proposed, $4.5-$5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline would carry 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day, and if the pipeline gains swift approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the companies say it could be online as soon as late 2018. The pipeline would carry gas from West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania’s Utica and Marcellus shale basins.
(Washington Post)
Halliburton agreed Tuesday to pay $1.1 billion to settle claims from plaintiffs who contend they were economically harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the 2010 disaster that has spawned a number of expensive and contentious lawsuits. Halliburton has long insisted that the cement job it did to seal BP's Macondo oil well was not to blame for the blowout and fire that sank the Deepwater Horizon rig and triggered the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Nonetheless, the company had set aside $1.3 billion for possible payments.