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Today's Climate

September 30, 2014

Canada’s reputation as climate bad-boy was invented in Manhattan in 2008. Months before TransCanada Corp. applied for a permit for Keystone XL and the pipeline battles that followed, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund convened a gathering of environmental groups to discuss a strategy for taking down Canada's tar-sands industry. The vast deposits of bitumen in northern Alberta were not necessarily seen in the league of Chinese coal as a carbon offender.
(National Journal)
A large oil and natural-gas company is parting ways with the American Legislative Exchange Council. Occidental Petroleum sent a letter Friday to an investment-management company indicating its intention to sever ties with ALEC, a conservative coalition of state legislators and major corporations that actively opposes environmental regulations.
(Houston Chronicle (sub. req'd))
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality says it plans to add a new air monitor in the heart of the Eagle Ford Shale play to measure the impact of pollution from oil and gas sites that are spreading across South Texas.
(Salt Lake Tribune)
Built to move coal from trucks to trains, three Carbon County terminals instead began transferring crude oil this year—a switch yet to receive final approval from state environmental regulators. At least 50 tanker trucks a day are rumbling over U.S. Highway 191 to the new rail connections, marking the rise of oil and the decline of coal in Utah's energy picture.
(Great Falls Tribune)
Four West Coast senators are asking the federal government to expand a recent order for railroads to notify state emergency responders of crude oil shipments. The letter, sent Monday to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, says railroads should supply states with advanced notification of all high-hazard flammable liquid transports—including crude from outside the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana, as well as ethanol and 71 other liquids.
(Democrat & Chronicle)
The New York League of Conservation Voters and state Sen. Ted O'Brien, D-Irondequoit, announced a series of proposals Monday to rein in the handling and disposal of gas and oil drilling waste in New York. At a news conference, O'Brien and the league president, Marcia Bystryn, said legislation would be introduced in Albany that would bar the disposal of drilling wastes in New York landfills and restrict the treatment of liquid wastes from drilling in municipal wastewater plants.
(New York Times)
The savage heat waves that struck Australia last year were almost certainly a direct consequence of greenhouse gases released by human activity, researchers said Monday. It is perhaps the most definitive statement climate scientists have made tying a specific weather event to global warming. Five groups of researchers, using distinct methods, analyzed the heat that baked Australia for much of 2013 and continued into 2014, briefly shutting down the Australian Open tennis tournament in January when the temperature climbed to 111 degrees Fahrenheit.
(Los Angeles Times)
Global warming contributed to extreme heat waves in many parts of the world last year, but cannot be definitively linked to the California drought, according to a report released Monday.
(Yale 360)
The United Nations Climate Summit in New York last week passed with many promises, but no firm pledges. Most notably, China's vice-premier Zhang Gaoli promised his country would peak its carbon dioxide emissions "as soon as possible," and President Obama said that next year he would publish a plan to cut U.S. emissions after 2020. On the fringes, major corporations trading in agricultural commodities grown on former rainforest land joined with governments in signing a declaration promising to halve net deforestation by 2020 and end it by 2030. 

September 29, 2014

(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
The energy industry's top trade group called on U.S. oil producers to do more frequent and better testing of crude oil before loading it on to trains in the wake of several high-profile accidents.
(Lincoln Journal Star)
Art and Helen Tanderup gazed with amazed smiles at the thousands of cars parked on the stubble of their recently harvested cornfield on Saturday, at the stage set up in their rye field and at the ocean of people standing in front of it. "It's unbelievable. It's absolutely amazing this is happening," said Art just before the start of Harvest the Hope.
(Think Progress)
An operator in charge of storing petroleum coke, a dirty byproduct of tar sands refining, has announced it's leaving the city of Chicago, and taking the black, dusty piles with it. Beemsterboer Slag Corp., which has been storing petcoke at a storage facility by the Calumet River, has closed the facility after facing increasing pressure from city officials and residents.
A federal judge has refused to block the release of oil and gas leases in Nevada that critics say will be used for hydraulic fracturing that could harm sage grouse and cause more environmental damage than the Bureau of Land Management admits.
Fracking will take place below Britons' homes without their permission after ministers rejected 40,000 objections to controversial changes to trespass laws. The U.K. government argued that the current ability for people to block shale gas development under their property would lead to significant delays and that the legal process by which companies can force fracking plans through was costly, time-consuming and disproportionate.
(Toronto Star)
From his many-windowed fifth-floor office at city hall, Mayor Al McDonald points to the Laurentian escarpment to the north, then to the shimmering blue waters of Trout Lake to the east. Vast Lake Nipissing is visible to the west, though you have to crane your neck to see it. Below are the Victorian buildings and tree-lined streets of the downtown.
(Houston Chronicle (sub. req'd))
Texas is building a case that the Environmental Protection Agency's state-specific targets for curbing climate-altering emissions from power plants can't be achieved, if at all, without affecting electric service reliability and driving up prices.
President Michelle Bachelet of Chile enacted new environmental tax legislation on Friday making the country the first in South America to tax carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Part of a broad tax reform, Chile's carbon tax will target the power sector, particularly generators operating thermal plants with installed capacity equal or larger than 50 megawatts (MW).
It has been nearly two years since Hurricane Sandy crashed ashore in New Jersey, devastating cities throughout the region. As cities and towns along the coast consider how to prepare for future weather patterns, and avert the kind of damage that happened in 2012, a two-pronged response has emerged—a kind of municipal fight-or-flight response.
(Financial Times)
Russia's top crude oil producer Rosneft confirmed on Saturday that it has made an oil discovery with ExxonMobil at their controversial joint well in the Arctic.
(Christian Science Monitor)
East Texas between Houston and Galveston is a low flat land of cayenne-pepper heat coming off the tepid waters of Galveston Bay. The cries of laughing gulls and great-tailed grackles fill the salty air, and the silhouettes of vultures circle overhead. Donkey-head oil wells and offshore rigs moored opposite shrimp boats in the bay remind me that, despite a scattering of wind turbines and solar panels, the United States still remains firmly anchored in the Petroleum Age.
(StateImpact Pennsylvania)
Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection is having a rough week. On Thursday, the Attorney General's office showed reporters evidence of how DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo exchanged pornographic emails with his pals on taxpayer time.
(Fresno Bee)
California's freakishly dry 2013-14 winter dealt the San Joaquin Valley more than a crippling blow to the farm economy. It set the stage for a lung-scarring siege of soot that squashed any hope of making a key federal air standard.

September 26, 2014

(The Hill)
There will be "changes" made in the Obama administration's proposal to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Gina McCarthy."People who know me well enough know there are going to be changes between proposal and final because we listen," McCarthy said on Thursday.
Protecting the infrastructure of American cities from the effects of climate change is rising on the agenda of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to a top agency official. "Increasingly, we've moved not only from a security focus to a resiliency focus," said Caitlin Durkovich, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at Homeland Security, an agency better known for its fight to curb terrorist threats.
(Minnesota Public Radio)
Hundreds of rail cars filled with North Dakota crude oil pass through Minnesota each day. That reality has state and federal leaders worried about safety. Some—including Gov. Mark Dayton—argue oil companies should take steps to reduce the oil's volatility before loading it onto train cars. Proponents say that would minimize the chance for explosions if a train were to derail or crash. Dayton sent a letter to North Dakota's governor this week calling for stricter standards on the quality of oil shipped by rail.
Three years after Japan closed all of its nuclear plants in the wake of the Fukushima meltdown and Germany decided to shut its industry, developing countries are leading the biggest construction boom in more than two decades. Almost two-thirds of the 70 reactors currently under construction worldwide, the most since 1989, are located in China, India, and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. 
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
Norwegian energy giant Statoil ASA on Thursday halted plans to develop an oil-sands project in Canada, citing high costs and shipping bottlenecks that threaten to block access to markets where heavy crude can be sold profitably. The project, known as Corner, is the latest Canadian oil-sands project to be shelved, after French oil major Total SA mothballed its Joslyn North development in May.
The global warming effect of "black carbon," or soot, has been greatly exaggerated due to mistaken assumptions about the atmospheric altitude at which its particles are concentrated, according to a new study. Soot plumes belch from chimneys, stoves and forest fires, causing numerous health ailments and, it was thought, a contribution to climate change second only to carbon dioxide.
(E&E Publishing)
Five insurance trade groups are promoting stronger building decisions to help counter a sharp rise in losses from extreme weather, prompted by a meeting on climate change between senior White House officials and industry leaders in June. The groups, whose memberships represent a large share of U.S. insurance companies, released a position statement yesterday that expresses their concern about climbing damage from weather events like hurricanes, floods, downpours and wildfires.
(International Business Times)
Victoria Trinko says she hasn't opened the windows to her home in Bloomer, Wisconsin, in more than two years. That's around the time a mining company began churning up silica sand a half-mile from her family farm, filling the air with tiny particles and making it harder for her to breathe. "I could feel dust clinging to my face and gritty particles on my teeth," Trinko recalls.