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Today's Climate

April 3, 2014

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.
(Globe and Mail)
Exxon Mobil Corp. sees little threat to its asset base from the growing fears about climate change, although critics accused the company of taking a remarkably rosy view given the dire warnings in the latest United Nations' climate report.
(New York Times)
As crop yields fall and populations rise, the alarming vision of Thomas Malthus might be proved right by climate change—two centuries after he first expressed it.
Following protests that resulted in clashes between demonstrators and police, officials in a city in southern China have said plans for a controversial petrochemical plant will not go ahead if the majority of the city's residents object. More than a thousand people took to the streets on Sunday in Maoming in Guangdong province in protest at plans for a paraxylene (PX) project which the Hong Kong based newspaper, the South China Morning Post said would be jointly run by the local government and Chinese state oil company Sinopec. It is the latest in a rising number of protests in China over large-scale industrial plants.

April 1, 2014

(E&E Publishing)
Utah physician Brian Moench is worried. There's only anecdotal evidence so far, but Moench maintains that oil and gas drilling in the Uinta Basin that straddles Utah and Colorado is almost certainly causing health problems for residents, including increased infant mortality.
(Houston Chronicle)
Chief financial officers of some of the largest energy companies are more pessimistic than the rest of the business community on earnings growth this year, according to a new survey released by the consulting firm Deloitte. Despite a U.S. energy boom, energy executives forecasted the second-lowest sales growth and domestic personnel growth of any industry in the study.
(McClatchy DC)
As rail shipments of crude oil have risen in Northern California, so has opposition in many communities along rail lines and near the refineries they supply. Concerned about the potential safety and environmental hazards of 100-car trains of oil rolling through population centers, leaders from Sacramento to San Jose say they're banding together to present a unified voice for "up-line" cities: communities that could bear some of the highest risks as California turns toward rail shipments to quench its thirst for fuel.
(San Francisco Chronicle)
Come April, customers of California's big utility companies will receive "climate credits," small payments of money raised from the state's cap-and-trade system for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.
(StateImpact Pennsylvania)
Over the past year the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has raised nearly $5.9 million by quietly leasing more than 1,400 acres of mineral rights to gas companies underneath publicly-owned waterways. The most recent lease agreement–signed just over two weeks ago–gives Chesapeake Energy the rights to extract gas from under 1,092 acres of the Susquehanna River in Wyoming and Bradford Counties for five years.
(Financial Times)
The U.S. energy revolution is putting unprecedented strain on roads, railways and housing in North Dakota, its governor says, as a surge in production has put the state at the heart of the country's oil and gas boom.
(StateImpact Texas)
In one of the hottest plays for natural gas drilling, Bob Patterson wonders if what the drilling industry leaves behind will come back to haunt the community. "It's just a ticking time bomb before we have major aquifer contamination," Patterson told StateImpact.
Andre Boulet, chief executive officer of Inventys Thermal Technologies Inc. in Burnaby, British Columbia, holds up a 6-inch piece of charcoal, showing how light passes through toothpick-sized air shafts. He says the crevices in this filter offer a cheap way to capture carbon dioxide before it ascends into the atmosphere and haunts future generations.