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Today's Climate

September 29, 2014

(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.
(Los Angeles Times)
Under the blistering Central Valley sun, Filiberta Sanchez and her toddler granddaughter strolled down a Parkwood sidewalk lined with yellow weeds, dying grass and trees more fit for kindling than shade. "It was very pretty here, very pretty," said Sanchez, 56, as little Jenny crunched a fistful of parched dirt and pine needles she grabbed from the ground. "Now everything's dry."
(Think Progress)
Which tech giant is quitting the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) this time? It's Yahoo, coming after Google and Facebook announced they were cutting ties with the conservative corporate lobbying group on Monday and Tuesday of this week, respectively.

September 25, 2014

(Wyoming Public Radio)
A worker has died after an explosion at a natural gas storage tank in western Wyoming. Multiple media outlets report the deceased as Jared Loftiss of Marbleton, Wyoming and the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services has confirmed that it was a 35-year-old male working for Hughes Enterprises, an oilfield services company based out of Marbleton.
(National Geographic)
Increased use of natural gas has been widely credited with having reduced U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in recent years. But the new study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, finds that between 2013 and 2055 the use of natural gas could reduce cumulative emissions from the electricity sector by no more than 9 percent, a reduction the authors say will have an insignificant impact on climate. The power sector accounts for around a third of U.S. emissions.
California and Quebec, which together created the largest carbon market in North America this year, may come away empty-handed as they woo northeastern U.S. states to join their system. States including Vermont, which Quebec's premier said yesterday is particularly interested in uniting, are members of a Northeast group that has been operating an emissions-trading system since 2008. And they've shown no signs of abandoning that cause, said Kelly Speakes-Backman, chair of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative known as RGGI.
(New York Times)
India's top court on Wednesday canceled years' worth of coal field leases, a judgment that drew wide attention in a nation with persistent fuel shortages. The leases, an earlier investigation had found, had been sold below market price and cost the government about $30 billion, a scandal that has added to concerns of corruption and crony capitalism at high levels.
Barack Obama will use his presidential powers on Thursday to create the world's largest marine reserve in the Pacific, banning fishing and other commercial activities across vast swaths of pristine sea populated by whales, dolphins and sea turtles and dotted with coral atolls. Thursday's proclamation will expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument reserve, created by George Bush, to about six times its current size.
Logic dictates that the United States will one day approve the northern leg of TransCanada Corp's controversial Keystone XL crude oil pipeline, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told an audience of executives in New York on Wednesday.
(Fuel Fix)
Oil companies hoping to find crude under Arctic waters north of Alaska are imploring the Obama administration to ensure new rules governing drilling in the region don't force them to stash emergency equipment nearby or block them from using chemical dispersants to clean up any spills. The pleas for flexibility were delivered by Shell Oil Co. and ConocoPhillips in private meetings earlier this month with the Office of Management and Budget, which is reviewing an Interior Department proposal that would set standards governing oil development in the remote Arctic frontier.
(The Times-Picayune)
A federal judge on Wednesday (Sept. 24) put off a ruling on an interpretation of the BP oil spill medical settlement that could delay or cut payments to thousands of cleanup workers. At dispute is when cleanup workers who experienced specific ailments while working during the spill—including breathing problems, skin rashes and eye damage—were required to get diagnosed with a problem in order to qualify for payment.
(The Buffalo News)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he's not in contact with the state Department of Health about its study on the community impacts of hydraulic fracturing and doesn't plan to be. "When it's ready, it's ready," Cuomo said Tuesday afternoon in a meeting with reporters and editors at The Buffalo News. "I'm not going to rush them."
(Wall Street Journal)
Ken Jafek, a hunting guide from Idaho, has been chasing greater sage grouse for roughly half of his 79 years. But with federal officials weighing whether to protect the chicken-like bird under the Endangered Species Act, Mr. Jafek is dialing back his hunting to just one kill during Idaho's annual seven-day hunt, which started Saturday.
Climate change is taking center stage once again—at the United Nations on Tuesday, and on the streets of New York City Sunday, where hundreds of thousands of activists marched to demand action. But across the Hudson River in New Jersey, there's an environmental battle of a different kind being waged.
(National Journal)
The American Legislative Exchange Council, a free-market organization made up of state legislators and major corporations, is pushing back against public criticism of its stance on global warming. "ALEC recognizes that climate change is an important issue," 156 state legislators who belong to the organization wrote Wednesday in a letter to Google executives. "No ALEC model policy denies climate change."
The Obama administration announced a new 5-year plan for the Great Lakes on Wednesday that will accelerate efforts to address toxic pollution, invasive species and farm runoff and restore plant and wildlife habitat.

September 24, 2014

(Los Angeles Times)
Moving to halt a powerful contributor to climate change, the United States has joined more than 110 corporations, civil society groups and governments to launch a global initiative to reduce deforestation sharply over the next 15 years, with the goal of eliminating the practice by 2030.
France promised $1 billion to a near-empty climate change fund for poor countries on Tuesday and called for the establishment of a new green economy in the first concrete result of a milestone United Nations summit.
(New York Times)
President Obama, emboldened by his use of executive powers to fight climate change at home, challenged China on Tuesday to make the same effort to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions and join a worldwide campaign to curb global warming. Declaring that the United States and China—the world's two largest economies and largest polluters—bear a "special responsibility to lead," Mr. Obama said, "That’s what big nations have to do."
(The Hill)
The United Nations unveiled a global Compact of Mayors on Tuesday, forming the world's largest effort for cities to combat climate change.  The new coalition of megacities, or C40, will spur public commitments from cities for ambitious greenhouse gas emission reductions, and report annual progress to meet such targets.