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Today's Climate

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.
(The Times-Picayune)
Pieces of coal and petroleum coke—some as large as fists—have been found dotting mile-long stretches of elevated marsh platform created by coastal restoration programs that are pumping sediment inland from the Mississippi River into open water near Lake Hermitage and Bayou Dupont on the west bank of Plaquemines Parish.
A high rate of cancer among inmates at a southwestern Pennsylvania prison is linked to a nearby coal ash dump, and the correctional facility should be closed down, according to a report made public on Tuesday. Eleven prisoners died of cancer from 2010 through 2013, and six others have been diagnosed with cancer at the State Correctional Institution Fayette, said the report, released by the Abolitionist Law Center, a public interest law firm based in Pittsburgh, and the Human Rights Coalition, a national prison reform group.
Chinese president Xi Jinping has decided to skip a meeting of world leaders on climate change in New York, according to climate insiders, casting doubt on the summit's potential to make progress ahead of next year's major U.N. climate summit in Paris. President Xi had been expected to attend the 23 September summit called by the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, but is now set to send another senior Chinese politician in his place, though Beijing officials are yet to confirm this.
Remember the polar vortex, the huge mass of Arctic air that can plunge much of the U.S. into the deep freeze? You might have to get used to it. A new study says that as the world gets warmer, parts of North America, Europe and Asia could see more frequent and stronger visits of that cold air. Researchers say that's because of shrinking ice in the seas off Russia.
(New York Times)
Eric Cantor's move on Tuesday to a boutique investment firm in New York drove home a new political landscape emerging on Capitol Hill as the Republican leadership reshuffles in the House: Wall Street and Big Business have lost their most sympathetic ear, oil and gas industries are on the rise, and Louisiana once again has a booming voice at the table. Congress returns next week for a mere 12 scheduled legislative days before the November midterm elections, but in that brief reappearance, the House's new leadership team will be tested.