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Today's Climate

July 1, 2014

(The Hill)
The Defense Department needs to better prepare for the potential impact of climate change, a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) warns.The GAO report, released Monday, recommends that the Pentagon form a plan and set hard deadlines to assess which military bases are vulnerable to climate change.
(Climate Central)
April fell first. It lasted through May. Now June will be the third month in a row with average carbon dioxide levels above 400 parts per million. Atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gas, which helps drive global warming, haven't been this high in somewhere between 800,000 and 15 million years.
(Triad Business Journal)
The N.C. Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would require Duke Energy to close its 33 coal ash ponds in the state within 15 years, a goal the utility labeled "incredible aggressive," according to Reuters. State legislators were called on to more aggressively regulate the byproduct of coal-based power generation after a massive spill of the toxic substance was found on the Dan River near Eden in February.
In Pennsylvania's gas drilling boom, newer and unconventional wells leak far more often than older and traditional ones, according to a study of state inspection reports for 41,000 wells. The results suggest that leaks of methane could be a problem for drilling across the nation, said study lead author Cornell University engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea, who heads an environmental activist group that helped pay for the study.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
For cattle rancher Vawnita Best, the struggle by North Dakota regulators to keep up with the oil boom strikes close to home: She can see the natural-gas flares of an oil well from her front porch. "It's been flaring for nearly a year," she said amid the rolling hills of her Elkhorn Creek Ranch. "It's absolutely ridiculous to be so wasteful," she said.
(Living on Earth)
New techniques allow companies to extract oil and gas from deep in the ground, but as Matt Richmond of WSKS and the Allegheny Front reports, naturally radioactive rocks above the Marcellus shale in the Eastern U.S. can create a dangerous waste product.
Japanese authorities, keen to restart nuclear power plants three years after the Fukushima disaster, may face an additional hurdle in securing approval - coming up with a cogent evacuation plan in the event of new accidents. The problem has come into focus as procedures for the first proposed restart enter the home stretch in Ichikikushikino, a town five km (three miles) from Kyushu Electric Power Co's Sendai plant.
(Think Progress)
The president of Kiribati, an island nation in the Pacific ocean, recently purchased eight square miles of land about 1,200 miles away on Vanua Levu, Fiji's second-largest island. Like other Pacific Island nations, including Tuvalu and the Maldives, Kiribati is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change—especially sea level rise. In certain areas around these islands sea level is rising by 1.2 centimeters a year, about four times more than the global average. Within decades significant chunks risk submersion.
The usual U.S. partisan divisions over climate change were absent today in the state of Virginia, where Republican and Democrat officials met to discuss what to do about the threat of rising sea levels to the state.
The entire population of Antarctica's famous emperor penguins could fall by a third by the end of the century because of disappearing sea ice, putting them at risk of extinction, researchers said on Sunday. The finding justified protecting emperor penguins under the endangered species act – as America already does for polar bear – the researchers writing in the journal Nature Climate Change said.

June 30, 2014

(Chicago Tribune)
From the sidewalk in front of her apartment in Cicero, Yolanda Foster can see long freight trains and an endless line of trucks rumbling day and night through the sprawling rail yard across the street. What she can't see are the clouds of microscopic lung- and heart-damaging particles that drift into the low-income, largely Latino neighborhood overlooking one of the Chicago area's freight terminals.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced new rules Friday aimed at bolstering safety measures for transporting dangerous goods, such as crude oil, over the country's railway networks.
(The Hill)
Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) on Saturday said President Obama is more interested in "rolling out the red tape than the red carpet" when it comes to the Keystone XL pipeline. In the weekly Republican address, Cassidy called on the Obama administration to approve the Keystone pipeline because it would create some 40,000 jobs across the country in energy, manufacturing, and construction.
(Los Angeles Times)
A committee of scientific advisors has urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to adopt a tougher federal standard for ozone, saying current limits on the lung-damaging pollutant fail to protect public health.
(Cumberland Times-News)
Public health officials unveiled a recently completed study on Saturday that assessed the health implications of hydraulic fracturing as the governor's office continues to move forward with plans to make a decision on the future of fracking in Maryland by the end of the year.
(New York Times)
From the window of her tin-roofed trailer, Judy Vargas can glimpse a miraculous world. It is as close as the dust kicked up by the trucks barreling by but seems as distant as Mars. As you walk out of her front yard—where the chewed-off leg of an animal, probably a feral hog caught by a prowling bobcat, rots outside—a towering natural gas flare peeks over the southerly view.
(Denver Post)
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday pegged the chances of a special session to pass a compromise bill providing local governments more control over oil and gas drilling at less than half. And those odds weren't helped after a group of 19 oil and gas producers, including some of the country's largest, sent the governor a letter Friday stating they wouldn't support compromise legislation.
(Houston Chronicle)
BP asked a federal judge on Friday to recall millions of dollars in "erroneous" payments to Gulf Coast businesses under its multibillion-dollar oil spill settlement, plus interest and attorney fees. The London oil company said "a vast number of claimants" were paid before the court wrote a new policy in May that reversed accounting rules on how certain cash-based businesses are compensated for losses related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
A long-running battle over coal-fired energy in Kansas continued Friday as the Sierra Club environmental group filed a legal challenge to the state's issuance of a permit intended to give a green light to a controversial new power plant. The complaint, filed in the Kansas Court of Appeals, names the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and its secretary, Robert Moser, as defendants, and claims the permit for the new power plant does not meet federal and state requirements.
More than 120 people are being laid off at an Alpha Natural Resources mine in southwest Virginia amid declining production and demand. The coal company said the layoffs will occur as the mine near Haysi is closed over the next two months, according to media reports.
Japan's oil refining industry may be forced to cut about 10 percent of capacity as the government is set to impose new targets to improve efficiency and spur restructuring and mergers.
(E&E Publishing)
Zurich Insurance Group is closing its U.S. climate change office six years after opening it to help persuade companies to press public officials for solutions to climbing disaster losses, according to several sources.
(National Geographic)
NASA's newest spacecraft, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, aims to map the amount of carbon dioxide—the big gorilla of greenhouse gases—in the skies of its home planet.

June 27, 2014

(Wall Street Journal)
Norfolk Southern Corp. has become the first big American freight railroad to require its customers to give the railroad legal protection against damages from fires, explosions or the release of hazardous materials carried in tank cars that don't meet the rail industry's latest standards.
Levels of particulate matter spike at night inside homes near gas wells in Southwest Pennsylvania, the director of an environmental health monitoring project said Wednesday.
(Washington Post)
Even Democrats who prefer to develop alternate energy sources before expanding the use of fossil fuels say they want the Keystone XL pipeline built.
Justin Trudeau says he would bolster Canada's case for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline by introducing financial incentives to curb greenhouse-gas emissions in the oil and gas industry.
(The Hill)
The Department of Energy (DOE) touted the carbon-capture technology it is funding Thursday, saying a project at a hydrogen production facility in Port Arthur, Texas, has now captured more than 1 million tons of carbon dioxide. The facility, operated in partnership with Air Products and Chemicals Inc., catches more than 90 percent of the carbon dioxide released by the company's hydrogen plant that would otherwise go into the atmosphere, the DOE said.
(The Oklahoman)
Residents worried about the spate of earthquakes that have plagued parts of the state likely got little satisfaction Thursday night at a town hall on the subject. Oklahoma Geological Survey seismologist Austin Holland said there is no way to know what has caused the unprecedented increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma, although several studies have linked temblors to oil and natural gas activity, particularly wastewater injection wells.
(Houston Chronicle)
Even before the House voted on Thursday to force the federal government to allow drilling off the South Carolina, Virginia and California coasts, lawmakers admitted the plan was going nowhere. The Republican-backed drilling legislation, which was approved in a 229-185 vote, is a compilation of other measures that have passed the House before only to stall in the Senate, and it is sure to meet the same fate this time around, a political reality even bill backers acknowledged.