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Today's Climate

March 19, 2014

(New York Times)
President Obama wants Americans to see how climate change will remake their own backyards—and to make it as easy as opening a web-based app.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Tuesday he expects Duke Energy to fully compensate Virginia for a massive coal ash spill into the Dan River that turned collection basins at Danville's water treatment plant gray. McAuliffe spoke after he toured the city's treatment plant and was assured the drinking water for 18,000 customers were well within safe-drinking standards based on multiple municipal, federal and independent water testing.
(The Times-Picayune)
Environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit in New Orleans on Tuesday against United Bulk's coal export facility in Plaquemines Parish, alleging the facility is polluting the Mississippi River.
(Financial Times)
A bulldozer rumbles over a mountain of fine black powder amid the abandoned shells of long-shuttered steel mills in a poor neighbourhood on the far southeast side of Chicago. The powdery substance – familiar to locals as the black dust coating their houses, cars and, many say, lungs – is petroleum coke, a byproduct of the Canadian tar sands boom. It is stored at two terminals owned by KCBX on the banks of the Calumet River. A dust storm last autumn spurred the community to action.
A Hamilton County park could wait weeks to be cleaned after crude oil from an underground pipeline leaked on its grounds Monday night. Colerain Fire Department crews were dispatched at about 8 p.m. Monday after getting reports of an oil smell, and found "petroleum product" in the Oak Glen Nature Preserve near Blue Rock Road.
If the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline ever gains approval, Ronald Weber will watch from his farmhouse as workers lay the line beneath a half-mile of his cropland in northeastern Nebraska.
(Wall Street Journal)
A coalition of grassroots environmentalists are galvanizing around a fossil-fuel project and urging President Barack Obama to oppose it. Sound familiar? It's not the Keystone XL pipeline, but the parameters of the fight—and the arguments—are awfully similar to the fight that's been raging in Washington and throughout the country over the proposed pipeline for the last five years.
(Los Angeles Times)
Three Los Angeles City Council members want city, state and federal groups to look into whether hydraulic fracturing and other forms of oil and gas "well stimulation" played any role in the earthquake that rattled the city early Monday morning. The motion, presented Tuesday by Councilmen Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin and seconded by Councilman Bernard Parks, asks for city departments to team up with the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, the U.S. Geological Survey and the South Coast Air Quality Management District to report back on the likelihood that such activities contributed to the 4.4-magnitude quake.
(Houston Chronicle)
Companies will need to invest $641 billion over the next two decades in pipelines, pumps and other infrastructure to keep up with the gas, crude oil and natural gas liquids flowing from U.S. fields, according to a study released Tuesday. The analysis, prepared by ICF International for two natural gas advocacy groups, predicts that $30 billion worth of new midstream infrastructure will be needed each year through 2035—essentially triple the $10 billion in average annual investments over the past decade.
State actions on climate change are reducing emissions and offering templates for effective federal standards, according to Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board. "State successes are helping to lay the foundation for strong federal standards and those then reinforce the next round of state successes," Nichols said at a March 14 conference on "Navigating Climate Regulation on Dual Tracks: The Promises and Pitfalls of AB32 and the Clean Air Act."
(USA Today)
One of the planet's top dipsticks is in trouble. The "Keeling curve," the most famous measurement of the world's rising levels of carbon dioxide for the past six decades, is in jeopardy from funding shortfalls.

March 18, 2014

(Charlotte Observer)
Federal prosecutors have issued at least 23 grand jury subpoenas in their criminal probe of the relationship between Duke Energy and the state environmental agency tasked with regulating the country's largest electricity provider. A federal grand jury is set to meet behind closed doors from Tuesday to Thursday in the federal courthouse in Raleigh to examine documents, video and other materials with the Duke executives and 18 current and former N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources employees summoned to the hearing.
(E&E Publishing)
William Koch, CEO of energy and industrial products giant Oxbow Carbon LLC, expressed pessimism about the future of coal in the United States during an interview last week. While not as active in politics as siblings David and Charles Koch, Bill Koch has also donated millions to political candidates, including a large political action committee backing former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
Surging prices for food staples from coffee to meat to vegetables are driving up the cost of groceries in the U.S., pinching consumers and companies that are still grappling with a sluggish economic recovery.
(The Canadian Press)
The proposed Energy East pipeline won't be the boon to Eastern Canadian refineries that supporters claim because the vast majority of the oil in it would be bound for export markets, environmental groups argue in a report being released Tuesday. The $12-billion project would likely use the lion's share of its 1.1 million barrel per day capacity to send unrefined oil sands crude to markets like India, Europe and possibly the United States, says the report, penned by The Council of Canadians, Ecology Action Center, Environmental Defence and Equiterre.
(Al Jazeera America)
Environmental groups announced their intent to sue a Kentucky coal ash plant for "unabated" dumping into the Ohio River on Monday, after a hidden camera they set up captured alleged illegal discharges of chemicals by the company. "We deserve clean water," Thomas Pearce, regional organizer for the Sierra Club in western Kentucky, told Al Jazeera. "We're calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to put forward more stringent guidelines for coal ash because states aren't policing it. Look at North Carolina and the Duke spill."
(National Geographic)
Environmentalists say that clean coal is a myth. Of course it is: Just look at West Virginia, where whole Appalachian peaks have been knocked into valleys to get at the coal underneath and streams run orange with acidic water. Or look at downtown Beijing, where the air these days is often thicker than in an airport smoking lounge. Air pollution in China, much of it from burning coal, is blamed for more than a million premature deaths a year. That's on top of the thousands who die in mining accidents, in China and elsewhere.
(Denver Post)
The oil and gas industry should move operations as far from Colorado waterways as possible and do a better job of flood-proofing wells and tanks, according to a state report released Monday. The report by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff on "lessons learned" from the September floods that ravaged the Front Range recommends new oil and gas regulations.
Oil companies that failed to prepare for flooding near the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers could face enforcement action, state officials said Monday. Zavanna, the company that had oil leak from a tank into floodwaters Friday, could face fines from the North Dakota Department of Health.
(Houston Chronicle)
Four refiners have teamed up to battle oil companies' bid to export American crude, launching the first major lobbying campaign on the issue. The move highlights the deep divisions in the oil industry over the 39-year-old ban on selling U.S. crude overseas, as a surge in domestic production feeds calls to relax the trade restrictions.
(StateImpact Pennsylvania)
The state House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee has approved a bill aimed at preventing gas companies from shortchanging landowners on royalty money. The committee voted to send HB 1684 to the full House for consideration. The bill is an effort to clarify the state's Guaranteed Minimum Royalty Act of 1979, which states an oil and gas lease is not valid unless a landowner receives a one-eighth (12.5 percent) royalty.
Commissioners in Adams County have voted to approve construction of a new pipeline to carry crude oil from Colorado to Oklahoma. The White Cliffs Twin Pipeline will run parallel to an existing pipeline. It is intended to double the capacity. Together, the pipelines will be able to move about 150,000 barrels of oil per day.
(USA Today)
Could shale rock spur another energy bonanza? It's already helped create a surge in U.S. oil and natural gas production, and research today suggests it could do something else: store radioactive waste from nuclear power plants. These rock formations are ideal for storing potentially dangerous spent fuel for millennia, because they are nearly impermeable, a U.S. geologist told a scientific meeting. One of the biggest risks of storing nuclear waste for thousands of years is water contamination.

March 17, 2014

(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (sub. req'd))
Almost one year after the Pegasus pipeline ruptured and spilled heavy crude into a Mayflower neighborhood, Exxon Mobil has recommended further efforts to remove the remaining oil from drainage ways and a cove of Lake Conway but said the company needs to do nothing more to clean up the soil and sediment in those areas.
(Think Progress)
Thousands of environmentalists took to California's state capitol on Saturday to demand Governor Jerry Brown ban hydraulic fracturing, in what is being called the largest anti-fracking mobilization the state has ever seen. Fracking is a method of extracting fossil fuels that is coveted for its ability to increase the flow of oil or gas from a well. This is done by injecting high-pressure water and chemicals miles deep into the ground into subsurface rock, effectively "fracturing" the rock and allowing more spaces for oil and gas to come through.
(Huffington Post)
The Joint Review Panel did not make a responsible decision in recommending Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline for approval, says a group of engineers. The Concerned Professional Engineers, which submitted technical arguments to last year's pipeline review, say that the risks of approving the pipeline are too high and the consequences of a spill and subsequent cleanup are largely unknown, read a Wednesday news release.
Fault lines are opening up between developing countries led by China and India and richer nations including the U.S. in talks in Bonn over a new climate treaty. China and India are in the 26-nation Like-Minded Developing Countries bloc that argues they shouldn't have to bear the same legal responsibility for tackling climate change as developed economies. The U.S. and European Union say a new deal springing from United Nations talks must end the divide, in place since 1992, as already agreed in Durban, South Africa, in 2011.
(Houston Chronicle)
Well-heeled investors who control a growing block of money behind the North American energy surge have stepped up their bid to wring profits from oil companies, steering capital away from projects and toward dividends. Tired of waiting for emerging shale reservoirs to become lucrative, the financiers got pushy last year. They booted executives and pressed more than a dozen large firms to cut spending, sell international assets and spin off businesses into shareholder-friendly corporate structures.
Environmental regulators promised an aggressive cleanup after a tanker train hauling 2.9 million gallons of crude oil derailed and burned in a west Alabama swamp in early November amid a string of North American oil train crashes. So why is dark, smelly crude oil still oozing into the water four months later?
(Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Leon Rogers has lived next to crude oil pipelines for years. He's had enough. With four pipelines already buried beneath his farmland and a fifth one planned next to his house, Rogers and many of his neighbors are no longer ambivalent about the river of oil flowing through this region of forests, lakes and rivers.