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Today's Climate

September 22, 2014

(Financial Review)
China will unveil a "strengthened" policy to combat climate change at Tuesday's United Nations Summit in New York, the latest step in Beijing's evolution from denial and obstruction to what many now hope will be a positive contribution to lowering carbon emissions. China's Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, a member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, will attend the meeting, along with 125 world leaders.
(The Globe and Mail)
The shift to clean energy is producing huge economic gains, but Canada risks being left behind if the federal government doesn't get on board, a new report warns. That's the message from energy and climate think tank Clean Energy Canada, which paints a picture of a world increasingly embracing and investing in green energy alternatives.
When Germany kicked off its journey toward a system harnessing energy from wind and sun back in 2000, the goal was to protect the environment and build out climate-friendly power generation. More than a decade later, Europe's biggest economy is on course to miss its 2020 climate targets and greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants are virtually unchanged.
The so-called King Fire, one of several sweeping through parts of California has destroyed 10 homes and 22 other buildings, fire officials say.
Hundreds of protesters plan to risk arrest on Monday during an unsanctioned blockade in New York City's financial district to call attention to what organisers say is Wall Street's contribution to climate change. The Flood Wall Street demonstration comes on the heels of Sunday's international day of action that brought some 310,000 people to the streets of New York City in the largest single protest ever held on over climate change. There were no arrests or incidents in Sunday's massive march, police said.
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
From state regulators' perspective, all the spills, leaks and fires in the Marcellus Shale well field the past eight years were simply part of the learning curve. "Sometimes you need to learn from your mistakes," said Scott Perry, a deputy secretary with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection who oversees the oil and gas bureau.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
In May 2008, a locomotive with a grizzly bear painted on its side pulled into a railroad siding next to an abandoned grain elevator in the ghost town of Dore, N.D. The engine, property of the Yellowstone Valley Railroad, hitched up a couple of tank cars of crude from nearby oil wells and set off on a thousand-mile journey to Oklahoma. Dore would never be the same—and neither would the U.S. energy industry. Until then, most oil pumped in North America moved around the continent in pipelines.
(Houston Chronicle (sub. req'd))
John Hofmeister served as president of Shell Oil Co., the Houston-based U.S. arm of Royal Dutch Shell, from 2005 to 2008. Today he's involved in public policy spheres as founder of Citizens for Affordable Energy and a member of the advisory board of the Fuel Freedom Foundation, which on Friday debuted the documentary "Pump" in New York and Los Angeles.
(Christian Science Monitor)
Three years after the nuclear energy disaster at its Fukushima Daichi plant, Japan finds itself in a quandary: Its government wants to bring many units back on line after rigorous stress testing, but the public is largely opposed. So who wins the nuclear-energy debate—government or the public? Does the dynamic operate differently when it's Japan instead of, say, Germany?

September 19, 2014

(Mother Jones)
Few figures in the climate change debate are as polarizing as former Vice President Al Gore. His fans and his enemies are equally rabid, and his 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth is still probably the most-referenced document on climate change in history. In the last few years, Gore's global warming work has mostly been channeled into a nonprofit he oversees called the Climate Reality Project, which organizes rallies and educational events.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's strategy to forge a global climate agreement by 2015 will enter a new phase next week when more than 120 world leaders meet in New York to discuss greenhouse gas cuts.
Chevron has become the first energy company to meet a new set of voluntary shale gas drilling standards that aim to go beyond existing state laws in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, the Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale announced Thursday. The center is a partnership between major energy companies, environmental groups and charitable foundations. Its certification process consisted of an independent review of Chevron documents and 22 of its production sites in the three states.
(The Globe and Mail)
As proposed regulation looks to wean states off of coal power, officials on both sides are aiming to streamline infrastructure.
(CBC News)
Canada could lag behind the U.S. when it comes to cutting emissions from coal-fired power plants, despite claims by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that Canada is way ahead of its closest neighbour when it comes to cleaning up coal.  A study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development says Canada's new rules to control carbon pollution from coal plants will have a "negligible effect" on greenhouse gas emissions for at least the next 15 years. New regulations in the U.S. could push that country much further along much faster.
China's bid to limit the consumption of low-quality thermal coal in major cities to help curb pollution will not apply to power plants, traders and utility sources said, exempting a sector responsible for half the country's coal use. China said on Monday that from 2015 it would restrict the production, consumption and import of coal with high impurity levels in a bid to fight smog, much of which is caused by using coal for heating and electricity.
(Inside Energy)
The coal pile at the Comanche Generating Station outside of Pueblo, Colorado is normally over ten stories tall, but rail delays have shortened it considerably. The red smokestacks of the Comanche power plant outside of Pueblo, Colorado can be seen from miles away. The plant supplies power to communities along the Front Range, including Denver, and consumes hundreds of tons of coal an hour in the process. That coal arrives in mile-long trains from Wyoming's Powder River Basin and is stockpiled at the plant.
(Huffington Post)
Three conservation groups accused Dominion Virginia Power Wednesday of illegally discharging coal ash waste into the Potomac River. Five coal ash ponds at Dominion's Possum Point power plant, 30 miles south of Washington, "have been illegally leaking toxic pollutants for decades into groundwater and two popular waterways," the Southern Environmental Law Center, representing Potomac Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club, said in a statement.
An oil boom in Wyoming is having a filthy side effect. A string of accidents, ranging in geography from a remote gulley in the Powder River Basin to a refinery in downtown Cheyenne, already has made this year the state's worst for oil spills since at least 2009, state records show.
(StateImpact Pennsylvania)
Range Resources will pay a $4.15 million fine for violations at six wastewater impoundments in Washington County. It is the largest penalty the state has imposed on a shale gas driller, the Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday. The violations include leaks of flowback fluid—the liquid that comes back out of a well after hydraulic fracturing—into soil and groundwater. The DEP said drinking water supplies were not affected. Residents living near Range's Yeager impoundment in Amwell Township dispute that claim and have filed suit against the company.
People living near a Canadian energy company's exploratory gas-drilling site in the Yorkshire Wolds have complained to the Environment Agency about feeling sick from noxious smells. But the company has re-assured government inspectors and local people there is no danger to human health and has been allowed to continue drilling a 9,000 ft deep "wildcat" bore hole.
(Fuel Fix)
Kinder Morgan has submitted a bid to sell pipeline capacity on one of its newest expansions to the state of Maine. The project, the Northeast Energy Direct Project, is a massive push to put as much as 2.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas capacity per day in a New England market that has been starved of fuel. If Maine bites, the state could become one of the project's major supporters, drawing in as much as 200 million cubic feet of gas capacity per day.
When the White House, working with European allies, moved in early September to tighten sanctions against Russia, President Obama promised the damage to Russian interests would be severe. "These measures will increase Russia’s political isolation as well as the economic costs to Russia, especially in areas of importance to President Putin and those close to him," Obama said in a statement on Sept. 11.

September 18, 2014

(National Journal)
A top White House adviser said President Obama will use next week's United Nations climate summit in New York City to push initiatives aimed at helping nations bolster their defenses against climate-related risks. "He'll be making a number of announcements that put America squarely on the side of building global resilience, trying to provide public goods to countries around the world, some of whom can't afford to build the kind of resilient tools they need to anticipate the effects of climate change," John Podesta said Wednesday.
(Chicago Tribune)
The Illinois legislature's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules will take an additional 45 days to review rules that would govern horizontal hydraulic fracturing in the state, saying they would like time to review the complicated regulations. The  12-member committee met Tuesday in Chicago to review the rules—one of 52 items on its agenda—which attempt to incorporate more than 30,000 comments the Illinois Department of Natural Resources received about its first draft from all sides of the issue into a final set of regulations.
(Detroit Free Press)
Consumers Energy will pay more than $10.5 million in penalties and environmental remediation projects, and will make about $2 billion in upgrades to its coal-fired power plants, to settle a lawsuit with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the plants' emissions. The settlement, announced Tuesday, resolves claims that Consumers—Michigan's largest utility, providing natural gas and electricity to 6.5 million customers throughout the Lower Peninsula—violated the federal Clean Air Act by modifying five of its power-generating facilities in a way that caused the release of excess sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, EPA officials said in announcing the settlement.
The secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, is to join a public march calling for action on climate change this weekend. "I will link arms with those marching for climate action," Ban told a press conference. "We stand with them on the right side of this key issue for our common future."
(Press Association)
Institutional investors managing £15tn of assets have called for an ambitious global climate deal to give them certainty to invest in clean technology. More than 340 institutions including BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, AXA Group and Legal & General Investment Management, have called for strong policies to drive action on climate change.
(Climate Central)
As summer draws to a close, the Arctic sea ice melt season is coming to an end. And while the season didn’t top 2012's astounding record melt, it has still resulted in what will likely be the sixth lowest September minimum ice extent on record.
(Fuel Fix)
More details came to light Tuesday on Shell's plans for exploratory oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea north of Alaska, as federal regulators released a copy of the company's broad Arctic drilling blueprint. Shell filed the document with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management last month, a milestone in its quest to resume drilling in the region after its previous, attempt two years ago was marred by mishaps.
China's largest producer of offshore oil and gas CNOOC said Monday that CNOOC 981, the country's first deepwater drilling rig, has made its first deepwater gasfield discovery in the South China Sea. The Lingshui 17-2 gasfield, some 150 kilometers south of Hainan Island, is in the east Lingshui Sag of the Qiongdongnan Basin, the company said in a statement.