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Senate Fails to Override Obama's Keystone Veto

Mar 4, 2015
(The Hill)

The Senate failed to override President Obama’s veto of legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline, falling five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed in a 62-37 vote.

It's the first time Congress has voted on whether to override Obama’s veto, and could be a sign of things to come with Republicans in charge of the House and Senate.

Nine Democrats voted with Republicans to override Obama: Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Mark Warner (Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Michael Bennet (Colo), Tom Carper (Del.) and Jon Tester (Mont.).

Bank of England Warns of Huge Financial Risk From Fossil Fuel Investments

Mar 4, 2015

Insurance companies could suffer a “huge hit” if their investments in fossil fuel companies are rendered worthless by action on climate change, the Bank of England warned on Tuesday.

"One live risk right now is of insurers investing in assets that could be left 'stranded' by policy changes which limit the use of fossil fuels," said Paul Fisher, deputy head of the bank’s prudential regulation authority (PRA) that supervises banks and insurers and is tasked with avoiding systemic risks to the economy.

"As the world increasingly limits carbon emissions, and moves to alternative energy sources, investments in fossil fuels – a growing financial market in recent decades – may take a huge hit," Fisher told an insurance conference. He said there "are already a few specific examples of this having happened," but did not name them, and added that it was clear his concerns had yet to "permeate" the sector.

The new warning from one of the world’s key central banks follows a caution from its head Mark Carney that the "vast majority of [fossil fuel] reserves are unburnable" if climate change is to be limited to 2C, as pledged by the world’s governments. The bank will deliver a report to government on the financial risk posed by a "carbon bubble" later in 2015.

"It is encouraging to see this major central bank seeing the need to move with the times and understand its role in dealing with one of the major challenges facing our economies today: climate change," said James Leaton, research director at the Carbon Tracker Initiative. “We hope to see other financial regulators around the world responding in a similar fashion and collaborating on this issue."

A series of analyses have shown that most existing reserves of fossil fuels cannot be burned without blowing the safe budget for carbon emissions. A study in January indicated that 80% of coal reserves, half of gas and a third of oil would have to stay in the ground. But companies spent $670bn (£436bn) in 2013 alone searching for more fossil fuels, investments that could be worthless if action on global warming slashes allowed emissions.

Europe Releases Vision for Paris Climate Change Deal

Feb 25, 2015

The European Commission has outlined its vision of a UN climate change deal, set to be signed off this December in Paris.

A document released today says governments should target greenhouse gas emission cuts of “at least” 60% on 2010 levels by 2050, with countries belonging to the G20 taking the lead.

Europe's own initial contribution will be 40% carbon cuts on 1990 levels of by 2030, a decision backed by member states last October and set to be confirmed in March.

The proposed climate pact, due to be settled in Paris, should be in the form of a legally binding Protocol agreed under the UN, says the Commission.

IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri Resigns

Feb 24, 2015

The chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, resigned on Tuesday, following allegations of sexual harassment from a female employee at his research institute in Delhi.

The organisation will now be led by acting chair Ismail El Gizouli until the election for a new chair which had already been scheduled for October.

“The actions taken today will ensure that the IPCC’s mission to assess climate change continues without interruption,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, which is a sponsor of the IPCC.

Pachauri, 74, is accused of sexually harassing a 29-year-old female researcher shortly after she joined The Energy and Resources Institute. Lawyers for the woman, who cannot be named, said the harassment by Pachauri included unwanted emails, text messages and WhatsApp messages.

Pachauri, one of the UN’s top climate change officials, has denied the charges and his spokesman said: “[He] is committed to provide all assistance and cooperation to the authorities in their ongoing investigations.” His lawyers claimed in the court documents that his emails, mobile phone and WhatsApp messages were hacked and that criminals accessed his computer and phone to send the messages in an attempt to malign him.

In his letter of resignation to the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, he said: “The IPCC needs strong leadership and dedication of time and full attention by the chair in the immediate future, which under the current circumstances I am unable to provide.”

Pachauri thanked the thousands of scientists who had worked for free on the IPCC’s reports and made an “unmatched contribution to global society.” He added: “I will continue to [work on climate change] assiduously throughout my life in what ever capacity I work. For me the protection of Planet Earth, the survival of all species and sustainability of our ecosystems is more than my mission, It is my religion.”

Dem Wants Disclosure of Funding Behind Climate Testimony

Feb 23, 2015
(The Hill)

The top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee is pressing university heads to disclose documents that would reveal the extent to which faculty received compensation from industry when researching climate change. 

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) released letters on Tuesday that were sent to seven different university presidents requesting information pertaining to specific professors that testified before Congress on climate change.

The letters ask for documents that reveal "sources of external funding," such a consulting fees and promotional considerations that professors receive. 

Exxon Mobil Refinery Explosion Injures 4; Shaking With Magnitude of 1.7 Earthquake

Feb 19, 2015
(Los Angeles Times)

Four workers suffered minor injuries after a large explosion Wednesday morning at the Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance, according to an Exxon spokesman.

The explosion was the equivalent of a magnitude 1.7 earthquake, according to Caltech.

Residents in the area were asked by police to remain indoors after the explosion. That shelter-in-place order has been lifted, but a smoke advisory was issued by the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

About 47 firefighters responded after the explosion about 8:50 a.m. The blast was followed by a ground fire that was quickly extinguished, a Torrance fire captain said.

When firefighters arrived at the refinery, Capt. Steve Deuel said, they found flames likely fueled by gasoline.

Oil Train Derails in W. Virginia; Tanker Enters River, Towns Evacuated

Feb 17, 2015

A CSX Corp train hauling North Dakota crude derailed in West Virginia on Monday, setting a number of cars ablaze, destroying a house and forcing the evacuation of two towns in the second significant oil-train incident in three days.

One or two of the cars plunged into the Kanawha River, said Robert Jelacic of the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

CSX said the train was hauling 109 cars from North Dakota to the coastal town of Yorktown, Virginia, where midstream firm Plains All American Pipelines runs an oil depot. It said one person was being treated for potential inhalation of fumes. No other injuries or deaths were reported.

Federal Environmental Review Makes Arctic Drilling More Likely

Feb 13, 2015
(Los Angeles Times)

A revised environmental review of a contested Arctic oil lease makes drilling in the area far more likely, a development that has infuriated environmentalists.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released the new environmental assessment of drilling leases on Thursday, upping the projected oil yield but saying little otherwise about the potential environmental impact.

The revised report was a particularly bitter disappointment for environmentalists, who had just celebrated the Obama administration’s decision in January to put parts of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off-limits from future oil and gas leasing.

Nebraska Judge Halts TransCanada's Use Of Eminent Domain For Keystone Route

Feb 13, 2015
(Huffington Post)

A Nebraska judge has issued a temporary injunction barring TransCanada from using eminent domain to force landowners to sell rights allowing the proposed Keystone XL pipeline on their property.

Pipeline owner TransCanada said it will suspend all eminent domain proceedings, including those against landowners who are not among those who sued the company. The company said in a statement that it will seek an accelerated schedule for a trial.

TransCanada filed paperwork in late January to begin using eminent domain to acquire land along the pipeline path from owners who didn't agree to sell rights to the company. This came shortly after the Nebraska state Supreme Court issued a decision that essentially cleared the way for the pipeline, though it left some open legal questions about the process the state had used to approve the route.

Congress Passes Keystone XL bill, Obama Expected to Veto

Feb 12, 2015

The Republican-led Congress gave final passage on Wednesday to a bill to approve the long-pending Keystone XL pipeline, a measure that next goes to President Barack Obama, who has vowed to veto it.

The bill passed by 270-152 in the House of Representatives, with only one Republican voting against it and 29 Democrats for it. The legislation passed in the Senate in late January.

Obama, a Democrat, opposes the bill because it would pluck the approval process from his administration. He wants the State Department to finish its assessment of the pipeline and make his own decision on it afterward.