May 21, 2018
A federal court has invalidated a permit for the Atlantic Coast pipeline, a move that gives civil rights advocates more time to build their case against the project. The pipeline, which would carry natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina, would have a disproportionate negative impact on people of color living on its route, opponents say.
Del Mar, California leaders are considering a policy that would allow for the removal of structures that are threatened by rising water. The idea is controversial in this wealthy coastal community. Some property owners would like to see other options exhausted before even considering a plan that could allow for the taking of houses without the owners' approval.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Agency has begun a review of a 1978 law that has been used as the basis for clean energy investment in much of the country. The panel is reviewing the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act, or PURPA, a process that is raising concerns about possible changes that could harm clean energy policy. Some utility companies are among those who support the review, saying that competitors are gaming the system to gain unfair benefits.
May 18, 2018
The survival odds of tens of thousands of species would vastly improve if nations increased their ambitions for fighting climate change. A new study shows the potential alarming effects on plants and animals if global temperatures rise 2 degrees Celsius, as opposed to the more ambitious goal of holding warming to 1.5 degrees. Insects would be especially harmed, and this study is one of the first to explore the effects on insects at this level of detail.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation is proposing new rules that would set strict limits on emissions from existing power plants, a plan that likely would lead to the closing or modification of the state's two coal-fired plants covered by this rule. The proposal is tied to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's pledge to phase out coal energy by 2020. The two affected power plants have several options, including switching to a different fuel or adding renewables.
The EU would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2020, according to a plan still being developed. Miguel Arias Cañete, head of climate policy for the EU, announced the goal in a blog post. The EU will be holding public consultations starting in the next few weeks. The policy would make the EU the largest emitter in the world to make this level of commitment.
New NASA Head Says Humans Contribute to Climate Change 'in a Major Way'
Three weeks into the job as NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine said at a town hall meeting with employees that he agrees with the consensus that human activity plays a major role in climate change. His comments put him at odds with others in the Trump administration, and they represent a shift from some of his previously stated views.
A U.S. House hearing about climate change featured a scientist responding to Republicans' denialist assertions that the human role in global warming is being overstated. Among the comments, Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, suggested that erosion, including rocks falling into the ocean, may be to blame for rising sea levels. He also said Antarctic ice is growing, not shrinking. The scientist testifying disputed both of those points.
States across the Midwest are facing a flood-prone future. The region has seen an increase in both precipitation and, subsequently, flooding. Experts say climate change likely is to blame. "It's a huge amount of water being added," said Kenny Blumenfeld, a senior climatologist in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources State Climatology Office, "and a huge water-management problem."
May 17, 2018
EPA chief Scott Pruitt is facing harsh criticism from members of the agency's Science Advisory Board—including from some he named to the panel himself—over his plan to restrict the types of scientific evidence the agency can use in writing EPA rules. The move takes up a cause long-championed by the fossil fuel industry and its Congressional allies. Read more at ICN about how Pruitt is trying to weaken clean air rules.
Minnesota Lawmakers Pass Bill Allowing Enbridge to Build Controversial Pipeline Without Regulatory OK
The Minnesota House and Senate have passed a measure that would allow Enbridge to build a controversial oil pipeline, Line 3, without regulatory approval. The move would terminate a regulatory review that has been going on for years. Gov. Mark Dayton is threatening to veto, saying the bill would destroy the integrity of the process. Read more at ICN about Line 3, which would carry tar sands oil through two Native American reservations and has faced intense opposition.
The nominee to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was asked in her confirmation hearing if humans cause climate change. She declined to say. Heidi King, who is now the office's deputy director, is the Trump administration's pick to lead the agency that plays a key role in regulating fuel efficiency standards. Read more at ICN about the climate change implications of Trump's plan to weaken the standards.
Christiana Figueres, former head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat and one of the architects of the Paris Agreement, is urging governments to stop exploring for fossil fuels in the Arctic, citing global warming, the fragility of the region and the high financial risks for energy companies. "The Arctic has been rendered undrillable," she said.
Majority of Americans Say Climate Change Affects Their Community, Including Two-Thirds of People Living on the Coasts
Roughly six-in-ten Americans say climate change is affecting their community, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Among the key factors in responses are political affiliation and proximity to the coast. Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to say climate change is impacting their lives, at least to some extent. Two-thirds of people who live within 25 miles of a coastline say they see some effects.
Canadian federal officials say they are prepared to cover some of the financial losses if Kinder Morgan continues to face delays in expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia. The pipeline company told Ottawa it needs assurance by May 31 that the company will be able to build the project, and overcome the environmental objections from the British Columbia government, or it will walk away. Read more at ICN about how difficult it's become for energy companies in Canada to build tar sands pipelines.
New research shows global warming will drive many of North America's fish species northward, potentially leading to billions of dollars in losses for coastal fishing communities. The study examines 686 fish species, some of which could disappear from their current habitat. New England's cod fishery is at risk, while rockfish in the Pacific Northwest are moving toward Alaska.
May 16, 2018
Alaska's government is working on a plan to address climate change, making it among the few conservative-leaning states to do so in such a substantial way. State leaders say the evidence is too strong and damage already too great to ignore. Read more at ICN about Alaska's climate paradox: feeling the effects of climate change, while relying heavily on the production of oil and gas.
A federal judge has struck down the city of Oakland's ban on shipping coal through an export terminal in the city. The 2014 ban violates a development agreement, the judge said. The coal industry is hoping the Oakland terminal can be used to increase exports as the U.S. market continues to fade.
The EPA came very close to announcing a debate on climate change last year, going so far as to write a draft press release about it. According to the draft, obtained by BuzzFeed News, the EPA planned to lead a roster of "red team" scientists to critique a comprehensive federal report on the state of climate science. Read more from ICN about the government's National Climate Assessment.
As many nations look to reduce the use of fossil fuels, President Trump is said to be considering whether to form a group that would promote carbon energy. A newly disclosed memo describes the "Clean and Advanced Fossil Fuel Alliance," which would promote coal and natural gas as reliable and inexpensive fuels.
Most insurance companies in the United States have not adapted their strategies to address the dangers of a warming world, despite being on the frontlines of climate change. This makes them more likely to raise rates or deny coverage in high-risk areas, according to a new study. It comes as predictions show that an above-average Atlantic hurricane season is approaching.
More than a quarter of the 66 nuclear plants operating in the United States are either scheduled to close or likely aren't making money, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The study follows an earlier analysis that showed that half of U.S. coal plant capacity is on shaky ground.
Environmental journalist James Bruggers will run the first of several planned regional reporting hubs as InsideClimate News launches a national network. Louisville-based Bruggers is covering the Southeast where he will report on energy and the environment and collaborate with local newsrooms to produce more in-depth environmental reporting.
May 15, 2018
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt demanded and received unprecedented, around-the-clock protection from armed officers on his first day, the agency's internal watchdog says. That appears at odds with past claims that the stepped-up security measures came in direct response to death threats.
A new report suggests blooms of harmful algae in the nation's waters are occurring more frequently. Primarily fed by farm runoff and exacerbated by rising temperatures, these blooms are releasing climate-warming methane and CO2. Lake Erie is a prime example of the challenge.
Clean-energy advocates are increasingly critical of the way PJM Interconnection, the nation's largest grid operator, is supporting policies that give financial incentives to coal and nuclear plants. This is part of the larger debate about grid resilience, and PJM is a key player.
This year's low snowpack in the West is raising concerns. The Rio Grande and the Colorado River are both seeing low flow in places, prompting concerns about water shortages and wildlife. Officials are urging states in the Colorado River Basin to finalize drought contingency plans this year. Wildfire risk is also high due to dry conditions.
Enbridge's controversial Line 5, which carries oil under the Straits of Mackinac near where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet, has dents from an apparent anchor strike of as much as three-quarters of an inch, the company said. Enbridge is considering wrapping the sections in protective sleeves but hasn't set a timeline. Read more from ICN on calls to shut down the aging pipeline.
A new Pew Research poll finds that more Millennial Republicans agree the Earth is warming primarily due to human activity than older Republicans do, and that 45 percent of them say they are seeing at least some effects of climate change in their own communities. A majority say the government is doing too little to protect the environment.
The number of air conditioning units worldwide is projected to grow from 1.6 billion today to 5.6 billion by midcentury, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency. The units are major users of electricity, contributing to climate change.