April 17, 2019
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a major overhaul of state oil and gas rules, turning the focus from encouraging production to making public safety and the environment top priorities. The law also gives local governments new authority to restrict the location of wells, which could limit or prohibit drilling in some areas near homes and schools.
A plan for a power line that would transmit wind energy from the Great Plains to markets in and beyond Missouri could be in jeopardy. The state House gave initial approval to a measure that would forbid the project's developer from using eminent domain to construct the line.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she wants a faster plan to decommission Enbridge's Line 5 oil pipeline, but she is not ruling out the option of allowing the company to put a replacement in a tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac.
With hurricane season just six weeks away and the planet warming, the country needs better prediction systems to warn coastal areas about what to expect from bigger, wetter and faster-strengthening hurricanes. Accurate prediction requires increasingly sophisticated models that combine atmospheric measurements with monitoring of regional hot spots.
As North America's glaciers shrink, the melting is disrupting habitats for everything from bacteria to fish. A photo essay from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
April 16, 2019
The Interior Department's internal watchdog has opened an investigation into ethics complaints against the agency's newly installed secretary, David Bernhardt, a former oil industry and agribusiness lobbyist. It said the investigation stems from "a wide assortment of complainants alleging various conflicts of interest and other violations."
The Interior Department has acknowledged that Secretary David Bernhardt's staff intentionally left meetings with representatives of fossil fuel, timber and water interests off his public calendar and that Bernhardt used a personal itinerary that was regularly overwritten.
Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and high-ranking aides held several previously unreported meetings with a Missouri-based electric utility company accused of violating the Clean Air Act, agency documents show. One meeting was redacted; another was unlisted, E&E reports.
Microsoft is joining the Climate Leadership Council, a climate advocacy group backed by big energy corporations and high-profile Republicans, and said it will back the group's push for a carbon tax. Read more from ICN about what else the group's carbon tax proposal includes.
The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge from an electric trade association group that had argued nuclear plant subsidies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in New York and Illinois gave nuclear producers an unfair advantage. Read more from ICN about the case and how the two state laws also affect renewable energy.
In the 1950s, a storm like Hurricane Maria was likely to drop that much rain on Puerto Rico once every 300 years. By 2017, the likelihood was once every 100 years, researchers found. "Due to anthropogenic climate change, it is now much more likely that we get these hurricanes that drop huge amounts of precipitation," said study author David Keellings of the University of Alabama.
April 15, 2019
As concern over plastic waste grows, researchers are raising red flags about another problem: plastic's rapidly growing carbon footprint. Every stage of plastic's life cycle, from fossil fuel extraction to disposal, produces greenhouse gases. A new study looked at ways to lower the toll.
Retirements of coal-fired power plants across the nation have spurred some of the world's largest coal interests to fund an aggressive effort to keep them running. The Energy Policy Network, an industry-funded advocacy organization leading the effort, has fought to prolong coal fired power plants in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. Their next "battleground" is Indiana.
Winter storm surge flooding is the latest indication that something's off-kilter around the Bering Strait, the gateway from the Pacific Ocean to the Arctic Ocean. The Bering Sea last winter saw record-low sea ice. Read more from ICN on changes in the warming Arctic.
Key Alaska rivers that are usually frozen at this time of year are now free-flowing, with record-early thaws following record-high winter and spring temperatures.
The owner of a struggling coal-fired power plants in Southern Illinois is supporting legislation that, if passed, would help transform those sites into facilities for utility-scale solar and energy storage projects. Critics say it's just a bailout for coal plants that will shut down anyway.
Hundreds of thousands of people are still in need of aid as they try to recover from Cyclone Idai's damage to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and more 1,000 people are reported to have died in the March storm. The frequency and intensity of such storms is expected to increase due to climate change.
April 12, 2019
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, says his agency is working on changes to the Clean Water Act that will narrow the scope of what states can do to challenge energy infrastructure projects such as fossil fuel pipelines. Read more from ICN on President Trump's executive issued order this week to do the same and the legal questions involved.
The Senate confirmed former fossil fuels lobbyist David Bernhardt to serve as Interior secretary in 56-41 vote, putting aside ethics concerns. He won support from all Republicans and a few Democrats despite the criticism that he has conflicts of interests related to his former clients.
A bipartisan proposal in Congress would expand the electric car tax credit, providing a boost to General Motors and Tesla, which have both hit caps under the existing credit that gives $7,500 to buyers of all-electric vehicles. The proposal has support from prominent Democrats and Republicans, but it is likely to run into opposition from the Trump administration.
Duke Energy is challenging a state order to excavate coal ash from all of its power plant sites in North Carolina. This is the latest step in a long-running dispute, with Duke arguing it should be allowed to cover the ash pits with a waterproof cap, which is cheaper than removing the ash. Read more from ICN about the widespread problem of coal ash contaminating groundwater.
Allergy season is getting worse, and experts say climate change deserves some of the blame. Warmer temperatures increase the level of airborne pollen and other allergens. Pollen counts are likely to continue to rise, with New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine on track for notable increases.
Swedish power company Vattenfall is working on a plant to test a method of using salt to store electricity from solar arrays and wind turbines. The plant, to be located in Berlin, would heat salt, with the ability to release the heat later. Read more from ICN about concentrated solar plants in the U.S. using molten salt energy storage.
Washington state's House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday to move the state's electrical utilities off coal by 2025, and to get to a complete "clean energy" grid by 2045. The bill goes back to the Senate to clear up small changes, and then on to Gov. Jay Inslee. Already, supporters are celebrating what they predict will be a "fossil-free future" for the state.
Much of the nation's affordable housing stock was built before climate change was well understood, and many properties already sit in flood zones. Global warming has been linked to heavier rainfall, making flooding more likely. But the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees some of the at-risk properties, does not have a universal policy against paying for housing in a designated flood zone.
April 11, 2019
Last summer's extreme heat was an "unprecedented" hemispheric event that would not have happened without heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution, according to the authors of a study presented this week at a conference in Vienna. The researchers say the heat lasted longer and was more widespread across the Northern Hemisphere than previously realized.
President Trump signed a pair of executive orders Wednesday that aim to speed approval and construction of fossil fuel projects, including the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline. The measures are part of a broader effort to use his executive authority to push through oil, gas and coal development and mark a new attempt to shield his actions from review by the courts.
House Panel Launches Probe into Whether EPA's Bill Wehrum Improperly Aided Former Utility Industry Clients
The House Energy and Commerce Committee launched an investigation today into whether the EPA's air policy chief, Bill Wehrum, and his deputy have improperly aided their former industry clients since joining the Trump administration. Both previously represented several power plant operators that EPA regulates.
Global Warming Stands to Make Corporate Security as High-Stakes in the 21st Century as It Was in the 19th
Executives at the security company Pinkerton are betting that there is no real material difference between climate change and any other conflict, and that this conflict will lead to more demand for the company's knowhow than ever.
More than 4,500 Amazon employees this week urged the company to take aggressive action on climate change and reduce its carbon footprint. They urged the company to stop offering custom cloud-computing services that support the oil and gas industry in extracting more fossil fuels and said Amazon's 100% renewable energy goal lacks urgency.