February 1, 2019
The U.S. military's only heavy icebreaker suffered more breakdowns during its mission to Antarctica this month, adding urgency to calls for Congress to approve funding to replace the aging polar fleet. But House Democrats say that funding won't be possible if the budget also includes President Trump's $5.7 billion demand for a border wall.
As temperatures plunged to well below zero in cities across the region, utilities drew on lessons from the last deep freeze and on new ways to manage power demand. Their performance this week is likely to be closely scrutinized as the Trump administration seeks support for its idea that coal and nuclear plants are essential for the country's energy security.
Arizona just beat a deadline to join other states that share the Colorado River basin in agreeing to water conservation plans. The states are trying to rebalance their water rights at a time when the watershed may be reaching a climate tipping point under the influence of global warming.
BP has said it will support a resolution from activist investors to align its goals with the 2015 Paris agreement. The company also said it would link the bonuses of 36,000 employees to greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Scientists are worried about the discovery of an enormous underwater cavity that will probably speed up the decay of the Thwaites Glacier on Antarctica's western coast. The glacier holds enough ice that if it all melted it would raise the world's oceans by more than 2 feet.
Among eight additions announced to the EPA's Science Advisory Board is John Christy, a climate skeptic often called on by Republicans opponents of climate regulations to testify before Congress. Christy has sowed doubt about climate science for years, as ICN has reported. At one point, Exxon urged the Bush administration to appoint him to head up its science effort.
Six Eastern states and New York City have sued the Trump administration for refusing to increase smog restrictions that could limit cross-border pollution. Read more from ICN about EPA's refusal and the states' concerns.
The Navy is considering building a 14-foot flood wall around the Washington Navy Yard to protect the complex from rising sea levels, according to internal Department of Defense documents. The wall would cost up to $20 million. Read more from ICN on the growing sea level rise risks at the U.S. nuclear fleet's critical Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur says she will not seek a third term after being told by Senate leaders she would not be renominated. LaFluer, a Democrat, had pushed for natural gas infrastructure projects to take into account climate change.
January 31, 2019
The U.S. intelligence chiefs warned in their annual Worldwide Threat Assessment that climate change and other kinds of environmental degradation pose risks to global stability because they are "likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond." They add to a chorus of scientific and national security voices in pointing out the ways climate change fuels insecurity.
In the midst of some of the coldest temperatures in years, utility companies in parts of the upper Midwest have asked customers to turn down their thermostats to ensure that there's enough natural gas to go around.
The Interior Department Is Running Mainly Without Senate-Confirmed Leaders. It Just Opted to Keep It that Way.
More than a half dozen major divisions at the Interior Department lack Senate-confirmed leaders, and the agency's acting secretary has now taken a step to keep it that way. This means that some of the most influential officials there will have never faced scrutiny from the Senate. The new order is an extension of one signed by now-departed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
Colorado's new attorney general says the state will withdraw from a lawsuit that challenges the Clean Power Plan. Democrat Phil Weiser's move is a reversal from his Republican predecessor who had Colorado join a multistate lawsuit seeking to overturn the Obama administration's plan. Michigan has also dropped its opposition.
Oregon lawmakers are close to approving a permanent ban on offshore drilling that also bans any drilling infrastructure from crossing state waters. An Oregon Senate panel heard testimony on the measure that would make permanent an existing 10-year ban, which is about to expire. The bill appears to have little opposition.
A bill introduced in the Florida Senate would allow school districts to teach alternatives to concepts such as climate change and evolution. A group called the Florida Citizens Alliance wrote it. Its legislative sponsor says schools need to teach "different worldviews" on issues like evolution and climate change.
January 30, 2019
Heat and drought extremes are consistent with the scientific consensus that more greenhouse gas emissions lead to a greater likelihood of unusually high temperatures. But what about cold extremes?
Satellite data from 2010 to 2015 show China's methane emissions rose, despite attempts by the Chinese government to rein them in. That increase was most likely driven by coal mining, according to a worrisome new report.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday endorsed the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement and committed her administration to aggressive targets for greenhouse gas emissions and clean energy development. She and new Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker are the 18th and 19th governors to join the U.S. Climate Alliance.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) says U.S. Department of Transportation officials censored parts of a letter sent to him in response to his inquiry about how climate change may affect highways in his state. He says the letter, written by an agency staff member, was altered by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao's office for political reasons, omitting the terms "climate change" and changing "sea level rise" to "sea level variations."
The EPA's office of enforcement is about to release a finalized audit policy that will reduce penalties for the oil and gas industry, according to internal memos obtained by The Hill. The new rules also will offer more flexibility to owners who have newly acquired oil and gas assets, among other changes.
A new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that a larger number of babies will likely be born with congenital heart defects between 2025 and 2035 due to pregnant women's exposure to higher temperatures as the planet warms.
A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists says the Trump administration has taken scores of actions that ignore scientific findings, including on climate change. The report documents 80 attacks on science by administration officials with limited scientific credentials and conflicts of interest.
As at least three companies work to bring supersonic airplanes back to the market, environmental groups worry their return will lead to an increase in emissions. The issue is likely on the agenda next week when international regulators meet in Canada to discuss environmental and noise standards for supersonic transportation technologies.
January 29, 2019
An influential group of investors today added its voice to a growing chorus of health professionals and scientists who are calling for radical changes to agriculture and food consumption in an effort to fight climate change, malnutrition and obesity.
California's largest utility, PG&E, filed for bankruptcy today, capping a months-long debate over how the utility could manage tens of billions in potential wildfire liabilities. Read more from ICN on how the bankrupty could affect clean energy.
Political flux in Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo is fueling concerns that large swaths of tropical forests in the world's three biggest rainforest countries may be imperiled by industries including palm oil, timber, mining and agriculture.
Montana's trees have flipped from being a carbon "sink" to a carbon emitter in roughly the past decade. Outbreaks of bark beetles, fueled by warming temperatures, have ravaged forests, leaving carbon-rich trees to die and slowly decompose or burn in forest fires.
The city of Boston aims to be carbon free by 2050, a target that a new report says will require substantial changes to its buildings, transportation, waste and energy sectors.
A new study from the Brookings Institution suggests that states, counties and congressional districts that voted Republican in 2016 and 2018 will suffer greater economic and environmental damage from a climate change over the coming decades than places that voted Democratic.
January 28, 2019
The U.S. government's new long-term energy outlook paints a picture of the future that few utilities and energy analysts actually expect to see. It underplays how rapidly coal will retreat and fails to grasp the scale of growth for renewable energy compared to utilities' plans and analysts' expectations. And that's a problem, because this outlook gets used like a forecast.