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John Upton's Posts


Entire Texan town evacuated after pipeline explosion


A Texas town an hour's drive from Dallas was a ghost town over the weekend. Plumes of smoke hung ghoulishly over its sky, visible from more than 25 miles away.

Which company ruined the weekend of the entire town, condemning its residents to crappy nearby hotel rooms? Chevron.

One of the company's pipelines exploded early Thursday as a Chevron crew was working on it, triggering a long-burning fire and the nearby town's evacuation. No injuries were reported. From a CNN report on Saturday:


Bill would promote bogus wind-turbine syndrome lawsuits in Wisconsin

Wind energy in Wisconsin
- Deb -

Wind-turbine syndrome doesn't exist. Sure, wind turbines can be annoying. But there isn't a shred of peer-reviewed medical evidence that they can actually make anybody sick.

Yet a new Wisconsin bill scheduled for a hearing next week would make it easier for people living within 1.5 miles of a wind turbine to sue the energy developer for "physical and emotional harm suffered by the plaintiff, including for medical expenses, pain, and suffering." And to sue for relocation expenses if they want to move away from turbines. And to sue over drops in property values. Never mind that researchers have also ruled out any impacts of wind farms on the value of nearby properties.  

SB 167 wouldn't just affect new turbines. It could be applied retroactively to sue existing wind farms out of existence.

Needless to say, the bill is just another effort to stamp out the growth of renewable energy in coal-friendly Wisconsin, which is already lagging behind much of the rest of the country in wind power.


Court upholds California’s cap-and-trade system

Timothy Wells

Some California polluters don't think they should have to pay for the right to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, so they sued the state to try to block its year-old carbon-trading system.

But a state judge this week rejected those lawsuits. One of the suits was filed by the California Chamber of Commerce. The other was filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to "protect businesses against unfair burdens," part of its master plan for "rescuing liberty from coast to coast." The chamber and the liberty rescuers both pledged to appeal the ruling.

From KQED:


Arizona utility scores tiniest possible victory in war on solar

solar panels on roofs
David Crummey

Arizona Public Service Co. isn't very happy that so many of its customers have solar panels. It wants to sell electricity to them, not the other way around. So it has been campaigning to convince regulators to impose new rules that would make it more expensive for customers to maintain solar arrays on their roofs.

Currently, under a net-metering program, the utility must buy excess power produced by customers' rooftop solar panels. It's been proposing that it should pay a lot less for that power -- $50 to $100 less a month.

On Thursday, following two days of hearings, regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission voted 3-t0-2 to reject the utility company's bid. Instead, they imposed a fee on new net-metering customers that will work out to about $5 a month. Current net-metering customers are exempt from the new fee. 

Bloomberg reports:

Arizona is one of 43 states that require utilities to buy solar power from customers with rooftop solar systems. This lowers consumers’ monthly power bills and reduces revenue for the power companies. The decision at a hearing yesterday in Phoenix validates APS’s position that the arrangement is unfair because it shifts some of the costs of maintaining the grid to consumers who don’t have photovoltaic panels.


The world is still losing its forests, and these beautiful satellite maps tally the toll

Deforestation in Thailand

A little more than 300,000 square miles of forest was established or replanted worldwide between 2000 and 2012. Unfortunately, almost 900,000 square miles was destroyed during the same time period -- logged, ravaged by fire, or attacked by insects.

Those are the main conclusions of a study that examined hundreds of thousands of images snapped by the U.S. government's Landsat satellites. Academic researchers partnered with Google staff to produce stunning maps displaying the world's forests and areas that have been deforested or reforested since 2000. Those maps were used to produce the following short videos:

About a third of the deforestation occurred in the tropics, and half of that was in South America. Logging and clearing of land for farming were responsible for much of the loss. Hearteningly, the researchers found that deforestation has been slowing down in Brazil, where worldwide concerns about the loss of the Amazon have helped spur domestic efforts to save the rainforest. But that slowdown was offset by increasing losses in other countries.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Anti-fracking activists celebrate victory in a fourth Colorado city


It turns out that it was a clean sweep for opponents of fracking during last week's elections in Colorado.

Voters in the city of Broomfield narrowly approved a five-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. The initial vote tally indicated that the ballot measure had failed by 13 votes, but by the end of an exhaustive recount on Thursday it was revealed it had actually succeeded by 17 votes. The result is expected to be legally certified today, but because the vote was so close there may still be one more recount.

If the latest vote count holds up, it means that measures to ban or suspend fracking succeeded in all four Colorado cities where they were on the ballot. That despite the oil and gas industry pouring more than $870,000 into efforts to defeat the measures, which were promoted by cash-poor but determined grassroots efforts. Boulder and Fort Collins voters extended existing moratoriums on fracking, while Lafayette straight-up outlawed the practice.


Looks like the Arctic has been heating up even faster than we thought


Exhaustive efforts to calculate temperatures around the world based on satellite and weather station data may have missed a spot: the Arctic.

The area around the North Pole is warming faster than anywhere else in the world, but there's been a shortage of temperature data from the region. New research suggests that efforts to fill in those data gaps over the last 16 years using calculations and assumptions have underestimated the rate at which temperatures are rising.

That could help to explain why the apparent increases in global temperatures have been slightly lower than forecast by climate models -- and slightly lower than had been the case before 1997.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Denial dries up: Americans finally seeing the light on climate change


Looks like Fox News and Congress are becoming ever more intellectually isolated from the American people, perched together on a sinking island of climate denialism.

Stanford University Professor Jon Krosnick led analysis of more than a decade's worth of poll results for 46 states. The results show that the majority of residents of all of those states, whether they be red or blue, are united in their worries about the climate -- and in their desire for the government to take climate action.

“To me, the most striking finding that is new today was that we could not find a single state in the country where climate scepticism was in the majority,” Krosnick told The Guardian.


Walmart’s carbon emissions soar despite all that green talk

Heather Ingram

Walmart's flagrant labor abuses have been well-documented, as have the effects of its sprawling big-box stores on town centers and small retailers. But less well-known is how much the mega-retailer is doing to wreak havoc with the world’s climate.

In greenwashing on an epic scale, the company has been making a lot of noise in the press over its pledges and occasional projects to reduce carbon emissions. The company's chief executive proclaimed in 2005 that "every company has a responsibility to reduce greenhouse gases as quickly as it can."

Which is nice rhetoric. But apparently Walmart doesn't think it falls into the same bucket as "every company."

Eight years into the retailer's self-professed love affair with the environment, a new report [PDF] by the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance lays bare its hypocrisy: Walmart is significantly growing its carbon footprint, even as it claims to be reducing it.


U.S. says poor countries’ calls for climate compensation could screw up climate treaty process

Typhoon Haiyan

The U.N. climate treaty process, hatched in the '90s, was intended to fight the looming threat of climate change. But as climate negotiators meet in Warsaw this month to develop a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, they are doing so not under the looming threat of climate change — they are doing so in a world currently being throttled by climate change.

That change in the weather is changing the tone of the negotiations. And it’s doing so in a way that some say is a distraction from the original purpose of the treaty process, which was to try to arrest climate change.

No longer are poor countries asking rich ones merely to shoulder the financial burden of reducing emissions. (In past talks, wealthy countries committed to pouring $100 billion a year by 2020 into the new Green Climate Fund to help the others reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.) Now developing countries are also demanding compensation for “loss and damage” caused by climate change, such as the typhoon that just ravaged the Philippines.