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John Upton's Posts



Frackers are flooding the atmosphere with climate-warming methane


The free pass that frackers and natural-gas handlers have gotten on their climate-changing methane emissions is really starting to stink to high hell.

We told you in February about the results of a meta-analysis of 20 years worth of scientific studies, which concluded that the EPA underestimates the natural-gas industry's climate impacts by 25 to 75 percent, due to methane leakage from its gas drilling operations and pipelines. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas.

Two scientific studies published in the past month reveal that the problem is far worse than that.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Do you think frackers should disclose the chemicals they use? EPA wants to know


The EPA is about to ask you an important question -- and it could be mistaken as rhetorical because the answer is such a no-brainer: Should frackers be required to reveal the secret sauces of chemicals that they pump into the ground?

Reuters explains:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it would gather public comment for 90 days on whether it should require chemical manufacturers to disclose what is in the fluids that are injected into shale seams to release trapped oil or gas, a technology that has transformed the oil and gas industry.

The so-called "advanced notice of proposed rulemaking" came as a response to a petition by the environmental group Earthjustice under a section of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The act enables anyone to petition the EPA to initiate an amendment or repeal of rules requiring chemical testing, imposing regulatory controls and requiring information.

Fracking companies claim that disclosing the chemicals they use would mean revealing trade secrets, and the EPA, along with various other government bodies and courts, has consistently bowed to industry on this issue. The newly announced public-consultation process could eventually help to shake up that imbalance between corporate desire and the public's right to know.


Legal trifecta!

Another big EPA court victory — this time on soot pollution

cheering man on mountaintop

The National Association of Manufacturers was told on Friday by a federal court that, no, it does not have the right to manufacture as many asthma attacks, heart attacks, and strokes as it would like.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the EPA acted properly in 2012 when it further restricted allowable soot emissions. It was the Obama administration's third big environmental legal victory in a month. And experts say that bodes well for the administration's efforts to clamp down on climate-changing emissions from power plants. The L.A. Times explains:


Suck it, Harvard

Stanford will dump its coal company investments

Stanford University
Hammerin Man

Stanford University's endowment fund is a fat one -- nearly $19 billion rich. And, moving forward, none of those riches will be sunk into the ghastly practice of coal mining.

The university -- which is situated on the edge of Silicon Valley, a hotbed for clean technology companies like Tesla -- announced on Tuesday that its board of trustees had approved a divestment resolution. According to the university's statement, the fund will sell off stocks and abstain from buying any more in "publicly traded companies whose principal business is the mining of coal for use in energy generation."

"Stanford has a responsibility as a global citizen to promote sustainability for our planet, and we work intensively to do so through our research, our educational programs and our campus operations," Stanford President John Hennessy said in the statement. "Moving away from coal in the investment context is a small, but constructive, step while work continues, at Stanford and elsewhere, to develop broadly viable sustainable energy solutions for the future."


90210, represent!

Beverly Hills just banned fracking

Beverly Hills
Trey Ratcliff

There's no shortage of strange chemicals in the bodies of Beverly Hills' surgically enhanced, Botoxed residents. But leaders of the Southern California city on Tuesday took a major step toward keeping mystery chemicals out of the ground beneath them.

The city council unanimously approved a ban on fracking, making 90210 among the first zip codes in California where frackng operations are legally unwelcome. Reuters reports:


He knows which way the wind blows

Obama talks climate with TV weathercasters

Al Roker and President Obama
Al Roker and President Obama share a moment.

Americans love their TV weather reports -- and they trust their TV weather reporters, more than they trust most other journalists.

So when the Obama administration published a huge climate assessment on Tuesday, it turned to these trusted figures to help get the word out. Eight local and national weathercasters were invited to the White House to interview the president about the new climate report.

"This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now," Obama told Al Roker of the Today show. "Whether it means increased flooding, greater vulnerability to drought, more severe wildfires -- all these things are having an impact on Americans as we speak."


Colorado drillers are spilling 200 gallons of oil and other poisons every day

Drilling for oil in Colorado

Colorado's soil is taking a heavy beating from the oil and gas industry.

The Denver Post analyzed oil and chemical spill data that frackers and drillers submitted to state regulators, and found that the number of such spills hit a 10-year high last year at 578. Those 578 spills wrecked an estimated 173,400 tons of topsoil. Every day, 200 gallons of gunk is dumped by drillers over the state's soil. Here's more from the Post:


The 12 things the Obama administration wants you to know about climate change

U.S. flag in a storm

Climate change is affecting you, right now. Yeah, you.

That's the message from the Obama administration today. "Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present," says the latest National Climate Assessment, published by the White House. Every few years, by law, the federal government is required to publish such a report; this is the third and most comprehensive one put out. It's a hefty catalogue of changes underway in America's climate and weather -- and of the changes we can expect to experience as greenhouse gases continue to turn the world into a more exotic and less welcoming place.

"Summers are longer and hotter, and extended periods of unusual heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced," the report says. "Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours. People are seeing changes in the length and severity of seasonal allergies, the plant varieties that thrive in their gardens, and the kinds of birds they see in any particular month in their neighborhoods."

The report is somewhat similar to the assessments published once or twice a decade by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Except that this report's focus is solely on the U.S. And, unlike the IPCC reports, this one is actually a pleasure to look at -- replete with graphics, animated gifs, and an easy-to-read website for those who would prefer to not slog through a huge .pdf or printed report.


Define "terror"

GOP leader calls anti-fracking congressman a terrorist

"terrorist" in speech bubble

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) thinks local communities should be able to decide how fracking is regulated in their areas, and whether it's allowed at all. He's among the backers of some initiatives proposed for the November ballot that could increase local control over oil and gas drilling.

And the chair of the Colorado Republican Committee, Ryan Call, says that makes Polis a terrorist. Here's a screen grab that took of a Twitter exchange before Call deleted the offensive tweet:


Let's confuse everybody

Should we be calling it “climate disruption”?

John Holdren
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
John Holdren has a disruptive idea.

White House science adviser John Holdren knows a lot about climate change. Just a couple of months ago, he smacked down climate deniers in a video released by the White House in which he coolly explained the links between climate change and the polar vortex. Now he's hoping to change the words we use when talking about the climate. ScienceInsider reports:

“I’ve always thought that the phrase ‘global warming’ was something of a misnomer because it suggests that the phenomenon is something that is uniform around the world, that it’s all about temperature, and that it’s gradual,” Holdren said [Thursday] at the annual [American Association for the Advancement of Science] Forum on Science and Technology Policy in Washington, D.C. ...