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Romanian villagers block Chevron frackers

Chevron in Romania
Chevron
The yellow means "drill" to Chevron. Romanians disagree. 

On Monday, a bunch of Romanians told Chevron to go to hell and take their fracking operations with them. (It probably sounded more like "du-te dracului.") Chevron workers were sent to drill the company's first test well in the southeastern European country, but they were turned back by protests.

Romania's government sold Chevron the rights to frack the shale beneath more than a million acres of Romania. Residents worried about the environmental consequences are accusing Prime Minister Victor Ponta of breaking an election promise to block drilling for shale gas.

More from Agence France-Presse on the protests near the village of Pungesti:

The convoy was forced to turn around as protesters, some of whom had come in horse-drawn carts, called on Chevron to "go home". ...

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Readers to papers: Stop publishing letters that deny climate reality

Newspapers
Shutterstock
Newspapers should be truthful. That goes for every single page.

The L.A. Times recently won national attention and praise for spelling out its policy of refusing to publish the claims of climate deniers.

"Letters that have an untrue basis (for example, ones that say there’s no sign humans have caused climate change) do not get printed," the letters page editor wrote.

Now, readers of other major newspapers are calling on their favored media outlets to adopt the same policy.

Forecast the Facts, a project that aims to improve the quality of coverage of climate change in the press, launched a petition calling on the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal to refuse to print letters that deny basic science.

"The Los Angeles Times has adopted a policy of refusing to publish letters that deny climate change, and you should follow suit," the petition states. "End climate change denial in your newspaper."

On Monday, the group told The Hill that it had already gathered 22,000 signatures in less than a day.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Illinois kills online coal propaganda targeting kids

Illinois Coal Mascot
via Midwest Energy News
A smiling lump of coal shaped like Illinois tells kids that coal is ace.

A dark era of pro-coal brainwashing funded by Illinois taxpayers may finally be coming to an end.

We told you last month that the state’s Commerce Department, which oversees a coal-education program mandated by state law, had urged an overhaul of the materials that it provides to teachers. A review by the department concluded that the materials were biased in favor of the dirty fossil fuel.

Now comes news from coal journalist Jeff Biggers, writing on Monday for Yes Magazine, that the department has stripped controversial coal-related educational material from its website:

The website sections were supposed to educate children about energy, but had been widely denounced because they focused on misleading pro-coal messages. ...

As pressure increased on the department to take action, staff members initially claimed that they were too broke to fix the problem. Then the pages disappeared from the site on Monday. Earlier screen shots show sections called "Education" and "Kid's Site," neither of which was visible when YES! checked the DCEO site today. ...

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Supreme Court will hear challenge to EPA’s power-plant rules

coal plant
Shutterstock

America's power plants are among the world's leading sources of greenhouse gas pollution. And their owners secured a legal victory on Tuesday that could help them stay that way.

We've written at length about the Obama administration's efforts to clamp down on power plant emissions. The EPA's proposed rules would make it difficult to operate dirty coal-fired plants and would help slow down global warming. But the decades-overdue rules don't delight everybody: They have pissed off some powerful and deep-pocketed polluters.

Conservative states, big business and fossil fuel groups have lined up to challenge the rules in court, arguing that they are far-reaching and intrusive. They say the court's 2007 Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency ruling only directed the federal government to regulate tailpipe emissions under the Clean Air Act -- and that it fell short of granting the EPA the authority to regulate "stationary" power plant emissions.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear some of those challenges.

From USA Today:

The court accepted six separate petitions that sought to roll back EPA's clout over carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. That could signal the court's dissatisfaction with a 2012 ruling by the nation's second most powerful court -- the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia Circuit -- affirming the agency's authority.

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BP negligent in Texas refinery leak but absolved of wrongdoing

Texas City
BP
The Texas City refinery.

Yes, of course BP was negligent when it allowed at least 500,000 pounds of toxic gases to stream out of a refinery in Texas City, Texas, for 40 days in 2010.

So ruled a Texas jury. But that's where the good news out of a lawsuit that could affect 48,000 refinery neighbors ends. Despite the company's negligence, a jury concluded that the fumes it released, which contained such cancer-causing chemicals as benzene and nitrogen oxides, caused no harm to its neighbors.

The Houston Chronicle reported that a 12-person jury deliberated for nearly three days before concluding that BP had been negligent but that it was to be absolved of wrongdoing:

"Today's verdict affirms BP's view that no one suffered any injury as a result of the flaring of the BP Ultracracker flare during April and May 2010," BP spokesman Scott Dean said. "Armed with the knowledge gleaned from this case and this important jury verdict, the company will immediately begin to prepare for any additional proceedings involving other plaintiffs."

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Venice has a grand plan to protect itself from rising seas

acqua alta
Paolo Pescio
Flooding in Venice last week.

A multibillion-dollar effort to protect Venice from flooding has passed its first public test.

The Moses project involves flood barriers that will stretch a mile across the mouth of Venice's lagoon, rising from the water when high tides threaten to deliver acqua alta -- periodic floods that inundate the Italian city. The effort is designed to prevent flooding that has become more common and severe during the last two centuries as sea levels rise and as the soggy city sinks.

Construction has been underway for a decade and is expected to continue until 2016, when 78 barriers will be in place. Last week, Venice tested out the first four floodgates, each weighing more than 300 tons. The barriers rose from the lagoon as intended, drawing applause from VIP spectators. From The Telegraph:

The gates are being built at the three inlets which link the lagoon to the Adriatic sea: Lido, Malamocco and Chioggia.

"The benefit of the city is that no more floods will arrive and that all the ground floors of the city, which are usually washed out and destroyed by these tides, will be safe," [said] Hermes Redi, Chief Executive of Consorzio Venezia Nuova which are in charge of the project.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy

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Lagoons filled with toxic water coming to Ohio’s fracklands

Frackwater lagoon
National Energy Technology Laboratory via NRDC
A fracking wastewater impoundment lot.

Where frackers go, lagoons filled with toxic wastewater follow.

Fracking wastewater impoundment lots as big as football fields already dot heavily fracked landscapes in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The lagoons are built to help the industry manage and reuse the vast volumes of wastewater that it produces.

Ohio lawmakers looked admiringly to their neighboring Marcellus Shale states and decided to draw up their own rules for wastewater lagoons. From The Columbus Dispatch:

“We are putting in a process to outline their standards of construction and their length of use,” said Mark Bruce, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

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Wisconsin’s sand-mining boom could fuel fracking abroad

Frac sand
Carol Mitchell
Frac sand piled up behind a Wisconsin farm.

When most people think about Wisconsin, cheese, breweries, and cornfields spring to mind. But the fracking industry is interested in something else the Badger State has to offer: sand.

A sand-mining boom has gotten rolling in Wisconsin over the last three years. The state's quartz-based sand is strong and spherical, nicely suited for injecting underground with water and chemicals to prop open cracks in fractured shale, allowing natural gas and oil to be fracked.

The spoils of Wisconsin's $1 billion frac sand–mining industry are already being hauled by rail to fracking fields as far away as Texas and Pennsylvania. But the sand miners have their sights set higher. At a conference last week, one industry leader said the silica could eventually be shipped to South America and China, helping other countries plunder their own lands for cheap fossil fuels. “Wisconsin is the global epicenter, and we’re just getting started,” said Richard Shearer, president and CEO of Superior Silica Sands. More from The Capital Times:

“I like to say thanks to God and the glaciers” for leaving behind the right kind of sand in Wisconsin, [Republican Gov. Scott] Walker told the receptive audience that included lobbyists, attorneys and rail officials.

Walker’s 2013-15 budget includes two new positions within the Department of Natural Resources to help process applications for sand mining operations, along with investments in freight rail as part of a $6.4 billion package of transportation improvements. ...

Read more: Climate & Energy

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While EPA is furloughed, Republicans hold hearing to bash it

Rep. Doug Lamborn
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Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) is more interested in bashing the EPA than solving the budget impasse.

You would think that the Republicans in Congress would dedicate every waking minute to figuring out how they can end the budget standoff and government shutdown. But, then, you don't think like a Republican in Congress.

Last Thursday, while 94 percent of the EPA was furloughed and the country continued edging ever closer to a debt default, House Republicans dillydallied with an EPA-bashing hearing that repeated worn-out talking points.

The name of the hearing offered clues to its content: EPA vs. American Mining Jobs: The Obama Administration’s Regulatory Assault on the Economy. And the opening statement [PDF] by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), chair of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, did not deviate from the predictable course:

The Obama Administration's "war on coal" can be felt throughout the country, from Logan County, West Virginia to Farmington, New Mexico. Now it has seemingly expanded to an all out "war on mining jobs" threatening workers from Chicken, Alaska to Superior, Arizona.

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For energy efficiency, Americans deserve a big thumbs-up

Many thumbs up
Shutterstock
We're getting there.

America's population and economy are both growing, yet its energy appetite is falling. That's because of substantial energy-efficiency gains made in recent decades.

Those gains are helping the country reduce oil imports, save money on power bills, and move toward meeting a goal set by President Obama of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent between 2005 and 2020.

The news is laid out in a Natural Resources Defense Council report cheerily titled America's (Amazingly) Good Energy News [PDF]:

[O]ver the past 40 years Americans have found so many innovative ways to save energy that we have more than doubled the economic productivity of the oil that runs our vehicles and the natural gas and electricity that runs almost everything else. Factories and businesses are producing substantially more products and value with less energy. ...