An appeals court in D.C. today rejected an attempt by the fossil fuel industry to gut a critical EPA pollution rule.
In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the agency had the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, as pollutants. Since that point, as the EPA has struggled to implement various rules limiting such pollution for both new and old power plants, there have been a series of court battles over its authority. The ruling today is not the final word, but is nonetheless an important victory.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia voted 6-2 to reject a request for the full court to reconsider a June ruling that upheld EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act.
The court’s action could set up a Supreme Court challenge by industry, energy firms and the state of Alaska, which were pushing for the rehearing.
The decision in June by a three-judge panel determined EPA properly evaluated the health effects of greenhouse gas emissions. That allowed the agency to continue regulating those emissions through the Clean Air Act.
And leaders of the House Natural Resources Committee know what needs to be done: We need to get rid of those flim-flammin' environmental regulations so we can finally extract some gol-dang fossil fuels! From The Rassafrassin' Hill:
The U.S. EPA released a report this week on how our cities are growing. So there's the first good news: They're growing! But you knew that already. Other good news: Nearly 75 percent of major metro areas saw a higher proportion of housing being built in already-developed areas ("infill" in planning jargon) from 2005 to 2009 compared to 2000 to 2004. The bad? From sea to shining sea, we still really love to sprawl. Almost all major metro areas continued to grow outward faster than they grew inward.
The Dead Sea is dying, but there's a bit of good news: We're turning all of our oceans into the Dead Sea.
There are two qualities that set the Dead Sea apart -- it's warm and it's salty. Happily, our oceans are picking up both of those traits. (Happily for those wishing to soak in warm, salty water. Unhappily for those who live in the water or near its shores or on Earth.)
Ed Monat, a seasonal tour boat operator and scallop fisherman from Bar Harbor, has seen a lot in his more than two decades of scuba diving below the waves of Frenchman Bay. …
One thing Monat never saw underwater prior to this past summer … was a 60-plus degree thermometer reading at the bottom of the bay. For much of the year, coastal waters in the Gulf of Maine generally are expected to waver between the mid-30s and mid-50s Fahrenheit, including at depths of 40-50 feet, where Monat often descends. On a late-August dive this summer near the breakwater that helps protect Bar Harbor from the open ocean, he said, his dive thermometer registered 63 degrees.
“That’s crazy, crazy warm,” Monat said recently. “This was a really warm summer in the water.”
"Power Company Loses Some of Its Appetite for Coal."
This is the best headline The New York Times could come up with. "Eh, I don't really want that much coal anymore," says American Electric Power, shrugging. Not, "Holy God, the market is collapsing on this stuff SELL SELL SELL." Just a quiet, "Oh well."
"This has been a bad year for the coal industry," the Times says. Indeed!
American Electric Power, or A.E.P., the nation’s biggest consumer of coal, announced that it would shut its coal-burning boilers at the Big Sandy electric power plant near Louisa, Ky., a 1,100-megawatt facility that since the early 1960s has been burning coal that was mined locally.
Big Sandy this year became a symbol of the plight of the coal industry nationwide. Strict new environmental regulations are forcing large utilities to spend billions of dollars to retrofit old coal-burning plants or shut them down, replacing them in most cases with equipment that uses cleaner-burning natural gas.
Those "strict new environmental regulations" are also known as the 40-year-old Clean Air Act, which grandfathered in the pollution of plants like Big Sandy until major retrofits were needed. Now, a major retrofit is needed.
According to the weirdly huge text on the Census Bureau's website, the fastest-growing state in the country in 2011 was North Dakota, which grew at a rate of 2.17 percent. The second fastest-growing state was the District of Columbia, which is not a state.
Your top ten in growth by percent and population:
You'll notice that the growth in North Dakota was substantially higher than any other state. That's for three reasons. First, because it had a smaller population to begin with. The state's population in 2011 was about 684,000; if it were a city, it would be the 19th largest (and by far the least dense). Second, that great tourism ad from January.
A bit of unexpected news: The cost of global disasters went down in 2012, not up.
That's according to re-insurer Swiss Re -- an insurance company that insures insurers. (It's insurance all the way down.) And you can put faith in the numbers Swiss Re came up with; few industries have as much at risk as the insurance industry.
According to a report released Wednesday by reinsurer Swiss Re, total economic losses from disasters -- naturally occurring or otherwise -- is estimated to be at least $140 billion. …
Even with the costs of Sandy, the second-most expensive storm in U.S. history after Hurricane Katrina, the total financial loss from disasters this year did not near 2011's total of $380 billion -- the highest in history -- or 2010's $218 billion.
The cost of disasters in 2011 may have been bolstered by the substantial losses associated with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. This year, the top five most expensive disasters all occurred in the U.S.
Swiss Re notes in its report that 2012 was a particularly expensive year for American disasters.
2012 is dominated by large, weather-related losses in the US. Moreover, the top five insured loss events are all in the US. Hurricane Sandy is the largest Atlantic hurricane on record in terms of wind span. This record storm surge caused widespread flooding and damage to a densely populated area on the East Coast of the US. It also led to the worst power outage caused by a natural catastrophe in the history of the US. …
In addition, extremely dry weather conditions and limited snowfall in the US led to one of the worst droughts in recent decades, affecting more than half of the country. Drought-related agricultural losses are likely to reach approximately USD 11 billion, including pay-outs from federal assistance programs.
Arnold Schwarzenegger (hereafter, "Arnold") has long championed environmental action. He recently announced that he planned to spend his post-political life fighting climate change. And yet, in an interview with Politico, he says he supports building Keystone XL.
Schwarzenegger isn’t likely to win over the environmental community with his position on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which Obama is expected to decide on early next year.
“In general, I’m all for it,” Schwarzenegger said. “I think that I’d rather get the energy from Canada than get it from the Middle East.”
Let me tell you how Arnold became governor of the state of California. In 2003, California was one year into the second term of a fairly milquetoast Democratic governor, Gray Davis. He won reelection in 2002 because the Republican party successfully convinced Bill Simon, the least-likeable person in California, to run against him. (Well, Davis helped, by attacking the bejesus out of Simon's primary opponents.) So California kind of shrugged and reelected the guy.
But in 2003, a few things happened. First, the state of California continued its attempts to go completely broke, a process begun by unwitting voters in 1978. This prompted Davis to reinstate a hefty fee for people registering their cars, which wasn't popular. And later in the year, the state wasn't able to provide enough electricity to meet demand, due to various reasons some of which rhyme with "Benron." The pre-planned brownouts reinforced the perception that the state wasn't working right. People were mad.
There are a lot of great things about running a huge metal tube filled with toxic sludge across the middle of the country and down to the Texas coast. There are the several dozen jobs that would be created, for one, and the scads of money earned by the Canadian tar-sands companies. And there are probably others, though I can’t think of them right now.
Well, I can think of one. The best thing about building Keystone XL (which is what we were talking about) is that it would create 1,897 miles along which anything could happen. It's like Whac-a-Mole, trying to figure out if and where the pipeline might rupture -- with the bonus that if it does rupture, any number of actual moles will be smothered in thick oily goo. And TransCanada is trying to make the game as fun as possible, by proposing to build the pipeline with relatively lax protections against leaks.
The leak detection technology that will be used on the Keystone XL, for instance, is standard for the nation's crude oil pipelines and rarely detects leaks smaller than 1 percent of the pipeline's flow. The Keystone will have a capacity of 29 million gallons per day--so a spill would have to reach 294,000 gallons per day to trigger its leak detection technology.
The Keystone XL also won't get two other safeguards found on the 19-mile stretch of the pipeline over Austin's aquifer: a concrete cap that protects the Longhorn from construction-related punctures, and daily aerial or foot patrols to check for tiny spills that might seep to the surface.
Experts interviewed by InsideClimate News estimate it would cost less than $10 million--roughly 0.2 percent of the Keystone's $5.3 billion budget--to add external sensor cables, a concrete cap and extra patrols to the 20 miles of the pipeline in Nebraska where a spill would be most disastrous.
So if you notice if the soil on your Montana ranch has suddenly turned black and sticky and is giving off fumes that cause you to pass out every 10 minutes, count up how much tar-sands oil you've got. If it's 293,000 gallons or less, shrug and enjoy your new highly flammable lifestyle. (Is tar-sands oil, a.k.a. diluted bitumen, actually flammable? Let us know, rancher!)
"We're escalating in very real ways," Tar Sands Blockade campaign spokesperson Kim Huynh told me this afternoon. The group's Jan. 3-8 action camp has 150-200 registered attendees, who will convene in East Texas from across the country for several days of training in community organizing, leadership, and direct action -- skills that they'll then take back to their own hometowns.
"TransCanada and Valero have offices across the country. We've identified certain targets," Huynh said. But: "We're under no illusions that direct action alone will stop this pipeline. We need a real holistic campaign, and a national, transnational movement."