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It’s really time to go: Alaskan village votes to relocate due to climate change

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Residents of Shishmaref, Alaska, might finally pack and move, though this is their third vote to relocate as rising sea waters continue to erode the village's shores.

By Nicole Orttung, Staff AUGUST 18, 2016 Save for later


  1. Diana Haecker/File/AP/File

Residents of Shishmaref, Alaska, voted Wednesday to relocate its ancestral island home to safer ground, escaping eroding shores and rising seas brought on by climate change.

Melting sea ice has strengthened the storms that beat along the island's shores, causing chunks to drop off into the ocean, even as the permafrost on which the community is built is rapidly disappearing.

Home to about 650 Inupiat Inuit, an Alaskan native people, the village is located on a narrow island just north of the Bering Strait. The unofficial vote count came in at 89 in favor of moving and 78 for staying, the city clerk told the Associated Press on Wednesday, although absentee and special needs ballots haven't been included in the total.

Warming at twice the rate of the rest of the country, Alaska is at the fore of efforts to mitigate climate change's effects. Shishmaref is among 31 Alaskan villages the US Government Accountability Office says are facing imminent threats from flooding and erosion. But its not clear that the federal government will help pay for these villages to move.

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Public hydrogen gas station opens in Diamond Bar; more to open in Southern California

By Steve Scauzillo, San Gabriel Valley Tribune

POSTED: 03/25/15, 6:21 PM PDT |

There’s a new exit on the state’s Hydrogen Highway.

Diamond Bar became home to California’s 11th hydrogen fueling station Wednesday, where a driver of a fuel-cell vehicle can pump hydrogen gas and fill the tank in about three minutes.

The $1.1 million station — in the parking lot of the South Coast Air Quality Management District headquarters on Copley Drive — was designed so consumers can self serve. The station is open 24/7 and is the first in the state to accept credit cards, said officials from the smog district and the California Energy Commission.

Following a directive from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. Jerry Brown to install hydrogen stations throughout the state, the energy commission will help build an additional 45 new stations by the end of this year en route to a goal of 100 stations, said Janea Scott, a commission board member.

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Largest wind farm in Kansas to begin operation soon

Steve Everly | The Kansas City Star

last updated: December 26, 2012 02:44:07 PM

The largest wind farm to be built in Kansas is set to begin operations by the end of the year.

Flat Ridge 2, jointly owned by BP Wind Energy and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power, is on a 66,000-acre site covering parts of Harper, Barber, Kingman and Sumner counties in southern Kansas.

The project has 274 wind turbines, each with capacity to generate 1.6 megawatts of electricity or a total of 438 megawatts. That’s enough to supply electricity to 160,000 homes.

Besides being the largest wind farm in Kansas, the $800 million project is the largest ever to be built all at once, instead of in phases.

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Did Chesapeake Miss Enron Lessons?

By Christopher Swann and Robert Cyran

| Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2012, at 5:11 PM ET

Chesapeake Energy, the embattled U.S. natural gas producer, seems to have missed some of the lessons of Enron’s demise. There have been no allegations of fraud. But the U.S. gas firm’s vast trading operation, fondness for complicated holdings and relationships, and corporate generosity are among the traits that, in hindsight, should have invited greater scrutiny of Enron’s edifice.

Chesapeake is a force in the U.S. gas market. It owns real assets, and it is the second-largest producer in the United States, accounting for about 9 percent of gross domestic gas supply according to a recent company presentation. It is the most active driller of new U.S. wells, and has substantial proven and unproven reserves. Meanwhile, joint-venture partners including Total of France and Norway’s Statoil attest to the substance of the projects they are involved in.

By contrast, while Enron’s byzantine structure and other questionable features may have developed to support aggressive expansion, they ultimately helped conceal essentially fake trading activities and fraudulent accounting. There is no suggestion that is the case, or might ever be the case, at Chesapeake. And other companies are complex or, for instance, offer generous perks without running into trouble. Yet it’s notable that Chesapeake, a self-described “bold” competitor in a sector close to Enron’s, has seemingly failed to avoid some of the defunct energy giant’s well documented flaws.

Corporate complexity

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Don’t Fix Commission, Start Anew

September 09, 2011

William J. Kelly

Original source:

Editors’ note: As Sept. 9 marks the anniversary of the gas explosion in San Bruno, Current offers two views on future gas pipeline safety.

One year after the tragic Pacific Gas & Electric gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, the California Public Utilities Commission is struggling to enhance its staff and budget to protect state residents against such disasters in the future.

Take that struggle away from the commission.

Instead, move those involved in pipeline safety at the CPUC to another agency, such as the California Environmental Protection Agency, and place them into a new high-profile office of hazardous materials safety management.

This office would be run by engineers and scientists to vigilantly oversee not only the state’s natural gas pipelines, but also its 6,525 miles of pipeline to transport gasoline, crude oil, hydrogen, and other flammable and explosive liquids, as well as the hundreds of tanks holding sizable quantities of ammonia, hydrogen fluoride, chlorine, sulfuric acid, and other hazardous chemicals stored at refineries, chemical plants, and industrial facilities. These are currently regulated by an array of state and local agencies, from fire departments to local air districts.

The new office would consolidate and coordinate hazardous materials’ regulation and have strong enforcement power. It would be funded by a small unit fee levied on the materials it regulates. The office’s sole function would be promoting hazardous materials safety. It would not be subject to competing or shifting priorities. Instead, it would provide a consistent and long-term emphasis on safety long after the tragedy in San Bruno fades from the headlines and the CPUC becomes embroiled in some unknown future controversy.

If left with the CPUC, the safety task is daunting. The state has 12,009 miles of high-pressure natural gas transmission pipeline operated by gas utilities, as well as 102,659 miles of distribution lines, according to the federal Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Much of it is aging and in need of replacement.

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Tough Love

September 09, 2011   Elizabeth McCarthy

Original source:

I’m a cynic.

At least I thought so before hearing federal investigators’ scathing revelations about Pacific Gas & Electric’s natural gas explosion in San Bruno. I was taken aback by the extent of the National Safety Transportation Board’s findings last week that pointed the finger at the utility’s culture and decades of shoddy procedures, practices, and management integrity.

The feds also found a lack of regulatory oversight.

Despite that, the California Public Utilities Commission’s role should be kept intact.

We don’t need a new agency, which probably would amount to changing the agency form but not its substance.

The CPUC needs to use tough love.

The Sept. 9, 2010, explosion left eight dead, injured many more, and wreaked considerable property damage. Warnings from other gas pipe accidents, including one in Rancho Cordova that killed one person a year earlier, went unheeded.

I spoke with several industry insiders about the San Bruno explosion. Few were surprised by the Safety Board’s findings.

These true cynics’ response was, “What did you expect?”

I expected more, a lot more. So should state regulators, who have the authority to penalize PG&E.

Going forward, much more than admonitions and regulations are needed.

A spineless parent is as effective as a spineless regulator.

PG&E’s desire for surging profit must be countered by tough love.

It needs to be hit where it hurts.

A massive fine for corporeal punishment to start.

Regulators also should ratchet down PG&E’s potential for an 11.35 percent rate of return on investment to fix the pipeline system. A condition of an above-market rate of return should be safe gas and electrical operations and conditions.

The National Safety Board also concluded that state, as well as federal regulators, fell down on their oversight job.

The utility is far more culpable than its regulators largely because of the differences of financial wherewithal and influence pedaling.

Consider the disparity in agency and utility budgets. The CPUC’s is a fraction of that of the utility it’s charged with regulating. The specially-funded agency’s budget also faces annual attacks from the Legislature. Staff and resources have been hacked away at repeatedly.

Look at the disparity in the two entities other resources, including lobbying. The public agency also is subjected to far more political and lobbying pressure.

PG&E has a bevy of lobbyists at the Legislature. There may be one CPUC lobbyist at Legislative hearings, for example.

There are the regular PG&E lobbying trips to the commissioners’ office on the 5th floor at the CPUC headquarters in San Francisco. Add into that utility lobbyists’ visits to lawmakers’ offices and utility campaign contributions.

Appointed CPUC members are subjected to enormous political pressures from the governor who appoints them, as well as lawmakers that confirm them but sometimes receive campaign contributions from PG&E.

If a regulator makes a politically incorrect move they are out before confirmation.

It makes for a very lopsided playing field.

At the same time, PG&E should have to beef up its gas maintenance staff. One of the National Transportation Safety Board findings that got little air time was the slash in PG&E staff in the gas division.

A tough love strategy by regulators is the only shot w

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Attorney Generals Lash Out Against Utilities

Some AGs aren’t looking to haggle over smart grid details—they just want to put up a roadblock.

Katherine Tweed: February 17, 2011

The uproar over bill spikes at Pacific Gas & Electric and Oncor seems so 2010, but that doesn’t mean that utilities are no longer immune to political lashings.

Just last week, George Jepsen, Connecticut’s Attorney General, denounced Connecticut Light & Power’s AMI proposal, which said the new meters would cost more than $430 million but would save customers more than $550 million over a 20-year period.

The utility cited savings in O&M and also in peak reduction, as the new meters would come with voluntary time-of-use pricing and demand response to curb peak usage. The AG, however, was unimpressed.

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Oregon House panel takes up — and sets aside for now — restructuring the Oregon Department of Energy

Published: Tuesday, February 08, 2011, 5:55 PM     Updated: Tuesday, February 08, 2011, 8:21 PM

By Janie Har, The Oregonian

SALEM -- A state House panel on Tuesday explored abolishing the Oregon Department of Energy and redistributing its duties.

Whether House Bill 2900 comes back for more than a public hearing is uncertain, but its introduction indicates both frustration with the agency and legislators' willingness to re-think government.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland, said he hopes to save taxpayers' money by cutting down on duplication with other agencies. But the real capstone, he said, would be the creation of a new Office of Energy Planning and Siting, housed in the governor's office, to handle long-term thinking.

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