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The Obama administration has its own climate denial problem

By Kelly Mitchell on 21 Apr 2015


On Earth Day, President Obama will visit the Everglades and speak about the threat of climate change and what his administration is doing to address it. In a preview of the speech this weekend, Obama said, “This is the only planet we’ve got. And years from now, I want to be able to look our children and grandchildren in the eye and tell them that we did everything we could to protect it.”

The White House likely hopes to draw a contrast between the actions his administration is taking to help communities prepare for the impacts of climate change and the outright climate denial we’ve seen from some lawmakers in Florida and Washington, D.C. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has been criticized in recent weeks after it was reported that state officials were “ordered not to use the term ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ in any official communications, emails, or reports.” Last week, Greenpeace published additional email communications showing that a Florida Department of Environmental Protection official instructed a scientist to “make no claims as to cause” of the state’s sea level rise.

Florida officials’ efforts to hide the threat of climate change are particularly irresponsible given how vulnerable Florida is to the impacts of climate change like rising sea levels. As a White House aide explained, “The Everglades are flat, and they border a rising ocean. As the sea levels rise, the shorelines erode, and that salty water travels inland, threatening the aquifers supplying fresh drinking water to Floridians. That doesn’t just destroy a beautiful and unique national landscape. It threatens an $82 billion state tourism economy, and drinking water for more than 7 million Americans — more than a third of Florida’s population.”

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Congress Passes Bipartisan Bill to Improve Energy Efficiency


Congress on Tuesday passed a bill focused on improving energy efficiency in buildings and water heaters, a move celebrated by both parties for breaking longstanding partisan gridlock.

The bill, which President Obama is expected to sign into law this week, is a modest one. But its authors, Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, who had worked together for years on more ambitious energy-saving legislation, called it a significant victory.

“On the bill’s merits — creating jobs, saving consumers money and reducing pollution — it was never a hard sell,” Ms. Shaheen said. “The tough part was convincing Washington to not play politics with a good idea.”

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New California proposal: Use less electricity, pay more

By David R. Baker

April 21, 2015 Updated: April 22, 2015 5:31am


David Chiang, project manager of the Solar Photovoltaic program for Southern California Edison, right, inspects solar panels while touring Pacific Gas and Electric Company's Vaca-Dixon solar energy site with PG&E's Greg Bosscawen, near Vacaville, Calif.,Tuesday, April 12, 2011. Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation, Tuesday, that would require California utilities to get one-third of their power from renewable sources, giving the state the most aggressive alternative energy mandate in the U.S.


Crew lead Luis A. Hernandez from Luminalt works on racks on a roof for solar panels on a Twin Peaks home in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, December 4, 2014. San Francisco may soon pass a program that will give city homeowners and businesses a creative way to finance the installation of solar panels as well as water and energy efficient projects.

In the next four years, Californians who use the least electricity may see their utility bills go up — while those who use the most get a break.

State energy regulators on Tuesday proposed major changes to the way residents pay for electricity in the biggest overhaul of utility rates since California’s energy crisis more than a decade ago.

The state’s big, investor-owned utility companies currently charge different prices for electricity based on four “tiers” of usage as a way to encourage conservation. The proposal issued Tuesday by two administrative law judges at the California Public Utilities Commission would cut that number to two tiers by 2019, with only a 20 percent difference between the prices charged for each. Right now, PG&E’s top residential tier charges twice as much for electricity as the bottom tier.

The changes may seem counter to the state’s long-standing push for energy efficiency. But, according to the commission’s staff, the most efficient California households currently pay less for electricity than the utilities spend supplying it to them. They are, in effect, subsidized by households in the higher tiers.

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Bill would ease CPUC appeals

Cases could be brought in Superior Court under proposed amendments

By Jeff McDonald3:50 P.M.APRIL 21, 2015

The chairman of the California Assembly committee that oversees utility companies and their regulators wants to make it easier for consumers to challenge actions such as the settlement deal that assigned customers most of the cost for premature shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear plant.

Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, announced proposals Monday that would allow legal challenges to California Public Utilities Commission rulings to be heard in Superior Court. Current law requires plaintiffs to take their case to an appellate court, which may or may not take up the case.

“Everyone deserves the right to their day in court,” Rendon said in a statement. “No government entity, including the CPUC, should be able to make unilateral rulings without being subject to a fair and transparent appeal process.”

The proposed legislation also would create an inspector general and public adviser to oversee specific commission practices.

The inspector general would be an independent entity appointed by the state auditor that would have authority to investigate the commission. Agencies including the California Energy Commission and the State Water Resources Control Board already have inspectors general.

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Oklahoma Recognizes Role of Drilling in Earthquakes




Sparks, Okla., in 2011. A series of shocks that year exceeding magnitude 5.0 caused millions of dollars in damage in the state.


Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Abandoning years of official skepticism, Oklahoma’s government on Tuesday embraced a scientific consensus that earthquakes rocking the state are largely caused by the underground disposal of billions of barrels of wastewater from oil and gas wells.

The state’s energy and environment cabinet introduced a website detailing the evidence behind that conclusion Tuesday, including links to expert studies of Oklahoma’s quakes. The site includes an interactive map that plots not only earthquake locations, but also the sites of more than 3,000 active wastewater-injection wells.

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CERAWeek: Oil chiefs explain why U.S. shale boom hasn’t gone global

Posted on April 22, 2015 at 5:33 am by Collin Eaton in CERAWeek, featured, Shale

    HOUSTON – Has billionaire oil man Harold Hamm ever been tempted to take the U.S. shale revolution abroad and expand his oil empire from North Dakota to the rest of the world?

    “I have not,” Hamm told a gathering of energy executives Tuesday.

    The question had come from Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of IHS. Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, one of the biggest oil producers in the Bakken Shale, was one of three oil-company chief executives speaking from the stage during a panel at the IHS CERAWeek energy conference at the Hilton Americas-Houston.

    So why haven’t U.S. shale producers tried to tap into shale formations overseas? The best shale rock can only be found in volatile countries with unstable political regimes – in North Africa, the Middle East and Russia. In many regions outside the U.S., there’s no private mineral ownership, a factor that has driven the U.S. shale boom for the last six years, said Scott Sheffield, CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources, one of the biggest oil producers in the Permian Basin in West Texas.

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    Landmark Government Report Calls for Billions in New Grid Investments

    The first-ever Quadrennial Energy Review asks Congress for big money to boost grid reliability, security and renewables.

    Jeff St. John
    April 21, 2015

    The Obama administration is calling on Congress to approve billions of dollars in new spending to modernize the power grid, as part of a first-ever Quadrennial Energy Review released Tuesday that highlights the major reliability, security and renewable energy integration challenges facing the country’s electricity infrastructure.

    Many of the review’s spending recommendations are built into the White House's broader DOE 2016 budget request, which seeks to increase support for renewables and carbon reductions called for in the proposed Clean Power Plan and reduce subsidies for fossil fuels. That request is already facing strong opposition from Republican lawmakers, leaving it uncertain whether these recommendations will find their way into law.

    But Tuesday’s report, the result of an effort launched in January 2014, states that major investment over the next 10 years will be needed to replace aging power lines, improve the grid’s capacity for renewable energy, and protect against threats ranging from climate-change-induced superstorms to the threats of terrorist cyber and physical attacks. It also covers natural gas and oil pipeline systems, and the threats to the transportation infrastructure that move these energy supplies across, into and out of the country.

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    With Reliability And Security At Stake, Microgrids Are Going Mainstream

    Ken Silverstein Contributor

    I write about the global energy business.

    Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

    BUSINESS 4/22/2015 @ 9:00AM 291 views

    In what is becoming a harbinger of things to come, a regulated utility has created self-styled electric grid to service its remote campus outside Dallas. While Oncor Electric is still sending electrons to its 7.5 million customers throughout Texas using high-voltage transmission lines, it decided to construct its own “microgrid” to bolster reliability.

    Centralized networks were designed a century ago as the most efficient way to generate and deliver electricity to the masses. While they will remain paramount to the distribution of electricity, the reality is that it is politically difficult to expand them. Even more significantly, businesses that cannot afford even a momentary disruption in power must look to new technologies that include distributed generation and microgrids.

    “Improving power reliability and optimizing generation assets requires disruptive technologies that allow customers to work on and off the grid,” says David Chiesa, director of microgrids at S&C Electric, which along with Schneider Electric, built the Oncor project. “Oncor’s microgrid is showing the world how utilities can help their communities in the future.”

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    ‘Water tech’ finally ready to rise amid California’s drought

    By David R. Baker and Greta Kaul

    April 21, 2015 Updated: April 21, 2015 4:35pmpastedGraphic.pdf

      Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

      Cambrian systems operator Andrew Goodman tests waste water samples from the new system that will clean up the waste water from the Lagunitas Brewing Company brewing process and generate electricity in Petaluma, California, on Tuesday, April 14, 2015.

      In a tech-obsessed state that’s part desert, creating new technologies to save or clean water should be a no-brainer.

      But even though water technology helps preserve the most precious resource on Earth, startups in the field have struggled for years to attract the level of investment and attention showered upon social media, solar power and sharing economy companies.

      California’s four-year drought may change that. As water agencies scramble to make deep cuts after another dry winter, water tech may finally get its moment.

      “I’ve been running around saying, 'Hey, let’s not waste a drought of this magnitude,’” said Sheeraz Haji, CEO of the Cleantech Group consulting firm, which has tracked and encouraged water-tech investment for years. “We have a unique opportunity here to bring capital to innovation.”

      Investors have been slow to dive in. Worldwide venture funding for water startups totaled just under $1.5 billion in the last five years, according to the Cleantech Group’s i3 information service. Companies that help save energy, in contrast, raised $1.6 billion in 2014 alone.

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      California cities fret over tiered water rates after court decision


      04/21/2015 7:17 PM 04/21/2015 10:33 PM

      Roseville, the sun-splashed suburb of about 125,000 residents, has been among the statewide leaders in saving water. Relying on a tiered pricing plan that charges heavier water users more, the city in recent months has outclassed the region in residential water conservation.

      Now, leaders there are taking stock after a state appellate court ruled Monday that San Juan Capistrano’s four-tiered system is unconstitutional. In a unanimous decision, the three-justice 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that the Orange County city’s method violated Proposition 218, a 1996 ballot measure establishing that municipalities cannot impose fees for services that exceed the actual cost.

      “We will be evaluating our own rate-setting structure to ensure that we are in compliance,” Roseville spokesman Maurice Chaney said Tuesday. “Without equivocation, we feel our system is adequate and complies with Proposition 218. But it’s an opportunity to look at it given the recent court ruling.”

      Other water providers, however, are far less certain.

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      Filed under: Water Comments Off

      Court Ruling Affects Private And Public Water Entities Differently

      Tuesday, April 21, 2015 | Sacramento, CA | Permalink


      Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

      A California Court of Appeals ruling -that tiered water rates must correspond to the cost of service- affects public water agencies. But, it does not affect private companies.

      This month, the state Public Utilities Commission voted to allow a higher, second tier on the billing of 180,000 people in the Sacramento area.

      Evan Jacobs is with the California American Water Company.

      'We serve nine different water systems throughout Sacramento County and western Placer County," he says "and we go from Isleton all the way up to Antelope in those different systems."

      Jacobs says California American Water believes a second rate will give customers an added incentive to conserve.

      The Public Utilities Commission sets water rates for private water companies every three years.

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      Filed under: Water Continue reading

      Lawsuit Threatens Sweetwater’s Tiered Water Rates But Not San Diego’s

      Tuesday, April 21, 2015

      By Claire Trageser

      A court ruling Monday knocking down a water rate system in San Juan Capistrano likely won't affect most of San Diego County, even though many local water agencies use similar rate structures.

      One agency that might feel the sting of the ruling is Chula Vista's Sweetwater Authority, which is being sued by the same lawyer who brought the case in Orange County's San Juan Capistrano.

      The state 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that San Juan Capistrano's tiered water rate system, which charges bigger water uses higher rates for their water, is unconstitutional.

      The city of San Diego also uses a tiered water rate system, charging households that use more than 36 hundred cubic feet of water a month $8.766 per hundred cubic foot, while households that use less than 8 hundred cubic feet of water a month are charged $3.896 per hundred cubic foot. Each hundred cubic foot equals 748.05 gallons of water.

      Kurt Kidman, a spokesman for the city's Public Utilities Department, said the city's attorneys "are confident that our water rates are in compliance with all laws."

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      Filed under: Water Continue reading

      ‘A Danger on Rails’

      APRIL 21, 2015



      A Danger on the Rails

      This short documentary warns about the dangers posed by trains that transport explosive oil across North America. By Jon Bowermaster on

      Publish Date

      April 21, 2015.

      In recent years, small towns across the United States have begun hosting an increasingly common phenomenon: long trains, made up of 100-plus black cylindrical cars, rolling slowly past our hospitals, schools and homes.

      Few who see them know what they carry: highly flammable crude oil from the shale fields around North Dakota.

      I live in the Hudson Valley and see these trains daily; Albany is a major hub, and trains traveling south down the Hudson River toward mid-Atlantic refineries hug its shores. Every day on the East Coast, as many as 400,000 barrels of this explosive mixture travel through our backyards over shaky bridges, highways and overpasses.

      As this Op-Doc video shows, there are reasons to be very concerned about this increased train traffic, which is directly related to the boom in oil and gas drilling in the Midwest. These trains can be very dangerous, prompting some to call them “bomb trains.” There have already been horrific railway accidents in North America caused when these trains go off the tracks, some of them fatal.

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      Runners aren’t Union Pacific’s biggest safety concern

      Find a solution to allow races



      04/21/2015 5:00 PM 04/22/2015 12:00 AM

      pastedGraphic.pdf The lead pack runs through the fog in Sacramento during the 32nd annual California International Marathon last December. RENÉE C. BYER SACRAMENTO BEE FILE

      No one wants runners at risk of getting hit by a train, but road races have crossed Union Pacific Railroad tracks in Sacramento without serious incident for years.

      Despite that long record of cooperation, the nation’s largest railroad is now getting much stricter about giving permission to race organizers.

      For the first time, it nixed the half-marathon of the Kaiser Permanente Women’s Fitness Festival in June and forced the 5K to be rerouted, as Curtis Tate of the McClatchy Washington Bureau reported. Organizers of the California International Marathon in December fear they’ll be chopped next. Last year, UP didn’t give them the all-clear until a month before 6,000 runners crossed the tracks on L Street on the way to the finish line at the state Capitol.

      If Union Pacific truly wants to be a good community partner, it needs to work harder to find a way to allow these road races, which are important to area runners and to the local economy. The railroad has parallel tracks that bypass midtown Sacramento, though it says it does not reroute trains for special events.

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      Natural Gas Leaks: A $30 Billion Opportunity and Global Warming Menace

      Tom Zeller Jr. Contributor

      Minding the collision of business, energy, science & the environment.

      Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

      ENERGY 4/21/2015 @ 11:59AM 260 views

      A new study released Tuesday suggests that the global oil and gas industries allow as much as 3.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — and almost certainly far more — to escape into the atmosphere annually. The leakage rate represents at least $30 billion in lost revenues, the analysis found, and it reinforces previous studies suggesting that the much-touted climate benefits of the expanding shale boom are unlikely to be realized unless these so-called fugitive emissions are brought under control.

      While the chief component of natural gas, methane, breaks down in the atmosphere more quickly than carbon dioxide, it has far more planet-warming potential while it is present. The gas escapes from storage tanks and vents at oil production sites, and in even greater amounts all along the natural gas production and delivery chain — rising from wells, poorly constructed processing facilities, and leaky transmission and delivery pipelines. Over a 20-year time frame, the cumulative leakage in 2012, the new study suggested, would represent as much as 7 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions — or the equivalent of about 40 percent of total carbon dioxide from coal-fired power production.

      For all of this, governments have done little to date to monitor, measure or regulate methane emissions. And given the varying quality of country-to-country reporting of methane leaks in the oil and gas industry — most of which comes from somewhat crude, bottom-up measurements taken on the ground near production, processing and delivery infrastructure — the study suggests that its findings, which put the overall global leakage rate at 3.2 percent, are almost certainly on the low side.


      “Even the best country data relies on bottom-up emissions inventories,” said Drew Nelson, the senior manager for natural gas with the Environmental Defense Fund, an industry-friendly environmental group that commissioned the analysis, in an email message. “There have been studies in the U.S. that suggest our bottom-inventory is under-reporting emissions by 50 percent. This study relies on those bottom-up inventories and many places have far less capacity on their inventories than we do.”


      An employee passes machinery at a gas processing facility in Ukraine. The country is among the largest leakers of natural gas, according to a new study. (Photo: Vincent Mundy/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

      Ethan Davis, an energy analyst and consultant with the Union of Concerned Scientists who looked over the new analysis, concurred, noting that even if the 3.2 percent leakage rate was accurate, it is above what some studies have shown would be necessary to realize any climate benefit from the coal-to-natural-gas switch. Even so, “Adding this all up,” Davis said in an email message, “there is very good reason to think this is likely a low leakage rate — especially for global sources.”

      Some of the world’s major natural gas producers are among the biggest methane leakers. Russia, the United States, Uzbekistan, Canada and Mexico top the list, according to the report, which was prepared by the Rhodium Group, a New York-based consultancy that specializes in energy market analysis. Should nothing be done and the oil and gas industries grow globally as predicted over the next 15 years, the study found, emissions would expand by as much as 23 percent. Climate scientists, meanwhile, suggest that global emissions must be cut roughly in half by mid-century in order to keep planetary average temperatures from rising to potentially dangerous levels.

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