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Fri, 2014-10-17 14:00Mike G
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More Oil Companies To Disclose Risks Of Fracking, Climate Change To Investors

Last week brought yet more evidence that investors in oil and gas companies are waking up to the risks of fracking and climate change.

Two natural gas companies, Anadarko Petroleum and EOG Resources, recently struck a deal with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to disclose the financial and environmental risks associated with fracking to their shareholders, including “probable future regulation and legislation” that could impact their operations, according to a statement released by Schneiderman's office.

The agreement resolves a probe by Schneiderman into the disclosure practices of oil and gas companies begun in 2011.

Business media outlets like Bloomberg are framing the story very much as “oil companies doing the right thing,” but it's important to note that these companies would not be doing this if they didn't feel it was in their best interest—and generally whatever keeps shareholders happy is in a company's best interest.

Bloomberg notes that the oil companies are hoping “to ease public fears about fracking after legal setbacks and concerns over water pollution.” As is becoming increasingly clear, concerns over water pollution are all too valid.

Legal setbacks are probably keeping any fracker in New York up at night, as well, after the New York state supreme court ruled in June that municipalities have the right to adopt their own rules on fracking.

So far, 180 New York towns and cities have issued a ban or moratorium on fracking.

Fri, 2014-10-17 11:52Mike G
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NASA Confirms A 2,500-Square-Mile Cloud Of Methane Floating Over US Southwest

When NASA researchers first saw data indicating a massive cloud of methane floating over the American Southwest, they found it so incredible that they dismissed it as an instrument error.

But as they continued analyzing data from the European Space Agency’s Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Chartography instrument from 2002 to 2012, the “atmospheric hot spot” kept appearing.

The team at NASA was finally able to take a closer look, and have now concluded that there is in fact a 2,500-square-mile cloud of methane—roughly the size of Delaware—floating over the Four Corners region, where the borders of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah all intersect.

A report published by the NASA researchers in the journal Geophysical Research Letters concludes that “the source is likely from established gas, coal, and coalbed methane mining and processing.” Indeed, the hot spot happens to be above New Mexico's San Juan Basin, the most productive coalbed methane basin in North America.

Wed, 2014-10-15 23:10Mike G
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Fracking Boom Has Had Devastating Consequences For Motorists

A joint investigation by the Houston Chronicle and Houston Public Media shines a light on one of the fracking boom's lesser known impacts: traffic deaths.

With several shale fields in play—including Eagle Ford and Permian Basin, which together are pumping out over 3.2 million barrels per day—Texas has contributed heavily to the fracked oil boom. Apparently, motorists have paid a heavy price for that oil.

Since the state's fracking boom began in 2008, Texas has bucked the national trend and seen its traffic fatality numbers going up, leading the country in motor vehicle deaths every year.

The police don't note in accident reports whether or not a particular vehicle involved in a crash belonged to an oil company or who the driver at fault worked for, so it's nearly impossible to actually quantify the oil industry's responsibility for traffic deaths.

But the joint investigation finds that the shocking 51% increase in accidents involving commercial vehicles correlates closely to counties where fracking operations are concentrated:

Fri, 2014-10-10 06:00Mike G
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Reining In Global Warming Emissions Will Be Good For The Economy: Report

Not only will it lead to more costly and catastrophic events like wildfires, droughts, and floods, but delaying action on climate change will in and of itself consitute a missed opportunity to bolster the US economy, according to a new report.

Entitled “Seeing Is Believing: Creating A New Climate Economy In The United States,” the report notes that failing to rein in greenhouse gas emissions will result in a 20% reduction in per capita consumption worldwide over the long term, but stresses that addressing climate change will most certainly be good for the global economy.

Published by the World Resources Institute, the report looks at needed changes in five sectors of the US economy that, altogether, comprised 55% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2012: reducing the carbon intensity of electricity generation; improving efficiency in residential and commercial electricity consumption; building more fuel-efficient passenger vehicles; stopping methane leaks from natural gas systems; and lowering consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a potent greenhouse gas commonly used as a refrigerant.

By surveying peer-reviewed reports from academics, industry associations, think tanks, government labs, and others, the report concludes that: “The ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while benefitting the economy has already been demonstrated through numerous policies and programs implemented in the United States.”

Here are key findings from the report in each of those five areas:

Wed, 2014-10-08 05:00Mike G
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Experts Are "Stunned" By How Quickly Oceans Are Warming

Southern Hemisphere ocean temperatures have been rising much more quickly than previously thought, so much so that global ocean warming may have been underestimated by as much as 24 - 55%, according to a new study.

Published by the journal Nature Climate Change and carried out by researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the study sought to determine just how much we've underestimated long-term upper-ocean warming given the scarcity of data collected on Southern Hemisphere ocean temperature increases.

“It's likely that due to the poor observational coverage, we just haven't been able to say definitively what the long-term rate of Southern Hemisphere ocean warming has been,” said the study's lead author, Dr. Paul Durack.

Using satellite data, which offers accurate assessments of sea-leavel rise, predictions based on published findings in Northern Hemisphere oceans, and “a large suite of climate models,” Durack and the other researchers discovered that not only has there been perhaps twice as much ocean warming as scientists had thought, but that the upper layers of the world's oceans—the top 700 meters, or just under 2,300 feet—have been impacted the most by climate change.

“We continue to be stunned at how rapidly the ocean is warming,” Sarah Gille, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography professor who was not involved in the study, told Climate Central.

Tue, 2014-10-07 16:05Mike G
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Confirmed: California Aquifers Contaminated With Billions Of Gallons of Fracking Wastewater

After California state regulators shut down 11 fracking wastewater injection wells last July over concerns that the wastewater might have contaminated aquifers used for drinking water and farm irrigation, the EPA ordered a report within 60 days.

It was revealed yesterday that the California State Water Resources Board has sent a letter to the EPA confirming that at least nine of those sites were in fact dumping wastewater contaminated with fracking fluids and other pollutants into aquifers protected by state law and the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity, reveals that nearly 3 billion gallons of wastewater were illegally injected into central California aquifers and that half of the water samples collected at the 8 water supply wells tested near the injection sites have high levels of dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, a known carcinogen that can also weaken the human immune system, and thallium, a toxin used in rat poison.

Timothy Krantz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands, says these chemicals could pose a serious risk to public health: “The fact that high concentrations are showing up in multiple water wells close to wastewater injection sites raises major concerns about the health and safety of nearby residents.”

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