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Former Massey CEO Don Blankenship Sentenced to One Year in Prison For Conspiracy to Evade Mining Safety Rules

Disgraced coal baron Don Blankenship received the maximum possible sentence today for his misdemeanor conspiracy conviction, in a criminal case spurred by the Upper Big Branch disaster that killed 29 coal miners in West Virginia in 2009.

Mr. Blankenship was acquitted in December of three felony charges over his direct personal responsibility for those deaths. But he was convicted on conspiracy to violate federal mining safety standards. Today, a federal judge handed down a sentence of one year in prison, plus a year of probation and a fine of $250,000 for Mr. Blankenship's crimes.

Had he been convicted of all charges, Mr. Blankenship would have faced a maximum of over thirty years.

For over a quarter century, Mr. Blankenship ruled with an iron fist as the notoriously aggressive former head of Massey Energy, one of the nation's largest coal mining companies.

Fracking Becomes An Issue In Presidential Primaries

Republican front-runner Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders made their positions on fracking clear last weekend. Trump is all for it. Clinton too, but only if a list of conditions met. Sanders is against it.
 
Trump brought up fracking on Friday at a New Orleans campaign rally. “New York has been let down, they didn’t allow them to frack,” Trump said.  “If they fracked in New York, New York would lower its taxes, would have no debt, would have made a fortune. Instead Pennsylvania took all their money.”
 
Praising Pennsylvania, Trump said, “They took those beautiful, beautiful natural resources. They took ‘em out.” He failed to mention hundreds of reports of water contaminated by the Pennsylvania fracking industry.
  

Following Sudden Death of Indicted Former Chesapeake Energy CEO, Justice Department Investigation into Collusion Continues

Last Tuesday, the Justice Department announced criminal charges against former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon, stemming from an alleged lease bid-rigging conspiracy between McClendon and another unidentified oil and gas company. The felony count against McClendon carried up to a decade in prison and $1 million in fines.

Shortly after 9 AM the next day, McClendon crashed his SUV at over 50 mph into a concrete highway overpass and died instantly of blunt force trauma. Police are continuing to investigate McClendon's cause of death, awaiting toxicology results and other data, and have not ruled out the possibility that the car wreck may have been a suicide.

“He pretty much drove straight into the wall,” Oklahoma City Police Department Capt. Paco Balderrama told a local NBC affiliate. “There was plenty of opportunity for him to correct and get back on the roadway and that didn’t occur.”

The dramatic exit of one of the most flamboyant wildcatters in the shale rush stunned many observers — and his abrupt death may serve to pull attention away from the underlying crimes that McClendon was so recently accused of committing. The acts McClendon, age 56, stood accused of occurred at the height of the shale land rush and were committed in his role as then-CEO of Chesapeake Energy, the nation's second largest natural gas producer.

Before McClendon died, Forbes writer Chris Helman noticed something very interesting in the former CEO's response to his indictment: McClendon didn't deny the acts underlying the charges, he simply argued that others in oil and gas industry also engaged in the same conduct.

Florida Rooftop Solar Advocates Challenge Deceptive Anti-Solar Campaign In State Supreme Court

The Sunshine State didn’t get its name for nothing: Florida ranks third nationally in rooftop solar energy potential. But thanks to restrictive laws supported by the state’s powerful utility monopolies, the country’s third most populous state is only fourteenth in installed solar capacity.
 
Florida is one of only four states that bar third-party solar financing, when non-utility companies install solar panels on the roofs of homes and businesses at little or no upfront cost, sometimes selling the energy generated back to the customer.
 
A battle in Florida is well underway between Big Energy and clean-energy advocates. The current conflict began when a coalition called Floridians for Solar Choice (FSC) proposed a ballot measure to legalize third-party solar agreements. FSC is an unlikely alliance of Tea Party activists and environmentalists, Libertarians, Republicans, a Christian coalition, and business groups.

As Warming Accelerates, Talk Of Climate Change Dissipates

There is not a single person running for U.S. President as a Republican who believes that we should take action to fight climate change. Not one. To make matters worse, the top three contenders for the Republican nomination — Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio — refuse to even acknowledge that climate change is real. The remaining two GOP candidates — John Kasich and Dr. Ben Carson — don’t believe climate scientists about the scope and severity of the problem.
 
One of these men will have a 50% chance of becoming the President of the United States this coming November. And depending on which polls you look at, the three frontrunners have a very real shot at actually winning the election.
 
Cruz and Rubio are the only two candidates who currently serve in office, both in the Senate, and while they are currently both trailing Trump in delegate count, the number of primaries left to be held indicate that either could take the lead and secure the nomination. And since they both hold office, we can check their records to see where they stand on environmental issues.
 
And things aren’t looking good.

Nationwide Resistance To Crude Oil ‘Bomb Trains’ Gaining Momentum

The speed and scale with which the oil and rail industries created the North American oil-by-rail infrastructure was impressive. And amazingly under the radar for the most part — until the trains started derailing and blowing up — leading to articles with titles like “The Invisible Bomb Trains.
 
In 2014, Terry Wechsler, an environmental attorney in northwest Washington, summed up why there hadn’t been opposition to the initial oil-by-rail terminals on the west coast, telling Reuters, “There was no opposition to the other three proposals only because we weren't aware they were in formal permitting.”
 
But now the public knows. And despite public relations efforts by regulators and industry lobbyists, the public also knows that the crude oil “bomb trains” still pose a huge risk to communities along the rail lines.

Exclusive: Darwin's Descendant Attacks Climate Science Deniers For Appointing Great Naturalist As 'Honorary President'

You might have seen how climate science deniers like to compare themselves to scientific greats of the past to try to lend their arguments a degree of credibility.

One of their favourites is Galileo, the great Italian astronomer and physicist who was persecuted by the Catholic church for promoting the theory that the Sun and planets did not revolve around the Earth, but the other way around. 

Now in an example of previously uncharted overreach, one group of climate science deniers is trying to co-opt the great British naturalist Charles Darwin.

Despite Darwin having died more than 130 years ago, the newly formed and very fancy-sounding Independent Committee on Geoethics (ICG) has appointed the father of the theory of evolution by natural selection as its Honorary President.

What Are The Chances Of Getting All These Record Hot Years Without The Extra Greenhouse Gases? The Answer...

From hot to fractionally less hot, here are the planet’s ten warmest years on record – 2015, 2014, 2010, 2005, 2007, 2013, 2009, 1998, 2002 and 2006.

These are the numbers according to NASA and include measurements taken on land and at sea in a record that goes back to the year 1880.

Now that’s a pretty remarkable run of hot years for an era when, according to the rusted-on professional climate science denialists, global warming was supposed to have stopped.

But what are the chances of getting a run of “hottest on record” years like that - 14 of the 16 hottest years all happening since 2000 - without all the extra greenhouse gases that humans have been judiciously stockpiling in the atmosphere and oceans?

Aging Infrastructure, Fracking Eyed in Massive Porter Ranch, California Methane Leak

It's been nearly three months since the Aliso Canyon gas leak in the upscale community of Porter Ranch, CA was first discovered — and, even as that gas continues to spew into the atmosphere, experts are calling attention to the risks that aging fossil fuel infrastructure poses nationwide.

Events of this size are rare, but major leakage across the oil and gas supply chain is not,” Director of Environmental Defense Fund’s California Oil & Gas Program Tim O’Connor said in a statement last month. “There are plenty of mini-Aliso Canyons that add up to a big climate problem — not just in California, but across the country.”

Emails: US Government Facilitated LNG Business Deals Before Terminals Got Required Federal Permits

Emails and documents obtained by DeSmog reveal that the U.S. International Trade Administration has actively promoted and facilitated  business deals for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry and export terminal owners, even before some of the terminals have the federal regulatory agency permits needed to open for business. 

This release of the documents coincides with the imminent opening of the first ever LNG export terminal in the U.S. hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) era, owned by Cheniere. 

The documents 
came via an open records request filed by DeSmog with the Port of Lake Charles. The request centered around the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) the Port signed with the Panama Canal Authority in January 2015.

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