Today in WaterWise News:
Greenland melting ♦ Exxon Mobile Misled the Public on Climate Change ♦ Pacific Ocean strengthening hurricanes? ♦ Insect migration and global warming ♦ Alaskan oil subsidy woes ♦ Nuclear cleanup in trouble ♦ Global climate change pledges not enough? ♦ White House summit on nuclear energy ♦ Panel discusses abandoned mine cleanup ♦ House to vote on CRA bids ♦ Senator Murkowski (R-AL) and the Senate set sights on Obama's Climate Rule ♦ Sediment and Louisiana's Coastline ♦ Louisiana Engineering Competitions for Coastal Communities ♦ New Jersey nourishment woes ♦ Miami South End Beach fill plan ♦ Dredging in Sandwich ♦ Offshore Wind Farm in the US ♦ Congress passes Budget Deal ♦ Volkswagen Excess Emissions mean the death of 59 Americans?
New York Times - The midnight sun still gleamed at 1 a.m. across the brilliant expanse of the Greenland ice sheet. Brandon Overstreet, a doctoral candidate in hydrology at the University of Wyoming, picked his way across the frozen landscape, clipped his climbing harness to an anchor in the ice and crept toward the edge of a river that rushed downstream toward an enormous sinkhole. If he fell in, “the death rate is 100 percent,” said Mr. Overstreet’s friend and fellow researcher, Lincoln Pitcher. But Mr. Overstreet’s task, to collect critical data from the river, is essential to understanding one of the most consequential impacts of global warming. Read more.
New York Times - More than 40 of the nation’s leading environmental and social justice groups demanded a federal investigation of Exxon Mobil on Friday, accusing the huge oil and gas company of deceiving the American public about the risks of climate change to protect its profits. In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the groups, citing recent news reports, suggested that Exxon Mobil might be guilty of the same kind of fraud that the tobacco companies were found to have perpetrated when they hid the risks of smoking. Those violations ultimately cost the companies tens of billions of dollars in penalties. Read more.
New York Times - Hurricane Patricia was a surprise. The eastern Pacific hurricane strengthened explosively before hitting the coast of Mexico, far exceeding projections of scientists who study such storms. And while the storm’s strength dissipated quickly when it struck land, a question remained. What made it such a monster? Explanations were all over the map, with theories that included climate change (or not), and El Niño. But the answer is more complicated. Read more.
New York Times - The Natural History Museum of Denmark has studied the insect population on its rooftop for 18 years, tracking 1,543 species of moths and beetles and more than 250,000 individuals. In a study appearing in The Journal of Animal Ecology, museum researchers conclude that warming temperatures are affecting specialized insects that rely on a single food source. Read more.
Wall Street Journal - For its entire history as a state, Alaska has made money, sometimes billions of dollars a year, by taxing the oil pumped from its wells. That 56-year winning streak is over. Alaskan leaders want to scale back subsidies designed to spur production by oil companies that have ballooned beyond expectations. Alaska is giving back more than $1 billion annually in tax credits and rebates to oil companies and Wall Street lenders, wiping out what had often been its largest source of income. In all, Alaska likely lost $263 million on its oil production tax program in the past year, state estimates show. Read more.
Wall Street Journal - About 45 miles southeast of San Francisco, in an 800-acre mini-city built to create atomic bombs, there’s a contaminated building slated for eventual demolition. Mark Costella, a facilities manager at the Energy Department’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, would prefer to tear down the structure, but doesn’t have the tens of millions of dollars needed. Instead, he’s spending $500,000 to fix the roof. These are the kinds of contradictions at the heart of the complicated, expensive and struggling effort to clean up America’s 70-year-old nuclear-weapons program. Read more.
Washington Post - In a key moment on the road to the much anticipated Paris climate meeting this December — and one underscoring just how difficult solving the climate problem will be — the United Nations has released a “synthesis” report assessing all of the emissions cutting pledges made by countries in advance of the meeting. And the upshot is both that countries have raised their climate ambitions greatly, but also that even by 2025 or 2030, global emissions are expected to still be rising despite their best efforts. One hundred forty-six countries made pledges by Oct. 1 of this year, accounting for 86 percent of all of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. These pledges, or “INDCs” (intended nationally determined contributions), have been a major factor in raising hopes that Paris will succeed where Copenhagen failed in 2009. Read more.
E&E News - The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will pick up the baton this week in Congress' ongoing scrutiny of the Interior Department's proposal to protect waterways from coal mining. The House Natural Resources Committee has long been the main venue of discussion for the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's stream protection rule. But last week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing scrutinizing the proposal's potential impacts (Greenwire, Oct. 27), and this week the Oversight Subcommittee on Interior will probe further. The main issue will likely continue to be the significant divide between states and mining companies and environmental groups on the rule's soundness and impact. Read more.
E&E News - The White House Summit on Nuclear Energy on Friday will address U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan. Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, will appear on the first panel of the day, moderated by Brian Deese, senior adviser to the president. She will talk about the role of nuclear power in the EPA rule. Read more.
E&E News - House lawmakers on Wednesday will hold their second hearing in recent weeks to discuss the nationwide problem of pollution from abandoned mine sites. Even though the issue has long been a concern for communities around the country, U.S. EPA's recent spill from an abandoned mine site in Colorado elevated the issue's profile. The accident occurred when the agency was trying to prevent such a tainted water blowout. Congress followed up on the August incident with several House and Senate hearings and is now conducting additional meetings to discuss potential solutions. Read more.
E&E News - The House's effort to use the Congressional Review Act to thwart U.S. EPA's power plant carbon rules begins in earnest this week as a key Energy and Commerce subcommittee votes on whether to veto the rules. The Energy and Power Subcommittee tomorrow will mark up two CRA resolutions, H.J. Res 71 and H.J. Res 72, sponsored by its chairman, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.). The resolutions target EPA's rule for new and modified power plants and its Clean Power Plan -- which together form the core of the president's second-term climate change agenda. Read more.
E&E News - Two House Science, Space and Technology subcommittees this week will take up the federal renewable fuel standard in what will likely be a contentious hearing. Terry Dinan, a senior adviser at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, is scheduled to testify at the joint hearing of the subcommittees on Environment and Oversight. The witness panel will feature both critics and supporters of the policy. Republican members of the panels will likely offer harsh criticisms of the program. Read more.
E&E News - With the budget deal done and all eyes turning to end-of-year spending negotiations, the Senate this week will take up measures targeting the Obama administration's contentious water rule. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has teed up the upper chamber's leading measure to kill the Waters of the U.S. rule for a key procedural vote tomorrow afternoon. Read more.
E&E News - A leading Senate Republican hammered the Obama administration over the weekend for energy policies she claimed threaten the nation's security and jobs. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the administration's decisions "ignore the will of hard-working Alaskans" by closing the door to new oil production needed to sustain the Trans-Alaska pipeline. "These decisions mean fewer jobs, less security for our country, and more of our dollars going overseas," Murkowski said in the weekly Republican address to the nation, which aired Saturday. "It is only a matter of time until the administration applies this shortsighted strategy to the rest of our nation." Read more.
Al Jazeera - A hulking old engineering boat moves slowly up the mile-wide Mississippi River. The Dredge Jadwin operates like a gigantic vacuum cleaner, sucking up sediment from the riverbed and spewing it out to the side through a long pipe. “For us, sediment it’s basically a problem,” says Randy Stockton, master of the Jadwin, built in 1933. “It clogs up the shipping channel. It silts in the river ports. The more of it there is, the harder we work to move it. But down on the coast this stuff is like gold dust.” These tiny particles of sand and silt, some of which have washed all the way down the river from North Dakota and Minnesota, are at the center of a heated debate in south Louisiana. Read more.
E&E News - In the push for a better battery, many in the industry are finding that the biggest challenges aren't in chemistry and physics, but in regulations and market forces. Currently, the opportunities for a cheaper, more efficient way to store electricity are booming. Market research firm IHS Inc. reported that grid-level energy storage is on track to reach 40 gigawatts in capacity by 2022, a hundredfold increase from 2013 (ClimateWire, Feb. 27). Meanwhile, global light-duty electric vehicle sales are expected to increase from 2.1 million in 2014 to 6.3 million in 2020, according to Navigant Research. Read more.
North Jersey - Imagine filling Met Life Stadium with sand. That's quite a sand pile, right? Well, imagine filling Met Life with sand not once or even twice. Imagine doing it 60 times — filling up the stadium with sand, then carting it out, then bringing in more sand, then carting it out. Sixty times. That is what our state has been doing for the past 30 years along beaches up and down the Jersey Shore. We "replenish" the beaches by dumping sand, then watch the sand drain away with the waves of major storms. Read more.
Daily Comet - The future of some Louisiana coastal communities would be in doubt under proposals produced as part of an environmental design competition under consideration by the state. The state has lost nearly 1,900 square miles of coast since the 1930s due to a variety of factors, including building levees that interrupted the land-building processes of the Mississippi River and allowing oil and gas drilling to take place in wetlands. Read more.
Palm Beach Daily News - But first, town officials will be at the South Fire Station at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday to talk to the public about the upcoming Phipps Ocean Park/Reach 7 beach fill. Public Works Director Paul Brazil and Coastal Coordinator Robert Weber will speak and take questions at the event hosted by the Citizens’ Association of Palm Beach. The plan is to dredge about 1 million cubic yards of sand and place it on the shore from the north end of Phipps Ocean Park southward to R.G. Kreusler Park. Plans call for hauling about 25,000 cubic yards to sand into Reach 8, south of the Lake Worth Municipal Beach, for dune restoration. It will be the first nourishment of the Reach 7 beach in nearly a decade and is being done to protect upland properties from being damaged by surf. Read more.
TBO - Peter Clark remembers coming to this barrier island about a year ago and noticing the water that once rushed along its northeastern edge had trickled to a thin stream. “It was a real shock to see the entire pass had closed up,” said Clark, president of Tampa Bay Watch environmental group. Once wide enough for large boats to navigate, the pass at the southern end of Pinellas County has been closing gradually during the past few years as sand from just north of it has filled in the channel that once was several hundred feet across, Clark said. Read more.
Cape Cod Times - With special town meeting looming, the Board of Selectmen has unanimously approved changes to the warrant to ask voters for an additional $600,000 to pay for dredge spoils from the Cape Cod Canal to be placed on Town Neck Beach. After it became apparent the project, which has been years in the making, would cost more than what was set aside, a selectmen's meeting was put together in just over 48 hours, Frank Pannorfi, chairman of the board, said at the start of Thursday's meeting. During the meeting selectmen added a broadly worded article to the special town meeting warrant that would allow officials to come up with the additional $600,000 for the project. Read more.
Slate - Wind-generated electricity has become a big business in the United States. From virtually nothing a decade ago, it has boomed to account for about 5 percent of electricity generated each year. In certain states, at certain times, cheap, emission-free wind can account for a huge chunk of supply, as happened recently in Texas. Wind adds capacity in large chunks—a wind farm may consist of scores of turbines arrayed across vast expanses of land. Read more.
Hampton Roads - Sometime later this month, construction crews plan to take a blowtorch and cut out the last steel bulkhead inside the new Midtown Tunnel. For the first time, workers will be able to walk all the way through the 11-section tube from Portsmouth to Norfolk. It's the latest milestone in a four-year quest to conquer nature and give cars and trucks another passage under the Elizabeth River. Since the first Midtown Tunnel opened in 1962, the area's population has increased nearly 70 percent and the tunnel's usage by 600 percent, up to nearly 37,000 trips a day, according to VDOT. Read more.
Politico - The Senate passed on Friday a sweeping two-year budget deal that also extends the debt limit through the end of Barack Obama’s presidency — buying lawmakers some fiscal breathing room after years of bitter budget battles. Shortly before 1:30 a.m., senators voted 63-35 to advance the accord negotiated between top Hill leaders and the White House — the final legislative accomplishment of now-former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who officially handed the reins of the House to Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Thursday. And just after 3 a.m., senators passed the budget agreement with a 64-35 vote — sending it to Obama to be signed into law. Read more.
Bloomberg - Volkswagen's emissions scandal now has an estimated death toll. The excess emissions that the company concealed will be responsible for about 59 early deaths in the U.S. alone, according to a sweeping new study. The implications for Europe are far worse. The study, by researchers at MIT and Harvard, is the first peer-reviewed estimate of the health impacts of Volkswagen's faulty software code, designed to conceal harmful pollutants. If the cars are all recalled by the end of next year, another 130 deaths may be avoided, according to the study published Thursday in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Read more.