Today in WaterWise News:
Oil prices waiting on US data ♦ Shell defends BG purchase at $60 a barrel ♦ Solar Energy can cause Climate Change (a little) ♦ Scientists on Antarctica: unstable or gaining ice? ♦ Volkswagen scandal deepens with Porsche findings ♦ Tropical Cyclone Chapala in Yemen ♦ Ben Carson comes out against the Clean Energy Plan ♦ Democrats call for SEC probe into Exxon ♦ EPA Rule and Transportation ♦ Crude Exports and the Highway ♦ US Chamber on WOTUS Regulation ♦ TransCanada, in charge of Keystone XL, requests a suspension of review ♦ Folsom's Dam ♦ Atlantic City's $548 million dune project ♦ New York City's abandoned boats ♦ US Clean Air Act and Climate Change Gap ♦ Wetland Restoration ♦ Shoreline Planning ♦ DEC Proposal on Sea-level Rise ♦ What do I need to know about Folly's Beach Fund Lobbyists?
New York Times - Oil prices switched between gains and losses on Tuesday with traders and investors looking to U.S. supply data this week for clues about the continuing oversupply of crude. The American Petroleum Institute will release its estimates for oil inventories later Tuesday, while official figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration will be published Wednesday. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, rose 0.2% to $48.90 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures exchange. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate futures were trading up 0.5% at $46.38 a barrel. Read more.
Wall Street Journal - Royal Dutch Shell PLC said Tuesday that its multibillion-dollar acquisition of BG Group still works with oil prices in the mid-$60s a barrel and will result in greater savings than previously announced. The deal has come under fire since it was announced in April from some investors and analysts concerned that the Anglo-Dutch oil giant has agreed to pay too much amid the biggest slump in oil prices since the 1980s. Chief executive Ben van Beurden has repeatedly defended the logic of the deal, telling investors in September that only “something cataclysmic” could derail the acquisition. Read more.
Washington Post - Large solar arrays could have some surprising side effects, according to a new study, including causing changes in the local climate. On a global scale, these changes will be minor compared to what would happen if humans continue to burn fossil fuel for energy instead, but are still worth watching, scientists say. Figuring out how renewable energy sources will affect their local landscapes is an increasingly relevant challenge for scientists, as more and more nations are vowing to slash their carbon outputs and switch to alternatives, such as solar and wind energy. Read more.
Washington Post - It may be the biggest climate change story of the last two years. In 2014, several research groups suggested that the oceanfront glaciers in the Amundsen Sea region of West Antarctica may have reached a point of “unstoppable” retreat due to warm ocean waters melting them from below. There’s a great deal at stake — West Antarctica is estimated to contain enough ice to raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters, or well over 10 feet, were it all to melt. The urgency may now increase further in light of just published research suggesting that destabilization of the Amundsen sea’s glaciers would indeed undermine the entirety of West Antarctica, as has long been feared. Read more.
E&E News - A recent NASA study published in the Journal of Glaciology reported that ice sheet gains in Antarctica might be outpacing losses, potentially leading to revisions of sea-level-rise models. The findings seem to run counter to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's finding published in 2013 that there was a net loss of ice on the continent. The new study suggests the discrepancy could be explained by the fact that it incorporates sources of gains that were excluded from earlier work used by the IPCC. Read more.
Washington Post - The growing scandal over Volkswagen’s emissions cheating widened further on Monday as U.S. officials added more models—including, for the first time, a Porsche—to the list of automobiles fitted with devices intended to thwart pollution controls. The Environmental Protection Agency issued a second notice of violation to Volkswagen covering another 10,000 automobiles sold in North America under the VW, Audi and Porsche brands. That’s in addition to more than 11 million light diesel vehicles worldwide that have already been identified as having emissions-cheating software. “Volkswagen has once again failed its obligation to comply with the law that protects clean air for all,” Cynthia Giles, the EPA’s assistant administrator for enforcement, said at a news conference. Read more.
Washington Post - A very odd atmospheric event has been unfolding in the Arabian Sea for the past several days — although as with many stories involving tropical cyclones (what we call hurricanes in the United States), it’s hard to say precisely how odd because our records are very lacking. Still, here are the facts: late last week, aided by extremely and anomalously warm ocean temperatures, tropical cyclone Chapala rapidly intensified in the Arabian Sea, reaching strong category 4 intensity with maximum sustained winds estimated at 135 knots or 155 miles per hour, as it headed towards the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian peninsula. Read more.
E&E News - Republican presidential primary contender Ben Carson yesterday dismissed criticism from a coal industry group that asserts the GOP front-runner has not been sufficiently outspoken against the Obama administration's rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A Carson spokesman told E&E Daily last night that the candidate, a retired neurosurgeon, opposes the Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut carbon emissions from the power sector. "He certainly has spoken out against the rule," Carson spokesman Doug Watts said. In a statement yesterday, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity criticized Carson for failing to address the Clean Power Plan during a recent visit to Florida. Carson was in the state as part of promotional book tour. Read more.
E&E News - Four Democratic House members are calling on the Securities and Exchange Commission to launch an investigation into Exxon Mobil Corp.'s past disclosures. The call for an investigation comes as the oil company is under fire for allegedly misleading the public about climate change. Recent reporting by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times found that Exxon kept the public and shareholders in the dark about the business threat from climate change (ClimateWire, Oct. 28). Citing both news reports, the four representatives asked the SEC to examine the oil company's past filings to determine if it broke the law "by failing to appropriately disclose material risks related to climate change." Read more.
E&E News - Whether to pre-empt U.S. EPA's rulemaking to regulate the disposal of coal combustion waste became a hot topic during 2012 negotiations between the House and Senate over a long-term transportation bill. Now a proposed amendment by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) to the House's new highway programs reauthorization bill suggests coal ash could once again play a role in the transportation talks. Pro-coal lawmakers ultimately failed to include their language back in 2012. This year, as a result, EPA released its long-awaited rule. But agency critics now say Congress must tweak the language. Read more.
E&E News - For a bipartisan quartet of House members, a fast-moving transportation bill is the perfect vehicle for lifting restrictions on crude oil exports. But to the legislation's sponsor, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, their proposed amendment could land his highway funding measure in a ditch. "It would make it more difficult to pass this bill if that were in there," Shuster (R-Pa.) said yesterday after telling the House Rules Committee of the need to maintain "balance" as preliminary floor debate begins today on H.R. 22. The oil export proposal from Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and three other lawmakers is emblematic of the tensions facing House leaders as they seek to keep the transportation bill from unraveling in a tug of war over side issues. Read more.
E&E News - With the Senate poised to take a procedural vote today on barring the Obama administration's Waters of the U.S. rule, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is telling senators it's keeping tabs on the tally. The chamber may "key vote" any roll calls related to the WOTUS rule, including cloture on the motion to proceed to legislation (S. 1140) sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), which would require the administration to rewrite the rule under new criteria for which streams and wetlands should qualify for Clean Water Act protection (E&E Daily, Nov. 2). "The states and the regulated community deserve a proper and legal rulemaking process, including necessary and appropriate consultation and impact analyses, and they deserve a final rule that is clear and consistent with the Congressional intent of the Clean Water Act," the chamber wrote to senators yesterday, noting a recent federal appeals court injunction that barred the rule from taking effect nationwide. Read more.
E&E News - The nonpartisan Office of the Law Revision Counsel tends to toil in obscurity, but it has been thrust into the spotlight as its work has become central to a political spat surrounding the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. The office's small staff works out of the Ford House Office Building in Washington, D.C. The independent shop is charged with poring over and cleaning up existing laws through a process that includes recommending changes like correcting misspellings and clarifying ambiguities. One of its latest projects has been streamlining environmental laws that are on the books, which has brought some unwanted attention. "We're in an uncomfortable and very unusual place for us," said Ralph Seep, the House's law revision counsel. Read more.
E&E News - In a major new twist, TransCanada Corp. yesterday asked the Obama administration to pause its roughly 7-year-old and highly contentious permitting process for the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The development, which could delay the final decision on the controversial pipeline and put it into the hands of the next president, sent supporters and opponents of the project into a new phase of advocacy, with both sides in high warble over the company's announcement. The company, which wants permission to transport Canadian oil sands crude from Alberta into the United States, pointed to uncertainty with the pipeline's route through Nebraska in explaining its request. Read more.
ENR - It may seen ironic at first glance that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of Land Reclamation are fasttracking a $900-million effort to address flood-risk and dam-safety issues at Folsom Dam, located near Sacramento, Calif., amid a headline-making, ongoing drought. But project officials are looking at the long term. “Local folks know that what we have is feast or famine with precipitation and the snowpack,” says Drew Lessard, area manager for the Bureau of Reclamation’s mid-Pacific region. “Yes, we have periods of drought, but it could turn over this year and go into a period of flood control for several years.” For years, both federal agencies had been making efforts to protect California’s capital, Sacramento, which lies in the crosshairs of a potential severe flood. In the mid-2000s, planning to strengthen the dam for a 200-year-storm event, the bureau considered installing a spillway plug, and the Corps considered enlarging the gates, to redirect water flows. Read more.
Press of Atlantic City - After filing to seize 87 city-owned properties, the state is eyeing 11 privately owned parcels standing in the way of a more than $548 million dune project. The state is still seeking easements from 10 property owners, one of whom owns two of those properties, according to a list that The Press of Atlantic City obtained from the state Department of Environmental Protection. The easements needed for the project, which lawmakers tout will make the coastline safer, include properties owned by real estate mogul Bart Blatstein and the New York-based Order of Friars Minor of the Province of the Most Holy Name. Read more.
New York Times - The sleek military transport vessel inched up to the edge of the marshland and flipped down its front gate, as if to discharge troops. Instead, a lone scuba diver stepped off the decommissioned Navy craft and dragged heavy straps out to a 22-foot Catalina sailboat, the initial steps in pulling the abandoned vessel from the waters off City Island in the Bronx. The sailboat, a red day-sailer named Lady Rage, had been left stranded there by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 and never reclaimed, one of hundreds of storm-strewed boats littering city waterways three years after it barreled across the region. Read more.
E&E News - The health provision of the Clean Air Act is not the best tool to combat climate change, but it may be the most pragmatic option the United States has, experts say. Protecting hearts and lungs is the pillar of the Obama administration's argument for cutting greenhouse gases under the Clean Power Plan, which draws on Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, a provision that directs U.S. EPA to regulate pollutants that harm health (ClimateWire, June 3, 2014). The idea is that many of the things that produce carbon dioxide also produce other dangerous products like ozone and particulates, so curbing emissions has both short- and long-term benefits for public health. Read more.
E&E News - The Obama administration can help narrow the emissions reduction shortfall that is projected to come out of this year's Paris talks by leveraging trade negotiations and other bilateral engagement to help developing nations deliver more than they can do on their own, a new report proposes. With less than a month to go before the U.N. climate talks begin, the Washington, D.C.-based Climate Advisers said yesterday that the administration should use Paris as the backdrop for a new political pledge to help developing emitters achieve cuts that they say would be possible with some international help. Read more.
Phys - When restoring coastal wetlands, it's long been common practice to leave space between new plants to prevent overcrowding and reduce competition for nutrients and sunlight. It turns out, that's likely all wrong. A new Duke University-led study, conducted to restore degraded salt marshes in Florida and the Netherlands, has found that clumping newly planted marsh grasses next to each other, with little or no space in between, can spur positive interactions between the plants and boost growth and survival by 107 percent, on average, by the end of one growing season. In some test plots, plant density and vegetative cover increased by as much as 300 percent by season's end. Read more.
Brick Shorebeat - Boaters in the Manasquan River who face skinny navigation channels may obtain some relief over the next few years, as the state is considering a two-phase dredging project. The project, spearheaded by the state Department of Transportation with assistance from the Ocean County freeholder board, will first focus on the navigational channels near Will’s Hole and the commercial fishing docks in Point Pleasant Beach, then move to the remainder of the river, potentially as far west as the narrows that separate Brick and Wall townships. “It will be an improvement, especially for the commercial fishing fleet,” said Ocean County Administrator Carl Block. Read more.
Block Island Times - Concerned citizens, public officials and representatives from many Block Island boards and commissions gathered at the Town Hall on Thursday, Oct. 22 for what was expected to be a session with the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) on the Corn Neck Road revetment. However, that didn’t end up being the purpose of the meeting. The agenda was for a Municipal Work Session on Adaptation Planning for Coastal Hazards conducted by representatives of Sea Grant Rhode Island and the Coastal Resources Center at the University of Rhode Island, as well as the CRMC. Read more.
Long Island - To better prepare coastal communities and business owners for extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy three years ago, New York continues its national leadership by proposing new state sea-level rise projections that will help state agencies and project planners develop more resilient structures, Basil Seggos, Acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. Public comments on the proposed regulation will be accepted following publication in the State Register through December 28."The sea-level rise projections DEC is proposing today reflect the best science available and are critical to Governor Cuomo's vision of a more resilient New York in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated whole communities that are still rebuilding," Acting Commissioner Seggos said. Read more.
Coastal News - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, (USACE) Mobile District, has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Port of Gulfport Expansion Project. The DEIS evaluates the potential impacts from expanding onsite facilities and expanding the port’s turning basin at the Port of Gulfport. A public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday December 8, 2015, at the Gulfport Marriott at 1600 East Beach Boulevard, Gulfport, Mississippi 39501, as indicated on the enclosed map. Read more.
Post and Courier - Folly Beach City Council has voted to hire a lobbyist to inform state lawmakers about its problems with erosion, the cost of beach preservation and the importance of coastal areas to the economy. “You’ve got to educate all these legislators and people from the Upstate,” said Mayor Tim Goodwin. The recent unusually high seas associated with Hurricane Joaquin hammered last year’s $30 million beach renourishment project, which has lost 400,000 cubic yards of sand or 25 percent of the total project. The beach loss was spread all over the island. Read more.