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Friday, November 28, 2014

MD Guv proposes nation's toughest fracking rules yet

Outgoing Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has proposed some of the nation’s strictest regulations on unconventional gas development after a comprehensive 3 1/2-year review process.

In the last of a series of reports, the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative’s Findings and Recommendations proposes an exhaustive list of requirements and practices. I’m very proud that they include a number of recommendations - including mandatory comprehensive gas development plans - which result from my work on the Governor’s initiative with the professionals of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources.

Other highlights of the proposed requirements:

The report concludes: 
It is the judgment of the Department of the Environment and the Department of Natural Resources that provided all the recommended best practices are followed and the State is able to rigorously monitor and enforce compliance, the risks of Marcellus Shale development can be managed to an acceptable level. Some of the proposed best management practices have not been tested, and although we are confident that they will reduce the risks, some risks will remain, as is the case with all industrial activities. Best practices and rigorous monitoring, inspection and enforcement can reduce the risks to acceptable levels, but can not completely eliminate all the risks. Because knowledge and technology are continuously advancing, it will be necessary to adaptively manage shale gas development by requiring additional newly developed best management practices that provide improved protection for public health and the environment.
What will happen to these recommendations? Incoming governor-elect Republican Larry Hogan has criticized the lack of drilling in the state’s two shale gas counties. Ultimately, then, whether or not Maryland enacts the nation’s toughest fracking regs will be up to its citizens.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

World Bank: "the new climate normal" is anything but

A new report from the World Bank finds that the world is already locked in to warming that's 1.5°C above pre-industrial time, and without concerted action to reduce emissions, the planet is on pace for 2°C  warming by mid-century - and 4°C (7°F) or more “by the time today’s teenagers are in their 80s.”

Turn Down the Heat – Vol. 2 focuses on the risks of climate change to development in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Europe and Central Asia. It follows 2012’s Volume 1 that I blogged about here and a 2013 report that focused on the risks of climate change to development in Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and South Asia.

Volume 2 says plainly:
The data show that dramatic climate changes, heat and weather extremes are already impacting people, damaging crops and coastlines and putting food, water, and energy security at risk...If the planet continues warming to 4°C, climatic conditions, heat and other weather extremes considered highly unusual or unprecedented today would become the new climate normal—a world of increased risks and instability. The consequences for development would be severe as crop yields decline, water resources change, diseases move into new ranges, and sea levels rise. The task of promoting human development, of ending poverty, increasing global prosperity, and reducing global inequality will be very challenging in a 2°C world, but in a 4°C world there is serious doubt whether this can be achieved at all. Immediate steps are needed to help countries adapt to the climate impacts being felt today and the unavoidable consequences of a rapidly warming world. The benefits of strong, early action on climate change, action that follows clean, low carbon pathways and avoids locking in unsustainable growth strategies, far outweigh the costs. Many of the worst projected climate impacts could still be avoided by holding warming to below 2°C. But, the time to act is now.
Clearly, the impacts and consequences of climate disruption will be unevenly and inequitably felt, with the poorest nations suffering the most. That is ethically unacceptable, and by itself demands vastly more of affluent nations.  But the impacts will be felt by all of us. Are we willing to allow the world that our children inherit to be a completely different world than we are living in today?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Simple steps can cheaply cut oil and gas methane emissions in half

Major US environmental groups have detailed how the federal government could cost-effectively cut methane emissions from oil and gas facilities by as much as 48 percent annually.

Waste Not: Common Sense Ways to Reduce Methane Pollution from the Oil and Natural Gas Industry is a summary of a report that will be released later this fall.  It's aimed at shaping new standards for methane pollution that the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue later this year.

The summary was prepared by the Clean Air Task Force, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club and has been endorsed by the Environmental Defense Fund, Earthworks and Earth Justice.

The report’s key findings:

The oil and gas industry is the nation’s largest industrial source of methane… and the oil and gas sector is the second largest industrial contributor to overall climate pollution. Moreover, there is compelling evidence that the industry is releasing a lot more methane than is currently accounted for in government inventories.
EPA could reduce the sector’s methane pollution in half in a just few years by issuing nationwide methane standards that require common sense, low-cost pollution controls for the sector’s top emitting sources.  
They include: 
  • Require oil and natural gas companies to control leaks from all equipment at wellpads, gas processing plants, compressor stations, and large aboveground distribution facilities by regularly carrying out leak detection inspections. 
  • Require proven methane control technologies and practices for all equipment—both new and existing—throughout the industry. 
  • Require well operators to capture natural gas that would otherwise be released and sell it or use it on-site, instead of releasing it or flaring it. 
The report says that its estimates of the methane abatement potential of these steps
are conservative estimates based on government inventories. They don’t account for the research indicating that actual emissions could be twice the inventory estimates, or higher. The problem and the upsides of controlling it—are likely much greater.
The standards we recommend in this report would also significantly reduce emissions of other air pollutants, specifically smog-forming volatile organic compounds and toxic pollutants like benzene that cause cancer and are associated with a host of other health problems.
The cost of the recommended standards would be low—less than one percent of the industry’s sales revenue.
The report should be required reading for Federal – and state – regulators.