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EPA Chief Takes the Hot Seat As Fight to Block Climate Rules Intensifies

Legislators intent on blocking the EPA from controlling CO2 emissions are fishing around for a coalition-building bill that can gain traction

By Elizabeth McGowan

Feb 9, 2011

WASHINGTON—Thus far, Republicans and coal state Democrats intent on barring the from regulating carbon pollution have served up at least half a dozen flavors of legislation.

And the conservation community eagle-eyeing this 112th Congress has declared all six of them equally odious.

State Renewable Energy Standards Under Attack from GOP Legislators

Legislators in Montana, Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri are trying to weaken or dismantle RPS policies, creating instability in clean energy markets

By Maria Gallucci

Feb 9, 2011

Republican legislators in Montana, Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri are separately trying to weaken or dismantle the renewable portfolio standards in their states, which are seen as crucial to U.S. efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop a globally competitive clean economy.

Officials pushing the bills say that energy prices soar and consumers suffer when utilities are required to allocate a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar. Clean energy groups counter that lowering the bar on state renewable energy policies would stifle new investment and kill jobs.

If passed, the bills would go against the trend among most states to strengthen standards and attract clean energy developers by creating a market for renewables, said Jessica Shipley, a fellow at the Washington-based .

"I suspect [the bills] have to do with the recent tough economic times and the concern that regulations impose additional costs on businesses," she told SolveClimate News. "But I wouldn't consider it a big movement to repeal RPS across the board."

CO2 Everywhere, But None for Midwest Pipeline Project in Need

Developers continue to push the pipeline and gasification plants, while opponents call it an irresponsible idea that will perpetuate fossil fuel reliance

By Kari Lydersen,

Feb 8, 2011

A pipeline to carry carbon dioxide from Midwestern coal gasification plants to Gulf Coast oil fields — announced with much fanfare in 2009 — is currently in a holding pattern with no confirmed suppliers.

Proposed gasification plants that have signed contracts to supply the carbon dioxide are facing numerous hurdles, including legislative roadblocks, local opposition and low natural gas prices that make expensive coal-based substitutes unattractive by comparison.

But developers and proponents continue to push the pipeline and gasification plants as a linchpin of the Midwest's energy future, while opponents call it a financially and environmentally irresponsible idea that will ultimately perpetuate reliance on fossil fuels.

Coral Bleaching Outbreak in Thailand Shutting Dive Sites and Slowing Tourism

The bleaching in Thailand is causing the most extensive coral damage in the country's history, some say, triggering the closing of 18 popular diving sites

By David Wilson

Feb 8, 2011

CHIANG MAI—In what experts are calling a slow disaster in the making, up to 90 percent of coral in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea has been bleached, resulting in state shutdowns of affected areas and projected annual losses into the millions.

Many observers say the cause of the latest bleaching outbreak is extreme heat stress due to climate change, as ocean temperatures hover around 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit).

"If there is a long-term solution to the Thai problem — and the global problem — it lies in finding a realistic alternative to the combustion of fossil fuels, thus reducing the CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere," said Monty Halls, a spokesperson for the UK-based (SCCT), who warned that it is quickly becoming too late for the world's corals.

The bleaching in Thailand is said to be the worst in 20 years or more, while damage to the corals may well be the worst the country's ever seen, said Kasemsan Jinnawaso, director-general of the state's Marine and Coastal Resources Department. He told Thailand's Nation newspaper that the coral destruction could be more severe than when the 2004 tsunami struck Thailand's shores.

Most Americans Oppose Restrictions on EPA, Poll Finds

Three out of four of those surveyed, including 61% of the Republicans, say "Congress should let the EPA do its job," according to a new poll by NRDC

Elizabeth McGowan

Feb 7, 2011

WASHINGTON—Anti-regulatory legislators might be thumping their chests about their newest ambitious attempts to halt the in its tracks.

But are Americans willing to support such efforts to block Clean Air Act updates for heat-trapping greenhouse gases, smog and other pollution?

In a word, no.

At least that's the answer that the received after surveying 1,007 residents nationwide. More than 75 percent of the respondents oppose congressional efforts to limit the EPA's authority to enforce the Clean Air Act. That figure included a majority of the self-identified Republicans answering .

China to Unveil Environmental Tax on Major Polluters Next Month

After three decades of dirty growth, China will unveil an ambitious, five-year cleanup plan. But skeptics question if the new proposals will have teeth

Jonathan Watts,

Feb 7, 2011
Pollution in Beijing

China is to impose an environmental tax on heavy polluters under an ambitious cleanup strategy being finalized in Beijing, according to experts familiar with the program.

The tax will be included alongside the world's most ambitious renewable energy scheme and fresh efforts to fight smog when the government unveils the biggest, greenest five-year plan in China's modern history next month.

After three decades of filthy growth, the measures are designed to pull the country from the environmental mire and make it a leader in the low-carbon economy. But skeptics question whether the policy will have any more success than previous failed efforts to overcome the nexus of corrupt officials and rule-dodging factory bosses.

As Obama Extols Wisc. Cleantech, Fears of Governor's Anti-Wind Policies Grow

Pres. Obama unwittingly visits a wind plant that could go under if Gov. Walker's policy rollback occurs. Solar, however, is being left to flourish for now

By Maria Gallucci

Feb 7, 2011

President Obama's recent visit to a Wisconsin town to trumpet its cleantech success has inadvertently shone a spotlight on the state's new governor and his plans to reverse a law that advocates say is needed for the wind industry to stay afloat.

Manitowoc, about 80 miles north of Milwaukee and on Lake Michigan, is home to two major renewables firms: , which makes high-efficiency lighting and solar products, and , a manufacturer of towers for utility-scale wind turbines.

Obama toured the one-time shipbuilding city of about 34,000 people following his Jan. 25 as an example of success in his efforts to foster investments in clean energy projects.

Natural Gas Drilling Fells 1,000 Trees in W. Va. Forest, Scientists Say

In one of the first studies to observe the full course of drilling, scientists found that a well and a pipeline killed trees but did not affect groundwater

By Nicholas Kusnetz,

Feb 6, 2011

A by the U.S. Forest Service offers one of the most detailed accounts yet of how natural gas drilling can affect a forest — in this case the , deep in the mountains of West Virginia.

The report traces the construction and drilling of a single well and an accompanying pipeline on a sliver of the 4,700-acre forest that federal scientists have been studying for nearly 80 years. It found that the project felled or killed about 1,000 trees, damaged roads, eroded the land and — perhaps most important — permanently removed a small slice of the forest from future scientific research.

The report said the drilling didn't appear to have a substantial effect on groundwater quality. The scientists did not monitor the forest's most sensitive ecosystems, including extensive caves, and did not evaluate the operation's impact on wildlife. The authors also did not test for any of the chemicals added to drilling and hydraulic fracturing fluids.

The report, and the well in question, hints at a larger story of the tensions that have emerged as drilling expands across federal lands in the eastern United States.

Controversy over Meaning and Timing of Oil Pipeline Report

TransCanada says their proposed pipeline could free the U.S. of Middle Eastern oil imports. Opponents say DOE's report shows the pipeline is not needed

By Elizabeth McGowan

Feb 4, 2011

WASHINGTON—Allowing a Canadian company to construct a third oil sands pipeline through the nation's heartland could eventually eliminate U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil, while having little impact on global emissions of heat-trapping gases.

That's how oil pipeline giant interprets a new report focused on its controversial Keystone XL pipeline project.

Economists and environmental advocates reviewing the same report beg to differ with those sweeping conclusions.

At issue is a recently released U.S. Department of Energy study called "," which has sparked further debate over the long-running pipeline controversy, as Canada's prime minister visits the White House today and protesters take up positions outside.

Obama Taps Bingaman to Build Bipartisan Consensus for Clean Energy Standard

Bingaman's Oval Office meeting sends a signal that Obama is counting on the senator's savvy to pass a measure that both business and enviros can support

By Elizabeth McGowan

Feb 3, 2011

WASHINGTON—When describing Sen. Jeff Bingaman, observers on Capitol Hill are quick to utter such accolades as considerate, thoughtful and practical.

The lanky and cerebral New Mexico Democrat's pragmatism is now under the political microscope of the nation's capital as he warms up to the idea of crafting a clean energy standard that the business world can embrace and the green movement won't shun.

Plus, with a GOP-heavy 112th Congress, the chairman of the knows he has to engage in new math. With 12 Democrats and 10 Republicans serving on his own rearranged committee, he first has to win a majority there before any measure can advance to a Senate where the Democratic caucus has just a 53 to 47 edge.

Bingaman's Wednesday afternoon meeting in the Oval Office sends a signal that President Obama is counting on the senator's savvy.