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Kansas Permit for Embattled Coal Plant Faces EPA Review, Legal Scrutiny

The permit for the Sunflower plant is issued to beat the start date of new federal greenhouse rules in January, and critics claim foul play

By Elizabeth McGowan

Dec 17, 2010

WASHINGTON—Environmental organizations will join the EPA in carefully reviewing—and perhaps challenging—a controversial building permit that Kansas authorities granted Thursday to build a 895 megawatt coal-fired power plant in the southwestern part of the state.

Approval of the permit to Sunflower Electric Power Corp. comes just a few weeks before the Environmental Protection Agency’s “tailoring rule” takes effect Jan. 2. That rule is designed to employ the Clean Air Act to control heat-trapping gases from large emitters that are new or undergo significant modifications.

Issuing the permit before that deadline means the new plant can avoid that EPA rule designed to rein in greenhouse gases.

Unlike Calif., Australia Has No Choice But to Desalinate Their Sea Water

The main difference for Australia is that they 'truly ran out of water'

By Sara Stroud

Dec 17, 2010

Editor's Note: This is the last in a three-part series on the development of seawater desalination plants in California and other drought-prone regions, looking at the environmental and economic challenges involved.

When California regulators this month approved a facility on the state's central coast that would turn salty ocean water into drinking water, it was in the face of environmental concerns and warnings that the project's hefty price tag could drastically hike customers' water bills.

Desalination No Silver Bullet for California's Water Woes

Measures such as conservation and water reuse could better meet the state's future water needs, experts say

By Sara Stroud

Dec 16, 2010

Editor's Note: This is the second in a three-part series on the development of seawater desalination plants in California and other drought-prone regions, looking at the environmental and economic challenges involved.

Water has been called the lifeblood of the American West. Nowhere is this more true than in California, where dwindling water resources and a swelling population are pushing water agencies, businesses and nonprofits to find new ways to slake the state's growing thirst. Some say the state only needs to look west to the Pacific Ocean for a partial solution to its problem.

About 20 seawater desalination plants are in various stages of planning and development along the coast.

"It's kind of like the Gold Rush," said Paul Choules, vice president for desalination and reuse for , one of the world's biggest desalination companies, of the potential desalination market in California. "Unfortunately, there's no gold there yet."

Desalination Boom Nears for Arid California, but Obstacles Remain

Despite lengthy approval and permitting processes, California is the likely bellwether for the future of seawater desalination in the United States

By Sara Stroud

Dec 15, 2010

Editor's Note: This is the first in a three-part series on the development of seawater desalination plants in California and other drought-prone regions, looking at the environmental and economic challenges involved.

When the tiny coastal town of Sand City, Calif., fired up its desalination plant earlier this year, it became the first city in the state to tap the Pacific Ocean to provide drinking water for its residents through a full-scale desalination plant.

And it won't likely be the last. About 20 proposed plants up and down the California coast are wending their way through lengthy approval and permitting processes, as municipalities and water districts look for ways to meet future water needs of a thirsty state.

California Climate Law Details to Get Grand Unveiling

Answers to key questions about state's cap and trade and energy efficiency programs to come out of separate meetings tomorrow

By Robert Collier

Dec 15, 2010

As politicians around the nation become increasingly hesitant about taking action against global warming, California is pushing ahead this week with two much-awaited steps that will have broad implications for climate policies at home and elsewhere.

The decisions by state regulators in separate meetings Thursday amount to the grand unveiling of California's climate strategy after years of debate and exhaustive policy-crunching.

The is scheduled to answer the central question of the state's previously announced cap-and-trade emissions program – whether the largest polluting industries are to be given emissions credits for free, whether they must buy them at auction, or some combination of the two.

The will decide whether to grant large subsidies to the state’s utility companies for cutting their customers’ energy use even though those savings appear to have been far less than projected.

Spotlight on Clinton Ties to Pipeline Lobbyist in Permit Battle

TransCanada lobbyist once worked for her presidential campaign; company says permit review will unavoidably be based on the merits

By Elizabeth McGowan

Dec 15, 2010

WASHINGTON—Nebraska’s senior senator might now be convinced that the U.S. State Department is adhering to appropriate protocol before deciding on a thumbs up or down for a multi-billion dollar, controversial Canada-to-Texas tar sands oil pipeline.

In a statement issued Friday, Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson a Dec. 9 letter from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assured him that "the department won't consider the pipeline permit application until the environmental study is done and the department has taken into account all state and federal views about the proposal."

But the environmental community is far less confident. Green organizations are calling for the Secretary of State to recuse herself from the decision—expected in 2011. Public statements she made in California in October indicate Clinton was already inclined to approve TransCanada's Keystone XL project, and the groups also now claim there's a potential conflict of interest involving a TransCanada lobbyist who previously worked for her presidential campaign.

London Black Cabs Will Be Electric by 2020

Mayor Boris Johnson's plan includes a £1m pot designed to offer a reduction in the purchase price for taxi drivers upgrading to low-emission vehicles

by Hélène Mulholland,

Dec 14, 2010

All new London black cabs will be electric by 2020 as part of London mayor Boris Johnson's drive to improve London's poor air quality – now considered to be one of the biggest public health issues facing the UK, with the capital being the worst offender.

The target of a universal fleet of emission-free black cabs within 10 years is outlined in the Conservative mayor's final air quality strategy, . It comes as the government today details of 4,000 new charging points for electric cars across the UK.

With No Policy Incentives, Turkey's Solar Entrepreneurs Wait Out in the Cold

Government’s inaction could permanently stunt solar industry in a nation sunnier than California, advocates warn

By Julia Harte

Dec 14, 2010

On Nov. 14, after working for ten days to convert their mosque to run on solar power, residents of a village in the Turkish district of Akkuyu assembled outside the building and unfurled a banner that read, “The sun is rising on Akkuyu.”

It was a bright moment in what has been an otherwise discouraging year for Büyükeceli, a picturesque Mediterranean village in Akkuyu. In July, the Turkish government authorized Russia to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant in Büyükeceli. Averse to the risks posed by the plant, Büyükeceli locals asked the government to let them build a photovoltaic panel array instead.

When the government rejected that proposal, the people took matters into their own hands and installed a 2.25 kilowatt-capacity system on their mosque — enough to meet all of its energy needs, and then some.

In Remote Town in Mali, Africa's Climate Change Future is Now

The debate around Africa and aid will shift from charity to environmental justice

by Madeleine Bunting,

Dec 13, 2010

Ten years ago, I ended up on the mud flats of the Nile delta with a water engineer. He explained how everything we could see around us would be under water if sea levels rose as they are predicted to do – the nearby city of Alexandria is one of the most vulnerable to climate change in the world.

It was just before a major conference on climate change, and the aim had been to find stories – and images – of global warming that got beyond the cliche of a melting ice cap. But as a journalist it was hard to bring this future to life; this sleepy bit of coastline hardly evoked the sense of urgency required to mobilise the international attention needed.

This is the central paradox of climate change politics, argued the sociologist, , that electorates can't grasp the significance of climate change because it is too abstract, and not dramatic enough (they need catastrophe footage), and won't – until it's too late. By the time we are experiencing massive floods, freak weather, sea-level rises and higher temperatures, we will be well past the point of doing anything about it. He christened it Giddens paradox.

Ten years on, the impact of climate change is frighteningly more concrete. In the remote town of Anakila in , west Africa, I find what we were looking for in the Nile delta 10 years ago. Campaigners know the power of images to drive the message home, and that's why the aid agency Tearfund took me on a 1,000km journey from the capital, Bamako.

A Carbon Tax in 2011 for Fiscal Conservatives?

The tax can be revenue-neutral if the money raised is returned to citizens by reducing other taxes

By Elizabeth McGowan

Dec 13, 2010

WASHINGTON—The grassroots side of Charles Komanoff wasn’t exactly dancing in the streets of New York City Nov. 2 when Republicans drop-kicked Democrats from their majority perch in the House of Representatives.

But the number-crunching, energy-policy-geek part of him sniffs an unusual opportunity for his beloved carbon tax to gain traction on Capitol Hill.

“Maybe this is totally wishful thinking, but one possible halcyon effect of Tea Party ascendancy might provide greater latitude for Congress and its ability to tolerate real mavericks instead of phony mavericks,” the 63-year-old founder of the Carbon Tax Center told SolveClimate News in an interview.

Komanoff’s “Exhibit A” is Democratic Rep. John Larson of Connecticut.

The congressman, elected to a seventh term, has written one of several carbon tax bills elbowed aside by what emerged as the bully of the Hill—a failed cap-and-trade measure. When the 112th Congress convenes in January, Larson has vowed to reintroduce a proposal he rolled out in 2009.