The Keystone Pipeline Is Dead. Thanks, President Obama!

Seriously, credit where due, per Mother Jones:

On Friday, President Obama announced his administration’s decision to reject the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, after seven years of intense deliberation over the pipeline’s potential environmental risks. The announcement is widely viewed as a major victory for environmentalists and is sure to further burnish the president’s legacy in combating climate change…

Slate-pitch, yet true — “Obama Didn’t Kill Keystone XL, Innovation Did“:

… In reality, Obama and Kerry simply delivered the coup de grace to a long-wounded project. Yes, politics was part of it. But the effort to bring more oil from the Alberta tar sands wasn’t spiked because the method used to extract produces a lot of negative environmental effects—or, I should say, only because of that. Rather, the end of this effort to benefit from newish innovations in external fuel production (extracting liquid oil from gooey tar sands through the application of steams) comes as a result of some very different innovations in fuel production and consumption…
Read more

Keystone: Credit Where Due

President Obama does the right thing, per Bloomberg:

President Barack Obama issued his third veto Tuesday to reject legislation that would allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, escalating a battle over the project with Republicans in Congress.

Notice of the long-expected veto was released without fanfare via a message to the Senate just hours after the bill formally arrived at the White House. The Senate has agreed to hold a vote on overriding the veto no later than March 3.

Obama has repeatedly said a State Department review of the TransCanada Corp. project — which would carry crude oil produced in Alberta, Canada, south through the U.S. — should proceed before a decision is made on whether to allow construction of the $8 billion pipeline…

Mr. Charles P. Pierce, who has been on this story, remains cynical:

… This is what happens when you have a Congress in which a rodeo clown like Jim Inhofe has power. This is said to have opened a new “era” in the current presidency. One hopes so. But, seriously, this doesn’t come anywhere close to killing the death-funnel. It just makes clear that the ongoing approval process will keep on keepin’ on, both at the State Department and in the state courts of Nebraska. It also reminds the Republicans in Congress that neither the world nor our form of government changed in November of 2014. Now we will also get to see how many, if any, Democratic congresscritters go over the side. Gut check time, boys and girls…

Speaking of Keystone

The second oil spill on the Yellowstone River in four years has poisoned the Glendive, Montana water supply:

The 12-inch-diameter Poplar Pipeline spilled on Saturday morning. By Monday night, Glendive residents cleaned local grocery store shelves of bottled water as news spread that health officials had found benzene levels in the municipal water treatment plant at two to three times what the Center for Disease Control says is safe for long-term exposure.

Some elderly residents reported not having anything to drink to take medication. People who had drunk from their taps complained of stomachaches. Hospital and schools struggled to keep their charges hydrated and safe. Some businesses were forced to cut back services or close. People fled town to do laundry or take showers.

Not until Tuesday morning did the first pallets of clean, bottled water from Bridger Pipeline, owner of the Poplar Pipeline, arrive in Glendive. They were dispensed first to hospital, schools, nursing homes and the prison. Then they to went to other residents.

Bill Salvin, a spokesman hired by Bridger Pipeline who also fielded calls on Tuesday for the county government’s emergency services command center, said the delay was due to “a matter of logistics.”

I have family in Glendive, so I’ve visited there many times. The Yellowstone is the centerpiece of that town. It has no dams and is (was?) considered a “blue ribbon” trout stream.  I wonder how many jobs will be lost when fisherman don’t come back this year.

They Are Who We Thought They Were (Republicans And Their War On Our Kids)

Republican priorities are — not “becoming,” because they always were — clear. Facing the one unequivocal existential threat to the American way of life (for starters) over the next century, here’s the GOP response to the oncoming rush of human-caused global warming:

The new Republican Congress is headed for a clash with the White House over two ambitious Environmental Protection Agencyregulations that are the heart of President Obama’s climate change agenda.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the next majority leader, has already vowed to fight the rules, which could curb planet-warming carbon pollution but ultimately shut down coal-fired power plants in his native Kentucky. Mr. McConnell and other Republicans are, in the meantime, stepping up their demands that the president approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry petroleum from Canadian oil sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

At this point, Republicans do not have the votes to repeal the E.P.A. regulations, which will have far more impact on curbing carbon emissions than stopping the pipeline, but they say they will use their new powers to delay, defund and otherwise undermine them. Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, a prominent skeptic of climate change and the presumed new chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is expected to open investigations into the E.P.A., call for cuts in its funding and delay the regulations as long as possible.

Just to update your scorecard, here’s what the latest IPCC report confirms is at stake:

i) Risk of death, injury, ill-health, or disrupted livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones and small island developing states and other small islands, due to storm surges, coastal flooding, and sea level rise.37 [RFC 1-5]

ii) Risk of severe ill-health and disrupted livelihoods for large urban populations due to inland flooding in some regions.38 [RFC 2 and 3]

iii) Systemic risks due to extreme weather events leading to breakdown of infrastructure networks and critical services such as electricity, water supply, and health and emergency services.39 [RFC 2-4]

iv) Risk of mortality and morbidity during periods of extreme heat, particularly for vulnerable urban populations and those working outdoors in urban or rural areas.40 [RFC 2 and 3]

v) Risk of food insecurity and the breakdown of food systems linked to warming, drought, flooding, and precipitation variability and extremes, particularly for poorer populations in urban and rural settings.41 [RFC 2-4]

vi) Risk of loss of rural livelihoods and income due to insufficient access to drinking and irrigation water and reduced agricultural productivity, particularly for farmers and pastoralists with minimal capital in semi-arid regions.42 [RFC 2 and 3]

vii) Risk of loss of marine and coastal ecosystems, biodiversity, and the ecosystem goods, functions, and services they provide for coastal livelihoods, especially for fishing communities in the tropics and the Arctic.43 [RFC 1, 2, and 4]

viii) Risk of loss of terrestrial and inland water ecosystems, biodiversity, and the ecosystem goods, functions, and services they provide for livelihoods.44 [RFC 1, 3, and 4]

Many key risks constitute particular challenges for the least developed countries and vulnerable communities, given their limited ability to cope.


In case those near-term consequences aren’t motivation enough, consider the IPCC’s view of the longer term:


Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts. Some risks of climate change are considerable at 1 or 2°C above preindustrial levels (as shown in Assessment Box SPM.1). Global climate change risks are high to very high with global mean temperature increase of 4°C or more above preindustrial levels in all reasons for concern (Assessment Box SPM.1), and include severe and widespread impacts on unique and threatened systems, substantial species extinction, large risks to global and regional food security, and the combination of high temperature and humidity compromising normal human activities, including growing food or working outdoors in some areas for parts of the year (high confidence). The precise levels of climate change sufficient to trigger tipping points (thresholds for abrupt and irreversible change) remain uncertain, but the risk associated with crossing multiple tipping points in the earth system or in interlinked human and natural systems increases with rising temperature (medium confidence).

There is hope, or would be, given smart climate policy — really, almost any climate policy

The overall risks of climate change impacts can be reduced by limiting the rate and magnitude of climate change. Risks are reduced substantially under the assessed scenario with the lowest temperature projections (RCP2.6 – low emissions) compared to the highest temperature projections (RCP8.5 – high emissions), particularly in the second half of the 21st century (very high confidence). Reducing climate change can also reduce the scale of adaptation that might be required…

But, of course, such an approach — reducing the impact of climate change by controlling carbon emissions, while planning for a higher-carbon future —  is precisely what the Republican party has vowed to block.

My son was born in 2000.  in 2050, at the threshold of that second half of his century, he’ll face the world we make for him now.  The Republican party is conspiring with their paymasters in ways that will make his world significantly worse than the one our parents’ generation left for us.  Potentially — see Oreskes and Conway on this — it could be horrifically degraded, my son and his generation and their kids confronting catastrophic failures in the systems that make modern life go.

Obviously, this means that despite the wretched feelings that remain from last Tuesday’s debacle, we gotta keep fighting.  We need the Presidency in 2016, and as much of the Senate as we can claw back — and, perhaps more important, all those local and regional governments in which it is possible to attempt global-warming policy jurisdiction by jurisdiction.  A hard slog.  But necessary.

At the same time, I do have one question:  Why do Republicans hate their children so?

Image:  Hieronymous Bosch, Hell (the world before the flood) — panel from the Fall of thRebel Angels triptych,

Why I live at the P.O. and Other Random Crap

Some of y’all give me crap about living in a backward hellhole like Florida. Well, were you able to pluck a Cherokee Purple tomato off your vine last night and have it for dinner with a little salt, pepper and mayo on multigrain bread?


I thought not. Read more

Monday Morning Open Thread: The People’s Climate March

(via NYMag)

From commentor Skerry, participant:

The People’s Climate March was an astounding success! Estimated 400,000 in NYC marched. So many that they had to start diverting people off the route before the end because the permit was going to expire. We had planned for 200,000. Tremendous!

Also, marches around the globe in Melbourne (30,000), Nepal, Papau New Guinea, Barcelona (2000), Rome, London (40,000), Paris (1,000), Berlin (4000), Rio (5000), Stockholm, Amsterdam, Toronto. A total of 168 “sister” marches. I don’t know the numbers for all the cities. Information is still coming in.

Headlines on some of the major media. Top of the homepage for NYTimes. No mention on Sunday talk shows, Fox, CNN (shocking). Lots of foreign press coverage.

The plan [for Monday] is to “flood” Wall Street. I have no idea how many will participate. This action is a off-shoot from Occupy. I won’t be there, but will be watching closely.

The UN meets Tuesday to discuss and plan for the next big summit in Paris in 2015.

Pictures can be found at and on Flickr.

Oh, and my daughter got a selfie with Al Gore. She was delighted. She marched with the student/youth section. They estimated over 50,000 students covering 10 blocks. We had anticipated 4 blocks. Just a delightful day.

Gillis describes himself as “Reporter for The New York Times, covering the science of climate change and the policy implications of that science”

The AP figures this must be serious — the Rockefellers have announced they’re getting out of the oil business.
Apart from trying to save the planet, what’s on the agenda for the start of another week?

Grossly Negligent and Reckless

A judge put the hammer to BP:

A federal judge ruled on Thursday that BP was grossly negligent in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil well blowout that killed 11 workers, spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and soiled hundreds of miles of beaches.

“BP’s conduct was reckless,” United States District Court Judge Carl J. Barbier wrote in his sternly worded decision. Judge Barbier also ruled that Transocean, the owner of the rig, and Halliburton, the service company that cemented the well, were negligent in the accident.

But the judge put most of the blame on BP, opening the way to fines of up to $18 billion under the Clean Water Act.

In a 153-page, densely technical decision, Judge Barbier described how BP repeatedly ignored mounting warning signs that the well was unstable, making decisions that he says were “primarily driven by a desire to save time and money, rather than ensuring that the well was secure.”

Judge Barbier painstakingly re-created the hurried effort to temporarily shut in a problematic well, deemed by some to be “the well from hell,” and shows how a series of problems, many of which were suspected by the rig’s crew, led to the blowout. Even after noting these anomalies, BP crew members ignored test results that should have reinforced caution, and, if heeded, could have prevented the disaster even in its final minutes, he wrote.

BP has long acknowledged responsibility for the accident, but has said that it should be fully shared with the companies that operated the Deepwater Horizon rig and improperly sealed the well with cement.

While acknowledging that there was blame to share, Judge Barbier in most cases says the fault finally lies with BP, either because it was responsible for the most fundamental problems or because contractual relationships made clear that BP was fundamentally responsible.

Ultimately, according to the judge, the company that owned the lease to the well and was responsible for overseeing all of the drilling work displayed gross negligence, which in legal terms means that it was responsible for willful misconduct. Judge Barbier apportioned 67 percent of the blame for the spill on BP, 30 percent on Transocean and 3 percent on Halliburton.

Is $18 billion enough of a punishment?