Russia announces plan to ‘use the advantages’ of climate change

Russia announces plan to ‘use the advantages’ of climate change

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 5, 2020 SNIP: Russia has published a plan to adapt its economy and population to climate change, aiming to mitigate damage but also “use the advantages” of warmer temperatures. The document, published on the government’s website on Saturday, outlines a plan of action and acknowledges changes to the climate are having a “prominent and increasing effect” on socioeconomic development, people’s lives, health and industry. Russia is warming 2.5 times faster than the planet as a whole, on average, and the two-year “first stage” plan is an indication the government officially recognises this as a problem, even though Vladimir Putin denies human activity is the cause. It lists preventive measures such as dam building or switching to more drought-resistant crops, as well as crisis preparations including emergency vaccinations or evacuations in case of a disaster. Possible “positive” effects are decreased energy use in cold regions, expanding agricultural areas and navigational opportunities in the Arctic Ocean. Russia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, with vast Arctic regions and infrastructure built over permafrost. Recent floods and wildfires have been among the planet’s worst climate-related disasters. Moscow formally adopted the Paris climate accord in September last year and criticised the US withdrawal from the pact. Putin, however, has repeatedly denied the scientific consensus that climate change is primarily caused by emissions deriving from human activity, blaming it last month on some “processes in the...
Moscow adopts 15-year grand plan for Northern Sea Route

Moscow adopts 15-year grand plan for Northern Sea Route

SOURCE: Barents Observer DATE: December 31, 2019 SNIP: The development plan for the Northern Sea Route was signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev just few days before the start of the new decade. The document has been in the making for some time and it was considered of great importance that it was approved and signed before the end of 2019. Medvedev put his signature on the document on the 21st of December and it was published on the government website on the 30th. Behind its development stands Rosatom, the nuclear power company with top responsibilities for the Northern Sea Route. The document builds on President Putin’s decrees from May 2018 and the request to boost annual shipments on the Northern Sea Route to 80 million tons by year 2024. A massive development of natural resources is needed for Russian to meet its ambitions on the Arctic route and several of the country’s biggest companies are involved. Among them are oil and gas companies Novatek, Gazprom Neft, Rosneft and the Independent Oil Company. In addition comes minerals and ores developers like Nornickel, VostokCoal, Baimskaya, KAZ Minerals, Vostok Engineering and Severnaya Zvezda. A big number of new vessels are part of the plan. By year 2035, about 40 new vessels are to be built, several of them nuclear icebreakers. In addition to five LK60 icebreakers, the country will build three Lider-class vessels, the first one to be ready for operations in December 2027. The second and third ships are to be ready in late 2030 and 2032 respectively. The Lider will be able to break through the thickest Arctic ice...
How Oil Companies Avoided Environmental Accountability After 10.8 Million Gallons Spilled

How Oil Companies Avoided Environmental Accountability After 10.8 Million Gallons Spilled

SOURCE: Pro Publica DATE: December 27, 2019 SNIP: In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, while stranded New Orleanians flagged down helicopters from rooftops and hospitals desperately triaged patients, crude oil silently gushed from damaged drilling rigs and storage tanks. Given the human misery set into motion by Katrina, the harm these spills caused to the environment drew little attention. But it was substantial. Nine days after the storm, oil could still be seen leaking from toppled storage tanks, broken pipelines and sunken boats between New Orleans and the Mississippi River’s mouth. And then Hurricane Rita hit. Oil let loose by Katrina was pushed farther inland by Rita three weeks later, and debris from the first storm caused damage to oil tankers rocked by the second. All told, the federal agency overseeing oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico reported that more than 400 pipelines and 100 drilling platforms were damaged. The U.S. Coast Guard, the first responder for oil spills, received 540 separate reports of spills into Louisiana waters. Officials estimated that, taken together, those leaks released the same amount of oil that the highly publicized 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster spilled into Alaska’s Prince William Sound — about 10.8 million gallons. The Oil Pollution Act, passed by Congress in response to the Valdez incident, requires that federal and state agencies work with the companies that spilled the oil to conduct a preliminary assessment of damage to natural resources. Once a comprehensive report is finalized on the value of the affected plants, soil, water and wildlife, those so-called responsible parties must pay for restoration efforts....
Opponents Struggle To Stop A New Breed Of Oregon Fuel Terminals

Opponents Struggle To Stop A New Breed Of Oregon Fuel Terminals

SOURCE: Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) DATE: December 11, 2019 SNIP: The Zenith Energy oil terminal and the Columbia Pacific Biorefinery took over existing industrial facilities and didn’t need many permits to start transporting fuel. The companies running these projects don’t need to provide much information to the public about what kind of fuel they’re handling and where it’s going. Plans for a facility upgrade filed with the City of Portland in 2014 suggest the additional racks under construction will allow the company to unload up to 44 oil train cars simultaneously. The added capacity could more than double the number of oil trains running along the Columbia and Willamette rivers. But the company got the city approval it needed two years before city leaders passed an ordinance restricting the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. “They found a loophole,” climate activist Melanie Plaut said. “This company was able to sneak through, and we suspect this is likely how these things are going to go in the future because the companies know if they go for it straight up, they’re going to lose because of public opinion.” The project is frustrating to opponents like Plaut who want to reduce the burning of fossil fuel that’s warming up the planet. After a train carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire in the Columbia River Gorge in 2016, more and more people share Plaut’s concerns about the risks of shipping oil by rail. There seem to be a lot of unknowns when it comes to the Zenith terminal. The company took over an old asphalt facility that already had the key environmental permits...
Why Texas’s fossil fuel support will ‘spell disaster’ for climate crisis

Why Texas’s fossil fuel support will ‘spell disaster’ for climate crisis

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: December 7, 2019 SNIP: In the same month that Greta Thunberg addressed a UN summit and millions of people took part in a global climate strike, lawmakers in America’s leading oil- and gas-producing state of Texas made a statement of their own. Texas’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Act went into effect on 1 September, stiffening civil and criminal penalties specifically for protesters who interrupt operations or damage oil and gas pipelines and other energy facilities. Within a couple of weeks, two dozen Greenpeace activists who dangled off a bridge over the Houston ship channel became the first people charged under the new law, which allows for prison sentences of up to 10 years and fines of up to $500,000 for protest groups. With kindred spirits in the Trump White House, Texas is now intensifying its support of the fossil fuel industry and, pipeline by pipeline, literally laying the groundwork for production to ramp up even more in the next decade. The scale of new production is “staggering”, according to an analysis by Global Witness, a campaign group, with Texas leading the way as US output of oil and gas is forecast to rise by 25% over the next decade. This makes it a “looming carbon timebomb”, the group believes, in a period when global oil and gas production needs to drop by 40% to mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis. “The sheer scale of this new production dwarfs that of every other country in the world and would spell disaster for the world’s ambitions to curb climate change,” the report states. The US is...