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Judge to Exxon: Pay $20 Million for Violating Clean Air Act More Than 16,000 Times

ExxonMobil must pay $20 million for violating the Clean Air Act more than 16,000 times at a Texas plant, a district judge ruled this week.

The ruling against Exxon in a suit brought by Environment Texas and the Sierra Club found that the oil giant failed to update emissions-reductions technology at its Baytown, Texas refining and chemical plant.

In their suit, the groups alleged the plant illegally released more than 10 million pounds of pollutants between 2005 and 2013, while Exxon gained more than $14 million in economic benefits.

"Today's decision sends a resounding message that it will not pay to pollute Texas," Neil Carman, clean air program director for the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter, said in a statement. "We will not stand idly by when polluters put our health and safety at risk."

For a deeper dive:

AP, CNN, Houston Chronicle

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Trump Plans to Aggressively Expand Offshore Drilling in Protected Areas

President Trump plans to sign an executive order today intended to aggressively expand drilling in protected waters off the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

The new EO will direct U.S. Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke to review the current offshore drilling plans, which limits most drilling to parts of the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska's Cook Inlet, and reexamine opening parts of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans to drilling. The EO will also roll back President Obama's permanent ban on drilling in the Arctic, issued in the last full month of his presidency. Zinke cautioned reporters that implementation of the EO will be "a multi-year effort," and several groups have pledged lawsuits to further slow down the process.

"Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke is dead wrong," said Greenpeace USA senior climate and energy campaigner Diana Best.

"Renewable energy already has us on the right track to energy independence, and opening new areas to offshore oil and gas drilling will lock us into decades of harmful pollution, devastating spills like the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and a fossil fuel economy with no future. Scientific consensus is that the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves—including the oil and gas off U.S. coasts—must remain undeveloped if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change."

Best added that Trump's latest executive order does not have popular support, and instead caters to "Trump's inner circle of desperate fossil fuel executives."

"Holing up at Mar-a-lago may protect Trump from an oil spill," she said, "but it will not protect him and his cabinet of one percenters from the millions of people in this country—from California to North Carolina—who will resist his disastrous policies."

Waterkeeper Alliance Executive Director Marc Yaggi agrees. "This attempt to greatly expand offshore drilling into the Arctic and Atlantic is a blatant prioritization of fossil fuel profits over the health of our climate and coastal communities," he said. "President Trump is ignoring the cries of citizens who have said offshore drilling poses too great a threat to their economies and ways of life."

For a deeper dive:

New York Times, AP, Axios, Politico, NPR, LA Times, Bloomberg, USA Today, The Hill, ThinkProgress

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Extreme Arctic Melt Could Increase Sea Level Rise Twice as Fast as Previously Estimated

Extreme Arctic melt could increase global sea level rise twice as fast as previously estimated and cost the world economy between $7 trillion and $90 trillion by 2100, a new analysis shows.

The assessment from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program projects that increased ice melt in the Arctic could contribute to an overall 20 to 29 inches of global sea level rise over the next century—nearly double the minimum estimates provided by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The Arctic warmed faster than any other region on earth between 2011-2015 and the assessment speculates that the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in the summer by 2040.

"The Arctic is continuing to melt, and it's going faster than expected in 2011," Lars-Otto Reiersen, head of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) which prepared the report, told Reuters.

"Multi-year ice used to be a big consolidated pack. It's almost like a big thick ice cube versus a bunch of crushed ice. When you warm the water, the crushed ice melts a lot quicker."

For a deeper dive:

InsideClimate News, Reuters, Miami Herald

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80% of Heat Records Worldwide Linked to Climate Change

Record-breaking extreme weather events all over the globe, including increased temperatures and rainfall, can be linked to human-made climate change, according to new research.

Most scientific research examines the links between climate change and specific weather events, but a first-of-its-kind study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences used a new framework to take a comprehensive look at climate measurements worldwide.

The study found that over 80 percent of heat records worldwide were linked to climate change, while climate change influenced 57 percent of driest-year records and 41 percent of five-day precipitation records.

"Our results suggest that the world isn't quite at the point where every record hot event has a detectable human fingerprint, but we are getting close," lead author Noah Diffenbaugh told USA Today.

For a deeper dive:

AP, Washington Post, USA Today, Climate Central, Mashable

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The 2006 drought in Jowzjan province of northern Afghanistan made the land unfarmable. Photo credit: UNHCR/V.Tan

Climate Change a 'Weapon of War' for Terrorists

Climate change is helping terrorism and organized crime thrive in fragile states, boosting recruitment for groups like Boko Haram and ISIS, according to a new report.

The report, commissioned by the German Department for Foreign Affairs, looked at four case studies in Syria, Afghanistan, the Lake Chad region and Guatemala. The report found that terrorist groups in these regions are taking advantage of the changing climate, using increasingly scarce natural resources as a "weapon of war." The authors recommend that climate adaptation, humanitarian aid and counterterrorism efforts will help prevent conflict.

"The scarcer resources become, the more power is given to those who control them, especially in regions where people are particularly reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods," Lukas Rüttinger wrote in the Adelphi think tank report.

"As climate change affects food security and the availability of water and land, affected people will become more vulnerable not only to negative climate impacts but also to recruitment by terrorist groups offering alternative livelihoods and economic incentives."

For a deeper dive:

Reuters, The Guardian, Deutsche Welle, ThinkProgress, New York Post

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We Now Know Who Funded Trump's Inauguration

Exxon, Chevron and other fossil fuel interests wrote big checks to fund President Trump's inaugural festivities, according to Federal Election Commission filings released Wednesday.

Contributions from the energy industry totaled more than $7 million, with Hess Corp CEO John Hess donating $1 million, Exxon, Chevron, BP and Citgo Petroleum each chipping in $500k. Coal company Murray Energy, which gave enthusiastically to the Trump campaign while simultaneously laying off workers, threw in $300k.

For many of these donors, the early months of the Trump administration have been particularly fruitful: Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren, who donated $250k, saw the president sign an executive memo ordering the construction of the ETP-owned Dakota Access Pipeline merely four days after the inauguration.

More than 1,500 corporate and individual funders for the inauguration raised $107 million all together—twice as much as Barack Obama's inauguration raised in 2009, and more than any other inaugural event in history.

For a deeper dive:

New York Times, AP, InsideClimate News, The Hill, Politico

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Anholt offshore wind farm in Denmark. Photo credit: Siemens

Offshore Wind Comes of Age: No Government Subsidies Needed

Denmark offshore wind giant DONG Energy won the rights last week to build two new wind farms in the German North Sea without any government subsidies. The move represents a major milestone for the offshore wind industry, which has relied on support from European governments.

"The zero subsidy bid is a breakthrough for the cost competitiveness of offshore wind and it demonstrates the technology's massive global growth potential as a cornerstone in the economically viable shift to green energy systems," said Samuel Leupold, CEO of wind power at DONG.

As reported by the Financial Times:

Auctions or tenders that force companies to compete against each other have begun to replace earlier types of green subsidies, such as guaranteed fixed power prices, in many countries over the past decade, in a move that has led to much lower prices.

Nearly 70 countries now have such competitive bidding systems, up from a handful in 2005, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

For a deeper dive:

New York Times, Financial Times

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Pruitt Requests Funds for 24/7 Fleet of Bodyguards as Climate Deniers Demand More Action

Despite the Trump administration's concerted effort to roll back climate policies, climate deniers are growing increasingly vocal with their demands for extreme action from Washington.

As the New York Times reported, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt faces ire from the far right over his refusal to challenge the agency's 2009 endangerment finding, which found that carbon emissions were harmful to human health and underpins most climate change rules.

Denier critics are also becoming more vocal on their discontent with the administration's silence on the Paris agreement and Rex Tillerson's approach to running the State Department, as Time reported. Pruitt may be feeling more pressure than usual: Leaked EPA budget documents show a 24/7 security detail request for Pruitt, an increase in the level of security from what was provided to his predecessor Gina McCarthy.

For a deeper dive:

Denier pushback: New York Times, TIME Security detail: Washington Post, Greenwire, ThinkProgress

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