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Energy Transfer Partners' new Rover Pipeline has spilled millions of gallons of drilling fluids into Ohio's wetlands. Construction of the $4.2 billion project only began last month.

According to regulatory filings obtained by Sierra Club Ohio, on April 13, 2 million gallons of drilling fluids spilled into a wetland adjacent to the Tuscarawas River in Stark County. The next day, another 50,000 gallons of drilling fluids released into a wetland in Richland County in the Mifflin Township. The spills occurred as part of an operation associated with the pipeline's installation.

Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners is the same operator behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the Rover Pipeline's construction in February. The 713-mile pipeline will carry fracked gas across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan and Canada, and crosses three major rivers, the Maumee, Sandusky and Portage, all of which feed into Lake Erie. The pipeline is designed to transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of domestically produced natural gas per day.

Completion of the Rover Pipeline is planned for November 2017. Energy Transfer spokeswoman Alexis Daniel told Bloomberg that the spills will not change the project's in-service date.

"Once the incidents were noted, we immediately began containment and mitigation and will continue until the issues are completely resolved," she said.

Environmental groups are fighting to stop the pipeline's construction.

"Construction just began just a few weeks ago, yet Energy Transfer has already spilled more than 2 million gallons of drilling fluids in two separate disasters, confirming our worst fears about this dangerous pipeline before it has even gone into operation," said Jen Miller, director of the Ohio chapter of the Sierra Club.

"We've always said that it's never a question of whether a pipeline accident will occur, but rather a question of when. These disasters prove that the fossil fuel industry is unable to even put a pipeline into use before it spills dangerous chemicals into our precious waterways and recreation areas.

"Construction on the Rover Pipeline must be stopped immediately, as an investigation into Energy Transfer's total failure to adequately protect our wetlands and communities is conducted."

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BP Global

BP and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials spent the holiday weekend trying to repair a leaking oil well on Alaska's North Slope. Officials said the well is too unstable to shut down because of frigid temps in the high Arctic, but have released the pressure on one of the main leaks.

It appears that 1.5 acres of the remote area near Deadhorse, Alaska have been affected by the spill. Native communities were notified and non-essential workers were forced to evacuate. However, no injuries to crew or wildlife have been reported.

"Crews are on the scene and are developing plans to bring the well under control," said BP spokesperson Brett Clanton, in a release on Saturday. "Safety will remain our top priority as we move through this process."

There were initially two main leaks, one near the top of the rig that was releasing methane and the other down the assembly line spraying crude oil in a mist over the ice. Officials were able to detect both leaks using infrared cameras.

"Based on an overflight with infrared cameras, the release appears to be contained to the gravel pad surrounding the wellhead and has not reached the tundra," Clanton said.

Crews are still getting the situation under control and no updates have been reported in the last 12 hours.

As natural gas operations have begun taking shape in Alaska, reports of leaks have become more frequent. There had been an ongoing, very large leak occurring at Cook Inlet, which was spewing 210,000 cubic feet of gas per day for nearly four months, but finally Hilcorp Alaska announced Friday that a temporary repair has stopped the leak. However, the effects on marine life, including critically endangered beluga whales, is still unknown.

"Oil companies continue to treat Alaska with reckless abandonment, threatening its pristine waters, wildlife and communities," said Dan Ritzman, director of Sierra Club's Alaska Program.

"Big Oil has repeatedly proven it can't drill for fossil fuels safely, it has repeatedly proven they can't transport it safely, and it has repeatedly proven they can't be trusted with the safety and well-being of the state and its habitat. It's past time that Donald Trump and his friends in the fossil fuel industry put Alaska ahead of corporate polluter's profits which only threaten the state's beauty and environment."

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Arch Coal's Black Thunder Mine, Powder River Basin, Wyoming. Photo credit: EcoFlight

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is readying a new "priority list" for the agency with a heavy focus on fossil fuel development on public lands, new documents leaked to E&E News reveal.

The documents, including a "BLM Priority Work" list accompanying talking points memo, were drafted by BLM administrators and have been reviewed by Trump transition team members, but have not yet been circulated to staff.

While wind and solar development earn small mentions, the documents emphasize main goals of making more federal lands available for energy development and streamlining leases and permits for oil, gas, coal and hardrock mining projects.

The draft priority work list under the "Making America Safe through Energy Independence" includes:

  • Make additional lands available for "all of the above" energy development
  • Address backlog of Applications for Permit to Drill (APDs) and Expressions of Interest (EOIs)
  • Streamline Federal coal leasing and permitting, and address backlog
  • Streamline oil and gas leasing and permitting
  • Streamline rights-of-way processing for pipelines, transmission lines and solar/wind projects
  • Streamline leasing and permitting for hardrock mining

The priority list was "assembled by the team at the BLM to clearly lay out our continued commitment to ensure opportunities for commercial, recreation and conservation activities on BLM-managed lands," Megan Crandall, an agency spokeswoman, told E&E News in an email.

"No one voted to pollute our public lands, air or drinking water in the last election, yet the Trump administration is doing the bidding of powerful polluters as nearly its first order of business," Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine said after Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke ordered the lifting a moratorium on federal coal leasing. A coalition of groups, including Earthjustice, are suing the Trump administration over the order, which opens tens of thousands of acres of public lands to the coal industry.

For a deeper dive:

E&E, Politico Pro

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

Attorneys representing 21 youth in the Juliana v. United States climate lawsuit have filed opposition briefs to Trump administration and fossil fuel industry defendants' motions that sought again to derail the case from trial. In their filings, the youths' attorneys argue that "any delay in resolving the merits of this case irreversibly prejudices the youth plaintiffs in securing and protecting their fundamental constitutional rights."

The attorneys filed three responses Monday. The first response was to the U.S. government's request that U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken allow the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals the opportunity to review her Nov. 10, 2016 order denying motions to dismiss before the trial even takes place.

From the youth's brief:

"Federal Defendants' argument that 'no relief could be obtained against the President,' ... is substantially similar to one flatly rejected by the Ninth Circuit as 'contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy' in Washington v. Trump, in which the current president argued that he had 'unreviewable authority' with respect to immigration policy 'even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections.'"

The second filing responded to fossil fuel defendants' similar motion for an early appeal, which complained that "complex scientific debate ... swirls around the issues raised by the plaintiffs' lawsuit." The third filing was in response to both the Trump administration and the fossil fuel defendant's attempts to put the trial on hold, in the event Judge Aiken grants their requests and the Ninth Circuit agrees to step in.

The fossil fuel defendants, members of trade associations American Petroleum Institute (formerly directed by now Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson), American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and National Association of Manufacturers, are represented by Sidley Austin, a law firm "whose diverse client base includes companies that develop, produce, transport, process and market energy." In 2016 alone, Sidley received $1.928 billion in revenue.

Per federal rules of procedure, Judge Aiken, informed by Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin's recommendation, holds the power to decide whether the Ninth Circuit has an opportunity to grant the defendants' requests for an interlocutory appeal of her November decision.

"The Trump administration and the fossil fuel interests have acknowledged our lawsuit is a threat to their profit-seeking motives," Tia Hatton, 20, youth plaintiff from Eugene, Oregon, said.

"Their move to appeal Judge Aiken's historic decision to hear our case is nothing more than an extension of their personal interests and preposterous climate denial. These interests render their moronic dismissal of the merit of the constitutional rights that my co-plaintiffs and I, as well as future generations have to a stable climate system."

Jacob Lebel, 20, youth plaintiff from Roseburg, Oregon, agreed. "It's laughable and darkly ironic to hear our government argue that it will be irreparably harmed by our request that it produce and preserve documents that deal with climate change," he said.

"What about the irreparable harms that President Trump's administration is inflicting upon us youth with its reckless promotion of the fossil fuel industry and attacks on climate science?"

On Friday, attorneys representing the youth served legal requests for documents to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, U.S. Dept. of Defense and U.S. Dept. of State, just a few of the agency defendants in the case. The requests are a timely part of the discovery process, aimed at getting to trial by fall as Judge Coffin has requested.

Last month, attorneys representing the youth served requests for production of documents to the U.S. government and the American Petroleum Institute asking both defendants to turn over any of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's pseudonym emails in their custody (emails sent from "wayne.tracker@exxonmobil.com") by April 16.

"The Trump administration appears to labor under the mistaken belief that its decisions are beyond the jurisdiction of constitutional review," Julia Olson, plaintiffs' counsel and executive director of Our Children's Trust, said. "As we've already seen, when President Trump puts travel bans in place that violate constitutional rights, courts can and will block those actions. When he takes alarming actions that deny our youth plaintiffs their fundamental rights to a safe climate, courts can and will block those actions as well."

A telephonic case management conference, with Judge Coffin and attorneys representing all the parties, is set for April 7 at 10 a.m. PST.

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Environmental groups sued the Trump administration Thursday for approving the controversial Keystone XL pipeline despite its threats to air, water, wildlife and public health. Last Friday's pipeline approval also came without any public participation.

Those failures violate the National Environmental Policy Act and are the focus of today's lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Montana's Great Falls Division by the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council and other organizations.

"This dirty pipeline is a loaded gun pointed at our climate and some of America's most vital water supplies and we won't let Trump pull the trigger," said Kierán Suckling, the Center for Biological Diversity's executive director. "This arrogant administration wants to ram this massive pipeline through with zero consideration of oil-spill risks or the immense harm Keystone will do to endangered wildlife. But Trump's alternative facts and contempt for our environment won't stand up in court."

Keystone XL would carry up to 35 million gallons of oil every day from Canada's tar sands—one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive energy sources in the world—to refineries in Texas. The 1,700-mile pipeline would cross rivers, streams and wetlands that are a source for drinking water for millions of people and provide habitat for at least 20 rare and endangered species, including whooping cranes, pallid sturgeons, interior least terns and piping plovers.

Since 1986, pipeline accidents have spilled an average of 76,000 barrels of oil and other substances per year or more than three million gallons. Federal officials estimate that Keystone XL will spill up to 100 times during its lifetime.

In approving the pipeline, the State Dept. relied on a 2014 environmental analysis completed by the Obama administration, which, despite the analysis being incomplete and deficient, ultimately rejected the Keystone XL pipeline for not being in the national interest and for having significant environmental impacts.

Even though the 2014 analysis grossly underestimated the pipeline's impacts on the rate of tar-sands development, it still found that the pipeline would pose significant threats to human health and the environment.

"For almost a decade, Americans have fought to stop the dirty Keystone XL pipeline from polluting our air and water," said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. "We cannot stand by and allow oil and gas companies to ruin our climate and pollute our land, water and sacred cultural sites. This litigation continues our resistance to Big Oil and Trump's war against our health and planet."

No one thought that Lamar "my career has been funded by fossil fuels" Smith was going to put on an unbiased hearing on climate science. After all, the minority Democrats on Smith's House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology published a report this month, Much Ado About Nothing, which details Smith's "crusade to attempt to undermine and invalidate" Tom Karl's pause-buster study. (Yet Smith still can't get NOAA's name right)!

Although little was said about Karl, Wednesday's House Science Committee hearing with Drs. Michael Mann, John Christy, Judith Curry and Roger Pielke Jr. was a quite a circus. Which is exactly why someone who's been through Smith's nonsense, Dr. David Titley, wrote for the Washington Post that scientists should boycott these biased hearings.

That would be nice, if that meant that Smith would stop holding them. But since he shows no sign of slowing his inquisition, someone needs to show up to set the record straight and push back on all the denial packed into the hearing like so many clowns in a tiny car.

And that's exactly what Dr. Mann did, successfully walking the tight-rope between correcting other witnesses and coming off as a jerk. Most notably and most clearly getting under Smith's skin, Mann cited a recent Science Magazine article describing Smith's comments at the Heartland conference. Mann read the killer quote about how Smith "acknowledged that the committee is now a tool to advance his political agenda rather than a forum to examine important issues facing the U.S. research community."

In response, Lamar Smith, the esteemed media critic who cited the Daily Mail's bogus Bates story, who has written for Breitbart and said that people should get their news directly from Trump, claimed that Science Magazine is "not known as an objective magazine." As Emily Atkin of the New Republic aptly put it, "The fact that the chairman of the House Science committee doesn't consider that source 'objective' is ACTUALLY MIND BLOWING."

Smith, with pie on his face, also demonstrated his media savvy by citing the never-correct editorial page of the Wall Street Journal on heat records. This opinion is about as solid as cotton candy and has been contradicted by the paper's own reporting.

Speaking of dumb Wall Street Journal opinions, Mann also did a nice job of calling out Pielke's hypocrisy for whining in the Journal about being harassed, after sending threatening letters to Mann and Kevin Trenberth's bosses when they criticized his awful FiveThirtyEight piece that needed correction.

Also needing correction was John Christy, who trotted out his error-laden graph of models and observations. Again, Mann highlighted the foolishness of his fellow witnesses by pointing out how others have corrected Christy many times on the satellite record vs. the thermometer record. And more importantly, he cited the recent research that totally debunks Christy's false contention that models overestimate warming.

And then there's Judith Curry who, true to form, was there to talk about uncertainty (inappropriately). Again Mann was prepared, pointing out that uncertainty is actually a reason to take stronger action sooner. Uncertainty cuts both ways: while Curry and the GOP would have you believe maybe warming won't be so bad, it could actually be much worse than we fear.

Curry also bristled at being referred to as a "climate science denier" in Mann's written testimony. That's silly: She's teamed up with the Kochs, questioned the validity of the endangerment finding and said in her opening statement that it's time to "make the debate about climate change great again." So it is safe to say that "Judith Curry is absolutely a climate denier."

And she proved it in the hearing, denying the science and claiming we don't know how much is human versus natural. In 2014, NASA's Gavin Schmidt laid out the case for Curry that our best estimate is that humans are causing 110 percent of warming. (It's more than 100 percent because natural forces and particulate pollution cause cooling, which CO2 is overcoming to cause warming).

Curry also questioned ocean acidification science, in a way that Brian Kahn noted "is way out of step with most ocean scientists" that he's talked with.

Other odds and ends that made an appearance include the 1998 documents showing Big Oil's plan to inject uncertainty into the climate debate, the long-debunked 70s cooling myth and Smith's tired denial of the consensus.

So like any good circus, there were plenty of clowns, people lion, tired grr-causing myths and bear-ly believable statements.

Oh my.

Here's the full hearing:

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In a decision released Wednesday, ExxonMobil lost its bid to have their complaint against Attorneys General Eric Schneiderman and Maura Healey heard by a sympathetic Texas judge.

"The decision is a major blow to Exxon's efforts to distract from the valid investigations into whether the company lied to the public and its investors about the dangers of global warming," Jamie Henn, 350.org strategic communications director, said.

"Instead of coming up with more bogus legal maneuvers, Exxon should comply with the Attorneys General requests, including handing over Tillerson's secret 'Wayne Tracker' emails."

In an effort to distract from the Attorneys General investigation into if the company lied to its shareholders and the public about its knowledge of global warming, ExxonMobil had filed a complaint asserting that the investigation against it was a politically motivated conspiracy designed to "silence" it.

Despite his obvious sympathy to the oil giant, U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade was forced to admit in a decision this afternoon that Exxon's complaints against the Attorneys General should be transferred out of Texas to the Southern District of New York because "a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred" in New York City.

As part of its complaint, ExxonMobil had issued a subpoena to 350.org in December in an attempt to gain access to the organization's emails. 350.org promptly filed a motion to quash the subpoena and issued a statement asserting our First Amendment rights to speak out and advocate for the public interest. That motion is currently pending in the Southern District.

Wednesday's decision is a blow for Exxon, who had obviously hoped to fight the Attorneys General on their home turf in Texas rather than comply with the investigation. The announcement comes just days after the embarrassing revelation that while CEO of the company Rex Tillerson used a secret email alias "Wayne Tracker" to discuss climate change and other sensitive issues.

"The public deserves the truth about what Exxon Knew," Henn said. "The company is arguing we want to silence them, but it's just the opposite: We want them to speak clearly and honestly about their track record of climate denial so we can get to work solving the problem. Instead of continuing to follow the Big Tobacco playbook of deceit and deception, Exxon should come clean and own up to the damage it's caused."

350.org will keep up pressure on ExxonMobil to comply with the existing investigations, as well as advocate for more Attorneys General to launch their own inquiries into what Exxon knew.

"With Rex Tillerson now guiding our international climate policy as Secretary of State, this case is more important than ever," Henn continued. "If Tillerson used a secret email to discuss Exxon's climate coverup, that would turn out to be an absolute bombshell. We could be on the verge of seeing an acting Secretary of State getting pulled into a fraud investigation. And this isn't just any old fraud: Exxon's crimes are on a planetary scale."

By Pam Eaton

The Trump administration is desperate to give another gift to the fossil fuel industry—and using every trick in the book to do it.

Last week, the administration asked a court to stop a rule designed to ensure taxpayers get a fair return from oil, gas and coal sold from mines and wells on public lands by asking for a "stay." The "Valuation Rule" was designed to prevent coal companies from pocketing millions of dollars that rightly should go to the American taxpayers. The Wilderness Society had filed court papers to intervene in the court case to defend the rule when the administration asked the court to put the rule on hold.

The new court filing came on the heels of an earlier action last month to shortchange the public to benefit the fossil fuel industry. At the end of February, the Office of Natural Resource Revenue, the agency that is charged with making sure the public gets what it owed for oil, gas and coal on public lands, unilaterally and unlawfully told companies they didn't have to comply with the rule.

"This is an attack on one of our bedrock minerals and environmental laws, the Mineral Leasing Act, which requires the government to get fair market value when federal fossil fuels like coal are developed," said Nada Culver, senior counsel and director of The Wilderness Society's Bureau of Land Management Action Center. "In abandoning the rule, the Trump administration [was] trying to cloak itself in legal terms like 'stay,'—but the action is still not legal," Culver said.

Having given the fossil fuel companies a break from having to pay, the Trump administration intends to make it permanent by rescinding the rule altogether.

The Valuation Rule is also under attack in both the House and the Senate where bills have been introduced to strike down the rule using the Congressional Review Act. Only used once before this year due to its extreme nature, the Congressional Review Act circumvents normal federal procedures and empowers Congress to pursue its own agenda and undo commonsense agency rules.

The administration is using similar tactics to undo other important safeguards on our public lands. On March 15, the Trump administration asked another court to stop legal proceeding challenging the Hydraulic Fracking Rule so it can get started on rescinding that rule too.

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