House Science Democrats
Policy   Policy

McCabe touts ozone standard at hearing as GOP skips

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency's air pollution office on Wednesday defended the administration's new proposal to tighten limits on smog-forming ozone, at a post-adjournment Senate hearing boycotted by Republicans.

Janet McCabe, the EPA's acting assistant administrator for air and radiation, fielded friendly questions from the two lone Democrats to attend the hearing held by an Environment and Public Works Committee air and nuclear power panel.

AP Interview: McConnell wants to stop coal rules

WASHINGTON (AP) — Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pledged on Wednesday to do all he can to stop President Barack Obama's coal plant regulations, saying a White House "crusade" has devastated his state's economy.

The Environmental Protection Agency "has created a depression in my state and it's done a lot of damage to the country all across the country with these efforts to essentially eliminate coal fired generation," he said in an Associated Press interview.

New York move to ban fracking heartens critics

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York plans to prohibit hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, citing unresolved health issues and dubious economic benefits of the widely used gas-drilling technique and delighting opponents who previously managed to win only local bans.

New York, which overlies part of the gas-rich rock formation that has also led to a drilling boom in nearby states, has banned shale gas development since the state began its environmental review in 2008. Wednesday's announcement, though not final, means a ban is all but etched in stone.

Washington governor proposes cap on carbon pollution

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday proposed an ambitious cap-and-trade program to require the state's largest industrial polluters to pay for every ton of carbon they release.

The proposal was part of a broader package that the Democrat said would help the state meet a 2008 mandate to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. It sets an overall limit on heat-trapping gases similar to a program that California launched nearly three years ago.

US-Cuba thaw could benefit farmers, energy and travel firms

WASHINGTON (AP) — Freighters once carried Cuban nickel and limestone to the port of New Orleans and North Dakota beans to Havana. Cuban families ate bowls of American rice, while U.S. tourists flocked to casinos and nightclubs in Havana.

The United States' commercial ties with Cuba were broken 54 years ago after Fidel Castro took power on the Caribbean island. Now U.S.-Cuba trade is poised to resume at last: President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced plans to re-establish diplomat relations with Havana, and economic ties are expected to follow.

Among those eager for access to a Cuban market cut off by an economic embargo are U.S. farmers, travel companies, energy producers and importers of rum and cigars.

Oil

Stocks gain most in more than a year on Fed, oil

NEW YORK (AP) — A pledge from the Federal Reserve to remain "patient" when deciding when to lift interest rates gave the stock market its biggest gain in more than a year.

Stocks rose from the open on Wednesday, led by gains for the energy sector, as oil prices showed signs of stabilizing after their big slump in recent months. The market's gains were extended after Fed policymakers released a statement following the end of its most recent policy meeting.

Secretive groups ran $25M in ads for state races

WASHINGTON (AP) — Shadowy outside groups broadcast an estimated $25 million worth of political ads on local TV stations with a goal of shaping state-level elections this year, and their full roster of donors is unlikely to ever be known, according to an analysis released Wednesday.

While the $25 million is a small slice of the $850 million spent on ads in statewide races, the amount is still almost twice what outside groups shelled out during the last midterm elections in 2010. The Center for Public Integrity analysis also showed that the secretive outside groups were quite successful, exceeding the victory rates of groups that disclose their donors.

Protections blocked, but sage grouse work goes on

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. wildlife officials will decide next year whether a wide-ranging Western bird species needs protections even though Congress has blocked such protections from taking effect, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Wednesday.

They could determine the greater sage grouse is heading toward possible extinction, but they would be unable to intervene under the Endangered Species Act. The bird's fate instead remains largely in the hands of the 11 individual states where they are found.

4 indicted in West Virginia chemical spill case

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Four former chemical company executives have been indicted on federal pollution charges over a January spill that triggered a ban on drinking water for days for 300,000 West Virginia residents.

The indictment unsealed Wednesday charged ex-Freedom Industries presidents Gary Southern and Dennis P. Farrell and two others with failing to ensure that the company operated the steel storage tank that leaked the coal-cleaning chemical in a reasonable and environmentally sound manner.

Ex-coal CEO seeks W.Va. mine blast trial delay

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) — The former head of a coal company that ran the West Virginia mine where 29 men were killed in a 2010 explosion told a judge Wednesday that he wants his federal criminal case moved and his trial delayed for a year.

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is charged with conspiring to violate safety and health standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine. Blankenship's attorney said at a hearing that his client couldn't get a fair trial in southern West Virginia because of bad publicity.

Report: Arctic loses snow, ice; absorbs more heat

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Arctic and its future are looking dimmer every year, a new federal report says.

In the spring and summer of 2014, Earth's icy northern region lost more of its signature whiteness that reflects the sun's heat. It was replaced temporarily with dark land and water that absorbs more energy, keeping yet more heat on already warming planet, according to the Arctic report card issued Thursday

Oil

Nigerian budget slashed by slumping oil prices

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's finance minister presented a 2015 budget of $23 billion to parliament on Wednesday, slashed by nearly $3 billion to accommodate slumping oil prices.

Minister Ngozi Ikonjo-Iweala said she expects government revenue of $19.7 billion off growth of 5.5 percent next year, down from an earlier projection of 6.35 percent.

Romania PM: Russia poses energy threat to region

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania's prime minister is calling Russia the biggest threat to stability in the region and says its energy threats are more worrisome than its military ones.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta told journalists that a planned European Energy Union was "the only solution good for all of us" and called offshore exploration in the Black Sea "an absolute priority."

Albanian deputy minister fired over power bills

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania's deputy environment minister has been fired for allegedly not paying her electricity bills — just as the government is striving to persuade Albanians to settle old power debts.

In a statement on his Twitter social network account Wednesday, Prime Minister Edi Rama said there can be no justification for non-payment, a major headache for the country's dysfunctional state-run power sector.

New York will move to prohibit fracking

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration will move to prohibit fracking in the state, citing unresolved health issues and dubious economic benefits of the widely used gas-drilling technique.

Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens said Wednesday that he is recommending a ban. Cuomo says he is deferring to Martens and Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker in making the decision.

Zucker and Martens on Wednesday summarized the findings of their environmental and health reviews. They concluded that shale gas development using high-volume hydraulic fracturing carried unacceptable risks that haven't been sufficiently studied.

Martens says the Department of Environmental Conservation will put out a final environmental impact statement early next year, and after that he'll issue an order prohibiting fracking.

New York has had a ban on shale gas development since the environmental review began in 2008.

Vestas

Senate grudgingly sends one-year tax extenders bill to Obama

In one of the final acts under the Democratic majority, senators late Tuesday cleared for President Barack Obama's signature a one-year, $41.6 billion bill to extend expired tax breaks only through 2014.

The outcome left the wind energy industry short of its goal for a longer renewal, and senators from both parties pointing fingers at each other and the White House for the failure to enact a bill that would have extended some 55 provisions at least through next year.

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