Pam Radtke Russell

In New Orleans, Waiting Out an Unfortunate Anniversary

NEW ORLEANS — It’s an incredibly rare 73-degree August morning here. The stately live oaks stand out against a perfectly clear blue sky. The smell of fried seafood greets me as I pass the neighborhood lunch spot, and I hear a trumpeter in the distance practicing scales.  

I am blessed to live here.  

In New Orleans, Waiting Out an Unfortunate Anniversary

NEW ORLEANS — It’s an incredibly rare 73-degree August morning here. The stately live oaks stand out against a perfectly clear blue sky. The smell of fried seafood greets me as I pass the neighborhood lunch spot, and I hear a trumpeter in the distance practicing scales.

I am blessed to live here.

Federal Agencies Tackle Climate Change

As Congress remains unwilling and unable to deal with climate change, federal government agencies — even without the blessing of lawmakers — have been thinking about, and quietly acting on, climate change for years.

The Army Corps of Engineers, for instance, is building new levees, dams, buildings and other infrastructure to withstand higher sea-level rise and more extreme weather events. The Defense Department is making decisions about its current and future installations based on the expectation that sea levels will rise. And NASA has assessed its sites and is considering how to manage higher water at places such as Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Defense Department Fights Climate Change on Two Fronts

Perhaps no agency has embraced climate change adaptation with as much enthusiasm as the Defense Department. Changing weather patterns, rising sea levels and a melting Arctic will affect every aspect of the military’s mission, from base construction to troop deployment, the department says.

As part of its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Defense Department recognized that climate change will affect the military in two broad ways: Infrastructure, including bases, may no longer be viable because of climate threats such as a rising sea level and melting permafrost; and climate change events, such as floods and droughts, could accelerate conflicts and instability in the world.

Key Senate Panel Leaders Withhold Judgment on Moniz

Capitol Hill reaction to the nomination of MIT physicist Ernest Moniz as the next Energy secretary was muted Monday, with the chairman of the Senate panel that will consider the scientist’s confirmation taking a wait-and-see approach.

“I look forward to discussing with Ernest Moniz the many issues before the Energy Department that are so vital to the nation’s energy security,” said Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore. “That includes: re-engaging Dr. Moniz over the problems with cleaning up nuclear waste at the Hanford Site, finding creative ways to promote new technologies and harness the ingenuity of America’s energy innovators, and examining the diverse opportunities to attack climate change and transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Keystone Would Have No 'Substantial' Impact on Emissions, State Department Says

A long-awaited State Department environmental assessment found that the Keystone XL pipeline is unlikely to have a “substantial impact” on developing the western Canada tar sands, a conclusion that rejects opponents’ claims that the project would dramatically increase greenhouse gas emissions.

The department released the supplemental draft environmental statement evaluating a new route for the pipeline that would skirt an ecologically sensitive region of Nebraska. While the project made no recommendation on how to proceed, it did not signal any significant environmental obstacles to the project, which is designed to transport crude oil from western Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.

Budget Cutters Eye Nuclear Reprocessing Plant

Given the threat of sequester, supporters of a $4.8 billion mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility worry that the Obama administration may be targeting the troubled nuclear reprocessing project in South Carolina for budget cuts.

The MOX project — created to fulfill an arms reduction agreement with Russia by turning 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for commercial reactors — is in its sixth year of construction and over budget by as much as $2 billion.

Cost Overruns Plague Energy Department Projects

The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, known as MOX, isn’t the only high-profile project by the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration that is behind schedule and over budget. Of the 51 projects listed on the department’s monthly project dashboard, 10 are expected to breach their cost, schedule or scope.

“Unfortunately, MOX has become par for the NNSA course,” said Laura Peterson of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Coal Exports Divide Northwest Lawmakers, Industry

Lost amid campaign rhetoric about a “war on coal” and a shift by utilities to natural gas has been a surge in coal exports — to levels that will break all records this year.

Coal exports are projected to triple to about 125 million tons this year from just fewer than 40 million tons in 2002. That tops the previous high of 113 million tons in 1981. The trend — and an industry push for a further big expansion of export capacity — has intensified debate about shipping America’s most plentiful fossil fuel abroad.