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California Senate passes bill requiring CalPERS, CalSTRS to divest from coal

The California Senate voted 22-14 in favor of legislation calling on both CalPERS and CalSTRS to divest from investments in coal companies.

The bill, introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, requires the $304.1 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, Sacramento, and $193.1 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System, West Sacramento, to liquidate holdings in thermal coal companies by July 1, 2017, if officials cannot conclude the companies are transitioning their business to cleaner energy generation.

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Exhausting Legal Options, Residents of Texas Town Take Direct Action to Enforce Fracking Ban

For years, environmental philosophy professor Adam Briggle has opened his ethics classes at the University of North Texas in Denton with writings on nonviolent civil disobedience, usually Henry David Thoreau's classic essay "Resistance to Civil Government." But Briggle has never before engaged in such an action himself - until now.

On June 1, Briggle, who is president of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group (DAG), one of the driving forces behind a citizen-led initiative that banned hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Denton city limits in 2014, delayed scheduled fracking operations at a Vantage Energy gas well site on the edge of the city's west side by blocking the entrance to the site Monday morning for about an hour.

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''Imminent'' Collapse of the Antarctic Ice Shelf and a ''New Era'' in the Arctic

Changes in the Arctic Ocean have now become so profound that the region is entering what Norwegian scientists are calling "a new era." They warn of "far-reaching implications" due to the switch from a permanent cover of thick ice to a new state in which thinner ice vanishes in the summer.

Meanwhile, sea level rise is now happening much faster than anyone had expected, according to a recently published study from climate scientists in Australia. The study showed that sea level rise has been accelerating over the last two decades.

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The American coal industry is collapsing

Just five years ago, the American coal industry was looking strong. Business was good. Opponents of climate change regulation had kept a Democratic-controlled legislature from enacting meaningful carbon-reduction legislation. With renewable energy in its infancy, nuclear power plant construction stalled, and due to the higher cost of natural gas, there was no immediate alternative on the horizon to replace the dirtiest fossil fuel.

But times have changed, and the market value of coal companies has collapsed. The four largest coal companies were worth a combined $21.7 billion dollars in June 2010. Now they’re worth $1.2 billion. Two other large coal concerns, Patriot and James River, have both filed for bankruptcy in recent years. And one market analyst told the Financial Times in February to expect “multiple bankruptcies in US coal over the next 12-18 months.”

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California’s Largest Lake Is Drying Up Amid Epic Drought

The Salton Sea, a huge, shallow manmade lake located in the Sonoran Desert in California’s Imperial and Coachella valleys, has had problems for years. Its increasing saltiness has killed off most of its once-abundant fish species. Its shrinking water level has caused a reduction in water available for agricultural use, along with many dramatic photos of exposed lakebed and abandoned towns that were once seaside resorts. While the sea is no longer a resort destination for Hollywood celebrities as it was in the ’50s and ’60s, it’s still a playground for birds, with more than 400 species living along its shores or migrating through the area. But those populations could also be in jeopardy if its waters continue to recede.

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California’s Snowpack Is Now Zero Percent of Normal

California’s current megadrought hit a shocking new low this week: On Thursday, the state’s snowpack officially ran out.

At least some measurable snowpack in the Sierra mountains usually lasts all summer. But this year, its early demise means that runoff from the mountains—which usually makes up the bulk of surface water for farms and cities during the long summer dry season—will be essentially non-existent. To be clear: there’s still a bit of snow left, and some water will be released from reservoirs (which are themselves dangerously low), but this is essentially a worst-case scenario when it comes to California’s fragile water supply.

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Map (and Video!) of the Week: Pipeline Incidents Since 1986

This week’s Map of the Week can be a tool to teach your children primary colors, United States geography and corporate criminal negligence.

“This is not a spill. A spill is something that happens by accident. You knock over one of these cups on the table, that’s a spill, this is a permanent state of criminal negligence.”

 Josh Fox said that back in January of 2014 when he was on MSNBC to talk about 300,000 West Virginians who no longer had access to safe drinking water because thousands of gallons of MCMH, a chemical used to clean coal, had leaked into the Elk River.

What Josh emphasized on the show was that this wasn’t an anomaly. This wasn’t an accident. This is how coal, oil and gas companies do business.

In 2012 alone there were 6,000 oil, fracking fluid and contaminated wastewater spills in the United States. That’s 16 spills a day.

People pay attention when 300,000 people don’t have water to drink or Southern California Beaches are covered in oil, but as you can see in our Map of the Week the fossil fuel industry, from extraction to delivery,  operates under a permanent state of criminal negligence.

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Fossil Fuels Subsidies Cost World $5.3 Trillion A Year – $10 Million A Minute

How large are global energy subsidies? The answer: quite a lot larger than we thought, according to new estimates from the International Monetary Fund, which puts the cost of subsidising fossil fuels at an enormous $5.3 trillion a year, or around $10 million a minute every day.

The eye-watering figure, based on calculations the IMF describes as “extremely robust,” is more than double the projected 2014 estimate the IMF released around this time last year, and amounts to more than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.

It is somewhat of an irony, then, that the IMF’s new figure of $5.3 trillion is largely attributed to polluters not paying the costs – social welfare, health, environmental and broader economic – imposed on governments for the burning of coal, oil and gas.

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Huge Insurance Company Cites Climate Change As Reason For Divesting From Coal

Citing climate change as a major threat, one of the world’s largest insurance companies has pledged to drop its remaining investment in coal assets while tripling its investment in green technologies.

At a business and climate change conference held this week in Paris, AXA — France’s largest insurer — announced that it would sell €500 million ($559 million) in coal assets by the end of 2015, while increasing its “green investments” in things like renewable energy, green infrastructure, and green bonds to €3 billion ($3.3 billion) by 2020.

During the announcement on Friday, AXA’s chief executive Henri de Castries spoke about the threat that climate change poses to the environment, and the responsibility of insurance companies to deal with those threats. Last year, AXA paid over €1 billion ($1.1 billion) globally in weather-related insurance claims, citing climate change as a “core business issue” already driving an increase in weather-related risks.

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The California Oil Spill Is Even Worse Than We Thought

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in California on Wednesday, after oil spill estimates soared from 21,000 gallons to more than 105,000 gallons.

The crude oil spill, from a pipeline along the coast just north of Santa Barbara, has resulted in the closure of two beaches and local fisheries, and damaged the sensitive habitat of endangered birds, the governor’s office said. The spill has also drawn attention to the safety record of company that operates the pipeline, Plains All American Pipeline.

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