Houston Chronicle:

A new study from the University of Texas at Austin blames hydraulic fracturing for causing some earthquakes in the Permian Basin of West Texas, dispelling the widely held view that oilfield wastewater disposals wells were solely responsible for the man-made tremors.

In a study released Tuesday afternoon, scientists with the TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program at UT Austin reported that some earthquakes in Reeves, Pecos and Culberson counties may have been caused by fracking, the process of pumping water, sand and chemicals at high pressures deep underground to crack shale rock and unlock and oil natural gas.

Previous studies had blamed the earthquakes in oil-producing regions on disposal wells, into which wastewater from drilling, hydraulic fracturing and production activities is injected.

“The research done through this new study in West Texas, using a statistical approach to associate (earthquakes) with oil and gas operations, suggests that some (earthquakes are) more likely related to hydraulic fracturing than saltwater disposal,” Alexandros Savvaidis, a research scientist and manager of the TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program, said in a statement.

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Above, Attorney Lindene Patton discusses increasing vulnerability of major carbon polluters to liability lawsuits.

“The improvements in attribution science,.. have now created a level of certainty that is important in a court of law.”

The Agenda:

By 2013, roughly a decade after Heede began his search, he had his answer: Just 90 companies had contributed nearly two-thirds of the world’s industrial emissions. He could even pinpoint the share of those emissions for which companies existing today are responsible.

In effect, Heede had established a pillar of a new field of research, now known as attribution science. But it wasn’t just an academic exercise: It’s a weapon that climate campaigners are starting to wield to put fossil fuel companies on the hook for billions of dollars in damages. It’s a kind of end run around a political system they see as forced into gridlock by fossil fuel industry influence.

Heede and his collaborators are part of a paradigm shift in how to assign blame for climate change. For decades, as signs have grown that the planet is warming, the public and defenders of industry have laid the blame on end users, the ordinary people who drove their cars too much or blasted air conditioning in their homes. Those add up. But attribution science has the effect of moving the blame back one step, away from consumers and onto the companies that extracted the oil, coal and gas that have powered our planet for decades.

If blame can be attributed to corporations or governments, they believe, it can have two powerful effects: create a strong incentive for those companies to once and for all move away from fossil fuels, and unleash — through lawsuits — financial resources that could be used to seed new technologies and better prepare communities for the calamities climate change is expected to bring.

Attribution science is now about to receive a very real test in the courts, as cities, states and ordinary citizens across the world are using it to try to send fossil fuel companies the bill for climate change damage.

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The accident is still ongoing.

Media takeaway is generally about the “Should they release the water with minor Tritium contamination” story.

Real story is the economics of continued need to isolate and process water that keeps the still hot fuel from melting.  This is a long term commitment – remains t be seen if existing corporations or institutions are up to the task of such a long haul.

Cleanup will take decades, if not centuries.


New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Home values could fall significantly.

Banks could stop lending to flood-prone communities.

Towns could lose the tax money they need to build sea walls and other protections.

These are a few of the warnings published on Thursday by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco regarding the financial risks of climate change. The collection of 18 papers by outside experts amounts to one of the most specific and dire accountings of the dangers posed to businesses and communities in the United States — a threat so significant that the nation’s central bank seems increasingly compelled to address it.

The Federal Reserve has been slow to talk about climate risks compared with central banks in other countries. That could be partly because the topic is more politically polarized in the United States than many other places, so talking about it exposes the Fed — which is meant to be politically independent — to accusations that it is straying into partisan territory. Already, the central bank is a frequent target of President Trump, who has criticized its interest-rate decisions for hindering economic growth.

Yet the Fed has recently started speaking up on global warming and the dangers it poses to the financial system.

In a letter to Senator Brian Schatz this year, Chair Jerome H. Powell wrote that the Fed takes “severe weather events” into account in its role as a financial supervisor. Meanwhile, the San Francisco branch of the Federal Reserve — responsible for banking oversight across a major swath of the American West — has been more blunt, writing this past March that volatility related to climate change has become “increasingly relevant” as a consideration for the central bank.

With Thursday’s actions, the San Francisco Fed has taken a further step. The research, conducted by 38 academics and practitioners from around the country and published with the knowledge of the Fed’s board of governors, presents in precise language a dire picture of the risks of a changing climate, and warns that local governments don’t have the means to deal with them.

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oilfireMarket Watch:

Axis Capital Holdings Ltd AXS, +0.35%  is the latest insurer to give up profit potential from coal and oil sands, a departure it says supports the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Axis said Wednesday it will not provide new insurance or facultative reinsurance for construction and infrastructure for new thermal coal plants or mines, nor for oil sands extraction and pipeline projects.

Specifically, Axis will not insure companies that generate 30% or more of their revenue from thermal coal mining or hold more than 20% of their reserves in oil sands. Renewals, however will be on a case-by-case basis.

“We believe insurers have an important role to play in mitigating climate risk and transitioning to a low-carbon economy,” said Axis President and CEO Albert Benchimol in a release. For oil sands production, oil is forced from sand at intense temperatures, using water and natural gas to separate out the extremely thick bitumen. Impure and too viscous to flow, it goes through an “upgrading” process before traveling via pipeline to an oil refinery.

“This policy is in line with our broader strategies such as reducing investments in lines that do not align with our long-term approach; investing in growth areas, such as renewable energy insurance, where we are a top five global player; and growing our corporate citizenship program, a core focus of which is creating a positive environmental impact,” Benchimol said.

The Unfriend Coal campaign said in a report last year that global losses tied to coal hit $337 billion in 2017, including insured losses of $144 billion.

Teen Vogue:

You don’t hear climate activists talk much about the insurance industry.

To be fair, it’s not the sexiest dimension of an already-grim subject — far less compelling, on its face, than polar bears floating adrift on ice floes or people being driven from their homes by flooding.

But as I learned over the past few months, changing how the insurance industry operates could be critical to addressing the climate crisis.

It all started back in May, when I attended the Risk Management Society 2019 national conference in Boston. As a senior in the risk management and insurance program at the University of North Texas, I was there, along with hundreds of other students from universities all across the country, to do three things: shake hands, make connections, and learn as much as possible about the insurance industry. One night I was making my rounds at a social event when I met a group of people from the Insure Our Future campaign who weren’t there to find new opportunities. They were there to get information and send a message.

“When are US insurance companies going to get serious about climate change and stop supporting coal and other fossil fuels?”

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Sacramento Bee:

Jennifer Burt knows she lives in a fire-prone community. That’s why she’s done everything she can to fire-proof her home in Meadow Vista, in the bushy, densely wooded Placer County foothills, even installing a sprinkler system on the roof.

Yet a few weeks ago, her insurance carrier — Lloyd’s of London, known for insuring high-risk properties — told her it was declining to renew her homeowners’ policy. Lloyd’s also dropped coverage on two rental properties Burt owns in Graeagle, a heavily forested community northwest of Truckee.

Burt was already paying a lot for insurance — $6,300 a year for the three homes — and now fears that her premiums could double or triple as she shops for replacement coverage. Rising premiums are also hurting her livelihood as a real estate agent: Burt lost a sale in Colfax recently because the buyers couldn’t find insurance for less than $6,900, and their lender backed out of the deal.

Two consecutive disastrous wildfire seasons have created a budding insurance crisis for thousands of Californians who live in and around fire-prone areas. Stung by $24 billion in losses, insurers are imposing rate hikes or dumping customers altogether, leaving homeowners to seek replacement policies that can be two or three times as expensive.

“It’s really sticker shock for people to see their homeowners’ (premium) go from $1,200 to $3,600,” said Richard Harris of Harris Insurance Services, an independent agency in Grass Valley. “They can’t afford these increases, and they leave crying. We can’t help them. You can only have so many people leaving your office crying.”

State officials know they have a problem on their hands, though lax insurance industry reporting requirements make it difficult to determine just how widespread it is. A task force advising Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature reported in June that homeowners’ insurance costs at least 50 percent more in wildfire zones than elsewhere.

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