Climate change was at the center of legislative debate this year. From fracking to Keystone Pipline, here are 10 ways politics affected climate change this year.
The Keystone XL pipeline dilemma
The Senate’s narrow rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline in November followed years of debate over the merits and follies of the well-publicized TransCanada project. Its journey through the U.S. legal system has been just as circuitous as the proposed 1,200-mile map of pipes and junctures that was, at one time, due to cross watersheds, wheat fields and some of the country’s most environmentally sensitive areas.
Although the House bill to approve the Keystone Pipeline was defeated, Republicans supporting the project have vowed to unearth the issue next year when the party gains control of the Senate.
Minnesota heads back to the books
Few legal rulings would better sum up the bizarre quandaries we seem to face these days when it comes to climate change than the U.S. district court’s say on Minnesota’s New Generation Energy Act. The act, which has been in force since 2007, prohibited power companies from purchasing energy from coal-fired plants unless the carbon emissions were offset.
After North Dakota and several power companies sued the state, the district court ruled that the state’s requirement was a “classic example of extraterritorial regulation” that effectively conflicted with the U.S. Constitution because it impeded the federal regulation of commerce.
It was Michael Noble, executive director of the Minnesota nonprofit Fresh Energy, however, who put the outcome into current perspective.
“They won their litigation, but the world is moving on from coal.”
Goodbye coal, hello biomass
In the Canadian province of Ontario, a decade-long plan to rid the province of coal power is coming to a close. In April, it announced that its Thunder Bay plant, which is being transitioned to a biomass-fueled facility, had burned the last of its coal resources. So far, Ontario is the first province or state to phase out coal-burning plants.
In other parts of Canada, however, environmental accomplishments weren’t nearly as notable. The federal Office of the Auditor General published a report this fall politely lambasting the government for its lack of progress on either finalizing or publishing updated regulations that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.