* J. Davitt McAteer, a Clinton-era mine safety official, will probe the West Virginia mine explosion.
West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) announced Tuesday that McAteer will lead an independent inquiry into the blast last week that killed 29 workers, the worst U.S. mining disaster in four decades.
He served as assistant secretary for mine safety and health under former President Bill Clinton.
“He led a 2006 committee that investigated the Sago and Aracoma mine accidents in West Virginia, which killed a combined 14 miners. McAteer will begin assembling a team this week,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
The lefty Mother Jones says McAteer “spent 40 years fighting for safety reforms in the coal mining industry,” and that his inquiry “an be counted on to pull no punches.”
“Whether his findings are acted upon and enforced, however, is another question,” their piece notes.
* The European Union can meet its climate change goals while cutting its energy bill, a new report finds.
Europe can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent and reduce its energy bill by 350 billion euros ($476 billion) a year by 2050 if it acts within five years, according to the European Climate Foundation.
The 27-nation European Union is poised to lower carbon- dioxide discharges by 20 percent in this decade from 1990 levels and aims to reduce pollution by 80 percent to 95 percent in the next four decades. The goal is reachable, and zero-carbon electricity can be provided as reliably and economically as now, the group said in a report published in Brussels today.
“The report reveals many myths untrue and shows how achievable the renewable energy pathways are,” said Tom Brookes, head of the Energy Strategy Center at the foundation. “Existing nuclear capacity and fossil fuels will be almost off by 2050. We will have to build new capacity, and at the end of the day it’s a political decision where you direct funding.”
* The Interior Department is preparing research to guide oil-and-gas leasing off Alaska’s northern coast.
Interior on Tuesday rolled out its strategy gathering the environmental and technical information to inform decisions about future oil-and-gas leasing in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
Interior plans to allow expanded exploration in the area under the 2012-2017 leasing plan it’s crafting, but cancelled upcoming lease sales there, citing the need for more study.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Tuesday that his department will spend the next several months determining what it needs to know to make good decisions about future oil and gas leasing in the offshore Arctic.
Between now and Oct. 1, federal scientists will be reviewing what they already know about the Beaufort and Chukchi seas -- as well as looking for what gaps remain in scientific knowledge of the region, and what it will take to close them.
The U.S. Geological Survey and the Minerals Management Service will take the lead in determining what research is needed to develop effective oil-spill response in icy regions as well as what's known about the effects of exploration and development on marine mammals.
They'll also evaluate what scientists know about the cumulative effects of energy extraction in the Arctic ecosystem and what study is needed to learn more.
* The Commodity Futures Trading Commission plan to limit energy market speculation is under fire from a key trading exchange.
A plan by the top U.S. futures regulator to curb speculation in energy markets could hurt new or smaller exchanges trying to compete with larger players, the IntercontinentalExchange (ICE.N) said in a letter released on Tuesday.
ICE, which offers energy contracts that would be affected by the proposal told the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission -- which is accepting comments on the idea until April 26 -- that it should hold off on moving forward.
The proposal risks being "anti-competitive" because it would limit positions not only across all exchanges, but also at individual exchanges, based on open interest seen in the previous year.