June 18, 2018
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EPA sets limits on fracking pollution, but gives grace period

From wire reports

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency issued its first-ever regulations to curtail air pollution from natural gas wells that use a controversial production technique known as hydraulic fracturing, but gave the industry a three-year transition period to install technology to capture some of the worst pollutants.

The new regulations would limit emissions of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which react with sunlight to create smog. They would also limit emissions of carcinogens and methane, the main component to natural gas and a potent contributor to climate change.

The rules are expected to affect the approximately 11,000 new wells annually that undergo hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and another 1,200 or so that are re-fracked to boost production.

Much of the air pollution at gas sites escapes during the well-completion phase, after the well is drilled but before it is linked to pipelines to take it to processing plants and closer to market, said Robin Cooley, a lawyer for Earthjustice, which filed suit to get the new pollution standards.

Methane is exponentially more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas if it is simply vented into the air. Right now, companies let the methane escape, burn it, or capture and sell it as natural gas, a process referred to as “green completion.” Nearly half of all companies that now frack use green-completion technologies.

The oil industry complained that if a national standard went into effect this year, there would not be enough companies providing the green completion technology to meet the increased demand, making the rule more expensive to comply with. As a result, the new rules allow companies to burn, or flare, their methane or to use green-completion completion technology until January 2015. Then, all fracking sites will have to capture their methane.

Mo. event aims at breaking costumed dog record

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City promoter hopes to break a world record by parading at least 700 costumed dogs, mostly Chihuahuas, down a city street on Cinco de Mayo.

Promoter Mark Valentine says the parade will introduce Chihuahuas to their cultural heritage while helping a no-kill shelter. Parade participants will pay a $5 entry fee to benefit the shelter, called The Pet Connection.

Valentine says the Guinness world record for most costumed dogs doesn’t specify a breed. He expects there will be more than enough entries to break it.

The parade starts at 11 a.m. May 5. All canine entrants must be leashed and in costume. Registrations will be accepted onsite.

Retired Ill. couple claims share of $656M jackpot

RED BUD, Ill. — Merle Butler routinely laughed off what became the well-worn exchange among locals in Red Bud the instant word swept through the tiny southern Illinois village that a Mega Millions lottery ticket bought there scored a share of a record $656 million jackpot.

“Are you the winner?” someone would ask.

“Yeah, sure, I won it,” the retired Butler played along each time.

Little did anyone in the 3,700-resident town know Butler wasn’t kidding.

On Wednesday, 19 days since that drawing, Butler and his wife, Patricia, finally stepped in front of news cameras and reporters to publicly claiming their $218.6 million stake of the jackpot — the secret the famously private retirees and grandparents had no trouble keeping for so long.

Until going public to get the lump-sum windfall of $111 million after taxes, the Butlers had told fewer than five people — the closest of family and friends — of their newfound wealth. They also consulted an attorney and a cadre of financial advisers to sort out how to invest it.

“I answered most of the time truthfully and said, ‘Yes, I did (win).’ Most of the time, people didn’t catch it,” Merle Butler, 65, chuckled during the Illinois Lottery news conference in his hometown’s village hall.

“I figured the quieter I keep it, the better we are.”

The couple, who have grandchildren, have no immediate plans other than to craft an investment strategy. Perhaps months down the road, “there could possibly be a vacation in there,” quipped Butler, a former computer systems analyst and Vietnam veteran.

Of the three jackpot-winning ticket holders from the March 30 drawing, only the Butlers came forward publicly. The Illinois Lottery requires, with rare exceptions, that winning ticket holders appear for a news conference and related promotions, partly to show that it pays out prizes. The winning ticketholders in Kansas and Maryland were able to remain anonymous.

Syrian rebels, army trade blows at Qusayr in cease-fire breach

QUSAYR, Syria — Rebels here fought the Syrian military Wednesday in a breach of a U.N.-sponsored cease-fire that was rare primarily because it was witnessed by an independent journalist who’d entered the country surreptitiously earlier this week.

The fighting began in this city near the Lebanese border in the early afternoon after a group from the Free Syrian Army, the name claimed by most of the rebels who’ve taken up arms against the government of President Bashar Assad, attacked a military convoy near the city.

Fighters here had said earlier this week that they were respecting the cease-fire brokered by U.N. Syria envoy Kofi Annan at the behest of Riad al-Assad, a Syrian army colonel who defected and is now the nominal leader of the rebels in Turkey.

The fighting in Qusayr took place as a U.N. monitoring team visited Douma, a site of frequent clashes between the rebels and the military on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria’s capital.

In Hama, another site of frequent violence north of Homs, anti-government activists reported two deaths Wednesday and a number of demonstrations against the government. They also reported that the military was increasing the number of checkpoints between Hama and Idlib, a city in the country’s north that rebels had held until March and that’s part of the rebel supply line from Syria’s border with Turkey.

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