Tim McDonnell

Tim McDonnell

Climate Desk Associate Producer

Tim McDonnell joined Climate Desk after stints at Mother Jones and Sierra magazine. He remains a cheerful guy despite covering climate change all the time. Originally from Tucson, Tim loves tortillas and epic walks.

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This Koala Is So Cute You'll Want It To Get Away With Stealing This Kid's Car

| Wed Feb. 25, 2015 4:52 PM EST

Never leave your Land Rover unattended in the Outback. This "cheeky" koala tried to drive off before the car's owner, a teen about to return home from school, foiled its getaway.

Happy Wednesday.

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The Senate Just Failed to Override Obama's Keystone XL Veto

| Tue Feb. 24, 2015 3:19 PM EST

Update—Weds, March 4, 2:50pm ET: The Senate vote to override President Obama's veto has failed, falling four votes shy.

We knew this was coming: About a month after the Senate narrowly passed a bill to force President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, the president vetoed the bill Tuesday afternoon, hours after the White House said he would do so "without drama or fanfare or delay."

From the AP:

The contentious legislation arrived at the White House on Tuesday morning from Capitol Hill, where Republicans pushed the bill quickly through both chambers in their first burst of activity since taking full control of Congress....

The move sends the politically charged issue back to Congress, where Republicans have yet to show they can muster the two-thirds majority in both chambers needed to override Obama's veto. Sen. John Hoeven, the bill's chief GOP sponsor, said Republicans are about four votes short in the Senate and need about 11 more in the House.

The veto, which the White House has long promised on this or any other Keystone-approval bill, is the first one in the last five years. It essentially blocks what Republican leaders like Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) have called a top priority of this congressional session.

Obama's beef with the bill isn't necessarily with the pipeline itself. Instead, the president wants the approval process to go through the State Department, which normally has jurisdiction over international infrastructure projects.

In his memo to the Senate, the president said: "Because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest—including our security, safety, and environment—it has earned my veto."

The administration still hasn't indicated whether it will approve the pipeline, even though there aren't any more bureaucratic hurdles to clear. Early this month, the window for government agencies to weigh in closed. The most significant comment came from the Environmental Protection Agency, which said that if oil prices go much lower than they are, moving oil from Canada by truck or train could become too expensive. So a green-light for the pipeline would lead to greater greenhouse gas emissions than if it were not approved.

The final question now is whether the president agrees.

This post has been updated.

Exploding Oil Trains Could Become a Horrifying New Normal

| Mon Feb. 23, 2015 12:11 PM EST
An oil train smolders after it derailed and exploded in West Virginia last week.

Last week, a train carrying oil from North Dakota derailed in West Virginia, spilled oil into a river, and sent a horrifying fireball shooting into the sky. The incident came only a few days after another oil train spill in Ontario. In fact, in the last few years the number of oil train accidents has skyrocketed, thanks to booming production in the northern US and Canada that has overwhelmed the existing pipeline network.

Oil train accidents like those could become a regular fixture in headlines across the US, according to a Department of Transportation analysis uncovered by the Associated Press over the weekend:

The federal government predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times a year over the next two decades, causing more than $4 billion in damage and possibly killing hundreds of people if an accident happens in a densely populated part of the U.S.…

If just one of those more severe accidents occurred in a high-population area, it could kill more than 200 people and cause roughly $6 billion in damage.

The report blamed the projections on the drastic uptick in oil-by-rail traffic, as well as on severely lagging safety standards for rail cars (check out our in-depth multimedia story on the latter here).

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