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Category Archives: Energy

Cyberattacks Put Russian Fingers on the Switch at Power Plant

“New computer screenshots released by the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday made clear that Russian state hackers had the foothold they would have needed to manipulate or shut down power plants.” Nicole Perlroth and David Sanger in the NYT: Cyberattacks Put Russian Fingers on the Switch at Power Plants. “The Trump administration accused Russia on Thursday of engineering a series of cyberattacks that targeted American and European nuclear power plants and water and electric systems, and could have sabotaged or shut power plants off at will. United States officials and private security firms saw the attacks as a signal by Moscow that it could disrupt the West’s critical facilities in the event of a conflict. They said the strikes accelerated in late 2015, at the same time the Russian interference in the American election was underway. The attackers had compromised some operators in North America and Europe by spring 2017, after President Trump was inaugurated. In the following months, according to a Department of Homeland Security report issued on Thursday, Russian hackers made their way to machines with access to critical control systems at power plants that were not identified. The hackers never went so far as to sabotage or shut down the computer systems that guide the operations of the plants. Still, new computer screenshots released by the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday made clear that Russian state hackers had the foothold they would have needed to manipulate or shut down power plants. “We now have evidence they’re sitting on the machines, connected to industrial control infrastructure, that allow them to effectively turn the power off or effect sabotage,” said Eric Chien, a security technology director at Symantec, a digital security firm. “From what we can see, they were there. They have the ability to shut the power off. All that’s missing is some political motivation,” Mr. Chien said. American intelligence agencies were aware of the attacks for the past year and a half, and the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. first issued urgent warnings to utility companies in June. On Thursday, both agencies offered new details as the Trump administration imposed sanctions against Russian individuals and organizations it accused of election meddling and “malicious cyberattacks.”

  • See also CERT Alert (TA18-074A) – Russian Government Cyber Activity Targeting Energy and Other Critical Infrastructure Sectors. Original release date: March 15, 2018 | Last revised: March 16, 2018. “This joint Technical Alert (TA) is the result of analytic efforts between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This alert provides information on Russian government actions targeting U.S. Government entities as well as organizations in the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors. It also contains indicators of compromise (IOCs) and technical details on the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by Russian government cyber actors on compromised victim networks. DHS and FBI produced this alert to educate network defenders to enhance their ability to identify and reduce exposure to malicious activity DHS and FBI characterize this activity as a multi-stage intrusion campaign by Russian government cyber actors who targeted small commercial facilities’ networks where they staged malware, conducted spear phishing, and gained remote access into energy sector networks. After obtaining access, the Russian government cyber actors conducted network reconnaissance, moved laterally, and collected information pertaining to Industrial Control Systems (ICS)…”

Urban Heat: Can White Roofs Help Cool World’s Warming Cities?

Yale Environment 360: “Summers in the city can be extremely hot — several degrees hotter than in the surrounding countryside. But recent research indicates that it may not have to be that way. The systematic replacement of dark surfaces with white could lower heat wave maximum temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius or more. And with… Continue Reading

Manhattan Tree Map: A Data Through Design exhibit

Data Driven Journalism: “On January 9th of 2017, the official Twitter account of MillionTreesNYC (@MillionTreesNYC) announced that they had reached the initiative’s ambitious goal to plant and care for one million new trees across the City’s five boroughs. Starting in April of 2007 as a joint venture between the city’s Parks Department, private organizations, residents,… Continue Reading

Emails – Oil Was Central in Decision to Shrink Bears Ears Monument

The New York Times: “Even before President Trump officially opened his high-profile review last spring of federal lands protected as national monuments, the Department of Interior was focused on the potential for oil and gas exploration at a protected Utah site, internal agency documents show. The debate started as early as March 2017, when an… Continue Reading

Economist – The known unknowns of plastic pollution

The Economist “…of the 6.3bn tonnes of plastic waste produced since the 1950s only 9% has been recycled and another 12% incinerated. The rest has been dumped in landfills or the natural environment. Often, as with disposable coffee cups, drinks bottles, sweet wrappers and other packets that account for much of the plastic produced in… Continue Reading

America’s Most Toxic Town Is Not Where You Think

A small city in remote Alaska is working to reduce contamination from the nearby Red Dog Mine: “…The village has long had issues with the mine. Ore from Red Dog is transported by eighty-ton haul trucks along a 50-mile road that links the mine to a port on the Chukchi Sea south of Kivalina. There… Continue Reading

The World’s Renewable Energy Cities

“Of the 570 plus global cities reporting to CDP, over 100 now get at least 70% of their electricity from renewable sources such as hydro, geothermal, solar and wind. We expect to see even more cities targeting a clean energy future. Cities not only want to transition to renewable energy but, most importantly – as… Continue Reading

U.S. Taxpayers May Foot the Bill for Billions in Oil and Gas Well Clean-up Costs

Center for Western Priorities: “U.S. taxpayers could be on the hook for billions of dollars in oil and gas well cleanup costs Federal oil and gas bonding levels have not changed since the 1950s and 60s, despite deeper wells and rising reclamation costs. A new report from the Center for Western Priorities estimates the costs… Continue Reading

Hundreds of U.S. Mayors Collectively Oppose Trump Reversal of Clean Power Plan

Yale Environment 360 – “Mayors from 233 U.S. cities, representing more than 51 million Americans in 46 states and territories, have released a joint letter voicing their opposition of the Trump administration’s efforts to repeal the Clean Power Plan, arguing that the reversal would “put our citizens at risk and harm our efforts to address… Continue Reading

Jump in Federal Civil Environmental Litigation

“The latest available data from the federal courts show that during January 2018 the government reported 172 new environmental civil lawsuits filed. This is the third month in a row in which an unusually large number of new environmental matters were filed, bringing the latest quarter to a total of 745 new cases. According to… Continue Reading

OECD – Taxing Energy Use 2018

Taxing Energy Use 2018 – Companion to the Taxing Energy Use Database You do not have access to this content. 14 Feb 2018. Pages: 47. ISBN: 9789264289635 (PDF) ;9789264289437(print). “Emissions from energy use cause environmental and health damages and they also contribute to climate change. By charging for these damages, taxes on energy use… Continue Reading

Study – Permafrost Stores a Globally Significant Amount of Mercury

“Researchers estimate the amount of natural mercury stored in perennially frozen soils (permafrost) in the Northern Hemisphere. Permafrost regions contain twice as much mercury as the rest of all soils, the atmosphere, and ocean combined.” [full text link to the study] Washington Post: “We already knew that thawing Arctic permafrost would release powerful greenhouse gases. On… Continue Reading