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Prison Air Pollution
January 11, 2011 06:01 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Prisons are where they keep criminals. What has that to do with the environment? The answer is that prisons need to be heated and like industrial boilers or even home heating systems they must burn fuel and in the combustion release potential air pollutants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections and the Department of General Services for alleged Clean Air Act violations at boiler plants generating power, heat and hot water at four correctional facilities. This settlement secures air pollution reductions and additional reporting requirements for correctional facilities in Muncy, Bellefonte, Huntingdon and Somerset, Pennsylvania.
Mass Wildlife Die-Off Events
January 11, 2011 09:25 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
On New Year's Eve, over 3,000 red-winged blackbirds inexplicably plummeted to their deaths from the skies over Arkansas. They may have struck something while in the air such as lightning or hail. It is also possible that the ground itself caused their deaths, and they were merely rendered unconscious while flying by some mysterious force. According to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, they were spooked into flying into trees and houses.
January 10, 2011 02:45 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
What if this and that... The art of prediction is one that often fails and only the test of time will show who is right and who is wrong. Climate models use quantitative methods to simulate the interactions of the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, and ice. There is a new paper in Nature Geoscience that examines the inertia of carbon dioxide emissions. New research indicates the impact of rising CO2 levels in the Earth's atmosphere will cause effects to the climate for at least the next 1,000 years, causing these researchers to estimate a collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet by the year 3000, and an eventual rise in the global sea level of at least four meters. The study is the first full climate model simulation to make predictions out to 1000 years from now. It is based on a best-case, zero-emissions scenarios constructed by a team of researchers from the Canadian Center for Climate Modeling and Analysis and the University of Calgary.
Natural Methane Removal in the Gulf of Mexico
January 7, 2011 02:11 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
There is a relationship between known hydrocarbon (oil and natural gas) discoveries at great depth in the Gulf of Mexico and hydrocarbon seepage such as Methane at the seafloor. Chemosynthetic communities are associated with these seeps. They are remarkable in that they utilize a carbon source independent of photosynthesis and the sun-dependent photosynthetic food chain that supports all other life on Earth. Chemosynthetic communities occur in isolated areas with thin veneers of sediment only a few meters thick. Calling the results "extremely surprising," researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara and Texas A&M University report that methane gas concentrations in the Gulf of Mexico have returned to near normal levels only months after a massive release occurred following the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion.
Malignant Cancer-Causing Molecule Identified
January 7, 2011 09:42 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
A cancerous cell is not a problem if it is benign. However, if it becomes malignant, it can cause major health problems and even be fatal. Scientists have identified a molecule known as PML which directly affects whether or not a cancer cell becomes malignant. This line of study may prove to be a breakthrough in cancer research if scientists can figure out how malignant tumors can be converted to benign tumors.
The Return (?) of Off Shore drilling
January 6, 2011 12:34 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Offshore drilling typically refers to the discovery and development of oil and gas resources which lie underwater. Most commonly, the term is used to describe oil extraction off the coasts of continents, though the term can also apply to drilling in lakes and inland seas. Offshore drilling presents environmental challenges, especially in the Arctic or close to the shore. Controversies include the ongoing US offshore drilling debate. The off shore moratorium in the US (as a result of the BP spill) ended in October 2010. The Obama administration has decided to allow 13 companies to resume deepwater drilling without additional environmental scrutiny. The decision comes after the administration said it would require strict reviews for new drilling in the Gulf. Others, such as the arctic Shell project, are still blocked by related concerns. The Department of the Interior apparently gave those companies the go-ahead because they were in the middle of previously approved projects when the Gulf spill occurred.
Europe and Renewable Energy
January 6, 2011 11:24 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
The European Union (EU)27 will exceed its target of meeting 20 % of its gross final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020. Today the European Wind Energy Association published its analysis of the 27 National Renewable Energy Action Plans, submitted by the EU Member States to the European Commission. "Taken together the Action Plans show that the EU-27 will meet 20.7 % of its 2020 energy consumption from renewables", said Justin Wilkes, Policy Director of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). The countries of the European Union are currently the global leaders in the development and application of renewable energy. Promoting the use of renewable energy sources is important both to the reduction of the EU's dependence on foreign energy imports, and in meeting targets to combat global warming.
January 5, 2011 04:56 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Under the High Production Volume (HPV) Challenge Program, companies are "challenged" by EPA to make health and environmental effects data publicly available on chemicals produced or imported in the United States in the greatest quantities. HPV chemicals are classified as those chemicals produced or imported in the United States in quantities of 1 million pounds or more per year. As of June 2007, companies have sponsored more than 2,200 HPV chemicals, with approximately 1,400 chemicals sponsored directly through the HPV Challenge Program and over 860 chemicals sponsored indirectly through international efforts. The U.S. EPA is issuing a final rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) requiring manufacturers of 19 high production volume (HPV) chemicals to test the health and environmental effects of the chemicals and submit the data to the agency. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has made assuring the safety of chemicals one of her top priorities.
Gulf of Mexico Coral
January 5, 2011 04:23 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
A team of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and academic scientists are analyzing samples of coral and surrounding sediments from an area damaged near the Deepwater Horizon site in the Gulf of Mexico. These samples, collected in December, are being used to investigate how and why the corals on these reefs died. There are many potential causes of coral death. This particular case may be related to the oil release from Deepwater. Coral colonies may live for decades or centuries. Some causes are predation by other sea creatures such as Sea Stars. Global warming is a potential cause as well as other human related activities.
Gold and Mercury
January 4, 2011 01:47 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
In order to maximize gold extraction, mercury is often used to amalgamate with the metal. The gold is then produced by boiling away the mercury from the amalgam, a process which is hazardous owing to the toxicity of mercury vapor. Mercury is effective in extracting very small gold particles, but should be reclaimed in an effective and safe process. With the price of gold at record levels. the small-scale mining sector, much of it illegal and unregulated, is expanding worldwide faster than at anytime in history and, with it, the health threats posed by mercury. This global gold rush began in Brazil in the late 1970s, before sweeping South America, Asia, and Africa, with an estimated 15 to 20 million prospectors now active in more than 60 countries. Poverty driven miners rely on inexpensive, outdated, polluting technologies and chemicals because it is what they can afford. Mercury can vaporize and exposure to concentrations above o.1 mg/m3 can be harmful. At this level, humans cannot detect the Mercury and can be exposed until harmed.