Two Arctic Ice Seals Gain Endangered Species Act Protection - Warming Climate a Key Factor
December 29, 2012 09:41 AM - Center for Biological Diversity
Responding to a 2008 petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the federal government today finalized Endangered Species Act protection for two ice-dependent Arctic seals threatened by melting sea ice and snowpack due to climate change. Ringed seals and bearded seals, found in the waters off Alaska, are the first species since polar bears to be protected primarily because of climate change threats. "Arctic animals face a clear danger of extinction from climate change," said Shaye Wolf, the Center's climate science director. "The Endangered Species Act offers strong protections for these seals, but we can't save the Arctic ecosystem without confronting the broader climate crisis. The Obama administration has to take decisive action, right now, against greenhouse gas pollution to preserve a world filled with ice seals, walruses and polar bears."
EPA Proposes Ambitious Plan to Clean the Gowanus Canal
December 28, 2012 09:40 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
The Gowanus is one of the United States' most polluted waterways, bisecting Brooklyn and emptying into Upper New York Harbor. Many years ago, it was a major industrial transportation route, servicing manufactured gas plants, paper mills, tanneries, and chemical plants. At the time stormwater runoff and discharges from these facilities were constantly being absorbed into the canal. The Gowanus was added to the EPA superfund list of sites, and numerous potentially responsible parties have been identified including National Grid and the City of New York. After thorough environmental investigation, EPA has finally proposed a plan to conduct the cleanup, which will include the removal of contaminated sediment, capping dredged areas, and preventing further land-based contaminated outflows. The expected cost of the project is between $467 and $504 million. The EPA will be taking public comments on the plan from now until March 28, 2013.
Lisa Jackson Departs EPA
December 28, 2012 07:04 AM - RP Siegel, Triple Pundit
EPA chief Lisa Jackson announced yesterday that she will be leaving her position as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. She said she has discussed her departure with the President and will step down after the January inauguration.
Marshes on U.S. Coast Need More Protection NOW
December 27, 2012 09:52 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN
A hundred years ago we thought that we had to fill in the marshes near populated areas along the eastern US coastline since they represented prime locations for commercial and residential development. Even after some protections were put in place to reduce the impacts of runaway development, marshes continued to serve are the places we dumped our garbage, and sent the effluents from our wastewater treatment plants. They also receive the nutrient-rich run off from agricultural land use and urban street runoff to our rivers. A major nine-year study led by researcher Linda Deegan points to the damage that human-caused nutrients inflict on salt marshes along the U.S. East Coast. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, she describes what these findings mean for an ecosystem that provides critical services, from nourishing marine life to buffering the coast from storms like Sandy.
University of Hawaii Comes to Aid of Hurricane Sandy Victims
December 23, 2012 06:35 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN
Hurricane Sandy caused more damage than many people who are not living in the Staten Island and Jersey Shore areas are aware of. It will take a long time to recover and help is still needed. The University of Hawaii may take the title of the helpers who traveled the greatest distance to help. Their mission was two-fold, to help recovery efforts, and to learn what more might be done to reduce damages from future hurricanes and superstorms like Sandy. From November 29 to December 6, 2012, UH Manoa team members from the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC), Sea Grant and the Urban Resilience Lab traveled to the most severely damaged areas in New York City and New Jersey coastal communities to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) efforts in recovery from Hurricane Sandy. Sandy, the most devastating storm to hit the northeastern U.S. coast in decades, struck on November 29. The team assessed and documented damage and met with community leaders, emergency responders, hazard planners and those involved in relief and recovery efforts. Coastal storm surge, flooding and infrastructure failure were the main causes and consequences of Sandy's impact.
EPA Finalizes Clean Air Standards for Boilers and Incinerators, Makes Progress in Protecting Public Health
December 21, 2012 12:30 PM - Editor, ENN
Today, the U.S. EPA finalized changes to Clean Air Act standards for boilers, incinerators, and cement kilns which are used by industries for everything from power generation, heating, treating waste, and manufacturing. These changes will achieve extensive public health protections by reducing toxic air pollution, while at the same addressing concerns and feedback from industry and labor groups, increasing the rule’s flexibility and dramatically reducing costs. As a result, 99 percent of the approximately 1.5 million boilers in the U.S. are not covered or can meet the new standards by conducting periodic maintenance or regular tune-ups.
By harnessing an innovative mix of tools and approaches, governments can strengthen the economies of urban areas and improve their overall livability, according to research presented in the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity. Today, nearly 1 billion of the world’s poor live in urban areas that are dangerously overcrowded and lack adequate access to basic sanitation and clean water, with wide-ranging health and environmental impacts. But even in wealthier countries, governments face serious challenges in making their cities more inclusive, sustainable, and livable. In 2010, informal urban settlements, known more commonly as slums, housed approximately one-third of the urban population of developing countries. "Slum populations are often viewed as an eyesore, but few realize that the urban poor are at the core of a city’s economy, accounting for a large share of employment and performing essential functions for the city," said Eric Belsky, Managing Director of Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and State of the World 2012 contributing author.
How Can the Performance of Batteries in Electric Cars be Improved?
December 18, 2012 06:10 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN
I have been driving a Chevy VOLT for a year and a half. I have more than 26,000 miles on it, and have used 100 gallons of gasoline. That works out to more than 250 mpg. Of course, I have been charging the VOLT at home every night, and at the office during the day but my electric bills at both places are not noticeably higher. It would be nice if the electric range were a bit longer, but the gasoline engine on board that charges the batteries guarantees that I can keep driving as long as I need to. What are the limiting factors to increasing the range of the lithium ion batteries? Researchers led by Ohio State University engineers examined used car batteries and discovered that over time lithium accumulates beyond the battery electrodes — in the "current collector," a sheet of copper which facilitates electron transfer between the electrodes and the car's electrical system. This knowledge could aid in improving design and performance of batteries, explained Bharat Bhushan, Ohio Eminent Scholar and the Howard D. Winbigler Professor of Mechanical Engineering. "Our study shows that the copper current collector plays a role in the performance of the battery," he said.
Vegetables in Israel Carry Heavy Pesticide Residue
December 16, 2012 08:14 AM - Miriam Kresh, Green Prophet
Are Israelis eating a mouthful of pesticides for breakfast? If there's one food group that Israelis love, it's vegetables. In fact, all over the Middle East, vegetables are treated with love and presented at table in infinite artful ways. And people are picky about their produce, carefully inspecting each tomato and cucumber before consenting to buy. But health hazards lurk on the well-loved produce. According to Haaretz, 11% of produce tested by the Israel Health Ministry showed unacceptably high levels of pesticide residues. Of over 5000 samples taken from 108 kinds of foods, 56% had traces of different pesticides.
EPA Reviews PM2.5 Standards, Expects Counties to Comply by 2020
December 14, 2012 02:50 PM - Allison Winter, ENN
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized an update to its national air quality standards for PM2.5 today, setting the annual health standard at 12 micrograms per cubic meter. PM2.5 is the term used for particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers (which is approximately 1/30th of the width of a human hair). It is a harmful fine particle pollutant that comes from wood burning, soot, power plants, and motor vehicles.