Environmental Policy

Economic woes no excuse for climate inaction, says China
November 22, 2011 07:15 AM - David Stanway, Reuters, BEIJING

Economic problems in Europe and elsewhere should not get in the way of a new pact to fight global warming, China's top climate official said on Tuesday ahead of major climate talks in South Africa. Delegates from nearly 200 countries meet from Monday till Dec 9 in Durban as part of marathon U.N.-led negotiations on a broader pact to curb growing greenhouse gas emissions as the world faces rising sea levels and greater weather extremes. "After the financial crisis, every country has had its problems, but these problems are just temporary," Xie Zhenhua, vice-director of the National Development and Reform Commission, told reporters on Tuesday. Officials in Beijing have suggested economic turmoil in Europe and political unrest in North Africa have pushed climate change far down the list of global priorities, overshadowing next week's talks and undermining plans to provide cash and technical support to poor nations to adapt to climate change.

Markets drive conservation in Central Africa
November 21, 2011 08:39 AM - Editor, World Wildlife Fund

Madrid, Spain — Certification has shown that commercial forestry can co-exist with conservation objectives in the Congo Basin, according to conclusions reached at an international seminar "Forest management as a tool for cooperation and rural development in Central Africa", organized yesterday in Madrid by WWF/Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs of Spain.

African nations show leadership for action against climate change
November 21, 2011 06:29 AM - Katy Migiro, Reuters, NAIROBI

Africa is leading the push for clean energy policy-making as climate change turns millions of its people into "food refugees," the head of the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) Achim Steiner said. "On the African continent, there is sometimes more leadership being shown by countries, by governments, than we see in some of the industrialized nations," Steiner told Reuters. "Kenya is currently doubling its energy and electricity generating infrastructure largely using renewables. These are policies that are pioneering, that are innovative," he said. Kenya generates most of its energy from hydroelectric dams but water levels have fallen due to recurring drought. It is now investing heavily in geothermal and wind power. The African Development Bank is financing Africa's biggest wind farm on the shores of Lake Turkana, one of the windiest places on Earth. The $819-million project aims to produce 300 megawatts (MW) of electricity per year, boosting Kenya's energy supply by 30 percent.

Pumping water from High Plains aquifer reducing stream flows, threatening fish habitat
November 20, 2011 08:16 AM - Editor, Science Daily

Suitable habitat for native fishes in many Great Plains streams has been significantly reduced by the pumping of groundwater from the High Plains aquifer -- and scientists analyzing the water loss say ecological futures for these fishes are "bleak." Results of their study have been published in the journal Ecohydrology. Unlike alluvial aquifers, which can be replenished seasonally with rain and snow, these regional aquifers were filled by melting glaciers during the last Ice Age, the researchers say. When that water is gone, it won't come back -- at least, until another Ice Age comes along. "It is a finite resource that is not being recharged," said Jeffrey Falke, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. "That water has been there for thousands of years, and it is rapidly being depleted. Already, streams that used to run year-round are becoming seasonal, and refuge habitats for native fishes are drying up and becoming increasingly fragmented."

Delaware River Basin natural gas drilling vote postponed
November 19, 2011 09:14 AM - Edward McAllister, Reuters, NEW YORK

A key vote to lift a ban on drilling for natural gas in the Delaware River Basin has been postponed, prompting claims of victory from environmentalists concerned about water contamination. The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), which regulates water use across the 14,000-square-mile (36,260-square-km), gas-rich basin, suspended a vote scheduled for Monday amid speculation that its five members lacked the three votes needed to allow drilling. "There are still some open issues that the commissioners have to work through," said DRBC spokesman Clarke Rupert, who had no new date for the vote. Earlier this month, the DRBC proposed ending the drilling moratorium in the basin that stretches across parts of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware and sits atop the United States' biggest natural gas deposit: the Marcellus Shale. Under proposed new regulations, the DRBC said it will provide water for no more than 300 natural gas wells over 18 months, at which point they will reassess the rules. The delay has frustrated drillers and the governor of industry-friendly Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, who is keen to develop the state's slice of the basin.

Uranium Mining — The Virginia Battleground — Environmental Concerns vs. Corporate Interests
November 18, 2011 03:36 PM - Rose Ellen O'Connor, DC Bureau

The Virginia General Assembly is expected to vote next year on whether to lift a 30-year moratorium on uranium mining in the state. The issue has prompted an expensive lobbying campaign by the company that wants to mine a huge deposit known as Coles Hill in Pittsylvania County and an intense fight by environmentalists who want to stop it. The battle has pitted neighbor against neighbor in the county, in south central Virginia, an area known as Southside.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson: EPA to propose utility carbon rules next year
November 18, 2011 06:49 AM - Timothy Gardner, Dale Hudson, Reuters, WASHINGTON

The top U.S. environmental regulator will propose early next year twice-delayed rules on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, she told the energyNOW television show. "I can't tell you what the regulations say right now, but what we are planning to do is release them early next calendar year," Lisa Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, told the program in a segment seen by Reuters that is to be broadcast over the weekend. The EPA in June delayed the proposed rules on power plants, which are the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, saying it needed more time after talking with businesses, states and green groups. It delayed them again in September. Republicans in the House of Representatives have waged a war on EPA clean-air regulations, saying such rules will kill jobs and add costs to businesses suffering in a battered economy. In September, President Barack Obama directed the EPA to delay a major rule on smog-forming pollutants until 2013, forcing Jackson to embrace a George W. Bush-era smog rule she previously described as legally indefensible. The move led some environmentalists and health groups to worry the administration would subject other clean-air rules to long delays.

U.S. proposes to double auto fuel economy by 2025
November 17, 2011 06:01 AM - John Crawley, Reuters, WASHINGTON

The Obama administration proposed on Wednesday doubling auto fuel efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, a White House energy priority that has come under scrutiny in Congress. The plan grew out of an uneasy agreement between the administration, automakers and environmental groups to reduce U.S. dependence on oil imports and cut tailpipe emissions. Regulators hope to finalize the proposal by summer following a 60-day public comment period. The administration wants to give industry five years to develop fuel-saving technologies further and plan products before the rule would start taking effect in 2017. "We expect this program will not only save consumers money, it will ensure automakers have the regulatory certainty they need to make key decisions," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. Current standards require automakers to raise efficiency from 27 mpg today to 35.4 mpg by 2016. Targets beginning in 2017 would require a 5 percent annual efficiency gain for cars and 3.5 to 5 percent for light trucks, which include SUVs, pickups and vans.

Chevrolet's Carbon Initiative Program, Part Two
November 16, 2011 04:05 PM - R Greenway, ENN

In the U.S., the best wind resources are in the Northern Plains — but it’s virtually impossible for a single individual to build a multi-million dollar turbine. But if a group of individuals come together, they can work with an enterprising electric company to create a community- supported wind farm. As part of its Carbon Initiative Program, Chevrolet is supporting the Crow Lake Wind Project, a 108 turbine, 162 MW wind project owned by the Basin Electric Cooperative, a public power entity serving rural cooperative power customers principally in the north central plains states. The project was built utilizing a first-of-its-kind community wind investment partnership. In addition, this is the largest project currently operational in South Dakota. The first 100 turbines, owned by Basin Electric Cooperative, enabled the two smaller projects to be developed. Seven turbines are owned by a group of around one hundred local community investors (farmers, ranchers, local businesses). The last turbine is owned by the Mitchell Technical Institute, a school providing vocational education to local students — including training in construction, operations and maintenance of wind farms. Fully operational since February 2011, the Crow Lake Wind Project introduces wind energy into a system heavily dependent on conventional coal combustion, diversifying the resource base. It also supplies and supports rural consumer-owned electric cooperatives and creates community jobs in construction and operations.

Alaska considers aerial wolf kills in tourist area
November 12, 2011 07:51 AM - Yereth Rosen, Reuters, ANCHORAGE, Alaska

Alaska state officials on Friday were considering a controversial plan to shoot wolves in an effort to boost moose populations in one of the state's top tourist and recreation areas. An estimated 90 to 135 wolves range across the Kenai Peninsula, south of Anchorage, where under the proposal hunters would shoot the animals from aircraft. Officials have not settled on the number of wolves they might kill under the plan, which was on the agenda for discussion at a meeting on Friday of the Alaska Board of Game. By decreasing attacks on moose from a major predator, the proposal would allow for a rebound in the moose population, which now stands at about 5,000 and is well below targets, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Ted Spraker, an Alaska Board of Game member from the region, said on a statewide public radio program recently that the public is "disgusted" with the low number of moose. "They want the board to start doing something," he added.

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