Environmental Policy

EPA says it will complete Mercury and Air Toxics Standards by November 16
October 12, 2011 07:11 AM - Reuters, WASHINGTON

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Tuesday it was committed to finalizing a standard on mercury emissions by November 16 after 25 states urged a court to force the agency to delay the rule. "EPA is committed to completing the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards -- the first-ever national standards for mercury, arsenic and other toxic air pollution from power plants," the EPA said in a release. An EPA spokeswoman said the agency was on track to finalize the rule, which targets older, inefficient power plants fired by coal and oil, as expected by November 16. The agency is under court order to finalize the rule, also known as the maximum achievable control technology, or MACT, rule for utilities. Late Monday, 25 states filed a brief with the U.S. District Court in Washington urging the court to push EPA to delay finalization of the rule until November 16, 2012 or later, complaining the standard would kill jobs and saddle industry with costs at the worst possible time.

Why the Civilian Conservation Corps Should be Restablished
October 11, 2011 08:59 AM - 3P Guest Author, Ronald C. Weston, Triple Pundit

Last month I was reminded of the impressive accomplishments of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) while touring California National Parks. The CCC was a public works program that operated from 1933 to 1942 as part of FDR's New Deal. It provided manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state and local governments. The American public made the CCC the most popular of all the New Deal programs.

Workplace pollutants tied to children's asthma risk
October 8, 2011 07:13 AM - Reuters

A mother's exposure to airborne pollutants at work during her pregnancy may increase the likelihood that her unborn child will later develop asthma, a Danish study said. The review of registry data on 45,658 seven-year-old children and their mothers found that 18.6 percent of children of mothers who were exposed to low-molecular-weight particles at work during pregnancy developed asthma, compared to 16.1 percent of the general population. "This is the first large-scale study which has shown an association between maternal exposures during work and asthma in children," said study leader Berit Christensen, at the School of Public Health in Denmark, in a statement. For the study, which was presented at the European Respiratory Society's recent annual congress in Amsterdam, Christensen and colleagues used mothers' job titles to estimate their exposure to workplace pollutants, with categories for either low- or high-molecular-weight particles, mixed, farmers, "unclassifiable" and students, as well as a reference group of office workers for comparison.

EPA considering relaxing air quality rule for power plants
October 6, 2011 06:40 AM - Reuters, WASHINGTON

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to ease a new air pollution rule that would require power plants in 27 states to slash emissions, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter. The EPA plans to propose as early as this week allowing certain states and companies to emit more pollutants than it previously permitted, the report said. An agency spokesman was not immediately available for comment. The agency's Cross-State Air Pollution final rule issued in July calls, in part, for much stricter limits on emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, or SO2, from coal and natural gas-fired power plants beginning in January. The changes are expected to allow for emissions increases ranging from 1 percent to 4 percent above the July requirement, depending on the pollutant, the Journal reported, citing the sources.

Europe Electronic Waste
October 5, 2011 10:59 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Electronic waste is a number of different types of waste streams. It can include old computers, TV's etc. The European Parliament and the 27 EU member states are set for difficult negotiations over the recast of the bloc’s electronic waste directive as some European Parliament members insist on ambitious targets for collecting and recycling discarded fridges, phones and other e-waste than the member states can accept. The European Parliament's Environment Committee voted yesterday on its second reading recommendation on the recast of the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, aiming at toughening existing rules on electrical and electronic equipment.

Great Lakes face stresses from run-off, invaders
October 5, 2011 07:24 AM - Andrew Stern, Reuters, CHICAGO

Great Lakes shorelines are becoming clogged by algae blooms fed by agricultural run-off, while invasive mussels decimate the food chain in deeper waters, an environmental group said on Tuesday. The five lakes, which contain one-fifth of the world's fresh water and supply tens of millions of people, may be "veering close to ecosystem collapse," the report by the National Wildlife Federation said. "Too much food is causing massive algal blooms in Lake Erie and other coastal systems, while too little food is making fish starve in Lake Huron's offshore waters," said the group's Great Lakes director, Andy Buchsbaum. There are many problems afflicting the Great Lakes, which in other ways have grown healthier after years of pollution. This past summer, Lake Erie was choked by toxic algae blooms up to 2 feet thick and 10 miles wide, and algae coated some Lake Michigan coastlines. Water treatment removes the toxin, at a cost, but often creates an unpleasant odor, one of the report's authors, Julie Mida Hinderer, said in an interview.

Chevrolet's Carbon Initiative Program
October 4, 2011 11:02 AM - R Greenway, ENN

In the U.S., our buildings — schools, homes, and offices — consume one third of the energy we use. That makes them a major source of carbon dioxide emissions. And when your home isn’t properly insulated, you need more energy to heat it. That produces more carbon dioxide and raises your heating bill. As part of its Carbon Initiative Program, Chevrolet is teaming up with MaineHousing (Maine State Housing Authority) to help increase energy efficiency through a verifiable carbon reduction program — the weatherization of 5,500 low-income homes over the next 5 years. Chevrolet’s investment will be used to pressurize homes to determine heat /cooling leakage, blow recycled content insulation into walls and ceilings, seal chimneys, insulate exposed foundation and tune heating systems for efficiency. When its all said and done, this program will not only help reduce home energy use, improve air quality and cut resident’s heating and cooling bills, it will also aggregate tons of avoided CO2 emissions from thousands of weatherized homes. It's pretty impressive, and substantial. But that's how big changes are made — one small change at a time.

Montana clean water settlement
October 4, 2011 06:56 AM - Laura Zuckerman, Reuters, SALMON, Idaho

A federal judge has approved a far-reaching settlement giving Montana until 2014 to clean up polluted streams and lakes in 28 watersheds across the state, capping nearly 15 years of legal battles, officials said on Monday. The deal covers more than 17,000 miles of rivers and streams and 461,000 surface acres of lakes, requiring them to meet water-quality standards set for uses such as drinking, swimming and fishing, under the federal Clean Water Act. The settlement, signed by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy on September 27 and made public on Monday, addresses hundreds of types of pollutants, including hazardous chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and heavy metals such as mercury. The deal stems from a 1997 lawsuit that said the Environmental Protection Agency and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality had violated the Clean Water Act by permitting contaminants to be released into the state's already degraded waters. In 2003, Molloy sided with the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and other environmental groups, ordering Montana to develop pollution control plans for many waterways by 2012.

Recycled Water Quenches San Antonio's Thirst
October 3, 2011 09:05 AM - Wade Goodwyn, NPR Topics: Environment

Gliding along in a flat-bottom boat on the San Antonio River thorough the heart of downtown San Antonio is a beautiful and authentic Texas experience. There's one thing a boat tour guide is not going to mention, however. Texas is in the middle of a historic drought, and the river that tourists are cruising along with ducks, big bass, catfish and perch is actually treated sewage water.

Record Arctic ozone hole appears
October 3, 2011 07:05 AM - Reuters, SINGAPORE

A huge hole that appeared in the Earth's protective ozone layer above the Arctic in 2011 was the largest recorded in the Northern Hemisphere, triggering worries the event could occur again and be even worse, scientists said in a report on Monday. The ozone layer high in the stratosphere acts like a giant shield against the Sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can cause skin cancers and cataracts. Since the 1980s, scientists have recorded an ozone hole every summer above the Antarctic at the bottom of the globe. Some years, the holes have been so large they covered the entire continent and stretched to parts of South America, leading to worries about a surge in skin cancers. During extreme events, up to 70 percent of the ozone layer can be destroyed, before it recovers months later.

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