Environmental Policy

Obama Deals a Blow to Ocean Wildlife With Plan to Move Ocean Agency to Interior Department
January 16, 2012 09:08 AM - Editor, Center for Biological Diversity

SAN FRANCISCO— President Barack Obama today announced a plan to take the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) out of the Commerce Department and house it within the Department of the Interior. Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity, issued the following statement in response...

Atmospheric Particles causing more rain
January 16, 2012 07:09 AM - Reuters, London

A rise in the atmosphere of aerosols - miniscule particles which include soot, dust and sulphates - has led to more rainfall in certain parts of the world and could provide vital clues for future climate predictions, a scientific study shows. A deeper understanding of rainfall patterns would aid scientists' ability to predict changing trends in the climate. Aerosols can be produced from burning coal or gas, industrial and agricultural processes or by the burning of forests. As well as being harmful for human health, they are blamed for causing air pollution such as smog and smoke. "For a range of conditions, increases in aerosol abundance are associated with the local intensification of rain rates," said the study published in Nature Geoscience by scientists from Israel's Weizmann Institute, NASA, and other institutions.

Ohio city questions future fracking wells
January 14, 2012 08:22 AM - Kim Palmer Cleveland, Ohio

Alarmed over a string of earthquakes linked to deep wells in nearby Youngstown, authorities in Mansfield, Ohio have threatened to block construction of two similar waste disposal wells planned within their city limits. Ohio has over 170 active disposal wells, though only recently has it become permissable to use them for disposal of out-of-state waste from fracking, a controversial process to drive gas and oil out of underground rock. Now, fresh questions about their safety are being raised in the wake of 11 earthquakes that struck Youngstown last year, all centered near wells used for disposal of fracking waste. In Mansfield, city officials are reconsidering plans to allow two new 5,000 foot waste disposal wells to be built. Last spring, an Austin, Texas-based company, Preferred Fluids Management, obtained a drilling permit for the wells. The city wants Preferred Fluids Management to pay for the testing of every tanker of fluid previously discarded in the Mansfield wells and a full geological survey of the area. Otherwise, officials said, the city will fight the drilling.

Jobs for the Poor? Save the Wild for $1 a Day
January 13, 2012 04:14 PM - Tim Wall, Discovery News

The best things in life aren't really free. Fresh air, clean water, and bountiful crops all depend on healthy ecosystems. But research published in BioScience pointed out that the communities which steward those environmental resources often do not receive payment for their services.

Good news for rhinos in Nepal
January 12, 2012 08:59 AM - Kathryn Pintus, ARKive.org

Conservationists in Nepal have reason to celebrate, as it has been reported that no Indian rhinos were killed by poachers in the country in 2011. With three of the world's five rhino species classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, conservation efforts are more important than ever. Sadly, 2011 also brought with it the news of the extinction of two rhino subspecies, the Vietnamese rhino and the western black rhino. Yet the latest news from Nepal demonstrates how well-managed, targeted conservation action can contribute to the survival of a species.

US EPA issuing new Air Quality rules
January 12, 2012 07:10 AM - Timothy Gardner,David Gregorio, Reuters

The Environmental Protection Agency is introducing its most ambitious clean air rules in decades, though it is making some concessions to election-minded Republicans who oppose them. The EPA, facing backlash from heavy industry, has delayed several of the rules and made adjustments in others. Some industry groups say the rules will cost companies billions of dollars and increase power bills for consumers. The EPA says money saved on healthcare costs will be greater than the amount polluters will need to invest in retooling plants to meet the new standards. So far, the major delay in the rules has been President Barack Obama's backtracking in September on smog pollution, which came as a disappointment to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. Below are important dates for the clean air rules: 2011: CROSS STATE AIR POLLUTION RULE Finalized by the EPA in July, this rule aims to slash air pollution that blows downwind from coal-fired power plants in the eastern United States. Two days before it was to take effect, a U.S. federal appeals court delayed the implementation, pending further review, after power generators complained about the deadline. The first phase of regulation had been set to begin on January 1, 2012, and the second two years later.

Operation Migration is ON! Whooping Cranes WILL migrate!
January 10, 2012 06:59 AM - Ian Simpson, Reuters, WASHINGTON

A flock of rare whooping cranes has been given the go-ahead to complete its inaugural winter migration after a U.S. agency lifted restrictions on the pilots, who will guide them wearing bird costumes. The whooping cranes, part of North America's tallest flying bird species, have been in pens since last month while the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigated whether the 1,285-mile flight violates regulations. The FAA said on Monday it would grant a "one-time exemption" to the pilots flying ultralight aircraft leading the whooping cranes, who were stalled in Alabama on their journey from Wisconsin to two Florida refuges. The issue arose because the pilots are being paid by the conservation group Operation Migration, violating FAA regulations that a pilot must hold a commercial rating to fly for hire. The Operation Migration pilots are licensed to fly lightweight sport aircraft. "The FAA has granted an exemption to Operation Migration that will allow pilots to continue to aid the whooping crane migration," the agency said in a statement.

U.S. weighs retaliation over Europe carbon tax
January 7, 2012 07:57 AM - John Crawley and Andrew Quinn, Reuters, WASHINGTON

The Obama administration is laying the groundwork for possible retaliation in response to a European law requiring airlines to pay for carbon emissions. Discussions between key agencies have ramped up recently, although there is no consensus yet on what, if anything, the U.S. government should do unilaterally or in concert with other nations also upset with the law. The EU law went into effect on January 1 and requires global airlines to pay for carbon emissions on flights to and from Europe. Several experts said one option the United States could pursue would involve charging European airlines to maintain U.S. access to pressure EU policymakers. This strategy was used by the United States in a recently concluded dispute with Argentina over landing fees. "We are contemplating a wide range of possible steps that we could take, or actions that we might take," a senior administration official told Reuters. "All these are on the table, we haven't decided how to move forward on any specific one," the official said, while declining to give specifics on the possible steps.

Who pays the EU airline carbon tax? Not Chinese airlines!
January 5, 2012 06:36 AM - Reuters, BEIJING

China voiced its deep concern and opposition on Thursday to a European Union plan to counter airline emissions and called for talks to resolve the issue a day after China's major airlines refused to pay any carbon costs under the new law. From January 1, all airlines using EU airports fall under the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), and could be forced to pay fines of 100 euros ($128) for each tonne of carbon dioxide emitted for which airlines have not surrendered carbon allowances. "China opposes the European Union's unilateral legislation. China has expressed to the EU our deep concern and opposition many times on a bilateral level," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. "We hope the EU can take careful precautions with a cautious and practical attitude, and regarding those aspects involving China, appropriately discuss and handle this matter," Hong told reporters during a regular briefing. The scheme was launched in 2005 as one of the pillars of Europe's efforts to combat climate change, and if airlines persistently flout the law the EU has the option of banning the operator.

Expert says Ohio earthquake was not a natural event
January 4, 2012 07:18 AM - Kim Palmer, Reuters, CLEVELAND

A 4.0 magnitude earthquake in Ohio on New Year's Eve did not occur naturally and may have been caused by high-pressure liquid injection related to oil and gas exploration and production, an expert hired by the state of Ohio said on Tuesday. Ohio's Department of Natural Resources on Sunday suspended operations at five deep well sites in Youngstown, Ohio, where the injection of water was taking place, while they evaluate seismological data from a rare quake in the area. The wells are about 9,000 feet deep and are used to dispose of water from oil and gas wells. The process is related to fracking, the controversial injection of chemical-laced water and sand into rock to release oil and gas. Critics say that the high pressure injection of the liquid causes seismic activity. Won-Young Kim, a research professor of Seismology Geology and Tectonophysics at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday that circumstantial evidence suggests a link between the earthquake and the high-pressure well activity. "We know the depth (of the quake on Saturday) is two miles and that is different from a natural earthquake," said Kim, who is advising the state of Ohio.

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