Environmental Policy

Nautical Air Emissions
June 28, 2011 02:04 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

In the United States, several federal agencies and laws have some jurisdiction over pollution from ships in U.S. waters. States and local government agencies also have responsibilities for ship-related pollution in some situations.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) today announced an agreement to jointly enforce U.S. and international air pollution requirements for vessels operating in U.S. waters. The requirements establish limits on nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions and require the use of fuel with lower sulfur content, protecting people’s health and the environment by reducing ozone-producing pollution, which can cause smog and aggravate asthma. The most stringent requirements apply to ships operating within 200 nautical miles of the coast of North America. International rules (MARPOL 73/78)have six Annexes of the Convention cover the various sources of pollution from ships and provide an overarching framework for international objectives. In the U.S., the Convention is implemented through the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. Under the provisions of the Convention, the United States can take direct enforcement action under U.S. laws against foreign-flagged ships when pollution discharge incidents occur within U.S. jurisdiction. When incidents occur outside U.S. jurisdiction or jurisdiction cannot be determined, the United States refers cases to flag states, in accordance with MARPOL. These procedures require substantial coordination between the Coast Guard, the State Department, and other flag states.

Economic Indicators Point Toward Growth in Renewable Energy
June 27, 2011 09:29 PM - Doug Elbinger, Environmental Issues Editor GreeningDetroit.com

While scanning the horizon in sea of mostly grim economic news, I found three gems - - - news reports or economic indicators, if you will, that point to solid and profitable growth in the renewable energy sector of the economy in the near, 3-5 year term. These indicators point toward a shift in the financing, production, consumption and distribution of alternative energy, predicated on advances in technology that will bring the productions costs down to a competitive plateau with conventional fossil fuels. I suspect the time it takes from "innovation in the laboratory" to diffuse into the commercial market place has to be reduced from years to months or less, in order for this to work. When investors like General Electric, Google, and MIT, direct research and investment on this scale - - - it just might tip the balance. 1. The cost benefit ratio of "coal fired" electricity vs "solar" will equalize or fall in favor of solar. In a recent report from Bloomberg news, Mr. Mark M. Little, the global research director for General Electric Co., predicts that solar power may be cheaper than electricity generated by fossil fuels within 3-5 years. A combination of rising energy prices with lower production cost and higher efficiency will make solar cost competitive with conventional coal fired electric generation. General Electric (GE) plans to invest in "advanced" solar panel manufacturing and expects to open a plant in 2013, employing over 400 people and make enough solar panels to power 80,000 homes. If this business plan unfolds as predicted, watch for explosive growth on all fronts the Solar industry.

Canada, other countries block Chrysotile asbestos from U.N. hazardous list
June 25, 2011 07:40 AM - Reuters, GENEVA

Chrysotile asbestos will not be listed as a hazardous industrial chemical that can be banned from import after countries including Canada and Ukraine blocked consensus, a United Nations spokesman said Friday. The decision was taken at a meeting of states that have ratified the Rotterdam Convention despite the treaty's scientific review body having recommended the inclusion of "white" asbestos on health grounds, a U.N. spokesman said. "Several countries declared in plenary problems they had with the inclusion of chrysotile (asbestos), including Canada, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Vietnam," U.N. spokesman Michael Stanley-Jones told a news briefing in Geneva. Australia, Chile and the European Union (EU) were among those seeking the inclusion of chrysotile on the 2004 treaty's trade "watch list" of chemicals and severely hazardous pesticides which exporters must share information on.

In the News: Serengeti highway cancelled
June 24, 2011 08:44 AM - Alex Royan, ARKive.org

In what is being hailed as a victory for conservationists and the wildlife of the Serengeti, the Tanzanian government has cancelled plans for a controversial highway that would have dissected the Serengeti National Park.

House OKs speed-up of Arctic oil/gas permitting
June 23, 2011 06:03 AM - Ayesha Rascoe, Reuters, WASHINGTON

The House of Representatives passed legislation on Wednesday that would speed up approvals for drilling in the Arctic by removing regulatory hurdles that have stymied development of the area's vast oil and gas resources. The Republican-controlled House voted 253 to 166 in favor of the bill, which would require the Environmental Protection Agency to approve or deny applications to drill on the outer continental shelf within six months. "Current impediments have delayed development of the Beaufort and Chukchi sea for over five years," the bill's sponsor, Republican congressman Cory Gardner, said in a speech on the House floor. "These are areas that have already been approved for drilling; the revenues for the leases have already been collected by the federal government," he said.

The Weather
June 22, 2011 12:26 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

We all complain about the weather. It is a great topic of conversation. Weather is the state of the atmosphere, to the degree that it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy. Most weather phenomena occur in the troposphere, just below the stratosphere. Weather is part of what life is about. However, everything has its price. New research indicates that routine weather events such as rain and cooler-than-average days can add up to an annual economic impact of as much as $485 billion in the United States based on 2011 data. Rain, snow, and hot or cold temperatures can all have economic impacts. The study, led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), found that finance, manufacturing, agriculture, and every other sector of the economy is sensitive to changes in the weather. The impacts can be felt in every state.

Grand Canyon protected, Uranium mining ban extended
June 21, 2011 06:31 AM - Ayesha Rascoe, Reuters, WASHINGTON

The Obama administration on Monday extended its ban on mining on 1 million acres of federal lands near the Grand Canyon by six months, as it heads toward a possible long-term moratorium on mining in the area. Concerns that uranium mining near the Grand Canyon could hurt water quality and tourism prompted the decision, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. "When you think about the millions of jobs that are created across America through our natural wonders, as well as through other aspects of our heritage (and) tourism, that ought to be what carries the day," Salazar said at a press conference. In 2009, the department declared a two-year time-out on new mining claims in the area, which holds substantial uranium deposits, as the agency studied its options.

Global Warming Lawsuit
June 20, 2011 02:45 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a global warming lawsuit against five big power companies, its most important environmental ruling since 2007 and a victory for the utilities. The utilities — American Electric Power Co Inc, Southern Co, Xcel Energy Inc, and Duke Energy Corp, along with TVA — account for about 10 percent of US carbon dioxide emissions. The justices unanimously overturned a ruling by a U.S. appeals court that the public nuisance lawsuit now involving six states (California, Connecticut, Iowa, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont) can proceed in an effort to force the coal-burning plants to cut emissions of gases that contribute to climate change. In a defeat for environmentalists, the Supreme Court agreed with the companies that regulating greenhouse gases should be left to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the clean air laws.

Hopes fading for climate agreement
June 19, 2011 08:35 AM - Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent, Reuters

"Ask for a camel when you expect to get a goat," runs a Somali saying that sums up the fading of ambitions for United Nations talks on slowing climate change -- aim high, but settle for far less. Developing nations publicly insist the rich must agree far deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, but increasingly believe that only a weaker deal can actually be achieved to keep the existing Kyoto Protocol, or parts of it, alive beyond 2012. "They have to ask for a camel ... but will settle for a goat," Mohamed Adow, of Christian Aid, said of poor nations' strategy at a just-ended session of 180 nations in Bonn. Hopes for a treaty have dimmed since U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders failed to agree a binding pact at a summit in Copenhagen in 2009.

In the News: Latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species released
June 17, 2011 07:34 AM - Editor, ARKive.org

Released today, the latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species shows that a staggering 19,265 species are currently threatened with extinction. Over 900 new species have been classified as threatened — that is, considered to be Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable — since the last update in 2010, showing that there is no let up in the extinction crisis threatening the world's biodiversity. Although more species are thought to be threatened than ever before, the IUCN are keen to highlight that there have also been major conservation success stories.

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