Environmental Policy

Chevrolet Carbon Story 4 Rockingham County Landfill
December 7, 2011 02:12 PM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Americans create over 200 million tons of trash each year. As garbage in landfills decomposes, it creates a gas that is half methane (the primary component of natural gas), which has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Instead of letting the gas escape into the air, landfill gas projects collect the gas and destroy it through either flaring, or using the gas to power electric generators or boilers. Thus garbage is turned into energy. As part of its Carbon Initiative Program, Chevrolet is supporting the Rockingham County (Virginia) Landfill’s methane capture and use program. Rockingham County Landfill collects the methane from the landfill and pipes it to Rockingham (Virginia) Memorial Hospital (RMH) where it will fuel boilers that produce steam, heat and electricity for the Hospital’s use. RMH is a LEED certified facility and one of the first hospitals to utilize landfill gas for the vast majority of their fuel needs. Destroying landfill gasses helps to reduce odors and other hazards associated with Landfill Gas emissions, and it helps prevent methane from migrating into the atmosphere and contributing to local smog and global climate change. Over the next few years, Chevrolet will be investing in projects that will help reduce up to 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Every carbon-reducing project Chevrolet invests in will be based in the United States, and each will be focused in one of three areas: renewable energy, energy efficiency programs, and forestry (including conservation). Chevrolet has chosen projects they believe will make a lasting difference in communities across the country. Progress is already underway, and Chevrolet estimates it will take up to five years to achieve the initial goal. There's still a lot of work to be done, but every project is a step in the right direction.

Amazon forest loss lowest in more than 20 years
December 7, 2011 07:19 AM - Reuters, Brasilia

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon region fell to its lowest in 23 years in the year through July, the government said Monday, attributing the drop to its tougher stance against illegal logging. Destruction of the Brazilian portion of the world's largest rain forest dropped 11 percent to 6,238 square km (2,400 square miles) over the 12-month period, satellite data from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research showed. That is less than a quarter of the forest area that was destroyed in 2004, when clear-cutting by farmers expanding their cattle and soy operations reached a recent peak. Brazil has stepped up its monitoring and enforcement policies in the Amazon in recent years but the improvement has partly been driven by slower global economic growth that has reduced demand and prices for the country's farm produce.

A Green Military: Saving More than Energy
December 6, 2011 09:04 AM - Debra Atlas, Sierra Club Green Home

The Pentagon says that it aims to "develop more energy-efficient weapons, embrace non-oil energy sources, and demand more energy-conscious behavior from the troops." This move towards energy efficiency in all the branches of the military was mandated by congressional directives and presidential orders, many dating to former President George W. Bush and expanded on by President Barack Obama.

Pipeline deal could open up Alaskan oil
December 6, 2011 07:09 AM - Reuters

Two U.S. agencies have reached an agreement with ConocoPhillips on a plan in Alaska that could let the company be the first to drill for crude and gas in a national oil reserve in the state, the Interior Department said on Monday. The agreement, which was with the company, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, confirms that construction of a pipeline and bridge over the Colville River to the Alpine development known as CD-5 is acceptable, as long as environmental mitigations and other changes are outlined in the permit application. The development is in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, which is managed by the Interior Department. The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to carry out the remaining steps associated with the permit review in coming weeks. Lisa Murkowski, a U.S. senator from Alaska, said the agreement could begin to open up the NPR-A to crude and national gas production. The reserve is estimated to contain more than 1 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil.

Heavy Beijing smog causes flight delays, cancellations
December 5, 2011 06:39 AM - Reuters, BEIJING

A heavy fog blanketed parts of northern China on Monday, delaying flights and causing hundreds of cancellations, while smog hung in a dark haze over Beijing. As of 2 p.m. (0600 GMT), 126 flights had been delayed by an hour or longer and 207 were cancelled at Beijing, the world's second-busiest airport, Xinhua news agency said. The Beijing sky was so dark that many drivers kept their headlights on throughout the day, giving the city an eery, netherworld feeling. "Such super foggy weather looks like the end of the world," commented one microblogger using the name David Jiaoxiaomao. China's national weather forecaster said the fog was likely to persist across parts of China to Wednesday, causing more transport disruptions. By then, a cold front would begin dispersing the fog, said the forecaster, according to Xinhua. Highways across the northern provinces of Shandong and Hebei were also closed.

EPA proposes less costly pollution rule on boilers
December 3, 2011 08:47 AM - Timothy Gardner, Reuters, Washington, DC

The U.S. environmental regulator said on Friday it slashed the cost of proposed pollution rules on industrial boilers by $1.5 billion year by allowing some plants to fine tune existing equipment or burn cleaner fuels. The Environmental Protection Agency, under pressure from Republicans and industrial groups who accuse it of pushing for clean air rules that will cost companies with billions of dollars, has been looking for ways to ease costs and increase flexibility. The EPA on Friday proposed rules it says are more flexible than ones the agency introduced in 2010. The rules allow some plants to do maintenance on equipment, avoiding costs from adding new controls or replacing boilers. More than 99 percent of the country's boilers, from heavy industry to small businesses and universities, are either clean enough and not subject to the new rules, or will only need to do tune ups and maintenance to comply. The agency said health benefits from reduced pollution would be maintained. "Gathering the latest and best technical information and real-world data has helped us find ... the sweet spot that's affordable, practical regulations that provide the vital and long overdue health benefits Americans demand and deserve," Gina McCarthy, the EPA assistant administrator for air, told reporters in a teleconference.

The Durban Climate Talks
December 1, 2011 09:59 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Global climate discussions have moved from Cancun to Copenhagen, and now to Durban, South Africa. They began last Monday in the hopes of finding a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the global mandate that set targets for cutting carbon emissions. Kyoto was never ratified by the United States, the world's leading carbon emitter, and did not apply to the large growing Asian economies of China and India. Durban began amid downplayed expectations that a worldwide agreement would take place, especially following the disappointing climate talks in Copenhagen. This may be a blessing in disguise in that it will force climate activists to pursue a different strategy. Rather than a top-down approach, some are now calling for local policies that would create incremental change.

US considering using toxic fungi in war on drugs
December 1, 2011 06:28 AM - Anna Yukhananov, Reuters, WASHINGTON

Using fungi to kill coca and other illegal drug crops would be a risky tactic, as there is not enough data about how to control these killer molds and what effect they could have on people and the environment, according to a U.S. study released Wednesday. The U.S. Congress asked scientists to look into whether some types of fungi, called mycoherbicides, could stem the flow of illicit drugs into the United States by killing the plants used to make cocaine, marijuana and opium. But scientists from the National Research Council, one of the national academies of science that advises U.S. policymakers, said evidence about the fungi was sketchy and incomplete. "There are too many unresolved questions regarding efficacy -- whether they'll really perform in real-time conditions, and whether they'll be safe to non-target plants," said Raghavan Charudattan, chairman of the committee that prepared the report and professor emeritus in the University of Florida's department of plant pathology. "We did not see any data where a high level of control could be achieved," he said.

Hearing on overturning NY fracking ban draws huge turnout
November 30, 2011 06:57 AM - Edward McAllister, Reuters, LOCH SHELDRAKE, New York

The final hearings on regulations that would end a ban on drilling for natural gas in New York state got under way on Tuesday in a packed auditorium at Sullivan County Community College. In a last chance for communities to voice their views for and against a controversial drilling technique called fracking, about 300 people turned up, many of whom were left in the rain as the house spilled above capacity. Advocates of fracking, which involves blasting chemical-laced water and sand into shale rock to release gas, told a rowdy, polarized audience that drilling would create jobs and boost New York's ailing economy. Those against blamed it for contaminating water wells and threatening the safety of local communities. Outside, signs read "Don't frack with our water" and "Jail the frackers". Others disagreed. "We fight wars and import oil to get resources that we have at home," said Edward Allees, 88, from Jeffersonville, New York. "What is so special about New York that we can't drill here?" New York sits atop the Marcellus Shale formation, the largest U.S. deposit of natural gas, which also stretches across parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

Kyoto Protocol a "Thing of the Past", says Canada
November 29, 2011 07:02 AM - David Ljunggren, Reuters, OTTAWA

Canada dismissed the Kyoto Protocol on climate change on Monday as a thing of the past, but declined to confirm a media report it will formally pull out of the international treaty before the end of this year. Although the Conservative government walked away from its Kyoto obligations years ago, a formal withdrawal would deal a symbolic blow to global talks to save the agreement, which opened in Durban, South Africa on Monday. Canada says it backs a new global deal to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, but insists it has to cover all nations, including China and India, which are not bound by Kyoto's current targets. Although Japan and Russia share Canada's view, and the United States never ratified Kyoto, no nation has yet formally renounced the treaty. "Kyoto is the past," Environment Minister Peter Kent told reporters in Ottawa, describing the decision by Canada's previous Liberal government to sign on to the protocol as "one of the biggest blunders they made." The Conservatives - who green groups say are recklessly pushing development of the Alberta oil sands and ignoring the environment - complain the Liberals signed Kyoto and then did nothing to stop the country's emissions from soaring.

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