Environmental Policy

Massachusetts Legislature moves on fracking moratorium
December 1, 2013 09:16 AM - ecoRI News staff

The Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture has approved a 10-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking. The committee’s approval of a bill introduced by Reps. Peter Kocot, D-Northampton, and Denise Provost, D-Somerville, came after Environment Massachusetts and its allies presented the committee with documented cases of water contamination, illness and other damage from fracking operations elsewhere. "From Pennsylvania to Colorado, fracking has contaminated water, threatened residents' health and turned rural landscapes into industrial zones" said Ben Hellerstein, field associate for Environment Massachusetts. "Thanks to the leadership of Chairs Anne Gobi and Mark Pacheco, we are now one step closer to protecting the Pioneer Valley from dirty drilling."

What is the true cost of food production?
November 29, 2013 08:18 AM - Patrick Holden, The Ecologist

Unsustainable farming systems that damage the environment and public health thrive at the expense of sustainable producers. Patrick Holden makes the case for "true cost accounting" ... We must account for the real costs of food, or sustainable food systems will never break through to the mainstream. We live in a time when the need for sustainable food and farming systems has never been more urgent. Earlier this year, over 200 leading scientists signed a consensus statement on Maintaining Humanity's Life Support Systems in the 21st Century. It expressed deep concern that society has reached the tipping points for a range of environmental and social consequences to our behaviour, which could significantly degrade life on earth by 2050.

Clean water filtration: basic necessity
November 27, 2013 01:30 PM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

Clean water is a vital concern as many parts of the world struggle with its availability. Kenya is a prime example of a country on the edge. Kenya's people have long struggled with lack of availability of fresh water creating hazardous health conditions. According to the World Bank, the country's population is well over 43 million people. The country is one of the poorest on the earth with one of the most arid climates. Only a small portion of the land is suitable for agriculture. Further, Natural resources available to Kenya do not support adequate or equitable delivery of water forcing people to spend many hours of each day, procuring water for basic sustenance.

Iroko trees, the new warrior for climate change
November 27, 2013 10:59 AM - Kristin Thiel, Worldwatch Institute

Iroko trees are native to the west coast of Africa. Sometimes called Nigerian teak, their wood is tough, dense, and very durable. Their hardwood is so sought after that the trees are often poached and are now endangered in many regions of Africa. But a new scientific discovery may aid in reforestation efforts.

Google Earth Improves Estimates of Fish Catches
November 27, 2013 09:10 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

The basic idea of a fish trap is that when a fish swims inside through it's opening, it cannot get out, therefore trapping the fish and making it easier for populations to collect a decent catch. People around the world use different kinds of fish traps depending on the local conditions and behavior of the fish they are trying to catch. One type of fishing trap known as weirs that jut out from coastlines is now facing scrutiny as Google Earth images reveal the traps be snaring six times as many fish than what is officially reported.

Ammonia threatens national parks
November 27, 2013 09:09 AM - ENN, Staff

Ammonia emissions have become a serious concern for scientists at Harvard University. Of particular note, thirty eight U.S. national parks are experiencing “accidental” fertilization” at or above a critical threshold for ecological damage according the study recently published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

Will electric vehicles tax the power grid?
November 27, 2013 06:47 AM - Phil Covington, Triple Pundit

The adoption of plug-in vehicles, both gasoline-electric hybrids as well as full battery electric vehicles, continues to gain pace. At the end of August this year, 59,000 such vehicles had been sold in the USA, surpassing sales of plug-in vehicles for the whole of 2012. This trend will likely continue as manufacturers increasingly roll out new product offerings. Next year, VW will launch an electric version of the Golf, Mercedes will offer U.S. buyers an electric version of their European B-Class, while BMW will launch the i3, the first of their electric-drive "i" sub-branded vehicles.

Climate change signals a whale of a shift in feeding patterns
November 26, 2013 09:08 AM - Rebecca Kessler, Yale 360

Every summer and fall, endangered North Atlantic right whales congregate in the Bay of Fundy between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to gorge on zooplankton. Researchers have documented the annual feast since 1980, and well over 100 whales typically attend, a significant portion of the entire species. Only this year, they didn't. Just a dozen right whales trickled in—a record low in the New England Aquarium's 34-year-old monitoring program. And that comes on the heels of two other low-turnout years, 2010 and 2012.

Tuna and Sharks, a tale of two fishes
November 26, 2013 07:19 AM - The Ecologist staff, The Ecologist

ICCAT, the Atlantic tuna commission, sets science-based bluefin tuna catch quotas in the Mediterranean - but fails to protect for vulnerable sharks, or clamp down on rule breakers. The EU, represented in the meeting by European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, strongly backed respect for science. After years of mismanagement, ICCAT followed for the first time last year the scientific recommendations and set an annual quota at 13,400 tonnes for bluefin tuna fisheries in the East Atlantic and Mediterranean. In spite of the lack of a new assessment this year, there was strong pressure from several countries to increase the quota, disregarding scientific advice. The EU, represented in the meeting by European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, strongly backed respect for science. Proposals to increase the quotas were finally discarded.

80,000 acres swallowed up
November 25, 2013 02:58 PM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

The United States has lost approximately 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands between 2004 and 2009 according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Much of this loss is blamed on development and has occurred in freshwater regions. Additionally, more than 70% of the loss is from the Gulf of Mexico. According to the EPA wetland loss in the eastern U.S. is happening at a rate double that of what is being restored.

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