Environmental Policy

'Torture Lab' Kills Trees To Learn How To Save Them
August 27, 2012 02:36 PM - Christopher Joyce, NPR Topics: Environment

The droughts that have parched big regions of the country are killing forests. In the arid Southwest, the body count is especially high. Besides trying to keep wildfires from burning up these desiccated forests, there's not much anyone can do. In fact, scientists are only now figuring out how drought affects trees. Park Williams studies trees at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, but not the way most scientists do. "We're interested in trees that die," he says — spefiically, death by heat and drought. Sure, lack of water kills trees, but which ones die first, how long does it take, how long can they go without water? "That's a part we don't understand very well as ecologists," says Craig Allen, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "We don't know what it takes to kill trees."

Cross State Air Pollution Rule is Overturned by Court
August 24, 2012 07:08 AM - Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, Sive Paget & Riesel, P.C.

Four years after overturning a major Environmental Protection Agency air pollution rule as inconsistent with the Clean Air Act, this week the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the program that EPA had tailored to take its place, ruling that the replacement rule "exceeds the agency's statutory authority" and imposes "impossible" burdens upon covered states. As a result, hundreds of power plants in 28 states are once again subject to the very rule the same court rejected in 2008. The regulations in question implement the Clean Air Act’s "good neighbor" provisions, which prohibit states from significantly contributing to unsafe levels of air pollution, or interfering with Clean Air Act compliance, in downwind states. In 2005, EPA finalized the Clean Air Interstate Rule, establishing an emissions trading program for Eastern and Midwestern power plants aimed at reducing interstate air pollution transport.

Cape Wind Gets Final Approval
August 21, 2012 07:36 AM - Sean Teehan, Cape Cod Times

Cape Wind cleared its last bureaucratic hurdle Wednesday when the Federal Aviation Administration released its finding that the project poses no hazard to planes. The finding came after a court-mandated re-evaluation of possible safety hazards the 130-turbine project poses to planes and a GOP inquiry into whether the FAA's initial approval in 2010 was the result of political pressure from the left. "(The FAA's) aeronautical study revealed that the structure does not exceed obstruction standards and would not be a hazard to air navigation," the latest FAA determination reads. The project presents no hazard as long as Cape Wind marks and lights obstructions to planes, files required construction forms with the FAA and builds no turbines exceeding 440 feet above ground level, the decision reads.

Weyerheuser’s NORPAC plant Pioneering new Energy Saving Technology
August 20, 2012 06:41 AM - Tina Casey, Triple Pundit

One of the most significant energy efficiency projects in recent years is underway in the State of Washington, and it could set the stage for new growth in the U.S. paper industry. The largest paper mill in the U.S., Weyerheuser's NORPAC plant in Longview, is getting a new system for pretreating wood chips that is expected to save the company 100 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. The project is noteworthy not only for its sheer size, but also for demonstrating the potential that new conservation technologies have for generating new products and services. The full system is not entirely on line yet, but NORPAC (North Pacific Paper Corporation) is already using it to produce a new grade of paper.

Wind Power in the US Expected to Peak in 2012
August 19, 2012 07:42 AM - The Green Economy

The U.S. Department of Energy's "2011 Wind Technologies Market Report" finds that in 2011, the United States was still one of the fastest-growing markets for wind power. Around 6.8 gigwatts (GW) of new wind power capabilities were established in 2011, up from 5.2 GW in 2010. 2011 levels, however, were still beneath the 10 GW built in 2009. With the concerns of uncertain federal policies on the way, 2012 is expected to have the wind power market reach its peak, according to the research. Put together by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), the "2011 Wind Technologies Market Report" listed some other important points: Today, wind power accounts for over 10% of the total electricity production in six states, two of which have over 20%. Combined, these statistics comprise over 3% of the nation's entire supply of electricity. In 2011, wind power made up 32% of all the new additions to U.S. electricity capacity.

Tighter Rules on Coal Dust Exposure Backed by the GAO
August 18, 2012 08:29 AM - SCIENCE

After an extensive review—including a visit to a working coal mine in Pennsylvania—a U.S. government watchdog agency has concluded that mine safety regulators relied on sound science in proposing a new rule designed to reduce miners' exposure to coal dust. Industry groups had challenged the research underlying the 2010 proposal, and late last year Congress asked its investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), to look into the matter. Since 1968, more than 75,000 U.S. coal miners have died from lung diseases caused by coal mine dust, today's GAO report notes. And recent studies have suggested that so-called black lung disease is on the rise, threatening more than 85,000 miners working in 26 states. In a bid to reduce the threat, in October 2010 the Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) proposed reducing allowable concentrations of coal mine dust, lowering the standard from 2.0 milligrams of dust per cubic meter of air (mg/m3) to 1.0 milligram per cubic meter.

Belo Monte mega-dam halted again by high Brazilian court, appeal likely but difficult
August 17, 2012 08:21 AM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM

A high federal court in Brazil has ruled that work on the Belo Monte dam in the Brazilian Amazon be immediately suspended. Finding that the government failed to properly consult indigenous people on the dam, the ruling is the latest in innumerable twists and turns regarding the massive dam, which was first conceived in the 1970s, and has been widely criticized for its impact on tribal groups in the region and the Amazon environment. In addition the Regional Federal Tribunal (TRF1) found that Brazil's Environmental Impact Assessment was flawed since it was conducted after work on the dam had already begun.

Cold-Blooded species may adapt to climate change faster than thought
August 17, 2012 07:22 AM - ScienceDaily

In the face of a changing climate many species must adapt or perish. Ecologists studying evolutionary responses to climate change forecast that cold-blooded tropical species are not as vulnerable to extinction as previously thought. The study, published in the British Ecological Society's Functional Ecology, considers how fast species can evolve and adapt to compensate for a rise in temperature. The research, carried out at the University of Zurich, was led by Dr Richard Walters, now at Reading University, alongside David Berger now at Uppsala University and Wolf Blanckenhorn, Professor of Evolutionary Ecology at Zurich.

Slipping Sustainability Through The Back Door
August 16, 2012 08:37 AM - Jennifer Schwab, Sierra Club Green Home

aguna Niguel, CA — America is going green, but not the way environmentalists had planned it. The unlikely hero is none other than Corporate America, which is giving consumers the green whether they realize it or not. Why? Because it's good for the customer, it's good business, and let's face it, as MGM Senior Vice President of Environment and Energy Cindy Ortega articulates, "It is also good for employee morale and retention — people want to work for companies who care about the world around them."

Challenges facing the future of Antarctica
August 15, 2012 10:32 AM - British Antarctic Survey

A century ago, Antarctica was one of Earth's last frontiers, but now the continent is under threat from human activity. An international team of experts, including scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), has set out the current and future conservation challenges facing the Antarctic in a Policy Forum article published this week in the journal Science. The team analysed the effectiveness of the existing Antarctic Treaty System for protecting the region from the threats of climate change and, as technology improves, increasing prospects of use of the Antarctic's natural resources.

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