Pollution

California, Feds Reject Volkswagen Recall "Fix"
January 14, 2016 07:16 AM - Jan Lee, Triple Pundit

Last week, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) said “no deal” to Volkswagen’s proposal to buy back some of the vehicles that were outfitted with cheat devices. According to CARB, the plan, which would see the recall of only a fraction of the 600,000 U.S. cars affected in the latest VW scandal, does “not adequately address overall impacts on vehicle performance, emissions and safety,” and would not fix the cars’ pollution problems quickly enough.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory shows how nanoparticles impact immune cells
January 13, 2016 03:35 PM - Tom Rickey, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Scientists have shown that a process known as oxidative stress is at work during encounters between certain nanoparticles and immune cells, selectively modifying proteins on macrophages, a type of immune cell. The findings, by researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, were published in the journal ACS Nano.

While oxidative stress is a common way for cell damage to occur, the findings were a surprise in some ways.

"Oxidative stress is occurring selectively even at low levels of exposure to nanoparticles," said Brian Thrall, a nanotoxicology expert at PNNL and a corresponding author of the study. "We've demonstrated an approach that is sensitive enough to detect effects of nanoparticles on macrophages long before those cells die. This gives us the opportunity to understand the most sensitive cellular targets of oxidative stress and the pathways involved more completely than before.

"This is important information for understanding how nanoparticles can alter cell function and for beginning to identify functions that allow cells to adapt versus those that are potentially involved in adverse effects," Thrall added.

 

California Methane Leak leads to State of Emergency
January 11, 2016 07:26 AM - Mike Gaworecki, MONGABAY.COM

An ongoing methane gas leak at a facility in Southern California — what’s been called “the nation’s biggest environmental disaster since the BP oil spill” — has officially been declared an emergency by Governor Jerry Brown.

Natural gas, or methane, first started leaking from Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage facility on October 23 last year.

Some 2,300 homes have been evacuated in nearby Porter Ranch, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, after residents began experiencing nosebleeds, rashes, headaches and other serious health impacts due to the gas leak and the sulfur-like smell that is blanketing their community.

Testing chemical toxicity challenge announced by USEPA + National Institutes of Health
January 8, 2016 05:19 PM - USEPA

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), and NIH’s National Toxicology Program (NTP) within the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) are announcing a new challenge that will award up to $1 million to improve the relevance and predictivity of data generated from automated chemical screening technology used for toxicity testing.

Out of thousands of chemicals in commerce today, very few have been fully evaluated for potential health effects. Scientists from EPA, NIEHS/NTP, and NCATS are using high-throughput screening (HTS) assays to evaluate the potential health effects of thousands of chemicals. High-throughput screening uses automated methods that allow for a large number of chemicals to be rapidly evaluated for a specific type of biological activity.

Lawrence Livermore Laboratory developing underground battery system to store energy and CO2
January 6, 2016 04:30 PM - Lawrence Liverpool Laboratory.

Meeting the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels will require increased use of renewable energy and reducing the CO2 intensity of fossil energy use.

The intermittency of when the wind blows and when the sun shines is one of the biggest challenges impeding the widespread integration of renewable energy into electric grids, while the cost of capturing CO2 and storing it permanently underground is a big challenge for decarbonizing fossil energy.

However, researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Ohio State University, University of Minnesota and TerraCOH, Inc. think they’ve found an answer to both of these problems with a large-scale system that incorporates CO2 sequestration and energy storage.

 

US Files Complaint Against Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche for Alleged Clean Air Act Violations - not the kind of German engineering the VW Group wants to be known for
January 4, 2016 03:56 PM - US Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, today filed a civil complaint in federal court in Detroit, Michigan against Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations, LLC, Porsche AG, and Porsche Cars North America, Inc. (collectively referred to as Volkswagen). The complaint alleges that nearly 600,000 diesel engine vehicles had illegal defeat devices installed that impair their emission control systems and cause emissions to exceed EPA’s standards, resulting in harmful air pollution. The complaint further alleges that Volkswagen violated the Clean Air Act by selling, introducing into commerce, or importing into the United States motor vehicles that are designed differently from what Volkswagen had stated in applications for certification to EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

“With today’s filing, we take an important step to protect public health by seeking to hold Volkswagen accountable for any unlawful air pollution, setting us on a path to resolution,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance at EPA. “So far, recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward. These discussions will continue in parallel with the federal court action.”

“Car manufacturers that fail to properly certify their cars and that defeat emission control systems breach the public trust, endanger public health and disadvantage competitors,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation’s clean air laws alleged in the complaint.”

Will Styrofoam Get the Plastic Bag Treatment?
January 4, 2016 07:09 AM - Kevin Mathews, Care2

Say farewell to Styrofoam take-out containers in the nation’s capital. It’s been a few years in the making, but Washington, D.C. has finally enacted a firm ban on polystyrene food and beverage containers. Henceforth, all restaurants will have to provide biodegradable alternatives if they want to send their patrons home with leftovers.

Good news about restoring river ecosystems
January 1, 2016 10:17 AM - Lizabeth Paulat, Care2, Care2

t is a commonly held belief that most ecosystems take about a lifetime to recover after damage is introduced by humans. However, researchers at Ohio State University are finding that initial recovery can be dramatic if the right conditions are present. The discovery was made while monitoring how dam removal impacted local species. 

The studies focus on the reintroduction of birds and salmon to the habitat. What they found was that if just birds were introduced, they tended to have low weight and poor numbers of offspring. However, when dams came down and salmon and fish were put together, both species flourished and impacted the surrounding ecosystem positively.

2015 Year in Review
December 31, 2015 07:10 AM - Mike Gaworecki, MONGABAY.COM

As 2015 comes to a close, Mongabay is looking back at the year that was. This year saw President Obama reject the Keystone pipeline as historic droughts and a vicious wildfire season wracked the western US and Canada. The world committed to climate action in Paris as Southeast Asia was choking on the worst Indonesian haze in years, Shell aborted its plans to drill in the Arctic for the “foreseeable” future, and ExxonMobil is being investigated for lying to the public about climate risks. Here, in no certain order, are the top 15 environmental stories of 2015.

Los Angeles area natural gas leak continues
December 31, 2015 05:06 AM - Lowell Williams, Care2, Care2

Though it seems to be oddly absent from the mainstream media headlines, a massive methane gas leak in Southern California’s Aliso Canyon has prompted thousands of evacuations and, since Oct. 23, has pumped over 150 million pounds of the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. Even though the owners of the methane well, Southern California Gas Co., say this week that they have finally discovered the pipe associated with the leak, it will likely be months before a seal is entirely in place.

To truly underscore the seriousness of the Porter Ranch gas leak, the Environmental Defense Fund released an infrared aerial video this week showing the tremendous, continuous release of methane:

Methane gas, in its natural state, is also odorless. However, for safety reasons, foul-smelling additives are artificially included with the gas. In Porter Ranch, a Los Angeles neighborhood and the site of the leak, the additive smell’s intensity has affected the heath of many of residents — nose bleeds, nausea, headaches and dizzy spells have been reported.

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