• Water use growing twice as fast as population!

    Like oil in the 20th century, water could well be the essential commodity on which the 21st century will turn. Human beings have depended on access to water since the earliest days of civilization, but with 7 billion people on the planet as of October 31, exponentially expanding urbanization and development are driving demand like never before. Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, said Kirsty Jenkinson of the World Resources Institute, a Washington think tank. Water use is predicted to increase by 50 percent between 2007 and 2025 in developing countries and 18 percent in developed ones, with much of the increased use in the poorest countries with more and more people moving from rural areas to cities, Jenkinson said in a telephone interview. >> Read the Full Article
  • EPA delays pollution rule for coal plants, but only until December

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Friday it will postpone its final rule aimed at slashing air pollution from coal plants for a month, but made it clear it plans to move forward on the regulations. The EPA said it needs the extra time to review 960,000 comments it received on its draft rule, but plans to finalize it by Dec 16. A group of 25 states has launched a court case over the rule, seeking a delay of at least a year for what they argue is an expensive measure that will shut down old coal-fired power plants. Analysts have said American Electric Power and Duke Energy could see shutdowns because of the rule, which would require many plants to install scrubbers and other anti-pollution technology. But the EPA, which has also been sued by environmental groups to finalize the rule, said the regulation is needed to prevent illnesses and deaths caused by air pollution. "In a court filing today, EPA made clear its opposition to efforts to delay this historic, court ordered standard by a full year," the agency said in a statement. >> Read the Full Article
  • California approves carbon market rules

    California regulators on Thursday approved final regulations for a carbon market that is one of the biggest U.S. responses to climate change. The state believes the market for greenhouse gases, which starts in 2013, will let it address global warming in a low-cost way and become the center of alternative energy industries, like solar, although some businesses fear higher energy prices. The most populous U.S. state is moving ahead with the plan years after federal regulators rejected a similar idea for the nation, partly on concerns of the effect on businesses. The California Air Resources Board voted 8-0 to adopt the market regulations, which officials said are critical to the state's goal of cutting carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 -- about a 22 percent reduction from forecasted business-as-usual output. Power companies and factories will be able to trade a gradually decreasing number of permits to emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the so-called cap-and-trade plan, which counts on market forces leading companies to find the cheapest way to cut emissions. >> Read the Full Article
  • Commentary: U.S. House of Representatives Passes Bill To Weaken EPA Clean Air Rules

    Two bills are currently working they way through the U.S. Congress in an attempt to stay activation of new air pollution regulations propagated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, namely additions to the NESHAP, Cement MACT, and Boiler MACT standards scheduled to take effect in the next few months. The new regulations will require most facilities to install updated dust collection systems to meet more stringent emissions levels. The pair of bills, the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011 and the EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011, are part of a larger effort by conservatives to curtail the so-called "aggressive" agenda of the EPA. Several different EPA rule sets are covered by the bill, but the main three are the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs), Boiler MACTs (Maximum Available Control Technology), and Cement MACTs which covers emissions from the manufacture of cement. The standards are either new, or updates to existing EPA regulations. The EPA NESHAPs cover the six basic air pollutants the EPA regulates, carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter e.g. dusts smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), lead, and ozone. These rules were recently revised to include stricter limits. >> Read the Full Article
  • Shenyang, a Major Chinese Industrial City, Turns Green

    Shenyang is a large city in Northeastern China, not far from the border with North Korea. It is a centrally important industrial city with a population of 8 million that is currently leading the charge for environmentally-friendly practices in urban China. It was at one point heavily polluted with perpetual gray skies and black soot in the air. It was home to some of the country's largest iron and steel plants with a forest of smokestacks and chimneys. The city has undergone a massive transformation by reducing its air pollution, expanding green spaces, and implementing stricter environmental policies. >> Read the Full Article
  • House votes to delay air pollution rules on boilers

    The House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday to delay Environmental Protection Agency limits on pollutants from industrial boilers, its latest move to hinder air rules designed to protect public health. The vote was 275 to 142 for the legislation. All Republicans present voted for the bill as did 41 Democrats. Republicans have a majority in the House. "We're not saying, 'Let's walk away and not protect the American people,'" said Representative Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky. "We're simply saying, 'Let's hold back for just a moment, let's go back and revisit this rule.'" House Republicans and the business community have launched a campaign to delay the EPA's raft of air pollution rules on everything from mercury to greenhouse gases, saying they destroy jobs and add costs to companies struggling to recover. The extent to which Republican voters support the delay of EPA air pollution rules, however, may be faltering. A survey released on Wednesday by Democratic and Republican pollsters suggested the majority of Republican voters do not want the EPA rules stopped or delayed. >> Read the Full Article
  • EPA says it will complete Mercury and Air Toxics Standards by November 16

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Tuesday it was committed to finalizing a standard on mercury emissions by November 16 after 25 states urged a court to force the agency to delay the rule. "EPA is committed to completing the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards -- the first-ever national standards for mercury, arsenic and other toxic air pollution from power plants," the EPA said in a release. An EPA spokeswoman said the agency was on track to finalize the rule, which targets older, inefficient power plants fired by coal and oil, as expected by November 16. The agency is under court order to finalize the rule, also known as the maximum achievable control technology, or MACT, rule for utilities. Late Monday, 25 states filed a brief with the U.S. District Court in Washington urging the court to push EPA to delay finalization of the rule until November 16, 2012 or later, complaining the standard would kill jobs and saddle industry with costs at the worst possible time. >> Read the Full Article
  • Why the Civilian Conservation Corps Should be Restablished

    Last month I was reminded of the impressive accomplishments of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) while touring California National Parks. The CCC was a public works program that operated from 1933 to 1942 as part of FDR's New Deal. It provided manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state and local governments. The American public made the CCC the most popular of all the New Deal programs. >> Read the Full Article
  • Workplace pollutants tied to children's asthma risk

    A mother's exposure to airborne pollutants at work during her pregnancy may increase the likelihood that her unborn child will later develop asthma, a Danish study said. The review of registry data on 45,658 seven-year-old children and their mothers found that 18.6 percent of children of mothers who were exposed to low-molecular-weight particles at work during pregnancy developed asthma, compared to 16.1 percent of the general population. "This is the first large-scale study which has shown an association between maternal exposures during work and asthma in children," said study leader Berit Christensen, at the School of Public Health in Denmark, in a statement. For the study, which was presented at the European Respiratory Society's recent annual congress in Amsterdam, Christensen and colleagues used mothers' job titles to estimate their exposure to workplace pollutants, with categories for either low- or high-molecular-weight particles, mixed, farmers, "unclassifiable" and students, as well as a reference group of office workers for comparison. >> Read the Full Article
  • EPA considering relaxing air quality rule for power plants

    The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to ease a new air pollution rule that would require power plants in 27 states to slash emissions, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter. The EPA plans to propose as early as this week allowing certain states and companies to emit more pollutants than it previously permitted, the report said. An agency spokesman was not immediately available for comment. The agency's Cross-State Air Pollution final rule issued in July calls, in part, for much stricter limits on emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, or SO2, from coal and natural gas-fired power plants beginning in January. The changes are expected to allow for emissions increases ranging from 1 percent to 4 percent above the July requirement, depending on the pollutant, the Journal reported, citing the sources. >> Read the Full Article