Study tracks big drop in global mercury emissions

Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. @bberwyn photo.

Local, regional controls help improve global picture

Staff Report

Global mercury emissions dropped by nearly a third between 1990 and 2010, according to a new study that tried to identify patterns and trends in mercury pollution.

Rapid economic development in Asia means higher mercury emissions, but reductions in North America were enough to offset the increases, according to scientists from China, Germany, Canada and the U.S.

Mercury is a metallic element that poses environmental health risks to both wildlife and humans when converted to methylmercury in ecosystems.  It can be converted into gaseous emissions during various industrial activities, as well as natural processes like volcanic eruptions. Continue reading

Environment: Mercury deposition increasing in West and Midwest


Mercury emissions from power plants are a global issue.

Asia’s power plants affect U.S. environment

Staff Report

Mercury levels in precipitation are increasing in the central U.S. but steadily dropping along the East Coast, scientists reported in a new study.

The findings suggest that mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants in Asia are on the rise, while they are decreasing in North America, according to Peter Weiss-Penzias, an environmental toxicologist at UC Santa Cruz who was the lead author of the study.

Mercury is a toxic element released into the environment through a variety of human activities, including the burning of coal, as well as by natural processes. Rainfall washes mercury out of the atmosphere and into soils and surface waters. Bacteria convert elemental mercury into a more toxic form, methyl mercury, which becomes increasingly concentrated in organisms higher up the food chain. Mercury concentrations in some predatory fish are high enough to raise health concerns. Continue reading

Will the U.S. Supreme Court block the Clean Power Plan?

Fossil fuel dinosaurs make last-ditch effort to keep polluting the nation’s air with dangerous greenhouse gases

Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

By Bob Berwyn

Texas, West Virginia, Colorado and 26 other states are going to the U.S. Supreme Court with a last-ditch effort to slow the Obama administration’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

The states want the court to block implementation of the EPA Clean Power Plan, which they describe as “the most far reaching and burdensome rule EPA has ever forced onto the States.”

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected the same request, leading to the appeal to the Supreme Court. The states say the plan will require a massive shift away from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy, and claim the changes will cost jobs and money. Continue reading

Distant wildfire smoke may raise ozone levels

Summer 2012 wildfires Colorado

Wildfire smoke may interact with other pollutants to raise ozone levels. @bobberwyn photo.

Across the U.S., ozone levels were higher on smoky days than on smoke-free days

Staff Report

Wildfire smoke on its own can trigger health warnings for direct exposure, and new research from Colorado State University suggests that there may be a more widespread impact after they linked smoke with elevated levels of ozone.

In globally warming world, where the number and size of wildfires keeps growing, the findings have significant implications for public health. Continue reading

Feds hit pause button on public lands coal leasing


Coal is quickly becoming yesterday’s fuel.

Program review to take close look at climate impacts of fossil fuel development

Staff Report

The federal government will halt new coal leases on public lands pending a thorough review of the the program, including environmental impacts. Part of the proposal is to set up a public database to tally up carbon emissions  from fossil fuels developed on public lands.

The Bureau of Land Management would also be required to post requests for leases and for royalty reductions, and to figure ways to better  capture of waste mine methane, Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell announced this week. Continue reading

New NASA-developed technologies could cut jet emissions by 75 percent


Emerging technologies could cut the airline industry’s carbon footprint. @bberwyn photo.

New designs, materials could also deliver huge cost savings for airlines

Staff Report

Airlines could cut costs and air pollution by adopting some of NASA’s latest green aviation technologies.

The nation’s airlines could realize more than $250 billion dollars in savings in the near future thanks to green-related technologies developed and refined by NASA’s aeronautics researchers during the past six years. Continue reading

Environment: Feds face legal challenge over Four Corners power plant approval

The Four Corners Power Plant in a 1972 photo via Wikipedia.

The Four Corners Power Plant in a 1972 photo via Wikipedia.

Climate impacts, environmental justice at issue in looming legal battle

Staff Report

Community and environmental activists say they’ll contest federal approval of continued operations at the giant pollution-spewing Four Corners Power Plant in court.

In a formal notice of their intent to sue, the groups said Office of Surface Mining, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies failed to look at clean energy alternatives and didn’t adequately consider the carbon pollution, health and other environmental impacts when they approved operation of the plant last summer. The notice also says the environmental studies didn’t look at water contamination from coal ash waste, and impacts to Navajo culture. Continue reading


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