Watchdogs say voluntary methane cuts aren’t enough

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‘To fight global warming, we need real methane rules …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A slew of recent studies showing how heat-trapping methane emissions have been consistently underestimated apparently didn’t have a big impact on the EPA, which has proposed a voluntary program to try and cut atmospheric methane buildup, with some mandatory regulations still in the works.

The Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program (“Methane Challenge”) (PDF) (18 pp, 512K, About PDF) would provide a new mechanism enabling oil and gas companies cto track ambitious commitments to reduce methane emissions. According to the EPA, the program is based on extensive stakeholder outreach and reflects a revision of EPA’s previously proposed Gas STAR Gold framework. Continue reading

Congress out of synch with voters on environmental issues

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The majority of Americans support protection for endangered species, and for clean air and clean water. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Nearly 7 in 10 voters favor strong environmental laws, yet Congress kowtows to special interests

Staff Report

FRISCO — If Americans voted purely on environmental issues, the country would have a very “green” Congress, according to a new poll showing that most people support the Endangered Species Act, and are more likely to vote for candidates who want to uphold environmental safeguards. Continue reading

Environment: Independence Day fireworks cause short-term spike in harmful air pollution

July 4 fireworks.

July 4 fireworks can result in short-term spikes of fine particulate pollution. @bberwyn photo.

Research tracks surge in PM2.5 pollution around the Fourth of July

Staff Report

FRISCO — The fallout from Independence Day fireworks can cause air pollution to spike by as much as 370 percent for a few hours, scientists said this week after studying several years worth of data from more than 300 air quality monitors around the country.

Specifically, the researchers looked at the surge in fine particulate matter — particles that are two and one half microns in diameter (PM2.5) on July 4. The data came from 315 measuring sites spanning 15 years, for the first time quantifying the increase in pollution. Continue reading

U.S. Supreme Court nixes EPA’s mercury limits

Conservative majority ruling puts thousands of lives at risk

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

FRISCO — The EPA will have to go back to the drawing board if it wants to regulate toxic mercury emissions from factories and power plants, as the U.S. Supreme Court today voided the agency’s 2012 regulations that were set to take effect this year.

In a divided five-four ruling, the court sided with heavy industry and fossil-fuel burning power plants, saying that the EPA should have considered the costs of the regulations as part of its initial evaluation. The EPA had argued that those costs would be evaluated at the next step of the regulatory process.

Mercury is a global pollutant that has been detected in California’s coastal fogs. In a national assessment, the U.S. Geological Survey found unhealthy mercury levels in 25 percent of all U.S. Streams. And near Hawaii, scientists say mercury concentrations in yellowfin tuna have been increasing 3.8 percent a year. Researchers have even documented signs of environmental stress in Alaskan sled dogs who primarily eat mercury tainted fish. Continue reading

Environment: $160 million cleanup ordered at coal-burning, pollution-spewing Four Corners power plant

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New pollution controls will cut emissions at the Four Corners power plant.

Settlement includes requirements for regional public health and environmental mitigation projects

Staff Report

FRISCO — One of the dirtiest coal-burning power plants in the country will be required to upgrade pollution controls, cutting thousands of tons of harmful sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions.

The $160 million cleanup at the Four Corners Power Plant, located on the Navajo Nation near Shiprock, New Mexico, comes under a court-ordered Clean Air Act settlement between the EPA and several Arizona and New Mexico-based utility companies.

The total combined emission reductions secured from the settlement will exceed 2 million tons each year, once all the required pollution controls are installed and implemented. Continue reading

Why are oil and gas companies wasting $360 million worth of natural gas each year?

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Oil and gas operations on public and tribal lands produce 21 percent of national emissions from gas production.

Study says easy fixes available to stop methane leaks

Staff Report

FRISCO — Methane emissions from oil and gas operations on federally managed public lands and tribal lands totaled more than 1 million tons in 2013, accounting for about 12 percent of total methane emissions across the U.S.

That methane was worth about $360 million at current gas prices, showing how oil and gas companies are squandering a valuable public resources and polluting the atmosphere, according to a new economic study released by the Environmental Defense Fund. Continue reading

Study: Cleaning the air would save millions of lives worldwide

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Thick smog along the east coast of China. Satellite image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

‘With no changes in air pollution, deaths per capita from air pollution would increase 20 to 30 percent during the next 15 years in India and China …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Numerous public health studies have shown how cleaning up air pollution in the U.S. could prevent thousands of premature deaths. On a global scale, the benefits of cleaner air are staggering, according to scientists and engineers.

The researchers developed a global model showing how reductions in outdoor air pollution could lead to changes in the rates of health problems such as heart attack, stroke and lung cancer, potentially saving millions of lives every year. Continue reading

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