Environment: Feds extend comment period on controversial Endangered Species Act changes

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Can the Endangered Species Act be improved?

Proposed changes would make it harder for citizen groups to petition for protection

Staff Report

FRISCO — The feds will give the public an extra two months to weigh in on proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act, with a new comment deadline set for mid-September.

In May, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service published draft regulations, saying that the changes are aimed at improving transparency and inclusiveness. The move to freshen up the Endangered Species Act reflects “advances in conservation biology and genetics, as well as recent court decisions interpreting the Act’s provisions.” Continue reading

Feds face another clean water lawsuit

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The federal government is being sued by conservation groups and industry over the new Waters of the U.S. rule.

Conservation groups say new rule has too many pollution loopholes

Staff Report

FRISCO — There will be yet more legal wrangling over a new federal clean water rule, as conservation groups said last week they will sue to plug some loopholes that could open the door for more pollution in wetlands and streams.

At issue is the so-called Waters of the U.S. rule finalized by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May. That means the feds will be getting sued twice over the rule. Industry groups announced their challenge in mid-July, claiming the new regulations “dramatically expand federal regulatory authority. Continue reading

Feds seek near-total ban on ivory trade to protect elephants

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Greed is pushing elephants toward extinction.

Booming Asian economies fuel huge poaching and wildlife trafficking issues

Staff Report

FRISCO —Federal wildlife managers hope that a near-total ban on the U.S. ivory trade will help slow the slaughter of elephants poached for their tusks.

By some estimates, as many as 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory between 2010 and 2012 — about one every 15 minutes. Elephants are threatened in formerly safe areas, and some of Africa’s most famous wildlife parks are littered with carcasses. Continue reading

EU wind power growing by leaps and bounds

Global capacity grew to 370 gigawatts in 2014

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Got wind?

Staff Report

FRISCO — Europe is now generating about 8 percent of its total energy usage from wind power, according to an annual report from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

If that doesn’t sound like a lot, here’s another way to look at it: Windpower generated enough electricity to cover the combined annual consumption of Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece and Ireland. Thanks to the ever-decreasing costs of building new windpower facilities, the EU could be producing at least 12 percent of its annual power needs with turbines by 2020.

The report confirms that wind power has been the most widely deployed form of renewable energy in the past two decades, with the global cumulative capacity growing to 370 gigawatts in 2014. Last year represented an annual record with 52.8 GW of wind turbines capacity installed worldwide, a 48% percent increase compared to 2013 and 17 percent over the 2012 record of 45.2GW. Continue reading

New satellite data aids wildfire efforts

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Wildfires in Canada send thick plumes of smoke streaming across the Great Lakes region. Photo via NASA Earth Observatory.

Real-time info and detailed imaging helps firefighter get the jump on dangerous blazes

Staff Report

FRISCO — New satellite-based technologies developed by NASA have already helped firefighters in South Africa respond to dangerous wildfires, and could help resource managers in the U.S. get a jump on blazes that threaten communities.

The new fire detection tool uses data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite to detect smaller fires in more detail than previous space-based products. The high-resolution data have been used with a cutting-edge computer model to predict how a fire will change direction based on weather and land conditions. Continue reading

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

Study documents ubiquity of bee-killing pesticides

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Can bees survive the age of pesticides? @bberwyn photo.

Findings suggest human health risks from inhaling pollen laced with neonicotinoids

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists with Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health say their new study examining pollen and honey shows there’s a need to develop public policies that aims to reduce neonicotinoid exposure.

After working 62 Massachusetts beekeepers who volunteered to collect monthly samples of pollen and honey from foraging bees, the researchers found more that 70 percent of the samples contained at least one neonicotinoid, a class of pesticide that has been implicated the steep decline of honeybee populations, specifically colony collapse disorder, when adult bees abandon their hives during winter.

The study will be published online July 23, 2015 in the Journal of Environmental Chemistry. Not only do these pesticides pose a significant risk for the survival of honey bees, but they also may pose health risks for people inhaling neonicotinoid-contaminated pollen, Lu said. Continue reading

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