Environment: More trouble for VW


The EPA is making new allegations against VW for clean air violations.

EPA says automaker skirted clean air regs with additional diesel vehicles

By Bob Berwyn

There’s more trouble ahead for VW, as the EPA this week issued a second formal notice to the German automaker alleging further Clean Air Act violations.

The latest notice from the EPA is also being issued to Porsche AG and Porsche Cars North America. Along with the vehicles identified last month, the EPA now says that VW, Porsche and Audi also installed illegal air pollution “defeat devices” in additional cars, including the diesel versions of: the 2014 VW Touareg, the 2015 Porsche Cayenne, and the 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L, and Q5. Continue reading

Study: Diesel fumes not so good for bees


UK scientists say diesel exhaust fumes prevent bees from finding food. @bberwyn photo.

Scientists say nitrous oxide cuts the availability of flower scents

Staff Report

It’s pretty tough to smell the flowers when the air is polluted by exhaust fumes from heavy traffic, and a new study shows that may go double for bees.

In polluted environments, diesel fumes may be reducing the availability of almost half the most common flower odors that bees use to find their food, according to researchers in the UK. Continue reading

Environment: Texas study says kids exposed to highway pollution have lower grades


How bad is highway pollution in your town?

El Paso research shows strong link between school performance and air pollution

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new children’s health study by researchers at the University of Texas at El Paso reinforces existing evidence that exposure to toxic air pollution from cars and trucks has a big effect on school performance.

The UTEP study found that fourth and fifth graders who are exposed to toxic air pollutants at home are more likely to have lower GPAs. The findings are based on an analysis of academic performance and sociodemographic data for 1,895 fourth and fifth grade children in the El Paso Independent School District. 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


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

Environment: Proposed new ozone standards seen as challenge for regulators


A snapshot of ozone conditions in early June 2015.

Scientists say more monitoring will be crucial for regulators

Staff Report

FRISCO — Proposed new standards for harmful ozone pollution could present a big challenge for air quality managers at the state and local level. More monitoring is needed to help tell apart local sources from ozone that’s generated elsewhere, Boulder-based scientists wrote last week in Science.

Last November, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed lowering the primary ozone standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 or 65 ppb, based on ozone’s known effects on children, the elderly, and people who have lung diseases such as asthma. A decision by the EPA Administrator is expected in October 2015. Continue reading


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