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Environmental groups challenge continued operation of giant Four Corners coal-burning power plant

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

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

Global warming impacts, health of Native American communities at issue in new federal study

Staff Report

FRISCO — President Obama may be all about tackling global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions these days, but that message hasn’t trickled to to various government agencies, including the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, which last week released a draft environmental study on continued operation of the Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Mine Energy Project.

The giant coal-burning facility is one of the biggest sources of heat-trapping greenhouse gases and other toxic air pollutants in the country, yet the draft study, which would permit continued operation for another 25 years, appears to ignore any option besides business-as-usual, according to environmental groups, who say they will challenge the federal government because it failed to look at impacts on climate and to wildlife and people. Continue reading

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Environment: Jet pollution widespread around LAX

Twilight above Boston from a Jet Blue airliner.

Passenger jets are huge source of air pollution around busy airports, a new study finds.

Dangerous ultrafine particles measured up to 10 miles away from runways

Staff Report

FRISCO —Adverse health effects from jet planes extend much farther from airports than previously thought, according to health researchers with the University of Southern California who carefully measured air pollution around Los Angeles International Airport. The study found that LAX “should be considered one of the most important sources of PN in Los Angeles.”

Their study, published the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science & Technology journal, shows that pollution from heavy airplane traffic can affect people as far as 10 miles from busy airports. Most previous studies had only sampled air quality within a couple of miles of airports, finding higher levels of pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides and small (ultrafine) particles less than 0.1 micron (about one-thousandth of the width of a human hair), that scientists attributed to airplane emissions. Continue reading

Environment: Study shows space-based sensors can accurately measure greenhouse gases and other air pollution

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

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

Satellite data verified by in-stack measurements

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Keeping tabs colorless, odorless carbon dioxide emissions is not always easy, yet it will be crucial someday for being able to measure whether countries are meeting targets for emissions reductions.

Scientists with Los Alamos National Laboratory now say they’ve been able to measure air pollution and greenhouse gases from the two coal-fired power plants in the Four Corners — the largest single point source of pollution in the U.S. Continue reading

Environmental groups ask EPA to set national limits on pollution from oil and gas production

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Oil and gas drilling roads and pads are spreading into remote backcountry areas of Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Cancer-causing chemicals escaping from fossil fuel facilities by the ton

Staff Report

FRISCO — Colorado communities looking to regulate the toxic and dangerous impacts of oil and gas drilling may not get any help from Gov. John Hickenlooper, but they may get some backup from a huge coalition of environmental groups that have petitioned the EPA for limits on oil and gas wells and associated equipment in population centers around the U.S.

As thousands of new wells are drilled across the U.S. every day, some studies suggest that at least 100,000 tons per year of hazardous air pollution from oil and gas well sites — including benzene, formaldehyde, and naphthalene — are escaping into the atmosphere. These pollutants have been linked to respiratory and neurological problems, birth defects, and cancer. Continue reading

Colorado: Industry, state regulators consistently underestimate air pollution from oil and gas operations

The proliferation of oil and gas drilling in Colorado raises serious questions about water quality impacts. Photo courtesy SkyTruth.

The proliferation of oil and gas drilling in Colorado raises serious questions about air quality impacts. Photo courtesy SkyTruth.

New research show true magnitude of fossil fuel pollution along Front Range

Staff Report

FRISCO — Heat-trapping greenhouse gases and other air pollutants are leaking from Colorado oil and gas operations at a far higher rate than previously estimated.

Two days of aerial surveys showed methane leaking at three times the rate predicted by inventory estimates, and seven times as much benzene, a cancer-causing air toxic.Emissions of other chemicals that contribute to summertime ozone pollution were about twice as high as estimates, according to the new paper, accepted for publication in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. Continue reading

Climate: Historic paintings offer atmospheric clues

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Many of J.M. Turner’s famed impressionist sky scenes were painted shortly after the 1815 eruption of the Tambora Volcano in Indonesia.

Study traces pollution levels by analyzing 500 years of art

Staff Report

FRISCO — Looking closely at some of the world’s great paintings from the past 500 years has enabled scientists to track the history of atmospheric pollution, based on the colors the artists used to depict the sky.

For example, when he Tambora volcano in Indonesia erupted in 1815, painters in Europe could see the colors of the sky changing. The volcanic ash and gas spewed into the atmosphere traveled the world and, as these aerosol particles scattered sunlight, they produced bright red and orange sunsets in Europe for up to three years after the eruption.

Continue reading

Study: Methane emission estimates much too low

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America’s natural gas infrastructure has leakage issues.

Methane emissions from natural gas industry facilities and other sources may be up to 75 percent higher than EPA estimates

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A comprehensive air quality analysis shows that most estimates of methane emissions from various sources — including the natural gas industry — are much too low, a result that didn’t surprise the scientists who led the study. Total U.S. methane emissions are probably about 25 to 75 percent higher than EPA estimates.

“People who go out and and actually measure methane pretty consistently find more emissions than we expect,” said the lead author of the new analysis, Adam Brandt, an assistant professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford University. “Atmospheric tests covering the entire country indicate emissions around 50 percent more than EPA estimates,” said Brandt. “And that’s a moderate estimate.” Continue reading

Environment: Study shows globalization of pollution

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Haze over eastern China. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory. (LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team).

Researchers say West Coast smog partially caused by pollutants from Chinese factories that export products to the U.S.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Globalization of trade has nibbled away at the gap between the have- and have-not countries, but the massive transfer of manufacturing also had some unforeseen consequences for the environment.

For example, air pollution blowing across the Pacific Ocean from China to the West Coast of the U.S. is often caused by the production of the very goods that end up being bought by American consumers, according to research published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study is the first to quantify how much pollution reaching the American West Coast is from the production in China of cellphones, televisions and other consumer items imported here and elsewhere. Continue reading

Scientists launch crowdfunding effort to study winter ozone formation in Utah’s fracking patch

Signs of oil and gas development are visible on a landscape level from 35,000 feet in the air.

Signs of oil and gas development in eastern Utah  are visible on a landscape level from 35,000 feet in the air.

Snow may intensify the air quality impacts of energy development

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A team of American and Canadian scientists want to unravel some of the secrets of winter ozone formation related to oil and gas drilling — and they need your help.

University of Washington atmospheric researcher Becky Alexander, who is leading the January research project in Utah’s Uintah Basin has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help finance the field work. The team wants to raise $12,ooo in the next three weeks via their project website at mycroriza.com.

“It’s a global outreach effort,” Alexander said, explaining that crowdfunding for scientific research is a new and growing movement. Grassroots funding helps eliminate some of the administrative overhead costs sometimes associated with traditional sources of money. Sometimes, as much as 50 to 60 percent of federal funding ends up going toward overhead, she explained. Continue reading

Study helps unravel the secret life of clouds

Air pollution can be a big factor in development of thunderclouds

Thundercloud over Peak 1

Air pollution can have a significant impact on the development of thunderclouds, causing cloud remnants to persist longer. bberwyn photo.

FRISCO — Air pollution can have a significant effect on the development of thunderhead clouds, causing the cloud remnants to persist high in the atmosphere long after thunderstorms dissipate. This, in turn, can affect daily temperature ranges, as the lingering clouds partially cool the Earth during the day with their shadows, but trap heat to keep nighttime temperatures warmer.

The new study, from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, helps answer long-running questions about how airborne pollutants affect climate warming. The findings will help provide a gauge for the accuracy of weather and climate models.

“This study reconciles what we see in real life to what computer models show us,” said atmospheric scientist Jiwen Fan. “Observations consistently show taller and bigger anvil-shaped clouds in storm systems with pollution, but the models don’t always show stronger convection. Now we know why.” Continue reading

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