Energy: Can wind farms be too large?

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Careful planning is needed to maximize the benefits of large wind farms. Photo via DOE.

New modeling study shows a “slowdown” effect if too many turbines are clumped together

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wind turbine installations could some day reach a point of diminishing returns if they get too big, according to a new study that evaluated the effects of large wind farms on atmospheric flow and its implications for how much renewable energy the turbines can generate.

The researchers at the University of Kansas did their study in the context of the renewable energy boom. Wind energy accounted for 3.3 percent of electricity generation in the United States in 2011. The study was aimed at learning what happens to the wind when a larger number of wind turbines removes more and more of the energy of atmospheric motion. Continue reading

New Arctic oil exploration puts narwhals at risk

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Marine conservation advocates say new seismic airgun blasting in the Arctic Ocean threatens whales and other marine life. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Seismic blasting east of Greenland raises concerns about impacts to marine mammals

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Arctic Ocean north of Alaska isn’t the only area increasingly at risk from oil and gas exploitation. Oil companies are exploring the seabed off the eastern coast of Greenland, and the seismic blasting is likely harm whales and other marine life.

Oil companies use seismic equipment to map underground oil and gas reserves with airguns that emit 259 decibel blasts, a sound intensity would be perceived by humans as approximately eight times louder than a jet engine taking off. Continue reading

Environment: Canadian mine, energy developments stir trans-border unease in Alaska

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Ecosystems in a transboundary region are at issue in a series of upcoming meetings in Alaska. Map courtesy Rivers Without Borders.

Alaska communities seek international review of Canadian projects that will affect their rivers

Staff Report

FRISCO — Mining and energy development in western Canada is making some Alaskans uneasy, as they eye potential impacts to pristine salmon streams in the region.

Citing a bilateral environmental treaty, activists this week will meet with British Columbia’s Minister of Energy and Mines, Bill Bennett, when he visits Juneau and will ask him to support an international review of mine developments in northwest B.C.

The environmental and community advocates said an international review is the best way to develop specific, binding commitments to ensure clean water, salmon, jobs and traditional and customary practices are not harmed by mine development in British Columbia. Continue reading

Fossil fuel development looms at Florida preserve

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Conservation advocates are concerned about a proposal to explore for oil and gas in Big Cypress National Preserve.

Risky business in one of the country’s most biodiverse regions

Staff Report

FRISCO — No place is safe from the never-ending quest to feed modern society’s addiction to fossil fuels. One of the latest targets is Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve, where Burnett Oil, of Ft. Worth, Texas, is seeking a permit to do seismic testing across approximately 110 square miles.

The National Park Service is taking comments on the proposal  at this website through Aug. 16, and conservation advocates are rallying supporters to try and block or limit the proposal. Continue reading

Environment: Coastal communities in southeastern U.S. not exactly enthusiastic about offshore oil and gas drilling

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Where there is drilling, there are oil spills. Photo via U.S. Coast Guard.

Offshore wind energy projects touted as better alternative

Staff Report

FRISCO — Cities along the southeastern coast of the U.S. are lining up to oppose offshore fossil fuel exploitation. Earlier this week, the  Morehead City Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing seismic airgun blasting and offshore drilling.

The council’s resolution expresses concerns that federal plans for offshore oil and gas exploration and development threaten coastal communities, economies, fisheries and marine mammals.

The city was reacting to the Obama administration’s proposed plans to opening a large swath of the Atlantic Ocean, from Virginia to Georgia, to offshore drilling. Meanwhile, seismic airgun blasting, a process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor, is continuing to move forward in an area twice the size of California, stretching all the way from Delaware to Florida. Continue reading

Activists launch campaign to end public lands coal mining

The U.S. is the second-largest producer of coal in the world, thanks in part to massive surface mines like this one in Wyoming. Photo courtesy BLM.

The U.S. is the second-largest producer of coal in the world, thanks in part to massive surface mines like this one in Wyoming. Photo courtesy BLM.

Report shows how to end public lands coal mining within 25 years

Staff Report

FRISCO — With control over over nearly 1 trillion tons of coal, the U.S. Department of Interior’s leasing and mining policies are a big factor in the rate of U.S. Greenhouse gas emissions. In 2014, for example, more than 40 percent of all U.S. coal production came from public lands managed by the Interior Department.

Continuing to extract and burn the coal from public lands at current rate will make it nearly impossible to meet even modest climate targets, conservation advocates said this week, calling on Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to acknowledge the risks of unchecked carbon emissions. Continue reading

Environment: Feds face pipeline safety lawsuit

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Workers try to contain an oil spill from a ruptured pipeline in the Yellowstone River in January, 2015.

Lacksadaiscal enforcement is a recipe for disaster

Staff Report

FRISCO — After a series of disastrous pipeline breaks, the National Wildlife Federation says it’s time to hold the federal government accountable for its failure to enforce basic requirements like regular inspections and update safety response plans for pipeline accidents.

This week, the nonprofit group said it will sue the  U.S Department of Transportation in an action that has nationwide implications, since nearly every pipeline that crosses a navigable water is operating illegally. In its formal notice of intent to sue, the National Wildlife Federation is asking the Department of Transportation to issue regulations for oil pipelines in water, and require every owner and operator of an oil pipeline in a navigable water to submit a safety response plan that needs to be approved. Continue reading

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