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

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

Loss of coral reefs could make some islands uninhabitable

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Some reef-ringed atolls will see their drinking water supplies wiped out due to global warming.

Island flooding likely to increase dramatically as coral reefs die

Staff Report

FRISCO —Besides losing critical marine nurseries, the decline of coral reefs will put some island communities at direct risk of flooding and even threaten freshwater drinking supplies, according to a new study that tries to project how climate change will affect the ability of coral reefs to mitigate coastal hazards.

About 30 million people living on low-lying coral islands and atolls are dependent on ecosystem services provided by reefs. Right now, some of those islands see flooding from large waves a few times each decade, but that number is expected to increase dramatically. Continue reading

Industrial pollution threatens European porpoises

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Porpoises trail a fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico near Florida. @bberwyn photo.

‘Almost 20 percent of sexually mature females showed evidence of stillbirth, foetal death or recent abortion …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even though PCBs were banned in the UK more than 30 years ago, researchers are still finding moderately “moderately high” levels of the toxic chemicals in the tissue of harbor porpoises.

The marine mammals around parts of the British Isles are struggling to successfully reproduce as a result of chemical pollutants found in European waters, according to new research led by the Zoological Society of London. Continue reading

Shell gets federal greenlight for exploratory Arctic drilling

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Shell gets OK for exploratory drilling in the Arctic Sea.

Conditional permits limit operations and set protections for marine mammals

Staff Report

FRISCO — Shell’s Arctic drill plans got a green light from federal regulators today, as the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued a pair of conditions permits for limited exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea, off the coast of Alaska.

The permits limit Shell to drilling in the top sections of wells. The company won’t be allowed to probe deep in into the oil-bearing zones until well-capping equipment is on hand and deployable within 24 hours — which still leaves enough time for thousands of gallons of crude to leak into the sensitive and pristine Arctic Ocean. Continue reading

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