Environment: There’s a plan to curb ocean plastic pollution


A seal trapped in plastic debris. Photo courtesy EwanEdwards/TheClippertonProject.

8 million tons of plastic waste (and counting) go into the oceans each year …

Staff Report

Slowing the waste stream in five key countries could go a long way toward reducing ocean plastic pollution, according to a new report from Ocean Conservancy. The report outlines a plan that targets the elimination of plastic waste leakage in China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, estimated to account for half of all global plastic leakage.

Medium- and short-term goals include speeding waste collection and staunching post-collection leakage, followed by the development and rollout of commercially viable treatment options. For the long term, the report says it’s critical to find innovative recovery and treatment technologies, and to develop new materials and product designs that better facilitate reuse or recycling. Continue reading

Can the Endangered Species Act withstand the GOP assault?

Lynx kittens

Rare species like lynx would face increased threats under GOP proposals to weaken the Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Lawmakers rally to block attacks on key environmental law

Staff Report

Conservation-minded lawmakers are rallying to counter the GOP’s seemingly endless attacks on the Endangered Species Act. In a letter to President Barack Obama, 91 members of Congress warned that Republicans are “doubling down” on their efforts to undermine protections for threatened plants and animals.

Led by Arizona Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, the lawmakers asked the administration to reject the many proposals that undermine the Endangered Species Act, including those weakening or blocking protections for specific imperiled species. Continue reading

EPA updates pollution regs for oil refineries

More monitoring and data transparency required

"ExxonMobil Baton Rouge" by Adbar - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ExxonMobil_Baton_Rouge.jpg#/media/File:ExxonMobil_Baton_Rouge.jpg

“ExxonMobil Baton Rouge” by Adbar via Wikipedia and a Creative Commons license.

Staff Report

Oil refineries will have to do a better job of limiting pollutants that cause cancer and respiratory ailments under updated EPA regulations that require fenceline monitoring and more transparent data on emissions.

The regulations cover controls for flares, pressure relief devices, storage tanks, and delayed coker operations. The EPA expects that the rule will result in a reduction of 5,200 tons per year of toxic air pollutants, and 50,000 tons per year of volatile organic compounds, chemical precursors to ozone.

The agency also estimates the new standards will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from refineries by about 660,000 tons per year at 150 refineries around the country with little impact to the cost of petroleum products. Continue reading

Can bat populations recover from white-nose syndrome?


A little brown bat afflicted with white-nose syndrome. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Some bats may only survive in remnant populations

Staff Report

LINZ — Even as they grapple with the devastating decline of bat populations caused by white-nose syndrome, researchers are starting to take a look at how, if and when some bats might recover from the fungal disease that has decimated colonies across the eastern U.S.

For at least one species, the outlook isn’t all that bright, according to U.S. Geological Survey scientists who took a close look at the once-common little brown bat. Continue reading

Global warming: Dust in the wind …


Dirty snow and ice at the edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet. @bberwyn photo.

Study takes close look at organic debris in Arctic ice cores

Staff Report

Organic biomarkers, in the form of tiny soil and plant particles, have helped ice core scientists track climate shifts linked to changes in the Arctic Oscillation. The research suggests that global warming will lead to more dust in the Arctic, which could speed up the meltdown of sea ice and Greenland glaciers.

The study by scientists with the University of Birmingham examined organic dust  transported from Asia and deposited in the Arctic over the last 450 years. During warmer phases of the Arctic Oscillation, more dust was being deposited in the Arctic, according to the findings published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

The scientists studyied two ice-cores collected from ice-caps more than 6000 kilometers apart, one from Greenland, the other from Kamchatka, in eastern Russia.Deposits can be dated very accurately by studying the annual layers within the cores — similar to tree rings — which allow scientists to examine deposits going back many years. Continue reading

Shell shuts down Arctic drilling program

Regulatory hurdles cited as part of the reason for decision


Shell Oil is giving up on drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea.

Shell Oil's Arctic drill rig, Kulluk, stranded near Kodiak Island, Alaska

One of Shell’s Arctic mishaps came in 2012, when a drilling rig escaped its tow ships and ran aground. Photo via U.S. Coast Guard.

By Bob Berwyn

Shell Oil’s hotly contested Arctic oil-drilling operation will shut down for the foreseeable future, the multinational fossil fuel company announced today, drawing sighs of relief from environmental advocates who had described the exploration efforts in apocalyptic terms.

The company’s efforts have been stop-and-go for a long time. In 2013, for example, Shell announced a temporary pause in the program after a string of incidents, including failed tests of oil spill containment gear, runaway ships and notices for violations of environmental regulations. Continue reading

Lawsuit challenges secretive surge in US oil exports


Increasing U.S. oil exports seen as environmental threat by conservation groups.

Conservation groups say recent increases may be illegal

Staff Report

Conservation activists want to know why U.S. oil exports have been increasing despite a Congressional ban. According to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and ForestEthics, exports increased from 44,000 barrels per day in 2009 to 351,000 barrels per day in 2014.

The lawsuit challenges the Bureau of Industry and Security, an agency within the Department of Commerce, for withholding documents related to its oil-export approval process. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Continue reading


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,876 other followers