Colorado: Mapping project shows potential for huge fracking impacts in Arapahoe County

Oil and gas development is ‘not all puppies and flowers’

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Is fracking coming to your Arapahoe County neighborhood?

Staff Report

FRISCO — If the next wave of fracking in Colorado sweeps toward Arapahoe County, residents will be able to better inform themselves about potential drilling sites and impacts to schools and neighborhoods thanks to a new mapping project. The maps identify areas that are leased for fossil fuel exploitation, showing where they overlap with residential areas, and where there’s potential for impacts. Continue reading

Environment: Scientists try to assess global health, climate impacts of unregulated trash burning

Open burning of trash, as seen here in General Santos, Philippines, is a global phenomenon that has significant effects on air quality. (Photo courtesy Global Environment Facility.)

Open burning of trash, as seen here in General Santos, Philippines, is a global phenomenon that has significant effects on air quality. Photo courtesy Global Environment Facility.

‘Air pollution across much of the globe is significantly underestimated because no one is tracking open-fire burning of trash’

Staff Report

FRISCO — As much as 1 billion metric tons of waste, including discarded plastics and electronics, is burned each year in unregulated fires, according to atmospheric scientists who set out last year to assess the impacts of trash burning.

The real amount of garbage that’s simply burned in the open probably far exceeds any official government estimates, the researchers said, adding that the practice exposes people to toxic fumes and adds to air pollution woes, especially in developing countries.

The estimate tonnage is about 41 percent of the total annual global waste stream, the study found, providing estimates, on a country-by-country basis, of pollutants such as particulates, carbon monoxide, and mercury that are emitted by the fires. Continue reading

Study links Ebola outbreak to fruit bats

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A CDC map shows infection levels in West Africa.

Children’s play area near bat colony eyed as possible source of infection

Staff Report

FRISCO — A research team suspects that the recent West African Ebola outbreak may have started  from contact between humans and virus-infected bats, perhaps as children played near a  large colony of free-tailed insectivorous bats housed in a hollow tree near the village where the outbreak started.

In a study published this week in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine, the scientists said that may have resulted in ” a massive exposure to bats.” Continue reading

Environment: Federal appeals court focusing on toxic ozone smog in Utah’s Uinta Basin

EPA challenged on decision to designate polluted region as unclassifiable

Western U.S. Counties Violating Current and Proposed Ozone Air Quality Standards.

Western U.S. Counties Violating Current and Proposed Ozone Air Quality Standards. Map courtesy Jeremy Nichols/ClimateWest blog.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Environmental advocates and the EPA are facing off in a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. today over air quality in Utah’s remote Uinta Basin, where ozone levels often exceed standards set to protect human health.

In a weird twist to the case, the fossil fuel industry is claiming that its own air pollution data is of poor quality and unreliable, and shouldn’t be used by the EPA to designate the Uinta Basin as a nonattainment area, despite the fact that the area regularly sees some of the highest ozone pollution levels in the country.

At issue in the oral arguments is the EPA’s refusal to designate the Uinta Basin as a nonattainment area despite monitoring showing serious air quality degradation in northeastern Utah. The EPA’s decision to designate the area as unclassifiable is a clear violation of the Clean Air Act, according to WildEarth Guardians, one of the groups involved in the case. Continue reading

Colorado lawmakers aim to tighten oil and gas regs

A spreading network of oil and gas drilling rigs has heightened public concern over potential impacts to public health and the environment.

A spreading network of oil and gas drilling rigs has heightened public concern over potential impacts to public health and the environment.

Proposed bills would up fines, reduce perceived conflicts of interest

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — With many Colorado residents feeling that Gov. Hickenlooper has tilted the playing field in favor of fossil fuel development, the Colorado General Assembly will begin to explore new laws that could help balance fossil fuel extraction with public health and safety and concerns about impacts to the environment.

House Bill 13-1267 would increase the maximum daily fine for serious accidents from $1,000 to $15,000 per day and set a minimum fine of $5,000 per violation per day for violations that have a significant adverse impact on public health, safety, or welfare, including the environment. It would also repeal the cap on the maximum total fine.

House Bill 12-1269 would make it clear that the primary mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is to make sure that public health and safety and natural resources are adequately protected during the course of fossil fuel development. It also addresses the inherent conflict of interest that currently exists on the commission by prohibiting future commissioners from being employees, officers, or directors of oil and gas companies. Continue reading

Will global warming intensify flu outbreaks?

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Warmer winters have been linked with more severe flu outbreaks. Graphic courtesy NASA.

Infection patterns suggest a link between warm winters followed by more severe outbreaks

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After study waves of flu sickness going back to about 1997 and matching them against climate records, researchers say that the warmer winters expected with global warming could lead to earlier and more severe flu seasons.

The researchers said data from the Centers for Disease Control, indicates a pattern for both A and B strains: Warm winters are usually followed by heavy flu seasons.

“It appears that fewer people contract influenza during warm winters, and this causes a major portion of the population to remain vulnerable into the next season, causing an early and strong emergence,” said Sherry Towers, research professor in the Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center at Arizona State University. “And when a flu season begins exceptionally early, much of the population has not had a chance to get vaccinated, potentially making that flu season even worse.” Continue reading

Colorado: State to study drilling emissions

Methane leakage from the gas production fields of northeastern Colorado may be twice as high as previously estimated, according to new research from NOAA.

Methane leakage from the gas production fields of northeastern Colorado may be twice as high as previously estimated, according to new research from NOAA.

Energy boom contributes to regional haze problems and potential health impacts

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado officials took another small step to address growing public concerns about the impacts of the state’s energy boom by announcing a $1.3 million study of emissions from oil and gas drilling operations.

According to a press release from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, the study will help provide information about how oil and gas emissions behave, how they travel and their characteristics in areas along the northern Front Range.

A second phase would assess possible health effects using data collected in the first phase. Testimony at this week’s Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rulemaking hearing reinforced the views of experts for both industry and the conservation community that more and better science is needed related to oil and gas emissions. Continue reading

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