Category: Environment

EPA takes Chrysler to court for cheating emissions tests

The EPA says Fiat Chrysler tried to cheat the EPA emissions standards with software tricks and defeat devices, just like VW.  @bberwyn photo.

EcoDiesel engines on Ram trucks and Jeep Cherokees at issue in civil suit

Staff Report

The EPA may not be beating the climate change drum any more, but it apparently still wants to hold automakers accountable for emissions scams. This week, the agency announced it’s filing a civil complaint against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, alleging that the company installed cheat software on almost 104,000 light duty diesel vehicles.

According to the EPA, the 3.0 liter EcoDiesel engines are equipped with software functions that were not disclosed to regulators during the certification application process, and that the vehicles contain defeat devices. The complaint alleges that the undisclosed software functions cause the vehicles’ emission control systems to perform less effectively during highway driving than on federal emission tests, resulting in increased emissions of harmful air pollutants.  Continue reading “EPA takes Chrysler to court for cheating emissions tests”

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Bonn climate talks end on a hopeful note

We’ll always have Paris … @bberwyn photo.

Despite Trump, world moves toward renewable energy

By Bob Berwyn

The world committed to taking action on climate change in Paris, and now, all the countries that signed on to the agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius are figuring exactly how that will happen, and how they will hold each other accountable.

U.S. climate policy is in question now, and the political changes definitely featured in the Bonn discussions, but didn’t dominate the proceedings. Some of the international climate negotiators recognized that the world is a dynamic place and that some national policies will come and go. But that won’t stop the world from moving ahead with ambitious climate plans. other experts discussed how the U.S. could hamper the global effort, while others said the U.S. should remain in the agreement, but not at any cost. For the sake of the rest of the world, the agreement should not be weakened. Read more in this report from Bonn.

Some of the most hopeful news from Bonn was that China and India are quickly shifting to a renewable energy economy. That will not only help those countries reduce their significant emissions, but will also drive a global shift by reducing the price for renewable energy to the point where it will quickly become the cheapest option. Even the U.S. reported a drop in greenhouse gas emissions the past few years, primarily because of the switch from coal to natural gas. American envoy Trigg Talley faced polite but insistent and pointed questioning during a disclosure session. Read the details in this story.

It all matters because for the less-developed countries in the global south, climate change is an existential question. There was concern about the Trump administration’s climate stance, but also optimism. Nobody wanted to make a final judgment on U.S. policy, which seems to still be in question, but nevertheless, some of the negotiators from the world’s most vulnerable countries seemed to be responding to Trump’s statements on the Paris climate agreement and on climate policies in general:

“Without increased climate action, no country can ever be great again. We fought hard for the Paris Agreement and the 1.5-degree threshold, the threshold for our survival…. Greatness is most apparent with climate action. Failure is not an option.”

Read more in this Pacific Standard story.

Federal judge nixes Wolf Creek development scheme

Forest Service violated federal law with land swap approval

A map included in a feasibility analysis shows the lands near Wolf Creek proposed for a trade.

By Bob Berwyn

*Read previous Summit Voice coverage here

A federal court judge has put an end to a 30-year battle over a proposed resort development at Wolf Creek Pass.

Ruling that the U.S. Forest Service violated federal law when it made an arbitrary and capricious decision to approve a land exchange near Wolf Creek Ski Area, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch set aside the agency’s 2015 approval for a land trade that would have enabled large-scale resort development., The decisions says the Forest Service failed to look closely at the environmental impacts of its decision, and failed to listen to the public before making its decision. Continue reading “Federal judge nixes Wolf Creek development scheme”

Thirsty Las Vegas pushes legislative water grab

Nevada water zombies seek legislative sanction for destructive groundwater exploitation.

Proposed bill would enable desert-killing groundwater exploitation

Staff Report

After failing several times to win approval for a new groundwater depletion scheme via regulatory channels, the Southern Nevada Water Authority is now pursuing a legislative water grab that could devastate fragile desert ecosystems and push some endangered species even closer to extinction.

Most recently, the Nevada Supreme Court rejected the Las Vegas bid for a new pipeline.

Assembly Bill 298 would enable for groundwater export projects that would harm prings and wetlands, degrade air quality with fugitive dust and impact existing water rights holders. During the hearing numerous members of conservation groups and the public spoke to vigorously oppose the bill. Continue reading “Thirsty Las Vegas pushes legislative water grab”

Sunday set: Spring greens

Verdant …


While most people picture majestic, glacier-clad crags when they think of the Alps, the great European mountain range has a softer side at its far eastern edge, where the mountains gradually taper off toward the Danube Valley, just west of Vienna. The temperate climate in these foothills is perfect for apple and pear trees, growing so prolifically that there’s and entire district dedicated to the production of tasty cider. And in the famed Wienerwald (Vienna Woods), thick silver-barked beech trees dominate the forests. Just a bit farther south and west, the first high peaks of the Alps rise up to the summit of the Ötscher, a landmark peak surrounded by deeply carved valleys where crystal-clear aquamarine streams flow through protected landscapes like the Ötscher-Tormäuer Nature Park. In the last few weeks, the soft greens of spring burst forth in abundance in these landscapes near Austria’s first city, and we’re looking forward to more explorations this summer.

Can grizzlies survive global warming?

New study shows many bears still rely on dwindling whitebark pine seeds

An adult grizzly bear in the brush. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

The long-term survival of grizzles in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem may depend on whether they’re willing to switch from eating whitebark pine seeds to other types food.

Some of the bears have already started responding to reductions in whitebark trees by consuming more plants and berries, while others are still focused on finding stashes of the nutritious pine nuts, scientists said in a new study based on analyzing the chemical composition of what the grizzlies eat. Continue reading “Can grizzlies survive global warming?”

How does global warming affect flows in the Rio Grande?

New study to help water planners in changing climate

A 2016 Landsat 8 image of the Lower Rio Grande canyons courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Staff Report

There are more and more signs that global warming triggered a step-change in many natural systems in the 1980s. A new study, led by scientists with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, tracked a big change in flows in the Rio Grande watershed, a key source of water in New Mexico and Texas.

According to the study, the percentage of precipitation that becomes streamflow in the Upper Rio Grande watershed has fallen more steeply than at any point in at least 445 years.

In another recent study, European researchers showed how major lakes across Central Europe warmed dramatically starting about that same time, and the meltdown of Arctic ice has also accelerated rapidly since then. Continue reading “How does global warming affect flows in the Rio Grande?”