Tag: smog

EU warns of persistent air quality violations

5 countries now on notice face potential legal action

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Clouds and haze over Vienna, Austria, where particulate air pollution often exceeds standards set to protect human health. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

Five large EU countries are on warning after repeatedly failing to meet air pollution  standards for nitrogen oxide, a precursor to smog and a serious health risk in and of itself. If Member States fail to act within two months, the Commission may decide to take the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Studies have shown that more than 400,000 people die prematurely each year due to poor air quality, while millions more suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Persistently high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) caused almost 70 000 premature deaths in Europe in 2013, which was almost three times the number of deaths by road traffic accidents in the same year.

Because of the persistent breaches, the European Commission this week sent final warning to  Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom, urging those countries to improve air quality and safeguard public health.

Continue reading “EU warns of persistent air quality violations”

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Colorado just can’t get a grip on its smog problem

State  fails to meet EPA standard set to protect public health; ozone problems to worsen with global warming

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State regulators have left children, the elderly and asthmatics vulnerable to potentially deadly levels of ozone. Photo courtesy NREL.

By Bob Berwyn

The modest steps taken by Colorado to try and improve air quality along the Front Range aren’t enough, according to the EPA. This week, the federal agency said the state has failed to meet air quality standards set to protect public health.

In a Federal Register Notice, the EPA designated the Denver-Boulder-Greeley-Fort Collins-Loveland corridor as a nonattainment area because it didn’t meet the federal limits for ground-level ozone, the key ingredient of smog. Under the Clean Air Act, the state was required to bring the Front Range into compliance with smog limits by July of 2015.  Colorado failed to meet this deadline. Continue reading “Colorado just can’t get a grip on its smog problem”

Air pollution kills 5.5 million people each year

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Beijing is obscured by smog in this January 2013 image from NASA Earth Observatory.

Scientists warn that mortality will increase even more without a serious push to cut toxic emissions in China and India

Staff Report

According to the results of a new international study, more than 5.5 million people die prematurely each year because of indoor and outdoor air pollution. Most of the deaths are in India and China, and the toll is expected to climb in the coming years without aggressive efforts to cut pollution.

The toxins come from power plants, factories, vehicle exhaust and from burning wood and coal for heating — all of which release tiny particles that are harmful.

“Air pollution is the fourth highest risk factor for death globally and by far the leading environmental risk factor for disease,” said Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health in Vancouver, Canada. “Reducing air pollution is an incredibly efficient way to improve the health of a population,” Brauer said, discussing the study findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Continue reading “Air pollution kills 5.5 million people each year”

EPA sets new ozone standard but faces challenges

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Got smog? EPA wants to cut ozone, but will face a challenge on new standard.

Environmentalists say new rule is to weak; industry asks Congress to step into the fray

Staff Report

The EPA’s new smog-fighting ozone standard is likely headed down the same path as the agency’s other recent initiatives to improve the environment.

Like the recently updated wetlands rule and the Clean Power Plan, the new ozone limit was immediately criticized from all sides. Environmental advocates said the agency ignored its own experts when it set the new limit at 70 parts per billion. Industry claims the new rule will cut profits and cost jobs. Continue reading “EPA sets new ozone standard but faces challenges”

Environment: Denver roundtable shows how climate action will benefit Colorado

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Global temperatures have reached record levels the past few months, with 2015 on track to be warmest year ever.

Heat waves, increased air pollution seen as key climate risks for Colorado

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new EPA report suggests that failing to curb greenhouse gas emissions could cause up to 57,000 additional deaths across the U.S. in coming decades due to poor air quality.

The study was released as part of the run-up to the finalization of the controversial Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The EPA is set to finalize the plan later this summer.

The report’s findings were part of the discussion at a Denver roundtable convened by Environment Colorado this week, as EPA experts joined with state leaders and health experts to bring the message home to Colorado.

“Climate change is already having an impact on human health and is challenging EPA’s ability to fulfill its mission,” said EPA regional climate change coordination Laura Ferris. “We know that taking action to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions will significantly benefit Americans by reducing health impacts, saving lives and avoiding more costly damages across the economy.” Continue reading “Environment: Denver roundtable shows how climate action will benefit Colorado”

Colorado: Noble Energy agrees to clean up Front Range fracking pollution

Settlement with EPA, state health department should cut emissions of smog- and cancer-causing toxic gases

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Smoggy skies. Photo courtesy NREL.

Staff Report

FRISCO — For years, thousands of storage tanks owned and operated by Houston-based Noble Energy leaked toxic smog- and cancer-causing gases into the Colorado’s heavily fracked Front Range.

When when state and federal environmental inspectors confronted the company with evidence of the leaks, executives shrugged, and said their systems weren’t designed to handle the sudden oil and gas boom across the region. Continue reading “Colorado: Noble Energy agrees to clean up Front Range fracking pollution”

Fracking: New aerial research to track pollutants above western fossil fuel development zones

Sensitive instruments to track methane, VOCs and other airborne toxins from New Mexico to North Dakota

The Four Corners area (red) is the major U.S. hot spot for methane emissions in this map showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003-2009 (dark colors are lower than average; lighter colors are higher). Image Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan.
The Four Corners area (red) is the major U.S. hot spot for methane emissions in this map showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003-2009 (dark colors are lower than average; lighter colors are higher). Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A recent study of satellite data showing a hotspot of potent heat-trapping methane pollution over the Four Corners region makes it clear that we’re digging an ever-deeper global warming hole by fracking every last corner of the country.

As NOAA put it, “Vast regions west of the Mississippi River are under development for oil and gas extraction … but while one focus is on what comes out of the ground, NOAA and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences researchers and their colleagues are studying what escapes to the air—and how it is transformed in the atmosphere and affects air quality and climate.

Scientists hope to learn much more about the massive quantities of pollution escaping from fossil fuel development areas in the next few months as they launch this year’s  Shale Oil and Natural Gas Nexus (SONGNEX 2015) field campaign, using airborne instruments to measure greenhouse gases and other toxic emissions.

Continue reading “Fracking: New aerial research to track pollutants above western fossil fuel development zones”