The right’s new campaign against clean energy

SMOKE SCREEN
The right’s new campaign against clean energy

The right's attempt to repeal clean air standards
Illustration by Steve Brodner

First they scotched a tax on carbon. Then they nixed a national cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions and tried to block an extension of subsidies for wind turbine production. Now the nation’s fossil fuel-friendly think tanks and public policy organizations are taking aim at state-level policies promoting renewable energy.

At present, 29 states plus the District of Columbia have renewable energy standards that require utilities to get a certain proportion of their electricity from renewable sources by a certain date. Nearly two-thirds of the country’s new clean energy capacity has been added in states with active or impending renewable energy standards. Continue reading “The right’s new campaign against clean energy”

Conservation Groups Applaud Alaska Reserve Plan

 Conservation Groups Applaud Alaska Reserve Plan

Interior Department protects special areas within National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska
February 21, 2013 Washington, D.C. —

Today, the Department of the Interior issued a Record of Decision that formally adopts a new Integrated Activity Plan for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (Reserve). Located on Alaska’s North Slope and almost 22 million acres in size, the Reserve is our country’s largest single unit of public land. The final plan appropriately protects five unique Special Areas including Teshekpuk Lake, Utukok Uplands, Kasegaluk Lagoon, Peard Bay and Colville River in the Reserve, which are critical to fish, wildlife, recreation and Alaska Native subsistence. The announcement of the final Integrated Activity Plan wraps up a multiyear planning process, and is the first ever comprehensive plan that has been completed for the entire Reserve. Continue reading “Conservation Groups Applaud Alaska Reserve Plan”

Air Pollution Crisis Gives New Momentum to Environmental Regulation in China

Switchboard: Natural Resource Defense Council Blog

Air Pollution Crisis Gives New Momentum to Environmental Regulation in China

Barbara Finamore

Barbara Finamore’s Blog

The recent spate of severe air pollution in China has shone a spotlight on the need for strong environmental regulation in China and prompted the government to move forward with a number of new environmental policies and laws – some of which have been languishing in the proposal stage for years.

bj.jpg

Beijing, January 16, 2013

In addition to announcing tougher fuel standards, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) has reopened the process of amending its national Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law, which has not been amended since 2000.  NRDC has been working closely with MEP to provide information and recommendations for these amendments based on international experience. Continue reading “Air Pollution Crisis Gives New Momentum to Environmental Regulation in China”

Climate Change Policies Face Challenges in Congress

During his second inaugural address on Jan. 21, President Obama announced that the United States will respond to the growing threat of climate change. Environmental advocates applaud the president for addressing this generation-defining problem and hope he will elaborate on his strategy for tackling climate change during tonight’s State of the Union address, but they recognize that the administration will face serious challenges in moving crucial policies forward.

New Report Identifies Necessary Steps for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

According to a new report released by the World Resource Institute last week, the U.S. will not be able to achieve a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, a pledge the U.S. made at the 2009 Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark, unless it makes current emissions standards stricter. The report identifies several legal tools already available to federal and state governments to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It recommends the administration take four key steps to make good on its greenhouse gas reduction commitments. Continue reading “Climate Change Policies Face Challenges in Congress”

Oil and Gas Production a Major Source of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, EPA Data Reveals

On Feb. 5, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new data indicating that in 2011, the oil and natural gas sector was the second-highest contributor of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. A method of natural gas drilling, known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking, is a major component of this industry. Given this data and its stated commitment to addressing climate change, the Obama administration will have to reconsider its strong support of natural gas production.

EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program

The data comes from an EPA database of greenhouse gas emissions from more than 8,000 industrial facilities, such as power plants and oil refineries. In 2008, Congress required the EPA to begin collecting the data, and last year the agency released initial greenhouse gas data from 29 source categories. The new 2011 greenhouse gas data includes 12 additional source categories for a total of 41 sources across nine major industries. The most notable expansion was the first-time inclusion of nine source categories that make up the oil and gas industry sector. The data was also expanded to include methane emissions, generally produced by large emitters in the oil and gas industry.

The greenhouse gas reporting program covers an estimated 85 to 90 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The data is limited because only facilities emitting 25,000 tons or more annually (equivalent to the carbon dioxide released from burning 131 rail cars worth of coal) are required to report. The data also excludes emissions from transportation and agricultural facilities. Continue reading “Oil and Gas Production a Major Source of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, EPA Data Reveals”

Flawed EPA Air Pollution Plan for “Scenic Landscape” States Challenged by Clean Air Advocates

Flawed EPA Air Pollution Plan for “Scenic Landscape” States Challenged by Clean Air Advocates

New federal policy allows some coal-fired power plants to continue spewing haze-causing emissions
January 25, 2013
Denver, CO —

Conservation and public health groups seeking to restore clear skies over some of our nation’s most scenic landscapes filed a challenge today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver against plans approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that allow coal-fired power plants in Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming to escape federal requirements to reduce their emissions of haze-causing pollutants. The plans create a giant loophole in EPA rules designed to limit sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions, which not only obscure visibility in our most spectacular protected lands, but also contribute to serious illnesses.

Haze in Grand Canyon National Park. (EPA)
Haze in Grand Canyon National Park. (EPA)
Above: A clear day
Below: A hazy day.

EPA’s plans exempt Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming from air pollution rules that would otherwise require them to reduce SO2 emissions from eight coal-fired power plants to decrease pollution in the region’s national parks and wilderness areas, including Grand Canyon National Park. The exemptions are being challenged by HEAL Utah, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Powder River Basin Resource Council, and Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice. Continue reading “Flawed EPA Air Pollution Plan for “Scenic Landscape” States Challenged by Clean Air Advocates”

Groups In Court Today Seeking Fracking Chemical Information

Groups In Court Today Seeking Fracking Chemical Information

Asking court to force Wyoming to reveal information about toxins pumped into ground
January 22, 2013
Casper, WY  —

In an effort to help protect the public from exposure to toxic chemicals, the Powder River Basin Resource Council, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Earthworks and Center for Effective Government (formerly OMB Watch) went to court today to ask a judge to require the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (WOGCC) to disclose information about chemicals used during the controversial oil and gas development process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Pavillion, WY. (Ecoflight)
Pavillion, Wyoming. “Produced” water is brought back to the surface after fracking takes place. The water and fracking fluid is placed into evaporation ponds. (Ecoflight)

Under regulations approved in 2010, Wyoming became the first state in the nation to require well operators to disclose the identities of chemicals that are mixed with water and injected into the ground during fracking. But since the regulations were adopted, the Commission has approved some 50 secrecy requests, shielding identifying information about over 190 different chemicals, by Halliburton and other oil and gas service companies. Continue reading “Groups In Court Today Seeking Fracking Chemical Information”

Groups Sue Interior Department for Failure to Protect Streams

Groups Sue Interior Department for Failure to Protect Streams

Broad coalition back in court challenging unlawful rule issued by the Bush Administration
January 28, 2013

Today a broad coalition of citizen and environmental groups reopened litigation against the Department of Interior for its removal of a key protection for streams against mountaintop removal mining—the “Stream Buffer Zone Rule.” The Bush administration removed this protection through a midnight rulemaking in 2008, and the Obama administration agreed the Bush administration’s action was unlawful. But the Interior Department has since failed to undo the Bush administration’s rulemaking by the deadline it agreed to.Stream. (iStockphoto)

Based on EPA estimates, mountaintop removal mining has destroyed or harmed 2,400 miles of Appalachian streams to date. Continue reading “Groups Sue Interior Department for Failure to Protect Streams”

New research adds to evidence that pesticide is driving honeybee collapse

By Ron Meador | 04/02/12
honeybeeREUTERS/Miguel Vidal
Scientists are scrambling to explain the mass disappearance of honeybees.

Two new studies about the impact of a controversial pesticide on bees came out late last week, in the prestigious journal Science, and stirred up a flurry of stories around the country.

This one, in the Strib, used the occasion for an update on the efforts of honey producers in Minnesota and elsewhere to seek an emergency ban on products from Bayer CropScience that they blame for massive and mysterious losses of honeybees. Continue reading “New research adds to evidence that pesticide is driving honeybee collapse”

Bee Health: The Role of Pesticides (December 11, 2012)

Congressional Research Service Report 42855 Bee Health: The Role of Pesticides

Linda-Jo Schierow Specialist in Environmental Policy Renée Johnson Specialist in Agricultural Policy, M. Lynne Corn Specialist in Natural Resources Policy (December 11, 2012)

Bees, both commercially managed honey bees and wild bees, play an important role in global food production. In the United States, the value of honey bees only as commercial pollinators in U.S. food production is estimated at about $15 billion to $20 billion annually. The estimated value of other types of insect pollinators, including wild bees, to U.S. food production is not available. Given their importance to food production, many have expressed concern about whether a “pollinator crisis” has been occurring in recent decades. In the United States, commercial migratory beekeepers along the East Coast of the United States began reporting sharp declines in 2006 in their honey bee colonies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that overwinter colony losses from 2006 to 2011 averaged more than 32% annually. This issue remained legislatively active in the 110th Congress and resulted in increased funding for pollinator research, among other types of farm program support, as part of the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246). Continue reading “Bee Health: The Role of Pesticides (December 11, 2012)”