Cities

Bush signs railroad-safety law, giving $13 billion to Amtrak

President Bush on Thursday signed a measure into law that provides some $13 billion to Amtrak and other passenger rail. The funding, which Bush originally opposed, is a companion piece to a railroad-safety bill; the legislation was pushed quickly through Congress after a Sept. 12 train collision in Los Angeles that killed 25 people and injured at least 130 more. Amtrak, which has been experiencing record ridership, will receive the $13 billion over five years, though Congress will have to approve the subsidy each year. By the by, for those paying attention to the presidential shenanigans: When the bill came …

A forest for all

Town forests gaining popularity

Living in Switzerland after college, I was amazed by the way communities both revered and used the landscape. Every facet of efficiency was enthusiastically explored, small farms abounded (growing grains on plots as small as an acre or less), and mountain trails were thick with orchids, green woodpeckers, and bell-toting cows. But my favorite thing was the town forest. Everyone had a right to enjoy and use these forests, and anyone who wanted firewood from it merely had to help in gathering it. Threaded with inviting access roads, there were long stacks of wood that had been cut and split. …

EPA not great at regulating stormwater pollution, says report

Stormwater pollution from cities and suburbs is fouling the nation’s waterways, and the U.S. EPA is failing to do much about it, says a new National Academy of Sciences report commissioned by the EPA itself. Rain and melted snow run along paved surfaces — which show up more and more frequently these days — picking up oil, trash, motor fuels, dog poo, chemicals, and more, and dumping it all in rivers, lakes, and streams. “EPA’s current approach is not likely to produce an accurate picture of the extent of the problem, nor is it likely to control stormwater’s contribution to …

Toyota Prius again tops EPA list of most fuel-efficient cars

It’s almost 2009 — do you know where your fuel-efficient car is? (And with oil dipping below $70 a barrel, do you care? Oh, calm down, we kid.) The U.S. EPA has released its annual list of the most and least fuel-efficient vehicles. Topping the list: the you-ain’t-cool-unless-you-have-one Toyota Prius, achieving an estimated 48 miles per gallon on the highway and 45 mpg in the city. It’s followed by the hybrid versions of the Honda Civic, Nissan Altima, and, in a three-way tie for fourth, Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, and Mercury Mariner. The Smart Fortwo has vaulted onto the list …

ReGeneration Roadtrip: Sittin' on the dock of the bay

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s HQ is green and gorgeous

Todd and I arrived early at our first D.C.-area appointment, so we wandered down a path leading out of the parking lot (where our Prius was in a “hybrid only” priority spot) and, to our delight, ended up on a sandy beach along the Chesapeake Bay. Shedding our shoes and any stress we might have brought with us, we stepped gingerly into the cool, clear water, letting the tiny wavelets wash over our ankles as we dug our toes into the sand. It was the first real moment we’d had to stop and catch our breath on this whirlwind tour. …

ReGeneration Roadtrip: Shouting green from the rooftops

Chicago’s City Hall is growing green

This is a guest post from my travel partner, Todd Dwyer, head blogger for Dell’s ReGeneration.org. —– Even as Sarah and I ran frantically down LaSalle Street in downtown Chicago in a desperate attempt to make it to our appointment with the Mayor’s office in time, it was apparent that there was something different about the city. Every business and office building we dashed by had flowers and ornamental plants prominently displayed outside. The traffic medians were oases of green flora in the middle of an otherwise chaotic downtown scene. Trees sprouted out of the sidewalks in regular intervals, stretching …

Houston joins Los Angeles in having ‘severe’ smog problem

Houston has received the dubious honor of becoming the second U.S. city to have a “severe” smog problem, as classified by the U.S. EPA. Los Angeles is its partner in grime. The downgrade from a “moderate” to “severe” smog problem gives Texas’ largest city nine extra years to meet federal air-quality standards. Both Houston and L.A. have, however, taken recent steps to combat their unhealthy air quality. Houston Mayor Bill White has unveiled a plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 11 percent and smog 16 percent by 2010, through use of the usual suspects: renewable energy, hybrid cars, LED traffic lights, …

Free Prius!

Who will bail out the McMansion developers?

If you think the economic downturn is bad for you, try being a developer of sprawly McMansion exurbs. Those dudes have it rough! Don’t miss this hilarious story from Kaid Benfield, director of NRDC’s smart growth program. So developer Gladstone Homes builds this development outside Chicago, in Plainfield, Ill., called Chatham Square, filled with McMansions 3,200 square feet and over, priced at over a half-mil a piece. You can choose from the Jadestone, the Neostone, the Wildstone, the Penstone, or many other slight variants of the same huge, generic house with a two-car garage! Only nobody wants them. So Gladstone …

NYC eco-mayor will seek third term; mayors foresee green jobs

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is seeking to change term-limit rules and win reelection to a third term; if he succeeds, it will be to the benefit of his ambitious plans to address climate change. Bloomberg’s PlaNYC aims to reduce municipal greenhouse-gas emissions 30 percent by 2030 through planting 1 million trees, converting taxis to hybrids, and making buildings more energy efficient. In other mayor news, a study commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Mayors suggests that 4.2 million green jobs could be created over the next 30 years, up from 750,000 or so now. “It could be the …

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