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The Twilight of Zoning

New Oregon law takes aim at smart-growth rules, excites developers Oregon's recently passed Measure 37 is threatening to sprawlify the state, even as it acts as a model for property-firsters across the nation who want to ease development restrictions. The measure mandates that the government compensate private landowners if zoning or land-use restrictions reduce the value of their property. Or, if cash-strapped governments can't afford to pay up, as is often the case, then they just can't restrict zoning. Smart-growth laws in communities across the country (including Oregon, for now) try to direct development to areas with existing roads and …

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Umbra on trains vs. cars

Dear Umbra, My girlfriend recently made a trip by train (about 600 kilometers, I'd guess), and it made me wonder just how much more ecological it is to travel by train instead of by car. What's your take on this? MichaelOttawa, Ontario, Canada Dearest Canadian Michael, The train, it is better. The car, it is the worst. That is my take, and I found a legitimate source that agrees -- namely, my favorite book. Let's all recite together: The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices, from the Union of Concerned Scientists. All aboard. Photo: Gareth Hill. The UCS compiled its …

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Exhausted

Old diesel engines kill more than 20,000 Americans a year Particulate pollution generated by old diesel engines is killing more people per year than drunk driving, said a report released yesterday. Using data and methodologies from the U.S. EPA, the Clean Air Task Force and a coalition of public health groups found that more than 20,000 Americans -- particularly those in urban areas near bus stops, highways, truck stops, or construction sites -- die, and more than 400,000 visit the emergency room, each year after breathing in tiny particles of diesel exhaust. While the EPA has mandated the phase-in of …

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Umbra on renting hybrids and sharing cars

Dear Umbra, Do you know of any car-rental companies that offer hybrids? I have heard of a bunch in environmentally friendly California, but my quick search in the Boston area has turned up nil. With high gas prices, I think I'm brewing up a new campaign! JeanDorchester, Mass. Dearest Jean, An environmentally focused rental group, EV Rental Cars, has joined forces with a big-name rental company, Budget, to offer hybrid choices in select "markets": Washington, D.C., major metropolitan areas in California, and parts of Arizona, Nevada, and Virginia. That might help some Grist readers, but it doesn't help you, Jean. …

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Bill Walsh, founder of the Healthy Building Network, answers questions

Bill Walsh. What work do you do? I'm the founder and national coordinator of the Healthy Building Network. How does it relate to the environment? The Healthy Building Network is the only organization dedicated to linking green building strategies to the specific goals of the environmental-health movement. Our goal is to shift market demand in the building and construction industry away from what we call worst in class building materials, and toward healthier, commercially available alternatives, competitively priced and equal or superior in performance. Right now, stopping the use of polyvinyl chloride plastic, also known as PVC or vinyl, is …

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Ansje Miller sends a dispatch from a conference on transportation and justice

Ansje Miller is a program director for Redefining Progress and staffs the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, a consortium of environmental-justice, religious, and policy groups. Sunday, 20 Feb 2005 LOS ANGELES, Calif. Driving down California's Interstate 5 from Oakland to Los Angeles, the need for a new vision for the future of transportation was clear. The pouring rain transformed the usual L.A. gridlock into nothing short of a parking lot, with no other mass transportation options in sight. Six lanes of traffic full of cars carrying one person; in that moment, I understood the meaning of the phrase "road …

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You’ll Never Drive Alone

Carpooling, car-sharing companies offer driving alternatives Eighty-four percent of commuters who use a car to get to work say they drive alone, and more than half say it's because carpooling is inconvenient, according to a recent survey on traffic issues conducted by major news organizations. But a company called NuRide is trying to change that. Its website hosts a directory of participating D.C.-area commuters and makes it simpler for folks heading in the same direction at the same time to arrange car pools. Meanwhile, car-sharing companies like Flexcar and Zipcar place vehicles throughout urban areas and allow members to reserve …

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Karen Hundt, Chattanooga urban planner, answers questions

Karen Hundt. What work do you do? I am the director of the Planning & Design Studio in Chattanooga, Tenn. We are a division of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, but the design studio focuses on downtown and riverfront redevelopment. How does it relate to the environment? The biggest environmental issue facing this country is the way we're building our cities -- suburban sprawl. I taught a Regional Environmental Management course at our university this fall and told my students that if they wanted to save the wetlands, the rivers, and the old-growth forests they had to understand and …

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Dropping the Hybrids Off at the Pool

Hybrid incentive bills introduced in Congress Fuel-efficient hybrids, the cars of choice for greens of means, are a hot topic in Congress, with two bills introduced this month that could further fuel their popularity. One bill, unveiled in the House last Tuesday by California Reps. Darrell Issa (R) and Brad Sherman (D), would let states decide whether or not to allow hybrid vehicles to use highway carpool lanes when they're occupied by just one person. Right now, since some funding for carpool lanes comes from the federal government, the feds make the rules about which cars are allowed -- so …

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Emily Gertz sends dispatches from Verdopolis, a confab on future green cities

Emily Gertz is a regular contributor to WorldChanging.com, and an internet content and strategy consultant for nonprofits. She has written on environmental policy for BushGreenwatch, and on the intersections of environment, culture, art, and activism for The Bear Deluxe and other independent alternative publications. Wednesday, 9 Feb 2005 NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. This morning, taking in a stunning view across Columbus Circle to Central Park through a wall of floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows, I thought, "Hmm. This isn't your mother's environmental conference." No, it's "Verdopolis: The Future Green City," a three-day gathering of designers, architects, engineers, entrepreneurs, policy and business people, …

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