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Susan Osborne Explains Why Boulder Opted for a Clean Energy Takeover

The process started in 2003 when Boulder resumed studying the option to create a municipal utility.  With a climate-action plan already in place, and a local carbon tax already financing conservation and clean energy, the once nascent issue became a serious option in Boulder. Creating a municipal utility would allow for more control over the grid, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and an increase in clean energy production.  As former Boulder mayor Susan Osborne described, Boulder didn’t set out to “blaze a trail” for local ownership of its electric utility, but for a growing number of cities across America considering municipalization, …

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Minnesota’s Landmark Clean Energy Standard Charts Course Beyond Dirty Energy

Minnesota energy has begun a new chapter. Minnesota has taken a first step in outlining the next big leap forward in the state's sustainable energy future. Pushed by more than 60 environmental, labor, business, youth, and faith groups, the jobs omnibus bill -- expected to be signed by Governor Mark Dayton -- includes a Clean Energy and Jobs package that sets a standard of 1.5 percent solar by 2020 with a broader goal of reaching 10 percent by 2030. This is a great start for a state that is in position to lead the Midwest into the clean-energy economy. I remember …

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Let’s Not Trawl a National Treasure

Alaska’s Bering Sea is home to one of the most remarkable places in the world, “the Grand Canyons of the Sea.” These canyons are over a mile and a half deep and home to fish, crab, skates, endangered seals, orcas, and humpback whales.  It’s a truly remarkable ecosystem that starts with the fragile corals and sponges on the seafloor. Tragically, this ecosystem is under threat from industrial fishing fleets that carve up the corals and sponges with their trawl nets.  Bottom-tending fishing gear--especially trawl nets--destroys fragile corals and sponges that provide this essential habitat, including spawning and nursery areas for …

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Dozens of U.S. Cities Board the Bike-Sharing Bandwagon

By Janet Larsen When New York City opened registration for its much anticipated public bike-sharing program on April 15, 2013, more than 5,000 people signed up within 30 hours. Eager for access to a fleet of thousands of bicycles, they became Citi Bike members weeks before bikes were expected to be available. Such pent-up demand for more cycling options is on display in cities across the United States—from Buffalo to Boulder, Omaha to Oklahoma City, and Long Beach in New York to Long Beach in California—where shared bicycle programs are taking root. At the start of 2013, the United States …

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8 Vivid Charts – 8 Reasons for a Solar Energy Standard in Minnesota

A conference committee is resolving differences between House and (much weaker) Senate versions of a solar energy standard in Minnesota today. Here's 8 graphic reasons why the state should go for solar as aggressively as it can. 8 Vivid Charts – 8 Reasons for a Solar Energy Standard in Minnesota from John Farrell

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Keystone Pipeline Not a Big Deal — Say Interests Supported By Oil and Gas Industry

Last week, the Washington DC publication National Journal gave us the scoop, in an article entitled, "What People Close to Obama Think About the Keystone XL Pipeline": Obama-connected environmental experts "are now saying publicly what many Democratic energy and climate advisers have said more privately over the past couple of years: The Keystone XL pipeline is not that big of a deal." The National Journal article seems designed to persuade the DC policy community of the inevitability -- and maybe even the correctness -- of a decision by the Obama Administration to allow the controversial pipeline to go forward. In other words, …

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Appalachian Families Denied Clean Water Travel to Washington to Demand Action

Appalachian activists gather outside the Washington, D.C., Environmental Protection Agency office to demand an end to mountaintop removal coal mining. Elaine Tanner and her partner Jimmy Hall have both experienced, up close and personal, the destruction caused by mountaintop removal coal mining. The Kentucky natives are fighting a coal company they claim poisoned their well water. One of the company's mountaintop removal sites is right next to their home in Letcher County. "They destroyed our water," said Jimmy. "The Kentucky Department of Water tested the water of many wells in our area and found a toxic soup. They said the …

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Full Planet, Empty Plates: Chapter 2. The Ecology of Population Growth

Throughout most of human existence, population growth has been so slow as to be imperceptible within a single generation. Reaching a global population of 1 billion in 1804 required the entire time since modern humans appeared on the scene. To add the second billion, it took until 1927, just over a century. Thirty-three years later, in 1960, world population reached 3 billion. Then the pace sped up, as we added another billion every 13 years or so until we hit 7 billion in late 2011. One of the consequences of this explosive growth in human numbers is that  human demands …

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Appalachians Make Toxic Water Delivery to EPA

Over 100 people, primarily Appalachia residents, took action today at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., calling for the EPA to use its powers to end mountaintop removal. 15 people, including a couple of youth no older than 10, risked arrest by sitting in front of a main entrance to EPA. They sat next to about 75 one-gallon containers of dirty and toxic water brought to DC by Appalachian residents, the kind of water produced by mountaintop removal operations. Appalachia Rising, the coalition of groups which organized the action, demanded that the EPA “sign for our …

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Will cities ever get smart about water use?

city water
wagaboodlemum

If the definition of insanity is making the same mistakes over and over, then many cities have taken a certifiable approach to securing their water supplies -- and they need some radical therapy before taking the big economic, ecological, and human hits that come with a permanent state of thirst.

Hot and Bothered - small x  200
Susie Cagle

That’s the conclusion from a new study in the journal Water Policy, whose authors compared the water supply histories of four cities -- San Diego, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Adelaide, Australia. Among the lessons learned? Urban water conservation, recycling, and desalination aren't silver bullets. In fact, the best solution may lie upstream with farmers -- saving just 5-10 percent of agricultural irrigation in upstream watersheds could satisfy a city’s entire water needs.

But the time to act is now, argues Brian Richter, a senior freshwater scientist at The Nature Conservancy and the study’s lead author -- he says a global urban water crisis is already here. Below, Richter tells us more about what cities need to do to say on the right side of dry.

Q. Many cities take a similar pattern of water development, according to your research -- going from exhausting local surface and groundwater supplies to importing water to implementing water conservation to finally recycling water or desalination. Why is this pattern unsustainable?

A. When we overuse a freshwater source, we set ourselves up for disaster. Each of the cities we reviewed in our study has contributed to the drying of a major river or important groundwater spring. That has obvious ecological impacts and social consequences -- it affects livelihoods and human health by compromising fish production, concentrating pollution, or curtailing recreational activities.

Our research is revealing that water scarcity also causes severe economic losses by limiting or disrupting agricultural, industrial, and energy production. Texas lost nearly $8 billion in agriculture last year due to water shortages; electricity generation from hydropower dams on the Colorado River in 2010 dropped by 20 percent due to water shortages. Some estimates suggest that China may be losing $39 billion each year due to crop damage and lessened industrial production, and hundreds of thousands of people around the globe are being forced to move due to water shortages.

Because these impacts are so pervasive and damaging, we need to begin investing in water supply approaches that don’t just minimize these adverse impacts but instead begin to reverse them.

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