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GOP attacks the EPA for doing its job

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. House Republicans insist on accusing the Obama administration of suffering from some kind of regulatory spasm. But they refuse to acknowledge that the Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is following federal laws and court orders -- orders issued when the Bush administration failed to abide by the law. By following the law today we will save tens of thousands of lives and avoid hundreds of thousands of illnesses. In order to understand the basic falsehood of conservative complaints that the Obama administration EPA is out-of-control, it is vital to understand first the Bush …

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Forget China; largest rare earth element deposit is under this Nebraska town

Perhaps you've heard that China has a worldwide monopoly on rare earth elements, without which the high-tech and cleantech world -- electric cars, computers, cell phones, wind turbines, smart meters, advanced batteries, the whole enchilada -- would grind to a shiny, clanking halt. But now, instead of relying on Chinese imports to keep the rare-earth economy humming, we can destroy our OWN local environment! A small town in Nebraska has volunteered to be turned into a giant open-pit mine in the name of powering the post-fossil-fuel revolution. Elk Creek, Neb., population 112, could not be more excited to be sitting …

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Mystery orange goo turns Alaska into a Cheeto

The Alaskan village of Kivalina woke up coated in a shiny, powdery orange substance last week. When that happens to me it usually involves bourbon and Doritos, but presumably the authorities have ruled that out in this case. They've also said that the goo isn't oil-based -- but that's about all they know. The village has sent samples of the stuff to a NOAA lab in Fairbanks, and residents are waiting for a verdict on what it is. In the meantime, they're boiling their water and probably biting their nails. Even if the substance turns out to be a kind …

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As summer temperatures rise, so does deadly coal pollution

Gas masks: (not) the ultimate bikini accessory. As a mom, I've been paying attention to air pollution alerts, and I've been cautious about letting my daughter play outside on Code Red days. One of the biggest sources of that air pollution is coal-fired power plants, which pose an especially immediate threat to our health on hot summer days when soot and smog levels are highest. Burning coal for electricity pollutes our air with toxins that cause asthma, heart disease, and more. One of these pollutants is ozone, which is one of the key ingredients of smog. Yet many Americans still …

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Critical List: Canada’s pushing tar-sands oil; cutting methane also helps cut climate change

In 110 meetings over less than two years, the Canadian government tried to convince Europe to delay or derail legislative changes that could affect the imports of tar-sands oil. Basically, Canada doesn’t want Europe to know how carbon-heavy the oil is, because that could affect U.S. and European imports. So they’re pushing it as environmentally friendly. Because hey, if you don’t know how dirty something is, maybe it’s clean! We often talk about cutting carbon, but here's a reminder that cutting gases like methane and nitrous oxide can also slow climate change. The EPA found that, left to their own …

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Give me my fish

Cross-posted from Civil Eats. Thursday, Aug. 4, is the final day for public comment on the EPA's plan to limit mercury emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants. Two decades overdue, the proposed regulation would capture 91 percent of airborne mercury before it leaves the smokestack. Despite widely available and proven technology to stop it, power-plant mercury currently floats unregulated beyond the reach of the Clean Air Act. While the utilities industry has delayed regulation through lobbying and court challenges, I have watched upwind construction of more than 20 new coal-fired generators over the past 20 years. Containing the toxin …

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Fishing for change

Teeg Stouffer fishes blue ribbon waters in Colorado.Photo: Recycled FishTeeg Stouffer is a lifelong fisher with a lot of hooks in his tackle box. Verbal hooks, that is, that challenge his fellow anglers to consider how they can do right by the environment while enjoying their favorite pastime. Based in Nebraska City, Neb., and traveling widely to fishing events, his nonprofit Recycled Fish is greening the average fisher, with the happy effect of improving water quality nationwide. He's also a host of the popular Fish Shtick podcast, where I first encountered his work. Q. How many people fish recreationally in …

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Here’s how the debt deal could spell doomsday for climate and energy

The debt deal Washington just passed is going to pit defense spending against the budgets of the DOE, EPA and incentives for clean energy production, GOP strategist Mike McKenna tells Politico. No one knows what will actually be cut -- that's to be decided by a bipartisan committee -- but plenty of programs to protect the environment and fund green energy already have big fat targets on them. “They’ve set up a structure in which the Republicans are going to have maximum incentive to blow up loopholes and credits because the other choice is to cut defense,” [said McKenna]. “So …

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NASA will clean up contaminated soil with salad dressing

There's an upside to the end of the space shuttle program: Now that the shuttle has been grounded, NASA can turn its attention to acres of contaminated soil and groundwater, the result of chemical spills from shuttle launches. And they're doing it in a novel way: with an oil-based emulsion that's made of corn and looks like dressing. The technique was first designed in scribbles on the back of a napkin, perhaps after eating a salad. Cleaning up the plumes of toxic, carcinogenic chemicals from the spills has cost NASA $128 million over the last 22 years, at Kennedy Space Center alone. (The …

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The plastics industry will do anything to keep you using plastic bags

Plastic bags are the genital warts of litter -- they're incredibly widespread, nearly impossible to get rid of, and can lead to much worse problems down the line. The only thing that works is prevention -- i.e. not using them in the first place. But the plastics industry doesn't take too kindly to that. Here's a sampling of the tactics the industry has used to keep people from weaning themselves off plastic bags: Lobbying (to the tune of millions of dollars) against legislation that would ban or put fees on plastic bags at the local level. Trying to trade bag …