Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In response to the BP oil spill, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will announce on Tuesday that the Minerals Management Service will be divided so collection of oil royalties and safety inspection of offshore drilling are separated, a department official told Reuters.
The MMS currently carries out both roles, drawing criticism from some U.S. lawmakers and environmental groups.
Critics argue the MMS is faced with a conflict of interest because it is responsible for regulating and shutting down offshore oil production over safety concerns, if necessary, and also charged with keeping the oil flowing so the government can collect royalties.
Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
Just days after it received a new 20-year license extension from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in New Jersey was found to be leaking radioactive tritium .
Located about 60 miles east of Philadelphia in Lacey Township, New Jersey, the Oyster Creek plant is the oldest in the United States, and the tritium leak from underground pipes that was discovered on April 9, 2009 may have spread further than officials previously thought.
New Jersey environmental officials now say that radioactive tritium has leached into the nearby water aquifer and that the plant’s owners need to install new monitoring wells to keep tabs on the spread of the chemical. Commissioner Bob Martin is worried about the tritium — currently being found at concentrations 50 times higher than those allowed by law — which has been slowly spreading underground at one to three feet a day. (more…)
Monday, May 10th, 2010
The oil slick spreading across the Gulf of Mexico has shattered the notion that offshore drilling had become safe. A close look at the accident shows that lax federal oversight, complacency by BP and the other companies involved, and the complexities of drilling a mile deep all combined to create the perfect environmental storm.
It’s hard to believe now, as oil from the wrecked Deepwater Horizon well encroaches on the Louisiana marshes. But it was only six weeks ago that President Obama announced a major push to expand offshore oil and gas drilling. Obama’s commitment to lift a moratorium on offshore drilling reflected the widely-held belief that offshore oil operations, once perceived as dirty and dangerous, were now so safe and technologically advanced that the risks of a major disaster were infinitesimal, and managing them a matter of technocratic skill.
But in the space of two weeks, both the politics and the practice of offshore drilling have been turned upside down. Today, the notion that offshore drilling is safe seems absurd. The Gulf spill harks back to drilling disasters from decades past — including one off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif. in 1969 that dumped three million gallons into coastal waters and led to the current moratorium. The Deepwater Horizon disaster is a classic “low probability, high impact event” — the kind we’ve seen more than our share of recently, including space shuttle disasters, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina. And if there’s a single lesson from those disparate catastrophes, it’s that pre-disaster assumptions tend to be dramatically off-base, and the worst-case scenarios downplayed or ignored. The Gulf spill is no exception. (more…)
Monday, May 10th, 2010
Are Offshore Oil Rigs a Threatened Species? Is the Deepwater Horizon spill the beginning of the end for offshore oil drilling, or just another Exxon Valdez? Today, as BP attempted to place a 100-ton cap over the broken well gushing under the Gulf of Mexico, it was uncertain if they’d be able to stanch the spreading damage at sea or in Washington, D.C.
The spill has muddied the prospects for a climate bill as one of its pillars — a new round of offshore oil drilling — founders in unstable political soil, as Mackinnon Lawrence reports. Meanwhile, environmental groups are hustling to make the case, as in this Sierra Club video, that offshore oil is dirty and unsafe. Perhaps it’s not only brown pelicans and terns who will have trouble flying after all this is over, and the black tide might yet turn against its maker.
Efficiency Experts To America: Stop Dreamin’ and Pick Up Yer Caulkin’ Gun. At a symposium of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy — what, you missed it? — experts concluded that weatherstripping beats windfarms as the fastest way to save the US economy, and released some numbers to prove it. First, America is not as efficient as it thinks: the domestic economy is only 13 percent efficient, compared to 20 percent efficiency in Japan and some European countries. We were left pondering if it’s more efficient, percentage-wise, to order a veggie pizza from Papa John’s or gnaw on a frozen one from Trader Joe’s. (more…)
Friday, May 7th, 2010
(Reuters) – The BP oil spill is the latest in a series of environmental insults to the U.S. Gulf Coast, from wetlands eradication to flood control measures that have starved marshes of new sediment deposits.
Wetlands Clearing: Early European settlers cleared coastal swamps and marshes in the Mississippi River delta to control malaria they believed was caused by the fetid air in wetlands. This destroyed coastal wetlands that filter pollution, shelter native species and act as buffers to slow down hurricanes that spawn in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. (more…)
Friday, May 7th, 2010
Australian researchers have ranked the world’s nations based on their environmental impact using seven key indicators, including forest loss, habitat conversion, greenhouse gas emissions, and species loss.
The top 10 countries in terms of environmental impact are Brazil, the United States, China, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, India, Russia, Australia, and Peru.
After correlating the ranking with socio-economic variables, the researchers found that total wealth was the most important factor driving environmental impact. (more…)
Thursday, May 6th, 2010
Two separate high-level diplomatic events last week gave more credence to the notion that in the months leading up to the next round of U.N. climate talks in Mexico in December, developing countries are working on building some strategic alliances — strategic alliances structured around the principle that it will be harder to develop without the help of fossil fuels like coal and oil, than it was to develop with them.
If there is ever going to be an international climate treaty that puts limits on the emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, developing nations are going to make sure they don’t get the short end of the stick.
Making sure they don’t end up with that deal, the environment ministers of Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC) met in Cape Town over to discuss their approach at upcoming global climate change negotiations. In a joint statement issued by the environment ministers, the BASIC countries said that a legally binding follow-up treaty to the Kyoto protocol should be agreed no later than the U.N. climate summit late 2011 in Cape Town.
The BASIC countries are responsible for about 30 percent of global carbon emissions, but represent a much larger proportion of the world’s population. In some respects, they command more bargaining power than the industrialized countries of the global North. (more…)
Wednesday, May 5th, 2010
Rampant illegal logging in Indonesia is undermining the sustainability and strength of the forest products industry in Indonesia and the United States and thwarting efforts to preserve forests to slow global warming, according to a new report.
The report by the BlueGreen Alliance and several U.S. environmental and labor organizations said that 40 to 55 percent of Indonesia’s timber is harvested illegally, often from protected areas.
Widespread illegal logging in Indonesia and elsewhere has depressed timber prices worldwide, costing the logging, wood, paper and cabinetry industries more than $1 billion in the U.S. alone, the report said. (more…)
Wednesday, May 5th, 2010
The European Union has announced its plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and “de-carbonize” the energy sector, reducing the air pollution that iscontributing to chronic respiratory disease in millions of people.
Yet within the Industrial Emission Directive (IED) , which underwent a second reading in the European Parliament in late April, it appears that some discussions are leaning in favor of emissions-emitting industry interests over public health and the fight against climate change.
In 2001, the E.U. Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD) was redesigned to gradually limit emissions from facilities such as coal-fired power plants. Yet even though these facilities have had 15 years to get ready to comply with a tougher nitrogen oxide emission limit value starting in 2016, some E.U. countries and their power companies are pushing for more time. (more…)
Tuesday, May 4th, 2010
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is making it easier to find chemical information online. The EPA is releasing a database called ToxRefDB, which allows scientists and the interested public to search and download thousands of toxicity testing results on hundreds of chemicals.
ToxRefDB captures 30 years and $2 billion of federal required testing results. This is a handy regulatory and technical tool, and simplifies at least some of the required toxicity investigation research.
ToxRefDB provides detailed chemical toxicity data in an accessible format. It is a part of ACToR (Aggregated Computational Toxicology Resource), an online data warehouse that collects data from about 500 public sources on tens of thousands of environmentally relevant chemicals, including several hundred in ToxRefDB. (more…)