Tagged: pollution

Duke Energy to pay $7 million for coal ash pollution case

Duke Energy agreed…to pay North Carolina regulators $7 million to settle allegations of groundwater pollution at its coal ash pits and to perform accelerated cleanups costing millions of dollars at four sites.

The agreement came as lawyers for the country’s largest electric company and the state were preparing courtroom arguments regarding a $25 million fine over groundwater pollution at a Wilmington plant, the state’s largest-ever penalty for environmental damage.

The settlement resolves that case and any other groundwater contamination allegations by state regulators at Duke Energy’s coal ash basins around the state.

The settlement also triggers accelerated cleanup at the retired Wilmington plant and three other plants that showed signs of offsite groundwater pollution during recent assessments. The state estimated the cleanups would cost between $10 and $15 million total.

The state’s pursuit of groundwater violations represented one facet of stepped up regulations and enforcement after a 2014 coal ash spill at the utility’s Eden power plant coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic, gray sludge…

Of course, this “pursuit” didn’t start until public outcry forced the state into action. The state’s Republican governor was a loyal employee of Duke Energy for 28 years.

The agency said the settlement will save the state from a protracted court fight over the Wilmington fine and allow it to focus its resources on overseeing cleanup efforts.

What? You expected something more than a polite note from the state of North Carolina. Who owns whom, eh?

Photos stained with the same pollutants as the scenery

Barnegat Bay, NJ

Brandon Seidler…takes photos of historically contaminated sites, then bathes the film in the same chemicals that poisoned the land. Seidler finds it the perfect way to not just talk about pollution, but show it. “I want my work to make people think,” he says. “If this is the effect of these chemicals on a plastic piece of film, what is it doing to the environment we are polluting?”

Same as it ever was.

EPA may be way underestimating landfill emissions

Click to enlarge

Landfills may be emitting more methane than previously reported because the Environmental Protection Agency may be drastically underestimating how much garbage is being deposited in landfills across the US, according to a new Yale University study.

Banana peels, coffee grounds, plastic bottles and other detritus tossed in the garbage usually ends up in a landfill and emits methane as it decomposes.

Methane is a greenhouse gas up to 35 times as potent as carbon dioxide as a driver of climate change over the span of a century, and landfills are the United States’ third largest source of methane emissions, according to the EPA. The Obama administration is focusing on cutting methane emissions as part of its Climate Action Plan.

The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, examined more than 1,200 solid waste landfills, including those that are open and those that are closed and no longer accepting waste.

Using previously unavailable data from individual landfills, the study found that in 2012, about 262 million metric tonnes of waste were deposited in landfills across the country, more than double the 122 million tonnes estimated by the EPA. The agency may be underestimating the amount of waste landing in landfills because small waste disposal facilities are not required to report how much refuse they accept.

What great reasons do our politicians offer for blocking requirements to report? Anyone?

The study also found that open landfills emit 91% of all landfill methane emissions, while closed landfills are 17% more efficient than open landfills at capturing methane so it does not escape into the atmosphere…

The study’s primary goal was to learn more about the efficiency of methane capture systems at landfills, which are more effective after a landfill stops accepting new waste…

…Atmospheric physicist Raymond Pierrehumbert, who is among the scientists who believe cutting methane should be less of a priority than cutting carbon dioxide to tackle climate change, said the study is useful in evaluating methane capture systems at landfills. But it primarily underscores that landfill gas should be used more widely as an energy source and that people should throw less in the trash, especially organic matter…

Conclusions across the board are consistent with good sense waste management. Produce less waste. Recycle and reuse where and when possible. Utilize methane produced by landfills to generate electricity or power useful machinery.

The range of solutions from the scientific side of the equation are already well known. Only Know-Nothing political barbarians dispute either the need for research or the goals.

Can President Kim end World Bank backing for coal-fired power?

Creeps like the Koch Bros. should be required to live downwind

In a closed meeting on Tuesday evening, the World Bank put before its executive directors a proposal to stop funding the development of new coal plants globally. Despite provisions that would grant exceptions to allow funding for a few rare coal plants, this proposal is a big step forward for an agency that has supported some of the world’s largest and dirtiest coal plants for years. It is also a key opportunity for World Bank President Dr Jim Yong Kim to lead the World Bank into a clean energy future.

Kim is already poised to be a leader in the fight to address climate disruption. Shortly after joining the World Bank as president one year ago this month, he commissioned a report that detailed the catastrophic effects the world would see if global temperatures rose by just four degrees Celsius. Since then, Kim has repeatedly called on countries around the world to take action now in order to avert such a crisis in the future.

Unfortunately, the World Bank’s actions haven’t lived up to Kim’s rhetoric. In the past five years alone, the bank has financed more than $5bn in carbon-intensive coal plants. Currently, it is considering financing a new coal power plant in Kosovo that would burn lignite coal – the dirtiest and most toxic form of coal available. This plant would be built in a country where, according to the World Bank’s own statistics, coal already kills 835 people every year.

…The tide at the World Bank may be turning. In his “climate action” speech last month, President Obama called for an end to public financing of dirty coal plants abroad. On the heels of that announcement, the World Bank released a draft energy strategy that would ban funding for new coal generation, with some rare exceptions. Although we would prefer to see the door closed on coal for good by eliminating even those loopholes, the bank’s new energy plan still marks real progress under Kim’s leadership.

Ending the financing of coal plants globally would also free up scarce public funds for investment in decentralized clean energy projects. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the only way the 1.3 billion people who still do not have access to electricity will be able to get it is through this type of off-grid, decentralized clean energy. Indeed, the IEA argues that to achieve universal electrification, the 70% of rural areas currently without power must be serviced with off-grid renewable energy…

Jim Yong Kim showed he was up to the test, but we’ll be watching closely to make sure this policy is backed up by real action.

Keep on rocking in the Free World!

Even if you get to wear thousand-dollar-suits and arrive at meetings in a Mercedes S-class chariot, confronting the fossil fuel flunkies ain’t ever anything more than a polite version of mud wrestling. And they control both the dirt and the gold.

Further examination of the neonicotinoid threat to honey bees

The decline of honey bees has been a major concern globally for the past decade. One of the factors that could be contributing to the decline is the use of insecticides — specifically neonicotinoids — that persist in rivers and streams. Researchers now report in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters that although sunlight plays an important role in degrading pollutants, its effects on neonicotinoids can diminish dramatically even in shallow water.

Neonicotinoids protect crops from pests, such as whiteflies, beetles and termites. They are a popular tool in a farmer’s arsenal, but they end up washing into surface waters and soil. Some research has suggested the insecticides play a role in the disappearance of bees, a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. But scientists didn’t fully understand the fate of neonicotinoids in the environment, an important factor in determining how they might contribute to the disorder. Charles S. Wong and colleagues wanted to investigate sunlight’s effects on these insecticides in water.

Out of five neonicotinoids the researchers tested in water under simulated sunny conditions, three degraded considerably within minutes.

Two took a few days to break down. But a depth of just 3 inches of water was enough to shield at least one, thiamethoxam, from the degrading effects of the sun. The researchers say that this persistence at shallow depths could increase the chances aquatic life and other wildlife, including bees, could get exposed to the insecticide.

How many agribusiness/farm lobbies did you ever hear of that spend time lobbying for clean water – after it’s outbound from the fields just irrigated?

Climate change is making Mexico City unbearable and unbreathable

Lovely view of Iztaccihuatl Mountain

MEXICO CITY — On a sweaty May morning in this sprawling mountain capital, residents heard a painfully familiar warning on the radio and TV.

Air pollution was at dangerous levels, environmental authorities said. People were advised to stay indoors as much as possible and avoid exercise. Asthma sufferers should take particular care.

On the city streets, this pollution could be seen in dirty clouds hanging amid grid-locked traffic.

The “environmental pre-contingency” on May 9 was the fourth so far this year, compared to three in all of 2014. The warnings are a reminder of the long uphill battle against dirty air in North America’s largest city — which has been a laboratory for pollution in megacities around the planet.

This rise comes after years in which Mexico City air has been getting cleaner, thanks to concerted campaigns. But while some problems have been resolved, others appear.

One issue is that Mexico is getting steadily hotter, apparently due to global warming. Last year was the hottest in Mexico since records began, with average temperatures of 71.78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Higher temperatures mean that pollutants release faster into the air…

By 2010, when Mexico City hosted a UN climate change conference, it was hailed as a poster child for anti-pollution measures. Lead in the air had dropped by 90 percent over two decades, environmental authorities reported.

Yet despite the giant steps, pollution persists and is exacerbated by new problems, including the rising temperatures…

While cars have gotten cleaner they have also gotten more numerous. There are now 275 cars per 1,000 people in Mexico, according to the World Bank. In the Mexico City urban sprawl with 20 million residents, this would mean about 5.5 million automobiles.

“Air is very democratic,” Jose Agustin Garcia of Mexico’s Center for Atmosphere Science says. “The same air goes into rich and poor neighborhoods alike.”

Of course, scumbags like the Koch Bros and their Mexican equivalents can afford to live anywhere. They can manage their polluted empires from a resort or their favorite palacio in another country altogether.

People are one of the cheapest component of their corporate profits.

Massive dead zones threaten the Atlantic Ocean

Dead zones in the Atlantic — so called because their lack of oxygen can’t sustain life — have been seen for the first time by scientists.

These areas of extremely low oxygen occurred in the tropical North Atlantic. The levels of oxygen were the lowest ever recorded in the open Atlantic. And while some microorganisms can live in these zones, most sea life can’t, which could lead to massive fish kills…

The oxygen levels found in the open North Atlantic had about 1/2 the concentrations scientists expected to see, lead-author Johannes Karstensen said…

Most dead zones are found near inhabited coastlines, after rivers carry fertilizers and other chemicals that cause algae blooms. When the algae die, they’re decomposed by bacteria that take up the oxygen.

The Atlantic dead zones, by contrast, appear to form in large (60 to 100 miles) eddies, “with the dead zone taking up the upper 100 meters or so,” explains Karstensen, a researcher at GEOMAR, the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, in Kiel, Germany.

“The fast rotation of the eddies makes it very difficult to exchange oxygen across the boundary between the rotating current and the surrounding ocean. Moreover, the circulation creates a very shallow layer — of a few tens of meters — on top of the swirling water that supports intense plant growth similar to coastal algae blooms,” Karstensen said. “From our measurements, we estimated that the oxygen consumption within the eddies is some five times larger than in normal ocean conditions.”

“Given that the few dead zones we observed propagated less than 100 kilometers north of the Cape Verde archipelago, it is not unlikely that an open-ocean dead zone will hit the islands at some point. This could cause the coast to be flooded with low-oxygen water, which may put severe stress on the coastal ecosystems and may even provoke fish kills and the die-off of other marine life.”

But, hey, as long as there’s sufficient cheap labor available from the local unemployed to clean the hulls of every Cruise Line skyscraper pulling into souvenir harbors – why worry?

Obama tightens regulations on fracking chemicals disclosure – sort of

The Obama administration said Friday it is requiring companies that drill for oil and natural gas on federal lands to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations.

A rule to take effect in June also updates requirements for well construction and disposal of water and other fluids used in fracking, a drilling method that has prompted an ongoing boom in natural gas production.

The rule has been under consideration for more than three years, drawing criticism from the oil and gas industry and environmental groups. The industry fears the regulation could hinder the drilling boom, while some environmental groups worry that it could allow unsafe drilling techniques to pollute groundwater.

What crap writing/editing. It’s the absence of regulations that allows unsafe drilling techniques to pollute groundwater.

The final rule hews closely to a draft that has lingered since the Obama administration proposed it in May 2013. The rule relies on an online database used by at least 16 states to track the chemicals used in fracking operations. The website, FracFocus.org, was formed by industry and intergovernmental groups in 2011 and allows users to gather well-specific data on tens of thousands of drilling sites across the country.

Companies will have to disclose the chemicals they use within 30 days of the fracking operation.

While the new rule only applies to federal land – which makes up just one-tenth of natural gas drilling in the United States – the Obama administration is hoping the rule will serve as a model and set a new standard for hydraulic fracturing that states and other regulators will follow.

Brian Deese, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said…“Ultimately, this is an issue that is going to be decided in state capitals and localities as well as with the industry,” he said…

Thomas Pyle, president of the pro-industry Institute for Energy Research, said blah, blah, blah.

The League of Conservation Voters called the bill an important step forward to regulate fracking.

Even so, the group was disappointed with the continued reliance on FracFocus, which a spokeswoman described as an industry-run website.

Participation in FracFocus is voluntarily. So, the creeps using deleterious chemicals simply don’t participate.

FracFocus, right now, displays info on fewer than 95,000 oil and gas wells. The industry admits to approximately 441,000 fracked gas wells alone.

After three years of introspection, investigation and time-wasting the White House proposes tightening of regulations based on info from a single voluntary website. No requirements for compliance. And the regulations only apply to federal lands.

Window dressing.

The rest is left in the hands of state legislatures who will use their God-given states rights – and motivational handouts from oil and gas lobbyists – to do absolutely nothing.

Bridger’s Poplar pipeline spills into the Yellowstone River

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 9.33.56 PM
Bridger LLC – “We are committed to environmetal stewardship”

Bridger Pipeline LLC said on Monday it has shut the 42,000 barrel per day Poplar pipeline system after a weekend breach that sent as much as 1,200 barrels of crude oil into the Yellowstone River near Glendive, Montana.

The company said crews are now cleaning up the site after the leak on Saturday morning. Bridger estimates between 300 and 1,200 barrels spilled but could not say how much of the light crude flowed into the river.

The pipeline system runs from the Canadian border to Baker, Montana, where it meets the Butte pipeline. The Poplar system gathers crude from Bakken producers in eastern Montana and North Dakota. The company cannot yet say when the line will reopen or what caused the leak…

The spill is the second in the river in recent years. In 2011, Exxon Mobil Corp’s 40,000 bpd Silvertip pipeline in Montana ruptured underneath the river, releasing more than 1,000 barrels of crude and costing the company about $135 million to clean up…

Yup. The Yellowatone is a lovely river to fish. When you’re not concerned if the oil coating the fish is something other than olive oil.

When Reuters rolled out this article at 4:13 EST, they said no municipalities reported any problems with their water supplies. Well – the EPA has now shut down the water supply system for the town of Glendive, There is oil pollution in that system,, Federal, state and local agencies are working to secure a separate clean water supply for residents until the system can be flushed – and clean water from the river is available.

The screen shot at the top is from Bridger’s website. No mention of any oil spill in the Yellowstone River,

400ppm CO2 milestone already passed in the start of 2015

NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite photo

The new year has only just begun, but we’ve already recorded our first days with average carbon dioxide levels above 400 parts per million, potentially leading to many months in a row above this threshold, experts say.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography records of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels show that Jan. 1 was the first day of the new year above that concentration, followed by Jan. 3 and Jan. 7. Daily averages have continued at this level or higher through Jan. 9, though they could continue to dance up and down around that mark due to day-to-day variations caused by weather systems. But even with those fluctuations, 2015 will likely see many months above 400 ppm, possibly starting with the very first month of the year…

The 400 ppm mark was first passed on May 9, 2013. In 2014, it happened two months earlier, in March. The average CO2 concentrations for March, April and June 2014 were all above 400 ppm, the first time that has been recorded. The peak CO2 measurement of 2014 was just shy of 402 ppm in May.

While the 400 ppm mark is somewhat symbolic (as the increase in warming between 399 ppm and 400 ppm is small), it is a large increase from pre-industrial CO2 concentrations, which were around 280 ppm. The progressively earlier occurrence of these high CO2 levels — not seen in somewhere between 800,000 and 15 million years — points to the inexorable buildup of heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere as human emissions continue unabated.

That increase in CO2 and other greenhouse gases has raised Earth’s average temperature by 1.6°F since the beginning of the 20th century. Some scientists say that to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, that warming needs to stay under 2°C, or 3.6°F…

The world’s plants can only pull so much CO2 out of the atmosphere in a given season, while human emissions keep rising. This is leaving an excess of about 2 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere every year, meaning the 400 ppm mark will keep occurring earlier and earlier. In just a year or two, carbon dioxide levels will likely be about 400 ppm year-round.

But, hey, Congressional Republicans, Tea Party Know-Nothings and other intellectual failures keep telling the world, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!” Corporate profits are up. The four or five biggest banks in America need new wheelbarrows to truck their cash around.

And nothing else matters.