EPA ends "always-in" clean air policy opposed by fossil fuel companies

January 26, 2018 by  
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is withdrawing a key  Clean Air Act provision. They’re reversing the “once-in always-in” policy for major sources of pollution , which requires sources like  power plants , to always be classified as a major source. Under the new change, if a source “limits its potential to emit below major source thresholds,” per the EPA , it can be reclassified as an area source. What’s the impact of all this? According to a statement from Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) clean air director John Walke, “This is among the most dangerous actions that the Trump EPA has taken yet against public health .” The EPA , in their own words, is “reducing regulatory burdens.” They’re withdrawing a policy “for the classification of major sources of hazardous air pollutants under section 112 of the Clean Air Act.” According to Reuters, the “once-in always-in” policy was established in 1995. The agency said it had acted as a disincentive for sources to put pollution abatement and prevention attempts in place, “or to pursue technological innovations that would reduce hazardous air pollution emissions .” Reuters reported the petroleum industry, utilities, and others sought the withdrawal. Related: EPA cancels plan to clean up polluting Texas coal plants A major source emits or could emit 10 tons a year of any risky air pollutant, according to the EPA, or 25 tons or more of a combination of air pollutants a year. Area sources are those with emissions under that threshold, and according to Reuters, are subject to pollution control standards that aren’t as strict as those for major sources. The NRDC doesn’t agree with the move. Walke said it would “allow the greatest increase in hazardous air pollutants in our nation’s history.” “This move drastically weakens protective limits on air pollutants like arsenic, lead, mercury, and other toxins that cause cancer, brain damage, infertility, developmental problems, and even death,” he said in a statement. “And those harmed most would be nearby communities already suffering a legacy of pollution.” + Environmental Protection Agency Via Reuters and the Natural Resources Defense Council Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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EPA ends "always-in" clean air policy opposed by fossil fuel companies

This startup is turning air pollution into art

December 1, 2017 by  
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Air pollution is a huge problem in many parts of the world – including in Mumbai , where Anirudh Sharma grew up. Sharma noticed one day that his t-shirts were being covered in a dirty soot and decided to do something about it. So he started Graviky Labs and created technology that captures particulate matter at the source. That matter is then turned into ink that artists around the world can use to bring attention to air pollution. Sharma was studying in the MIT Media Lab when he decided that he wanted to do something about the air pollution in his hometown. Mumbai is particularly infamous for their air pollution , which can cause lung damage, cancer and shorten lifespans. His goal was to create “less pollution, more art.” Related: Daan Roosegaarde introduces smog-sucking, air-cleaning bikes KAALINK is a small device that fits on car exhaust or diesel generators to capture air pollution using static electricity. After a few weeks, the cartridges are then emptied and sent to Graviky Labs to be turned into Air-Ink. Unlike other soot-capturing systems, KAALINK doesn’t need water to trap pollution. That makes it an even greener option. Artists from around the world have used Air-Ink to create pieces that you can see for yourself on Graviky Lab’s Facebook page . A Kickstarter campaign this summer also sold T-shirts, postcards, shoes, and helmets decorated in Air-Ink. + Graviky Labs Via MIT Labs

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This startup is turning air pollution into art

Suspicious radioactive cloud over Europe may have originated in Russia

November 16, 2017 by  
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A radioactive cloud of pollution sounds like a plot point out of a B movie – but that’s what multiple European monitoring stations recently detected. Official monitors in Germany and France detected ruthenium 106, a nuclide, in late September, and some people suggested it originated in Kazakhstan or southern Russia . Multiple European monitoring stations confirmed the presence of ruthenium 106, according to France’s Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety , in the atmosphere of the majority of countries in Europe. The cause for alarm appears to have drifted away for now: the institute said since October 13, they have not detected ruthenium 106 in France. They said in a recent statement , “The concentration levels of ruthenium 106 in the air that have been recorded in Europe and especially in France are of no consequence for human health and for the environment .” Related: UNEP chief: Polluters should pay for environmental destruction, not taxpayers But there is some question over how much ruthenium 106 leaked in the first place. The institute said the amounts at the source would have been significant. If such an accident had occurred in France, authorities would have had to implement measures to protect populations for a few kilometers around the point of release. Where did the ruthenium 106 come from? Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection said on October 11 , “Recent analyses as to the source of the radioactive substance suggest a high probability of a radioactive release in the Southern Ural, although other areas in the South of Russia still cannot be ruled out.” Just a few days earlier, on October 8, they’d said in a statement “Russia must be assumed to be the region of origin” and called on Russian authorities to provide information. The German and French agencies did not think the ruthenium 106 came from a nuclear reactor accident, as other nuclides probably would have been detected in such an event. France’s institute said the source could have been “nuclear fuel-cycle facilities or radioactive source production.” French agency senior official Jean-Christophe Gariel said he talked to counterparts in Russia last week, and “they told us that our results were coherent and correct, but that they were not aware of any event that could have caused that.” Via The New York Times , the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety , and the Federal Office for Radiation Protection ( 1 , 2 ) Images via Depositphotos and Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety

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Suspicious radioactive cloud over Europe may have originated in Russia

EPA cancels plan to clean up polluting Texas coal plants

October 6, 2017 by  
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Big Brown, a coal -fired Texas power plant, spews out sulfur dioxide at rates as much as 50 times higher than coal plants fitted with newer technology. Under President Barack Obama , the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aimed to clean up Big Brown and six other Texas plants in three to five years. But President Donald Trump’s EPA, headed by Scott Pruitt , just released a final rule that will enable these polluting plants to keep on pumping lung irritants into the air. Big Brown and the other six plants together generate more sulfur dioxide pollution than power stations from over 25 states combined, according to Sierra Club senior attorney Elena Saxonhouse. She wrote the former EPA had slated the stations for cleanup, “setting emission limits for sulfur dioxide consistent with modern scrubbers,” equipment that can yank out sulfur dioxide before it billows out of a plant’s smokestacks. The two boilers at Big Brown and nine other coal-fired boilers don’t have scrubbers at all. Four other boilers also part of the proposal do have scrubbers, but they’re from the 1970’s and don’t work as well as modern technology. Related: Trump administration halts study on health risks of living near coal mining sites But it seems Pruitt doesn’t care about harmful pollutants. He tossed out the proposed rule for a final rule Sierra Club described as a do-nothing plan, where Big Brown and the other plants can go on polluting as normal. Saxonhouse wrote in an article for Sierra Club, “Pruitt’s decision to scrap the proposed clean air protections fits a pattern of backward-looking decisions in this Administration , which has tied itself in knots trying to prop up the coal industry .” The cleanup plan would have implemented the Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze program. The proposed upgrades would have removed over 180,000 tons of sulfur dioxide pollution a year. One analysis found the proposal could have saved over 600 lives every single year. But the final rule means the coal plants can keep polluting, potentially leading to harmful health impacts for humans. According to Saxonhouse, “In making this about-face, EPA had to shove aside reams of technical and scientific data prepared by the previous administration, and ignore the legal framework of the Regional Haze program. And EPA failed to take any public comment on the new plan, despite the fact that thousands of citizens had written in to support the strong proposal.” Via Sierra Club Images via Larry D. Moore/Wikimedia Commons and Roy Luck on Flickr

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Transforming Urban Deliveries

October 4, 2017 by  
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Economic growth and the expansion of e-commerce means there is a growing number of commercial vehicles on city streets contributing to congestion and air pollution. Several new technologies and business models have the potential to mitigate these negative effects while also making urban deliveries more affordable. The attractiveness of these technologies will vary by city and be heavily influenced by population density and economic conditions.

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Technology, the Universe and Everything — A Living Systems View of Spaceship Earth

October 3, 2017 by  
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Half a century ago, the first images of Earth from space were broadcast around the world. These catalyzed awareness that, for better or worse, Earth is a dynamic, interconnected system. For tech companies pursuing “sustainability,” this awareness presents a paradox of cosmic proportions. On the one hand, we hope that new innovations will improve the quality of life for billions of people. Yet we’re accelerating the transformation of ecological commons into expendable commodities.

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Crazy Texas tire fire demonstrates why America needs the EPA

April 18, 2017 by  
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100,000 tires caught fire in arid Odessa, Texas earlier this month. The blaze was too much for local volunteer firefighters to extinguish as the isolated area’s closest fire hydrant is four miles away. So the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came to the rescue. Turns out the government body has some value after all, despite what some politicians and the president think. The Texas tire fire started Sunday, April 9 around 3 PM. Roads were closed and local people were told to shutter their windows because of the toxic black smoke billowing from the fire. West Odessa Volunteer Fire Chief Jimmy Ellis told local news publication OA Online the fire was way beyond their means to extinguish. “We haven’t even been able to get down in the pit where it started because it’s so hot you can’t get down in that pit,” he said. “The rubber just stays hot and it will adhere to your boots and the bunker gear.” YouTube user SF1 captured the massive tire fire with a GoPro Karma drone. Related: Republican senator claims the EPA is brainwashing children Firefighters created a break around the pit to at least prevent the fire from spreading, and then the EPA arrived Monday the 10 to help out. In cases like the Texas tire fire – when a disaster is too overwhelming for local or state resources – the agency can provide strategists, teams, and equipment. GOOD said if the agency hadn’t gotten involved the fire may have raged for weeks. Burning tires can emit hundreds of toxic pollutants into the atmosphere, according to Gizmodo, and breathing in that smoke can lead to negative health effects. Investigators don’t yet know who was responsible for the tire fire. OA Online reported the pit of tires is on private property; their storage could have been against regulation. According to a recent Abilene Reporter-News article , authorities said the fire is finally extinguished. Via GOOD and Gizmodo Images via screenshot

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Black mountain cabin lights up like a lantern at night

April 18, 2017 by  
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Architect Tomislav Soldo designed a handsome mountain cabin that owes its existence to a fortuitously placed walnut tree. Set on a sloped site in the Croatian mountains, the 100-square-meter home was designed and built as an afterthought following the completion of a terrace beneath the shade of a walnut tree. Clad in Siberian larch painted black, the modern building features a ventilated facade and large windows that allow it to glow like a lantern at night. Located in Ogulin, the two-story compact cabin echoes the local vernacular with its use of timber and simple pitched roof . Two layers of black wood tar were painted onto the facade to protect the building from the elements and to minimize maintenance. The 30-centimeter-thick walls were constructed from aerated concrete blocks, saving the architects from adding extra thermal insulation and allowing for speedy construction. Thermal efficiency is improved with the installation of a ventilated facade made from Siberian larch cladding. Related: Salvaged wood clads handsome mountain cabin in Vermont In contrast to the dark facade, the interior features white-painted walls, light-toned timber floors, and black accents such as the wood-burning stove and window trim. The use of a light color palette, high ceilings, and large windows that overlook the mountains and forests give the home a spacious feel despite the small footprint. An open-plan kitchen, living, and dining room are located on the ground floor. The bedroom is placed on the mezzanine level and overlooks the living room below. + Tomislav Soldo Via ArchDaily Images by Jure Živkovi?

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Black mountain cabin lights up like a lantern at night

Street artist uses reverse graffiti to transform dirty cars into animal art

April 18, 2017 by  
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Moscow’s filthy cars are getting a brand new look thanks to opportunistic street artist Nikita Golubev . Using reverse graffiti, a method of creating temporary art by removing dirt from a surface, Golubev etches amazing images of animals and other figures onto the sides of dirty vehicles. These unlikely works of art are part of his latest works in his “Dirty Art” series. Cars, vans, and large trucks are all fair game to Golubev, who uses his fingers and paintbrushes to wipe, scrape, and embellish images made on each surface. White vehicles encrusted in layers of dirt and grime offer up the ideal canvases for reverse graffiti , also known as “clean graffiti.” Depending on how much Golubev chooses to scrub away, he can create different shades of gray that give surprising depth and realism to his art. Related: REVERSE GRAFFITI: Street Artists Tag Walls by Scrubbing Them Clean These eye-catching pieces are temporary and will disappear over time or whenever the vehicle is cleaned. The prolific Moscow-based artist, who signs with the name ProBoyNick, drew on his ample art repertoire for the Dirty Art series, from his experience in painting to digital art. You can see more of his work on Instagram and Behance . + Nikita Gobulev Via Colossal Images via Nikita Gobulev

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Street artist uses reverse graffiti to transform dirty cars into animal art

9-year-old girl sues Indian government over climate-change inaction

April 12, 2017 by  
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Who runs the world? Ridhima Pandey, for one. The nine-year-old girl from India is suing her government for failing to stem planet-warming greenhouse-gas emissions . In a petition filed last week with the National Green Tribunal , a court that handles cases related to the environment, Pandey reproached the country’s officials for not enforcing their own prescriptions for mitigating climate change , the consequences of which the “children of today and the future will disproportionately suffer.” The tribunal has asked the Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Climate , as well as the Central Pollution Control Board to respond within two weeks. “As a young person, the applicant is part of a class that amongst all Indians is most vulnerable to changes in climate, yet are not part of the decision-making process,” the 52-page petition, which names the above two agencies as respondents, said. “The government has failed to take any effective science-based measure, and there is a huge gap in implementation of the environmental legislations.” India, with its population of 1.25 billion, is one of the world’s biggest polluters, coming in fourth after China, the United States, and the European Union . That Pandey is the daughter of an environmental activist isn’t too surprising, though the lawsuit is reportedly her idea. Certainly she isn’t the first young person to take the Indian government to task over air pollution. Just last year, six teenagers filed a lawsuit over New Delhi’s infamously appalling air quality. Related: Air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death worldwide India isn’t completely oblivious to the damage climate change can cause. The South Asian nation, which officially ratified the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change in late 2016, has pledged to generate at least 40 percent of its electricity from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030. But Pandey thinks the government could—and should—be doing more. Her petition included a call for the government to prepare a “carbon budget” that places a cap on the country’s carbon-dioxide emissions, ensure that industrial projects meet emissions standards, and create a time-bound national climate recovery plan. “Children in India are now aware about the issues of climate change and its impact,” Rahul Choudary, Pandey’s lawyer, said in a statement. “[Pandey] is simply asking her government to fulfill its own duty to protect the vital natural resources on which she and future generations depend on for survival.” Via Mashable and Reuters Photos by Unsplash

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