Erin Brockovich helps Oklahoma Pawnee Nation take on fracking companies

July 11, 2017 by  
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Oklahoma has become an earthquake hotspot in recent years, and many are blaming companies that engage in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking . Last year, the state saw its largest earthquake ever recorded at a 5.8 magnitude, close to the town of Pawnee. The Pawnee Nation is suing over 25 oil and gas companies, with the help of famous consumer advocate Erin Brockovich . The amount of earthquakes with a magnitude of 3 or higher in Oklahoma was greater than in California for the first time in 2014. Many people blame the practice employed by oil and gas companies of injecting wastewater from fracking into the Earth. Related: Oklahoma earthquake activity up 4000%, locals sue oil and gas companies National Geographic explained the amount of earthquakes in Oklahoma spiked as did activity from fossil fuel companies. Once the state saw either none or a couple of magnitude 3 earthquakes every year. In 2009 that number escalated to 20. From there the situation only worsened: the state had 109 magnitude 3 or higher earthquakes in 2013, 579 in 2014, 903 in 2015, and 623 in 2016. That’s two or three of these quakes every day. Brockovich actually used to spend her summers in Oklahoma with her grandparents as a child. She told National Geographic, “The only thing I’d worry about growing up there was tornadoes. Now I’d be afraid not of a tornado, but an earthquake? That’s just bizarre.” She said it’s hard “to go back to Oklahoma, to see how on edge [the Pawnee people] are. The question they keep asking is, ‘When will it end?’ The Pawnee Nation is suing Eagle Road Oil LLC, Cummings Oil Company, and 25 other companies for damage to reservation property and historical buildings, with the help of Weitz & Luxenberg along with Brockovich. They say the companies were knowingly causing the earthquakes and their actions “constitute wanton or reckless disregard for public or private safety .” Via EcoWatch and National Geographic Images via Sarah Nichols on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Erin Brockovich helps Oklahoma Pawnee Nation take on fracking companies

Montana earthquake felt along line of over 500 miles

July 7, 2017 by  
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An earthquake that rocked Montana yesterday was felt by people across hundreds of miles. The 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck the western part of the state close to northwest Helena at 12:30 AM local time, but was felt by people in multiple states and even Canada. The quake was large enough to wake people up. The recent Montana earthquake was shallow but was felt by people across a line over 500-miles-long from around Billings to Spokane, Washington. There weren’t any reports of injuries, according to Montana Public Radio, but people over a widespread area were awakened by the shaking. The earthquake was the strongest Montana has experienced in possibly over a decade – according to NPR a 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck in 2005. Related: Oklahoma earthquake activity up 4000%, locals sue oil and gas companies Between 12:30 AM and 1:31 AM on July 6, a minimum of 10 measurable tremors struck Montana, and the last two had magnitudes of 3.9 and 4.4. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said the earthquake “occurred as the result of shallow strike slip faulting along either a right-lateral, near vertical fault trending east-southeast, or on a left-lateral vertical fault striking north-northeast.” The earthquake hit around 230 miles away from Yellowstone National Park , and as it was felt over such a wide area some people wondered if the Yellowstone supervolcano had become active. But the park service said the area typically has over 1,000 earthquakes yearly, and experts have said it is very unlikely a large eruption will occur in the next 1,000 to 10,000 years. The earthquake may not have stemmed from the supervolcano but still rattled residents out of the routine of their daily lives. Volunteers pitched in to help clean up a local grocery store in Lincoln, the D&D Foodtown, which lost pickle jars and wine bottles – but assistant manager Ruth Baker said all of the eggs in the store survived. Via NPR and the United States Geological Survey ( 1 , 2 ) Images via Wikimedia Commons and screenshot Save

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Montana earthquake felt along line of over 500 miles

China breaks ground on 12-mile treetop walkway in Fuzhou forest

July 7, 2017 by  
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China’s magnificent new walkway is giving people a treetop experience of Fuzhou’s sub-tropical forests unlike any before. Singapore-based LOOK Architects recently completed the first phase of the Fuzhou Forest Walkway, a snaking treetop walkway that will span over 19 kilometers (nearly 12 miles) at completion. The elevated pedestrian pathway looks like a dragon’s back threading down the lush Jinniushan mountain and offers urban dwellers the chance to reconnect with nature and brings attention to one of the city’s quickly diminishing green lungs. Covered in greenery thanks to a sub-tropical climate, Fujian’s capital of Fuzhou is one of China’s greenest cities and is famous for its numerous banyan trees that line the streets. LOOK Architects’ Fuzhou Forest Walkway brings nature closer to the city with an elevated path that covers the full breadth of Jinniushan mountain and offers beautiful views of the canopy , the city, and mountains beyond. The architects described the project as “a signature urban connector network that provides public accessibility to indigenous hinterland stretching north- east of Minjiang. Fudao signifies an awakened consciousness to improve lives of city dwellers by bringing nature within closer reach.” The project also presented the opportunity to open up and redevelop many parts of Jinniushan that had been inaccessible to the general public due to proximity to military camps and burial sites. The new enhancements included a modern columbarium complex constructed to rehouse exhumed graves, the adaptive reuse of an abandoned quarry into a new visitor’s center, and the transformation of an old bus depot Xikezhan into the main entrance that doubles as a food and beverage enclave. The walkway can be accessed via 10 different entrances, each with unique and eye-catching features such as the grand 24-meter-wide spiral ramp at the entrance of the existing Jinniushan indoor sports hall. Built with a gentle gradient, the elevated walkway is punctuated with amenities that include rest shelters, viewing decks, observation towers, and teahouses with bathrooms. The structure is also equipped with WIFI connectivity, touch-screen information boards, and visitor traffic monitors, giving the project the potential to set a new bar for China’s eco-routes. Related: Spiraling treetop walkway gives visitors a bird’s eye view of a Danish forest Environmental conservation is a major priority of the project. The walkway is made up of eight modular components that can be combined in various permutations, each made up of steel grating to allow natural light to pass through. Carefully spaced supporting columns minimize site impact. The Fuzhou Forest Walkway is slated for completion in next year. + LOOK Architects Via ArchDaily Images by Zhou Yue Dong

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China breaks ground on 12-mile treetop walkway in Fuzhou forest

Renewable energy generated more power than nuclear for first time since 1984

July 7, 2017 by  
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Nuclear power has dominated alternative energy sources in the United States for decades – that is, until this spring. Statistics recently released by the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) revealed renewable energy surpassed nuclear energy in power generation in March and April of this year. Wind , solar , and hydroelectric power made that feat possible – the first two set records for generation, while hydroelectric generation surged after heavy rainfall in the country’s West. Utility-scale renewable sources generated more power than nuclear energy in the spring of 2017 in America, and it’s the first time they’ve done so since July 1984. According to the EIA, part of the reason for this fact is nuclear power plants often undergo maintenance when electricity demand is lower, like in the spring or fall. But renewable energy is also generating more and more power in the country. Related: The U.S. just generated 10% of its electricity from solar and wind for the first time In March, hydroelectric power generated 30 billion kilowatt-hours, which is the most amount of power from hydroelectric in almost six years. California’s emergence from their drought had a role to play in that – both record precipitation and the snowpack have made the state wetter than it’s been in years, which is great for hydroelectric generation. And with more wind and solar installations, the two sources have been offering record amounts of clean energy . The EIA said between March 2016 and March 2017, wind generation increased by 16 percent, while solar generation spiked by 65 percent. Net generation from nuclear has stayed largely flat since the late 1990s, according to the EIA. Many plants have also been retired. Even so, the EIA doesn’t expect the trend to continue. They said nuclear will probably overtake renewables during this summer, and looking at 2017 as a whole, nuclear power will likely generate more energy than renewables overall. Via the United States Energy Information Administration Images via Louis Moncouyoux on Unsplash and the United States Energy Information Administration

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Formerly undiscovered tectonic plates may explain mysterious Vityaz earthquakes

May 26, 2017 by  
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A previously undetected layer of tectonic plates may offer answers to the mysterious Vityaz earthquakes in the Pacific Ocean . Researchers recently presented their preliminary findings on an additional layer of tectonic plates in Earth’s mantle at a joint meeting of the American Geophysical Union and the Japan Geoscience Union in Tokyo. These plates might have moved into the mantle millions of years ago. Scientists have known for over 50 years that continents slowly move around Earth, and the ocean floor rips apart as they do. Magma from the Earth’s mantle fills these gaps. But when tectonic plates converge, subduction, or the process of one plate edge moving down into the mantle, occurs. Scientist Johnny Wu of the University of Houston shared new evidence of a layer of tectonic plates that long ago subducted into the mantle. Related: Newly discovered link between two faults could lead to a much bigger San Francisco earthquake The recently discovered tectonic plates are in the mantle’s so-called transition zone, around 273 to 410 miles under the surface in the Tonga area. The plates move horizontally nearly as fast as plates do at the surface, and breaks and bends in these newly found plates can lead to earthquakes. Seismology advances helped make the find possible. Scientists are now able to make pictures of the interior of the planet utilizing vibrations from natural earthquakes. Wu put it this way: “Think of Hubble . We look out, and the further we look out the more things we discover, not just about the universe – we’re actually looking back in time. And this new seismology is like turning the Hubble to look into the Earth , because as we look deeper and get clearer images, we can see what the Earth might have looked like further and further back in time.” Another scientist from the University of Houston, one from the China Earthquake Administration , and a fourth from the University of Utah were also part of the research , which was presented at the meeting on Tuesday. The findings haven’t been peer reviewed yet, but could change the way scientists look at plate movement. Via The Guardian Images via YXO on Flickr and Nguyen Tan Tin on Flickr

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Alison Canyon natural gas facility could reopen despite unresolved issues over leak

January 18, 2017 by  
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In a troubling decision , California state regulators could allow the Aliso Canyon natural gas site near Los Angeles to reopen, despite the fact that the cause of 2015’s massive gas leak has never been determined. In October, a pressurized gas well blew out and released a massive plume of natural gas for five months before it was sealed permanently with cement, forcing thousands of nearby residents to evacuate their homes. It’s unclear exactly when the site will reopen, and there are still two public hearings in February before regulators make a final decision. So far, only 34 of the remaining 114 wells on the site have been tested for safety. While those particular wells have passed pressure tests, there are indications that some may have below-ground leaks. The extent of them, however, is unknown. Even more disturbing is the fact that the Santa Susana Fault runs through the gas field, yet seismic testing has yet been completed verifying the safety of the facility in the event of an earthquake . Geologists tapped by the state in December 2016 warned regulators that a significant earthquake is likely to hit the area sometime in the next 50 years. Related: Damage report reveals LA methane leak is one of the worst disasters in US history Despite this, there is some good news: the state is requiring Southern California Gas Co. to take new safety precautions that weren’t in place before the leak. For one thing, the utility is required to monitor wells for leaks now. Regulators are capping the production of the field – while it has a capacity of 83 billion cubic feet, it’s only going to be allowed to operate at 29 billion cubic feet going forward, with surface pressures nearly 20 percent less than what the gas company has requested. While reopening the facility still poses risks, it seems the state is doing what it can to reduce them in the future. Via Los Angeles Times Images via SoCalGas

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Snhettas luxury cabin with Aurora Borealis views opens at Treehotel

January 18, 2017 by  
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If a room with Aurora Borealis views sounds like the perfect getaway, you’ll love what’s popped up at Sweden’s Treehotel . The boutique hotel, which comprises designer treehouses near the Arctic Circle, just welcomed its first guests to the 7th room, a luxury elevated cabin designed by architecture firm Snøhetta. Hovering ten meters off the ground, the elevated dwelling is a contemporary take on the traditional Nordic cabin and comfortably immerses guests in the beautiful Lapland landscape. Nestled within the evergreen canopy of a tall pine forest, Snøhetta’s 7th room offers stunning views of the Lapland treetops and the Lule River. The cabin is clad in dark-colored pine and thrust into the air by twelve columns. The architects blur the lines between indoor and outdoor living by adding large panoramic windows , a netted terrace suspended above the forest floor, an opening for a tree to pass through the cabin, and even an optical illusion: the cabin’s bottom surface is covered with a large black-and-white print of pine trees to make the cabin appear invisible from below. The elevated cabin is accessible via a staircase and a small lift. In contrast to the dark facade, the 55-square-meter interior features light-colored ash wood floors and birch plywood walls. Built to accommodate five, the cabin comprises two bedrooms, a living room, bathroom, and terrace spread out across two floors. The bedrooms are located on the upper level. Ample glazing allows copious amounts of natural light to pour in and frame landscape views. Expansive, openable skylights in the bedroom as well as a north-facing floor-to-ceiling window in the living room offer prime viewing opportunities of the Northern Lights. Related: Stunning Swedish Treehotel Opens This Weekend! “The design of the 7th room aims to bring people and nature closer together, extending the cabin’s social spaces to the outside and further blending the distinction between indoor and outdoor,” writes Snøhetta. “With its wooden characteristics and unique location in the treetops, the 7th room is a celebration of the Nordic cabin and the pine tree forest.” + Snøhetta Images © Johan Jansson

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Snhettas luxury cabin with Aurora Borealis views opens at Treehotel

Renovated 1960s bungalow in Belgium is more energy-efficient than ever

January 18, 2017 by  
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A few simple steps can turn an average home into a modern marvel. Architecture firm Urbain Architectencollectief gave this 1960s bungalow in Belgium a contemporary renovation , transforming it into a daylit family house that maximizes the use of its garden. The team introduced an extension, repurposed the garage into a kids’ playroom, and vastly improved the home’s overall energy-efficiency. The new plan blurs the line between interior spaces and the garden, accentuating the connection through the use of large windows and offering direct access to terraces . The existing rooms on the northern side of the house now function as the entrance hall, bathroom, storage rooms and a private office space. The living room was placed facing the south, benefiting from large windows and sliding doors also connected to the garden. Ensuring an abundance of natural light also helps to reduce energy use. Related: Rescued 1927 Austin bungalow gets new life as a sweet new solar-powered home Exposed wooden beams and timber cladding give warmth to the renovated bungalow, while a steel profile, resting on two steel columns, helps support the new flat roof. A new layer of insulation ensures superior energy efficiency. + Urbain Architectencollectief Via Plataforma Arquitectura Photos by Filip Dujardin

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Renovated 1960s bungalow in Belgium is more energy-efficient than ever

Sierra Nevada brewery installs 1 MWh Tesla Powerpack system

January 18, 2017 by  
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Sierra Nevada Brewing company just installed 500 kilowatts/1 megawatt-hour of Tesla Powerpack batteries at its Chico, California brewery. The Powerpack energy storage system is being used by the craft beer maker for peak shaving (reducing energy purchased from the utility company during peak demand hours) during the energy-intensive brewing process. Sierra Nevada can brew 1.4 million gallons of beer onsite at a time. The beer company is powered by solar energy — 10,751 solar panels on rooftops and the parking lot generating 2.6 megawatts of solar electricity, the largest onsite solar installation of any US brewery. The facility also includes two megawatts of Capstone microturbines. The battery storage system, solar array and microturbines allow the company to offset 20 percent of its annual electricity usage. Related: Tesla to power Gigafactory with world’s largest solar rooftop installation The Powerpacks are designed for utilities and businesses while the Powerwalls are made for residential usage. Both the Powerpack and the Powerwall is assembled at the Tesla Gigafactory near Sparks, Nevada. Tesla recently began large-scale battery production at the Gigafactory. Tesla is also building a massive 20 megawatt/80 megawatt-hour Powerpack system at Southern California Edison’s Mira Loma substation in Ontario, California — the largest lithium-ion battery storage project in the world. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is upbeat on the energy storage industry, saying recently that the commercial and residential stationary battery storage market will “have a growth rate probably several times that of what the car business is per year,” calling it a “super-exponential growth rate.” + Sierra Nevada + Tesla Via The Verge Images via Sierra Nevada

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UK architect helps locals rebuild Nepal temple destroyed by earthquake

January 17, 2017 by  
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The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that battered Nepal in 2015 damaged 100 homes, killed three people, and devastated what many consider to be the country’s oldest Hindu temple in Changu Village alone. Slowly locals are rebuilding their beloved Changu Narayan temple with help from a British architect, who also helped restore Angkor Wat in Cambodia through the World Monuments Fund . Locals say the Hindu god Vishnu once appeared at Changu Narayan, the fifth century temple dedicated to the deity. Only priests ever entered the intricately carved wooden structure before the earthquake. When locals witnessed the devastation inflicted on the World Heritage Site by the natural disaster, they felt their lives had ended. But they didn’t give up hope, and began to rebuild. 61-year-old Gyan Bahadur Bhadal, who is one of a group of villagers maintaining the temple, told The Associated Press (AP), “I see now our world coming back alive.” Related: Shigeru Ban will reuse earthquake rubble to build Nepal relief shelters Architect John Sanday has loved Changu Narayan for decades, and told the AP he was very emotional visiting the site after the devastating earthquake, which damaged 600 historical monuments, palaces, and temples in Nepal. Out of those 600, Sanday decided he’d take on the temple as a project, and became a technical adviser for locals. He told the AP, “Sure, it’s peanuts, a little temple, so why is it so special? The detail. The grace. It’s one of the few World Heritage Sites that hasn’t been completely destroyed by development.” So far locals have painstakingly cleaned and made some repairs to the temple, but there’s still work to be done. The community needs to raise around $300,000 to complete the restoration initiative. Inspired by locals’ dedication, Sanday has already helped rebuild a guardhouse-sized shrine. Now he’s looking beyond the shrine to the temple, convinced the ancient building can be saved. Via The Associated Press Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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