Trump begins process of rolling back Obama-era clean water rule

March 1, 2017 by  
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As part of his ongoing campaign to repeal and undermine many of Barack Obama’s environmental accomplishments, yesterday President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the EPA to roll back a 2015 regulation known as “Waters of the United States” rule. The regulation gives the federal government the authority to limit pollution in major bodies of water, rivers, streams, and wetlands. Trump’s executive order, on its own, can’t repeal the rule. However, he’s directed the controversial new EPA head, Scott Pruitt, to begin the complex legal process of rescinding and rewriting the rule, which the New York Times writes could take longer than Trump’s first term to actually carry out. The rule was originally created to clear up confusion about the federal government’s authority in regulating streams, wetlands, and major bodies of water after a series of court decisions created legal confusion. Related: New EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s emails reveal troubling oil-industry ties Though the rule was put forward jointly by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers, many business owners in industries including property development, oil and gas , and fertilizer and pesticide manufacturing claim it stifles economic growth. Environmentalists, on the other hand, contend that it will help provide healthier drinking water and cleaner natural areas to people around the nation. This isn’t the only environmental executive order Trump’s expected to sign in the near future. Reports are also circulating that in the coming week he’ll sign a similar order directing the EPA to dismantle Obama’s 2015 climate change regulations as well. Via NRDC Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Trump begins process of rolling back Obama-era clean water rule

Philippines president Duterte signs Paris agreement

March 1, 2017 by  
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It’s been almost a year since leaders from 170 countries met in New York City to formally sign the Paris climate change agreement , and almost four months since the agreement officially went into force . But president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte is only now jumping on the climate change -fighting bandwagon, finally signing the historic accord. Duterte initially resisted signing the agreement; he claimed it favored rich countries like the United States, and threatened to boycott the agreement because it would hurt industrialization in the Philippines. But his protests subsided last November, when he said a cabinet decision swayed him to support the Paris agreement. Now that he’s signed the deal, it will need to go through the country’s Senate. Related: Hard-won Paris climate agreement officially goes into force Senator Loren Legarda said, “We are a step away from full ratification and it is my commitment to actively shepherd the Senate’s immediate concurrence.”It’s expected the Senate will back ratification as Duterte’s allies populate the governing body. Should the agreement finally go through, the Philippines would receive access to the Green Climate Fund , a global initiative slated to send billions of dollars to developing nations to help them combat climate change. Manila , the country’s capital, has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent by 2030. The ambitious target will require financial and technical support. Duterte has been labeled a strongman and a firebrand. Vox described him as the Donald Trump of Manila, although the former Davao City mayor has been in politics for decades. Trump and Duterte have become fast friends – Trump reportedly praised Duterte’s war on drugs, which is so violent it sparked a January report from Amnesty International . Via Reuters Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Philippines president Duterte signs Paris agreement

Scott Pruitt attacks critics and EPA employees in first speech

February 22, 2017 by  
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In this first address to the staff of the Environmental Protection Agency , newly-appointed chief Scott Pruitt didn’t give any rousing remarks about fighting global warming or protecting the planet. Instead, he used the opportunity to strike back at everyone who opposed his controversial candidacy for the position over recent weeks, and laid out a vision that seems to undermine everything the agency stands for . In an address lasting less than 20 minutes, Pruitt described his vision of an EPA that works closely with industrial companies before enacting anti-pollution regulations in order to make it easier for them to comply. (That sound be simple for Pruitt’s EPA – it’s much easier to comply with regulations that simply don’t exist, such as the stream protection rule recently repealed by Congress.) He made no mention of climate change or environmental destruction at all. He did, however, address one unsurprising topic: the EPA’s staff and their opposition to the Trump administration . He bashed the agency for its past actions, which he sees as outside of its legal mandate, and for denying states the right to set their own legislation. Considering that Pruitt has made his name suing the agency 13 times , the verbal assault was more or less to be expected. Related: PA workers openly fight against potential Pruitt confirmation EPA staffers aren’t taking their new boss’s word lying down. One has already blasted it as “condescending and hypocritical” in an anonymous interview with Mother Jones . One Obama-era communications staffer, Liz Purchia, agreed, saying, “Accomplishing agency priorities was no easy task when the administrator had staff’s back and politicals and careers agreed the majority of the time, so let’s see how well Trump’s EPA does getting staff to follow them when they feel disrespected. These are professionals with years of experience, who have been made to feel like their leader doesn’t trust their judgment.” Considering that EPA workers are already in open revolt against Pruitt’s leadership and have already been talking anonymously to the press to undermine Trump’s pollution-friendly agenda, it should be interesting to see his approach over the next four years. Via Huffington Post Images via Gage Skidmore

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Scott Pruitt attacks critics and EPA employees in first speech

How this photographer escaped the grid with her tiny Teardrop Trailer

February 22, 2017 by  
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Photographer Mandy Lea won’t let anything stop her from seeing the world. In order to fulfill her “insatiable desire to explore and document the beauty all around us through photography”, Lea packed up her photo gear and hit the road eight months ago in her tiny teardrop trailer – and she hasn’t looked back since. Like many intrepid travelers, Lea decided to change her lifestyle after getting burned out at her job. Deciding to live life on her terms and pursue her passion for photography, she purchased a tiny teal T@G teardrop camper to use as her home on wheels . “It simply called to me,” Lea says. “I couldn’t explain the reasoning; I just knew I had to have it. That. Exact. One.” https://youtu.be/NUjWSHzpg6k Unfortunately, that trailer was stolen shortly after buying it. It was found later thanks to an online plea by Lea that went viral, but, to her dismay, the trailer had been completely trashed. Although heartbroken at the loss, Lea was encouraged by the overwhelming support of total strangers during the ordeal, and decided to follow through on her dreams to travel, this time in her newly-bought, orange-swirled camper she named “The Phoenix”. Related: Italian woman restores old van to travel the world with her rescue dog The camper has all the comforts of a tiny home : indoor shelving, custom-made cabinets and an open kitchen space at the rear of the compact camper . For personal touches to make her feel at home, Lea added a comfy bed, curtains, custom wooden knobs, and a tv. Lea has been on the road for 8 months and has explored 28 states and three countries. In that time, she has photographed some amazing landscapes and come in contact with bears, eagles, coyotes, elk, and even scorpions! You can keep up with Mandy’s travels on her website as well as Facebook , Instagram and YouTube . + Mandy Lea Photo Via Treehugger Images via Mandy Lea

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How this photographer escaped the grid with her tiny Teardrop Trailer

Republicans axe rule that would have kept coal pollution out of waterways

February 3, 2017 by  
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This week, Republicans began the process of dismantling Barack Obama’s recent environmental regulations by rolling back the 2016 stream protection rule , which would have prevented coal companies from dumping mining waste into waterways. A little-known law called the Congressional Review Act allowed the House and Senate to overturn the rule before it was able to even take effect. Worse yet, according to the Act, similar legislation can’t be introduced in the future without Congressional approval. The rule was intended to minimize the environmental impact of surface mining , which can contaminate waterways and leave them toxic for nearby populations which depend on them for drinking water . The Interior Department estimated it would have protected 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forest across the US. Related: Trump may gut the Endangered Species Act So why would the Republicans kill a rule that protects their constituents from toxic pollution? According to Congress, keeping coal debris away from water is causing the mining industry to go into massive decline. If that sounds like a flimsy justification, it is – as Vox explains , the decline of the coal industry is related to the rise in cheap natural gas in the US market, not environmental regulations. While this move may seem ominous for environmentalists, it’s important to keep the larger picture in perspective. This rule was mostly chosen by Republicans because it was an easy target and there was a simple way to overturn it. Other conservative goals, like abolishing the EPA or gutting the Endangered Species Act , will take significantly more time and effort to accomplish simply because they’re already well-established and entrenched in our government. Via The New York Times Images via Wikimedia Commons and Jennifer Woodard Maderazo

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Republicans axe rule that would have kept coal pollution out of waterways

NOAA has a plan to protect the oceans from troubling noise pollution

June 28, 2016 by  
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As if the world’s marine animals didn’t have enough to worry about — with climate change , ocean acidification, and overfishing threatening their existence — emerging research over the past several decades has also suggested that devastating “noise pollution” could be invisibly destroying their habitats. Now, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released a first of its kind roadmap for researching and managing the impact of ocean noise on marine life. Why is this so important? We’ve learned in recent decades that marine animals rely on sound to communicate with one another, navigate the waters, and generally understand their surroundings. Human activity, such as shipping, industrial work, and military exercises, can make it impossible for these majestic creatures to hear the sounds of the ocean that they rely upon to live. While research has largely focused on the impact this activity has on endangered whales , marine ecologists believe it could affect a much wider variety of organisms, including shrimp, crabs, and sea urchins. The truth is that scientists don’t really understand the scope of the problem, or how many species might be negatively impacted by human-generated noise. Global warming is also exacerbating the problem : sound travels both faster and farther through warm water, meaning that as the sea’s temperature rises, the ocean becomes noisier. NOAA has taken steps in the past to try to mitigate the impact of noise pollution on endangered species and marine mammals, but until now has handled these instances on a case-by-case basis. Mostly, this involved stopping noisy activities for a few moments when whales were spotted near work sites. This may be mildly helpful at the time, but it doesn’t address the cumulative and pervasive pollutant that noise has become. Related: Study Confirms Mass Stranding of Whales Caused by Sonar Mapping The new strategy calls for better protection of the natural soundscape within National Marine Sanctuaries, better use of NOAA’s resources to monitor noise pollution in US waters, better enforcement of marine mammal and endangered species regulations, and the promotion of quieter technologies. The last item is really key to this plan’s success, and might just have the side effect of promoting more sustainable, greener technologies. Right now, the strategy is simply a draft , and has not formally been adopted. The public is invited to submit comments on the new policies through July 1, 2016. Via The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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NOAA has a plan to protect the oceans from troubling noise pollution

SunPower nabs record for world’s most efficient rooftop solar panel

June 28, 2016 by  
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Solar panel efficiency is the holy grail of the solar power world, and SunPower just propelled the industry further with the ” most efficient rooftop solar panel ” in the world. They held the previous record, an efficiency of 22.8 percent, but the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) just confirmed their module, made from silicon , has an efficiency of 24.1 percent. According to NREL Principal Scientist Keith Emery, the module tested had an aperture area of 11310.1 cm2 (aperture area), with “a power of 272.5 watts.” The module utilizes solar cells that have a mean efficiency of 25 percent, and improves on the design of SunPower’s X-Series, which held the prior record. Related: New solar panel coating could improve efficiency by more than 30 percent SunPower built the winning photovoltaic module in their laboratory; the solar panels they currently sell have an efficiency of 22.8 percent. But according to the company , “efficiency measured in laboratory conditions has benefits in real world conditions.” Advanced efficiency means users could glean more energy and need fewer panels in the future. Sustainability is another benefit, and that doesn’t just refer to the clean energy provided. If each panel provides more watts, SunPower won’t have to use as many materials like silicon and glass to construct the panels required to power a home. Therefore, there’s a smaller carbon footprint involved in panel construction. SunPower Vice President of Research, Development, and Deployment Peter Cousins said in a press release , “With greater efficiency, we can fit more watts on the roof with the outstanding reliability of the SunPower X-Series solar panel. SunPower’s world record efficiency panels offer customers the best value for energy and superior aesthetics due to our unique architecture.” The company said they want to keep pushing for efficiency higher than 26 percent as they work to “power our clean energy future.” Via Greentech Media Images via SunPower Facebook and Wikimedia Commons

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SunPower nabs record for world’s most efficient rooftop solar panel

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