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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EPA cancels plan to clean up polluting Texas coal plants

Federal court stunts EPA plans to suspend methane emissions rule

July 4, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump in February instructed cabinet members “to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens placed on the American people,” and it appears Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt has taken that to mean attack the environment and public health . He attempted to suspend a rule put in place under President Barack Obama to regulate methane emissions from new gas and oil wells. But now a federal appeals court has dealt Pruitt and Trump a blow. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled yesterday that the EPA can’t suspend the Obama-era rule. In a two to one decision, the court said under the Clean Air Act , the EPA doesn’t have the authority to obstruct the rule. Pruitt had placed a 90-day moratorium on enforcing portions of the methane rule – and then stretched that moratorium to two years. He also said his move wasn’t subject to court review. But the federal appeals court called his decision unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious. Related: In surprise vote, Senate keeps Obama’s methane rules in place Judges Robert Wilkins and David Tatel said, “EPA’s stay, in other words, is essentially an order delaying the rule’s effective date, and this court has held that such orders are tantamount to amending or revoking a rule.” Pruitt’s efforts to foment climate change as much as he can haven’t been put to a full stop. The court did say the EPA does have the right to reverse the rule – but will have to go through a new rule-making process to get there. When it comes to greenhouse gases, methane is 25 more times powerful than carbon dioxide , according to The New York Times. American Petroleum Institute spokesperson Reid Porter said 2012 standards had already done some work in cutting methane emissions. In a statement he said, “A stay is needed to allow for regulatory certainty as EPA continues the formal process to review the rule making.” Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp took a different view, saying, “The court’s decision ends the continued pollution by the oil and gas industry that’s been illegally allowed by Pruitt.” Via The New York Times Images via Wikimedia Commons and Ken Doerr on Flickr

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Federal court stunts EPA plans to suspend methane emissions rule

These mind-blowing gigantic flower cakes will make your mouth water

July 4, 2017 by  
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These incredible cakes shaped like gigantic flowers and bursting bouquets show just how delightful vegan treats can be. Berlin-based pastry chef Juliana Tar of Culinary Dots creates mind-blowing cakes that are free from dairy, flour and sugar – and the results are every bit as delectable as they are visually stunning. Tar creates her flower-inspired vegan creations – which are free from flour, sugar, dairy, preservatives and dyes – using nuts and raw fruits such as dates, figs, and plums. Her homemade blend of nut, avocado, and coconut cream are used for each cake’s filling, and the colorful toppings are made out of raw marzipan, edible flowers, fruit, and coconut shavings. Related: These incredibly lifelike succulent cakes will blow your mind The talented pastry chef has been honing her craft for over 15 years, selling her sweet, flowery creations at street food markets, local cafes, and online. You can check out her work as well as her recipes at the Culinary Dots Instagram page . + Culinary Dots Via Fubiz

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These mind-blowing gigantic flower cakes will make your mouth water

Wind economics: How to find the devil in the details

May 24, 2017 by  
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Sponsored: Buying wind energy isn’t just a matter of signing up. There are a number of complex questions to ponder.

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Wind economics: How to find the devil in the details

Trump saved a toxic pesticide – and then it poisoned a bunch of farmworkers

May 16, 2017 by  
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If President Donald Trump is waging a war on local farmworkers in California , he’s winning. His Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opened up the use of a pesticide called chlorpyrifos to agriculture in March, and then this month when at least 50 laborers were exposed to the pesticide Vulcan, of which chlorpyrifos is an active ingredient, some of them vomited or fainted; one person had to go to the hospital. Chlorpyrifos was scheduled to be banned under Barack Obama’s administration. But at the end of March , EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt denied a petition that called for the ban. Then in Bakersfield, California a Sun Pacific farm sprayed Vulcan on their mandarin trees, and it drifted over to Dan Andrews Farms where workers harvesting cabbage began to feel sick. Grist said Kern County officials have not yet determined if chlorpyrifos was indeed present in the Vulcan sprayed, but both Grist and Kern Golden Empire described chlorpyrifos as an active ingredient in Vulcan. EPA documents from February 2017 also listed chlorpyrifos as the active ingredient in Vulcan. Related: Trump’s EPA chief lifts ban on pesticide that poisons children 12 workers reported symptoms of nausea or vomiting. One person fainted and another went to the hospital. Kern Golden Empire reported 12 other laborers didn’t show systems, but that over half the workers had left before medical aid could arrive. Officials described Vulcan as highly toxic, and the Kern County Fire Department and Kern Country Environmental Health and Hazmat came to do a mass contamination of the area. Kern County Public Health Public Relations Officer Michelle Corson called for anyone exposed to seek out medical attention right away. So why, exactly, was chlorpyrifos not banned? Touting a return to sound science, Pruitt apparently didn’t think there was enough evidence to ban the pesticide, even though, according to Grist, multiple studies link exposure to the harmful chemical with lowered IQ in kids and neurological defects. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Office of Pest Management Policy director Sheryl Kunickis welcomed Pruitt’s decision. She said it was good news for consumers, meaning they’d have access to fruits and vegetables. Guess she forgot to mention chlorpyrifos could also send people to the hospital. Via Grist and Kern Golden Empire Images via Wikimedia Commons and Austin Valley on Flickr

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Trump saved a toxic pesticide – and then it poisoned a bunch of farmworkers

You’ll never guess why Trump wants to scrap the Energy Star Program

May 2, 2017 by  
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We’re all familiar with the little blue star label on home appliances that tells us how much electricity it will use. The EPA’s Energy Star program is about as uncontroversial as they come: it is a win for consumers and saves billions of dollars. But for some reason, Trump wants to toss the program out. Why would he want to do a thing like that? It probably has nothing to do with the low Energy Star ratings his properties have… right? Beyond rating appliances, Energy Star rates commercial buildings in a voluntary scoring system. Coincidentally, Trump’s properties tend to rate lower than other comparable buildings. In fact, 11 out of 15 of his skyscrapers in New York, San Francisco and Chicago rate low. The Mayfair Hotel, for instance, has a rating of 1. On a scale of 1 to 100. Related: Trump is switching off the EPA’s invaluable public data service This is all speculation, of course. The program does have some critics, but given all the other promises Trump  made on the campaign trail, this seems like an unnecessary fight to pick. Ditching Energy Star will undoubtably help Trump, because investors and tenants usually take note of a building’s efficiency when decide to invest. It’s all just par for the course in Trump’s White House: another day, another grift. via Daily Kos and NPR lead image via Flickr

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You’ll never guess why Trump wants to scrap the Energy Star Program

Trump’s cuts would have ‘devastating impact’ on NY, says NY Attorney General

March 24, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund program would have a “devastating impact” on New York State, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman declared at a rally at the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn earlier this week. Joined by activists and lawmakers on Tuesday at what is widely considered to be the nation’s most polluted waterway, Schneiderman blasted the president’s calls to slash the agency’s funding by more than 30 percent, noting that the move would stymie the progress of cleaning up America’s most contaminated sites. “President Trump’s proposed budget cuts would have a devastating impact on New York—delaying and obstructing environmental projects around the state,” Schneiderman said. “Decades of hard work have helped clean up New York’s air, water, and environment. But President Trump’s budget threatens to unravel those gains and send us back to the bad old days of choking smog and rampant pollution.” Once a bustling cargo-transportation hub, the 1.8-mile-long Gowanus Canal is now a cesspool of raw sewage, carcinogenic sludge, and oil slicks. It floundered in political limbo for decades before the EPA designated the canal a Superfund site in 2010. Related: Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal gets Superfund status Dredging work was supposed to begin in earnest later this year, but Trump’s “blueprint” to bring the EPA’s budget to $5.7 billion—its lowest level in 40 years when adjusted for inflation—could grind the already glacial progress to a halt. Schneiderman says he isn’t above taking legal action against the White House, if necessary. “As we’ve made clear: if the Trump administration won’t meet its legal obligations to ensure basic access to a clean, safe, and healthy environment, we won’t hesitate to act to protect New Yorkers,” he said. + Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Via WNYC Photos by bobistraveling

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Trump’s cuts would have ‘devastating impact’ on NY, says NY Attorney General

EPA official accused of killing investigation into Monsanto weedkiller

March 21, 2017 by  
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An EPA official who was in charge of evaluating the cancer risk of Monsanto’s popular Roundup weedkiller has been accused of conspiring with the company to “kill” the study. Jess Rowland, the former manager of the agency’s pesticide division, is rapidly becoming an important figure in the more than 20 lawsuits that have piled up accusing the company of burying evidence that its herbicide can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, has come under fire in recent years for its potential links to cancer. After the World Health Organization declared glyphosate likely to be a carcinogen , a number of people who’ve been exposed to the weedkiller have stepped up and attempted to sue the company. As public pressure has grown, activists have begun calling on the US Environmental Protection Agency to ban the herbicide altogether. The agency, however, has been slow to act despite the public pressure that’s been steadily building – and a recent court case may have revealed exactly why. Last week, Federal Judge Vince Chhabria released a number of court documents detailing Monsanto’s internal communications and the company’s correspondence with the EPA. Related: Activists call on the EPA to ban glyphosate The records reveal that not only did Rowland go out of his way to try to bury research into the cancer-causing potential of glyphosate , but that Monsanto’s own employees had ghostwritten several papers on Roundup’s safety. These are the same reports, later attributed to various academic researchers, which the EPA used to declare Roundup safe for public use. While it’s possible the EPA wasn’t aware of Monsanto’s collaboration on the original studies, it does call into question the accuracy of the agency’s assessment. Monsanto is, naturally, denying the allegations, and claiming that the company’s internal communications have been taken out of context. On the other hand, it’s hard to see how else statements like “we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and [the scientists] would just edit & sign their names so to speak” could be construed to mean anything else. The company has testified in court that this is merely a reference to minor edits made to the paper, rather than ghostwriting. If it’s true that academics publishing research on glyphosate’s safety are in bed with the company, and that EPA officials like Rowland are working off this biased data, the agency’s decision should be revisited as soon as possible. The WHO isn’t the only organization that’s found evidence of this herbicide’s risks – the International Journal of Cancer and the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine have both recently published research on the link between pesticide exposures and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well. Roundup has already been banned in several countries following the burst of recent studies, and the US would be wise to follow suit. Via Bloomberg Markets Images via   Chafer Machinery ,   Mike Mozart

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Inflatable spiky pinecone-shaped roofs top this forest resort in Latvia

March 21, 2017 by  
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Spiky ETFE roofs  top this airy forest resort and spa in the historic region of Kurzeme, Latvia. 3GATTI Architecture Studio and OFL Architecture teamed up to design the Pinecones Resort using sustainable construction techniques and prefabrication , resulting in a fairytale-like woodland setting in harmony with its natural surroundings. The resort comprises cone-shaped units with inflatable roofs made from 100 percent recyclable ETFE that has a minimal carbon footprint . Lightweight and flexible, this material offers the possibility of creating dynamic building forms. The roofs will be inflated by a recyclable SPF sprayed eco foam with superior insulation and structural qualities. The laminated lightweight frames, made from locally-sourced wood, support the roof membrane and allows it to withstand snow loads. Related: Labyrinthine resort in Bangladesh lets nature take over The resort will focus on providing Blue Clay treatments based on organic and naturally abundant material. Different programs will be distributed across the site, with wooden bridges connecting the units housing winter tubs, saunas, therapy rooms and dining areas. In addition to the aforementioned sustainable features, the resort will also include a water filtration system, geothermal loops, and solar window technologies. + 3GATTI  + OFL Architecture Via Archdaily

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Inflatable spiky pinecone-shaped roofs top this forest resort in Latvia

Trump ignores clean energy jobs in first address to Congress

March 1, 2017 by  
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In his first address to Congress Tuesday night, President Donald Trump failed to mention the clean energy jobs boom taking place across the United States. Instead of talking up the more than three million domestic jobs that have been created in solar, wind and other renewables, Trump touted the “tens of thousands of jobs” that construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines would create — adding that he directed the pipelines be made with American steel. Trump also boasted about ending an Obama-era coal mining rule that protects waterways from coal mining waste, telling Democratic and Republican lawmakers gathered on Capitol Hill that the regulation “threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.” Trump also failed to mention climate change in his speech, an issue that the president has been ambivalent about at best, in denial about at worst. In perhaps an encouraging sign for the majority of Americans who support the US staying in the Paris climate deal , including Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the president didn’t talk about withdrawing from the landmark agreement to curb carbon emissions, instead discussing his withdrawing the US from the “job-killing” Trans-Pacific Partnership. Related: Trump will give architects just five days to submit proposals for a Mexican border wall Earlier in the day, Trump signed an executive order aimed at rolling back an Obama-era environmental regulation to protect American waterways. New EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is also expected to undo major environmental rules on clean water, climate change and air pollution. So it is no surprise that many in the environmental community found it a bit hypocritical when during Trump’s address he pledged to “promote clean air and clear water.” Boosting the defense budget (at the expense of domestic programs) was a major talking point during the address. Trump said that he is sending Congress a budget that “rebuilds the military, eliminates the Defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.” That isn’t good news for the environment as Trump is expected to ask Congress to  cut the EPA’s budget 24 percent, or nearly $2 billion. Related: New EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s emails reveal troubling oil-industry ties An area that could be a positive sign for the environmental community and clean energy industry is Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan . Saying that the time has come for a “new program of national rebuilding,” Trump said that he will be asking Congress to approve the massive infrastructure investment. Could new public works projects include green infrastructure? That remains to be seen, although Trump has said previously that he is a big fan of high-speed rail . At the end of his speech, Trump set a vision for what the country could achieve by the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026. He looked back at the country’s 100th anniversary in 1876 when American inventors showed off their new technology such as Thomas Edison’s electric pen and an early attempt at electric light. But while Trump seems adamant about reviving 20th century energy sources such as coal, there is another electric revolution led by the revolutionaries of our time, including Elon Musk and his vision for electric vehicles, rooftop solar and battery storage. Will Trump embrace the clean energy future or be stuck in the dirty energy past? That is still an open question after his first address to Congress. + Transcript: President Trump’s First Address to Congress Images via KTBS

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Trump ignores clean energy jobs in first address to Congress

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