Gray wolves at risk after being delisted as an endangered species

November 2, 2020 by  
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Gray wolves are left vulnerable after the Trump administration removed their protections. The species has been listed as endangered for over 45 years; this listing has been instrumental in protecting the animals from hunting and helping to recover dwindling population numbers. But last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to have the gray wolf removed from the Endangered Species Act. Following that proposal , the government took action in delisting the gray wolf as an endangered species last week. “Today’s action reflects the Trump Administration’s continued commitment to species conservation based on the parameters of the law and the best scientific and commercial data available,” Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said. But the move has been sharply criticized by conservationists. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are about 6,000 gray wolves in the wild in the U.S. This number is alarming to scientists, who say that the wolves are still in great danger of extinction if they are not protected. Related: Washington’s wolf population is down to 122 after a pack is shot by state hunters Gray wolves were once driven close to extinction because of conflicts with farmers and a decline in their prey. Due to such constraints, the once-robust population of the wolves in the northern U.S. shrank abruptly, forcing the government to offer them protection by law. While listed under the Endangered Species Act, the gray wolf population has experienced growth in the Great Lakes and Rocky Mountains. But as populations grow, some states have been demanding to have the wolves delisted. Case in point, Wyoming successfully filed a petition that has allowed for the hunting of gray wolves in the state. With the delisting happening just days before the presidential election, the move is seen as a strategy to attract voters from areas where the wolves live. In a statement released by the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, chief political strategist Brett Hartl said that President Trump’s push for reelection is putting more wolves at risk. “Wolves will be shot and killed because Donald Trump is desperate to gin up his voters in the Midwest,” Hartl said. “Secretary Bernhardt’s nakedly political theater announcing the end to wolf protections in a battleground state days before the election shows just how corrupt and self-serving the Trump administration is.” Via CNN Image via Christel S.

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EPA loosens restrictions on methane emissions

August 18, 2020 by  
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As President Trump’s term comes to an end, his administration has busily rolled back Obama-era environmental protections. Now, the Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) has loosened standards governing how much methane oil and gas facilities can release into the atmosphere. Methane is a serious threat to the environment because the gas is so good at absorbing heat, making it 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Defense Fund . While methane comes from many places, the oil and gas industry is its largest source. Related: Trump waives environmental laws amid national crises “Trump’s EPA has given the oil and gas industry a green light to keep leaking enormous amounts of climate pollution into the air,” said David Doniger, senior strategic director of Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate & Clean Energy Program. In 2018, the oil and gas industry released an estimated 15 million metric tons of methane into the air. The American public isn’t happy about this. A recent NRDC poll found that 75% of respondents strongly support strengthening controls on methane pollution. The NRDC proposed a solution in 2015. If federal standards for oil and gas infrastructure were adopted nationwide, methane pollution could be halved in less than a decade. Unfortunately, Trump’s new rollback pushes us further in the wrong direction. The rollback allows companies to bypass installation of detection equipment, nor do they have to fix methane leaks. Lax emission standards are especially dangerous to fence-line communities, lower-income neighborhoods that have the misfortune of being close to polluting facilities. According to the NAACP website, Black communities are disproportionately affected by methane, benzene, sulfur dioxide, formaldehyde and other toxic and dangerous emissions released by industries in their neighborhoods. Among other health effects, these pollutants cause more than 138,000 asthma attacks in children per year. “We cannot protect the health of our children and grandchildren, especially in the most polluted and endangered communities, if the EPA lets this industry off scot-free,” Doniger said. “We will see EPA in court.” Via NRDC Image via Pixabay

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EPA loosens restrictions on methane emissions

Trump waives environmental laws amid national crises

June 8, 2020 by  
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While the world focuses on a global pandemic and brutal racial discrimination, President  Trump  is sneakily squashing environmental laws. The Trump administration has directed federal agencies to waive many environmental requirements as a way to light a fire under the pandemic-strained economy. Under the president’s directive, federal agencies are now seeking workarounds in the usually time-consuming processes of getting approval for building highways, fossil fuel export terminals, pipelines and other energy and transportation infrastructure. Usually, large projects like these require applying for approval under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Signed by President Nixon in 1970, this law requires agencies to assess the environmental consequences of their planned actions and sometimes seek better alternatives. NEPA also gives people a voice in new projects and considers whether these projects affect any endangered species. Related: Trump administration rolls back fuel efficiency standards “Unnecessary regulatory delays will deny our citizens opportunities for jobs and economic security, keeping millions of Americans out of work and hindering our economic recovery from the national  emergency ,” Trump wrote in his executive order. Many industries and developers cheered. But environmentalists pounced on the new order. “Instead of trying to ease the pain of a nation in crisis, President Trump is focused on easing the pain of polluters,” said Gina McCarthy, a former  EPA  administrator who now heads the Natural Resources Defense Council. She characterized this move as “utterly senseless” and an abuse of emergency powers. Agencies will have 30 days to provide the president with a report of expedited projects. Some environmentalists say the new order is unlawful and will likely end up in court. Those who stand to lose the most are  endangered species  and humans in lower socioeconomic brackets, including many people of color. “These reviews are required by law to protect people from industries that can harm our health and our communities,” McCarthy said. “Getting rid of them will hit those who live closest to  polluting facilities and highways the hardest—in many of the same communities already suffering the most from the national emergencies at hand.” + NPR Via NRDC Image via Gage Skidmore

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States sue over Trump administration’s fuel efficiency rollback

June 1, 2020 by  
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Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C. have sued the Trump administration over rollbacks in fuel-efficiency standards, citing poor science and threats to public health . While the world has focused on the novel coronavirus pandemic, President Trump has been busy easing environmental regulations. His undoing of Obama-era fuel efficiency standards, the country’s biggest effort so far to fight climate change, has been especially bitter to environmentalists. Trump says lower standards are better for the auto industry and the economy in general. Related: Trump administration rolls back fuel efficiency standards California is leading the lawsuit. According to Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general, the pandemic is a whole other reason — besides destroying the planet we live on — not to lower efficiency standards. “Vehicles are the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in America, and pollution-related respiratory illnesses make people more susceptible to COVID-19,” Becerra told The New York Times . Under Obama’s plan, U.S. vehicles would be required to average 46.7 miles per gallon. Trump’s policy dials it down to 40.4 miles per gallon. According to the Trump administration’s estimates, this will result in Americans consuming 2 billion additional barrels of oil and releasing 867 to 923 more metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Fuel costs will average about an extra $1,000 over the lifetime of a single vehicle. The auto industry is split about Trump’s efficiency rollback. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation supports it. But four member companies — Ford, BMW, Honda and Volkswagen — declared they will uphold higher standards than the government mandates. “The Trump administration’s rollback of the Clean Car Standards will hurt Americans, increase harmful pollution, cause more than 18,000 premature deaths, and cost consumers billions of dollars at the gas pump,” Peter Zalzal, lead attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund, told The New York Times . “The rollback is deeply and fundamentally flawed, it is inconsistent with the agencies’ legal duty to reduce harmful pollution and conserve fuel, and we look forward to vigorously challenging it in court.” Via The New York Times Image via Pixabay

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States sue over Trump administration’s fuel efficiency rollback

Energy-efficient light bulb production could take a major hit

March 28, 2019 by  
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The production of energy-efficient light bulbs could be hurt by a new proposal. The Trump administration is looking to get rid of Obama-era laws that encouraged companies to make energy-efficient bulbs. If the regulations are rolled back, experts warn that less-efficient bulbs will increase energy bills and lead to additional pollution. The bulbs in question were not originally included in President George W. Bush’s 2007 law, which pushed for more LED bulbs . These products include decorative globes, often put on display in bathrooms, three-way bulbs and candle-shaped light sources. In total, these products make up around 2.7 billion bulbs on the market today. Related: This high-tech LED lighting could grow veggies in space The Obama administration attempted to place these specialty items under the 2007 regulations. But companies objected to the move and sued the government. According to  NPR , President Trump hopes to reverse the Energy Department’s position on the matter by not requiring specialty companies to follow the same energy standards as other bulbs. Experts, like Alliance to Save Energy’s Jason Hartke, believe the move does not make sense. Not only do these energy wasting bulbs drive up utility costs, but they are also terrible for the environment. In order to produce these specialty items, companies will have to waste enormous amounts of coal-powered energy for products that are inferior. “I just don’t understand the rationale behind trying to turn back the clock,” Hartke shared. “There aren’t many people out there clamoring for outdated light bulbs that use four or five times as much energy.” At the end of the day, the issue will likely end up in court, where a panel of judges will decide if rolling back energy policies is legal. Opponents of the move argue that the Department of Energy cannot reverse policies when it comes to energy standards. While the government and environmentalists battle it out in court, people within the lighting industry claim that they have no interest in producing bulbs that are not energy-efficient. The industry knows that efficient light bulbs are the future and that consumers want products that are both good for the environment and their pocketbook. + Department of Energy Via NPR Image via Geoffrey A. Landis and Kotivalo

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Energy-efficient light bulb production could take a major hit

160-square-foot off-grid Elsewhere Cabin invites us all to live a little simpler

March 28, 2019 by  
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When it comes to tiny dwellings, we’ve seen everything from luxury homes to floating abodes, but when it comes to truly minimal living, the Elsewhere Cabin is the epitome of simple, functional design. Designed by Seattle-based architect Sean O’Neill , the Elsewhere Cabin is a 160-square-foot tiny cabin that is completely off-grid, and features a 10 inch folding wooden wall that allows the living space to expand out into an open-air porch. O’Neil designed the cabin at the request of Austin-based vacation rental company, Elsewhere. The company was looking to expand their property offerings with minimalist cabins for guests that were looking for a serene place to disconnect from urban life. As per Elsewhere’s request, the cabin can operate completely off-grid. Solar panels generate enough power for lighting, hot water and wifi. Related: A remote, off-grid cabin is elevated off the forest floor with log columns Using the company’s location as inspiration, O’Neil’s inspiration behind the cabin design was to recreate the feeling of sitting on a Texas porch. Long used to cool down during the searing hot days of summer or finding protection from the rain, porches are magnets for entertaining guests, dining al fresco or simply sitting and soaking up the beautiful views. To bring this inspiration to fruition, the architect created a 10 inch wall that folds out from the main structure to create a large open-air porch. The rest of the tiny cabin is a minimalist design. Clad in charred cedar siding, the jet black exterior blends into any natural habitat. On the inside, natural Chilean pine plywood line the walls, ceiling and flooring. Behind the folding wall is the main living space, comprised of custom-made furniture that was designed to be space efficient and multi-functional. For example, in the living room, one singular surface transitions easily from a desk to a sofa to a kitchen counter. The home has all of the basic amenities including a small kitchen that is equipped with all of the basics, a sink, countertop, stove top burners, etc. There is a bathroom, complete with a waterless toilet , as well as a shower and sink that draw water from an on-board water tank. The sleeping loft is located on the upper level, made possible by the pitched roof. + Elsewhere Retreats Via Dwell Photography by Sean O’Neill

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160-square-foot off-grid Elsewhere Cabin invites us all to live a little simpler

Federal judge blocks the Keystone XL Pipeline

November 12, 2018 by  
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In a major setback for President Trump and his administration, a U.S. district judge has issued an order to block construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline while the State Department studies its impact on the environment . Last year, the Trump administration approved the controversial 1,179-mile pipeline, but Judge Brian Morris’ 54-page order is preventing it from being built — for now. The decision does not permanently stop construction, but it is putting the development on hold until the State Department takes a harder look at the impact the pipeline will have on oil prices, the cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions, potential oil spills and cultural resources. Related: The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought Under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, there is an obligation to protect the environment. Under the Obama administration, the State Department denied a permit to build the pipeline because of the environmental effects. But President Trump shifted the policy when he took office and invited TransCanada to re-submit its permit application just four days after he was sworn in. Then, in March 2017, the POTUS signed an executive order supporting the Keystone Pipeline’s construction. Judge Morris wrote in his decision that the president did not give a reasoned explanation or a fact-based determination for the course reversal. According to NPR , there has been a lot of backlash from environmentalists and indigenous peoples since the pipeline’s conception in 2008 because of the possible environmental impact and violations of historic treaties. “Today’s ruling is a decisive moment in our fight against the corporate polluters who have rushed to destroy our planet,” said Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth. “Today, the courts showed the Trump administration and their corporate polluter friends that they cannot bully rural landowners, farmers, environmentalists and Native communities.” If the Keystone Pipeline does become a reality, it will run through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Canada, and it will transport about 830,000 barrels of crude oil each day. Via NPR Image via Pax Ahimsa Gethen

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Yves Bhar designs compact, prefab homes to tackle the housing crisis

November 12, 2018 by  
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Yves Béhar has designed everything from high-tech wearables to voice-activated,  transforming furniture  — now, the prolific San Francisco-based designer is adding prefabricated homes to the list. Unveiled earlier this month at the Summit Festival in Los Angeles, the YB1 (Yves Béhar LivingHomes) is a line of prefabricated accessory dwelling units created in partnership with LivingHomes, the design studio of California-based prefabricated home producers Plant Prefab. The fully customizable homes are built with sustainable construction methods and materials, and they are aimed at increasing urban density while reducing the environmental impact of new construction. Designed with flexibility in mind, the modular YB1 can be fully customized to meet a variety of living requirements, climatic conditions and aesthetic desires. The first three available versions of YB1, for instance, include three different floor plans and roof systems thanks to a 4-foot grid system that allows for a range of 250- to 1,200-square-foot units. Depending on the footprint, the interiors can be outfitted with a full kitchen, bathroom with a shower, living room, a bedroom and an office. Homeowners will be able to choose the appliances, finishes, lighting and electrical systems ahead of time for pre-installation. “Following our work on efficient living with robotic furniture company ORI, I’m excited to extend the passion for tiny homes and prefab by partnering with LivingHomes. For me, the next frontier of design is to think of the entire home as a product that a homeowner can shape to their needs in terms of size, usage, aesthetic and lifestyle,” said Yves Béhar, founder and CEO of fuseproject . “This is why we’re interested in the customizable nature of prefabricated ADU’s: people want their living environment to be a reflection of their specific life needs. The design goal of the LivingHomes ADU is adding urban density with a range of sizes and home designs while providing a building system that delivers on sustainable and efficient living in urban areas.” Related: Yves Béhar’s shapeshifting Ori furniture transforms your home at the touch of a button To reduce the environmental impact of YB1, the designers will use Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood siding and cement panels as well as passive solar principles to inform the roof options. The houses will also offer Smart Home capabilities for measuring resource use and energy production. Plant Prefab’s efficient building system allows the homes to be constructed in just one month. Then, it takes only a day to install them on-site. Initial pricing for the YB1 starts at around $280,000; however, the designers hope to offer Yves Béhar LivingHomes for less than $100,000 in the future. + YB1 Images via Yves Béhar

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Yves Bhar designs compact, prefab homes to tackle the housing crisis

Trump orders Perry to take steps to curb coal plant shutdowns

June 4, 2018 by  
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It seems President Donald Trump doesn’t want to let coal die. Bloomberg reported he ordered Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to take steps to stem closures of nuclear and coal power plants. An emailed statement from White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders read, “Impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities are leading to a rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation’s energy mix and impacting the resilience of our power grid .” Coal and nuclear plants are losing money as cheaper renewable energies and natural gas gain steam. Trump’s administration alleges that declines in nuclear and coal power jeopardize America’s security. According to the White House statement, the president told Perry “to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources and looks forward to his recommendations.” The Department of Energy’s strategy, as detailed in a memo Bloomberg obtained , could be to draw on power given by federal laws to create a “strategic electric generation reserve” and compel grid operators to purchase power from plants that are at risk. The National Security Council was to meet last week to talk over the idea. Related: Biggest grid operator in US attacks Perry’s proposal to prop up coal One purpose of this draft plan, Bloomberg reported, is to buy time for a two-year study probing vulnerabilities in the country’s energy delivery system. Administration officials have already used up a year of this time. Following an Energy Department grid reliability study, Perry suggested a rule that would have compensated nuclear and coal plants — and federal regulators killed the proposal. Major grid operator PJM Interconnection said in a statement its grid “is more reliable than ever” and “there is no such need for any such drastic action.” The company said it has analyzed planned deactivations of nuclear stations and found no immediate threat to reliability. PJM said, “Any federal intervention in the market to order customers to buy electricity from specific power plants would be damaging to the markets and therefore costly to consumers.” Electric Power Supply Association president John Shelk said, “National security is being invoked by people who once favored markets. Everybody loses in a fuels war.” Via Bloomberg Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Trump orders Perry to take steps to curb coal plant shutdowns

EPA set to repeal Obama-era rules for cleaner cars

April 2, 2018 by  
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The Environmental Protection Agency is poised to undo Obama -era greenhouse gas emission regulations and fuel economy standards that were designed to encourage the development of cleaner, more efficient vehicles. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt will likely describe the move as a necessary lifting of burdensome regulations on automakers and to support the production of cheaper vehicles, but it doesn’t account for the costs of increased air pollution and continued climate change. Left in place, the rules would have reduced oil consumption by about 12 billion barrels while reducing carbon dioxide pollution by about six billion tons over the lifetime of vehicles produced under the regulations. The rules that are set to be rolled back under the Trump Administration were created in 2012 as one of President Obama’s major initiatives to combat climate change . If allowed to be fully implemented, the rules would have required automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Some worry that the United States ‘s decision to step away from stricter emissions standards could set a dangerous precedent around the world. “The concern is that automakers will go around the world basically trying to lobby regulators, saying, look, because the United States has reduced the pace, everywhere else should too,” Anup Bandivadekar, a researcher at the International Council on Clean Transportation, told the New York Times . Related: Congress rejects Trump’s renewable energy budget cuts While American automakers had initially lobbied the Trump Administration for more relaxed standards, they did not expect to see a complete repeal of the rules. “We didn’t ask for that,” claimed Robert Bienenfeld , assistant vice president for environment and energy strategy at American Honda Motor. “The position we outlined was sensible.” In a blog post, Ford Motor Company chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Hackett wrote that “we support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback.” The relaxed standards proposed by automakers were viewed as less likely to cause a showdown with California and the dozen other states that follow its lead on strict environmental standards. Now, California is preparing for battle. “We’re going to defend first and foremost existing federal greenhouse gas standards,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told the New York Times . “We’re defending them because they’re good for the entire nation. No one should think it’s easy to undo something that’s been not just good for the country, but good for the planet .” Via the New York Times Images via Depositphotos  and the White House

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EPA set to repeal Obama-era rules for cleaner cars

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