How environmental policies changed in 2018 under Trump

December 28, 2018 by  
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There is no doubt that President Trump has significantly changed environmental policy since taking office that have caused a great deal of public outcry. The current administration’s decisions have affected everything from rolling back on policies enacted by former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton to cutting funding for different environmental and scientific programs. With so much to keep up with, here is a rundown of the Trump Administration’s environmental action in 2018 and how it has impacted the planet. EPA loosens toxic air pollution regulations A Clinton-era policy known as “once in, always in” or OIAI was an effort to permanently reduce the hazardous air pollution from industrial sources. The law required major sources of pollution to retool their processes and reduce their emissions to lower levels set by industry peers. This was known as Maximum Achievable Control Technology, or MACT, standards. Industry lawyers have long argued that eliminating OIAI would give businesses a stronger incentive to reduce emissions , and in a brief legal memo, Trump’s EPA abruptly dropped OIAI at the beginning of 2018. NASA climate monitoring program cut Back in May, the Trump administration ended NASA’s carbon monitoring system (CMS), which was an effort to improve the monitoring of global carbon emissions. The program cost $10 million a year, but a March 2018 spending deal did not include funding for the program. CMS supported work was relevant to the Paris Agreement because it verified if other nations were meeting their pledges to reduce carbon emissions. But the Trump administration has rejected that agreement and is downsizing the NASA climate science program. Rollbacks proposed for Endangered Species Act rules This summer, the Trump administration proposed to make several key changes to the 1973 Endangered Species Act, including eliminating a rule that forbids referring to the economic impact of listing a threatened species. The changes would still allow for determinations to be based on biological considerations, and they also would give regulators more freedom, so they can avoid designating critical habitat for endangered species . Fuel economy rule change One of the signature climate change policies from President Obama was a plan to increase vehicle mileage standards for cars made during the next decade. However, the Trump administration is dismantling the plan, but not nixing it entirely. President Obama’s plan required light cars made after 2012 to average almost 54 miles per gallon by 2025, with hopes that the new efficiency standards would save billions of barrels of oil . However, President Trump has mileage targets of 34 miles per gallon because some automakers believe anything more than that would be too difficult to reach. Methane rules repealed Another rollback to Obama’s climate change policy, Trump’s EPA reduced the requirements on oil and gas companies to monitor the releases of methane from wells. Some in the industry had complained that the Obama rules were too much of a burden and a “record-keeping nightmare” that was impossible to execute. However, when the EPA announced this new rule, the attorneys general in California and New Mexico filed a lawsuit to challenge the change. EPA air pollution review panel disbanded The Particulate Matter Review Panel – made of scientists who are experts in the health dangers of soot – has advised the EPA over the years about safe levels of air pollution. However, they will no longer meet starting in 2019, but they didn’t reveal why. Conservation groups believe that eliminating the panel will make it easier to roll back pollution standards, but they had also complained that the panel wasn’t robust enough to protect public health. Ocean plastic cleanup bill In October, President Trump signed legislation to improve efforts to clean up plastic trash from the world’s oceans. He also called out nations like China and Japan for using the oceans as landfills and said that he will do everything he can during his Presidency to stop them. The law passed with bipartisan support, and it amended the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Act. It also funded the program through 2022. Arctic offshore drilling approved Earlier this year, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued Hilcorp a conditional use permit for its Liberty Project, and they will begin drilling from an artificial island in the Beaufort Sea. The federally controlled waters of the U.S. arctic have been cleared for oil and gas production wells after years of debate about the risks and rewards. Coal power plant rollback In 2015, the Obama Administration adopted a rule restricting carbon dioxide pollution from future power plants. The energy industry criticized the rule, saying the technology was unproven and the required equipment was extremely expensive. So, earlier this month, the Trump administration rolled back the climate rule by lifting some of the restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from coal power plants. The goal is to spur construction of new coal plants and to relieve America’s energy providers of excessive burdens. Via National Geographic Image via Sam Jotham Sutharson

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Hurricane Florence could cause dangerous floods of toxic sludge and animal waste

September 12, 2018 by  
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Torrential rains are not the only thing Hurricane Florence will bring once it hits landfall. The massive storm is expected to dump record amounts of rain in the southeastern United States — rain that could overflow toxic chemical waste and animal manure sites along the coast, increasing danger to both public health and the environment. One toxic waste site in North Carolina is particularly vulnerable to the incoming storm. Two years ago, the state tasked Duke Energy Corp. with cleaning up coal-ash ponds in the area following a major spill, because the ponds posed serious hazards to nearby communities. Close to 40,000 tons of toxic waste was dumped near the town of Eden, North Carolina. State officials ordered the company to clean up the ponds by the summer of 2019. Although Duke Energy Corp. has started the cleanup process, it is nowhere near the finish line. The company is currently in the middle of cleaning up the sites and will not be finished by the time Hurricane Florence rolls in. Given the condition of the ponds, excess rain from the hurricane could lead to overflow, dumping the waste into the surrounding environment. Related: Climate change is expected to bring more intense storms like Hurricane Florence North Carolina is also home to lagoons that contain manure from the state’s hog and poultry industries. Hurricane Florence could overwhelm these lagoons with massive amounts of rain, which would dump the animal waste into surrounding waterways. If that happens, the state would be facing a major environmental disaster. That is, of course, if Florence stays on its current path and hits North Carolina. Hurricane Florence is growing in both strength and size as it prepares to make landfall. If the storm continues at its current pace, it could be the strongest hurricane to reach the Carolinas in the last 30 years. With Florence getting closer every day, about 1 million residents have already evacuated. Via Bloomberg Images via NASA and NOAA

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From plastic straws to a sea change for plastic

August 29, 2018 by  
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It’s time for some big thinking — and concrete action — on plastic waste.

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From plastic straws to a sea change for plastic

Sick of coal yet?

August 29, 2018 by  
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The recent EPA decision doesn’t just fail sustainability professionals — it will trigger a public health crisis.

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Sick of coal yet?

How REMADE could drive innovation in circular manufacturing techniques

August 29, 2018 by  
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Think of it as a multi-disciplined proving ground.

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Electric scooters on collision course with pedestrians and lawmakers

August 3, 2018 by  
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As the electrification of rideables speeds ahead, there are still a few road bumps for public health and safety.

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How are millennials preferences changing the food industry?

June 1, 2018 by  
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Millennials are dramatically disrupting the way food is produced, packaged, marketed and served. As a highly vocal group, millennials have given food producers little option but to listen to their demands, resulting in changes to not only food choices, but farming techniques and restaurant services as well. These changes have reverberated throughout the food industry, creating a food landscape vastly different from the one experienced by millennials’ parents. Healthy Has a New Look Millennials have altered what it means for food to be healthy. While older generations may have contented themselves with vague “low-fat” or “healthy” labels, millennials have higher expectations, especially when it comes to GMOs. While it’s estimated that 70 percent of processed foods contain GMOs, more than  60 percent of millennials want non-GMO food options, and 68 percent pay more for organic products. It’s likely that demand for these products will only increase, and the food industry is becoming more transparent in order to meet this demand. Localized Food Production Increases Millennials don’t just want to avoid GMOs; they want to know exactly which ingredients are included and where those ingredients come from. This desire for increased transparency has led to a preference for local food brands over national ones, both at the level of production and consumption. Whether buying food at the grocery store or eating out, millennials seek out locally sourced food. Some millennials have taken this trend a step further and started to grow their own food in urban and rooftop farms. Take, for example, the farm on top of the Method Products manufacturing plant in Chicago . One of the world’s largest, this rooftop farm can produce up to 10 million crops each year. And it doesn’t stop there—all the vegetables and herbs on the farm are pesticide-free and grown sustainably. Using rooftops in place of traditional farms helps make better use of available land and provides urban dwellers with access to the locally grown produce that millennials seek out on a regular basis. Eating out Is More Popular Another major change to the food industry includes the increased popularity of eating out. In 1970, only 25.9 percent of consumers ate out , as opposed to 43.5 percent today. Though millennials don’t account for the entirety of this increase, they have contributed significantly to it. According to a recent USDA report , millennials consumed 2.3 percent of their meals in restaurants, which equates to eating out about twice a month. Technology also plays a major role in making restaurants more popular with younger generations. With apps like the Humane Eating project that combine millennials’ love of technology with sustainable eating, it’s no wonder that more people are exploring new places to eat. And apps aren’t the only thing that appeals to millennials—restaurants with guest WiFi and tablet point-of-sale systems tend to draw in younger crowds as well, which suggests these methods may become standard restaurant practice within the next decade. Despite their youth, millennials have already had a strong influence on the food industry. From its focus on healthy eating to its interest in locally sourced and sustainably grown food, this group is poised to turn food production and service around, which could have positive consequences for a world fighting obesity and other health concerns. However, only time will tell if the impact millennials have on the food industry will have long-lasting effects on other facets of life, from the economy to government policy and public health. + Food Industry Executive + Forbes + Organic Trade Association + QSR Magazine + USDA Images via Pexels (1) (2) , Pxhere , and Pixabay

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How are millennials preferences changing the food industry?

Noise pollution is the new ‘secondhand smoke’ according to experts

May 14, 2018 by  
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Noise pollution is “the new secondhand-smoke.” Researchers at New York University are conducting a five-year study of noise in the City  to better understand how the sounds that constantly surround us impact our health, which is important since a recent study showed that 97% of the population is subjected to manmade noise. Scientists generally agree that anything over 50 decibels increases stress, anxiety, hypertension, and heart attack risk – that’s the same level of sound as a quiet suburb. Now, experts are asking what we can do with this information to help change are sound landscape, or risk harming our collective health like we did for decades with secondhand smoke. There have been no definitive studies on change in city noise levels, which is what makes this study so vital. But while there is no official word, yet, there have been greater numbers of lawsuits over noise and more people with hearing problems, as well as short-term studies that point to the negative health effects of noise. “It took decades to educate people on the dangers of secondhand smoke. We may need decades to show the impact of secondhand noise, ”activist Bradley Vite told the Washington Post. Policymakers in the United States have some catching-up to do when it comes to noise pollution. “We’re in active denial,” Rick Neitzel, director of environmental health policy at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, told the Washington Post. “We’re far, far behind what Europe is doing.” In 2009, the European Union (EU) approved regulations that set noise levels to 40 decibels at night to “protect human health,” while also limiting continuous day-time noise to 50 decibels. Related: The National Park System just got its first Dark Sky Sanctuary In the United States, 97 percent of the population must contend with human-caused noise. Even national parks are subject to loud human activity, with over two-thirds reporting significant levels of noise pollution, much of which is caused by airplanes and industrial activity such as drilling. So what can we do? To combat this rising threat, Texas is testing specially-grooved concrete that is capable of reducing highway sound levels by 5.8 decibels on average. In Phoenix, more than 200 highways have been repaved with a concrete-tire mix that uses recycled tires to create a more sound-absorbent roadway. Elkhart, Indiana recently approved high fines on “loud and raucous sounds,” such as caravans of motorcycles. “These biker gangs that roar through town can get up to 125 decibels,” Vite said. As a result of these fines, Elkhart has received $1.6 million in new revenue, which it has used to purchase four new police cars. Via the Washington Post Images via Depositphotos (1)

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New Ebola outbreak strikes the Democratic Republic of the Congo

May 9, 2018 by  
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The deadly virus Ebola has returned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A new outbreak of Ebola stuck the northwest town of Bikoro with 21 suspected cases of the virus. Out of five samples sent to the DRC’s National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) , only two were positive for Ebola. In 1976, the first case of Ebola was documented in the DRC, and there has been nine outbreaks of the virus since then. The unprecedented Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2014 to 2016 infected 28,000, killed 11,000 and shocked the world. However, the virus ‘s latest reemergence in the DRC is no reason to panic. Previous outbreaks in the DRC have been contained thanks in part to the country’s vast, largely inaccessible land area, which inhibits travel and trade between towns. The DRC’s last Ebola outbreak occurred in the village of Likati in 2017, however the virus was contained within forty-two days. Related: Ebola mutated to become even deadlier during recent outbreak Led by Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, the first scientist to document Ebola, the INRB is experienced in responding to Ebola outbreaks. “We’re advanced in public health ,” an epidemiologist at the INRB told the Atlantic . “If you compare us with Europe or the U.S., eh, but here in Africa, we are high. We have experience.” Early monitoring and reporting is key to success. “We have a surveillance system that works,” Kinshasa School of Public Health leader Emile Okitolonda said. “Here, nurses know that if they see a suspected case, they report it.” The INRB will also receive expert assistance from the World Health Organization and Médecins Sans Frontières in responding to Ebola. The primary challenge in the DRC is a lack of resources – a problem that may be exacerbated by President Trump ‘s recent request to cut $252 million in funding for international Ebola relief. Congress must decide within 45 days whether to act on Trump’s request. If they do nothing, as they are wont to do, the funding will remain in place. + INRB Via The Atlantic Images via Wikimedia Commons and Depositphotos

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Michigan Governor declares Flint water safe, ends free bottled water service

April 9, 2018 by  
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Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has announced that Flint water is once again safe to drink, and the state will soon cease the free bottled water service it has provided to Flint residents in the wake of the city’s drinking water crisis. “The scientific data now proves the water system is stable and the need for bottled water has ended,” the office of the Republican governor said in a statement. “Since Flint’s water is now well within the standards set by the federal government, we will now focus even more of our efforts on continuing with the health, education and economic development assistance needed to help move Flint forward.” Residents and local representatives are reportedly hesitant to trust assurances from the same administration that was responsible for the water crisis in the first place. Even though officials declared Flint water  safe based on scientific assessments, the multi-faceted damage caused by the water crisis will be hard to repair. “Governor Snyder has failed to address the psychological trauma that his administration put the people of Flint through,” said Michigan State Representative Sheldon Neeley, who represents much of the majority-black city of 100,000. “The fact is, the people of Flint don’t trust the Snyder administration or the science they pay for — science that previously allowed our city to be poisoned.” Related: 11-year old inventor becomes “America’s Top Young Scientist” for creating lead-detecting sensor Although the city switched from Flint River water to Lake Huron water — the original source of clean water for the city — in 2015, the community remains wary. “I don’t trust the water. Period,” Flint resident Debra Coleman told WJRT local news . “It could be five years from now and I’ll still never drink this water.” While trust remains an issue, some of those responsible for the crisis are now being held accountable. In 2017, six current and former state and local officials were charged for actions that contributed to the crisis. Via Ecowatch and Reuters Images via Depositphotos   (1)

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