What We Talk About When We Talk About Runoff
Appeals court rules EPA must protect waterways from construction pollution
The U.S. EPA is required by the Clean Water Act to protect the nation's waterways and drinking water from construction-industry pollution, and the agency must develop regulations to address construction-site runoff by December 2009, a federal appeals court ruled [PDF] Thursday. Sediment from construction sites, usually washed into rivers and other waterways via storm water, can contain pollutants like heavy metals, and often spurs excessive algae growth. The EPA started to develop regulations for construction-site runoff in 1999, declaring then that it "can contribute high loadings of nutrients and metals to receiving streams" and that state and local regulations were not doing enough. However, the EPA suddenly reversed course in 2004 and withdrew its proposal, saying such regulations were unnecessary. The Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups soon sued to force the agency to follow through, and both a lower court and now a federal appeals court agreed, ruling that EPA actually does have to develop such regulations. "For too long EPA has turned away from the real work of protecting our waters. This decision forcefully reminds them of their duty," said Jeffrey Odefey of the Waterkeeper Alliance.
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Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama proposed a $5 billion trust fund this week to clean up and restore the Great Lakes -- a move that may help him win votes in Michigan and Ohio. The fund would be aimed at restoring area wetlands, cleaning up contaminated sediments, curbing the spread of invasive species, and fixing leaky sewers that often empty into the lakes. Money for the Great Lakes project would come from rescinding tax breaks for oil and gas companies. The feds spent $1.7 billion to clean up the lakes between 1992 and 2004, and President Bush created a Great Lakes task force in 2004 that cataloged the lakes' ills. The group concluded that some $20 billion was needed to restore the lakes' health, but the funding never came through. "Bush signed the executive order in a closely contested election year, which was worthwhile and important, but once he got elected he turned his back on it," said Jordan Lubetkin of Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition. A few months ago, both Obama and John McCain signed a pledge promising "significant funding" for Great Lakes projects, though so far only Obama has articulated a figure or a specific plan.
Honey, We Pumped Up the Grid
Google, GE team up to tout 'smart grid,' clean energy initiatives
General Electric and Google announced on Wednesday they're teaming up to promote renewable energy, specifically geothermal energy and plug-in hybrids, and spur better investment and swifter government action to create "smart," more efficient electrical grids. In recent years, both enormous companies have announced big green investments: GE launched its Ecomagination initiative in 2005 to expand its spending on greener technology to some $25 billion by 2010, and last year, Google announced a similar program with a smaller budget and a slightly more specific focus called Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal to, well ... you know. "Both companies believe that our economic, environmental, and security challenges require that we use electricity more efficiently, generate it from cleaner sources, and electrify our transportation fleet," the companies said in a joint statement. Google CEO Eric Schmidt and GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt also called on Congress to continue funding the renewable-energy tax credit that's set to expire this year.
Chicago unveiled an ambitious climate-change plan on Thursday aimed at cutting its greenhouse-gas emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 as part of its commitment to meeting the goals of the Kyoto Protocol. Along with over 700 other cities and municipalities in the U.S., Chicago signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, committing it to reducing its climate impact. Chicago's plan includes updating the city's energy codes to mandate more efficient energy use, promoting alternative fuels, adding more green roofs to the city's skyline, upping recycling, educating citizens to conserve energy, and more. The Windy City also apparently struck a deal with two nearby coal-fired power plants to reduce their emissions or close down by 2017. "We can't solve the world's climate-change problem in Chicago, but we can do our part," said Mayor Richard Daley. In addition, officials commissioned a study to forecast what a climate-changed Chicago might look like. By 2100, it predicts, Chicago is likely to see stretches of severe drought, as well as more frequent heavy rains and floods, and up to 30 more days of 100-degree heat in the summer.
After seven concerts on seven continents on 7/7/07, Live Earth has downsized (you may have noticed that 8/8/08 passed by with nary a warble). On Thursday, organizers Al Gore and Kevin Wall announced plans for a Dec. 7 Live Earth concert in Mumbai, India. The show will feature "some of the biggest artists from India to the U.S. and beyond," says Wall. Jon Bon Jovi and Bollywood star Amitabh Bachman are already signed on. Organizers will aim to minimize waste, recycle as much as possible, and employ Indian companies for lighting, staging, and video. Proceeds will go to charities that aim to both solve the climate crisis and address poverty. In addition, says Gore, "We are asking respectfully that India considers meeting the following challenge: that within 10 years, all new electricity generation will come from renewable sources." OK, but only if Jon-Bon plays "Livin' on a Prayer."
Snippets from the news
• House passes No Child Left Inside environmental-education bill.
• Individual fishing quotas benefit fish and fisherfolk, study says.
• Evangelicals less concerned about climate change.
• Will T. Boone Pickens convince Wal-Mart to switch from diesel to natural-gas vehicles?
• What are Al Gore's plans with Plenty magazine?
• France will not impose picnic tax.
• Green group gives Sarah Palin its Rubber Dodo award.
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