Sunday, September 21, 2008

Daily Grist: Court rules EPA must protect waterways from construction pollution, and more‏


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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sources: Los Angeles Times, Natural Resources Defense Council
straight to the ruling: NRDC v. USEPA [PDF]


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Too Little to Lakes?
Obama details $5 billion plan to help restore Great Lakes

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.

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sources: Detroit Free Press, Associated Press, The State News, The Washington Post

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.

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sources: San Francisco Chronicle, Agence France-Presse, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal

Bright Lights, Big Specificity
Chicago unveils detailed climate plan

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.

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sources: The New York Times, Associated Press

You Give Climate Change a Bad Name
Jon Bon Jovi will play Live Earth concert in Mumbai

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."

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sources: Associated Press, Live Earth India, Agence France-Presse, India Today

In Brief
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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Read more news ...


From Pet Food to People Food
Nutritionist Marion Nestle talks about her new book on pet-food contamination

Those little bits of chow in your cat's bowl may not look that interesting, but to nutritionist Marion Nestle, they're nothing less than a microcosm of the global food system. Her new book Pet Food Politics investigates the 2007 pet-food contamination scandal, and in an interview with Grist, Nestle explains what that means for the safety of people food.

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new in Grist: An interview with author and nutritionist Marion Nestle

The Powers That Begich
Alaska Senate race heats up as Democrat Begich tries to unseat Republican Stevens

Sarah Palin isn't the only Alaskan in a hot race this election season. Enviros are also closely watching the state's Senate race, which has incumbent Republican Ted Stevens up against Democrat Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage. Stevens, long a bugbear of environmentalists, has been reelected by comfortable margins since joining the Senate in 1968, but this time around he's got a serious handicap: he's been indicted on corruption charges, and his trial starts next week. Kate Sheppard reports on the environmental angles in this high-drama Senate race.

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new in Muckraker: Stevens vs. Begich

Coming Monday: Advice columnist Umbra Fisk on voting

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