Posts Tagged ‘ethanol’

World water supply, invasive weeds and PFCs

March 16, 2009

Every week, the Freshwater Society posts a digest of regional, national and international news articles and research reports on water and the environment. Go to the Freshwater web site to read the latest digest, or click on the links below to read the original articles. If you see something that interests you, let us know by posting a comment.

UN report: World’s water in peril
Surging population growth, climate change, reckless irrigation and chronic waste are placing the world’s water supplies at threat, according to a landmark UN report.

Compiled by 24 UN agencies, the 348-page document gave a grim assessment of the state of the planet’s freshwater, especially in developing countries, and described the outlook for coming generations as deeply worrying.
–AFP news service

Judge narrows PFC lawsuit against 3M
An enormous lawsuit over water is getting smaller.
In a ruling, a judge limited a lawsuit charging that chemicals manufactured by the 3M Co. polluted water and hurt Washington County homeowners.

Washington County District Judge Mary Hannon ruled the chemicals — PFCs, or perfluorochemicals — found in drinking water cannot legally be considered a “nuisance.” She said the term defines something that impairs the use or enjoyment of someone’s property and that homeowners’ inconveniences, such as having to buy a $30 filtration system, were relatively minor.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Wisconsin considers state rules on ballast water
Wisconsin is poised to become the next Great Lakes state with its own rules for ballast water in ships, and critics say it could kill the overseas shipping business.

Ballast water is blamed for carrying harmful plants or animals from overseas into the Great Lakes. Minnesota and Michigan recently adopted ballast permit regulations. But some worry that Wisconsin’s new proposal is too tough.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Wisconsin DNR fights manure pollution
Steve Haak and the Sugar River go way back.

Now 46, Haak was only 8 when he caught his first fish from the river where it ran near the family’s farm south of Paoli. He was with his grandfather and caught the 18-inch brown trout on a cane pole.

“From then on, I was pretty much hooked,” said Haak, who now farms just down the road from the farm on which he grew up.
–Wisconsin State Journal

Lake or wetlands: Which will get the mine waste?
Sitting like a turquoise gem in a bowl of hemlock, Sitka spruce and ice, Berners Bay has long been a jewel of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

Berners Bay also has become one of the epicenters of a new Alaska gold rush. High in the snowy peaks at the top of the bay, miners struck an estimated 1.4 million ounces of gold — a prize that is looking better every day as investors flee the stock market.
–Los Angeles Times

Invasive weed seeds found in Baltimore harbor
An inspection aboard a Turkish freighter at one of the city’s ports by agents of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency revealed the presence of cogon grass weed seed, an invasive seed from Asia that quickly spreads and disrupts ecosystems, reduces wildlife habitat and decreases tree seeding growth, said a spokesman for the agency.

Steve Sapp, the spokesman, said the pest-like seed, known as Red Baron grass after the World War I German fighter ace, was found during a routine inspection littered among wood packing in a container of tile from Turkey. Sapp said the seed is considered one of the 10 worst invasive plant species in the world and is listed as a federal noxious weed.
–The Baltimore Sun

Cost, politics complicate water’s future
Anyone who has visited Disneyland recently and taken a sip from a drinking fountain there may have unknowingly sampled a taste of the future — a small quantity of water that once flowed through a sewer.

Orange County Water District officials say that’s a good thing — the result of a successful, year-old project to purify wastewater and pump it into the ground to help restore depleted aquifers that provide most of the local water supply.
–Reuters

Natural resource spending up in Obama budget
After years of flat or declining funding, natural resource agencies expect to see a significant boost in the 2010 budget along with a leftward shift in policies and priorities.

Beyond the increased funds for many Interior Department agencies, the budget proposal as President Obama has outlined thus far focuses on acquiring more public land, addressing climate change issues and raising fees on the oil and gas industry.
–The New York Times

Texas groundwater districts controversial
For Parker County resident Kathy Chruscielski, moving to the
country a decade ago seemed like the best of both worlds. She fell in love with the scenic rolling hills of Remuda Ranch Estates, a few miles west of the Tarrant County line.

“We have these beautiful hills, yet we can be in Fort Worth within a matter of minutes,” Chruscielski said. “It’s like having one foot in the country and one in the city.”

She learned that it has its downside.

In January 2002, Chruscielski was forced to drill a new well after her old one went dry.

“They told us when we bought this place that groundwater levels had remained the same for the last 40 years,” Chruscielski said with a rueful laugh. “Then I learned differently.”
–Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Climate change pushes search for water in the West
It’s hard to visualize a water crisis while driving the lush boulevards of Los Angeles, golfing Arizona’s green fairways or watching dancing Las Vegas fountains leap more than 20 stories high.

So look Down Under. A decade into its worst drought in a hundred years Australia is a lesson of what the American West could become.
–Reuters

EPA plans greenhouse gas registry
The Environmental Protection Agency plans to establish a nationwide system for reporting greenhouse gas emissions, a program that could serve as the basis for a federal cap on the buildup of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming.

The registry plan would cover about 13,000 facilities that account for 85 to 90 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas output. It was drafted under the Bush administration but stalled after the Office of Management and Budget objected to it because the EPA based the rule on its powers under the Clean Air Act.
–The Washington Post

Many think media exaggerate climate change
More Americans are skeptical about the seriousness of global warming than ever before, according to a survey released by the Gallup organization.

A record 41 percent now say news coverage of global warming is exaggerated, while 57 percent say coverage is generally on the mark or underestimated. As recently as 2006, Gallup found that 30 percent viewed news coverage of global warming as exaggerated vs. 66 who did not.
–Star Tribune

IBM wants to help manage water
IBM Corp. wants to get really deep into water.

The technology company is launching a new line of water services, hoping to tap a new sales vein by taking the manual labor out of fighting pollution and managing water supplies. IBM says the overall water-management services market could be worth $20 billion in five years.
–The Associated Press

Transmission line gets mixed reviews
The Great Plains have been called “the Saudi Arabia of wind energy.” But because the windiest areas tend to be sparsely populated, much of that wind power might go unused without a way to move the energy to where the people are.

Now a Michigan company is proposing to build a 765-kilovolt transmission line called “The Green Power Express” from the gusty Dakotas through Minnesota to Chicago. The 3,000-mile project, which is estimated to cost $10 billion to $12 billion, could be among the first of a new generation of energy superhighways that help the Midwest feed the nation’s appetite for renewable energy.
–St. Paul Pioneer Press

Chicago pushes homeowners to accept water meters
Some Chicagoans with homes built before the mid-1970s could get city water meters installed free with a guarantee their bills won’t rise beyond regular rate increases for seven years.

The offer was approved by a City Council committee as part of a $15 million test program called MeterSave.
–The Chicago Tribune

Suffolk County, NY, fights nitrate pollution
More than 300 landscapers crammed into a stuffy lower-level room at the Holiday Inn here recently, listening to the whys and wherefores of the new laws for keeping lawns green in Suffolk County while minimizing nitrogen pollution.

Suffolk, which has a long history of environmental regulation, is laying down the law as never before about nitrogen, a principal ingredient in the lawn fertilizers used by landscapers and homeowners but also a worsening threat to groundwater.
–The New York Times

Invasives drill may cause Superior harbor to blush
A shipping company and the National Park Service are getting together to find an effective way to kill invasive species in a ship’s ballast tanks under emergency conditions. As ships can run aground or have accidents, the question is how to best handle a high-risk ship from a high-risk port that might be carrying invasive species.

The experiment may leave the Superior Harbor a bit on the pink side. The plan is to inject a red dye into six ballast tanks in an American Steamship Company vessel in a lower Great Lakes port. Isle Royale National Park Superintendent Phyllis Green says they’ll use harmless rhodamine dye instead of chemicals designed to sterilize ballast tanks.
–Wisconsin Public Radio/Superior Telegram

Acidification of oceans affects tiny organisms
There’s now a good piece of direct evidence that the increasing acidification of the oceans, brought on by rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, is affecting the ability of small marine organisms to create shells.

The evidence comes from foraminifera, crunchy plankton that float by the untold billions in the ocean.
–The New York Times

EPA reviewing ethanol and climate change
For years, ethanol has been touted as a solution to the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. But the EPA is looking at whether ethanol lives up to that reputation.

If the agency decides against ethanol, the ruling could have a major impact on tens of thousands of people in rural Minnesota.
–Minnesota Public Radio

EPA sued over phosphorus in Lake Okeechobee
Environmental groups filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set more protective pollution standards for Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and its tributaries.

The suit, filed by the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and Save Our Creeks, Inc., argues that nutrient pollution in the lake has caused toxic algae blooms, which can contaminate drinking water supplies and sicken people and animals.
–Environment News Service

Kinder, gentler wildlife biologists
You may remember Senator John McCain’s criticism of a study of grizzly bear DNA as wasteful spending. And you may have wondered how the scientists got the DNA from the grizzlies.

The answer is hair. The study, which Mr. McCain referred to during his run for president, was a large one, and it provided an estimate of the population of threatened grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, in and around Glacier National Park.
–The New York Times

Court sides with Colorado on fees in water suit
The Supreme Court has rejected claims by Kansas that it is owed $9 million in legal fees from Colorado over their century-long dispute over water rights to the Arkansas River.

In an opinion, the court is upholding a ruling by a special master appointed to oversee the case that the fees for expert witnesses should be about $163,000, not the $9 million sought by Kansas.
–The Associated Press

Ethanol, PFCs, smelt, a mud volcano — and more

December 22, 2008

Every week the Freshwater Society publishes In the News, a digest of regional, national and international news articles and other reports about water, water pollution, water conservation and the environment.

Click on the links below to read the original sources excerpted in the digest.

Oceans getting more acidic, study says
Parts of the world’s oceans appear to be acidifying far faster than scientists have expected.

The culprit: rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere pumped into the air from cars, power plants, and industries.
–The Christian Science Monitor

Judge finds no proof PFCs harmed anyone
Did pollution by the 3M Co. hurt anyone?

Not for purposes of a lawsuit against the company, a Washington County judge has ruled.
–St. Paul Pioneer Press

Ballast water rule set to go into effect
Commercial ships must dump ballast water at sea or rinse their tanks if empty under a new federal policy designed to prevent invasive foreign species from entering the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters.

The Environmental Protection Agency included the requirement in a general permit issued under a court order requiring it to regulate water discharges from ships to protect native ecosystems.
–The Associated Press

Mining, drilling threaten Colorado River
The Colorado River has endured drought, large-scale climate changes, pollution, ecological damage from dams and battles by seven states to draw more water.

Now the life vein of the Southwest faces another threat: Energy companies are sucking up the Colorado’s water to support increased development of oil, natural gas and uranium deposits along the river’s basin. The mining and drilling will likely send more toxins into the waterway, which provides drinking water for one out of 12 Americans and nourishes 15 percent of the nation’s crops along its journey from Wyoming and Colorado to Mexico.
–San Diego Union-Tribune

Drillers hit molten rock in Hawaii
A geothermal power company drilling a mile and a half deep on one of the Hawaiian Islands has for the first time encountered an undisturbed chamber of magma, or molten rock, scientists reported.

Before the discovery, which was made in 2005, the only access to magma had been on Earth’s surface — in the form of lava from volcanoes.
–The Washington Post

USGS assesses chances for ‘abrupt’ climate change
The United States faces the potential for abrupt climate change in the 21st century that could pose clear risks to society in terms of our ability to adapt.

The new assessment was prepared by a team of climate scientists from the federal government and academia. The report was commissioned by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program with contributions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation.
–USGS News Release

Greenhouse gas rules could apply to farmers
It’s not on the books yet, but farmers in Minnesota are worried about a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would allow the government to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act — and cost farmers big bucks.

In Washington parlance, the agency has issued an “advanced notice of proposed rulemaking” on its ability to police emissions — an early warning shot demonstrating the government’s intent to impose a new regulation. The document is a response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that dealt with a petition to regulate vehicle emissions, and essentially requires the EPA to determine whether greenhouse gases endanger public health.
–minnpost.com

Eyota ethanol plan put on hold
The controversial ethanol plant planned for tiny Eyota, near Rochester in southeastern Minnesota, has been put on indefinite hold with developers of the proposed 55-million gallon plant citing low investor interest and high startup costs.

“Uncertain economic times and dramatic fluctuations in commodity prices have dampened the public’s investing appetite,” said MinnErgy President Ron Scherbring in a press release filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. MinnErgy has been working since last May to raise $133 million to advance plant construction.
–minnpost.com

NASA documents decline in arctic ice
More than 2 trillion tons of land ice in Greenland, Antarctica and Alaska have melted since 2003, according to new NASA satellite data that show the latest signs of what scientists say is global warming.

More than half of the loss of landlocked ice in the past five years has occurred in Greenland, based on measurements of ice weight by NASA’s GRACE satellite, said NASA geophysicist Scott Luthcke. The water melting from Greenland in the past five years would fill up about 11 Chesapeake Bays, he said, and the Greenland melt seems to be accelerating.
–Discovery.com

Florida agency approves Everglades deal
Water managers narrowly approved a $1.34 billion deal to buy a sprawling swath of sugar fields — a landmark purchase with promise to dramatically reshape Everglades restoration and surrounding farming communities.

A deeply divided South Florida Water Management District’s governing board voted 4-3 to accept the controversial deal with the U.S. Sugar Corp., supporting Gov. Charlie Crist’s appeal to seize a “historic opportunity.”
–The Miami Herald

FDA to continue studying ingredient in plastic
The Food and Drug Administration, criticized by its own scientific advisers for ignoring available data about health risks posed by a chemical found in everyday plastic, said it has no plans to amend its position on the substance but will continue to study it.

The agency has been reviewing its risk assessments for bisphenol A, a chemical used to harden plastic that is found in a wide variety of products, from baby bottles to compact discs to the lining of canned goods. The chemical, commonly called BPA, mimics estrogen and may disrupt the body’s carefully calibrated endocrine system.
–The Washington Post

California water diversion slashed to help smelt
Federal biologists issued new rules that will reduce the amount of water pumped to cities and farms from San Francisco Bay’s delta by as much as one-third in some years — part of a court-ordered effort to save a two-inch, silvery fish from extinction.

The long-awaited “biological opinion” from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could have a significant impact on Silicon Valley, which receives roughly half of its drinking water from the delta and the other half from local underground aquifers.
–San Jose Mercury News

EPA lauds Orange County water re-use
The Orange County Water District is being awarded the prestigious Water Efficiency Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in recognition of the district’s leadership in wastewater purification for groundwater replenishment.

The southern California district supplies water to more than 20 cities and water agencies, serving more than 2.3 million Orange County residents. Since 1933, the agency has replenished and maintained the groundwater basin at safe levels while more than doubling the basin’s annual yield. This important source of water provides local groundwater producers with a reliable supply of high-quality water.
–EPA News Release

Drilling spawns mud volcano in Indonesia
Her children insist, so every week or two Lilik Kamina takes them back to their abandoned village to look at the mud.

“Hey, Mom, there’s our house, there’s the mango tree,” she said they shout. But there is nothing to see, only an ocean of mud that has buried this village and a dozen more over the past two-and-a-half years.
–The New York Times

Opinion: Go slow on genetically modified crops
As the Bush administration nears its final weeks, officials are hastily loosening key rules in workplace safety, environmental protection — and soon, perhaps, on American farmlands. This month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture began finalizing its oversight rules for genetically modified crops: artificial plant strains with the potential for doing humans great good — and serious long-term harm.

The USDA needs to resist any industry pressure to rush these new rules into effect.
–Houston Chronicle

EPA seeks comment on Indiana injection wells
Duke Energy Indiana of Plainfield, Ind., has applied for federal permits to construct eight underground injection wells at its plant just south of Edwardsport, Ind. EPA has determined the disposal wells do not pose a threat to underground sources of drinking water and proposes to approve the permits. EPA asks the public to comment on them by Jan. 15, 2009.

The draft permit is available for review at Bicknell-Vigo Township Public Library, 201 W. Second St. or online at http://www.epa.gov/region5/water/uic/uicpub.htm.
–EPA News Release


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