Posts Tagged ‘pollution credits’

Lubber to lecture on sustainability’s bottom line

January 23, 2012

The Freshwater Society blog publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.

Leader on corporate sustainability to lecture

Mindy Lubber

Mindy Lubber, an international leader in efforts by investors to lead and pressure multinational companies to adopt environmentally sustainable business practices, will deliver a free, public lecture March 1 in St. Paul.

The lecture, “Investing in Sustainability: Building Water Stewardship Into the Bottom Line,” is sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences. Register to attend. Learn about the lecture series and view video of previous speakers.

Lubber is president of Ceres, a 22-year-old Boston-based nonprofit that works with companies like Coca-Cola, Levi Strauss and IBM to encourage the firms to make their products and processes more water- efficient and less vulnerable to climate change. As part of that work, Lubber directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk, an alliance of 100 institutional investors who manage $10 trillion in assets.

Lubber’s lecture will focus on the risks businesses and their shareholders face as a result of a population-driven demand for increased water use colliding with a fixed global supply, aggravated by more pronounced droughts and flooding resulting from climate change. She will offer specific examples of companies that are changing their business models to become more sustainable.

Conservation Minnesota analyzes spending
So how did environmental programs fare in the budget deals that ended the shutdown of Minnesota government last summer?

Not so well, according to a new 23-page analysis prepared by Conservation Minnesota, the latest in a series of such reviews the group has conducted since 2002.

The 2008 Legacy Amendment  specified that revenue from the sales tax increase approved by voters for the environment, clean water and arts and culture “must supplement traditional sources of funding for those purposes and may not be used as a substitute.” The Conservation Minnesota analysis does not directly answer the legal question whether that provision was violated during last year’s budget deals, but the title of the analysis is pointed: “If it Looks Like a Duck…”

The executive summary of the analysis states: “There are increasingly frequent instances where the Legislature has used Legacy funds to backfill budget cuts, raising concerns that the intended benefits of Legacy funds may erode over time.”

State, feds sign ag pollution agreement
 The State of Minnesota, the federal Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Jan. 17 signed an agreement to develop a new program to encourage farmers to meet still-to-be-defined standards for preventing erosion and pollutant runoff from their fields and feedlots.

Under the program, farmers who take part and meet the standards would receive a guarantee that they would not later be subject to more stringent standards for up to 10 years.

The agreement was signed by Gov. Mark Dayton, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson.

Read about the agreement in the Star Tribune, the Pioneer Press, Minnesota Public Radio, a Dayton news release, a USDA news release. And read a Minnesota Environmental Partnership news release questioning the agreement and the concept of providing farmers safe harbor from future regulation.  Read a recent report to the EPA from the agency’s Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Federal Advisory Committee that recommends the EPA encourage such “certainty” agreements. Read the memorandum of understanding signed by Dayton.

Report details nitrogen pollution of air, water
Read a new article on nitrogen escaping into the air and water. The research paper, titled Excess Nitrogen in the U.S. Environment: Trends, Risks, and Solutions, was published by the Ecological Society of America.

  •  Key findings include:  Forty to 60 percent of the world’s population depends on crops grown with synthetic nitrogen.
  • About half of the nitrogen used in agriculture escapes into the environment.
  • More than 1.5 million Americans drink water that exceeds, or comes close to exceeding, health standards.
  • Nitrogen pollution warms the climate through nitrous oxide emissions, but cools it by promoting the growth of hardwood trees, which sequester carbon dioxide. On balance, the cooling effect is greater.
  • U.S. use of nitrogen fertilizer increased rapidly in the 1960s and ‘70s, then slowed. Since 1978, nitrogen fertilizer use has increased by about six-tenths of a percent annually. During that yields of corn, a major user of nitrogen, have increased 1.9 percent per year.

The report says that current strategies exist within the “current agricultural system, that – if practiced —  could reduce nitrogen losses from agriculture by 30 to 50 percent.

Report: There is good news on acid rain
 Measurable improvements in air quality and visibility, human health, and water quality in many acid-sensitive lakes and streams, have been achieved through emissions reductions from electric generating power plants and resulting decreases in acid rain. These are some of the key findings in a report to Congress by the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program, a cooperative federal program.

The report shows that since the establishment of the Acid Rain Program, under Title IV of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, there have been substantial reductions in sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from power plants that use fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil, which are known to be the primary causes of acid rain. As of 2009, emissions of SO2 and NOx declined by about two-thirds relative to levels in the 1990s. These emissions levels declined even further in 2010, according to recent data compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Because emission reductions result in fewer fine particles and lower ozone concentrations in the air, in 2010 there were thousands fewer premature human deaths, hospital admissions, and emergency room visits annually leading to estimated human health benefits valued at $170 to $430 billion per year.
–USGS News Release

USDA promotes pollution credit trading 
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a funding opportunity that will bring states, USDA and other stakeholders together to enhance the effectiveness of water quality credit trading. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is providing up to $10 million in Conservation Innovation Grants for these projects, with up to $5 million focused on water quality credit trading in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Proposals for projects are due March 2, 2012.

“For the first time USDA has offered funding specifically for water quality trading. We want to help states and other partners develop robust and meaningful markets,” Vilsack said. “Our goal is to demonstrate that markets are a cost-effective way to improve water quality in places like the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and agricultural producers are critical to the function of these markets.”

Water quality credit trading is a market-based approach to lowering the costs of reducing pollution, and has the potential to engage more farmers and ranchers in water quality improvement efforts through the implementation of more conservation practices on agricultural lands. Through water quality credit trading, a producer who implements conservation practices to reduce water quality pollutants can also benefit by generating water quality market credits that could be sold in an open market, which would reduce the costs of implementing and maintaining the conservation practices.

Dayton urges $$ for Lutsen snow-making 
The bonding proposal announced by Gov. Mark Dayton includes $3.6 million to build a water pipeline from Lake Superior to the Lutsen Mountains ski resort. Lutsen Mountains currently pumps water from the Poplar River, a designated trout stream, to make snow for skiing.

Despite low water levels, the DNR issued Lutsen a permit last fall to pump 150 million gallons per year. In exchange, the agency told the ski area to find another water source by 2014.

The governor’s proposal would provide water to the ski resort, a golf course, resorts and private homes.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Obama wants more time to mull pipeline
The Obama administration refused to authorize the Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying a congressionally imposed deadline left too little time to evaluate routes that would avoid an aquifer in Nebraska.

In rejecting the permit, however, the State Department said Canadian pipeline company TransCanada Corp. can reapply to build the link between oil sands in Alberta and Gulf Coast refineries. TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said the company was disappointed but will reapply after mapping another route around the Ogallala aquifer, a source for drinking and irrigation water, later this year.

The pipeline has been an election year lightning rod across the political spectrum. Republican and industry leaders are painting the pipeline as creating jobs and boosting U.S. energy security. Environmentalists and many Democrats argue that the pipeline would promote a particularly polluting form of crude oil and could threaten water supplies.
–The Houston Chronicle

California suit focuses on sucker fish 
A federal plan to preserve more than 9,000 acres of river habitat so that the threatened Santa Ana sucker fish can fulfill its complex life cycle has run into stiff resistance from critics who say it jeopardizes development and water supplies in the Inland Empire.

Two cities and 10 water districts have sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in U.S. District Court over the agency’s decision to preserve the habitat. They say that it imposes restrictions on water conservation, groundwater recharge and flood control operations that affect water supplies for 1 million residents, and that it threatens plans to sell Santa Ana River water to thirsty communities elsewhere.

Environmental groups led by the Center for Biological Diversity, CalTrout, the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society responded by filing petitions to intervene in the case on behalf of the federal agency. A hearing on the case has been scheduled for February.
–The Los Angeles Times

Conservation Stewardship deadline extended
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Dave White announced that the cut-off date for the current Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) ranking period has been extended to January 27, 2012. Producers who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship are eligible for CSP payments.

“We want to make sure that people who want to be considered for CSP during this first ranking period have the time they need to complete their applications,” White said. “CSP is a very popular program and I encourage interested producers to apply at their local NRCS office as soon as they can.”

CSP is offered in all 50 states, tribal lands and the Pacific and Caribbean areas through continuous sign-ups. Administered by NRCS, CSP provides many conservation benefits including improved water and soil quality, enhanced wildlife habitat and conservation activities that address the effects of climate change.

Health costs of fossil fuels; irrigation’s demand

October 25, 2009

The cost — in terms of health care — of fossil fuels. A looming battle in California over desalination. The demands irrigators make on the Colorado River’s waters. Check out these articles and more, then follow the links to read them in their entirety where they originally were published.

Fossil fuels add billions in health costs
Burning fossil fuels costs the United States about $120 billion a year in health costs, mostly because of thousands of premature deaths from air pollution, the National Academy of Sciences reported in a study.

The damages are caused almost equally by coal and oil, according to the study, which was ordered by Congress. The study set out to measure the costs not incorporated into the price of a kilowatt-hour or a gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel.

The estimates by the academy do not include damages from global warming, which has been linked to the gases produced by burning fossil fuels. The authors said the extent of such damage, and the timing, were too uncertain to estimate.
–The New York Times

Water shortages put target on irrigators
Along its final miles, the Colorado River snakes through a dizzying series of dams, canals, siphons and ditches, diverted to hundreds of users in Arizona and California until barely a trickle remains.

What flows through this watery Grand Central Station could fill the needs of all the homes and offices in Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas and much of Southern California.

But it doesn’t.

The water, more than a billion gallons a day, irrigates vast fields of wheat, alfalfa, cotton, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, melons and a produce aisle of other fruits and vegetables, feeding an industry tilled from the desert more than a century ago.

In Arizona, the crops yield about 1 percent of the state’s annual economic output, yet the fields soak up 70 percent of the water supply. That outsize allotment has painted a target on the farms as urban water managers search for the next bucket of water to meet future demands.
–The Arizona Republic

Desalination plan focus of fight over growth
Nothing about the Marin Municipal Water District storage yard and the run-down wooden pier protruding into San Francisco Bay give any hint of what they are: the site of what may become one of the fiercest water battles in Northern California in decades.

It is, on the surface, a set piece: an emotional struggle over a large planned water project facing strong environmental opposition. But at a more basic level, it is a contest over the ever-volatile issue of growth in Marin County.

The district is proposing to use both the yard and the Marin Rod & Gun Club pier as locations for a desalination plant that would suck up saltwater and initially could produce about five million gallons of water a day for its 190,000 customers, an increase of 6 percent in the district’s supply.
–The New York Times

Hugo Chavez calls for 3-minute showers
Leftist President Hugo Chavez called on Venezuelans to stop singing in the shower and to wash in three minutes because the oil-exporting nation is having problems supplying water and electricity.

Venezuela has suffered several serious blackouts in the past year because of rapidly growing demand and under-investment, which has been aggravated by a drop in water levels in hydroelectric dams that provide most of its energy.

Chavez announced energy-saving measures and said he would create a ministry to deal with the electricity shortages, which have affected the image of his socialist revolution before legislative elections due in 2010.

Corps wants Red River flood choice by Dec. 1
Fargo-Moorhead officials finally have plenty of options for flood control.

But it will test their ability to work together to quickly pick a plan by Dec. 1 that could determine the area’s safety for decades.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presented an array of diversion and levee options at a meeting of the Metropolitan Flood Management Committee at the Moorhead Marriott .

With the project on a tight timetable, corps engineer Craig Evans said his agency needs to know by Dec. 1 whether it’s a diversion channel in Minnesota or North Dakota, or levees, that has local support.
–The Forum

Pollution credit trading  market planned
American Farmland Trust is teaming up with Electric Power Research Institute, the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission Duke Energy, American Electric Power, Kieser & Associates, Hunton and Williams, the Miami Conservancy District, University of California at Santa Barbara, Ohio Farm Bureau, Hoosier Rural Electric Cooperative, and Tennessee Valley Authority to establish a water quality trading market across the Ohio River Basin, an area that spans fourteen states.

The project will focus on Ohio and seven nearby states, with the goal of improving water quality in the Ohio River Basin and reducing hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.

Water quality trading creates a market that pays participants for reducing the pollution they emit into watersheds. It creates a market that allows pollution sources who reduce their nutrient emissions or releases below an agreed upon baseline, to generate credits to sell to point sources required to reduce their nutrient releases. Such point sources include public utilities or manufacturing operations. Subsequently, participants are given a financial incentive to reduce their own pollution.

Washington County preserve to grow
Land dedicated to scientific research in south Washington County grew substantially when the Trust for Public Land completed the purchase of 120 acres in Denmark Township.

The land, bought from private landowner Mike Rygh for $1.14 million, will be added to the 200-acre Lost Valley Prairie Scientific and Natural Area and will remain open to the public for walking, exploring, nature observation, educational use and scientific research.
–The Star Tribune

Coloradoans contest Nestle bottled water plan
In many ways Salida, Colo., typifies the 21st-century Rocky Mountain town. Originally founded along a railroad line in the late 1800s, it’s now geared primarily toward tourism.

Among the red brick buildings of the historic center where ranchers, miners, and railroad workers once held sway, tourists now move between coffee shops, galleries, and outfitters. During warmer months, kayakers “surf” a man-made wave in the fast-flowing Arkansas River, which marks the edge of the downtown area.

For the better part of this year, Salida – population 5,400 – has also been the setting for a 21st century kind of battle – over water.
–The Christian Science Monitor

Exxon hit with damages in pollution suit
A federal jury in New York City ruled Exxon Mobil Corp had polluted the city’s ground water and ordered the oil giant to pay $105 million in damages, the city said.

The city contended Exxon knew that gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether would contaminate ground water if it leaked from the underground storage tanks at its retail stations.

Exxon ignored warnings from its own scientists and engineers not to use MTBE in areas of the country that relied on ground water for drinking water, the city said.

Times journalist talks about ‘worsening pollution’
An estimated one in 10 Americans have been exposed to drinking water that contains dangerous chemicals, parasites, bacteria or viruses, or fails to meet federal health standards. Part of the problem, says journalist Charles Duhigg, is that water-pollution laws are not being enforced.

Duhigg reports on the “worsening pollution in American waters” — and regulators’ responses to the problem — in his New York Times series, “Toxic Waters.” In researching the series, he studied thousands of water pollution records, which he obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.
–National Public Radio

California considers massive water overhaul
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers are laboring over an ambitious package of policy and spending initiatives that could transform — from dam to tap — how California uses its limited water supply.

If the changes happen, most residents and businesses probably would have to pay more and consume less.

For the first time, statewide law would require farmers to pay a premium if they draw too much water. Among the dozens of potential directives is a proposal for urban customers, including those in the San Diego region, to wring at least 5 percent more in water conservation.

Longer term, the area’s water agencies might be able to compete for billions in state grants to build more storage facilities, invigorate conservation and extend alternative supplies, such as desalination.
–The San Diego Union