Groups Sue Trump's EPA for Rolling Back Climate Standards
The Sierra Club and its allies sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt today for delaying crucial safeguards that reduce climate pollution, smog-forming compounds and air toxins from oil and gas facilities. This action represents the first lawsuit against the Trump administration for rolling back EPA climate standards.
Unfortunately, there will surely be many more lawsuits to come: Trump's decision last week to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord—egged on by Scott Pruitt—demonstrates the crass and reckless disregard this president has for public health and the environment (to say nothing of his contempt for science, diplomacy and even smart business sense).
Paris Exit Was 'Victory Paid and Carried Out' by Republican Party for the Koch Brothers https://t.co/ENLbOqO62r (@ecowatch)— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1496417827.0
This same disregard is apparent in Pruitt's decision to suspend these critical leak detection and repair ("LDAR") requirements for the oil and gas sector, which were finalized under the Obama administration and were scheduled to take effect last Saturday. Pruitt has moved to delay these vital protections by 90 days on legally baseless grounds, and is planning to delay them indefinitely after that. We anticipate that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where we filed our case, will strike down this lawless action.
A little background on the LDAR program is in order. Leaking oil and gas equipment is one of the country's biggest sources of methane pollution, a dangerous greenhouse gas that is 87 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the planet. We won't be able to curb the worst effects of climate change unless we limit harmful methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. In addition, when they leak methane, these same equipment parts emit smog- and soot-forming volatile organic compounds, which cause serious lung and heart problems, and air toxins like benzene and formaldehyde, known human carcinogens. Fixing leaks of one pollutant at oil and gas wells limits emissions of all three pollutants.
Last June, EPA finalized standards requiring oil and gas site operators to limit their emissions of these dangerous pollutants. The heart of EPA's standards is its LDAR program, which requires operators of certain sources—including fracked oil and gas wells—to find and repair leaking equipment at regular intervals. This program will provide up to 45 percent of the standards' reductions of smog- and soot-forming pollutants, over half of its methane reductions, and nearly 90 percent of its reductions in air toxins. The final standard provided industry operators with a full year to prepare before having to complete the first mandatory LDAR survey by June 3 of this year.
In April, however, Scott Pruitt announced that EPA would reconsider certain aspects of the LDAR program at the request of the fossil fuel industry and would delay the entire program's start date by three months. Pruitt's action came as little surprise: remember, this is the same guy who spent months whispering into Donald Trump's ear urging him to trash the Paris accord and the same guy who, as Oklahoma Attorney General, sued EPA over a dozen times to weaken environmental protections. And he's not stopping there—last week, Pruitt notified the Office of Management and Budget that he plans to seek an indefinite suspension of the LDAR program while he looks for ways to withdraw or weaken the standards for good.
Under the Clean Air Act, EPA can only delay a finalized emission standard if a petitioning party can identify some centrally relevant aspect of the standard that it had no opportunity to address during the public comment period. Otherwise, any delay by the agency is illegal. Pruitt claims to have found two narrow aspects of the LDAR program that meet these criteria, on which grounds he is reconsidering and delaying the entire LDAR program. He is also suspending two other aspects of the standards separate from LDAR. But Pruitt is simply wrong: on each of these topics, EPA specifically requested comment in its original proposal, and it updated the final standards in response to the extensive feedback it received from industry groups and others stakeholders. Pruitt's delay is therefore a blatant violation of the law.
Pruitt's illegal stalling tactics are nothing more than a giveaway to his close friends in the fossil fuel business. To everyone else, they are just more bad news from an administration that delivers little else. EPA's LDAR program will provide real and lasting benefits to communities affected by oil and gas pollution and climate change. Once emitted, methane stays in the atmosphere for an average of twelve years before decaying into carbon dioxide, which then lasts for hundreds or even thousands of years. The LDAR program will significantly curb these emissions; Pruitt's delay will simply kick the can down the road while dangerous pollution builds up in our atmosphere. In addition, the delay will occur during the summer, when smog formation is at its worst. According to one analysis, over 2,000 active new oil and gas wells exist in counties with unlawfully high levels of ozone—the primary ingredient of smog. If Pruitt gets his way, these well site operators can continue to let their fracking rigs dump harmful pollution into the air with no federal safeguards to stop them.
Particularly appalling is the fact that many of the communities that will suffer the most are the very ones that Pruitt and Trump claim to care about. In his announcement last week, Trump said that he was "elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris." As it turns out, Allegheny County—where Pittsburgh sits—and its neighboring counties have seen approximately 275 new gas wells drilled since EPA first proposed the LDAR program, over 70 of which are already actively producing oil or natural gas. Each one of these counties has ozone levels that are above EPA's legal limits, and Pennsylvania lacks its own mandatory LDAR requirements. Trump and Pruitt may pay lip service to western Pennsylvanians, but the administration's actions show that they are willing to sell out these communities in order to help dirty industry reap a few more dollars in profit.
Families and communities around the country that are affected by pollution and climate change deserve better than this. That's why we took Pruitt to court today, and that's why we'll keep fighting his and Donald Trump's reckless energy and environment agenda every step of the way.
Joanne Spalding is the chief climate counsel for the Sierra Club. Andres Restrepo is a staff attorney for the Sierra Club's Environmental Law Program.
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If weather is your mood, climate is your personality. That's an analogy some scientists use to help explain the difference between two words people often get mixed up.
Size Matters<p>Climates are a bit like woven tapestries. The big picture is important, no question. But so are all the seemingly minor details found inside the larger whole.</p><p><a href="https://research-information.bris.ac.uk/en/persons/tommaso-jucker" target="_blank">Tommaso Jucker</a> is an environmental scientist at the University of Bristol. In an email, Jucker says he'd define the term microclimate as "the suite of climatic conditions (temperature, rainfall, humidity, solar radiation) measured in localized areas, typically near the ground and at spatial scales that are directly relevant to ecological processes."</p><p>We'll talk about that last bit in a minute. But first, there's another criteria to discuss. According to some researchers, a microclimate — by definition — must differ from the larger area that surrounds it.</p><p><a href="https://www.cfc.umt.edu/research/paleoecologylab/publications/Davis_et_al_2019_Ecography.pdf" target="_blank">Forests</a> provide us with some great examples. "The climate near the ground in a tropical rainforest is dramatically different from the climate in the canopy 50 meters [164 feet] above," says University of Montana ecologist <a href="https://www.cfc.umt.edu/personnel/details.php?ID=1110" target="_blank">Solomon Dobrowski</a> in an email. "This vertical gradient among other factors allows for the staggering biodiversity we see in the tropics."</p><p>Likewise, scientists observed that a 2015 partial <a href="https://animals.howstuffworks.com/insects/bees-stopped-buzzing-during-2017-solar-eclipse.htm" target="_blank">solar eclipse</a> caused the air temperature of an Eastern European meadow to <a href="https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/wea.2802" target="_blank">change more dramatically</a> than it did in a nearby forest. That's because trees provide not only shade, but their leaves also reflect solar radiation. At the same time, forests tend to reduce wind speeds.</p><p>All those factors add up. A 2019 review of 98 wooded places — spread out across five continents — found that forests are 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) <a href="https://natureecoevocommunity.nature.com/posts/47363-forests-protect-animals-and-plants-against-warming" target="_blank">cooler on average</a> than the areas outside them.</p><p>Now if you hate the cold, don't worry; there's a cozy exception to the rule. According to that same study, forests are usually 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) warmer than the external environment during the wintertime. Pretty cool.</p>
A Bug's Life<p>When does a microclimate stop being, well, micro? In other words, is there a maximum size we should be aware of when discussing them?</p><p>Depends on who you ask. "In terms of horizontal scale, some have defined 'microclimate' as anything that is less than 100 meters [328 feet] in range," Jucker says. "I'm personally less prescriptive about this."</p><p>Instead, he says the "scale at which we want to measure [a particular] microclimate" ought to be "dictated" by the questions we're trying to answer.</p><p>"If I want to know how temperature affects the photosynthesis of a leaf, I should be measuring temperature at centimeter scale," Jucker explains. "If I want to know if and how temperature affects the habitat preference of a large, mobile mammal, it's probably more relevant to capture temperature variation across [tens to hundreds] of meters."</p><p>For instance, solitary plants have the power to generate itty-bitty microclimates. Just ask <a href="https://www.colorado.edu/geography/peter-blanken-0" target="_blank">Peter Blanken</a>, a geography professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder and the co-author of the 2016 book, "<a href="https://amzn.to/2XN6FT8" target="_blank">Microclimate and Local Climate</a>."</p>
The urban heat island effect is a good example of how microclimates work. NOAA
Microclimates on a Grand Scale<p>It's no secret that our planet is going through some rough times at the macro level. The global temperature is <a href="https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/" target="_blank">climbing</a>; nine out of the <a href="https://www.noaa.gov/news/2019-was-2nd-hottest-year-on-record-for-earth-say-noaa-nasa" target="_blank">10 hottest years on record</a> have occurred since 2005. And by one recent estimate, roughly 1 million species around the world are <a href="https://ipbes.net/sites/default/files/2020-02/ipbes_global_assessment_report_summary_for_policymakers_en.pdf" target="_blank">facing extinction</a> due to human activities.</p><p>"One of the big questions that ecologists and environmental scientists are trying to answer right now is how will individual species and whole ecosystems respond to rapid climate change and habitat loss," says Jucker. "...To me, [microclimates are] a key component of this research — if we don't measure and understand climate at the appropriate scale, then predicting how things will change in the future becomes a lot harder."</p><p>Developers have long understood the impact small-scale climates have on our daily lives. <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/urban-heat-island.htm#pt0" target="_blank">Urban heat islands</a> are cities that have higher temperatures than neighboring rural areas.</p><p>Plants release vapors that can moderate local climates. But in cities, natural greenery is often scarce. To make matters worse, plenty of our roads and buildings have a bad habit of absorbing or re-emitting heat from the sun. <a href="https://www.google.com/books/edition/Microclimate_and_Local_Climate/LHUZDAAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=urban%20heat%20island" target="_blank">Vehicle emissions</a> don't exactly help the situation.</p><p>Still, it's not like Boston or Beijing are thermal monoliths. Sometimes, the documented temperatures <a href="https://e360.yale.edu/features/can-we-turn-down-the-temperature-on-urban-heat-islands" target="_blank">within a single city</a> vary by 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (8.3 to 11.1 degrees Celsius).</p><p>That's where metro parks and city trees come in. They have nice cooling effects on nearby neighborhoods. "Several cities around the world have developed programs to increase urban green spaces," says Blanken. "Tree planting programs and green roof programs, have been shown to lower surface temperatures, decrease air pollution and decrease surface water runoff (urban flash-flooding) in urban areas."</p>
An "explosive" wildfire ignited in Los Angeles county Wednesday, growing to 10,000 acres in a little less than three hours.
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By Jeff Berardelli
Note: This story was originally published on August 6, 2020
If asked to recall a hurricane, odds are you'd immediately invoke memorable names like Sandy, Katrina or Harvey. You'd probably even remember something specific about the impact of the storm. But if asked to recall a heat wave, a vague recollection that it was hot during your last summer vacation may be about as specific as you can get.
<div id="ecf36" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c2dcc9d48a6cd61f247df1544539a783"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1290959314132361216" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Naming heatwaves is a good idea—making the abstract concrete, the invisible visible. Why should hurricanes and wild… https://t.co/hDWgYb79Ob</div> — Ed Maibach (@Ed Maibach)<a href="https://twitter.com/MaibachEd/statuses/1290959314132361216">1596623660.0</a></blockquote></div>
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Thailand has a total population of 5,000 elephants. But of that number, 3,000 live in captivity, carrying tourists on their backs and offering photo opportunities made for social media.
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One of the challenges of renewable power is how to store clean energy from the sun, wind and geothermal sources. Now, a new study and advances in nanotechnology have found a method that may relieve the burden on supercapacitor storage. This method turns bricks into batteries, meaning that buildings themselves may one day be used to store and generate power, Science Times reported.
Bricks are a preferred building tool for their durability and resilience against heat and frost since they do not shrink, expand or warp in a way that compromises infrastructure. They are also reusable. What was unknown, until now, is that they can be altered to store electrical energy, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.
The scientists behind the study figured out a way to modify bricks in order to use their iconic red hue, which comes from hematite, an iron oxide, to store enough electricity to power devices, Gizmodo reported. To do that, the researchers filled bricks' pores with a nanofiber made from a conducting plastic that can store an electrical charge.
The first bricks they modified stored enough of a charge to power a small light. They can be charged in just 13 minutes and hold 10,000 charges, but the challenge is getting them to hold a much larger charge, making the technology a distant proposition.
If the capacity can be increased, researchers believe bricks can be used as a cheap alternative to lithium ion batteries — the same batteries used in laptops, phones and tablets.
The first power bricks are only one percent of a lithium-ion battery, but storage capacity can be increased tenfold by adding materials like metal oxides, Julio D'Arcy, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who contributed to the paper and was part of the research team, told The Guardian. But only when the storage capacity is scaled up would bricks become commercially viable.
"A solar cell on the roof of your house has to store electricity somewhere and typically we use batteries," D'Arcy told The Guardian. "What we have done is provide a new 'food-for-thought' option, but we're not there yet.
"If [that can happen], this technology is way cheaper than lithium ion batteries," D'Arcy added. "It would be a different world and you would not hear the words 'lithium ion battery' again."
One of the concerns about a warming planet is the feedback loop that will emerge. That is, as the planet warms, it will melt permafrost, which will release trapped carbon and lead to more warming and more melting. Now, a new study has shown that the feedback loop won't only happen in the nether regions of the north and south, but in the tropics as well, according to a new paper in Nature.
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By Jessica Corbett
A sheriff in Florida is under fire for deciding Tuesday to ban his deputies from wearing face masks while on the job—ignoring the advice of public health experts about the safety measures that everyone should take during the coronavirus pandemic as well as the rising Covid-19 death toll in his county and state.
<div id="7a571" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aad9dcf60e7385e6553ff23ffc1ae75d"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1293527664389693447" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Deaths hit a record in Florida yesterday. This guy's jail system is rife with COVID. And he's banned masks in his s… https://t.co/Cbp2wR32o1</div> — Michael McAuliff (@Michael McAuliff)<a href="https://twitter.com/mmcauliff/statuses/1293527664389693447">1597236002.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="79024" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4ac086eab58b9713f2ad777c40938252"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1293578984148606977" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">This actively puts peoples' lives at risk. https://t.co/GKF0Xgjyex</div> — CAP Action (@CAP Action)<a href="https://twitter.com/CAPAction/statuses/1293578984148606977">1597248238.0</a></blockquote></div>
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