Dec 29, 2015
Dec 28, 2015
The Guardian has an article on soil depletion - Earth has lost a third of arable land in past 40 years, scientists say.
The world has lost a third of its arable land due to erosion or pollution in the past 40 years, with potentially disastrous consequences as global demand for food soars, scientists have warned. New research has calculated that nearly 33% of the world's adequate or high-quality food-producing land has been lost at a rate that far outstrips the pace of natural processes to replace diminished soil.
The University of Sheffield's Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, which undertook the study by analysing various pieces of research published over the past decade, said the loss was "catastrophic" and the trend close to being irretrievable without major changes to agricultural practices. The continual ploughing of fields, combined with heavy use of fertilizers, has degraded soils across the world, the research found, with erosion occurring at a pace of up to 100 times greater than the rate of soil formation. It takes around 500 years for just 2.5cm of topsoil to be created amid unimpeded ecological changes.
In China, west and slightly south of Beijing, lies the Ordos Basin. It resembles a teenager's messy room—one corner is flat and clear, and the other is a giant pile of debris. And when we say, "giant," we mean "the size of a state"—nd it's on the move.
Up at the northwest end, the Ordos Basin has the Mu Us Desert, a small offshoot of the giant Gobi desert. Wind sweeps across the Mu Us Desert, taking with it sheets of debris and dust. In some areas, this dust would sprinkle over the land nearby, covering it with fine layers that eventually sink or blend into the soil. However, the dust from the Mu Us does something a little different, and it forms the other prominent feature of the Ordos Basin.The Loess Plateau is made entirely of this dust, and the wind is slowly driving this massive plateau across the continent. The dust is currently forming a rough crescent around the Mu Us Desert, but that shape may change. According to the paper on the subject, "Our observations suggest that the Loess Plateau previously extended farther to the north and west of its modern windward escarpment margin and has been partially reworked by eolian processes."A Dust Pile the Size of Arizona is Slowly Moving Across China
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Dec 22, 2015
"The lion is one of the planet's most beloved species and an irreplaceable part of our shared global heritage," Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said in a statement. "If we want to ensure that healthy lion populations continue to roam the African savannas and forests of India, it's up to all of us – not just the people of Africa and India – to take action."
The New York Times reported that one impetus for the addition was the killing of Cecil, a famous and much-beloved lion in July. Cecil was killed for sport by an American dentist on a hunting trip to Africa. Since then, there has been a huge public backlash against trophy hunting. But the petition to include lions under the protection of the Endangered Species Act dates back to 2011, when the Fish and Wildlife Service began considering whether to list Panthera leo leo as endangered. A study by the Fish and Wildlife Service in October found enough evidence to list them as threatened, not endangered, but in the year since, the Service changed their mind.
One of the reasons was a shift in taxonomic thinking. The African lion used to be thought of as a distinct subspecies, separate from the Asiatic lions living in India. Now, genetic testing shows that they are essentially the same. That group, Panthera leo leo has only 1,400 individuals remaining in India and parts of Africa. Panthera leo melanochaita is doing marginally better with about 18,000 individuals.
The protection means that it will soon become much harder to bring lions into the United States, dead or alive. Bringing Panthera leo leo trophies will become next to impossible in the United States, and while trophy hunting of Panthera leo melanochaita may still be allowed, the any hunters wishing to bring trophies back to the United States will have to go through a new, extensive permitting process.
A statement released by the Fish and Wildlife Service said "The process will ensure that imported specimens are legally obtained in range countries as part of a scientifically sound management program that benefits the subspecies in the wild,"
Lions aren't listed as endangered everywhere. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List lists lions as a vulnerable population, one step above the endangered classification. But it notes that lion populations are declining, with an estimated 43 percent decline between 1993 and 2014.
Please read full and follow at: Popular Science -
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Dec 19, 2015
Continued from @RVartabedian
The worker, an employee of CH2M Hill, was exposed when he removed his hazmat suit, but a subsequent investigation found contamination on the ventilation unit's hose.
The suspect ventilation devices had been previously transported to a fire department station, a personal residence and two factories in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, triggering state and federal response teams to inspect the plants and monitor individuals. Energy Department officials found that two of the three units transported to a salesman's home had minor contamination, but it fell below federal safety standards, Olds said.
"They are trying to quibble about the amount of plutonium, but no amount should have ever left the facility," he said.
Meanwhile, high-risk cleanup work at the plutonium finishing plant, which is slated for demolition next year, has been suspended.
The inspections were conducted with health officials from Washington, Ohio and Pittsburgh.
"The Ohio Department of Health received notification from the U.S. Department of Energy that there was a possibility that some contaminated personal protective equipment parts had been shipped to a manufacturer in the Cincinnati area," said Melanie Amato, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health. "A State Health Department team was sent to the location and conducted extensive testing but all results were negative. Subsequently, a U.S. Department of Energy team arrived at the location and tested with the same results."
Any plutonium exposure or release is considered a serious breach of safety and security rules in the Energy Department. The incident is part of a series of mishaps that include a major radiological accident at a nuclear dump in New Mexico last year that resulted in a two-year shutdown. The accident caused low-level radioactive exposure to 21 workers after the contaminated exhaust from the underground dump was blown to the surface.
The plutonium finishing plant is among the most badly contaminated buildings in the nation. It was the site of a notorious accident during the Cold War when a worker was exposed to a massive dose of radiation after an explosion and became known as the "Atomic Man." He was so radioactive that his family could not approach him for weeks. The room where the accident had occurred remained sealed for decades until this year when workers entered it for the first time.
The ventilation units that caused the latest exposure are about the size of a shoe box and worn on a belt inside the isolation suit, so it is unclear why the exhaust hose had any contamination. They provide cooling air to the workers, while other devices filter breathing air.
The worker exposed to the plutonium had particles on his elbow, but apparently did not inhale the material. Inhalation of plutonium is among the most serious radiological exposures, because the substance can become embedded in lung tissue and deliver a long-term dose of radiation.....
Dec 18, 2015
WASHINGTON (December 17, 2015) – The Senate late today passed a flawed bill to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), a 1976 law that has failed to adequately protect the public from toxic chemicals and has never been updated. The House passed its own bill on TSCA in June.
The following is a statement by Daniel Rosenberg, senior attorney in the Health and Environment Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council:
"Although the Senate bill has improved over time, it still has significant flaws that must be fixed in conference. As the bill moves forward, Congress should ensure that the final legislation marries the best aspects of the Senate and House bills and drops the worst.
"We particularly appreciate the efforts of Senator Whitehouse to ensure that last-minute provisions on mercury will protect, and not harm, public health."
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) added language that would strengthen the 2008 Mercury Export Ban Act, and require a national inventory of mercury production and use, which will facilitate further domestic mercury reductions.
Among the changes that are needed, Congress should eliminate language in the Senate bill (that is not in the House measure) that:
· prevents states from protecting their citizens before the federal government has taken action on a chemical;
· makes it harder for the Environmental Protection Agency to protect citizens from – or to even know about – potentially dangerous chemicals contained in imported products;
· weakens the ability of citizens to appeal EPA's rejection of a petition for action under TSCA; and
· creates a "prioritization" loophole that allows EPA to effectively declare chemicals safe without an adequate review.
In the House bill, Congress should eliminate language (that is not in the Senate measure) that:
· allows industry to set the agenda for which chemicals to assess;
· prevents enforcement of the requirement that EPA select chemicals to evaluate;
· could make it difficult for EPA to successfully defend regulation of chemicals in court; and,
· obscures limitations on state authority.
DOE REGULATION the "Largest Energy-Saving Standard in History" and saying that it will "save more energy than any other standard issued by the Energy Department to date."
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Making smart choices about what we buy, how we use it, and how we dispose of it can make a big difference in the amount of waste we produce and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our consumption. The manufacture, distribution and use of the goods and food we rely on in our daily lives—as well as management of the resulting waste—all require energy. This energy mostly comes from fossil fuels, which are the largest global source of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.
Everything we use goes through a life cycle, and each stage of the life cycle has environmental impacts, including climate change. However, reducing the use of materials in every stage of the life cycle minimizes the environmental impact associated with the stuff we use. EPA's feature the Life Cycle of Stuff helps show the effects of our stuff at each stage of its existence, from materials extraction to end-of-life management:http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/climate-change-waste/life-cycle-diagram.html
Reduction and reuse are the most effective ways you can save natural resources, protect the environment and save money. Reduction prevents pollution caused by processing raw materials, saves energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change and saves money.
More on reducing and reusing: http://www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-and-reusing-basics
Please read by Joe Hubbard and Jennah Durant and full and follow at: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/616B89BC63931BFD85257F1E0078CD03
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Dec 17, 2015
Dec 16, 2015
Please give a little to a group that gives a lot of vital Occupational & Environmental Health inofrmation
OccHealthNews forum continues to attract hundreds (actually, still more than 3,000!) of international professionals engaged in Occupational & Environmental Health.
How to actually contribute:
1) Checks payable to (and sent to) :
Association of Occupational & Environmental Clinics (AOEC) "Supporting OEM-L"
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is modernizing its self-disclosure policy, commonly known as the Audit Policy, through a centralized "eDisclosure Portal" to receive and automatically process self-disclosed civil violations of environmental laws. 80 Fed. Reg. 76476 (December 9, 2015).
The new Portal will serve as an alternative to traditional paper or telephone disclosures, with the EPA encouraging users to use the eDisclosure Portal to make the disclosure process faster and more efficient. EPA hopes that the eDisclosure Portal will encourage more violators to self-disclose in a timely manner.
The eDisclosure portal will accept new disclosures involving almost all types of civil violations, which will be placed into two categories:
- Category 1 Disclosures: all EPCRA violations except CERCLA 103/EPCRA 304 chemical release reporting violations and EPCRA violations with significant economic benefit.
- Category 2 Disclosures: all non-EPCRA violations, EPCRA violations where the violator cannot meet the Audit Policy "systematic discovery" (audit) requirement, and all EPCRA/CERCLA violations excluded from Category 1.
Pre-existing unresolved EPCRA disclosures may be resubmitted through the eDisclosure system within 120 days after launch of the portal, or by April 7, 2016.
In its eDisclosure Information Sheet, EPA notes that it is retaining the incentives outlined in its "New Owner Policy," but that it will continue to "accept and process new owner disclosures outside the eDisclosure system."
The requirements for the voluntary disclosure process, including the twenty-one (21) day disclosure period, will remain the same. An online Compliance Certification will be due within sixty (60) days of submitting the initial online disclosures (or within ninety (90) days for Small Businesses Compliance Policy disclosures), but violators may request an extension for Category 2 disclosures.
EPA will spot check Category 1 disclosures to ensure accuracy and all Category 1 electronic Notices of Determination are conditional upon the accuracy of the representations made by the violator. EPA will screen Category 2 violations for criminal violations and other serious issues.
While the benefits of the eDisclosures process for the Agency are apparent, companies considering disclosures should carefully consider the pros and cons of disclosure, the timing requirements, and the risks associated with disclosures.
For any self-disclosure questions, and for assistance with any of your disclosures, please contact the authors, your Seyfarth Shaw attorney, or any member of the Environmental, Safety & Toxic Torts Team.
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An Israeli startup has designed a biogas unit, which is small enough for personal use. It is capable of converting organic waste into gas and organic liquid fertilizer. The unit is called HomeBiogas device and looks pretty awesome.
The HomeBiogas unit can produce 5 to 8 liters of fertilizers and sufficient gas for 2-4 hours of cooking per day. What's more, the unit can also accept and convert dairy and meat, which is generally not recommended to be composted in the home. It can also take in 15 liters per day of animal manure, including pet waste, another substance not recommended for home composting.
This unit is primarily aimed at the suburban homeowners market as well as small home, off-grid, and eco-living enthusiasts. According to the developers 2.2 lbs (1 kg) of food waste can on average yield roughly 7 cubic feet (200 liters) of gas. To put it in perspective, this is enough for cooking on a high flame for one hour. So a daily input of 13.2 lbs (6 kg) of organic waste yields enough gas for meal preparation, while it also allows the household to get rid of a ton of organic waste per year, which offsets about 6 tons of CO2 annually, which would have been generated otherwise.
A HomeBiogas unit measures 48"x65"x39.4" (123cm/165cm/100cm) and can easily fit in most backyards or greenhouses. It weighs about 88lbs (44kg) so it can be moved around without much trouble. According to the company, they are easy to operate, and require very little maintenance. Though, to use the biogas the units produce on a normal stove at least one of the burners needs to be converted to accept it.
The company is currently raising funds though a crowdfunding campaign, so that they can begin full scale production. Backers can get a unit for a pledge of $890, while the full retail price will be $1500.
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Solar power from hydrogen filled balloons could gather cloudless solar power and provide hydrogen fuel cell power at night
Electro-chemist Jean-François Guillemoles is developing solar energy from balloons that will float above the clouds for uninterrupted energy production during the day.
The main problem with photovoltaic energy is that sunlight can be obscured by clouds, which makes electrical production intermittent and uncertain. But above the cloud cover, the sun shines all day, every day. Anywhere above the planet, there are very few clouds at an altitude of 6 km—and none at all at 20 km.
Solar energy is five times more abundant at 20 kilometers than on the ground
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Dec 15, 2015
On December 12, 2015, more than 190 countries reached consensus on The Paris Agreement (the "Agreement" or "Pact"), a climate change pact that will serve as the framework for reducing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This consensus was reached at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris. The Agreement will be formally signed at a ceremony to be held at the United Nations in April 2016 and will take effect in 2020. Participating countries have until April 2017 to take whatever steps each jurisdiction must to ratify the accord.
The Agreement "aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty." Its objective is to hold the average global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. The Agreement also sets a more ambitious target of limiting temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Advocates for climate change regulation have expressed disappointment over the magnitude of the GHG reduction targets in the Pact. However, many acknowledged that the Agreement is merely a starting point and forms the framework from which to advocate for more aggressive reductions in the future.
Each signatory country agrees to prepare and maintain successive nationally determined GHG reduction contributions that it intends to achieve under the Pact. These countries must also pursue domestic mitigation measures to achieve these contributions. Successive iterations of these commitments are anticipated every five years and must reflect the "highest possible ambition." Developed countries, such as the United States, also commit to undertake "economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets." Importantly, the Agreement does not make any nation's GHG reduction targets a binding, international commitment. This was done, in large measure, at the insistence of the United States negotiation team which took great pains to avoid making commitments that might require Congressional approval.
The Agreement expresses the need for equity and to eradicate poverty. To this end, the signatory developed nations agree to provide financial support to developing countries to help them implement the Agreement and build generation capacity. This effort must be guided by country driven processes that are "cross-cutting and gender-responsive." To fund this effort, the Agreement "strongly urges" developed nations to scale up their level of financial support to jointly provide $100 billion annually by 2020 for mitigation, adaptation and capacity-building support. Here again, this is not a binding commitment and therefore is unlikely to be subject to Congressional approval....
GREEN$...G.E. Ecomagination campaign has made $200 billion, and is driving the future of the company.
Ten years later, Ecomagination has proved the skeptics wrong. It has become the lynch pin of a remarkably successful reinvention of GE, the foundation of the company's future, and the vanguard of the global movement towards corporate environmentalism. It's a slogan that seems perfect for a moment when corporate customers are investing heavily in the products the program is building, when governments seem to be on the verge of major environmental agreements that will funnel government dollars toward clean energy, and when the idea that businesses can do good for the planet has been widely accepted. GE expects that corporate purchases of eco-friendly machinery will drive enormous changes over the next five years. It predicts that fuel cell installations will grow by 400%, that two-thirds of all new electric power added to the grid will be from renewables, that shipments of LEDs will quadruple, that global transportation will become 10% more efficient, and that one in every four new jobs in the energy sector will be focused on clean technology. To be an environmental leader at a moment like this seems like a significant business edge.
But the program—which GE says has generated over $200 billion in sales, while also serving as the spur for cutting its own water usage and greenhouse gas emissions by 42% and 31%—didn't succeed because of great slogans or radical new ideas. It succeeded because of the painstaking way GE delivered on some of the most basic tenets of business management. Ecomagination is a great reminder of the fact that innovation means nothing without consistent, thorough execution.
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The environmental group As You Sow has launched a waste initiative aimed at making major pharmaceutical companies take responsibility for the collection and disposal of unused and expired drugs and accessories.
(Allan Gerlat-Waste360) The Oakland-based group said it has filed shareholder resolutions at AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co., asking the companies to develop policy options for working with industry peers to take primary responsibility for developing a national network of local take-back programs, according to a news release.
"Only about 1 percent of U.S. pharmacies offer a drug take-back program," said Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president at As You Sow. "Many people hold on to unneeded drugs because they lack easily accessible collection and disposal options, which can have tragic consequences."
Improper disposal of prescription drugs can exacerbate issues like drug abuse and water pollution, according to research. Many drugs are flushed down the toilet, and they are increasingly appearing in America's waterways.
"We believe the companies that put medications on the market and profit from them should be primarily responsible for financing take-back systems," MacKerron said. Countries such as Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Mexico, Portugal and Spain have pharmaceutical-financed collection programs in place. A French program gathered 30 million pounds of drugs in 2013.
Heidi Sanborn, executive director of the California Product Stewardship Council, said, "We heartily endorse As You Sow's efforts to encourage pharmaceutical companies to be leaders in protecting public health and offer U.S. consumers the same convenient drug take back programs they operate in many other countries."
The pharmaceutical industry sued California's Alameda County and Washington's King County, which passed ordinances requiring companies to pay for take back programs. The Supreme Court let stand a lower ruling rejected the notion that making pharmaceutical companies pay for take back was unconstitutional.
In September the EPA proposed two new hazardous waste rules, one involving pharmaceutical waste disposal and the other hazardous waste mismanagement.
The proposed pharmaceutical rule would ban healthcare facilities from flushing hazardous waste pharmaceuticals down the sink and toilet. The agency projects the rule could prevent the dumping of more than 6,400 tons of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals annually.
The proposed generator rule aims to improve labeling of hazardous waste, and emergency planning and preparedness. The agency said the rule would improve the safety of facilities, employees and the general public. It also would provide greater flexibility in how facilities and employees manage their hazardous waste while making the regulations easier to understand.
In 2013, Cronus Fertilizer approached the Urbana & Champaign Sanitary District about a potential 20 year contract for 4,400 gallons per minute of the District's effluent. This talk will review the issues associated with what is expected be the largest water reuse project in Illinois and the largest private sector investment in central Illinois in 30 years. In addition to the title's subject, there will be discussion about why wastewater reuse is so uncommon in Illinois, Mahomet Aquifer issues, surface water and aquatic life needs, as well as other environmental aspects that are involved in this sale.
This webinar will be broadcast live and also archived on ISTC's website, www.istc.illinois.edu, for later viewing. If you cannot attend the event at ISTC, you may view the webinar live by registering at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5193368722591847937. ISTC is a part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Biodegradable Plastics & Marine Litter: Misconceptions, Concerns, and Impacts on Marine Environments
Synthetic polymers can be manufactured from fossil fuels or recently-grown biomass. Both sources can be used to produce either non-biodegradable or biodegradable plastics. Many plastics will weather and fragment in response to UV radiation -- a process that can be slowed down by the inclusion of specific additives. Complete biodegradation of plastic occurs when none of the original polymer remains, a process involving microbial action; i.e. it has been broken down to carbon dioxide, methane and water. The process is temperature dependent and some plastics labelled as "biodegradable" require the conditions that typically occur in industrial compositing units, with prolonged temperatures of above 50 degrees C, to be completely broken down. Such conditions are rarely if ever met in the marine environment.
Some common non-biodegradable polymers, such as polyethylene, are manufactured with a metal-based additive that results in more rapid fragmentation (oxo-degradable). This will increase the rate of microplastic formation but there is a lack of independent scientific evidence that biodegradation will occur any more rapidly than unmodified polyethylene. Other more specialised polymers will break down more readily in seawater, and they may have useful applications, for example, to reduce the impact of lost or discarded fishing gear. However, there is the potential that such polymers may compromise the operational requirement of the product. In addition, they are much more expensive to produce and financial incentives may be required to encourage uptake.
A further disadvantage of the more widespread adoption of "biodegradable" plastics is the need to separate them from the non-biodegradable waste streams for plastic recycling to avoid compromising the quality of the final product. In addition, there is some albeit limited evidence to suggest that labelling a product as "biodegradable" will result in a greater inclination to litter on the part of the public.
In conclusion, the adoption of plastic products labelled as "biodegradable" will not bring about a significant decrease either in the quantity of plastic entering the ocean or the risk of physical and chemical impacts on the marine environment, on the balance of current scientific evidence.
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It says most of the infected machines are in the U.S. and Canada. While Apple users have long thought their machines were virtually invulnerable to virus and worm threats, the harsh truth is that most threats were aimed at Windows machines simply because there are so many more of them. With Apple taking a bigger market share, it becomes a more attractive target.
What do Ted Cruz' and Obama campaigns have in common? Using Your #SocialMedia #MetaData Psychographic voter profiling.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has been closing in on front-runner Donald Trump in recent weeks and a big part of the reason may be the research commissioned for him by a billionaire benefactor, according to The Guardian and an earlier report by Politico.
Trump's presidential campaign is using psychological data assembled, sliced, and diced by paid researchers at Cambridge University. These professionals have been gathering detailed psychological profiles of the U.S. electorate using a massive pool of mainly unwitting Facebook users.
The Cambridge researchers are affiliated with Cambridge Analytica, which claims to collect "up to 5,000 data points on over 220 million Americans, and use more than 100 data variables to model target audience groups and predict the behavior of like-minded people."
The firm — owned in part by reclusive hedge fund magnate and leading Republican donor Robert Mercer — is using so-called "psychographic profiles" of U.S. citizens to help Cruz win votes, despite concerns about the ethical implications of the practice.
Cruz is not the first candidate to benefit from this relatively new stealth weapon. The Obama presidential campaigns used similar research techniques and other candidates may be doing the same this year. Republican Ben Carson is also said to be a client of the firm, though on a much smaller scale than Cruz.
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DECEMBER 17: LIVE WEBINAR ON EV EVERYWHERE WORKPLACE CHARGING CHALLENGE
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