Oliver Milman, THE GUARDIAN
The conscientious citizens of Philadelphia continue to put their pizza boxes, plastic bottles, yoghurt containers and other items into recycling bins.
Fighting pollution: Toledo residents want personhood status for Lake Erie
But in the past three months, half of these recyclables have been loaded on to trucks, taken to a hulking incineration facility and burned, according to the city’s government.
It’s a situation being replicated across the US as cities struggle to adapt to a recent ban by China on the import of items intended for reuse.
The loss of this overseas dumping ground means that plastics, paper and glass set aside for recycling by Americans is being stuffed into domestic landfills or is simply burned in vast volumes. This new reality risks an increase of plumes of toxic pollution that threaten the largely black and Latino communities who live near heavy industry and dumping sites in the US.
About 200 tons of recycling material is sent to the huge Covanta incinerator in Chester City, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia, every day since China’s import ban came into practice last year, the company says.
Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/feb/21/philadelphia-covanta-incinerator-recyclables-china-ban-imports
Today’s report on those plans finds that regions have made progress in some areas, but not nearly enough to meet their goals:
1. Regions are not on track to meet their climate goals, not for 2020 or even for 2035.
2. Statewide, driving is increasing. The trend is going in the wrong direction — each of us is driving more, not less.
3. Not enough investment is going toward climate-friendly transportation — including walking, bicycling, and public transit — or affordable housing near jobs and transit.
4. Action is needed at every level of government — cities, counties, regions, and the state — to get on track.
“To reduce emissions, the most sustainable options need to be the most convenient,” said Ella Wise, State Policy Associate at ClimatePlan.
Today the California Air Resources Board (ARB) released a new report finding that California regions are not on track to meet either their 2020 or 2035 climate targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Additional action from every level of government is required, including more investment in sustainable transportation and affordable homes near jobs and transit. The report can be downloaded here.
Each metropolitan region in the state has a plan, required by law, to reduce emissions by reducing the need to drive. However, the report finds that regions are failing to deliver on their plans. Part of regions’ failure is due to challenges beyond their control, such as limited state funding and local land use decisions. But regions continue to invest in highways, which results in more driving, not less.
Read more at https://www.climateplan.org/new_report_california_regions_falling_short_on_climate_driving_increases
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A judge this week blocked Santa Rosa officials from requiring an asphalt plant to get a use permit for equipment installed more than a decade ago.
The city has long maintained the BoDean Co. did an array of work at its Maxwell Drive facility between 2005 and 2007 without the proper permits.
BoDean officials have countered that their special status as a facility that predates and is therefore exempt from current residential zoning code meant they either didn’t need any permits for such work, or didn’t need the more in-depth use permits. Such permits require a prolonged process that can involve hearings before the Planning Commission and restrictions on uses of the property.
This week, however, Sonoma County Superior Court Judge René Chouteau, a former city attorney, sided with BoDean, ruling that the asphalt plant, which has been operated continuously since the 1950s, had vested rights that the city needed to respect.
Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8526921-181/santa-rosa-asphalt-plant-wins
Henry Fountain, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Government scientists have detected an increase in emissions of an outlawed industrial gas that destroys ozone, potentially slowing progress in restoring the atmosphere’s protective ozone layer.
The scientists say that the increase is likely a result of new, unreported production of the gas, known as CFC-11, probably in East Asia. Global production of CFC-11, which has been used as a refrigerant and in insulating foams, has been banned since 2010 under an environmental pact, the Montreal Protocol.
The protocol was adopted in the late 1980s in response to studies that showed CFC-11 and similar gases, collectively known as chlorofluorocarbons, depleted atmospheric ozone. A layer of ozone in the stratosphere helps filter ultraviolet radiation from the sun that can cause skin cancer.
Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/16/climate/ozone-layer-cfc.html
Kate Connolly, THE GUARDIAN
Millions of heavily polluting vehicles could eventually disappear from roads across Germany after its top administrative court ruled that cities have the right to ban diesel motors in an effort to improve deadly air quality levels.
Tuesday’s historic decision potentially affects an estimated 12m vehicles and has delivered a heavy blow to Europe’s largest car market, while being celebrated by environmental campaigners.
Germany’s highest administrative court in Leipzig ruled in favour of upholding bans that were introduced by lower courts in the cities of Stuttgart and Düsseldorf, two of the most polluted German cities, after appeals were lodged by the states of Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia.
The Leipzig court ruling in the case, which was originally brought by the environmental groups Deutsche Umwelthilfe (German environmental aid or DUH) and ClientEarth, paves the way for cities across Germany to follow suit.
“It’s a great day for clean air in Germany,” Jürgen Resch, of the DUH, said.
Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/27/german-court-rules-cities-can-ban-diesel-cars-to-tackle-pollution
Kendra Pierre-Louis and Hiroko Tabuchi, NEW YORK TIMES
The deodorants, perfumes and soaps that keep us smelling good are fouling the air with a harmful type of pollution — at levels as high as emissions from today’s cars and trucks.
That’s the surprising finding of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. Researchers found that petroleum-based chemicals used in perfumes, paints and other consumer products can, taken together, emit as much air pollution in the form of volatile organic compounds, or V.O.C.s, as motor vehicles do.
The V.O.C.s interact with other particles in the air to create the building blocks of smog, namely ozone, which can trigger asthma and permanently scar the lungs, and another type of pollution known as PM2.5, fine particles that are linked to heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer.
Smog is generally associated with cars, but since the 1970s regulators have pushed automakers to invest in technologies that have substantially reduced V.O.C. emissions from automobiles. So the rising share of air pollution caused by things like pesticides and hair products is partly an effect of cars getting cleaner. But that breathing room has helped scientists see the invisible pollutants that arise from a spray of deodorant or a dollop of body lotion.
Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/climate/perfume-pollution-smog.html
Mary Callahan, NAPA VALLEY REGISTER
Anyone who endured the October firestorms remembers the choking smoke followed by weeks of air that was acrid and irritating, while the surrounding world felt toxic after wildfires laid waste to 137 square miles of Sonoma County.
A research team from UC Davis now hopes to find out what, if any, potential health hazards may have resulted from the incineration of more than 5,100 homes and all they contained: cleaning products, paints, pesticides, electronics packed with rare earth elements, synthetic building materials, fuels.
The two-year investigation will focus on components in the smoke as the fires burned, as well as those left in the air and ash once the flames had roared through.
Researchers also plan to test the post-fire environment for any new chemicals that may have resulted from the transformation of existing materials under extremely high-temperature, low-oxygen conditions.
Read more at http://napavalleyregister.com/news/state-and-regional/uc-davis-study-to-focus-on-post-sonoma-county-fire/article_e45b2afc-df92-5280-84ae-b24382c5f1f6.html
Matt Brown, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER
In its letter to the company, the water board said that Dutra did not properly study alternative sites for the asphalt plant.
“After review of the Alternatives Analysis, we have determined that the Applicant has not yet demonstrated that the proposed Project constitutes the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative,” the board wrote in the letter. “As such, the Alternatives Analysis is inadequate.”
A regional water regulator intends to deny a permit for the Dutra Group, dealing a serious setback to the company’s contentious plans to build an asphalt plant along the Petaluma River just south of the city.
The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board sent a letter on Nov. 1 telling the company that its application is incomplete.
“We’ve told them of our intention to deny their permit,” said Fred Hetzel, an environmental scientist who is working on the Dutra permit for the water board. “(The denial) will come within the month.”
The water board permit is a key approval that the company needs before it can start construction on the long planned asphalt plant on 38 acres of land at Haystack Landing. The company also needs permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bay Area Air Quality District and California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Read more at: Water regulator to deny Dutra permit
Maria Sestito, NAPA VALLEY REGISTER
To check on local air quality, go to the EPA’s AirNow site: https://www.airnow.gov/
The fires in Napa County are mostly contained, but that doesn’t mean residents can put their respirators away just yet. Smoke from wildfires across the Bay Area – including Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties – are continuing to contaminate the air, making it harmful to even breathe.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issued a health advisory in addition to a Spare the Air alert for Wednesday and Thursday, and says that the conditions may continue for “days to come,” according to a press release.
In the past two weeks, parts of the Bay Area have experienced air quality levels that are historically bad, said Walter Wallace, air district spokesman. Although levels were at times “hazardous,” he said, they’re comparable to a normal day in Beijing, China.
Read more at: Wildfire smoke continues to hurt air quality in Napa, Bay Area | Local News | napavalleyregister.com
Paul Payne, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A Healdsburg vintner with a history of breaking environmental laws agreed Thursday to pay about $56,000 for an illegal burn in 2016 that drew a large emergency response and violated air quality regulations.
Ken Wilson, co-owner of the namesake Wilson Winery and nine other boutique wineries, was fined for burning 31 debris piles over several days on his Shiloh Road property in Windsor.
The piles, created while clearing land for vineyard development, exceeded the size allowed by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and contained material that was not properly dried. The fires had the potential to grow out of control, prosecutors said.
“The quick response from our fire agencies prevented the spread of fire to other properties in the area,” Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said in a written statement.
Wilson, who was sentenced to jail time in 2002 for allowing soil erosion into a tributary of the Russian River, called the incident an “unfortunate thing.” He said it stemmed from his confusion over differences in the rules governing burning in Windsor and Healdsburg.
Read more at: Owner of Healdsburg’s Wilson Winery hit with $56,000 in pollution fines | The Press Democrat