Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , , ,

Government climate report warns of worsening US disasters

Seth Borenstein, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Also see “U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy”, NEW YORK TIMES

As California’s catastrophic wildfires recede and people rebuild after two hurricanes, a massive new federal report warns that these types of extreme weather disasters are worsening in the United States. The White House report quietly issued Friday also frequently contradicts President Donald Trump.

The National Climate Assessment was written long before the deadly fires in California this month and before Hurricanes Florence and Michael raked the East Coast and Florida. It says warming-charged extremes “have already become more frequent, intense, widespread or of long duration.” The report notes the last few years have smashed U.S. records for damaging weather, costing nearly $400 billion since 2015.

The recent Northern California wildfires can be attributed to climate change, but there was less of a connection to those in Southern California, said co-author William Hohenstein of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“A warm, dry climate has increased the areas burned over the last 20 years,” he said at a press conference Friday.

The report is mandated by law every few years and is based on more than 1,000 previous research studies. It details how global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas is hurting each region of the United States and how it impacts different sectors of the economy, including energy and agriculture.

“Climate change is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us,” the report says.

That includes worsening air pollution causing heart and lung problems, more diseases from insects, the potential for a jump in deaths during heat waves, and nastier allergies.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8990379-181/government-climate-report-warns-of

Posted on Categories Air, Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , ,

German court rules cities can ban diesel cars to tackle pollution

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

Posted on Categories Air, Sustainable LivingTags , , , , ,

Want cleaner air? Try using less deodorant

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

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Post-fire health survey now open to North Bay residents

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

For more about the UC Davis study, click here

Researchers at UC Davis hope to enlist thousands of Northern California residents in an online survey designed to gather the personal experiences, household circumstances and health effects from devastating wildfires that burned over 245,000 acres in six counties and killed 44 people.

About 140 people signed up in advance to take the survey, which went live Thursday (February 1).

But the push to get the word out is just beginning, with particular focus in hard-hit Sonoma and Napa counties, said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an epidemiologist and director of the UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center.

“If you’re living there, you’re living it,” said Hertz-Picciotto, the research leader.
Residents of other affected counties, including Mendocino, which suffered significant losses, are urged to take part, as is anyone else affected by the fire and smoke that plagued the region for weeks beginning Oct. 8.

Researchers said the survey should take about 20 to 30 minutes to complete.

Posted on Categories AirTags , , ,

Wildfire smoke continues to hurt air quality in Napa, Bay Area

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

Posted on Categories Air, TransportationTags , , , ,

End of the road for diesel?

David Welch, BLOOMBERG

…diesel will probably be relegated only to a hard-working class of vehicles. While hybrid electric cars can save fuel as effectively as a diesel sedan, and Tesla’s electric cars can offer plenty of zip for motoring enthusiasts, no technology gives the towing power needed for big work trucks like diesel.

It’s easy to imagine diesel will die in America. The troubles that started almost two years ago with the emissions scandal at Volkswagen AG just keep rolling on and on. With General Motors Co. now confronting a class-action lawsuit over 700,000 diesel trucks, there’s growing sense across the auto industry that the days of diesel cars are numbered, at least in the U.S.
GM calls the allegations of emission-test cheating baseless, and the lawsuit stops short of claiming a breach of clean-air regulations. But increasingly, analysts are wondering who will be willing to buy diesel cars and trucks given that many in the industry have been accused of fudging pollution standards. More to the point, how many carmakers will be willing to keep making them?
“This is accelerating the demise,” said Kevin Tynan, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “We were never into them anyway, and with alternatives like hybrids and electric vehicles, there just isn’t much of a reason to sell them.”
GM is just the latest automaker to face a civil lawsuit claiming that its diesel engines use software to meet clean-air rules while the engines pollute at higher levels. The law firm suing GM, Hagens Berman, has also sued Daimler AG, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Volkswagen, which must pay $24.5 billion in government penalties and consumer givebacks for cheating on diesel emissions.
Read more at: GM Suit Digs a Deeper Grave for Diesel – Bloomberg

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Sonoma State University asbestos lawsuit trial begins

Paul Payne, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Testimony began Wednesday in the case of a former Sonoma State University employee who claims he was forced to quit his job after reporting the school’s mishandling of asbestos and lead, including one incident in which a custodian was ordered to remove contaminants from a campus rooftop with a leaf blower.
Thomas R. Sargent, 48, of Santa Rosa, seeks $15 million in damages in a whistleblower lawsuit alleging that retaliation from top-ranking officials ended his 24-year career at the Rohnert Park institution. The school denies his claims.
In opening statements, his lawyer said trouble started in 2012 when Sargent, the school’s environmental health and safety inspector, discovered a chalky substance atop the three-story physical education building.
When he reported it to his boss, department director Craig Dawson, a decision was made to apply a coating to the roof to seal it off.But before that could happen, the roof had to be cleaned of the substance, determined to be lead. Dawson balked at Sargent’s suggestion to hire a private contractor to do the work and instead ordered a maintenance worker to disperse it with a leaf blower, said attorney Dustin Collier.
“All while the children’s day care center was operating nearby,” Collier told the seven-man, five-woman jury.After Sargent reported the incident to state and local officials, he received his first negative employee evaluation in an otherwise spotless tenure, his lawyer said.
Tensions grew a year later when he reported asbestos dust, believed to be from decades-old ceiling and floor tiles, collecting inside Stevenson Hall, the main faculty office building. Sargent was further reprimanded after informing state workplace safety regulators at Cal/OSHA and later received a temporary suspension, Collier said.
Read more at: Sonoma State University asbestos lawsuit trial begins | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Air, Climate Change & EnergyTags , ,

How Utah coal interests helped push a secret plan to export coal through California 

Sarah Tory, HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
On June 27, hundreds of people packed the Oakland City Council meeting where a proposal to ban the transport of coal through the California city was up for a vote. Speakers on both sides of the issue delivered passionate arguments, pitting the promise of good jobs in a depressed area against concern about environmental impacts. The meeting quickly became rowdy. “There was a lot of tension,” says Rev. Ken Chambers, pastor of West Side Missionary Baptist Church in West Oakland, who spoke in support of the ban. Pro-coal supporters stationed in the audience heckled him throughout his address, and at times, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, the council president, struggled to maintain order.
“Officers,” she requested, “please escort those persons who continue to have disrespectful outbursts outside of the chamber.”
The vote came after more than a year of heated debate over plans to build a marine terminal, from which coal mined in Utah could be shipped to Asia. The proposed terminal was part of a larger redevelopment project slated for the old Oakland Army Base, located in West Oakland, a predominantly black neighborhood that’s among the region’s poorest and most polluted.
One by one, the seven council members present voted to uphold the ban on transporting coal. The decision was finalized by a second vote on July 19, leaving the proposed $250 million project in limbo.  Without coal as one of the terminal’s possible bulk commodities, proponents warned, it would be at risk of losing critical funding — depriving an economically struggling neighborhood of job opportunities. Critics of the plan, however, worried that transporting millions of tons of coal by rail  — even in covered cars — through West Oakland poses a public health and safety risk to local residents, who already experience high levels of air pollution.
The decision — and the wider controversy around it — places Oakland at the center of a growing battle over coal exports on the West Coast. From British Columbia all the way to California, plans for new export terminals are faltering, thanks to opposition from local communities concerned about climate change and the environmental impacts of fossil fuel development.
Read more at: How Utah coal interests helped push a secret plan to export coal from California — High Country News

Posted on Categories Air, Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

Crude awakening

Will Parrish, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN
In recent years, oil corporations have intensified their push to make the San Francisco Bay Area and other areas of the West Coast into international hubs for refining and shipping of one of the world’s most carbon-intensive and polluting fuel sources: the Canadian tar sands.
In April, that long-standing effort spilled into Santa Rosa mailboxes. Constituents of 3rd District supervisor Shirlee Zane received a letter, addressed to Zane herself, from a group called Bay Area Refinery Workers.
“As a member of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District,” the letter read, “you’ll soon vote on a proposal that will impact our jobs, our refineries and the important work we do refining the cleanest gasoline in the world.”
It asked that Zane “please remember that the Bay Area refineries provide more good-paying union jobs than any private sector employer in the region.”
Twelve refinery employees provided signatures, but the letter was produced and mailed by an organization called the Committee for Industrial Safety, which is bankrolled by the oil giants Chevron, Shell, Tesoro and Phillips 66. According to state and federal records, each corporation annually provides the group between $100,000 and $200,000 to advocate on their behalf.
The letter’s apparent aim was to influence Zane’s upcoming vote on a little-known but potentially far-reaching Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) regulation called Refinery Rule 12-16 that’s aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. If enacted, the measure would make the BAAQMD the nation’s first regional air district to go beyond state and federal mandates in regulating refinery GHG emissions, the pollutants that fuel global climate change.
Zane is one of the BAAQMD’s 24 directors, along with elected officials from nine Bay Area counties extending from Santa Clara in the South Bay to Sonoma and Napa. They will determine the measure’s fate at a yet-to-be-scheduled meeting later this year.
Staff members at BAAQMD have proposed four alternative forms of Refinery Rule 12-16. But only one has the support of a coalition of environmental groups and the unions that represent refinery employees: a quantitative limit, or cap, on GHGs.
Processing the tar sands would dramatically increase greenhouse gas pollution at the refineries under the BAAQMD’s jurisdiction, and advocates from groups like Oakland’s Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), an environmental justice organization, say an emissions cap would turn back what they call the “tar sands invasion” from the San Francisco Bay Area.
Critics warn that without the cap, the oil industry will continue pursuing new tar sands infrastructure on the West Coast at a frenetic pace. “We’ve seen them come at us at a 10 times faster rate in the last few years,” says CBE senior scientist and refinery expert Greg Karras. “Up and down the refinery belt, refineries are retooling for the tar sands and creating infrastructure for export of refined tar sands products overseas.”
Read more at: Crude Awakening | Features | North Bay Bohemian

Posted on Categories Air, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Sonoma bans some leaf blowers; opponents vow ballot fight 

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A divided Sonoma City Council on Monday adopted a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers within city limits, a move that would make the city of 11,000 the first in Sonoma County and one of the few nationwide to enforce such restrictions.
But the council’s action before a packed crowd does not end the city’s years-long debate over the landscaping devices. Opponents vowed to push forward with plans for a citywide referendum to delay and possibly overturn the prohibition.
The ordinance otherwise takes effect July 1. It would ban gas-powered blowers in Sonoma but allow the continued use of electric and battery-powered devices, albeit under more limited hours of operation. Commercial operators, as well as private property owners and tenants, could be subject to fines if they are caught using gas blowers.
Councilman David Cook called the ordinance a good compromise after years of debate.“It’s time we put something on the books in this town,” he said.
Mayor Laurie Gallian and Councilwoman Madolyn Agrimonti joined Cook in supporting the ordinance. Councilwoman Rachel Hundley and Councilman Gary Edwards were opposed.
Read more at: Sonoma bans some leaf blowers; opponents vow ballot fight | The Press Democrat