Environment

Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has sued the agency more than a dozen times. What does that mean for the future of the EPA and for environmental protections in the US?

As the attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt chaired an organization of Republican attorneys general who opposed many EPA rules and regulations. Perhaps most famously, Pruitt led a group of states and companies in the continuing court fight against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan — a plan crafted by the agency he now runs.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Converting from fossil fuel heating systems to electric will help meet New York state’s climate goals and make home heating more affordable, according to a new study. The initial cost of installing electric systems is steep, but the report says there are ways the state could help.

WBFO File Photo

Not only did Trico ship its iconic windshield wipers to customers from its plant on Washington Street, it also left behind some serious environmental problems. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is studying a cleanup plan from developer Krog.

A group of conservative elder statesman has proposed an ambitious carbon dividend plan that could entice bipartisan support, pay families $2,000 a month and cut greenhouse gas emissions more than Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

President Donald Trump has already taken bold steps to undo the climate agenda of his predecessor. He has announced gag orders and contract holds on the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, as well as executive orders to expedite completion of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

Ever wondered how long evolution actually takes?

We tend to think of it as an achingly slow process, spanning hundreds, even thousands of years. But scientists studying crested anoles — little lizards native to the forests of Puerto Rico — say that urban-dwelling anoles are adapting to their built environments much more quickly than that.

Opposition is brewing on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border about plans to move dozens of shipments of nuclear waste from a plant in Chalk River, Ontario, to a plant in South Carolina.

President Donald Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court has sparked widespread speculation about how the appellate judge might rule on upcoming cases in the court’s docket, including high-stakes cases on environmental issues.

Gorsuch's narrow interpretations of agency powers, as well as his lifelong experience as an outdoorsman, could inform his findings if he is confirmed, but “it’s hard to read him because he has not written that many major environmental cases,” says Vermont Law School Professor Patrick Parenteau.

Only a few dozen grizzly bears with bright yellow coats live in the forbidding Gobi Desert in Mongolia. In a new book, wildlife biologist Doug Chadwick writes about how these unique animals survive and what can be done to better protect them.

Chadwick first found out about the Gobi grizzly (called the mazaalai in Mongolian) almost by accident. He was tracking snow leopards in the mountains of Mongolia, near the border between Russia and Kazakhstan.

On Jan. 18, the US Environmental Protection Agency released its first nationwide biological evaluation of three commonly used pesticides. The report found that all three were harmful to virtually all endangered species in the US.

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US Army Corps of Engineers/CC BY 2.0 (image cropped)

The disaster of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 made clear how vulnerable New Orleans and the low-lying communities along the Gulf Coast are to fierce storms and surging seas. So, a master plan was devised to shore up defenses and repair the sinking coastline that protects the city. Now, authorities have released an updated $50 billion, 50-year plan that rethinks and bolsters those defenses.

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 Omar Vidal/NOAA Fisheries West Coast/Flickr

The vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise, lives only in Mexico’s Gulf of California and is critically endangered, due to illegal fishing. Now, the Center for Biological Diversity plans legal action against the US government for its failure to sanction Mexico for not stopping the poaching of vaquitas.

A report from some of the top minds in environmental policy and economics is recommending a new way of evaluating the "social costs" of carbon pollution to keep up with the best available science.

Obama's hidden, and surprising, fossil fuel legacy

Feb 4, 2017

Investigative reporting by a joint team from The Guardian and the Columbia University School of Journalism reveals that the US Export-Import Bank financed around 70 coal-fired power plants and other fossil fuel energy projects in foreign countries during President Barack Obama's terms in office.

These foreign fossil fuel plants are projected to release about as many tons of global-warming gases as the Obama Clean Power Plan would have saved.

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fruchtzwerg's world/Flickr 

A new analysis of sea surface temperatures from an independent source corroborates updated global warming data released in 2015 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The results contradict allegations from some Republicans on Capitol Hill that NOAA manipulated its 2015 data to show continuous global warming, since earlier NOAA research had suggested the Earth was experiencing a warming "pause" or hiatus.

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Rachel Ignotofsky via Facebook 

For writer and illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky, the idea to profile 50 pioneering female scientists in her recent book, “Women in Science,” was spurred by conversations with educator friends. As they talked about the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math fields, Ignotofsky realized women aren’t just underrepresented in STEM, itself — the stories about their contributions don't get much play, either.

When heavy rains hit Toronto, it’s common for flooding to hit the Port Lands district east of downtown, especially along the Don Valley Parkway. And that can carry untreated waste into Lake Ontario.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is planning to go ahead with cleaning up Eighteen Mile Creek in Lockport, but it will not be soon. It also is not clear the money to pay for the cleanup will be there.


NEW YORK POWER AUTHORITY PHOTO /Ice boom installation 2015.

The New York Power Authority is looking to use drones instead of helicopters or boats to inspect the ice boom between Lake Erie and the Niagara River.

Coal country is pinning its hopes on Trump

Jan 28, 2017

One of the promises President Donald Trump made on the campaign trail was to reopen coal mines and put miners back to work. The message resonated in Pennsylvania’s coal country and helped Trump win the state last November. Now, people here are watching to see if he’ll keep his promise.

Many of these voters don't expect miracles, but they do want Trump to put coal first, according to some residents in the southwest area of the state.

Cracking the code of influenza

Jan 22, 2017

January’s cold, dry weather in many areas of the United States seems to usher in the perfect conditions for seasonal influenza — in humans. But for birds in Europe and Asia, flu season is already in full swing: An epidemic of the H5N8 flu has broken out among European poultry. In Asia, the H5N6 strain is widespread, and another strain, H7N9, has infected birds and even killed three people.

With nearly 9 million hogs on farms across the state, North Carolina is the country’s second-largest producer, behind Iowa.

International Joint Commission / International Joint Commission

The International Joint Commission will hold a public hearing at the WNED|WBFO studios on March 28, as part of an effort to gather comments on its draft progress report for the Great Lakes region.

epa.gov

Since late 2009, she has led Region 2 of the Environmental Protection Agency, which includes New York State. Judith Enck, who was appointed to her post as Administrator is in her final week on the job and is reflecting on accomplishments, both locally and at the national level.


For activists Trisha Shrum and Jill Kubit, climate change isn't just an abstract concept. Rather, it has faces and names: Eleanor and Gabriel, their children. And through their time capsule project DearTomorrow, Shrum and Kubit are hoping you’ll connect the planet’s future to your loved ones, too.

The 'Madhouse Effect' of climate denial in America

Jan 15, 2017
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<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidstanleytravel/16298322411/">David Stanley</a>/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>. Image cropped.

2016 is a wrap — and with it, likely the hottest year ever recorded. Temperatures weren’t the only anomaly: Louisiana, for instance, saw floods so severe they should only happen every 1,000 years.

New York's $18.8 million Riverway project will be completed this summer after the discovery of contaminants in soil nearby delayed work for several months.

Millennials are the new 'fossil fuel freedom fighters'

Jan 7, 2017
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John Silvercloud/Flickr

A new generation of nature writers is coming of age in America. They are beginning to understand how much of the pristine landscape their parents and grandparents enjoyed is now gone.

High levels of "fine particulate matter" (PM2.5) in the air — such as in haze or smog — can lower the stock market, a research team at Columbia University has found.

When particle pollution rises, the market goes down by small but measurable amounts, says team leader Matthew Neidell, an associate professor at Columbia University.

At the end of November, hundreds of firefighters from all over the country battled the Rock Mountain Fire in North Georgia. Fighting the huge blaze in the tinder dry hills was a tough battle, but when it came time to rest, the firefighters, well-accustomed to makeshift lodgings, were offered an unusual, yet comfortable upgrade: a local Conservative Jewish camp.

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