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Beijing to Ban Coal Use to Curb Air Pollution, State Media Says

Aug 5, 2014
(Reuters)

Beijing will ban coal use in its six main districts by the end of 2020, state media cited the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau as saying, as the Chinese capital steps up efforts to combat air pollution.

Beijing and the surrounding area in China's northeast is often wreathed in noxious smog, which has been cited as a factor in high rates of lung cancer.

Dongcheng, Xicheng, Chaoyang, Haidian, Fengtai and Shijingshan districts will all stop using coal and coal products and shut down coal-fired power plants and other coal facilities, the official Xinhua news agency said on Monday.

Colorado: Anti-Fracking Ballot Initiatives Called Off With Last-Minute Deal

Aug 4, 2014
(KUSA)

Environmentalists and the governor's office struck a last-minute deal to withdraw all proposed ballot initiatives to restrict fracking for the November election, defusing a political time bomb that had driven a wedge between liberal and pro-business Democrats.

The deal, which Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) has been attempting to broker for months, avoids a costly campaign battle over the issue and the potential of more restrictive measures against oil and gas drilling in the form of a ballot question.

Farming Practices and Climate Change at Root of Toledo Drinking Water Pollution

Aug 4, 2014
(Guardian)

The toxins that contaminated the water supply of the city of Toledo – leaving 400,000 people without access to safe drinking water for two days – were produced by a massive algae boom. But this is not a natural disaster.

Water problems in the Great Lakes – the world’s largest freshwater system – have spiked in the last three years, largely because of agricultural pollution. Toledo draws its drinking water from Lake Erie.

Residents were warned not to drink the water on Saturday, after inspectors at the city’s water treatment plant detected the toxin known as microcystin. The toxin is produced by microcystis, a harmful blue-green algae; it causes skin rashes and may result in vomiting and liver damage if ingested. It has been known to kill dogs and other animals and boiling the water does not fix the problem; it only concentrates the toxin.

The current bloom of microcystis is concentrated in Maumee Bay in Lake Erie’s western basin, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A second, smaller bloom has appeared in Sandusky Bay.

The main cause for such algal blooms is an overload of phosphorus, which washes into lakes from commercial fertiliser used by farming operations as well as urban water-treatment centres. Hotter and longer summers also promote the spread of the blue-green scum.

The US government banned phosphorus in laundry detergents in 1988. That stopped the algal blooms for some time. But they came back to the Great Lakes in force in 2011 – forming a green scum that covered 5,000 square kilometres (1,900 sq miles) of water at its biggest extent – in the worst algal bloom in recorded history.

Scientists attribute the comeback in large part to changes in farming practices, including larger farms and different fertiliser practices, which send heavier loads of phosphorus into the lakes.

In the 1960s and 1970s, before the ban on phosphorus in laundry detergents, the main sources of phosphorus in Lake Erie were urban and industrial waste. Now it’s farming, which accounts for the vast majority of the phosphorus entering the lake through the Maumee River.

An Ohio state government task force found that Lake Erie received the most phosphorus of any of the Great Lakes – 44% of the total for all of the lakes. Two-thirds of that phosphorus came from crop land, with an average load of 1.43lbs per acre, the report found.

There is evidence also that a particular kind of fertiliser could be the main driver of the toxic algal blooms. Researchers from Heidelberg University say there has been a rise in dissolved reactive phosphorus, which is soluble in water and is more available to promote algal growth. The researchers found a decline in the other form of the nutrient, particulate phosphorus, over the same time period.

Circle of Blue, in a major research project on Lake Erie algal blooms, also found a potential link to a switch to no-till farming in nearby farms.

Lake Erie has also grown more susceptible to the algal blooms because of invasive species and climate change. Heavy rains in spring and early summer – a critical time for algal bloom formation – cause more phosphorus to enter the lake through agricultural runoff. Hotter temperatures then cause the blooms to spread.

The NOAA, which has been tracking harmful blooms, forecast a larger than average outbreak of toxic algae this year – although it was expected to fall short of the 2011 record.

Dozen States Led by W.Va. Sue EPA Over Climate Rule

Aug 4, 2014
(Bloomberg)

A dozen states led by West Virginia sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to block a proposed rule that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The states said a U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibits the EPA from issuing power-plant rules under one section of the Clean Air Act, known as 111(d), when it has already regulated them under a separate section. The agency previously used the act to regulate hazardous air pollutants in 2012, according to the filing.

The high court ruled in 2011 that the “EPA may not employ section 111(d) if existing stationary sources of the pollution in question are regulated under...the ‘hazardous air pollutants’ program,” the states said in their filing in federal court in Washington.

Water Toxins Released by Algae Spur State of Emergency in Toledo, Ohio

Aug 3, 2014
(Newsy.com)

Residents of Toledo, Ohio, are being warned not to drink the water as it is likely toxic. 

"The governor is involved. They've declared a state of emergency. The National Guard is involved. The Ohio Department of Public Safety is involved. The Ohio emergency information center is up and running."

The city of Toledo released this notice just after midnight Saturday telling all Toledo water customers not to consume the water. The notice says two sample readings from the water treatment plant showed excesses of microcystin in the water. 

Microcystins are toxins produced by bacteria, and can cause vomiting and diarrhea when consumed.

Taiwan Gas Pipeline Explosions Kill 25, Injure 267

Aug 1, 2014
(AP)

Heavy machinery pulled vehicles from huge trenches gouged by explosions along an underground pipeline in Taiwan's second-largest city that killed at least 25 people and injured 267.

The series of five explosions from about midnight Thursday to early Friday struck a densely populated industrial district in the port of Kaohsiung where petrochemical companies operate pipelines alongside the sewer system under city streets. The cause of the disaster was being investigated.

Four firefighters were among the victims when the blasts went off hours after they'd been called to investigate gas leaks. At least six fire trucks were flung into the rubble. The blasts sent flames shooting into the sky and hurled concrete and cars through the air, leaving meter (yard) -deep trenches down the middle of several roads.

PG&E Charged With Obstruction of Justice, 27 Related Counts Over San Bruno Blast

Jul 30, 2014
(AP)

A federal grand jury charged Pacific Gas & Electric on Tuesday with lying to federal investigators in connection with a fatal pipeline explosion that killed eight people and leveled a suburban Northern California neighborhood in 2010.

The U.S. attorney in San Francisco announced the obstruction of justice charge and 27 related counts, which are in a new indictment charging the utility with felonies. It replaces a previous indictment that contained 12 counts related to PG&E's safety practices, but not obstruction.

ExxonMobil Restarts Pegasus Pipeline Closed After Mayflower Oil Spill; Operating in Texas

Jul 30, 2014
(AP)

ExxonMobil has restarted its Pegasus pipeline more than a year after a crude oil spill in Mayflower forced it to close.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that southern portions of the pipeline in Texas were restarted on July 9. The section includes a 205-mile segment between Corsicana and Beaumont and a 6-mile segment between Beaumont and Nederland.

The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration approved the restart plan on March 31. Federal guidelines state that the section must operate at partial capacity.

GAO Tells EPA to Do More on Fracking Wastewater

Jul 28, 2014
(The Hill)

Congress' watchdog agency faulted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its oversight of hydraulic fracturing wastewater injected into the ground, saying the agency doesn't adequately work to mitigate emerging risks to drinking water.

The EPA cannot regulate the fracking process, because a 2005 law exempted from federal oversight the practice of injecting fluids into wells at a high pressure to break shale and retrieve oil and gas.

But the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report made public Monday that the EPA should improve its oversight of other fluid injection practices including disposing of fracking wastewater in the ground and injecting fluids in wells to enhance oil or gas recovery.

U.S. Sending Its Dirty Coal, and Greenhouse Gases, Abroad

Jul 27, 2014
(AP)

Coal from Appalachia rumbles into this port city, 150 railroad cars at a time, bound for the belly of the massive cargo ship Prime Lily. The ship soon sets sail for South America, its 80,000 tons of coal destined for power plants and factories, an export of American energy - and pollution.

In the U.S., this coal and the carbon dioxide it will eventually release into the atmosphere are some of the unwanted leftovers of an America going greener. With the country moving to cleaner natural gas, the Obama administration wants to reduce power plant pollution to make good on its promise to the world to cut emissions.

Yet the estimated 228,800 tons of carbon dioxide contained in the coal aboard the Prime Lily equals the annual emissions of a small American power plant. It's leaving this nation's shores but not the planet.