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Category Archives: Environmental Law

Studying the air above oil and gas production areas in the western United States

NOAA and CIRES lead airborne field campaign to look at climate and air quality impacts: “Vast regions west of the Mississippi River are under development for oil and gas extraction, and the associated equipment has become a familiar sight on any cross-country road trip or flight.  But while one focus is on what comes out of the ground, NOAA and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) researchers and their colleagues are studying what escapes to the air—and how it is transformed in the atmosphere and affects air quality and climate.  The scientists are using a suite of state-of-the-art chemical instruments aboard a research aircraft this spring in the NOAA-led Shale Oil and Natural Gas Nexus (SONGNEX 2015) field campaign, to study the atmospheric effects of energy production in the western U.S. Domestic production of oil and natural gas is increasing, as technological advances in directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing (commonly called “fracking”) have made the production of oil and natural gas from tight sand and shale formations economically viable.  With the increased production comes increased emission of methane, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other trace gases to the atmosphere…CIRES and NOAA research has shown that many different volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted in the production fields, and that the amount emitted depends greatly on the equipment and production practices in use.  The VOCs are key starting ingredients that lead to the production of ozone, a lower-atmosphere pollutant regulated because of its health effects.  Other chemical reactions transform the emissions and gases in the air into airborne fine particles, which are also an air quality issue.”

NASA – ‘megadrought’ will grip U.S. in the coming decades

Darryl Fears – Washington Post: ” The long and severe drought in the U.S. Southwest pales in comparison with what’s coming: a “megadrought” that will grip that region and the central Plains later this century and probably stay there for decades, a new study says. Thirty-five years from now, if the current pace of climateContinue Reading

Planting your spring garden? Consider climate’s ‘new normal’

“Among the most important factors determining which plants can survive where is how cold the winter is. If you’re planting a garden this spring, this set of maps can help you see how planting zones across the country have shifted ever so subtly over the past few decades in response to warming climate. Click titlesContinue Reading

It’s been 26 years since Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil off Alaska

Via NOAA – “On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez grounded on Bligh Reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, rupturing its hull and spilling nearly 11 million gallons of Prudhoe Bay crude oil into a remote, scenic, and biologically productive body of water. Prior to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it was theContinue Reading

New Yorker – across the planet road construction has destroyed or splintered natural habitats

What Roads Have Wrought by Michelle Nijhuis “Today, a study in Science Advances synthesizes results from Manaus [a city in northwest Brazil] with those from similar experiments worldwide, confirming what scientists have long suspected: no matter the ecosystem—forest, prairie, patch of moss—the effects of habitat fragmentation are ruinous.””[a] new study, led by Nick Haddad, aContinue Reading

New GAO Reports – Border Security, DOJ Budget, Medicare, National Nuclear Security Administration, Nuclear Waste, Private Health Insurance

Border Security: Additional Efforts Needed to Address Persistent Challenges in Achieving Radio Interoperability, GAO-15-201: Published: Mar 23, 2015. Publicly Released: Mar 23, 2015. Department of Justice: Alternative Sources of Funding Are a Key Source of Budgetary Resources and Could Be Better Managed, GAO-15-48: Published: Feb 19, 2015. Publicly Released: Mar 23, 2015. Medicare: Payment MethodsContinue Reading

Quantifying Uncertainty and Variable Sensitivity within the U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disaster Cost Estimates

Smith, Adam, Quantifying Uncertainty and Variable Sensitivity within the U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disaster Cost Estimates (March 11, 2015). Natural Hazards, 2015, DOI: 10.1007/s11069-015-1678-x. Available for download at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2581699 “Research examining natural disaster costs on social and economic systems is substantial. However, there are few empirical studies that seek to quantify the uncertaintyContinue Reading

NASA – Climate change: How do we know?

NASA Global Climate Change: “The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most ofContinue Reading

WHO issues assessment on carcinogenicity of five leading insecticides and herbicides

20 March 2015 – IARC Monographs Volume 112: evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides: “A Working Group of 17 experts from 11 countries met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on 3–10 March 2015 to review the available published scientific evidence and evaluate the carcinogenicity of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides:Continue Reading

Data.gov – Ecosystem Vulnerability Theme Adds Five New Datasets

Via Data.gov – “In a continued effort to provide key datasets that support the process of developing resilience to climate change, five additional datasets are now available in the Ecosystem Vulnerability theme. Those include: California Ocean Uses Atlas Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) Threatened and Endangered Species REST Services US Forest Service Forests To Faucets National WildlifeContinue Reading

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress, Ronald O’Rourke, Coordinator Specialist in Naval Affairs, March 17, 2015. “The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region’s future. The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an ArcticContinue Reading

Interior Dept Releases Final Rule to Support Safe, Responsible Hydraulic Fracturing Activities on Public and Tribal Lands

News release: “Following a robust and transparent public process that included more than 1.5 million public comments, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today released final standards [view the final rule, click here] that will support safe and responsible hydraulic fracturing on public and American Indian lands. The commonsense standards will improve safety and helpContinue Reading