Laws as data

Julie Ekstrom, a doctoral student at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara, has put together and made publicly available a searchable dataset of federal and state statutes and regulations dealing with ocean and coastal resources in the California current ecosystem. In a paper in the journal Marine Policy (subscription required), Ekstrom describes the derivation of the database. In another paper in the same journal issue, she and a gr...

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Climate change is outpacing most dire models

The Washington Post reports today on Chris Field's presentation at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in which he said: "We are basically looking now at a future climate that's beyond anything we've considered seriously in climate model simulations."  Faster development of coal-fired electrical power in developing countries is part of the reason, as are serious positive feedback loops in carbon emissions (release of methane a...

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A Glimpse Inside the Stimulus Bill

Although the stimuls bill passed last week, there still doesn't seem to be a lot of detailed information about its exact provisions.   It does appear, however, that the final legislation has considerable benefits for clean energy, as CNN details: Energy firms may reap the biggest rewards from the package, which is flush with dollars for investment in renewable energy and smart grid technologies. The bill includes $11 billion to improve the electric grid, including to p...

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The future of coal-fired electric power

Tomorrow's New York Times has an interesting article on the future of coal-fired electric power in the United States. Coal is responsible for fully 20% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, according to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.  "Clean coal," meaning coal plants that result in no net emissions of carbon dioxide,  would be possible only with successful implementation of technology to capture and store all the carbon dioxide produced by coal-fired pow...

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A smorgasbord of smelt and salmon news

There have been several developments in the Delta water saga since I posted on the request for relief from water quality standards submitted by the state Department of Water Resources and federal Bureau of Reclamation, and the potential for conflict between the water needs of smelt and of salmon. First, the State Water Resources Control Board has scheduled a hearing on that request for Tuesday, Feb. 17.  The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance "vehemently oppos...

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The Environment and Your Sex Life

This being Valentine's Day, it seemed like a good time for a posting on endocrine disrupters.  Not being an expert on the topic, I first turned to the EPA's website.  There I was reminded that a 1996 statute requires EPA to screen chemicals for this effect.  Proceeding at its usual hectic pace, ten years later the EPA is still trying to figure out which chemicals to test.  As helpful background, EPA does explain: In recent years, some scientists have proposed that ch...

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Do as I say, not as I do

Scientists are often in the news complaining that governments are not doing enough to solve environmental problems, especially the problem of climate change.   But some scientific stonethrowers own houses may be made of glass.   In the latest issue of Environmental Science and Technology, staff scientist Evan Mills of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory writes that the practice of science is often less than sustainable.  Many laboratories are energy hogs, up to 10...

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The Reverse Wimpy Effect

Does anybody remember Popeye?  His friend Wimpy liked to say, "I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today!"  The Missouri Legislature is considering pulling a Reverse Wimpy.  The Jefferson City solons are considering a bill that would let an electric utility say "I would gladly give you a power plant "tomorrow" if you will pay me "today". Should we care? The conventional approach is to start paying a regulated utility for a new power plant only after it ha...

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A Belated Victory for the Bush Administration

The Fourth Circuit has upheld the Army Corp permit program for mountaintop mining, notwithstanding claims that the Corps had violated NEPA, the Clean Water Act, and its own regulations.  According to the dissent: Today’s decision will have far-reaching consequences for the environment of Appalachia. It is not disputed that the impact of filling valleys and headwater streams is irreversible or that headwater streams provide crucial ecosystem functions. Further, the ...

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Newsflash: The Environment and the California Budget Deal

Greenwire reports: "California lawmakers are expected to vote on a budget deal tomorrow that would waive environmental reviews for some highway projects and reverse diesel regulations for off-highway vehicles and construction equipment, sources close to the process said." However, there is also good news: "Out of the budget package are proposals to stop reviews of greenhouse gas emissions under the California Environmental Quality Act and limit the authority of the state...

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