New Air Pollution Rules

  • New rules for sulfur dioxide pollution.(Photo courtesy of the USDOE)

The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized new health standards for one kind of air pollution. Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized new health standard for one kind of air pollution. Lester Graham reports:

In 1998 the American Lung Association sued the EPA to prod the agency to further reduce air pollutants that cause health problems. Among the pollutants was sulfur dioxide—known for causing acid rain. The primary sources of the pollutant are coal-burning power plants and other industrial plants. Sulfur dioxide emissions are capped at yearly limits, but this new rule also restricts short spikes in the emissions. Deborah Shprentz is a consultant to the American Lung Association. She says this new rule is a good first step to reduce the pollution.

“To protect the health of people, especially those with asthma and other respiratory conditions from breathing these short-term bursts of sulfur dioxide that can make them sick and send them to the hospital and even contribute to premature death.”

States will have a couple of years to comply with the new rule, but if it were put in place today, a projected 60 counties, mostly in the eastern half of the nation, would be out of compliance.

For the Environment Report, I’m Lester Graham.

Sunscreen Safety Questioned

  • Many chemicals in sunscreens have not been tested for safety. (Photo courtesy of U.S. General Services Administration).

An environmental group is critical of the claims by many sunscreen manufacturers. They’re calling for better regulation of the industry by the government. Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

An environmental group is critical of the claims by many sunscreen manufacturers. They’re calling for better regulation of the industry by the government. Lester Graham reports:

Health experts say sunscreen should not be your first line of defense for protection from the sun. They recommend protective clothing and staying in the shade.

Once you’re out in the sun, though, health experts say sunscreen is a must.

But a new study by the Environmental Working Group found a lot of problems with sunscreens. The study says many contain suspect chemicals, some known as hormone disruptors. And Sonya Lunders says her group is skeptical about sunscreens that claim SPF protection of 50 and as high as 100.

“And we know that those products don’t offer a similar amount of protection from the sun-damaging UVA rays.”

Giving users a false sense of security about protection from sun damage.
Of the hundreds of sunscreens on the market, the group only recommends 39 of them on its website.

It blames the FDA for allowing a lot of confusing claims about sunscreens.

For the Environment Report, I’m Lester Graham

Coal Power Plants Go Up in Smoke

  • Ted Nace says a lot of the slow down in building coal-burning power plants is driven by economics, but also a lot of it’s still being driven by climate concerns. (Photo courtesy of NREL/Warren Gretz)

Many of the plans to build new coal-burning power plants have gone up in smoke. In early 2007, the Department of Energy noted there were 151 coal-fired electric generators on the drawing board. Lester Graham reports since then… nearly a hundred of them have been canceled—or shelved.

Transcript

Many of the plans to build new coal-burning power plants have gone up in smoke. In early 2007, the Department of Energy noted there were 151 coal-fired electric generators on the drawing board. Lester Graham reports since then… nearly a hundred of them have been canceled—or shelved.

There are several reasons. The recession has tightened credit for building coal-fired power plants. Electricity demand has flattened- partly due to the economy—partly to better efficiency in businesses and homes. Lawsuits blocked some of the coal-burning plants. And some states are requiring power companies to compare the costs of burning fossil fuels to using alternatives such as wind because of concerns about climate change.

Ted Nace is with the environmental advocacy group CoalSwarm. He says he thinks this slow down in building coal-burning power plants is permanent…

“It’s a pretty profound shift in the American economy. And a lot of it’s being driven by economics, but also a lot of it’s still being driven by climate concerns.”

Some new coal-burning power plants did go online last year… but in real terms there was just as much new wind power installed.

For The Environment Report, I’m Lester Graham.

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Safety Awards for Big Polluters

  • Some say that workplace safety awards promote complacency. (Photo courtesy of the NIEHS/DOE)

The companies associated with the two biggest accidents this year both recently got safety awards from the government. Lester Graham reports.

Transcript

The companies associated with the two biggest accidents this year both recently got safety awards from the government. Lester Graham reports.

The Mineral Management Service announced BP was a finalist for a safety award in May. Then, the Deepwater Horizon exploded, killed eleven men, and spilled –who knows how much– oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration gave the coal company Massey Energy three safety awards last year. Then the Upper Big Branch Mine exploded. 29 miners died.

In an opinion piece in The Hill , The President of the Steelworkers union, Leo Gerard, argued those awards promote complacency– a sort of ‘see we’re already doing it.’

David Uhlmann is a law professor at the University of Michigan. He served for seven years as Chief of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section. He says awards can prod companies to do better… but…

“There’s always going to be some companies who cut corners, who put profits before safety, who put profits before their obligations to protect the environment.”

BP was to get its award in May. The safety awards ceremonies were postponed.

For The Environment Report, I’m Lester Graham.

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Challenging the Drilling Ban in Shallow Waters

  • The drillers say there’s a big difference between BP’s Deepwater Horizon, drilling at 5000 feet, and the rigs they operate in water less than a thousand feet. (Photo courtesy of Jann CC-BY)

Some smaller companies want to keep drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Lester Graham reports… a group called the Shallow Water Energy Security Coalition says its members’ rigs are different than the BP operation that’s polluting the Gulf.

Transcript

Some smaller companies want to keep drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Lester Graham reports… a group called the Shallow Water Energy Security Coalition says its members’ rigs are different than the BP operation that’s polluting the Gulf.

The drillers want the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to lift the moratorium on drilling in the shallow waters. In an article for Greenwire, Mike Soraghan reports… they’re getting support in letters from members of Congress.

“They’ve got about ten senators that have signed on and about 50 House members, including Ken Salazar’s brother who’s a member of Congress from Colorado, John Salazar.”

The drillers say there’s a big difference between BP’s Deepwater Horizon, drilling at 5000 feet… and the rigs they operate in water less than a thousand feet.

“They would argue that what you’ve heard in the past few weeks from BP officials is, you know, if this was in 200 feet of water, we’ve could have dealt with it a long time ago.”

Interior Secretary Salazar is to send the White House a report on the drilling moratorium by this Friday – the same day President Obama will be visiting Louisiana.

For The Environment Report, I’m Lester Graham.

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EPA’s Report on PBDEs

  • The EPA report says the findings of many studies raise particular concerns about the health risks to children. (Photo courtesy of Stephen Cummings)

A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency links health problems to flame retardants. Lester Graham reports the EPA finds children are most at risk.

Transcript

A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency links health problems to flame retardants. Lester Graham reports the EPA finds children are most at risk.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are flame retardant chemicals used in all kinds of household consumer products. Sofas, computers, babies’ funiture. The report finds kids are getting a higher dose of PBDEs. That’s bad because the chemicals have been linked to many different developmental and reproductive health problems.

Arlene Blum is a chemist at the University of California Berkeley. She says the report notes PBDEs migrate from foams and plastics into household dust.

“Eighty to ninety percent of the human dose is from dust. So, toddlers, you know, they crawl in the dust, put their hands in their mouths. So, that’s why toddlers have such a high level at such a vulnerable time.”

The EPA report says the findings of many studies raise particular concerns about the health risks to children.

For The Environment Report, I’m Lester Graham.

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Better LED Light Bulb on the Way

  • The 60 watt incandescent bulb will have more competition once new LED lights make it to store shelves this fall. (Photo courtesy of Darren Hester)

Buying a light bulb used to be a simple job. But in recent years with the explosion of choices of types, wattages and colors, it’s gotten confusing. Lester Graham reports it’s about to get more complicated.

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Buying a light bulb used to be a simple job. But in recent years with the explosion of choices of types, wattages and colors, it’s gotten confusing. Lester Graham reports it’s about to get more complicated.

Philips, is introducing an energy-efficient replacement for the 60 watt incandescent bulb, but it’s not a compact flourescent. The industry has been whispering about an LED bulb that would light up a room like a warm incadescent, use less energy like a compact flourescent and last much longer.

Philips says it’ll start selling that bulb in retail stores early next year. The price? Somewhere around 60-dollars a bulb.

Ed Crawford is the CEO of Philips Lighting, North America. He says yeah, that’s a lot for a bulb, but –

“It’s going to last in your home or business for 25 years –certainly 20-25 years depending on how often you use it. That’s a real break through, but it’s a different kind of product.”

And unlike a compact flourescent, the LED does not contain mercury and will work with dimmer switches.

For The Environment Report, I’m Lester Graham.

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Interview: Helping Honeybees

  • Honey bees pollinate a wide variety of crops throughout the growing season. (Photo courtesy of Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service)

Honeybees are in trouble. They’ve been pestered by invasive mites. There are concerns about how agricultural chemicals might be affecting bees. And in recent years there’s been growing concern about the disappearance of honeybees. It’s called Colony Collapse Disorder. Lester Graham talked with Christy Hemenway with Gold Star Honeybees, based in Bath, Maine. Gold Star manufactures bee hives for beekeepers.

Transcript

Honeybees are in trouble. They’ve been pestered by invasive mites. There are concerns about how agricultural chemicals might be affecting bees. And in recent years there’s been growing concern about the disappearance of honeybees. It’s called Colony Collapse Disorder. Lester Graham talked with Christy Hemenway with Gold Star Honeybees, based in Bath, Maine. Gold Star manufactures bee hives for beekeepers.

Lester Graham: Beekeepers expect to lose about fifteen percent of their bees over the winter, but for the past four years a survey by the USDA and the Apiary Inspectors of America has found that winter die-off has been about thirty percent. What’s going on here?

Christy Hemenway: Good question. One of the trickiest things about the Colony Collapse Disorder that most people have heard something about…is it’s difficult to study because it’s primary symptom is that the bees simply disappear from the hive. So there’s not a lot left behind to take to the lab and look at the details. So its primary symptom being that they disappear then the question would be why? and where are they going? That leaves us looking at conditions that bees are being raised in, and what are we doing to them, and with them, and it has left a lot of people scratching their heads, you might say. I think that a shift in the way we look at bees and possibly in the way we farm. If we were to begin farming in a way that supported bees it would begin to eliminate a lot of these things that are sort of dog-piling because it’s just a lot to ask a small insect to carry. And if we could do one less thing wrong, or one thing a little less wrong, then I think that we could really start to turn the tide.

Graham: When you say change farming, what do you mean by that?

Hemenway: Well the idea of industrial agriculture, or mono-cropping, where we’re growing, for instance, if you want to pick on a pretty large target, the California almond groves–it’s about 700-thousand acres of nothing but almonds. It creates an interesting situation. First off, you have to understand that almond trees bloom for just about 22 days out of the year. So if you’re a bee living in the middle of 700-thousand acres of almond trees, what do you plan to eat for the other three hundred and forty-some days of the year? So we’ve created the migratory pollination situation by having to bring bees in to these trees because there’s no way for them to be supported for the rest of the year. So if you’re farm is diverse and has things that bloom throughout the course of the bee season, when you’ve got warm enough weather, then you’re gonna find that your bees have got something to do, and something to eat, something to forage on all year round instead of for twenty two days which means you’ve gotta get ‘em out of there after that twenty-two days.

Graham: Short of keeping bees, is there anything else we can do that can help this situation?

Hemenway: Buy raw local honey from a local beekeper, maybe at a farmer’s market. That’s a great beginning. Another thing is: let your dandelions stand. Dandelions are fantastic–

Graham: Really?

Hemenway: Oh yeah, that’s great bee food, and it’s also some of the earliest food of the season. So don’t run out there with the lawnmower or the weed killer at the first sign of a dandelion, let that stuff go. Because it’s just natural, easy food, you don’t have to plant things for bees, the stuff that comes up all on it’s own is great stuff. So if you’re in any situation where you can let a lawn go a little more towards a meadow instead of a sculpted, barren, green bee-desert, do that. It’s really a wonderful thing to watch happen, first of all, and it’s just good for bees, to let them have that natural forage.

Graham: I’d love you to talk to my neighbors, that would be great.

Hemenway: Why, are they mowing down their dandelions?

Graham: Well they’re frowning at mine, let’s put it that way.

Hemenway: Oh, shame on them.

Graham: Christy Hemenway is with Gold Star Honeybees, thanks very much for talking with us.

Hemenway: You bet, thank you.

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New Food Safety Law?

  • Representative Bart Stupak has investigated food contamination problems from peanut butter to spinach. (Photo courtesy of the USDA)

A bill to make the food system safer is stalled in the Senate. Lester Graham reports… the bill’s supporters in the House say they hope for a Senate vote soon.

Transcript

A bill to make the food system safer is stalled in the Senate. Lester Graham reports… the bill’s supporters in the House say they hope for a Senate vote soon.

Representative Bart Stupak, a Democrat from Michigan, has investigated food contamination problems from peanut butter to spinach. The House has already passed a bill Stupak supported to keep track of food in case there is a contamination problem.

“Traceability from the time it’s planted in the field, harvested in the field, processed at the warehouse, shipped to the store that traceability is a big part of it.”

“There’s been a lot of concern about overlap of agency responsibility and gaps in responsibility. Will the legislation address that?”

“I think some of those gaps have been closed. Not all of them! But, I think some of them have been. I would still rather see us limit where food enters this country so you can have some control over it and by control I just mean inspection.”

Stupak says the Senate will likely take it up the food safety bill once the Senators finish with Wall Street financial overhaul legislation.

For The Environment Report, I’m Lester Graham.

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Interview: Jane Goodall

  • Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall. (Photo courtesy of The Jane Goodall Institute)

It’s been 50 years since Jane Goodall first began her research of the behaviors of chimpanzees at Gombe National Park in Tanzania. These days, Goodall spends most of her time traveling, meeting with young people to encourage them to think about how their actions affect the people, animals and the environment of this planet. We caught up with her in Chicago this past weekend. She says people see the problems of the world as just too big to tackle.

Transcript

Jane Goodall: You know people are always asking me ‘what can I do?’, and I think one of the main problems is that people just feel so helpless when they look at what’s happening. And so I always say to people, if we could just spend a few minutes each day thinking about the consequences of the that choices we make… they can be small choices like What do we buy? What do we eat? What do we wear? And we ask questions like where did it come from? How was it made? Did it damage the environment? Did it involve child labor in some distant place? Did it involve cruelty to animals? If we start thinking in those terms, we do start making behavior changes, and they may seem small, but multiplied by a couple of billion, you start to see the major kind of change that we desperately need if we’re going to see a planet that’s reasonably hospitable to our great-grandchildren.

Graham: You’ve been working with young people, tell me a little bit about your project ‘Root’s and Shoots’…what’s the goal there?

Goodall: Roots and Shoots began with twelve high school students in 1991, and it’s now in 120 countries and growing, and we’ve got about 15,000 active groups. The main message: every single one of us makes a difference every single day. and every group is choosing three different kinds of projects to make the world a better place for people, for animals, for the environment. And now we span all ages from pre-school and kindergarten right the way through college and university, and actually more and more adults are forming groups because they, too, want to help to make this a better world.

Graham: I know you have a home in London, but I also assume that Tanzania is much your home. How often do you get to go back there?

Goodall: I get to Gombe itself in Tanzania, where the Chimpanzees are, twice a year, but only briefly. Just time to immerse myself in the forest and sort of get a recharge of my spiritual batteries, so to speak.

Graham: I’m wondering if any of the chimpanzee community still recognizes you when you visit Gombe?

Goodall:The older ones do, the offspring of those whom I knew so, so well in the early days.

Graham: And they recognize you when you go back?

Goodall: Yes, absolutely, they certainly do, I’m appearing twice a year.

Graham: How does that make you feel?

Goodall: Well I have that emotional feeling with Fifi, and to some extent with Goblin, Frodo is just such a horrible, and objectionable bully that I can’t really feel anything but a slight dislike for Frodo. His older brother Freud, I always enjoy meeting him out in the forest, and it takes me back a bit to those early days when I lived among them, more or less, and you know, that was the time when I had these close relationships, and it was just such a very special time in my life.

Graham: Thank you very much, I’m sure you are aware of how much people appreciate the work you’ve done, and what you’ve done to raise awareness among us in the West and around the world about the plight of great apes and chimpanzees. I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

Goodall: thanks very much, Lester, and it was nice talking to you.

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