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Vibrant Environment

Watson, Meet Eco

Could algorithms be used to automate environmental management? (Photo: Pixabay)
Dave Rejeski
Wednesday, January 24, 2018

In a not-so-far-away future, environmental management will be done largely by algorithm. Here is how that could happen . . . .

In 2015, two graduates from Stanford business school, William Glass and Eden Kropski, founded a firm to produce and sell high-performance sportswear made entirely of synthetic fibers bioengineered from yeast microbes. The product was a runaway success and low-impact, but shipping it around the planet wasn’t.

Shale Gas: Bridge Fuel or Pipe Dream?

Natural gas extraction is set to resume in the U.K. in 2018 (Photo: Geograph)
Miriam Aczel
Monday, January 22, 2018

The U.K. government cites shale gas as a “safe and environmentally sound” source of new energy and is actively promoting development of the fossil resource—using hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling—in hopes of emulating the United States’ shale gas “revolution.” 

D.C.’s Flushable Wipes Law Gets Clogged in District Court

Flushable wipes (Your Best Digs / Flickr)
Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Flushable wipes have proven to not be so flushable and are wreaking havoc on some of the world’s major cities. Municipalities like New York City, spend millions of dollars to remedy clogging issues the wipes cause. New York City officials said in 2015 that "wipe-related equipment problems," have cost the city more than $18 million since 2010.

Look! A New Pollutant

A new class of nanopollutants was recently discovered in coal ash,
Dave Rejeski
Monday, October 2, 2017

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, coal-fired systems have been emitting a pollutant we did not even know existed . . . until now. In 2014, a team of scientists studying arsenic in the Dan River coal ash spill site in North Carolina discovered a new nano-scale version of titanium oxides that had never been seen before.* What they discovered were titanium suboxides, or so-called Magnéli phases, which were first synthesized in the 1930s. These substances are extremely rare in nature, seen only in rocks having an extraterrestrial origin (meteorites, lunar rocks, and interplanetary dust particles), and at one known point on the earth’s surface—rock formations on the central coast of western Greenland.

The Evolution and Future of the Oil Pollution Act

Skimming oil in the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 BP oil spill (Photo
Sara Kaufhardt
Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, which released 11 million gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean, provided the impetus for U.S. Congress to pass the 1990 Oil Pollution Act (OPA), which strengthened the federal government’s ability to respond to and prevent oil spills. OPA is part of an evolving field of law that is increasingly relevant, given the rise in oil and gas production in the United States and the correlated rise of oil spill accidents, most notably the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion.

As the United States becomes a net exporter of petroleum products, the expansion of onshore oil transportation is producing significant controversy. The Trans-Canada and Dakota Access pipelines raised issues concerning problems posed by the construction of oil pipelines. Given the Trump Administration’s commitment to expand domestic oil production, it is critical to examine the challenges OPA may face in an evolving energy market.

When Cars Lie

The Volkswagen Jetta TDI was one model using defeat devices to sidestep emission
Dave Rejeski
Wednesday, June 21, 2017

For months, Volkswagen has been reeling from an emissions manipulation scandal affecting over one-half million U.S. vehicles and costing the company more than $20 billion in reparations. The financial and reputational damage has now invaded the VW supply chain, with Bosch, the company who developed the emissions control programs for VW, agreeing to pay customers over $300 million in damages. Who is next? Probably Fiat/Chrysler and Daimler, both under investigation for evading diesel emissions rules.

The Uncertain Fate of WOTUS

Emerald Bay, Michael
Wednesday, April 12, 2017

In a series of executive orders, the president has requested that agencies review several environmental protection rules, and if deemed necessary, repeal or modify rules to better facilitate economic growth. One such rule, the Clean Water rule, also known as the Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS), has been in the crosshairs of industry for some time.

Lago Agrio: The Drama Continues

Guillermo Granja/Reuters
Nora Moraga-Lewy
Thursday, August 25, 2016

I was in the 10th grade when I first heard about the ecological and human health disaster caused by petroleum extraction in Ecuador. A film festival in my hometown showed Crude, a documentary that details the impact of abandoned oil fields near Lago Agrio and the accompanying legal battle. Local populations whose livelihoods and health were allegedly harmed by careless corporate and government actions had been fighting to hold Texaco accountable for cleanup and compensation since 1993. The film, however, focused on several key characters that became involved in the case many years later. There were lawyers (Steven Donzigner and Pablo Fajardo), a corporation (Chevron, which acquired Texaco in 2001), celebrities (including Sting), and a young and charismatic Presidente (Rafael Correa of Ecuador).

Restoring and Protecting Water Quality: ELI’s Recent Trainings and Resources

TMDLs
Adam Schempp
Thursday, June 23, 2016

The quality of our country’s water often goes unnoticed. We tend to take for granted high-quality water and commonly overlook (or just accept) polluted waters. But events like those in Flint, Michigan, and Toledo, Ohio, remind us how truly vital this resource is—not just to have water, but to be able to drink it, fish from it, recreate in it, and use it in many other ways.

ELI has long worked with the agencies tasked with restoring and protecting our streams, rivers, and lakes. Earlier this month, we held the 2016 National Training Workshop for CWA §303(d) Listing and TMDL Staff at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

A Call for TSCA Reform: Senator Paul's Unexpected Interest in H.R. 2576

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)
Lynn L. Bergeson
Thursday, June 2, 2016

The last thing the push for TSCA reform needs is another delay, and Senator Paul's unexpected interest in H.R. 2576 has caused just that. Under typical circumstances, a Member's focused interest in legislation is refreshing, and as today highlights, entirely too infrequent. In this instance, the circuitous road to TSCA reform is anything but typical—the complexity of the legislation has invited an unusual divisiveness that has frustrated passage—and delay is the enemy of the good.