Today in WaterWise News:
Impact of climate change on our economy - Duke Energy settlement - Cutting carbon ahead of Paris talks - Call for EPA investigation over Flint Water - Congress questions EPA's rulemaking & supports Good Samaritan cleanup of mines - Apple announces new solar plans in China - Dredging projects across states - Water Institute of Gulf receives $4M for research - Economic growth hurting China's coastal wetlands.
Washington Post - In a sweeping new study published Wednesday in Nature, a team of researchers say there is a strong relationship between a region's average temperature and its economic productivity - adding another potential cost to a warming climate. Culling together economic and temperature data for over 100 wealthy and poorer countries alike over 50 years, the researchers assert that optimum temperature for human productivity is seems to be around 13 degrees Celsius or roughly 55 degrees Fahrenheit, as an annual average for a particular place. Once things get a lot hotter than that, the researchers add, economic productivity declines "strongly." "The research is globally generalizable, unchanged since 1960, and apparent for agricultural and non-agricultural activity in both rich and poor countries," write the authors, led by Marshall Burke of Stanford's Department of Earth and System Science, who call their study "The first evidence that economic activity in all regions is coupled to the global climate." Read more.
Wall Street Journal - Duke Energy Corp. has reached an $81 million settlement agreement to end a class-action lawsuit alleging it gave improper rebates to some large electric customers of its Ohio subsidiary. The Charlotte, N.C., utility denied the allegations and said Wednesday it was settling to avoid litigation "costs and uncertainties." It said a federal court in Columbus would have to approve the proposal. An attorney for the plaintiffs said the class action includes more than 1 million residential and nonresidential customers in southwest Ohio. Attorney Bill Markovits said Duke's payments to 22 large customers were unfair to hundreds of thousands of others who followed the rules. The lawsuit claimed contracts between Duke Energy Retail Sales and some of Duke Energy Ohio's industrial and business customers from 2005 through 2008 violated antitrust and other laws. Read more.
Washington Post - In a new analysis released as the Paris climate change summit nears, the International Energy Agency says countries' collective pledges to reduce emissions would lead to a dramatic disconnect between using energy and emitting greenhouse gases. Specifically, the pledges by over 150 nations - responsible for about 90 percent of the globe's emissions - would reduce the rate of emissions growth between now and 2030 to about on third of what had been from 2000 to the present, says the agency. In a sense, this is great news - hence the positive take by IEA chief Fatih Birol. But if you look more closely, the result is more concerning. "The annual growth in global energy-related emissions slows to a relative crawl by 2030 (around 0.5% per year)," the report notes, but it is still growth, not yet a cessation or a decline. Read more.
New York Times - Officials are asking the federal Environmental Protection Agency to answer questions about its oversight of state environmental regulators after elevated blood-lead levels were found in children whose Flint homes received river water. Representative Dan Kildee and the State Senate minority leader, Jim Ananich, both Democrats from the Flint area, said Wednesday that they had sent letters to the agency. Flint reconnected to Detroit's water system last week in hopes of resolving the health emergency. "It has become clear to me that unacceptable lead levels were a failure of government at every level," Mr. Kildee wrote in a letter to the E.P.A. administrator, Gina McCarthy. Read more.
E&E Daily - Republican senators picked apart U.S. EPA's rulemaking process that has helped craft some of the agency's most controversial rules. At a hearing held yesterday by the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management and Regulatory Oversight, GOP lawmakers dug into the agency's vast array of rules and regulations. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), chairman of the subcommittee, decried the amount and cost of EPA's standards. "Since President Obama took office in January 2009, the EPA has issued more than 3,300 new regulations," Rounds said in his opening statement. "Unfortunately, it is those same Americans who shoulder the burden of these broad, overreaching EPA regulations. According to the Office of Management and Budget, over the last 10 years, EPA regulations have imposed an estimated $42 billion in annual costs on this country - costs paid for by American taxpayers and businesses." The panel yesterday focused on the creation of those rules - how EPA justifies their costs and benefits - and specifically on its use of Regulatory Impact Analyses, or RIAs. Read more.
Washington Post - Apple, the world's largest public company by market capitalization, announced late Wednesday a suite of new renewable energy investments and partnerships in China - the world's largest nation by greenhouse gas emissions. The iPhone and Apple Watch maker, which already powers its electricity hungry data centers and U.S. operations generally with 100 percent renewable energy, will now also seek to green its supply chain in the vast country, chief executive Tim Cook announced in China Wednesday. "Climate change is one of the great challenges of our time, and the time for action is now," said Cook in a statement released to press. Apple's 19 offices and 24 stores in China are now carbon neutral, the company announced, thanks to the completion of 40 megawatts worth of solar capacity in Sichuan Province. Read more.
E&E Daily - With momentum growing for legislation to spur cleanups of abandoned and polluting mine sites in the wake of an August spill in Colorado, there are still disagreements over the details. A bipartisan group of lawmakers, companies, states and environmental interests yesterday backed liability protection for good Samaritan groups involved in cleanups. "While Superfund and Clean Water Act have been successful in reducing pollution from commercial and industrial locations, these laws have also had the unforeseen consequences of deterring cleanup at abandoned mines," said Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. U.S. EPA released guidance on good Samaritan cleanups for small projects in 2007. It released a new document to further clarify good Samaritan protections from Superfund law and Clean Water Act liabilities. Read more.
The Atlantic Journal-Construction - Officials in Newton County voted this week to stop work on a planned reservoir after spending 15 years and at least $20 million in taxpayer money when they realized they could not convince federal regulators they needed it. While it is a local government decision, the selving of the Bear Creek Reservoir by the county's Board of Commissioners has repercussions for water policy across the northern half of the state, where similarly situated reservoir projects await their fate. "It is a big deal. It's almost shocking," said Chris Manganiello, the policy director for the Georgia Rivers Network, an environmental group opposed to the reservoir. "I think the people of Newton County spoke out and the county listened." Read more.
The Times-Picayune - The state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority on Wednesday (Oct. 21) voted to allow its staff to begin engineering and design work necessary to begin building at least two major diversions of Mississippi River sediment and water to restore wetlands in the Barataria Basin and Breton Sound, possibly as early as July 2019. The Mid-Barataria diversion, which would be located on the West Bank of Plaquemines Parish near Myrtle Grove and would move a maximum 75,000 cubic feet per second of sediment and water into Barataria Bay, would cost between $700 million and $1.1 billion, authority executive director Kyle Graham said after the meeting. The Mid-Breton diversion, which would be just south of Woodlawn on the east bank of the river in Plaquemines, would move a maximum of 35,000 cubic feet per second of sediment and water into Breton Sound, and would cost between $300 million and $500 million, Graham said. Read more.
Shore News Today - Rick Weber of South Jersey Marina said the biggest with dredging is finding a place to put the dredge material before dredging actually begins. "The primary roadblock, after the permitting, is material disposal," Weber said. "We need some innovative way to get rid of material." Speaking at a dredging forum sponsored by the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce Oct. 19, Weber said the current method of dealing with dredged material is stockpiling, which he referred to as a Band-Aid solution. He said one current idea is spreading a thin layer of the material on marshlands. Weber said 6 to 8 inches of silt is thin enough to allow the marsh grass to work its way up through the material. "Putting clay silt back on the wetlands sounds like a great idea," he said. "To me, this is our number one problem - material management." Read more.
Great Baton Rouge Business Report - Over the next 18 months, the Water Institute of the Gulf will begin doling out $4 million it has received from the Office of Gulf Coast Restoration to researchers helping implement the state's Coastal Master Plan. The Water Institute still must work out details with state officials to receive the money, which is part of the Clean Water Act fines Transocean paid for its role in the 2010 BP Oil Spill, Water Institute spokesman Nick Speyrer says. Once the funds are received, Water Institute officials will work as quickly they can to get the money into the hands of researchers after receiving proposals for coastal restoration projects. Read more.
Shore News Today - Cape May County Freeholder Marie Hayes and Cape May County Emergency Management Director Martin Pagluighi met with New Jersey Department of Environmental Commissioner Robert Martin in Trenton on Tuesday, oct. 13 to discuss challenges facing local municipalities, marinas and related businesses regarding dredging. During the meeting, Martin and his staff accepted a report compiled by a working group chaired by Hayes and pledged cooperation to work through logistical and environmental issues that delay or prohibit dredging project sin our region. "Commissioner Martin made it very clear to our working group that it is very important for municipalities, counties and stake holders to have a good, active plan with active permits to accomplish essential dredging operations in our back bays and marinas," Hayes said. Read more.
The Island Packet - Hilton Head Island's planned beach renourishment will begin in February and finish just in time to open the beaches for Memorial Day weekend and the busy summer tourist season, according to town engineers. The $20.7 million project will place more than 2 million cubic yards of new sand on four segments of the island's iconic beaches to restore nearly a decade's worth of natural erosion. It also will refill the additional 160,000 cubic yards of sand stripped off the beaches during this month's historic storms - as much as they used to lose in an entire year, according to town engineer's analysis. "What we're hoping to do is turn our visitors and tourists loose on a brand new beach in June 2016 and try to finish this thing out...by the end of May," said Scott Liggett, town director of public projects and facilities. Read more.
Inside Climate News - Even if the Paris climate talks result in unprecedented carbon cuts, the greenhouse gas emissions already present in the atmosphere will lock in enough long-term warming to flood large areas of major U.S. cities, according to interactive maps created by Climate Central, a nonprofit research and news organization. The maps, which are based on peer-reviewed research, show the extent of sea level rise that would result from scenarios ranging from unchecked carbon pollution to extreme emissions cuts. Around Boston, for example, cultural icons and crucial infrastructure - including Fenway Park, Symphony Hall, Logan International Airport and parts of Harvard University - will be flooded in 2200 or beyond even if the global temperature rise is limited to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100. That's internationally agreed upon goal negotiators hope to achieve this December in Paris, but current emissions reduction pledges fall short of what's needed. Read more.
Del Mar Times - The shores of Solana Beach could soon be sandier, following the City Council's unanimous approval of an environmental impact report for a 50-year sand replenishment project. For more than 15 years, Solana Beach has worked with the city of Encinitas and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to plan the joint project, which would create a buffer to protect the coastal bluffs, where continued erosion has become a threat to people and property. The Encinitas council also unanimously signed off on the report in a separate meeting Oct. 14. "I'm just really looking forward to having a beach at Solana Beach," said Solana Beach Councilwoman Ginger Marshall. Under the plan, the project would use sand to nourish depleting beaches and eroding bluffs. Sand would be dredged from three offshore sites at Del Mar, Encinitas and San Diego, and deposited on the beaches. Read more.
Gulf Live - A permit problem may ultimately delay the Ocean Springs Harbor improvement project by up to 4-6 weeks, city officials said Tuesday. Roughly two weeks ago, a barge owned by M&D Construction pulled into the harbor to begin work on the coffer dam necessary to begin and complete improvements to the harbor boat launches. One problem: the wetlands permit needed to do the work had not been received by the U.S. Corps of Engineers. "The contractor came in good faith that we'd get the permit," Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran said. "He was trying to get in and out as quickly as possible to work with the county's schedule." But the barge sate for 10 days, unable to proceed, potentially at a cost of $2,400 per day out of the Tidelands funds the city secured for the harbor project. Read more.
The Times-Picayune - Louisiana's coastal authority staff will recommend Wednesday (Oct. 21) that the state move forward with the planning and design of two major diversions on the east and west banks of the Mississippi River that will direct sediment into open water areas to rebuild wetlands, setting the stage for the beginning of construction in as little as three years, the chairman of the authority said Tuesday. The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority board also is expected to approve a controversial policy change proposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal that will allow the state to use BP fine money left after coastal restoration projects are completed for construction of the unfinished Louisiana 1 bridge. Wednesday's meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. in House Committee Room 5 at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. Read more.
New York Times - Coastal wetlands in China have vanished at an alarming rate because of the country's economic development, and current economic plans could diminish them to below the minimum needed for "ecological security," including fresh water, fishery products and flood control, according to a report released Monday by Chinese scientists and an American research center. The report, based on 18 months of research, says "the primary driver for the reduced area of coastal wetlands is the large-scale and fast conversion and land reclamations of coastal wetlands." The report adds to the rising concerns of scientists, ordinary Chinese and some officials and China's decades of rapid economic growth have caused huge and possibly irreversible damage to the environment. In recent years, there have been public outcries over air, water and soil pollution. Read more.