Archive for January, 2014

Last Week in Environmental Impact Statements: Wolf Fuels

While Federal agencies are required to prepare Environmental Impact Statements in accordance with 40 CFR Part 1502, and to file the EISs with the EPA as specified in 40 CFR 1506.9, the EPA doesn’t yet provide a central repository for filing and viewing EISs electronically. Instead, each week they prepare a digest of the preceding week’s filed EISs, which is published every Friday in the Federal Register under the title, “Notice of Availability” (NOA).

We’ve done the dirty work for you. Below, we’ve located and linked to the EISs referenced in last week’s NOA. Please note that some of these documents can be very large, and may take a while to load.

You can read any available EPA comments on these EISs here.

Starting October 1, 2012, EPA no longer accepts paper copies or CDs of EISs for filing purposes. All submissions on or after October 1, 2012 must be made through e-NEPA. Electronic submission does not change requirements for distribution of EISs for public review and comment. To begin using e-NEPA, you must first register with EPA’s electronic reporting site. An EPA source says that as EISs begin to come in electronically, they will appear alongside EPA comments here.

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EIS No. 20140019, Draft EIS, FRA, NY, High Speed Rail Empire Corridor Tier 1, Comment Period Ends: 03/24/2014, Contact: Michelle W. Fishburne 202–493–0398. Website.

EIS No. 20140020, Final EIS (Not yet available online – check back here or here for updates.), USA, AK, Fort Wainwright Hangars 2 and 3 Disposition, Review Period Ends: 03/03/2014, Contact: Matthew Sprau 907–361–9688. Website.

EIS No. 20140021, Draft EIS, USFS, CA, BEH Rangeland Allotments, Comment Period Ends: 03/17/2014, Contact: Crispin Holland 209–532–3671 ext. 274. Website.

EIS No. 20140022, Final EIS, BIA, NY, Stockbridge-Munsee Community, Proposed Fee to Trust Conveyance of Property and Casino Project, Review Period Ends: 03/03/2014, Contact: Chester McGhee 615–564–6830. Website.

EIS No. 20140023, Draft EIS, USFS, OR, Wolf Fuels and Vegetation Management Project, Comment Period Ends: 03/17/2014, Contact: Jeff Marszal 541–416–6436. Website.

EIS No. 20140024, Draft Supplement, USFS, MT, Miller West Fisher Project, Comment Period Ends: 03/17/2014, Contact: Denise Beck 406–293–7773. Website.

Amended Notices

EIS No. 20130376, Draft EIS, BLM, WY, Wyoming Greater Sage-Grouse Draft Land Use Plan Amendment, Comment Period Ends: 03/26/2014, Contact: Lisa Solberg Schwab 307–367–5340 Revision to FR Notice Published 12/27/2013; Correction to Comment Period End Date from 2/10/2014 to 3/26/2014. Website.

Shut Up and Light the Charcoal

via Wikimedia

via Wikimedia

What if you went camping with a bunch of friends and they decided it would be really cool to barbecue burgers and brats inside the tent. You take one look at the bright red warning label on the charcoal bag and pitch a fit (you’re also the one who pitched the tent). The label announces in no uncertain terms that burning charcoal inside can kill you. “You can’t grill in here,” you say. “We’re all going to die!” But your friends pooh-pooh your sissy concerns and insist there’s nothing wrong with throwing meat on a hot grill indoors. Where’s your scientific proof that everybody is going to die? What harm is a little smoke going to do? Besides, it might rain and  who wants to get wet? Would you stay in the tent? Slip into your sleeping bag after dinner expecting to get up in the morning for bacon and eggs cooked on the same barbecue? I doubt it.

But that’s pretty much where we are with greenhouse gases and global warming today. The warnings are clear and unambiguous but still there’s a concerted campaign to ignore the blaring claxons and carry on grilling in the tent. Between November 2012 and December 2013 2,258 peer-reviewed articles were published in scientific journals by 9,136 authors detailing man’s contributions to global warming.  Only one article, by a single author in the Herald of the Russian Academy of Sciences, rejected man-made global warming. A new draft United Nations report concludes that the nations of the world have dragged their feet so long in combating climate change that the situation has grown critical and the problem could become impossible to solve with current technologies within 15 years. According to the report, our feeble efforts at instituting alternate energy simply can’t compete with the subsidies offered to the fossil fuel industries. Even as more clean energy comes onto the market, emissions continue to outpace any reduction the clean energy might bring. Failure to reign in emissions, the report says, will saddle future generations with enormous disruption, enormous costs, and the challenge of solving the problems were are creating now with technologies which have yet to be invented.

Still, the climate change deniers soldier on, insisting that filling the tent with smoke is a capital idea and that anyone who says the contrary is a tree hugging alarmist. And the deniers aren’t just fringe characters. Some of them occupy positions of great power and influence, such as, say, the Chair of the House Science and Technology Committee. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), is a vociferous critic of any attempts to reduce carbon emissions, and has noisily denounced the Environmental Protection Agency’s pollution rules for new power plants. Representative Smith has not turned his back on science entirely, though. Just one day after condemning the EPA, he held a hearing to explore the possibility of extra-terrestrial life. Smith is hardly the lone denier on the committee. The Subcommittee on the Environment is now chaired by a representative who rejects the scientific fact of anthropogenic global warming.

If your camping buddies insisted on filling the tent with a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that could kill you within an hour, you could at least go sleep outside. There is no outside when it comes to climate change. We’re all trapped inside the tent.

Last Week in Environmental Impact Statements: Remote Vaccination Program

While Federal agencies are required to prepare Environmental Impact Statements in accordance with 40 CFR Part 1502, and to file the EISs with the EPA as specified in 40 CFR 1506.9, the EPA doesn’t yet provide a central repository for filing and viewing EISs electronically. Instead, each week they prepare a digest of the preceding week’s filed EISs, which is published every Friday in the Federal Register under the title, “Notice of Availability” (NOA).

We’ve done the dirty work for you. Below, we’ve located and linked to the EISs referenced in last week’s NOA. Please note that some of these documents can be very large, and may take a while to load.

You can read any available EPA comments on these EISs here.

Starting October 1, 2012, EPA no longer accepts paper copies or CDs of EISs for filing purposes. All submissions on or after October 1, 2012 must be made through e-NEPA. Electronic submission does not change requirements for distribution of EISs for public review and comment. To begin using e-NEPA, you must first register with EPA’s electronic reporting site. An EPA source says that as EISs begin to come in electronically, they will appear alongside EPA comments here.

* * *

EIS No. 20140012, Draft EIS, HHS, GA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Roybal Campus 2015–2025 Master Plan, Comment Period Ends: 03/10/2014, Contact: George Chandler 404–245–2763. Website.

EIS No. 20140013, Third Final Supplement (This supplement does not appear to be online yet), USACE, NM, Rio Grande Floodway, San Acacia to Bosque del Apache Unit, Review Period Ends: 02/24/2014, Contact: Jerry Nieto 505–342–3362.Website and website.

EIS No. 20140014, Second Draft EIS (Tiering) (Not yet available online), FHWA, IL, Illiana Corridor Project Tier Two Transportation System Improvements, Comment Period Ends: 03/10/2014, Contact: Catherine A. Batey 217–492–4600. Website.

EIS No. 20140015, Final EIS, NPS, WY, Remote Vaccination Program to Reduce the Prevalence of Brucellosis in Yellowstone Bison, Review Period Ends: 02/24/2014, Contact: Jennifer Carpenter 307–344–2528. Website.

EIS No. 20140016, Draft EIS, USFWS, OH, Ballville Dam Project, Comment Period Ends: 03/26/2014, Contact: Brian Elkington 612–713–5168. Website.

EIS No. 20140017, Final EIS (Not yet available online – check back here for updates.), USMC, CA, LEGISLATIVE—Renewal of the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range Land Withdrawal, Review Period Ends: 02/24/2014, Contact: Ms. Kelly Finn 619–532–4452. Website.

EIS No. 20140018, Draft EIS, USN, WA, Northwest Training and Testing, Comment Period Ends: 03/25/2014, Contact: John Mosher 360–257–3234. Website.

Plants Eyeballed as New Suspects in Bee Conspiracy

Photo by cygnus921. Some rights reserved.

Photo by cygnus921. Some rights reserved.

Last summer, I decided it was finally time I learned something about honey bees. Prior to this decision, I knew a few things – a little about the pollination process, a bit of second hand knowledge on how to keep bees, and one very scary-sounding but frustratingly vague fact that kept coming up: bees are disappearing and nobody knows why. It was this last point that I aimed to research – it couldn’t be that there was simply zero explanation for such a disturbing trend, and it was also improbably that this was just a natural phenomenon. Well, a few online articles and one very worthwhile documentary (the great More Than Honey, about this very subject, is on Netflix Instant now, so watch it!) later, I knew a bit more. I knew that the phenomenon had a name – colony collapse disorder – and that we did know some about what was causing it, but that the answer is complex, attributable to a number of possible factors (growing use of pesticides in farming and antibiotics in beekeeping, global warming, trauma from transportation, electromagnetic radiation, etc.)  and quite possibly unknown factors as well. The only thing that is known for sure is that bees are dying and disappearing in higher numbers than ever before (last winter, one third of the U.S. honeybee population died or disappeared, an unprecedented loss and an astronomically higher figure than the year before).

All of this is just preface to some new information that could help crack this case wide open: TIME reports on a plant-based virus known as tobacco ringspot virus (or TRSV) which has been known to affect tobacco and soybean crops, causing crop yield loses of up to 100% in some cases. TRSV is a nepovirus, and moves from the infected leaves into the stems and eventually to the root of the plant, and infected plants will often produce infected seeds. The way that TRSV is spread from plant to plant, however, is through pollination, which is of course where our bees come in. The story suggests that bees can, surprisingly, also become infected with the ringspot virus, and that the spread of these mutating pathogens between species could be the missing, capital-b Big puzzle piece in the mystery of colony collapse disorder.

 

Cool Water

Wikimedia

Wikimedia

All day I face the barren waste without the taste of water,
Cool water.
Old Dan and I with throats burned dry and souls that cry for water,
Cool water.

The night are cool and I’m a fool each star’s a pool of water,
Cool water.
But with the dawn I’ll wake and yawn and carry on to water,
Cool water.

Keep a movin’ Dan, don’t you listen to him Dan, he’s a devil not a man
and he spreads the burnin’ sand with water.
Dan can’t you see that big green tree where the waters runnin’ free
and it’s waiting there for me and you.
Water, cool water.

The shadows sway and seem to say tonight we pray for water,
Cool water.
And way up there He’ll hear our prayer and show us where there’s water,
Cool Water.

Dan’s feet are sore he’s yearning for just one thing more than water,
Cool water.
Like me, I guess, he’d like to rest where there’s no quest for water,
Cool water.

Bob Nolan

California has an official song. It’s called I Love You California. It might be time to retire the pretty little thing and switch to Cool Water, a song that’s been notably covered by artists as diverse as Hank Williams and Joni Mitchell.

California is in trouble. It’s perennial governor, Jerry Brown, has managed to wrestle its finances into shape for the first time in years,  but the state’s weather outlook is also sunny – too sunny. Temperatures aren’t just unseasonably high across the state, they are setting records, bringing summer into the depths of winter.

Along with the record setting heat has come a record setting drought. 2013 was the driest year in California history. Faced with drastically reduced water reserves and a snow pack only 20% of normal, Governor Brown declared a drought emergency across the state. According to Brown, the state’s reservoirs are critically low and cities across the state have already begun rationing water. He wants the state’s residents to cut back water consumption by 20%. So far, the conservation efforts are voluntary. We’ll see how long that lasts before mandatory cutbacks are put into place.

I’m sure there will be some griping about brown lawns, but the shady groves of Beverly Hills will probably be unaffected. (I’ve noticed over the years that whatever the drought conditions, the water in Beverly Hills’ verdant gardens always flows with abandon.) But the statewide water shortage is no trivial matter. California feeds the nation. Without adequate water supplies, its $45 billion farm economy is at risk. Already the local cattle business is feeling uncomfortably pinched.   Almonds, tomato, lettuce and avocado crops are also in danger of wilting away.

A graphic illustration of just how radically low California’s reserves are comes to us complements of some high school students in Bishop, California. Those enterprising souls have been launching big helium balloons up into the stratosphere for three years. Among other things, they’ve captured images of the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Comparing the amounts of snow now on the peaks with last year’s snow pack is sobering. “We had a flight almost exactly a year ago, and at that time the mountains were almost completely covered in snow,” said one of the students. “In the recent images very few mountains were covered with snow. We knew we were in a drought, but it wasn’t clear to us before we saw the pictures how bad it is.” Another added, “Given that last year was also a low snow year, it is very disconcerting.”

So, California is experiencing both record heat and record drought. To get a taste of what that particular combination can bring, cast your eyes past the equator to Australia, which is struggling through a similar double-whammy. It’s not a pretty picture.

I’ll leave it to you to decide if the experiences in California and Australia are anecdotes or data.

Last Week in Environmental Impact Statements: Liquefaction Project

While Federal agencies are required to prepare Environmental Impact Statements in accordance with 40 CFR Part 1502, and to file the EISs with the EPA as specified in 40 CFR 1506.9, the EPA doesn’t yet provide a central repository for filing and viewing EISs electronically. Instead, each week they prepare a digest of the preceding week’s filed EISs, which is published every Friday in the Federal Register under the title, “Notice of Availability” (NOA).

We’ve done the dirty work for you. Below, we’ve located and linked to the EISs referenced in last week’s NOA. Please note that some of these documents can be very large, and may take a while to load.

You can read any available EPA comments on these EISs here.

Starting October 1, 2012, EPA no longer accepts paper copies or CDs of EISs for filing purposes. All submissions on or after October 1, 2012 must be made through e-NEPA. Electronic submission does not change requirements for distribution of EISs for public review and comment. To begin using e-NEPA, you must first register with EPA’s electronic reporting site. An EPA source says that as EISs begin to come in electronically, they will appear alongside EPA comments here.

* * *

EIS No. 20140002, Final EIS, USFS, OR, Mt. Hood Meadows Parking Improvements, Review Period Ends: 03/04/2014, Contact: Jennie O’Connor Card 406–522–2537. Website.

EIS No. 20140003, Final EIS, USFWS, TX, Comal County Regional Habitat Conservation Plan, Review Period Ends: 02/18/2014, Contact: Marty Tuegel 505–248–6651. Website.

EIS No. 20140004, Final EIS (Not yet available online), USFWS, IN, Fowler Ridge Wind Farm Final EIS, Review Period Ends: 02/18/2014, Contact: Scott Pruitt 812–334–4261. Website.

EIS No. 20140005, Draft EIS, NPS, NV, Jimbilnan, Pinto Valley, Black Canyon, Eldorado, Ireteba Peaks, Nellis Wash, Spirit Mountain, and Bridge Canyon Wilderness Areas Draft Wilderness Management Plan, Comment Period Ends: 03/23/2014, Contact: Greg Jarvis 303–969–2263. Website.

EIS No. 20140006, Draft EIS, NPS, VA, Dyke Marsh Wetland Restoration and Long-term Management Plan, Comment Period Ends: 03/18/2014, Contact: Brent Steury 703–289–2500. Website.

EIS No. 20140007, Final EIS, USFS, WY, Shoshone National Forest Land Management Plan Revision, Review Period Ends: 03/24/2014, Contact: Carrie Christman 307–578–5118. Website.

EIS No. 20140008, Second Draft EIS (Tiering) (Not yet available online. Check back here for updates.), FHWA, MO, Route I–70 Jackson County, from West of The Paseo Interchange to East of the Blue Ridge Cutoff Interchange, Comment Period Ends: 03/07/2014, Contact: Raegan Ball 573–638–2620. Website or website.

EIS No. 20140009, Draft EIS, FERC, LA, Cameron LNG Liquefaction Project, Comment Period Ends: 03/03/2014, Contact: Danny Laffoon 202–502–6257. Website.

EIS No. 20140010, Draft EIS, NPS, FL, East Everglades Expansion Area, Land Acquisition, Comment Period Ends: 03/18/2014, Contact: Brien Culhane 305–242–7717. Website.

EIS No. 20140011, Final EIS (Vol 1, Vol 2), USACE, NV, Truckee Meadows Flood Control Project, Review Period Ends: 02/18/2014, Contact: Dan Artho 916–557–7723. Website.

Amended Notices

EIS No. 20130363, Draft EIS, DOI, 00, PROGRAMMATIC-Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment Early Restoration Plan, Comment Period Ends: 02/19/ 2014, Contact: Nanciann Regalado 678–296–6805. Revision to FR Notice Published 12/13/2013; Extending the Comment Period from 02/04/2014 to 02/19/2014. Website.

EIS No. 20130367, Draft Supplement, USFS, MT, Miller West Fisher Project, Comment Period Ends: 02/03/2014, Contact: Leslie McDougall 406–295–7431. Revision to FR Notice Published 12/20/2013; Retracted by the request of the preparing agency. Website.

Give Blackfish an Oscar Nomination

Photo by YIM Hafiz. Some rights reserved.

Photo by YIM Hafiz. Some rights reserved.

Tomorrow morning, the Internet will be abuzz with speculations over the Oscar nominations, as they will have been just-released. Today though, it’s still (sort of) anybody’s guess. Many have weighed in already that 2013 was one of the best years for movies in recent memory, so the competition seems a little fiercer with so many great movies competing.

But what does this have to do with the environment? Well, nothing yet, but allow me to begin again. This year on Christmas, I went with my family to see the new Martin Scorsese movie, the Wolf of Wall Street. Well, we went to the theater anyways, but the movie was already sold out. So we went home and queued up the documentary Blackfish, and we sat slackjawed in front of the TV for the next hour and a half.

Disclaimer: Blackfish is a terrible Christmas movie. In a year where the best picture frontrunner is a brutally beautiful exploration of slavery in America (12 Years a Slave, go see that too!), Blackfish was still perhaps the saddest film I saw in 2013. The documentary, helmed by director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, takes an uncompromising look at whales in captivity at theme parks like Sea World, and the toll that that captivity has taken on the whales themselves. The film posits it’s thesis quite clearly, through interviews with former whale trainers as well as investigations into administrative records and security videos from the parks – these whales engage in violent, depressive behavior as a direct result of their captivity.

I don’t want to go too in depth because the film will make its points much better than I will, but in broad strokes, the documentary takes a close look at one whale in particular – Tilikum, a massive 12,000 bull orca currently living at SeaWorld. We follow Tilikum from his capture in the waters of the Pacific Northwest in the 1980s through his time at SeaWorld, where he has become the main male whale used for breeding and has given birth to 21 calves, successfully and unsuccessfully, many through artificial insemination. Tilikum also has a violent streak, and has been involved with the deaths of three humans during his time in captivity, including Dawn Brancheau, his trainer at SeaWorld.

The film examines these deaths with the gravity they deserve, but it also does not in any way blame the whale. We are instead given a glimpse into the insanely mundane and restrictive life these whales live, and the physical and mental toll that such a limited life can take on these incredibly intelligent animals. There have been many great and moving films in the documentary genre this year (I would also highly recommend The Act of Killing and Stories We Tell), but only one has begun to cause major changes in the real world – and so I say, with whatever limited authority I have as a movie lover and a whale lover, give Blackfish the Oscar for Best Documentary this year.

For more info on the film itself, this editorial at CNN by the director is worth reading. Then watch the film on Netflix Instant, and then check out the back and forth between SeaWorld and the filmmakers over the film’s charges against the park here.

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