WBEZ | Environment http://www.wbez.org/sections/environment Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en With petcoke out in Chicago, Indiana groups worry it's heading their way http://www.wbez.org/news/petcoke-out-chicago-indiana-groups-worry-its-heading-their-way-111595 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BP Petcoke.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Tom Shepherd was celebrating on Chicago&rsquo;s South Side Thursday but it had nothing to do with President Barack Obama&rsquo;s arrival to declare the historic Pullman area a National Monument.</p><p>Shepherd, president of the Southeast Environmental Council, was cautiously optimistic about the news that the area&rsquo;s ongoing petcoke problem is one step closer to being resolved.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, at this point, it&rsquo;s still kind of early in the game,&rdquo; Shepherd told WBEZ. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve just been getting this information. It&rsquo;s been coming in pretty feverishly over the last couple of days. We&rsquo;ve heard from the city, we&rsquo;ve heard from the company.&rdquo;</p><p>On Thursday, the Koch Brothers-owned KCBX Terminals Inc. announced that it was shuttering its North Terminal on the Southeast side within the next five months.</p><p>That means it will no longer accept petcoke on that site but has no immediate plans for the property.</p><p>The company also announced that it will take steps to eliminate petcoke piles at its nearby South Terminal on Burley Avenue by June 2016, a deadline imposed by the City of Chicago.</p><p>Shepherd says the company will continue accepting petcoke from other nearby refineries so the issue is not dead.</p><p>&ldquo;The BP announcement is going to put a dent in their operations but it will still take product from two other refineries in the area. So, that operation is going to continue,&rdquo; Shepherd said. &ldquo;But it&rsquo;s still a big win.&rdquo;</p><p>But that win could eventually be Northwest Indiana&rsquo;s loss.</p><p>Kim Ferraro, lead attorney for the Hoosier Environmental Council, says she&rsquo;s worried all that petcoke could end up dumped in struggling cities such as Gary, Hammond and East Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;We may see some effort to put petcoke on those sites. And certainly it&rsquo;s a concern for communities here who are already dealing with so much exposure to harmful pollution,&rdquo; Ferraro said.</p><p>All this comes a day after BP announced that it will stop shipping petcoke from its massive Whiting, Indiana, refinery to KCBX by this summer.</p><p>&ldquo;Based on a number of considerations, BP has made the business decision to store the majority of its petroleum coke produced by the Whiting Refinery at a facility outside of Illinois beginning in the second half of 2015. A final decision has not yet been made on where this material will be stored in the future,&rdquo; BP spokesman Scott Dean said in a statement. &ldquo;If necessary for business reasons, BP may consider using limited Illinois-based storage options on a short-term basis if those options are compliant with state and local regulations.&rdquo;</p><p>Earlier this week, the City of Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Public Health announced it would not give KCBX more time to comply with a two-year requirement to enclose coal and petroleum coke piles. &nbsp;KCBX wanted another 14 months.</p><p>But KCBX President Dave Severson says the company wants to stay in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;We remain committed to Chicago and we are going to work within the city&rsquo;s new rules to try to stay in business,&rdquo; Severson said in a written statement. &ldquo;We expect we&rsquo;ll have to make some adjustments to the services we provide our customers but we hope operating this way will allow us to remain in business and give us the time we need to determine whether we can proceed with the enclosure project.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s been a long struggle for residents on the Southeast side who live in the shadow of the petcoke storage sites. In late August 2013, a huge dust-storm covered nearby homes and businesses with the ash-like substance, a byproduct in the refining of crude oil.</p><p>Residents have been concerned about the long-term health effects of breathing in petcoke dust.</p><p>Activists say even if KCBX covers its piles, petcoke can still become airborne and fall into the lake as it&rsquo;s transported via train or truck from Whiting, Indiana. &nbsp;</p><p>Meanwhile, the Illinois Manufacturers&rsquo; Association continues to defend the handling of petcoke.</p><p>&ldquo;Petcoke is a valuable commodity used in a wide range of manufacturing applications including cement, paint, steel and glass,&rdquo; Mark Denzler, vice president of the IMA, stated to WBEZ. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s extremely important to keep in mind that the United States Environmental Protection Agency does not classify petcoke as a hazardous substance and an August 2014 analysis found no traces of the material in local furnace filters. Elected officials need to focus on creating good jobs and economic development.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 20 Feb 2015 08:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/petcoke-out-chicago-indiana-groups-worry-its-heading-their-way-111595 With quakes spiking, oil industry is under the microscope in Oklahoma http://www.wbez.org/news/science/quakes-spiking-oil-industry-under-microscope-oklahoma-111572 <p><p>Out on Oklahoma&#39;s flat prairie, Medford, population about 900, is the kind of place where people give directions from the four-way stop in the middle of town.</p><p>It seems pretty sedate, but it&#39;s not. &quot;We are shaking all the time,&quot; says Dea Mandevill, the city manager. &quot;All the time.&quot;</p><p>The afternoon I stopped by, Mandevill says two quakes had already rumbled through Medford.</p><p>&quot;Light day,&quot; she laughs. But, she adds, &quot;the day&#39;s not over yet; we still have several more hours.&quot;</p><p>Mandevill may be laughing it off, but Austin Holland, the state seismologist, isn&#39;t.</p><p>&quot;I certainly regret starting smoking again, but there are some days when nicotine and coffee are about what get me through the day,&quot; he says. &quot;As far as we know, this has never happened before.&quot;</p><p>Holland says that Oklahoma used to have, on average, one or two perceptible earthquakes a year. Now the state is averaging two or three a day. There were more magnitude 3 or greater tremors here last year than anywhere else in the continental United States, and the unprecedented spike in earthquakes has intensified.</p><p>Holland suspects that modern oil production techniques are triggering the jump in quakes. A few years back, companies figured out how to drill sideways through layers of shale, then break, or frack, the rock, releasing a torrent of oil.</p><p>The combination of fracking and horizontal drilling sparked a massive oil boom here, but the technique produces much more water than oil &mdash; tens of billions of gallons of very salty, toxic water. The only economical way to dispose of it, Holland says, is to force it deep into the earth.</p><p>&quot;That pressure acts as a lubricant,&quot; he says. &quot;It&#39;s not actually the water itself lubricating, but the pressure, and the best way to think about that is an air hockey table,&quot; with huge slabs of rock as the pucks.</p><p>Holland says injecting water near faults can deliver just enough lubricating pressure to set them in motion. It&#39;s called &quot;induced seismicity.&quot;</p><p>The Prague earthquake hit the state four years ago. At magnitude 5.6, it was the strongest ever recorded in Oklahoma.</p><p>&quot;It was coming from everywhere &mdash; I mean the walls, the roof,&quot; says Ryan Ladra, standing in his parents&#39; battered house. &quot;When it hit, it hit so violent and hard that we thought the house was coming down on top of us.&quot;</p><p>The Ladras&#39; stone chimney collapsed, striking his mom, Sandra, who is suing companies that ran nearby wastewater injection wells.</p><p>But Kim Hatfield of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association says he&#39;s not convinced there&#39;s a connection. He says oil companies have been pumping brine down wastewater injection wells for decades. More than 3,200 of the wells dot the state.</p><p>&quot;You&#39;re going to find out that all tornadoes are close to injection wells as well,&quot; he says. &quot;If a meteor strikes the state of Oklahoma, I&#39;m going to guarantee it&#39;s going to be close to an injection well.&quot;</p><p>Still, evidence linking injection wells to earthquakes is building. And though oil industry wields enormous clout in Oklahoma, the agency regulating it is ramping up.</p><p>Matt Skinner, public information manager for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, says that the agency has never denied a permit for a disposal well, but it has recently closed a few bad ones and is scrutinizing applications for new wells like never before.</p><p>&quot;When we say we&#39;re doing everything we can, what we&#39;re really saying is, we&#39;re doing everything we know, today,&quot; Skinner says. &quot;Tomorrow, we may know something more.&quot;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/dea_medford-61167ff8f4cededddab27c9a2a9e68834208ce8b-s400-c85.jpg" style="float: left; height: 209px; width: 280px;" title="Dea Mandevill, city manager of Medford, Okla., says the earthquakes are worth all the benefits the oil boom has brought: a new park, police cars, construction equipment and ambulances. (Frank Morris/KCUR)" />Mandevill says she worries about an earthquake rupturing the big natural gas pipeline here &mdash; but then beams while looking out over the new park the city recently built with oil boom tax money.</p><p>&quot;We have a new swimming pool, splash pad, new sidewalks and a new basketball/tennis court,&quot; she says.</p><p>It illustrates the complex relationship between oil and earthquakes in Oklahoma.</p><p>&quot;You put up with a few things falling off your walls, a few nights being woken up in the middle of the night with the shakes,&quot; she says. &quot;Overall it&#39;s been good. I&#39;ll take the earthquakes for all the benefits that Medford&#39;s had so far.&quot;</p><p>But those benefits are starting to sag a little. With oil prices low, companies are laying off workers. On the bright side, less oil coming out of the ground means less wastewater going back down deep into it, and just possibly, fewer earthquakes.</p></p> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 08:36:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/quakes-spiking-oil-industry-under-microscope-oklahoma-111572 As rules get sorted out, drones may transform agriculture industry http://www.wbez.org/news/rules-get-sorted-out-drones-may-transform-agriculture-industry-111567 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/img_3297_wide-0eaf22bd10778693f1839956d8a491c74b257934-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On a breezy morning in rural Weld County, Colo., Jimmy Underhill quickly assembles a black and orange drone with four spinning rotors. We&#39;re right next to a corn field, littered with stalks left over from last year&#39;s harvest.</p><p>&quot;This one just flies itself. It&#39;s fully autonomous,&quot; Underhill says.</p><p>Underhill is a drone technician with <a href="http://agribotix.com/">Agribotix, a Colorado-based drone start</a> up that sees farmers as its most promising market. Today he&#39;s training his fellow employees how to work the machine in the field.</p><p>&quot;So if you want to start, we can walk over to the drone,&quot; Underhill says. &quot;It&#39;s got a safety button on here.&quot; And now it&#39;ll start flying.&quot;</p><p>The quadcopter zips 300 feet into the air directly above our heads, pauses for a moment and then begins to move.</p><p>&quot;So it just turned to the East and it&#39;s going to start its lawnmower pattern,&quot; Underhill says.</p><p>What makes the drone valuable to farmers is the camera on board. It snaps a high-resolution photo every two seconds. From there Agribotix stitches the images together, sniffing out problem spots in the process. Knowing what&#39;s happening in a field can save a farmer money.</p><p>At farm shows across the country, drones have become as ubiquitous as John Deere tractors. The Colorado Farm Show earlier this year included an informational session, telling farmers both the technical and legal challenges ahead.</p><p>&quot;I think it&#39;s a very exciting time,&quot; says farmer Darren Salvador, who grows 2,000 acres of wheat and corn near the Colorado-Nebraska border.</p><p>&quot;Can you look at disease concern, insect concern, so now you can be more proactive and treat smaller areas and not treat the entire field,&quot; he says.</p><p>Salvador and about 50 other farmers got an earful from Rory Paul, CEO of <a href="http://www.voltaerialrobotics.com/">Volt Aerial Robotics</a>, a St. Louis-based drone start up.</p><p>&quot;We really don&#39;t know what they&#39;re good for,&quot; Paul says. &quot;We&#39;ve got a few ideas of where they could benefit agriculture. The majority of which are still theoretical.&quot; Theoretical because commercial drone use is still widely banned in the U.S.</p><p>On Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/02/15/386464188/commercial-drone-rules-to-limit-their-speed-and-altitude">released long-awaited draft rules </a>on the operation of pilotless drones, opening the nation&#39;s airspace to the commercial possibilities of the burgeoning technology, but not without restrictions.</p><p>Currently, companies may apply for exemptions from the FAA, but the requirements to get that exemption can be costly. Like requiring drone operators to hold a private pilot&#39;s license.</p><p>&quot;These small drones, that are almost priced to be expensive toys, are not reliable. And that&#39;s the concern of the FAA,&quot; says Eric Frew, who studies drones at the University of Colorado-Boulder.</p><p><a href="http://www.faa.gov/">The FAA </a>didn&#39;t respond to requests for comment for this story, but Frew says the agency is trying to find a balance. Putting a large flying machine in the hands of someone who&#39;s inexperienced can cause big problems.</p><p>&quot;When these systems work, they work fantastically. When they don&#39;t work, they don&#39;t work,&quot; Frew says.</p><p>Back at the corn field in rural Colorado, Agribotix President Tom McKinnon watches as the drone comes in for a landing.</p><p>&quot;So we bash the FAA a lot,&quot; McKinnon says. &quot;I mean the FAA&#39;s job is air safety. And they have delivered on that. But when it comes to drones they&#39;re badly fumbling the ball.&quot;</p><p>McKinnon says until the agency gives solid guidance to commercial drone operators, he&#39;ll be doing most of his work in countries like Australia and Brazil where laws are friendlier to farm drones.</p><p><em><em>&mdash; via <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2015/02/16/385520242/as-rules-get-sorted-out-drones-may-transform-agriculture-industry" target="_blank">NPR&#39;s All Tech Considered</a></em> and <a href="http://harvestpublicmedia.org/">Harvest Public Media</a>, a reporting collaboration that focuses on agriculture and food production.</em></p></p> Mon, 16 Feb 2015 11:27:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/rules-get-sorted-out-drones-may-transform-agriculture-industry-111567 EcoMyths: Do scare-tactics motivate people to live greener lives? http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-do-scare-tactics-motivate-people-live-greener-lives-111597 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/EcoMyths-Environmental Scare tactics_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-59fe6f45-a855-e9b0-16ac-4537d9a22910">Kate Sackman of EcoMyths Alliance says that, &ldquo;Many environmental organizations use scare tactics to motivate people to take action...For most people, the end result is that they are overwhelmed and too discouraged to act.&rdquo; &nbsp;For our EcoMyths series, we&rsquo;ll talk with Sackman and Diane Wood, president of the National Environmental Education Foundation&nbsp; (NEEF) about different methods to inspire people to get engaged with green issues.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/188188068&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Many environmental organizations use scare tactics to motivate people to take action to protect the planet and resources we all share.&nbsp; For most people, the end result is that they are overwhelmed and too discouraged to act.&nbsp;</p><p>NEEF and EcoMyths Alliance share the core belief is that people will act in eco-friendly ways when specific actions are relevant and important to their everyday lives. We believe people need the facts and need to be given choices so they can respond in ways that are meaningful to them personally. NEEF and EcoMyths, through a series of stories, examples and games, present science to the public so that it is not only clear, but it also inspires positive action.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>NEEF &amp; EcoMyths - Who we are:</strong></p><p dir="ltr">- NEEF&mdash;national organization advancing lifelong environmental learning. We connect people to useful knowledge that improves the quality of their lives and the health of the planet.</p><p dir="ltr">- We leverage resources through dynamic public-private partnerships and provide grants for innovative projects.</p><p dir="ltr">- NEEF embraces the idea that environmental issues can only be solved if all Americans understand how they play a role in addressing these 21st century problems and experience the benefits that come from doing so first-hand.</p><p dir="ltr">- NEEF sees a future whereby 2022, 300 million Americans are actively using environmental knowledge to ensure the well-being of the earth and its people.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>NEEF&rsquo;s reach:</strong></p><p dir="ltr">- Reach up to 90 million U.S. households through 350 meteorologists, radio broadcasters and journalists participating in Earth Gauge.</p><p dir="ltr">- Enable 175,000 volunteers at more than 2,000 public lands sites in all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico to complete $18 million in park improvements during National Public Lands Day.</p><p dir="ltr">- National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is the nation&#39;s largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands. In 2015, NEEF will celebrate the 22nd annual National Public Lands Day on September 26, 2015. Toyota will sponsor NPLD for the 17th straight year.</p><p dir="ltr">- Children and Nature Initiative: Train thousands of health care providers on environmental health issues.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Rx for Outdoor Activity</strong></p><p dir="ltr">- Aims to prevent serious health conditions like obesity and diabetes related to indoor sedentary lifestyles and connects children and their families to nature to promote good health, enjoyment, and environmental stewardship. The Initiative educates pediatric health care providers about prescribing outdoor activities to children. The program also connects health care providers with local nature sites, so they can refer families to safe and easily accessible outdoor areas.</p><p dir="ltr">- Reach hundreds of thousands of students and educators with non-biased environmental education materials during National Environmental Education Week.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Americans Face Daunting Environmental Challenges</strong></p><p dir="ltr">- &ldquo;Environment&rdquo; is polarizing, Green issues seen as exclusive</p><p dir="ltr">- The enormity of these problems overwhelms people</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Feel powerless &amp; frustrated, Don&rsquo;t see relevancy to personal life, Don&rsquo;t see the value of individual action</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>NEEF&rsquo;s Approach:</strong></p><p dir="ltr">- &ldquo;Know more, Do more, Live better&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">- Empower people with knowledge and practical actions to help them become &ldquo;everyday stewards.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>People want to make a difference: By nature, individuals are motivated to make the world a better place: </strong></p><p dir="ltr">- 78% of US adults volunteer, donate or advocate with a philanthropic organization</p><p dir="ltr">- 6 in 10 US adults take action when they understand environmental issues</p><p dir="ltr">- 71% of Americans consider the environment when they shop</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>NEEF wants to start where people are, in an easy, straightforward way (&ldquo;lighten their load&rdquo;)</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>NEEF doesn&rsquo;t want to make people uncomfortable, but rather draw them in with welcoming messages</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Why this is Important - We (EcoMyths and NEEF):</strong></p><p dir="ltr">- We respect the intelligence of individuals, so we provide them with the environmental science facts they need to make decisions.</p><p dir="ltr">- We believe people want to do the right thing for the health and well-being of their families and themselves and the long-term health of the planet.</p><p dir="ltr">- We use storytelling to bring facts to life &ndash; e.g.</p><p><strong>ONE GREEN THING: </strong></p><ul><li><u>Individuals:&nbsp; Sign up for the EcoMyths newsletter</u> at <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org">www.ecomythsalliance.org</a> for guilt-free myth-busting articles that make you laugh and give you One Green Thing you can do</li><li><u>Companies: Sign up for NEEF&rsquo;s Business and Environment program</u> at <a href="http://www.neefusa.org">www.neefusa.org</a>.</li></ul></p> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 09:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-do-scare-tactics-motivate-people-live-greener-lives-111597 California dairy owners find greener pastures in Midwest http://www.wbez.org/news/california-dairy-owners-find-greener-pastures-midwest-111365 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/0108_california-dairy-624x409.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>California is the nation&rsquo;s number one dairy state. It&rsquo;s branded as the state with happy cows, but not necessarily happy dairy owners. For many of them, drought, feed costs and development pressure mean it&rsquo;s getting tougher to make a living.</p><p>That&rsquo;s why some are some selling their cattle and heading to the Midwest. From the Here &amp;&nbsp;Now Contributors Network,&nbsp;Grant Gerlock&nbsp;of Harvest Public Media reports.</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/01/08/california-dairies-midwest" target="_blank">via Here &amp; Now </a></em></p></p> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 16:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/california-dairy-owners-find-greener-pastures-midwest-111365 Obama will veto Keystone XL legislation http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-will-veto-keystone-xl-legislation-111345 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP434296636482.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="storytext"><p>The White House says President Obama will veto any congressional legislation that approves the Keystone XL pipeline.</p><p>&quot;If this bill passes this Congress, the president wouldn&#39;t sign it,&quot; White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.</p><p>The House, which has a Republican majority, is expected to vote on a Keystone bill this week. The GOP-dominated Senate is considering a similar measure, which has bipartisan support.</p><p>The pipeline, which would move crude from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico, has been at the center of a long and contentious debate involving politicians, energy companies and environmentalists, <a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/11/17/364727163/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-keystone-xl-oil-pipeline">as NPR&#39;s Scott Horsley and Jeff Brady reported last November</a>.</p><p>Supporters of the pipeline say it will create 42,000 jobs, but opponents cite environmental concerns and are skeptical about how many jobs the project can actually create &mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2014/11/18/364751183/how-many-louisiana-jobs-are-actually-at-stake-in-keystone-debate">with one estimate</a> noting that it would create just 35 permanent jobs.</p><p>A State Department <a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/01/31/269529696/state-dept-delivers-unwelcome-news-for-keystone-opponents">environmental review</a> of the project found Keystone wouldn&#39;t have an significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions. As to where Obama stands on the pipeline, here&#39;s more from NPR&#39;s Horsley and Brady:</p><blockquote><div><p>&quot;The president has unusual leverage over this pipeline. Because it crosses the U.S. border with Canada, Keystone XL requires a &#39;presidential permit.&#39; Obama has guarded that power jealously. Three years ago, when Congress tried to force him to make a decision by issuing a 60-day deadline, he simply rejected the permit application.</p><p>&quot;The political challenge for Obama is that Democrats are genuinely divided on the issue, with construction unions favoring the project and some environmental activists opposing it. No matter what he decides, some constituents will be unhappy &mdash; so the president has basically stalled.&quot;</p></div></blockquote><p>The U.S. State Department is conducting a review of the pipeline&#39;s route, but that process has been held up because of a lawsuit in Nebraska over where the pipeline will be located.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/01/06/375412544/obama-will-veto-keystone-xl-legislation-white-house-says" target="_blank">via NPR</a></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 06 Jan 2015 14:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-will-veto-keystone-xl-legislation-111345 Chicago 'petcoke' handler says it'll enclose piles http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-petcoke-handler-says-itll-enclose-piles-111252 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Rahm Petcoke 1_0.jpeg" alt="" /><p><p>CHICAGO &mdash; A company storing petroleum coke on Chicago&#39;s southeast side says it plans to build a huge structure to contain the grainy black piles and keep them from blowing around.</p><p>KCBX Terminals said Tuesday that it&#39;ll build a $120 million structure about 1,000 feet long, 200 feet wide and 100 feet tall to comply with a city requirement to enclose &quot;petcoke.&quot;</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pet-coke-handlers-not-wanted-chicago-109694" target="_blank">Emanuel says pet coke handlers &#39;not wanted&#39; in Chicago</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Construction would begin next fall and take two years &mdash; even though the city requires that petcoke piles be enclosed by 2016. The company is asking the city to waive that timeline.</p><p>Petcoke is a byproduct of oil refining often used as industrial fuel.</p><p>Many residents want the piles removed, saying they worry about their health. A proposed city ordinance would limit the amount of petcoke stored in Chicago.</p></p> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 12:22:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-petcoke-handler-says-itll-enclose-piles-111252 EcoMyths: Will Climate Change Destroy Groundhog Day as We Know It? http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-will-climate-change-destroy-groundhog-day-we-know-it-111596 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/EcoMyths-Marmots.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Every February, Bill Murray&#39;s timeless classic reminds us, our lives go into a surreal tailspin as we agonize over whether the iconic groundhog will or will not see his shadow. Well, maybe your Groundhog Day isn&#39;t quite as angsty as that, but imagine the dither ol&#39; Bill would be if warming temps due to climate change roused the furry hero ahead of schedule. So, you can imagine my concern when I learned from two highly esteemed wildlife biologists that [spoiler alert!] climate change is indeed already making its mark on marmot hibernation. (FYI, a groundhog is technically a marmot &ndash; more on that below.)</p><p>To learn more, we invited to the EcoMyths Worldview segment Steven Sullivan, senior curator of urban ecology at the <a href="http://www.naturemuseum.org/about-us/senior-staff">Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum</a> and intrepid leader of <a>Project Squirrel</a>, as well as <a href="https://www.eeb.ucla.edu/Faculty/Blumstein/">Daniel Blumstein</a>, professor and chair at UCLA and chief marmot fan at the <a href="https://www.eeb.ucla.edu/Faculty/Blumstein/MarmotsOfRMBL/">Rocky Mountain Biological Lab Marmot Project</a>.</p><p><strong><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/181817143&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe>Hibernating Marmots 101</strong></p><p>Globally, there are 15 species of marmots&mdash;a genus of large rodents in the squirrel family. In North America, there are six species, but the two with the largest ranges are the groundhog (aka woodchuck), a lowland species which is prevalent across the country (and the only species that lives East of the Mississippi River), and the yellow-bellied marmot, which lives in the mountain west. Generally speaking, marmots live in burrows, hibernate in winter, and are highly social and communicative.</p><p>This whole hibernation thing is pretty impressive when you really think about it. Sullivan says groundhogs can be completely hidden from the world for eight solid months, which requires some amazing physiological adaptations and is essential to their survival during the winter months of food scarcity. During hibernation, their body temperature drops to almost freezing, heart rate falls from 70-80 to four beats per minute, and it will take only one breath every five minutes. If you dig up a hibernating groundhog it will &quot;feel, look, and sound like an ice cube.&quot;</p><p>And Blumstein points out that yellow-bellied marmots are one of the most efficient hibernators known &ndash; they&#39;re about the size of a cat &ndash; five to six kilograms before torpor &ndash; and burn about a gram of fat a day in deep torpor.</p><p>By studying this we can advance other science, such as medically induced comas, and -- even thinking of Orion spacecraft and Mars, e.g. how to shut humans down during space travel so that when they wake up upon reaching some far distant planet they can be functional and healthy.</p><p>The thing is, hibernation is dependent on a set of complex and not fully understood factors. Will climate change muck it all up?</p><p><strong>Climate Change Matters</strong></p><p>Conditions associated with climate change in different regions, particularly drought in the Western mountain regions and warmer/shorter winters in the Midwest, are predicted to threaten marmot survival by impacting hibernation and reproduction trends. The two most prominent and resilient species of marmots in North America&mdash;groundhogs and yellow-bellied marmots&mdash;can serve as a sentinel species in understanding the potential impact of climate change.</p><p>Marmots in subalpine Colorado are already experiencing an earlier wake-up call, explains Blumstein. Here, the snow has been melting on average about a day earlier each year over the last 30-40 years, so now, marmots are coming out of hibernation a month earlier than they used to.</p><p>As we see late snowfall and meltout, marmots have to survive longer with their fat reserves, because they are emerging earlier/before food is available and melting snowpack makes it easier for predators to find them. Meanwhile, heat and drought are drying out summer vegetation. In one year, the warmer weather and longer foraging time meant for an explosion in population, but the next year, the population crashed.</p><p>Around Chicagoland, groundhogs aren&#39;t yet feeling the heat, says Sullivan. But it&#39;s important to monitor this because the earlier they wake up and the longer the growing season, the more they reproduce and survive hibernation. As global warming spurs earlier emergence and longer growing seasons, those survival rates could skyrocket&mdash;and in turn mean there&#39;s not enough food to fill all those empty marmot bellies the next year.</p><p><strong>To sum it all up, </strong>Climate change may actually bring temporary benefits to resilient, broad-ranging species like groundhogs and yellow-bellied marmots&mdash;but any benefits would be soon offset by drought, shifts in food supply, and habitat loss.</p><p><strong>One Green Thing:</strong> Help marmots (and the rest of us, for that matter) by curbing climate change. One great way to that is to carpool or bike your commute at least twice a week.</p><p>For more on this, please read the myth at <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2015/01/global-warming-myth-it-dont-mean-a-thing-to-the-marmot-mating-game/">EcoMyths Alliance</a>.</p></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 10:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-will-climate-change-destroy-groundhog-day-we-know-it-111596 As Keystone XL stalls, another pipeline network moves quietly forward http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-work/keystone-xl-stalls-another-pipeline-network-moves-quietly-forward <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Flanagan 1.jpeg" alt="" /><p><p>The Keystone XL has been in the news a lot lately. The controversial pipeline would carry tar sands oil, a form of crude that is booming in North America. The southern section of the pipeline is already built, but protests have raged over the northern section and the State Department has been hesitant to approve it.</p><p>The Keystone XL&rsquo;s fans say tar sands oil can make us a more energy independent country. But environmentalists oppose it, saying tar sands oil is especially dirty and will <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/tar-sands-and-keystone-xl-pipeline-impact-on-global-warming/" target="_blank">accelerate climate change</a>.</p><p>But while Keystone XL has stalled, another tar sands project are happening under the radar.</p><p>&ldquo;While all the focus has been on Keystone XL, Enbridge has used existing pipelines and new pipelines next to existing pipelines to create the same system,&rdquo; says Carl Weimer, Executive Director of the <a href="http://pstrust.org/" target="_blank">Pipeline Safety Trust</a>.</p><p>One piece in that pipeline network expects to begin full operations soon. It is called Flanagan South and it starts about two hours south of Chicago at the Flanagan South pump station.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Flanagan South</span><br />The pump station is by a road in the middle of a big field. A few pipes come up above ground and there is a building about the size of a small warehouse. It is all pretty simple-looking for how much will happen here.</p><p>In early December, the oil transport company Enbridge plans to start full operations on the Flanagan South pipeline, pumping 600,000 barrels of oil a day through a pipe about as wide as a hula hoop. The pipeline goes from Illinois to Oklahoma, but is part of a network that stretches up to the Canadian tar sands and down to the Gulf Coast (just like the Keystone.)</p><p>The number of pipelines is the United States is growing because of a booming oil industry in the tar sands of Canada and North Dakota.&nbsp; Enbridge spokesperson Jennifer Smith says that is not only good news for Enbridge&rsquo;s business, it is also good news for states like Illinois. &ldquo;Once Flanagan South [and a number of other Illinois pipelines] are in service for a full year, it will be over an additional 4 million in taxes that Enbridge will contribute to the Illinois economy,&rdquo; said Smith.</p><p>Enbridge hired around 1,000 people during construction of the Illinois section of the pipeline (it estimates about half of those jobs went to Illinois residents). And crude oil imports to the midwest recently hit an all-time high.</p><p>&ldquo;Outside of just the gasoline, jet fuel and diesel, by-products of crude oil are made for plastics, and are made in manufacturing. Our true quality of life depends on crude oil,&rdquo; said Smith.</p><p>In total, Enbridge expects to hire only five permanent position because of the Flanagan pipeline. And Doug Hayes with the Sierra Club say those jobs are just not worth it.</p><p>&ldquo;The 600,000 barrels a day is equal to about 130 million tons of carbon emissions, which is the same as putting 27 million more cars on the road each year,&rdquo; said Hayes.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Escaping public attention</span></p><p>Enbridge used existing pipes to build its new network, reversing some lines and expanding others. One of those existing lines already crossed a Canadian border, so unlike Keystone XL, it did not need state department approval (<a href="http://www.newsweek.com/2014/12/05/all-eyes-keystone-another-tar-sands-pipeline-just-crossed-border-286685.html" target="_blank">though this process has also been controversial</a>).</p><p>The Sierra club&rsquo;s Doug Hayes says the company also used something called a Nationwide 12 permit to build the new Flanagan section. It basically fast-tracks the permitting process. The southern section of the Keystone XL (which is already complete) also used one.</p><p>The permit allowed Enbridge to skip long public comment periods and avoid an environmental review of the Flanagan pipeline in its entirety.</p><p>&ldquo;So the problem is, there was no opportunity for the communities along the pipeline to learn about the dangers of oil spills, the climate impacts, and so forth,&rdquo; said Hayes.</p><p>Hayes represented the Sierra Club in a lawsuit over this permit. The Sierra Club lost, but is appealing.</p><p>Hayes says the case is a big deal because he expects more companies to follow a similar strategy. &ldquo;The tar sands industry is looking at what is happening with Keystone XL and they understand that the more the public learns about these projects, the more opposition grows. So, there has been a concerted effort to permit these pipelines behind closed doors,&rdquo; said Hayes.</p><p>Smith, the Enbridge spokesperson says the company never tried to keep the pipeline quiet and that she helped host open houses and presentations. &ldquo;Everyone is welcome to come and learn about the projects and get their questions answered,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>But when pressed on if Enbridge escaped the more comprehensive environmental review, she is more elusive. She responded to multiple rephrased variations of the question by repeating that the company followed the permitting route that the government laid out for them.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The risk of oil spills</span></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/179517057&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_user=true" width="100%"></iframe>The new Flanagan South pipeline passes through roughly 2,000 waterways or wetlands. The Environmental Protection Agency says tar sands oil presents a different spill risk than conventional oil, because it can sink to the bottom of waterways and does not appreciably biodegrade.</p><p>About four years ago, an Enbridge pipeline carrying tar sands oil ruptured in Michigan.<br />The accident cost just over a billion dollars and still is not cleaned up. A report from National Wildlife Federation says the spill contaminated 30 miles of the Kalamazoo River and provoked evacuations.</p><p>Smith concedes there will always be a risk of spills. But she says if oil is going to move, the safest way to do it is through pipelines. &ldquo;Even according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, pipelines are the safest way to transport oil,&rdquo; said Smith.</p><p>Enbridge says the Michigan spill was quote, &ldquo;The company&rsquo;s darkest time.&rdquo; It says it&rsquo;s updated safety procedures and equipment since then. But pipeline activists say it is difficult to evaluate if that is true. Because of lax government oversight, they say they are left to take the company at its word.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Government Oversight</span></p><p>The National Wildlife Federation&rsquo;s report on the Michigan spill holds Enbridge accountable. But it also blames government agencies.</p><p>&ldquo;The first responders were very ill-prepared to deal with the spill. And a lot of that was the fact that they simply didn&rsquo;t have the information and tools that they needed. That is largely the fault of a federal regulatory agency that did not prepare them properly,&rdquo; said Jim Murphy, lawyer for The National Wildlife Federation.</p><p>Carl Weimer, Executive Director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, says the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) does not have the resources to deal with all the new pipelines.</p><p>&ldquo;So, if there are problems, the regulators may be missing it. So, to a grand degree we are trusting that the pipeline industry is going to do things correctly,&rdquo; said Weimer.</p><p>In a testimony before congress, PHMSA officials said the agency must grow to meet added demands and evolving changes. They also requested additional funding and said the &ldquo;potential to do more remains.&rdquo;</p><p>But Weimer says we can not lay all the blame on the federal government. States can apply to do their own additional monitoring. &ldquo;They can really provide better and more inspections of the pipeline,&rdquo; said Weimer.</p><p>Only a few states have done that, and Illinois is not one of them. But with the growing number of new pipelines in the state, Weimer says maybe it is time to consider it.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her @<a href="http://twitter.com/shannon_h" target="_blank">shannon_h</a></em></p><p><em>Front and Center is funded by The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 01 Dec 2014 12:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-work/keystone-xl-stalls-another-pipeline-network-moves-quietly-forward EcoMyths: 4 Surprising Ways to Make Your Wood Fires Eco-Friendly http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-4-surprising-ways-make-your-wood-fires-eco-friendly-111192 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/EcoMyths-Fireplace.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-41f5a840-16e6-64f1-98a5-c3c19addb0e0">As the winter chill starts to descend on Chicago, many are gathering their wood kindling. But how energy-efficient and sustainable is wood-burning? For our <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths">EcoMyths segment</a>, we&rsquo;ll get the answer from Kate Sackman of <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/">EcoMyths Alliance</a> and her guest, Craig Wright, director of the New Hampshire Air Resources Agency.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/178625545&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></span></p><div><u>4 Surprising Ways to Make Your Wood Fires Eco-Friendly</u></div><p>Quick &ndash; the first word that comes to mind when you hear the word fireplace.&nbsp; Cozy?&nbsp; Yeah. It just makes you want to pull up a chair and settle in wrapped in a nubby blanket with your honey.</p><p>That said, you may have also noticed you might need that nubby blanket, because in a standard fireplace, the fire creates a cool draft as most of the warmth is sucked out through the chimney. Not to mention the sooty smoke that fills the house while you-know-who gets the fire started. Idyllic? Not so much.&nbsp; So EcoMyths readers want to know: how do you make fireplaces and wood stoves burn warm and clean &ndash; and eco-friendly too?</p><p>This month on Worldview&rsquo;s EcoMyths segment, we decided to explore whether burning wood in the winter is a naturally green alternative. So we looked to New Hampshire, where both wood stoves and sustainable forests are an integral part of the culture.&nbsp; Jerome McDonnell and I talked with air quality expert, Craig Wright, Director of <a href="http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/air/" target="_blank">New Hampshire&rsquo;s Air Resources Agency</a>.&nbsp; Craig shared with us that there are both healthy and not-so-healthy ways to use fire-burning to stay warm.&nbsp; Not-so-healthy ways include: using green or wet wood in the fireplace because it produces a lot of airborne ash, which can cause respiratory problems for those who breathe it.&nbsp; Other risky, polluting options include burning wood in inefficient, non-EPA wood stoves.</p><p><strong>So how do we enjoy our cozy fireplaces and still keep the air around us clean?&nbsp; Here are Craig&rsquo;s top 4 recommendations on making your fires eco-friendly:</strong></p><p>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <u>Burn Seasoned Hardwoods</u>. Fires made from, &ldquo;seasoned&rdquo; split wood burn hotter, creating less smoke and ash.&nbsp; Seasoning wood requires allowing split wood to dry for at least 6-12 months.&nbsp; To tell if wood is dry enough, look for cracks in the grain at the end of the logs.&nbsp;</p><p>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <u>Use Wood from Sustainable Forests</u>. Forests that are actively managed through cutting and replanting are more bio diverse and healthier than woodlands that are left to fend for themselves.&nbsp; Craig notes that buying wood harvested from sustainable forests helps ensure that our forests will continue to be renewed, providing better ecological functioning (e.g. cleaning the air we breathe) and supporting the local economy.&nbsp; Wood is one of the few sources of energy that is renewable.&nbsp; It is also considered by the EPA to be a carbon neutral fuel because trees take in as much C02 while growing as they naturally release after they fall to the forest floor and decay (or are burned).</p><p>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <u>For Heating Your Home with Wood, Use an EPA-Certified Stove</u>. EPA-certified stoves use only about 1/3 as much wood and also retain more heat in your home. In addition, they emit about half as much pollution compared to old, non-certified wood stoves. When purchasing a new stove, look for the EPA certified label on the back.&nbsp; Your fireplace can also be lined with an EPA-certified liner enabling more of the fire&rsquo;s heat to make your living room cozy.</p><p>4.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <u>Use Wood Pellet Stoves</u>. Last, but certainly not least, wood pellet stoves use small, compressed nuggets of wood waste and two-stage combustion to burn hot and clean.&nbsp; According to the EPA and Craig, wood pellet stoves are the most efficient wood stoves available.</p><p>For a deeper dive, click here <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2014/11/building-a-fire-is-by-nature-eco-friendly-heat/">EcoMyth: Building a Fire Is Eco-Friendly by Nature</a>.</p></p> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 09:57:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-4-surprising-ways-make-your-wood-fires-eco-friendly-111192