Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

EPA at a 30-year low for referring pollution cases for criminal prosecution

January 15th, 2019
EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler

Enlarge / Acting Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency EPA Andrew Wheeler listens as President Donald J. Trump leads a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on July 18, 2018, in Washington, DC. (credit: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Polluters likely had a good year in 2018. According to numbers from advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the number of criminal pollution cases that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) referred to the Department of Justice for potential prosecution was lower in 2018 than it had been in 30 years.

That's probably not because industry in America is becoming more environmentally conscious. PEER suggests the reason for the low number of referrals is that the EPA is only employing between 130 and 140 special agents in the agency's Criminal Investigation Division, less than the minimum 200 agents specified by the US Pollution Prevention Act of 1990.

The EPA only referred 166 cases to the Justice Department in 2018. According to numbers from the Associated Press, referrals peaked in 1998, with 592 cases referred for prosecution. Throughout the George W. Bush presidency, referrals ranged somewhere between 300 and 450. Referrals dipped during the Obama presidency to a range between 200 and just over 400. Referrals have been on a downward trend since 2012.

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Posted in Energy, environment, EPA, Policy, pollution, science | Comments (0)

Rodents of Unusual Size—Meet the invasive, orange-toothed pests of coastal erosion

January 14th, 2019

The trailer for the documentary Rodents of an Unusual Size

By now, anyone following environmental news recognizes Louisiana as one of the front lines for climate change in the United States. In recent years, writers from the state have famously wondered out loud about whether the boot shape we all learned in elementary school fits anymore, and residents of a small community in Isle de Jean Charles made headlines in 2015-2016 by becoming the first "climate refugees" in the country. Between flooding and the various forces pushing coastal erosion, the town quite literally lost 98 percent of its physical land in the 60 years between 1955 and 2015, forcing a concerted relocation effort.

The causes of this crisis are complex, numerous, and varied—but only one contributor kinda, sorta resembles a real-life Raticate. The large swamp rats known as nutria don’t look anything like the small mice you might take home from a pet store. Larger than small dogs and sporting giant orange teeth capable of doing some damage, most people wouldn’t want to mess with one in close quarters. But many in modern Louisiana don’t have a choice these days, which is where Rodents of an Unusual Size—a documentary making its TV debut on PBS’ Independent Lens on Monday, January 14—comes in.

Know the nutria

Back in the early 20th century long before environmental changes imminently threatened the state's natural resources, Louisiana still needed more industry. So businessmen like EA McIlhenny (of the Tabasco family, yes) had an idea. Argentina has this abundance of these large, furry creatures called nutria, what if we acquired some?

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Posted in Animals, coastal erosion, environment, Gaming & Culture, Louisiana, nutria, science | Comments (0)

States will vote on these energy and environment issues in midterm elections

November 4th, 2018
Voter voting

Enlarge / A voter casts his ballot in a polling station in Missoula, Montana. (credit: Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In the United States, mid-term elections are set to take place on Tuesday November 6. Although much of the limelight is on Congressional races and gubernatorial races, US citizens also have the chance to vote on some important initiatives, measures, and amendments that are specific to their state. These state rules can often have a more direct impact on the lives of Americans than their representatives in Congress do, but because proposals tend to be long and nuanced, they also can attract a lot less attention.

Energy and environment topics are among the most contentious of 2018's ballots, especially in western states where fossil fuel interests are facing a public that's increasingly concerned with climate change. Here's a look at seven proposed rules on US state ballots that could influence state economies and environments in serious ways.

Alaska, Ballot Measure 1

Salmon Habitat Protections and Permits Initiative

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Posted in Energy, environment, mining, oil, Policy, renewable, science | Comments (0)

Satya Nadella: The cloud is going to move underwater

November 1st, 2018
Lowering <em>Leona Philpot</em>, Microsoft's first underwater serverpod, into the water.

Lowering Leona Philpot, Microsoft's first underwater serverpod, into the water. (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says that underwater server farms are part of the company's plans for future data centers.

Microsoft has been experimenting with underwater servers for some time. Project Natick put a server pod underwater off the coast of California in 2016. Naturally enough, the pod uses water cooling, dumping waste heat into the ocean around it. It's designed as a sealed unit, deployed for five years before being brought back up to the surface and replaced. Since then, Microsoft has deployed a larger pod off the coast of Scotland.

Speaking at the company's Future Decoded conference in London, Nadella said that undersea deployments are "the way [Microsoft] will think about data center regions and expansion." He cites proximity to humans as a particular advantage: about 50 percent of the world's population lives within 120 miles of a coast. Putting servers in the ocean means that they can be near population centers, which in turn ensures lower latencies. Low latencies are particularly important for real-time services, including Microsoft's forthcoming Xcloud game streaming service.

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Posted in datacenters, environment, microsoft, Project Natick, Tech | Comments (0)