Bees crucial to many crops still dying at worrisome rate: USDA

Read the full story from Planet Ark.

Honey bees, crucial in the pollination of many U.S. crops, are still dying off at an worrisome rate, even though fewer were lost over the past winter, according to a government report issued on Thursday.

Total losses of managed honey bee colonies was 23.2 percent nationwide for the 2013-2014 winter, according to the annual report issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the “Bee Informed Partnership,” a group of honeybee industry participants.

The death rate for the most recent winter, October 2013 through April 2014, was better than the 30.5 percent loss reported for the winter of 2012-2013, but worse than the 21.9 percent in 2011-2012, the report said. Previous surveys found total colony losses averaged 29.6 percent over the last eight-year span.

EPA Finalizes Standards to Protect Fish, Aquatic Life from Cooling Water Intakes

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized standards to protect billions of fish and other aquatic life drawn each year into cooling water systems at large power plants and factories. This final rule is required by the Clean Water Act to address site-specific challenges, and establishes a common sense framework, putting a premium on public input and flexibility for facilities to comply.

An estimated 2.1 billion fish, crabs, and shrimp are killed annually by being pinned against cooling water intake structures (impingement) or being drawn into cooling water systems and affected by heat, chemicals, or physical stress (entrainment). To protect threatened and endangered species and critical habitat, the expertise of the Fish & Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service is available to inform decisions about control technologies at individual facilities.

“EPA is making it clear that if you have cooling water intakes you have to look at the impact on aquatic life in local waterways and take steps to minimize that impact,” said Nancy Stoner, acting Assistant Administrator for Water at EPA.

The final rule establishes requirements under the Clean Water Act for all existing power generating facilities and existing manufacturing and industrial facilities that withdraw more than 2 million gallons per day of water from waters of the U.S. and use at least 25 percent of the water they withdraw exclusively for cooling purposes. This rule covers roughly 1,065 existing facilities –521 of these facilities are factories, and the other 544 are power plants. The technologies required under the rule are well-understood, have been in use for several decades, and are in use at over 40 percent of facilities.

The national requirements, which will be implemented through National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, are applicable to the location, design, construction, and capacity of cooling water intake structures at these facilities and are based on the best technology available for minimizing environmental impact. The rule establishes a strong baseline level of protection and then allows additional safeguards for aquatic life to be developed through site-specific analysis, an approach that ensures the best technology available is used. It puts implementation analysis in the hands of the permit writers so requirements can be tailored to the particular facility.

There are three components to the final regulation.

  • Existing facilities that withdraw at least 25 percent of their water from an adjacent waterbody exclusively for cooling purposes and have a design intake flow of greater than 2 million gallons per day are required to reduce fish impingement. To ensure flexibility, the owner or operator of the facility will be able to choose one of seven options for meeting best technology available requirements for reducing impingement.
  • Facilities that withdraw very large amounts of water – at least 125 million gallons per day – are required to conduct studies to help the permitting authority determine what site-specific entrainment mortality controls, if any, will be required. This process will include public input.
  • New units at an existing facility that are built to increase the generating capacity of the facility are be required to reduce the intake flow to a level similar to a closed cycle, recirculation system. Closed cycle systems are the most effective at reducing entrainment. This can be done by incorporating a closed-cycle system into the design of the new unit, or by making other design changes equivalent to the reductions associated with closed-cycle cooling.

More information:

‘Best before’ dates add to food waste: EU paper

Read the full story from Planet Ark.

Food waste in the West has become a hot topic because of its environmental and humanitarian implications. A report last year found up to half of the food produced worldwide was wasted because of poor harvesting, storage and transport methods, as well as irresponsible retailer and consumer behavior.

The discussion paper, seen by Reuters and put forward by the Netherlands and Sweden, says date-labeling in many EU countries is adding to the problem and calls on the European Commission to consider whether products with a very long shelf life could be exempt from best before labels.

It also wants EU policymakers to explore how to make consumers better understand durability dates.

Environmental Sustainability of Importance to Italian Leather Industry

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

Leather tanning is one of the oldest industries in the world, whose products find application in numerous fields like fashion, furniture design, car manufacturing, and aviation, among others. The established leader in this market on the international level is Italy, with its major tanneries concentrated in three regions: Veneto, Tuscany and Campania. The leather products made in Italy are exported worldwide in more than 100 countries and are recognized as a symbol of quality, luxury and tradition.

Tradition is one of the pillars of Italian leather industry, where leather processing still pays great attention to every production step, using craft techniques passed on from generation to generation.

Another aspect of this industry is technological innovation. Maintaining leadership in such a competitive market requires constant scientific research and advanced modern technology.

It is not just about quality dyes and sophisticated elaboration techniques; it is crucial to guarantee the environmental sustainability of this key industrial sector through technological and organizational innovation in the environmental field.

What Will the Supreme Court’s Latest Climate-Change Case Mean?

Read the full post from NRDC.

Sometime in the next few weeks, the Supreme Court will decide its third case on climate-changing carbon pollution in the last seven years.  The earlier cases clearly established the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to set standards under the Clean Air Act to curb carbon pollution from both vehicles and factories.  This case, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, concerns a secondary question about the Act’s permitting provisions, which supplement EPA’s standard-setting authority.

The Supreme Court’s permitting decision will come at an interesting time – just before or just after EPA exercises the standard-setting authority the Court recognized in its two prior decisions:  On June 2nd, EPA is expected to propose carbon pollution standards under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to curb the two billion tons of dangerous carbon pollution coming each year from the nation’s electric power plants.

The Court’s decision, of course, is unpredictable.  The Justices may uphold EPA’s carbon permitting rules, overturn them, or split the difference, in ways I’ll describe below.

One thing can be predicted with certainty, however.  If the Court curtails EPA’s permitting rules in any way, there’ll be a flurry of press releases claiming the decision casts doubt on EPA’s power plant standards.

And those press releases will be wrong.  Here’s why.

Cloud business may be more efficient but is it greener?

Read the full story from the BBC.

Cloud-based computing can help businesses reduce their operating costs and carbon footprints, providers claim.

And on the face of it, outsourcing IT services and moving from physical to virtual operations seems to make sense.

It reduces the need for energy-hungry, bricks-and-mortar offices, while online collaborative software improves efficiency.

But companies cannot assume they are operating more sustainably simply by moving to the cloud, some experts warn, because not all clouds are equally as clean.