Day: September 30, 2014

Redevelopment in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley: What Worked and Why?

Download the document.

The revitalization of Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley as an industrial, recreational, and entertainment district has been lauded both locally and nationally as a successful and sustainable urban redevelopment project. In this report, the Public Policy Forum explores how the Valley’s major improvements over the last 15 years were achieved, including an examination of the public policies, financial resources, and partnerships that were crucial to the redevelopment effort.

The purpose of this research effort is not to evaluate the success of Valley redevelopment. Indeed, we start with the premise that Valley redevelopment has been successful. Our objective, instead, is to identify and analyze the ingredients of success so that consideration can be given to replicating them elsewhere. Through analysis of Valley data and documents, and through an extensive series of interviews with public and private sector leaders, we are able to cite the major barriers that inhibited Valley redevelopment, and examine the policies, activities, and strategies that helped to overcome those barriers and facilitate private sector investments.

The report begins with a brief overview of the economic, environmental, and community improvements that have occurred in the Menomonee Valley since the late 1990s. We then explore the work that brought about those outcomes by examining five “success factors” deemed critical to the Valley’s revitalization, and by presenting four major Valley projects as case studies.

Smart Homes Make For Angry Roommates

Read the full story in Fast Company.

If you’ve ever come home to a roommate’s dread passive-aggressive note tacked to the refrigerator door, you might not want to move into a smart home. Researchers have discovered that the smarter your home, the angrier roommates get at one another for wasting utilities.

According to research conducted by academics at the University of Nottingham, smart meters that allow housemates to track energy usage and how much it is costing the household in detail end up causing more fights than they resolve.

Audubon to protest bird ‘death trap’ stadium design

Read the full story from Minnesota Public Radio.

The Minneapolis chapter of the Audubon Society is organizing a protest at the new Vikings stadium this weekend calling on the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and the Minnesota Vikings to change the design of the new billion dollar stadium.

The stadium’s open interior and lights may attract birds, who can be killed or injured when they fly into the transparent glass.

The Natural Gas Boom Could Accelerate Climate Change

Read the full post at Five Thirty Eight Science.

Natural gas production in the United States is booming: Since 2005, it has increased by 35 percent,1 and with each passing year the country burns more gas, and less coal and oil. Natural gas emits far less carbon dioxide than coal or oil, and the gas boom has driven a decline in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions over the past decade. The boom stems largely from the shale gas revolution, in which hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling (“fracking”) allows recovery of natural gas and petroleum trapped in underground shale formations.

Policymakers have hailed this revolution as beneficial in the fight against climate change, but natural gas does have a dark side: It is composed primarily of methane, which has a much stronger climate-warming effect than carbon dioxide. Unburned methane that leaks into the air from anywhere in our natural gas infrastructure has a potent climate-warming effect, and global methane levels have been steadily increasing since 2007.

The only way to know whether switching to natural gas will worsen climate warming, rather than lessen it, is to accurately assess the scale of methane leakage. Since the issue first rose to prominence following a 2011 study, numerous research groups have sought to get a handle on methane leakage. In the past year alone, several high-profile studies have been published, each using a different methodology and some reaching widely differing conclusions. The scientific community is far from consensus on the topic, but a look at the available data is illuminating, and perhaps alarming.

More Evidence That Goats Are a Good Municipal Investment

Read the full story from CityLab.

There’s no better way for a city to garner amusing headlines than by whipping out a bunch of goats for lawn-clearing duty. It happened this year in Seattle when the local transportation department used ruminants to eat unwanted brush (“Getting Their Goat“), last August when D.C. did the same in Congressional Cemetery (“The Kids Are Alright“), and that same month when the barnyard animals munched their way through O’Hare (“Goats Help ‘Baaaa-ttle’ Brush at Chicago Airport“).

But there’s another reason that cities keep flooding their land with goats. These bounding, human-voiced animals are extremely good at what they do—which is eating everything in sight. Their ironclad tongues and guts make quick work of tough or hazardous vegetation that humans struggle to control, such as blackberry tangles and poison ivy. Sure, they sometimes slack off to stand on top of each other, but under the supervision of a good herder they’re a miracle for brush-clearing.

Now, there’s even more evidence of their landscaping efficacy thanks to researchers at Duke and six other universities, including one in the Netherlands. (The world’s most methodical minds are clamoring to be near goats, it seems.) Their focus, explained in the journal PeerJ, is how the creatures can be leveraged against a troublesome invasive grass from Europe, Phragmites australis.

Review of Operational Water Consumption and Withdrawal Factors for Electricity Generating Technologies

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This report provides estimates of operational water withdrawal and water consumption factors for electricity generating technologies in the United States. Estimates of water factors were collected from published primary literature and were not modified except for unit conversions. The presented water factors may be useful in modeling and policy analyses where reliable power plant level data are not available.

NIH Prodding Makes Data Sharing More Common, Survey Finds

Via the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Ticker Blog.

Report: “Codifying Collegiality: Recent Developments in Data Sharing Policy in the Life Sciences”

Authors: Genevieve Pham-Kanter, Darren E. Zinner, and Eric G. Campbell

Journal: PLoS ONE

Summary: The paper, based on a study conducted by researchers at Drexel, Brandeis, and Harvard Universities, represents an attempt to measure the effectiveness of policies instituted by funding agencies and journals to encourage the wider sharing of data by scientists.

The study consisted of a survey that was sent to 2,853 life-sciences investigators at leading research institutions and that drew a response rate of 41 percent. The answers were compared with those in a similarly designed survey by a separate research team in 2000. The comparison was chosen because of various changes in rules and the creation of data repositories since 2000, including a 2003 requirement by the National Institutes of Health for the inclusion of data-sharing plans in all grant applications with an expected annual value exceeding $500,000.

Survey responses suggested that NIH policies had the greatest positive effect on data sharing; that data-sharing policies at scientific journals had only a moderate effect; and that almost 25 percent of respondents admitted they sometimes or always neglected to file required legal contracts before sharing materials with investigators at other institutions.

Bottom Line: The survey results affirmed that the policies of the NIH, the leading supplier of basic-research money to universities, can have a powerful effect on researcher behavior. The findings also suggested that bureaucratic requirements may need to be eased to further encourage data sharing.

U.S. EPA Approves Carbon Sequestration Permit in Decatur, Illinois

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a permit allowing the Archer Daniels Midland Company to inject carbon dioxide deep underground in Decatur, Illinois. This process – known as “carbon sequestration” – is a means of storing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

ADM plans to capture carbon dioxide produced by an ethanol manufacturing facility. ADM’s goal is to capture and inject 1.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. Sequestering 1.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year is the equivalent of eliminating carbon emissions from over 230,000 cars.

U.S. EPA completed a technical review of the Class VI permit and responded to over 100 public comments before approving the permit. ADM can begin drilling the well in November in preparation for injecting liquefied carbon dioxide. ADM must demonstrate the integrity of the well before injecting carbon dioxide and conduct extensive monitoring at the location.

ADM is the second facility in the nation to receive a Class VI underground injection permit for carbon sequestration. In August, U.S. EPA issued four Class VI permits for a FutureGen Alliance facility in downstate Illinois.

For more information: http://www.epa.gov/region5/water/uic/adm/.

Map: Which Countries Are Most Responsible For Climate Change?

Read the full story from Fast Company.

This week, heads of state from around the world met at a UN climate summit hosted by Ban-Ki Moon, and the U.S. promised to put climate change “front and center” of American diplomacy. To illustrate the geopolitics of climate change, the Guardian has put together an in-depth interactive map that elegantly visualizes which countries contribute the most to carbon emissions, both currently and historically, and which are the most vulnerable to the effects of global warming. In many cases, the countries suffering the most from carbon-related climate change have the least power to stop it, since they aren’t the ones emitting the most.

Illinois professors and students study community resilience around polluted waterways

Read the full story in Inside Illinois.

There’s no such thing as a good place to have a natural disaster, nor has there ever been an appropriate site to release toxic pollutants. But scientists have long recognized that some areas can handle such catastrophes better than others. As early as the 1970s, they used socioeconomic data from the U.S. Census to develop a tool called the Social Vulnerability Index, known as SoVI, to gauge the likely resilience of different communities.

Now a team of professors and graduate students at the University of Illinois is testing and tweaking the SoVI model by studying at a more granular level the communities around two polluted Midwest waterways. Bethany Cutts, a professor of natural resources and environmental sciences, and Andrew Greenlee, a professor ofurban and regional planning, received a two-year Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant to study communities around the Lincoln Park-Milwaukee Estuary and portions of the Grand Calumet River south of Chicago, both designated “areas of concern” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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