Legislative & Regulatory Update

UTA study finds air contamination near fracking sites result of operational inefficiencies

Climate Change News - ENN - August 29, 2016 - 11:39am
Chemists at the University of Texas at Arlington have published a new study that indicates that highly variable contamination events registered in and around unconventional oil and gas developments are the result of operational inefficiencies and not inherent to the extraction process itself.The study, published today as "Point source attribution of ambient contamination events near unconventional oil and gas development" in Science of the Total Environment, found highly variable levels of ambient BTEX, or benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene compounds, in and around fracking gas drilling sites in the Eagle Ford shale region in South Texas. BTEX compounds in high concentrations can be carcinogenic and have harmful effects on the nervous system.

Storms in Mexico Kill Millions of Monarchs

Climate Change News - ENN - August 29, 2016 - 8:06am
While international efforts are under way to help keep dwindling populations of monarch butterflies from disappearing, scientists are raising concerns about how severe weather and a loss of forest habitat at their wintering grounds in Mexico are affecting them.Every year, monarchs embark on an epic multigenerational migration that takes them thousands of miles from Canada and the U.S. in search of sites in California and in Mexico. The fir trees in the southern regions offer the shelter and warmth they need to survive the winter.Unfortunately, these vital forests in Mexico have been threatened by illegal logging, and now storms have destroyed hundreds of acres of habitat, while severe weather is believed to have killed an estimated 6.2 million of these iconic butterflies.

Waterloo chemists develop promising cheap, sustainable battery for grid energy storage

Chemists at the University of Waterloo have developed a long-lasting zinc-ion battery that costs half the price of current lithium-ion batteries and could help enable communities to shift away from traditional power plants and into renewable solar and wind energy production.Professor Linda Nazar and her colleagues from the Faculty of Science at Waterloo made the important discovery, which appears in the journal, Nature Energy.

Blending wastewater may help California cope with drought

Regulatory news - ENN - August 26, 2016 - 12:56pm
Recycled wastewater is increasingly touted as part of the solution to California's water woes, particularly for agricultural use, as the state's historic drought continues. The cost of treating wastewater to meet state health standards for reuse and to reduce salt levels that damage crops presents a new set of challenges, however.Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have developed an economic model that demonstrates how flexible wastewater treatment processes which blend varying levels of treated effluent can be optimized to produce a water supply that is affordable, and meets and surpasses a variety of water quality requirements.

Ecological consequences of amphetamine pollution in urban streams

Regulatory news - ENN - August 25, 2016 - 4:32pm
Pharmaceutical and illicit drugs are present in streams in Baltimore, Maryland. At some sites, amphetamine concentrations are high enough to alter the base of the aquatic food web. So reports a new study released today in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, which is one of the first to explore the ecological consequences of stimulant pollution in urban streams.Lead author Sylvia S. Lee conducted the work as a postdoctoral researcher at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. Lee, now with the Environmental Protection Agency, comments, "Around the world, treated and untreated wastewater entering surface waters contains pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs that originate from human consumption and excretion, manufacturing processes, or improper disposal. We were interested in revealing how amphetamine exposure influences the small plants and animals that play a large role in regulating the health of streams."

Perfluorinated compounds found in African crocodiles, American alligators

Regulatory news - ENN - August 25, 2016 - 12:12pm
American alligators and South African crocodiles populate waterways a third of the globe apart, and yet both have detectable levels of long-lived industrial and household compounds for nonstick coatings in their blood, according to two studies from researchers at the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, and its affiliated institutions, which include the National Institute of Standards and Technology.Production of some compounds in this family of environmentally persistent chemicals--associated with liver toxicity, reduced fertility and a variety of other health problems in studies of people and animals--has been phased out in the United States and many other nations. Yet all blood plasma samples drawn from 125 American alligators across 12 sites in Florida and South Carolina contained at least six of the 15 perfluorinated alkyl acids (PFAAs) that were tracked in the alligator study.

New electrical energy storage material shows its power

A powerful new material developed by Northwestern University chemist William Dichtel and his research team could one day speed up the charging process of electric cars and help increase their driving range.An electric car currently relies on a complex interplay of both batteries and supercapacitors to provide the energy it needs to go places, but that could change."Our material combines the best of both worlds -- the ability to store large amounts of electrical energy or charge, like a battery, and the ability to charge and discharge rapidly, like a supercapacitor," said Dichtel, a pioneer in the young research field of covalent organic frameworks (COFs).

How Elephant Seals Are Helping Scientists Study Climate Change

Climate Change News - ENN - August 24, 2016 - 7:10pm
A group of southern elephant seals is helping scientists monitorhow climate change is impacting Antarctica by tracking water temperature, depth, and salinity as they swim and dive around the frozen continent. 

Smoke Waves Are the Next Climate Change Problem

Climate Change News - ENN - August 24, 2016 - 8:25am
In the hills near Los Angeles, the Blue Cut Fire just ripped through 36,000 acres, taking dozens of homes along with it, spurring a major evacuation, and even requiring temporary highway closures. But the merciless flames of the Blue Cut Fire almost pale in comparison with the flood of wildfires across the Golden State, and the West at large, in an era when the wildfire season is growing longer and more aggressive every year. Climate change is the reason why, and researchers are discovering that the cost of wildfires may be bigger than we imagined: They’re tracking deadly “smoke waves” that sweep the landscape, causing serious respiratory health problems.

New class of fuel cells offer increased flexibility, lower cost

A new class of fuel cells based on a newly discovered polymer-based material could bridge the gap between the operating temperature ranges of two existing types of polymer fuel cells, a breakthrough with the potential to accelerate the commercialization of low-cost fuel cells for automotive and stationary applications.A Los Alamos National Laboratory team, in collaboration with Yoong-Kee Choe at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan and Cy Fujimoto of Sandia National Laboratories, has discovered that fuel cells made from phosphate-quaternary ammonium ion-pair can be operated between 80°C and 200°C with and without water, enhancing the fuel cells usability in a range of conditions. The research is published in the journal Nature Energy.

Nanofur for oil spill cleanup

Climate Change News - ENN - August 23, 2016 - 11:51am
Some water ferns can absorb large volumes of oil within a short time, because their leaves are strongly water-repellent and, at the same time, highly oil-absorbing. Researchers of KIT, together with colleagues of Bonn University, have found that the oil-binding capacity of the water plant results from the hairy microstructure of its leaves. It is now used as a model to further develop the new Nanofur material for the environmentally friendly cleanup of oil spills. (DOI: 10.1088/1748-3190/11/5/056003)Damaged pipelines, oil tanker disasters, and accidents on oil drilling and production platforms may result in pollutions of water with crude or mineral oil. Conventional methods to clean up the oil spill are associated with specific drawbacks. 

Nanofur for oil spill cleanup

Regulatory news - ENN - August 23, 2016 - 11:51am
Some water ferns can absorb large volumes of oil within a short time, because their leaves are strongly water-repellent and, at the same time, highly oil-absorbing. Researchers of KIT, together with colleagues of Bonn University, have found that the oil-binding capacity of the water plant results from the hairy microstructure of its leaves. It is now used as a model to further develop the new Nanofur material for the environmentally friendly cleanup of oil spills. (DOI: 10.1088/1748-3190/11/5/056003)Damaged pipelines, oil tanker disasters, and accidents on oil drilling and production platforms may result in pollutions of water with crude or mineral oil. Conventional methods to clean up the oil spill are associated with specific drawbacks. 

NASA Monitors the 'New Normal' of Sea Ice

Climate Change News - ENN - August 23, 2016 - 8:33am
This year’s melt season in the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas started with a bang, with a record low maximum extent in March and relatively rapid ice loss through May. The melt slowed down in June, however, making it highly unlikely that this year’s summertime sea ice minimum extent will set a new record.

Researchers reduce expensive noble metals for fuel cell reactions

Washington State University researchers have developed a novel nanomaterial that could improve the performance and lower the costs of fuel cells by using fewer precious metals like platinum or palladium.Led by Yuehe Lin, professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, the researchers used inexpensive metal to make a super low density material, called an aerogel, to reduce the amount of precious metals required for fuel cell reactions. They also sped up the time to make the aerogels, which makes them more viable for large-scale production.

Study measures methane release from Arctic permafrost

Climate Change News - ENN - August 22, 2016 - 12:02pm
A University of Alaska Fairbanks-led research project has provided the first modern evidence of a landscape-level permafrost carbon feedback, in which thawing permafrost releases ancient carbon as climate-warming greenhouse gases.The study was published today in the journal Nature Geoscience.The project, led by UAF researcher Katey Walter Anthony, studied lakes in Alaska, Canada, Sweden and Siberia where permafrost thaw surrounding lakes led to lake shoreline expansion during the past 60 years. Using historical aerial photo analysis, soil and methane sampling, and radiocarbon dating, the project quantified for the first time the strength of the present-day permafrost carbon feedback to climate warming. Although a large permafrost carbon emission is expected to occur imminently, the results of this study show nearly no sign that it has begun.

Fixing America's Waste Problem

Regulatory news - ENN - August 19, 2016 - 5:14pm
America’s massive, growing landfills are the result of many decades of bad policies and decisions. And it will take a concerted, society-wide effort to solve this problem. Let’s dive deeper into just how big our landfill waste problem is and how we can begin to shift toward a circular economy.

New Study Challenges Assumption of Asbestos' Ability to Move in Soil

Regulatory news - ENN - August 19, 2016 - 4:23pm
A new study led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego scientist Jane Willenbring challenges the long-held belief that asbestos fibers cannot move through soil. The findings have important implications for current remediation strategies aimed at capping asbestos-laden soils to prevent human exposure of the cancer-causing material.Willenbring, along with University of Pennsylvania postdoctoral researcher Sanjay Mohanty, and colleagues tested the idea that once capped by soil, asbestos waste piles are locked in place. Instead they found that dissolved organic matter contained within the soil sticks to the asbestos particles, creating a change of the electric charge on the outside of the particle that allows it to easily move through the soil.

Europe's oldest known living inhabitant

Climate Change News - ENN - August 19, 2016 - 2:46pm
A Bosnian pine (Pinus heldreichii) growing in the highlands of northern Greece has been dendrocronologically dated to be more than 1075 years old. This makes it currently the oldest known living tree in Europe. The millenium old pine was discovered by scientists from Stockholm University (Sweden), the University of Mainz (Germany) and the University of Arizona (USA).

NASA spots strong convection in strengthening Tropical Storm Kay

Climate Change News - ENN - August 19, 2016 - 12:53pm
NASA's Aqua satellite passed over tropical cyclone Kay as it was designated a depression in the Eastern Pacific and identified areas of strong convection. That strong uplift of air continued to generate more powerful storms in the system and on Aug. 19 it strengthened into a tropical storm.The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder or AIRS instrument that flies aboard NASA's Aqua satellite analyzed Kay as it was classified as a depression on Aug. 18 at 4:53 p.m. EDT (2053 UTC).

Cloth masks offer poor protection against air pollution

Regulatory news - ENN - August 19, 2016 - 12:12pm
Results of a new study by environmental health scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst suggest that inexpensive cloth masks worn by people who hope to reduce their exposure to air pollution vary widely in effectiveness and could be giving users a false sense of security, especially in highly polluted areas.Researchers Richard Peltier, Kabindra Shakya and colleagues believe theirs is the first study to rigorously test disposable surgical masks and washable cloth masks, which are widely used in Asia and Southeast Asia for personal protection against airborne particulate matter. Their study shows that "wearing cloth masks reduced the exposure to some extent," but "the most commonly used cloth mask products perform poorly when compared to alternative options available on the market."

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