Monday, March 23, 2009

An End to the Era of Denial on Global Warming?

EPA Takes Another Step Towards Regulating Greenhouse Gases
Felicity Barringer, NY Times, March 23, 2009

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has moved to declare that greenhouse gases (GHGs) are pollutants that pose a danger to the public’s health and welfare. If that determination is made final, it will pave the way for federal regulation of carbon dioxide, methane, and other GHGs linked to global warming.

An endangerment finding would allow federal regulation of motor vehicle emissions. It could also open the door to regulatory controls over power plants, oil refineries, cement plants, and other factories that emit GHGs.

Read the complete NY Times story here:

And also in the SF Chronicle:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Mandatory GHG Registry for the US?

EPA Proposes Tracking Industry Emissions
Kate Galbraith, NY Times, March 10, 2009

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule on Tuesday that would require suppliers of fossil fuel and industrial chemicals, manufacturers of motor vehicles and engines, and large direct emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs) with emissions equal to or greater than 25,000 tonnes per year to quantify and report their GHG emissions. The EPA says that the rule, promulgated under the Clean Air Act, would account for 85-90% of the country’s emissions of GHGs.

Many facilities already account and report the information voluntarily through various registries or federal agencies.

Large stationary sources of GHGs would be included in the new requirements. For example, buildings with an aggregate maximum rated heat input capacity equal to or greater than 30 mmBTU/hour (thousand thousand BTUs per hour) would have to comply, as would manure management systems that have emissions equal to or greater than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year.

A 60-day comment period and two public hearings will take place in April 2009. If the rule is finalized this fall, as the EPA hopes, reporting could begin in 2011, after the monitoring of 2010 emissions.

Read the EPA's press release here, get more information on the proposed rule here, and read the complete NY Times story here.

2008 Coastal Cleanup Day Tally Released

In September 2008, the Ocean Conservancy's 23rd International Coastal Cleanup Day netted the following waste from waterways and shorelines around the world in a single day:
  • 6,800,000 pounds of debris, 11.4 million items overall
  • 3,200,000 million cigarette butts (1.3 million in the US alone)
  • 1,400,000 million plastic bags
  • 942,000 food wrappers and containers
  • 937,000 caps and lids
  • 26,585 tires
  • 19,500 fishing nets in the United Kingdom
  • 11,000 diapers in the Philippines
Nearly 400,000 volunteers scoured about 17,000 miles of coastline, river bottoms and ocean floors during the event. In the course of picking up the trash, participants found 268 marine animals that survived being entangled in debris; 175 weren't so lucky and died.

Of the 104 participating countries, the US supplied about half the volunteers.

Read more in the SF Chronicle ( or at

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Brothers on the Rise

On February 24, 2009 Northgate geologist Brendan J. Mulholland was a guest speaker at the Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland, California.

Brendan spoke to a group of adolescent boys enrolled in the Brothers on The Rise (BOTR) program. BOTR is a program for at-risk boys and identifies problems or issues related to academic achievement. BOTR's mission is to responsibly empower school-aged males to achieve individual success, develop healthy relationships, and contribute to a more just and equitable society. Their program works to resolve issues, change outcomes, and improve grades.

Brendan described his own challenges as an adolescent, and provided the boys an overview of Northgate’s daily operations as an environmental engineering firm.

He told the boys that the community recognizes their willingness and commitment to overcome obstacles and encouraged the boys to keep up the good work.

A follow-on visit by BOTR to Northgate’s office is planned.

Monday, March 2, 2009

More Wetlands on SF Bay Shoreline?

Richmond hopes to protect 5 miles of wetlands
Carolyn Jones, SF Chronicle, March 2, 2009

Developers, city officials, and park advocates are working to transform three parcels of private property in Richmond - a 5-mile stretch of wetlands that is among the last undeveloped swaths of San Francisco Bay shoreline - into permanent open space, most likely part of the Eastshore State Park. Public meetings are scheduled and city staff is working on possible zoning changes to residential or open space as part of revamping the city's general plan.

The land, a marsh that's home to egrets, herons and 15 threatened species, stretches from the West Contra Costa Sanitary Landfill, just north of the Chevron oil refinery, to Point Pinole Regional Shoreline. The Richmond Rod and Gun Club occupies the southern portion, and the rest is zoned for light industrial uses. The Giant Powder Co. and the town of Giant, both now vanished, once occupied the northern end.

Not everyone thinks open space is the best use of the shoreline. Richmond City Councilman Nathaniel Bates says the city already has too many parks. "We need jobs and economic development," Bates said. "Instead of just buying more land, I'd like to see the park district spruce up the parks they already have."

Read the complete article here:

Catch the Wave

Will California's Quest for Wave Power Sink or Sail?
Josie Garthwaite, NY Times, February 27, 2009

Having completed a wave power study, San Francisco submitted a preliminary application to federal regulators on February 27 for a permit to develop a 10 to 30 megawatt (MW) project to tap ocean energy eight miles off the city’s west coast. The proposed project has the potential to generate up to 100 MW. But while the technology has a big fan in Mayor Gavin Newsom, regulatory hurdles may prove a show-stopper. Last year state commissioners decided the technology was too new and the prices too high, and denied approval for PG&E and Finavera Renewables to develop what would have been the country’s first commercial wave power project.

Research and development of wave power technologies has rapidly expanded in recent years. The first commercial units are scheduled to go online in Portugal this year, producing 2 MW of energy. Despite several studies, no commercial operations are online in the US.
San Francisco is hoping to change that.

Read more in the NY Times: