Wednesday, April 27, 2011

State of the Air 2011

In its 12th annual State of the Air report, the American Lung Association found that despite a drop in the total number of days that Californians breathe smog and diesel fumes, the state continues to be plagued by air pollution.

The association analyzed federal data collected between 2007 and 2009 on short-term and annual average concentrations of ozone, or smog - usually generated by car exhaust mixed with heat - and fine particle emissions from diesel trucks, coal-fired power plants and wood-burning fireplaces.

Roughly 50% the people in the US live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution. Both Alameda and Orange County ranked near the bottom of the list for air quality; both received F's for high ozone days and Orange County received an F for particle pollution, while Alameda county earned a D.

Read the article on the report in the San Francisco Chronicle, or visit the State of the Air website to review the key findings and see how your county scored. The scoring and ranking methodology is explained here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

US Forest Map Released

A newly released GIS map, created by Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) scientists, is the most precise representation yet of the height and coverage of US forests and woodlands. The data will provide a baseline for understanding both forest resources and carbon flux, study leader Josef Kellndorfer of WHRC said in a statement.

The combined dataset represents the first hectare-scale maps of canopy height, above-ground biomass, and associated carbon stock for the forests and woodlands of the conterminous United States. The multi-year project, referred to as the National Biomass and Carbon Dataset (NBCD), produced maps of these key forest attributes at an unprecedented spatial resolution of 30 m.

According to Kellndorfer, "This dataset will advance our understanding of the United States natural resources, provide an invaluable circa year 2000 baseline against which to assess changes in the future, and help to improve our understanding of the drivers for change, and thus supporting good decision making."

Read more at Science Daily or the project website.  The digital raster dataset is freely accessible for download.

TSCA Fails to Protect Kids

A policy statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is riddled with flaws and the government's regulation of the introduction and management of chemicals in the US fails to protect the health of children and pregnant women.

The AAP advocates for an overhaul of TSCA.  Recommended revisions include requiring companies to test the chemicals they manufacture before they are brought to market, and that such tests provide information on the hazards of these chemicals to children and the developing fetus.

"It becomes a public responsibility after the chemical is out on the market to discern whether it's hazardous or not," said Jerome Paulson, medical director for national and global affairs at the Children's Health Advocacy Institute in Washington, DC, and lead author of the policy statement.

Read more at LiveScience.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Brown signs law requiring 33% renewable energy

David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

San Francisco ChronicleApril 12, 2011 04:00 ACopyright San Francisco Chronicle. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.On Tuesday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law which will require California's investor-owned utility companies to get at least 33% of their power from renewable sources by 2020. The utilities are already required to get 20% of their power from renewable sources, a goal which has not been met yet, but which the new law will enforce by the end of 2013.

Speaking to a crowd gathered at a solar panel factory in Milpitas, Governor Brown framed the law in terms of maintaining California's lead in the green technology industry, improving the state's economy and increasing jobs over the long term.

Many clean-tech companies in Silicon Valley favored the law, saying that it will give investors confidence to continue building new factories and renewable power facilities in the state. PG&E, the state's largest utility, opposed the legislation on the grounds that it would restrict their ability to keep consumers' costs low. Southern California Edison, however, supported the law, expressing faith that prices for renewable energy such as solar power will continue to drop as worldwide production increases in response to increased demand.

Read the full article here: