Blog Archives

2010 and Beyond!

Hello Greendistrict readers! Happy New Year to all!

It’s a good ten days into the new year and about time I return from extended holiday hiatus. I’m kicking off 2010 with a few adjustments to my blogging habits: nixing the daily Green Lines sustainability roundup, for starters. It’s just too time consuming to compile that stuff. Besides, truly compelling stories don’t appear everyday. Instead, I’m going to focus on writing more substantive blog posts and make the Green Lines roundup a weekly feature filled with the most noteworthy and new reporting of the previous seven days. To get started, here are a few stories that caught my eye:

CBS News reported on vulnerabilities in the nation’s food supply.

Finally someone wrote a story on the brewing battle over biodiesel made from trees – or lumber scraps, that is. The Washington Post had a piece today about complaints from the lumber industry that the congressionally induced boom in fuel made from “woody biomass” could put cabinet makers and other producers of “composite wood” products out of business.  The story, however, makes no mention of the growing environmental concerns. To learn why the federal Biomass Crop Assistance Program is a bad idea from a sustainability standpoint you have to go elsewhere.

The greening of the U.S. House of Representatives: “The House saved almost 75,000 pounds of waste from landfills and cut nearly 400,000 pounds of carbon emissions last year through a new program to make the chamber’s offices more energy efficient,” according to Roll Call.

Mountaintop removal mining is causing vast and permanent environmental destruction, exposing people to serious health consequences such as birth defects, and should be banned, according to a new study discussed in this story in The Guardian.

“A federal jury awarded more than $100 million to 10 workers who claimed they were injured in 2007 when a toxic substance was released at BP’s Texas City plant,” The New York Times reports. Company officials reportedly expressed outrage though it’s hard to say why they were surprised since federal investigators came to the same conclusion as the jury. The company spends more on its “Beyond Petroleum” ad campaign depicting itself as a “green corporation” than it will be shelling out to the injured workers, which seems another reason to take the executive exclamations with a grain of salt.

The White House “regulatory czar” is pushing to nix the E.P.A.’s plans for tougher rules on coal ash, according to this story in the Wall Street Journal.

Here’s a scary piece on India‘s water mafias.

Los Angeles Times has a travel piece on the “endangered paradise” of the  Maldives islands, which is expected to be underwater if the world continues to dither on global warming.

Book Report: I just finished reading “Bitter Chocolate, The Dark Side of The World’s Most Seductive Sweet” by Canadian journalist Carol Off. It’s a harrowing but fascinating and well-researched tale of human rights abuses in the cocoa fields where chocolate’s main ingredient is grown. But be warned: The stories of children working Ivory Coast in slave-like conditions  may dampen your appetite for chocolate, as it did mine – or at least for chocolate not stamped with a “fair trade” label.


Greenlines – EPA Dithers on BPA, Big Oil’s Deniers Club + More Shame over Sidewalks

I’ve seen tons of stories and received a slew of activist emails about the need to ban BPA, or bisphenol A. The material used in baby bottles and many other products was considered safe for years but a growing body of scientific research suggests toxins in the plastic seeps into whatever is stored inside, meaning we may be consuming it with every sip. The EPA was poised to take a side on the issue, but NPR reports that the agency now plans to delay action pending the results of even more studies.

Mother Jones on Big Oil continues funding climate deniers abroad and how the corporate largess undermines international climate action.

The EPA is reversing a long-standing decision with plans to require pesticide manufacturers to disclose to the public the inert ingredients in their
products. Federal regulators are also shifting course on the policy toward pharmaceutical residues in the nation’s drinking water.

Farmers use more herbicides on GMO crops, according to a new report.

Hey, did you see that the shoveled sidewalk story made the TV news last night and outrage has not yet waned! There are posts in Borderstan, Urban Places & Spaces, and the DCist.

Congress Heights on the Rise takes on the pros and cons of gentrification.

DC Mud reports that Zip Car has won the right to park in alleys, a victory that will help the car sharing service expand its presence in parking-strapped neighborhoods.

Qualia, the Petworth coffee joint, is staying open late tonight to help last-minute shoppers stay alert. Oops,I’m confusing my blog posts. This one’s better for my new Washington City Paper Series “Confessions of a Wi-Fi loafer.” Check it out on the WCP’s City Desk blog!

Greenlines – Climate Diplomacy is Dead, Go Rent a Xmas Tree!

Greetings, this post-blizzard, pre-holiday Monday! It almost feels like a Sunday since so many offices are closed and the roads are still snow clogged.  Let’s start things off with an informal readers’ poll: How many of you have had your street plowed by city crews? Here in Takoma DC, my little block has seen no plowing action but a few neighbors appear to have driven to work this morning anyway.  Encouraging news, for sure.

There is not a lot of DC sustainability news this morning though I did happen upon the website for Weatherize DC, which had a big meeting in Chevy Chase to talk about replacement windows and other “weatherization” options last week.

Beyond the Beltway, the fight to stop mountaintop removal coal mining is getting more volatile. The Associated Press reports: “Fear of violence grows in mountaintop mining fight.” Meanwhile, we’re coming up on a year since the huge coal ash spill at a Tenn. coal-burning power plant created huge damages and made headlines around the world. But ” the battle over potential new rules to protect coalfield communities and the environment from the dangers of toxic coal ash is just getting started,” according to the Charleston (WV) Gazette.

Another story worth checking out is the New York Times coverage about toxins in the nation’s water supply. Here’s a link to the Times coverage. The Washington City Paper also has a post on the story.

BP‘s green luster is finally starting too look gangrenous. The British petroleum company is often hailed for the most successful green advertising greenwashing campaign in history. But the treehugger rhetoric apparently didn’t wash with a federal jury that awarded more than $100 million to workers exposed to toxic fumes at its troubled BP Texas City, Texas refinery that was named by the EPA as the country’s most polluting plant a few years ago. BP officials were quoted saying they were “shocked and outraged” by the verdict but it’s hard to understand why when BP has already paid many millions of dollars in fines and other penalties for failing to meet federal environmental and other laws at the Texas City plant, on Alaska’s North Slope and elsewhere.
It’s official: Copenhagen Summit has been roundly hailed as big-time failure! Check out these cheery headlines:




On a lighter note, do you think this rent-a-christmas-tree concept will ever catch on in the District? One can only hope!

Greenlines: Donuts Corrodes Pipes, MinuteClinics Open, Seattle Cuts Emissions + More

I wonder if this is another sign that the federal health care bill’s so-called public opinion is dead? Local CVS stores are getting MinuteClinics, the Washington Business Journal reports. The first has already opened in CVS’s Bladensburg Road store and is “staffed by nurse practitioners, who can diagnose, treat and write prescriptions for common illnesses like strep throat, infections and minor wounds.”

Krispy Kreme will pay Fairfax County $1.65 million for corroding sewer pipes with donut grease from its Lorton store. Given this news, you’ve gotta wonder what the sweets do to human pipes? Well, at least we now have the MinuteClinic for treatment!

Borderstan posts on how neighborhood residents rallied and saved trees along 17th Street NW that had slated for removal by city officials.

DC Metrocentric has proposed specs for redeveloping the Spring Road-Georgia Avenue NW area.

It’s official, the H Street shuttle has been saved, The Washington Post reports.

Richard Layman
checks in from New York City on how to make cities more cyclist-friendly.

Fresh AIRE is unveiling its sustainability toolkit for condos and apartments tonight at Arlington’s Central Library, The Green Miles has the details.

We Love DC is very happy to share that the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden ice skating rink opens tomorrow.

Seattle proves cutting emissions can be done! “The city of Seattle announced this afternoon that its greenhouse gas emissions in 2008 were 7 percent below what they were in 1990  a target the city had hoped to meet by 2012. But it’s not at all clear how or if the city will still meet the goal three years from now,” the Seattle Times reports.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says toxic chemical pollution from the nation’s industrial plants, mines and factories fell by 6 percent in 2008, declining for the second year in a row.

Coal mining company, Consol Energy Inc., lashes out at environmentalists who have sought to hold the company to compliance with federal clean water and other laws. After a judge pulled the company’s permits, the company decided to idle two mines employing about 500 workers and publicly blamed the shutdown on environmental activists, Reuters reports.

This might be entirely too much information for all but true climate politics junkies, but I happened across the official site for the UN climate talks. Here, you can download webcasts of every single official event and even some of the side shows.

Or you could just follow breaking news from climate talks on SEJ’s CopenBlog.

Today’s Greenlines – Toxic toys, Tainted Food, Bad Water, Rising Temperatures + New Literature on How Climate Change Can Literally Drive You Mad!

from The Guardian's Copenhagen Essay

The DCist: reports of the death of the H Street shuttle might have been greatly exaggerated.

It looks like the Advoc8te at Congress Heights on the Rise put in a late night to upload the results of her Freedom of Information Act Request regarding the investigation of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 8C‘s spending. Check it out.

DC MUD says a community boycott is brewing in Ward 7 against the Polin Memorial Community Development, a residential project set to break ground tomorrow. The fracas  is over community benefits that the developers, apparently, haven’t been too forthcoming about. Read more. Oddly, the WaPo piece makes no mention of the controversy, though it did merit some ink in today”s Washington City Paper Loose Lips column.

The Washington Post has a story on how, as the holiday gift-giving season arrives, toys are still not safe from harmful toxins. On a somehow related theme, the paper also has a piece on how our far flung global food supply system puts us at greater risk of eating tainted food.

While some would claim world temperatures have been cooling recently, the World Meteorological Organization announced today in Copenhagen that it’s just not true. “The period from 2000 through 2009 has been ‘warmer than the 1990s, which were warmer than the 1980s and so on,’ said Michel Jarraud, the secretary general of the international weather agency,” according to the New York Times story.

The Times also has this cheat sheet identifying the different players and what they want out of Copenhagen.

Mother Jones has a story on how climate change can drive you crazy – literally! “King’s College London psychiatrists recently published a metastudy of how the many charming side effects of rising temperatures—natural disasters, infectious diseases, mass migration—can really harsh your mental mellow, to say the least.” Read more.

WaPo reports that the Swine Flu outbreak could be the mildest pandemic since the advent of modern medicine.

WaPo also has a long story rehashing yesterday’s announcement by the US Environmental Protection Agency that it plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

I just discovered this new site: DC Food for All. It has posts about farmers’ markets, rants on the country’s food system and a passionate defense of keeping chickens in the city, among other things.

Missed this important story yesterday: More than 20 percent of the nation’s water treatment systems have violated key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act over the last five years, according to a NY Times analysis of federal data. After you read that story, if you want to know more, check out the NY Times’ entire series on water pollution.

I leave you this morning with The Guardian‘s photo essay from Copenhagen.

EPA Makes it Official: Greenhouse Gases a Threat to Public Health + Environment

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency followed through on its promise today and announced that it will be cracking down on greenhouse gas emissions. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson made the announcement this afternoon that greenhouse gases threaten the public health and welfare of the American people.

The agency just posted the video of the conference. And, here’s a soundbite from Jackson’s speech.

Today’s Greenlines – Green(washed) Cuisine + Out with Lobbyists, In with Federal Regs

Georgetown "gifts" photo by M.V. Jantzen via the DCist

The DCist today takes on George Will’s climatological gaff and announces that Giant supermarkets will be giving away free reusable shopping bags come Jan. 1, when city law starts requiring retailers to charge 5 cents for each one of those old-school un-reusable bags.

The Washington Post blows the lid off falsely advertised “green” cuisine at Founding Farmers and discusses the fudge factor, so to speak, at other eateries that claim to serve sustainable fare.

Frozen Topics posts that the popular H Street Shuttle – which carries art, food and entertainment lovers between H Street NE and the Atlas District –  is shutting down due to a lack of funding.

In Maryland, environmental groups want the federal government to crack down on state environmental regulators, accusing them of going easy on water polluters.

On the “sustainability” front, the Urban Architect at Barry Farm (Re)Mixed has a sobering post about how her condo is “underwater” thanks to the real estate bust. Compounding the bad news, she also learned the city plans to one day redevelop her neighborhood and take her home by eminent domain, which means the government would “fairly” compensate her and her neighbors for their properties. The question she’d like answered is: “who decides what is ‘fair’?”

The Green Miles, AKA Miles Grant, was up early this morning to join Obama administration officials, pols and school kids at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington for the White House Clean Energy Economy Forum. He live-blogged from the event for the Daily Kos.

Sounds like a good idea – “A sweeping new White House policy aimed at ousting special interests from federal advisory panels might sweep registered lobbyists off some U.S. EPA advisory panels,” according to this story.

Speaking of the EPA, the agency is preparing new regulations that would require 600+ coal plants to clean up and possibly eliminate waste discharges into lakes, rivers and other waterbodies. Among the substances the EPA is concerned about is the nutrient selenium that can be harmful in too great a quantity.

Their loss, our gain? While victims of the horrendous 1984 industrial accident in Bhopal, India are still struggling to recover, force a cleanup and win reparations, the incident had a positive impact half a world away: it led to better regulation of industrial hazards in the United States, according to this story.

Volunteers Needed for Pre-emptive Strike against Rock Creek Pollution

This just in from the Brightwood Listserv: “Come out and help the Friends of Rock Creek’s Environment and the District Department of the Environment mark storm drains in the Brightwood and Takoma neighborhoods of D.C. The event will take place from 1PM to 4PM on Saturday, November 14th. Volunteers will meet at the Takoma Recreation Center – 300 Van Buren Street, NW.

“No experience is necessary and children are welcome! Volunteers will mark storm
drains to let people know that the storm drains empty into Rock Creek and place
door hangers on homeowner’s doors providing them information on steps they can
take to reduce pollution to our local waterways.

“Rain date for the event: Sunday November 15th at 1-4PM.  Volunteers are encouraged to bring water.”

Sustainabilty Roundup: The Fate of Chesapeake Restoration, the Climate Bill + Garbage Islands

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its draft cleanup plan for the Chesapeake Bay yesterday, triggering the start of a 60 day comment period.

With the Climate bill back in the Senate limelight, there have been a flurry of stories assessing its fate. Here are a couple: The New York Times gives the latest play by play. This Reuters‘ story out of Paris warns U.S. energy bills will double in the future if Congress doesn’t pass legislation that starts to wean the country off of dwindling and increasingly expensive fossil fuels.

The EPA  is moving ahead on plans to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Greenpeace is turning the screws to Newsweek. It wants to know how much money the magazine makes from running ads for Big Oil‘s largest lobbying group.

NPR’s Morning Edition has a story on how dust particles floating in the air are bad for your health.  Meanwhile, Reuters reports on new research suggesting that extremes of temperature and heavy air pollution lead to heartatacks.

The New York Times has an article and slide show on the islands of garbage foating around the planet’s oceans.