State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Climate News Roundup – Week of 5/2

Big Wind Farm Off Cape Cod Gets Approval, New York Times

In a press conference on Wednesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced — after nine years of regulatory review – that plans for the nation’s first offshore wind farm were approved for construction. The controversial decision faced resistance from both Democrats and Republicans, including the Kennedys, who have long fought the proposed construction. Critics have argued that the wind farm is a political move designed to demonstrate President Obama’s commitment to carbon-free power with drastic impacts to “nature and local traditions”. However, developers estimate that the wind farm would supply power for 75% of Cape Cod’s needs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by the equivalent of taking 175,000 cars off the road. Both Greenpeace and the Chamber of Commerce support the decision approving construction.

EPA Postpones Decision that Would Toughen Coal Ash Rules, McClatchy Newspapers

The EPA has made motions to declare the contaminant-laden ash from coal-powered plants as a hazardous substance. The ash often contains trace amounts of mercury, arsenic, and cadmium that can pose health and environmental risks when not disposed of securely. As of now, there are no regulations concerning the land filling and disposal of ash, and many states handle the waste differently. Some states treat the ash as regular municipal waste and make no distinction in their disposal procedures. The proposed regulations, for which the EPA has given a 90-day period for comments, would mandate additional costs for coal-fired power producers and would drive certain ash repositories out of business. However, as Bruce Nilles, deputy conservation director for the Sierra Club, noted, the regulation would “level the playing field with clean energy alternatives and begin to put the communities that today are at enormous risk out of harm’s way”.

Graham Calls for a ‘Pause’ in Pursuing Energy Bill, New York Times

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has called for a “pause” in consideration of a climate bill in Congress. Senator Graham said that the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has highlighted the dangers of offshore drilling, which is a central component to the proposed climate legislation. Without Graham’s support – and several other Republican supporters – energy legislation will likely be stalled for the rest of the year. Graham blamed both the oil spill and the Democrats’ insistence on taking up immigration policy before addressing energy concerns for derailing any momentum the bill had. Senator Kerry and Senator Lieberman, who had worked closely with Graham to craft the energy bill, remain confident that their bill can pass despite the unfavorable political conditions.

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Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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