Environment

As Coal Jobs Decline, Solar Sector Shines

May 6, 2017

Craig Williams is still mining coal despite tough times for the business. "We're one of the last industries around and hope to keep it that way," he says in a breakroom at Consol Energy's Harvey mine, south of Pittsburgh.

The father of two — speaking in his dusty work jacket and a hard hat with headlamp — says coal is the best way he's able to support his family. He declines to give his salary, but nationally, coal miners average about $80,000 a year.

A lot of the anger over federal public land in rural Utah today can be traced back to a windy, gray day in Arizona in September 1996. At the Grand Canyon, President Bill Clinton formally designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, more than 100 miles away.

"On this remarkable site, God's handiwork is everywhere in the natural beauty of the Escalante Canyons," he said.

But Clinton didn't set foot in Utah. The planning for the monument was largely done in secret, and state leaders had little warning it was coming.

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It's been an awfully long time since a wolf pack has called Denmark home — roughly two centuries, in fact.

There are thousands of parks, refuges and wilderness areas in the U.S. that are kept in something close to their natural state. But one form of pollution isn't respecting those boundaries: man-made noise.

New research based on recordings from 492 protected natural areas reveals that they're awash in noise pollution.

Lots of people pay traffic fines, but not everyone is affected the same way. According to a new report from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, traffic fines in California have an outsize effect on low-income drivers and people of color. And those consequences are not just monetary. Unpaid tickets can result in additional fines. Failure to pay those fines can lead to suspension or loss of license, and even jail time for some if they continue to drive without a license.

A deadline is fast approaching for Republican lawmakers who want to undo an Obama-era regulation that aims to limit the emissions of methane — a powerful greenhouse gas — from energy production sites on public lands.

Get ready for a new kind of apple. It's called Cosmic Crisp, and farmers in Washington state, who grow 70 percent of the country's apples, are planting these trees by the millions. The apples themselves, dark red in color with tiny yellow freckles, will start showing up in stores in the fall of 2019.

Scott McDougall is one of the farmers who's making a big bet on Cosmic Crisp.

"It goes back to believing in the apple," he says.

"You believe?" I ask.

"I believe!" he says, and chuckles.

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Coal has long had a grip on American politics. That's why politicians worry about its fate. They tout the fossil fuel's contribution to the U.S. economy, but lately they've also been trying to find a way to clean up coal's image.

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Buy a ticket in the Nenana Ice Classic and you could win nearly $300,000. All you have to do is guess when the ice covering Tanana River at the city of Nenana, Alaska will break up.

Updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets Saturday in Washington, D.C., and cities across the globe, for the People's Climate March, demanding action on protecting the environment.

On a sweltering hot day in the nation's capital, protesters made their way down Pennsylvania Avenue chanting, singing and banging drums. Once they reached the White House, some staged a sit-in while others marched past carrying signs and shouting, "Shame, shame, shame."

Phil Lyman cared so much about what he sees as his right to drive all-terrain vehicles into Recapture Canyon, he went to jail for it.

"Going into this, you know, I've said a number of times, I'm a foot soldier," the San Juan County, Utah, commissioner says. "I'm not a captain. I'm not a general. I'm willing to die on a battlefield for a good cause."

At the TED Conference in Vancouver this week two TED Fellows talked about putting ideas to work to invigorate marginalized communities from within, while harnessing the collective power, creativity, and good will of residents who want to live in thriving, healthy and safe neighborhoods.

President Trump has ordered the Department of the Interior to review all designations of national monuments greater than 100,000 acres created since 1996.

President Trump signed an executive order Friday that aims to expand offshore drilling for oil and gas, in a move welcomed by the oil and gas industry and greeted with alarm by environmental groups.

"Renewed offshore energy production will reduce the cost of energy, create countless new jobs, and make America more secure and far more energy independent," Trump said before signing the document. He said previous restrictions on exploration and production deprive the U.S. of "potentially thousands and thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth."

Looking back at the 1992 Los Angeles riots, people often remember tensions between African-Americans, white law enforcement officers and Korean small business owners. That story gets even more complicated when you step into Pico-Union — a neighborhood that was, and still is, predominantly Latino.

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Not my avocados!

President Trump's tough talk on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada has raised many questions — including how such a move might negatively affect the flow of beloved produce to the U.S.

Be honest: You're looking at this story thinking what else is there to add to reports on the 1992 riots that rocked LA, right? NPR has done anniversary retrospectives before, including a huge look-back on the 20th. But in the past five years, the issue of policing — how it's done, whether it's equitable, what happens when deadly confrontations occur — has become more urgent than ever. And what happened in Los Angeles that April night 25 years ago is a critical part of the current national conversation on policing and race. For the LAPD, there have been huge changes.

Appliance manufacturers and home builders are in Washington, D.C., today to celebrate a popular energy efficiency program, even as it's slated for elimination in President Trump's proposed budget.

You probably know the program's little blue label with the star — the Environmental Protection Agency says 90 percent of U.S. households do.

In the cool mountains of the Upper Yangtze region, Chinese villagers clamber up dogwood and maple trees to gather what Dr. Oz has called a "miracle anti-aging pill." The small, red schisandra berry has a peculiar taste — five tastes, in fact, because it's considered to be at once sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent.

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President Trump may not talk much about electric vehicles, but there's another American — with better name recognition in China — who does.

The voice of actor Leonardo DiCaprio, popular in China for his role in the 1997 blockbuster Titanic, graces the showroom of Auto Shanghai, the city's biennial automotive expo, accompanied by images beamed on a circular wall showing Beijing covered in smog and children wearing pollution masks.

If you've ever wondered what an extreme home makeover looks like for an environmentalist, take a visit to Lance Wright's garage in south Denver.

He walks past his electric car to batteries near the back wall. "All of this is the devices necessary to control our solar panels," Wright says.

There are solar panels on the roof above. He and his partner designed the system to maximize energy efficiency. K.K. DuVivier says that means the power moving through the meter is sometimes negative.

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