Environment

Living on Earth: February 12, 2016

Feb 13, 2016

HIgh Court Puts Clean Power Plan On Hold / Beyond the Headlines / Sierra Snows Ease, But Won't End California Drought / Sex and Sustainability in the Sea

HIgh Court Puts Clean Power Plan On Hold

Feb 13, 2016

The Supreme Court has issued a stay on implementation of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. This could delay mandatory emissions cuts from the electric power sector. But other legal options that were strengthened by the Paris Climate Agreement might be better suited for tackling climate change domestically and internationally. Vermont Law School Professor Pat Parenteau and host Steve Curwood discuss the stay and its affect on the President’s strategy for tackling climate change. (published February 12, 2016)

Californians hope two months of plenty of snow could ease the 4-year drought. But Living on Earth’s Emmett Fitzgerald reports that high snowfalls in the Sierra Mountains this winter won’t end the water problems and the state needs to manage the resource creatively and efficiently for the foreseeable future. (published February 12, 2016)

As we reported yesterday, the leaking gas well near a Los Angeles neighborhood has been temporarily plugged, ending four months of uncontrolled amounts of methane being released into the atmosphere.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Obama has designated three desert areas in California as national monuments.

The move permanently protects "nearly 1.8 million acres of America's public lands," the White House says in a news release.

All three areas lie east of Los Angeles. Two of the new monuments — Castle Mountains and Mojave Trails — are near California's border with Nevada.

Find your binoculars and fill up the bird feeders, because the Great Backyard Bird Count starts today.

The annual event invites bird-watchers of all levels to count the birds in their backyards, wherever that may be, and submit the data to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, which launched the project in 1998.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

North Dakota's economic fortunes have taken an abrupt turn for the worst. This is after 15 years of receiving almost entirely good news.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode To Endure

About Lord Martin Rees' TED Talk

Astronomer and cosmologist Lord Martin Rees asks whether our species will endure despite the many existential threats we face.

About Lord Martin Rees

Lord Martin Rees is an emeritus professor of cosmology and astrophysics at University of Cambridge.

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode To Endure

About Ben Saunders' TED Talk

Explorer Ben Saunders is the first person to finish the perilous trek from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back. He describes what he had to endure in order to survive the journey.

About Ben Saunders

For the Midwesterner who likes to eat local, this time of year is a challenge. Browse the produce shelves in middle America — or any place where snow falls in winter — and you'll find carrots from Mexico and peppers from Peru.

Tiny eggs have started hatching this week at the San Diego Zoo, and scientists there are celebrating the arrival of baby tree lobsters.

It's all part of a conservation effort for the Lord Howe Island stick insect. The huge, black, shiny creature, also known as a tree lobster, is a superstar of the entomological world, because its history is such a strange saga of passion and commitment.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

A massive gas leak in the Los Angeles area that was first announced in October is still leaking. The company that operates the storage facility where the leak happened says the leak could be capped as early as the end of the week.

Most of the leaking gas is the greenhouse gas methane, which is harmful to the environment. But how harmful is it?

It took Sen. Ted Cruz to finally persuade me to answer a riddle that's bothered me for years. Suppose somebody yanked away the law that currently props up the nation's ethanol industry, as Cruz has proposed. What would actually happen?

Wisdom, a Laysan albatross that researchers first tagged in 1956, has hatched what could be her 40th chick, leading the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to call her "an iconic symbol of inspiration and hope."

Born at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (which is part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument), the new (adorable) chick has been named Kūkini — the Hawaiian word for messenger.

The heart of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan is now on hold, after the Supreme Court granted a stay request that blocks the EPA from moving ahead with rules that would lower carbon emissions from the nation's power plants.

The case is scheduled to be argued in June, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. But a decision could be long in coming, particularly if the case winds up in the Supreme Court — meaning that the rules' fate might not be determined before a new presidential administration comes into power in 2017.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The international trade in exotic animal parts includes rhino horn, seahorses, and bear gall bladders. But perhaps none is as strange as the swim bladder from a giant Mexican fish called the totoaba.

The totoaba can grow to the size of a football player. It lives only in the Gulf of California in Mexico, along with the world's smallest and rarest mammal — a type of porpoise called the vaquita.

The problems with high lead levels in Flint, Mich.'s water started in April 2014, when the city switched water sources and began drawing its supply from the Flint River. The new water was harder, and government officials allowed it to corrode the city's pipes, leaching lead and other toxins into the tap water.

Copyright 2016 Valley Public Radio. To see more, visit Valley Public Radio.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Looking for parking in a city is frustrating for the driver, and bad for the climate as circling cars emit unnecessary carbon dioxide. But as reporter Clive Thompson tells host Steve Curwood, fleets of coordinated, self-driving cars could bring an end to parking as we know it and help make our future cheaper, as well as more efficient, pleasant and green. (published February 5, 2016)

Eighty-five percent of the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia is now protected from logging, after decades of negotiations among environmental activists, the timber industry, First Nations, and the BC government. Temperate rainforests are one of the most rare ecosystems on Earth.Host Steve Curwood discusses how these groups came together with reporter Andrew MacLeod of the magazine The Tyee, who explains what’s been protected and what’s open for logging. (published February 5, 2016)

Storing solar energy is an enduring challenge for scientists, but now a team of MIT researchers has developed a new material that can trap it and release it as heat on demand. Host Steve Curwood visits the MIT lab to hear from postdoc David Zhitomirsky and graduate student Eugene Cho about their material and how it might be used to do such things as defrost windshields and warm our clothes. (published February 5, 2016)

What's New for Electric Cars

Feb 6, 2016

Gasoline prices are low right now, yet some manufacturers are poised to launch affordable electric cars with a 200 mile range. Host Steve Curwood speaks with green transportation reporter Jim Motavalli about electric cars and the future of renewable sources for electricity-- how Tesla’s Powerwall and a large fleet of electric cars could help stabilize the grid, and add flexibility to our greener energy future. (published February 5, 2016)

Beyond the Headlines

Feb 6, 2016

Peter Dykstra shares some good news this week with host Steve Curwood. There are large reductions in air pollution costs and less toxins in fish. They also look back at Donald Trump’s battle against Scottish wind power. (published February 5, 2016)

It's not simply Flint that has bad water. The Michigan city, which has grabbed headlines recently for its rampant water contamination, is joined in that dubious distinction by another town, much farther south: St. Joseph, La.

"It's just a given fact that at some point during the week, you're going to have brown or yellow water," says resident Garrett Boyte.

A major natural gas storage well in Southern California is still leaking, though less so than back in late October, when the giant gas leak was first reported. More than 5,000 families and two schools have been relocated since then, and the local utility that operates the facility is now facing several legal actions.

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