June 30, 2014

Tangier Island still sinking

The folks on Tangier Island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay are tough. The men are predominantly watermen, eking out a living finding crabs and oysters. But they have a tougher job facing the sinking land and rising waters. This graphic shows proof.

So it is not surprising that Tangier earned a place on Virginia Landmarkd Registry last spring. I have not yet seen if the island is on the National Register of Historic Places. But it certainly deserves it, and sooner than later. The island is losing about 16 feet on the west side and 3 on the east annually, according to a blurb in Chesapeake Bay magazine. A jetty is in the works, but progress is at glacial speed.

Good news, bad news for the Chesapeake Bay

Sure wish the headlines had consistent news about my beloved Chesapeake Bay. Only a few weeks ago, I posted the good news about our bay states finally agreeing on a plan to clean up our watershed.

But NOAA is now forecasting a sad summer for the bay with higher nitrogen runoff pollution leading to even more dead zones. Low oxygen (hypoxic) areas are NOT conducive to happy fish. And the VIMS model predicts more than the average 10 percent of the bay being affected. So algae blooms may be more prevalent than usual. Striped bass and crabs will be the first to suffer. Unfortunately, jelly fish don't seem to mind and will continue to be the object of many foul words.

Free tap water app a handy tool

If you always carry a plastic water bottle wherever you go, you are in luck.

A new free mobile app from the nice folks at www.askHRgreen.org/TapIt can lead you to clean tap water sources in the greater Hampton Roads area.

More than 100 local restaurants and businesses are already participating.

June 20, 2014

Virginia waters nothing to brag about

I knew Virginia waters were not in the best shape, but fifth worse in the nation for nasty chemicals? And my beloved lower James River ninth worst watershed for arsenic and lead?

That's what the latest "Wasting our Waterways" report from Environment Virginia says. They are basing these rankings on 2012 figures on dumped chemicals self-reported to the EPA by industrial facilities. Nearly 12 million pounds of chemicals into Virginia waters! 3.23 million pounds of toxic chemicals in the entire Chesapeake watershed should get into the headlines.

Restoring the bay by 2025 looks like an unattainable goal to me. Power plants, paper mills, and poultry farms are major contributors. But the surprising news to me was that the biggest culprit is the U.S. Army. Its Ammunition Power Plant near Radford released more than 7.3 million pounds into the Upper New River Waterway.

Many chemicals are not even evaluated for their toxicity. And fracking chemicals are "trade secrets," according to the infamous Dick Cheney's Halliburton loophole. So the true amount of toxic chemicals may be even more than reported. Seems like a war on chemicals should take place.

To read the report, go to www.environmentvirginia.org 

June 17, 2014

Good news for the Chesapeake Bay

Huzzah for the Chesapeake Bay. All seven watersheds affecting the bay signed on to a new Bay Watershed Agreement yesterday. And this agreement goes beyond the obvious goal of better water quality. Climate change even got more than a pleasant nod.

The governors of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York, along with the D.C. Mayor, pledged a bunch of measurable restoration goals.

And today's headline of millions of new federal dollars going to shoring up vulnerable Hampton Roads shorelines made me smile as well. Especially since we have been sailing these waters in recent days.

So habitat restoration, land conservation, better fisheries management, toxics control and citizen education should see some major improvement in the coming years.

Governor McAuliffe pushed for climate change to be included as well because Hampton Roads is second in vulnerability to rising sea levels behind New Orleans. But the mayors of the coal states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia listened to their lobbyists and no mention was made in the agreement to reduce carbon emissions.

Building homemade boats is still an option.

June 7, 2014

Virginia already cutting CO2 emissions?

Who knew that Virginia was making EPA officials smile by already reducing our CO2 emissions? With our state's "voluntary" goal of cutting emissions, I never dreamed that I'd see this map in the NY Times today.

Yup, Virginia is green! Carbon pollution down by 39 percent since 2005.

Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York cut their power-sector emissions more than 40 percent from 2005 to 2012, according to the Georgetown Climate Center, with Maryland close behind.  Those states are part of a nine-state project called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and, like much of the country, have benefited from the recent abundance of cheap natural gas.

I am still shaking my head in disbelief.

US ranks behind China in energy efficiency

Since the EPA recently announced that this agency will take its goal of clean air seriously, we've read a lot about how difficult it will since China and other countries are still burning LOTS of coal in obsolete power plants without CO2 scrubbers.

But listen to this. China is better than the US in energy efficiency.

The 2012 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard ranked12 of the world's largest economies, representing over 78 percent of global gross domestic product, 63 percent of global energy consumption, and 62 percent of the global carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions.


The rankings include: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. Over 25 different energy efficiency indicators or "metrics" have been analyzed for each economy ranked in the report. The rankings are determined by a total score out of 100 possible points.


Points can be earned in four difference categories including buildings, industry, and transportation, as well as metrics that track cross-cutting aspects of energy use at the national level.


The 2014 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard will be released in the summer of 2014 with more countries and more metrics.

But see where we stood two years ago. No reason to feel smug. We are a red country, and China is not. Kudos to the UK for being #1.



June 6, 2014

Fracking chemicals a secret?

Fracking may come to quite a few Virginia counties in coming years. But the proponents may not tell the local residents what chemicals they'll be using to "fracture" the layers of rocks that contain the oil and natural gas.

Why? They don't need to, thanks to the Halliburton loophole in the 2005 energy bill. Dick Cheney proposed the wording that says that this information may be "trade secrets."

Drilling companies MAY disclose this information to a chemical registry at FracFocus at www.fracfocus.org but they are not compelled to.

FracFocus is managed by the Ground Water Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. The website was created to provide the public access to reported chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing within their area. To help users put this information into perspective, the site also provides objective information on hydraulic fracturing, the chemicals used, the purposes they serve and the means by which groundwater is protected.

The primary purpose of this site is to provide factual information concerning hydraulic fracturing and groundwater protection.  It is not intended to argue either for or against the use of hydraulic fracturing as a technology.  It is also not intended to provide a scientific analysis of risk associated with hydraulic fracturing. While FracFocus is not intended to replace or supplant any state governmental information systems it is being used by a number of states as a means of official state chemical disclosure.  Currently, ten states: Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, North Dakota, Montana, Mississippi, Utah, Ohio and Pennsylvania use Fracfocus in this manner.  

Virginia is not on this list. So folks in King George, Caroline, Essex, Westmoreland and King and Queen Counties may be kept in the dark.

Jamestown Island threatened by climate change

Many local folks are aware that the James River may be covering historic Jamestown Island by the end of this century. It's a combination of rising waters and sinking lands. These lands are already marshy wetlands as it is. Even John Smith experienced them as lowlands in 1607.

To learn more, check out this article from Daily Press:

Thursday morning on Jamestown Island, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell got a firsthand look at emergency archaeology.

To read the full article, click on this link or copy and paste it into your browser: http://www.dailypress.com/news/science/dp-nws-jamestown-interior-climate-20140605,0,2157106.story