June 30, 2015

United Airlines to cut their emissions

I might be able to travel by air without "green guilt" soon. Later this summer United Airlines will begin to phase in biofuel from animal manure. And that's no BS. Seriously, airlines have a big carbon footprint and they are looking to alternative, and cheaper, fuels.

Sadly, at this same time, big time farm animal lots continue to allow their cows and hogs to stand in streams that feed into the Chesapeake Bay. That's a big EWWWWW factor and a waste of potential airline fuel. You'd think that the two industries could develop a partnership.

Clean air too costly?

It seems that five justices on the US Supreme Court ruled against cleaner air yesterday by deeming it too expensive. The Clean Air Act declared that coal plants needed to follow regs that were "appropriate and necessary" but the Supreme Court accused the EPA of not undertaking sufficient cost-benefit analysis. Scalia only saw "a few dollars in health or environmental benefits." Really?

What about the particulates that used to cover our boat when we kept it in a York River Marina, but not in our current marina on the Rappahannock River? Those are the same particulates that asthmatics inhale? 

And Dominion now states that the court decision will not change their plans to close the two coal-burning power plants on the York River. That is good news indeed. But they still persist in their plan to install unsightly power lines across the James River, claiming that it would be too costly to submerge those lines under the river. Too costly to their bottom line!

June 24, 2015

Smaller dead zone predicted for the Chesapeake Bay

Due to less "stuff" flowing into it this spring from the Susquehanna, some University of Michigan researchers and NOAA are forecasting a slightly below-average, but still significant dead zone in the Chesapeake this summer. Over the last decade, the size of the dead zone hasn't changed that much anyway. But 1.37 cubic miles is nothing to overlook.

The size of the Chesapeake Bay's dead zone has been measured annually since 1950. Low-oxygen regions also form each summer in the lower portions of the bay's major tributaries and episodically in many smaller tributaries.

June 17, 2015

Cove Point LNG facility

Cove Point LNG terminal
I haven't read anything lately about the proposed expansion of the Cove Point liquified natural gas facility near Calvert Cliffs, Maryland. But every time we sail by, I expect to see signs of life. All was quiet there today.

The current facility, about 90 minutes from D.C., was built in the 1970s for importing natural gas. But Dominion Energy wants to build a natural gas export facility on the same land, at a cost of as much as $3.8 billion. The project includes an on-site 130 megawatt power plant, a 60-foot-tall permanent sound wall, and storage units.

The approval process for any exportation facility is quite lengthy, with federal, state and local permits required. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy granted conditional approval to Dominion Energy to export approximately 770 million cubic feet of natural gas per day from Cove Point.

Before construction can begin, however, Dominion needed approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). In May, 2015, the Energy Departmen issued a final authorization for Dominion Cove Point LNG, LP to export domestically produced liquefied natural gas (LNG) to countries that do not have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States. The Cove Point LNG Terminal in Calvert County, Maryland is authorized to export LNG up to the equivalent of 0.77 billion standard cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of natural gas for a period of 20 years.

In May 2013, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), now a declared presidential candidate, signed a law giving Calvert County the authority to grant a tax break to Dominion. Look for that to become a campaign issue.

June 16, 2015

Chesapeake Bay has sharks

Most folks are not aware of sharks sharing their Chesapeake Bay waters. But some five species are out there.

According to the Chesapeake Bay program experts, they are: 

Sandbar shark: the most common shark in the bay. It’s found in the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Brazil.
Bull shark: a close cousin to the sandbar shark, but more aggressive. Many shark attacks are attributed to the bull shark, which ventures as far north as the Patuxent River, although the Chesapeake Bay Program says it’s not considered a “significant threat” to human safety.
Sand tiger shark: a common visitor to the lower bay in summer and fall, most often feeding along the bottom of the estuary and active at night. With its jagged teeth and size, it looks dangerous, but there have been no recorded attacks on humans.
Smooth dogfish: a common to abundant visitor to the bay, especially the lower part and as far north as the Patuxent. They usually travel in schools.
Spiny dogfish: commonly found in the lower bay south of the Potomac River in late fall through early spring. Like the smooth dogfish, it travels in schools, but is a slower swimmer and inhabits deeper waters. It’s found in temperate coastal waters and in all the world’s oceans.
Less common or infrequent visitors to the bay include the basking shark, the bonnethead, the smooth hammerhead and the Atlantic angel shark.

June 15, 2015

Butt out butts

Cigarette butts are estimated to be 38 percent of our roadside litter. And in France on a recent visit we noticed wall to wall butts at every train stop. No such sight in Williamsburg at the Amtrak station, I am proud to report.

So it is very fitting that seven Hampton Roads localities, in partnership with askHRgreen.org, are taking part this summer in a national Keep America Beautiful program to reduce the impact of cigarette butt litter in the region. 

Focusing on the theme “Cigarette butts = litter,” the askHRgreen.org Cigarette Litter Prevention Program launched at these project sites, following a pre-scan of the areas to determine the extent of the cigarette litter. 
• Hampton – Buckroe Beach 
• James City County – Commuter parking off Interstate 64 at Croaker Road 
• Newport News – Hilton Village at Warwick Blvd. and Main St. 
• Norfolk – City Hall Plaza 
• Portsmouth – Ntelos Pavilion
• Suffolk – Downtown in the Main Street area
• Virginia Beach – Lake Smith/Lake Lawson Natural Area, off North Hampton Blvd. 

“Cigarette butt litter has been documented as the most frequently littered item of waste in the United States, and Hampton Roads is no different,” said John Deuel, the project leader of the grant program. “In a pre-scan of the project sites, volunteers found 3,223 cigarette butts and plastic cigar tips. If this amount of cigarette butt litter is happening in just these seven locations, imagine how much litter we’re dealing with throughout the region.” 

So participating city and county litter prevention employees and volunteers will roll out tactics and messaging at each project site to try to turn smokers’ behavior around. As part of the $12,500 grant, Keep America Beautiful has provided 35 new free-standing and wall mounted cigarette butt receptacles to be placed in strategic site locations, in addition to 4,000 hand-held pocket ashtraysand 1,000 portable auto ashtrays to be distributed to adult smokers. 

Additional project resources were provided by askHRgreen.org with $5,000, raised from its 2014 Keep Hampton Roads Beautiful Golf Tournament. These funds contributed to new signage, guiding smokers to the receptacles, and educational materials, emphasizing the impact of cigarette butt litter, which will be distributed to smokers during times when the sites are at peak use. 

Localities also have invited community members and local business and government representatives, who live near, maintain or use the sites, to advise on where to place the receptacles, when to distribute the ashtrays and the types of awareness techniques that might work best. 

Cigarette filters are not biodegradable because they contain cellulose acetate, a form of plastic that will persist in the environment. 

In late-August, campaign participants will conduct a follow-up scan at each project site to determine if cigarette butt litter has decreased and if so, by how much. A follow-up report will be presented in October to Hampton Roads government officials, and shared with business owners and property managers, as well as to those involved with the Virginia Marine Debris Reduction Plan through the Virginia Coastal Zone Management program. 

Communities that implement the Keep America Beautiful Cigarette Litter Prevention Program consistently cut cigarette butt litter by half. The Hampton Roads campaign is unique in that it is being implemented simultaneously in multiple localities. Deuel says the national group is looking at the Hampton Roads project as a pilot program, whose results will be shared in a national report.

Amazingly. . . 
 • Recycling Butts? Yes You Can! TerraCycle, working with the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, turns cigarette waste into industrial products such as plastic pallets. They accept butts, filters, loose tobacco pouches, outer plastic packaging, inner foil packaging, rolling paper and ash. Collect the debris in a plastic bag and ship to the company for recycling. For every pound of waste collected, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company donates $1 toward the Keep America Beautiful Cigarette Littler Prevention Program. Details at www.terracycle.com

June 14, 2015

A somewhat cleaner Chesapeake Bay

Kudos to the 6000 plus volunteers in Virginia who picked up debris (including lots of cigarette butts) on Clean the Bay Day last weekend. Virginia has 450 miles of shoreline to clean up, so that is not a small task. And more than 110,000 pounds of "stuff" that rains wash off our streets and into the Bay is gone. Thank you!

June 11, 2015

Another virus carried by mosquitoes now in Caribbean

The Zika virus, also called ZIKV, first was identified in a Rhesus monkey in the Zika forest of Uganda in 1947 and spread to humans by 1952. It is transmitted by the same mosquito that carries dengue and chikungunya viruses. A young girl in the Dominican Republic is now hospitalized with it. Symptoms are similar to chikungunya: fever, severe muscle aches, headache, conjunctivitis, rash and swollen lower limbs. It was diagnosed in a Brazilian patient a month ago. No deaths have been attributed to it as of now.

Chikungunya was first noticed in December 2013 and spread throughout the Caribbean and into Florida in less than one year. 

June 2, 2015

Hurricane season begins

It is tempting to be complacent after NOAA's predictions for this year's hurricane season. Only six to eleven named storms? But in the past, some doozies of hurricanes have popped up in rather "mild" hurricane years. Remember Andrew? Or Hugo?

Being sailors, we are Weather Channel regulars and always monitor the situation for predicted storms. I also subscribe to Caribbean news postings. These islands are on the lookout for tropical depressions long before our mainland.

BTW: I put this blog on vacation while I enjoyed a long European vacation. It was somewhat bittersweet to see many wind turbines in the UK and France while the US remains slow to embrace this energy. And I still yearn to see ANY country develop tidal energy. Tides are a constant while solar and wind depend on Mother Nature. She has not been kind in recent weeks as floods in Texas claimed so many lives, while Californians are asked to conserve water.