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Environmental Concerns

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The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on Friday to ban the drilling of new oil and gas wells and to phase out existing ones over the next 20 years. The vote comes after more than a decade of complaints from city residents that pollution drifting from wells was affecting their health. Los Angeles was once a booming oil town, but many of its oilfields are now played out.

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A tiny Nevada toad at the center of a legal battle over a geothermal project has officially been declared an endangered species after U.S. wildlife officials temporarily listed it on a rarely-used emergency basis last spring. The Fish and Wildilfe Service said in a formal rule published Friday that the Dixie Valley toad is at risk of extinction primarily due to the approval and commencement of geothermal development” about 100 miles east of Reno. Other threats to the quarter-sized amphibian include groundwater pumping, agriculture, climate change, disease and predation from bullfrogs. The temporary listing in April marked only the second time in 20 years the agency had taken such emergency action.

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French President Emmanuel Macron is in Louisiana on the last day of his visit to the U.S. Macron's office says the visit is being held to celebrate longstanding cultural ties and to discuss energy policy in the state named for France's famous Sun King Louis XIV. Macron's schedule on Friday includes meeting with Gov. John Bel Edwards and seeing the historic French Quarter in New Orleans, The Advocate reported that the visit will be the first by a French president since Valery Giscard d’Estaing traveled to Lafayette and New Orleans in 1976. The only other French president to visit Louisiana was Charles de Gaulle, in 1960.

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The nation’s largest public utility is recommending replacing an aging coal burning power plant with natural gas, ignoring calls for the Tennessee Valley Authority to speed its transition to renewable energy. TVA on Friday announced the completion of its environmental impact statement for replacing the Cumberland Fossil Plant near Cumberland City, Tennessee. TVA says in a news release that solar and battery storage would be more costly and time-consuming than gas. The recommendation still needs the approval of TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash. He has previously spoken in favor of gas. The announcement drew immediate backlash from groups that include the Center for Biological Diversity, which calls the plan “reckless.”

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Britain's Prince William appears to have taken the baton from his father and become a more vocal advocate about pollution and climate change. Those efforts are on full display this week in Boston. That's where the winners of the royal couple's Earthshot Prize for environmental innovators were being announced Friday evening. The announcement at Boston’s MGM Music Hall was part of a glitzy show headlined by Billie Eilish, Annie Lennox, Ellie Goulding, and Chloe x Halle. But William also made time Friday to meet with President Joe Biden and Caroline Kennedy, ambassador to Australia and daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy.

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On Friday afternoon more than 2,000 experts will wrap up a week of negotiations on plastic pollution at one of the largest global gatherings ever to address what even industry leaders in plastics say is a crisis. It was the first meeting of a United Nations committee on plastics set up in March to draft what is intended to be a landmark treaty to bring an end to plastic pollution globally. The United Nations Environment Programme held the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee in Punta del Este, Uruguay Monday to Friday. Even in this first meetings of five set to take place over the next two years, factions came into focus as some countries want top-down global mandates, and the chemical industry wants country-by-country rules.

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A former coal-fired power plant in New Jersey was imploded Friday, and its owners announced plans for a new $1 billion venture on the site, where batteries will be deployed to store power from clean energy sources including wind and solar. The move came as New Jersey and other states move aggressively to adopt clean energy to combat climate change. Starwood Energy demolished the former Logan Generating Plant in Logan Township. That site, and a second power plant site in Carneys Point, will host large facilities where batteries will be arrayed to store clean energy and release it to the power grid as needed.

Eight years into a U.S. program to control damage from feral pigs, the invasive animals are still a multibillion-dollar plague on farmers, wildlife and the environment. They've been wiped out in 11 of the 41 states where they were reported in 2014 or 2015. And there are fewer in parts of the other 30. But in spite of more than $100 million in federal money, officials estimate there are still 6 million to 9 million hogs gone wild nationwide and in three U.S. territories, doing at least $2.5 billion a year in U.S. damages. Estimates in 2014 were 5 million hogs and $1.5 billion in damages. Experts say the bigger figures are due to better estimates, not increases.

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Eight years into a U.S. program to control damage from feral pigs, the invasive animals are still a multibillion-dollar plague on farmers, wildlife and the environment. They've been wiped out in 11 of the 41 states where they were reported in 2014 or 2015. And there are fewer in parts of the other 30. But in spite of more than $100 million in federal money, officials estimate there are still 6 million to 9 million hogs gone wild nationwide and in three U.S. territories, doing at least $2.5 billion a year in U.S. damages. Estimates in 2014 were 5 million hogs and $1.5 billion in damages. Experts say the bigger figures are due to better estimates, not increases.

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President Joe Biden's first White House state dinner has drawn big names from the worlds of entertainment, politics, business and fashion to celebrate French President Emmanuel Macron. The official guest list included late-night TV talk-show host Stephen Colbert, “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts, actors Jennifer Garner, Ariana DeBose and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and singer John Legend and his wife, Chrissy Teigen. Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was there, as was House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who hopes to succeed Pelosi. The 338 guests passed through a White House decorated for the holidays. Trolleys took them to a heated party tent on the South Lawn.

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The Prince and Princess of Wales have visited a green technology startup incubator in suburban Boston and a nonprofit that gives young people the tools to stay out jail and away from violence. William and Kate are in the United States for their first overseas visit since the death of Queen Elizabeth II. On Thursday, they heard about solar-powered autonomous boats and low-carbon cement at the incubator Greentown Labs. The royal couple’s trip comes as they look to foster new ways to address climate change. It culminates Friday with the prince’s signature Earthshot Prize, a global competition aimed at finding new ways to tackle climate change.

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Presidents Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron have vowed to maintain a united front against Russia amid growing worries about waning support for Ukraine in the U.S. and Europe. Biden on Thursday also signaled that he may be willing to tweak aspects of his signature climate legislation that have raised concerns with France and other European allies. While Biden honored Macron with a fancy state dinner Thursday evening, the glamour and pomp of the visit has been shadowed by Macron’s criticism of Biden’s climate legislation and the challenges both leaders face amid the mounting costs of keeping military and economic aid flowing to Kyiv.

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A lawyer for environmental groups suing the Tennessee Valley Authority argues distributors have signed onto what amount to “never-ending” contracts that unfairly tie them to power generated by the nation’s largest public utility. Southern Environmental Law Center lawyer Amanda Garcia made the argument in Memphis federal court. TVA says three environmental groups have no standing to sue after TVA reached long-term agreements with many local power distributors in its seven-state region. The lawsuit alleges the deals will deprive distributors and ratepayers of the opportunity to renegotiate with TVA to obtain cheaper, cleaner electricity.

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The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed increasing ethanol and other biofuels that must be blended into the nation’s fuel supplies over the next three years. Thursday's announcement was welcomed by renewable fuel and farm groups but condemned by environmentalists and oil industry groups. The proposal also includes incentives for the use of biogas from farms and landfills, and biomass such as wood, to generate electricity to charge electric vehicles. It’s the first time the EPA has set biofuel targets on its own instead deferring to Congress. The agency opened a public comment period and will hold a hearing in January.

Spain’s government has pledged to invest 350 million euros ($368 million) in the country's Doñana wetlands. Ecologists have been clamoring for more action to help the UNESCO world heritage site that experts say is dying due to the misuse of water and climate change. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced the pledge on Thursday when he visited the Doñana National Park. A European Union court ruled last year that Spanish authorities had failed in their duty to protect the wetlands that are a stopover spot for millions of birds migrating from Africa to northern Europe. The World Wildlife Fund applauded the investment but demanded more from regional authorities to control the illegal extraction of water.

Jacob Harold believes philanthropy needs more “strategic promiscuity” – battling the world’s problems using a variety of approaches. It’s an idea that mirrors his wide-ranging career. Harold was president and CEO of GuideStar before it merged with Foundation Center to form the even larger nonprofit information source Candid, which he co-founded. To boost those chances, Harold wrote “The Toolbox: Strategies for Crafting Social Impact,” which hit bookshelves Thursday. “The Toolbox” offers nine strategies, or tools, philanthropists can use on a problem – from storytelling to behavioral economics to community organizing.

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The Prince and Princess of Wales are making their first overseas trip since the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September. The trip that began Wednesday is an occasion for Prince William and his wife, Kate, to show the world as much about who they are not as who they are. With their three-day visit to Boston, the couple hope to demonstrate that they aren’t the last remnants of a dying institution. Their foray is focused on William’s initiative to find the next generation of environmental entrepreneurs and will be supplemented with trips to an anti-poverty program, child development researchers and local flood defenses.

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The White House says Thursday's state dinner for the president of France is meant to highlight the ties that bind the United States and its oldest ally. First lady Jill Biden and White House staff previewed the arrangements on Wednesday. Maine lobster poached in butter, beef with shallot marmalade and a trio of American cheeses are on the menu. Dessert is orange chiffon cake, with roasted pears and creme fraiche ice cream. A glitzy White House state dinner is a high diplomatic honor reserved for only the closest U.S. allies. Thursday's affair will be the first one of the Biden administration.

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Environmentalists say the federal government isn’t doing enough to ensure the survival of the Rio Grande silvery minnow as drought tightens its grip on one of the longest rivers in the West. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, the group WildEarth Guardians asked a federal judge to force U.S. water and wildlife agencies to reassess the effects of water management activities on the endangered fish. They want federal officials to develop enforceable measures to keep dams and diversions along the river's stretch through New Mexico's most populated area from jeopardizing the minnow. The fish was declared endangered nearly 30 years ago and its population continues to dwindle as the river sees record-low flows.

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Construction has begun on an underground electrical transmission line that will bring Canadian hydropower to New York City as part of an effort to make the Big Apple less reliant on fossil fuels. State officials announced the start of construction Wednesday on the Champlain Hudson Power Express. Once complete, the line will stretch 339 miles (546 kilometers) through New York state to deliver power produced by the company Hydro-Québec. Authorities project the line will deliver enough clean energy to power more than one million homes while also cutting carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons.

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Waves of orange, glowing lava and ash blasted and billowed from the world’s largest active volcano and people on Hawaii’s Big Island have been warned to be ready if their communities are threatened. The ongoing eruption of Mauna Loa wasn’t immediately endangering nearby towns on Monday. But officials told residents to be ready in the event of a worst-case scenario. The U.S. Geological Survey says the eruption began late Sunday night in the volcano on the Big Island. Scientists had been on alert because of a recent spike in earthquakes at the summit of the volcano, which last erupted in 1984.

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Germany’s energy minister says the government has formally decided to abandon an international energy accord that fossil fuel companies had used to oppose measures against climate change. The move follows similar decisions by Italy, France, Spain and other European countries to leave the 1998 Energy Charter Treaty, which includes provisions designed to protect foreign investments in a country’s energy sector. German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Wednsday treaty runs counter to the Paris climate accord. He cited cases brought by German utility companies against the Dutch government’s decision to end the burning of coal. Habeck, a member of the environmentalist Green party, backed calls by climate campaigners for the European Union as a whole to withdraw from the pact.

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The Navy says there is no evidence of drinking water contamination after a spill of fire suppressant at a fuel facility in Hawaii. A cleanup is underway at the Red Hill facility after the spill Tuesday of foam containing PFAS. That's a class of chemicals that can be toxic to humans and are slow to degrade. A Hawaii environmental official calls it an  “egregious” situation that "could be devastating to our aquifer.” The commander of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam says in a letter on Facebook that there is no indication of drinking water contamination and that the nearest drinking water well is miles away.

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A judge has lifted a temporary restraining order that limited wolf hunting in Montana, saying there is nothing to suggest rules now in place will make wolf populations unsustainable in the short term. District Judge Christopher Abbott also rejected concerns raised by environmental groups that harvesting up to six wolves just outside Yellowstone National Park could harm the park's wolf population. Tuesday's decision dissolves a temporary restraining order Abbott issued on Nov. 16 and restores the hunting and trapping rules the state set in August. The rules allow for the killing of up to 450 wolves in Montana. Individuals are allowed to take up to 20 wolves.

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