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Brazil President says his governement should be congratulated for protecting the environment

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Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has said that Brazil ‘should be congratulated for the way it preserves its environment.’ The comments come as major fires continue to rage in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest and Pantanal wetlands. Amazon deforestation has also surged 34.5 per cent in the 12 months through July, compared to the same period a year ago, according to data from government space research agency Inpe.

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Hard actions needed to push coal-fired power plants to meet environmental norms by 2022: CSE

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CHENNAI: Cleaner power is essential in today’s climate-stressed world and power stations that are making sincere efforts to meet the norms need to be encouraged, according to a new analysis done by the Centre of Science and Environment (CSE).
“With 65% of India’s coal-fired thermal power plants not moving to meet environmental norms by the deadline of 2022, it has become imperative to review and re-strategise to push the sector towards implementation. And to do this, a new system of preferential treatment for cleaner plants and deterrence mechanisms for the laggards has to be brought into effect urgently,” finds the analysis released at a high-powered webinar, “Power to the norms: Strategies to encourage coal-based thermal power plants to meet environmental norms.” held on Wednesday.
“India needs affordable energy for all its citizens. Hence, it cannot wish away coal-based thermal power plants – these plants are a reality for us. But we must strive to reduce our dependence on coal, and we need to ensure that coal-based thermal power plants are as clean as possible. Only then can we meet the twin challenges of clean air and climate change,” said CSE director general Sunita Narain.
The webinar had a panel consisting of Bibek Debroy, chairman, economic advisory council to the Prime Minister, Sanjiv N Sahai, secretary, Union ministry of power, Gurdeep Singh, chairperson and managing director, NTPC Ltd, and Anil Sardana, managing director and chief executive officer, Adani Transmission Ltd.
The CSE reports paint a grim picture of the pollution that coal-based power plants are responsible for. “The sector accounts for 80% of mercury, 45%t of sulphur dioxide, and 30% of nitrogen oxide emissions from all industries. Its water use equals half of India’s total domestic water needs. The fly ash generated by these plants is a major challenge –generation has jumped up 70% between 2009-10 and 2018-19. The sector also accounts for one-third of total greenhouse gas emissions,” it said.
The CSE report has found that the current deterrence mechanism in place for enforcing implementation has loopholes and will not serve as an effective check against non-compliance. “Our research tells us that the best strategy in the current scenario would be preferential scheduling of electricity from cleaner power stations. We propose that along with renewable energy or ‘must-run’ plants, a new category of clean coal power plants should be included as ‘First-run’/’Priority-run’ plants,” said Narain.
“The report proposes that this new category could include all coal-based thermal power plants which are headed towards meeting the new environmental norms by 2022 – those power stations which meet the norms should be run at full load, and all non-complying plants should be kept at the bottom of the merit order dispatch,” said the report.
CSE estimates that the ‘first-run’ concept, if implemented, can have significant impacts. To begin with, it would mean one-third of the electricity consumed in India can be sourced from cleaner power stations. Among Indian states, Maharashtra has been found to have the highest number of contracts with cleaner coal-fired power plants (6,000MW of clean power capacity). In terms of percentage of total contracts with cleaner coal-based power stations, Himachal Pradesh tops the chart with 65%; West Bengal ranks the lowest with 1%.
“Any delay in implementation of the norms would mean a mockery of the government and the Supreme Court’s efforts to reduce pollution from this sector. Hard actions, therefore, are needed at this juncture to push power stations towards compliance,” she added.

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Guest column: Navy base clean-up and environmental restoration takes teamwork and an innovative approach

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A number of sites at the former Naval Air Station Brunswick (now known as Brunswick Landing) are the subject of environmental remediation actions in accordance with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the national Superfund Law, for the investigation and remediation of various contaminants left by the Navy’s presence. These “Superfund” sites have been well documented and are part of an on-going restoration effort by the Navy, in coordination with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the local Restoration Advisory Board, of which MRRA is a part of. A local environmental watchdog organization: the Brunswick Area Citizens for a Safe Environment also plays a key role in this ongoing restoration program.

These “Superfund” sites must be cleaned up before they can be transferred to MRRA, the town or any other eligible recipient. Several of these remediated sites have recently been transferred to the town of Brunswick. In addition, the Navy is in the process of conducting additional environmental investigations into potential contamination sites and will undertake remediation actions, as appropriate. It is very important to note, that under the Superfund Law, the Navy has the legal responsibility to take remedial clean-up actions if any regulated contaminants are discovered that are associated with its historical activities, in perpetuity.

The major planned restoration activity in the near future is the remediation of what is known as the Picnic Pond drainage system, where the Navy will be removing contamination in the pond sediments resulting from stormwater discharges associated with the Navy’s historical activities on the former base. The Navy is planning on commencing this work in the summer of 2021, in accordance with a Record of Decision, agreed upon by the Navy, the DEP and the EPA.

This is a very interesting project, as a portion of stormwater runoff from the former base drains into the “Picnic Pond” system, which flows into Mare Brook, an Urban Impaired Stream and eventually into Harpswell Cove. This system consists of four interconnected water bodies used to channel and control stormwater drainage on the property from several natural streams. The Picnic Pond dam was built in 1954, when the sewer and stormwater systems on the base were separated. In 1997, dikes were constructed to create three other impoundment ponds. It’s been well documented that these dam systems require structural repair and upgrades.

The Navy still has ownership of the Picnic Pond system and adjacent properties. Upon completion of the remediation efforts and receipt of the requisite environmental clearances, the Navy plans to convey these properties to MRRA in accordance with our Economic Development Conveyance agreement. As part of this transaction, MRRA plans to ensure that the structural issues of the dam systems are also addressed.

When the Navy base was operational, this Picnic Pond system captured more than 80% of the stormwater discharged from the industrial portions of the base. Currently, captured stormwater to the system comes from the same area of the former base. However, the current runoff has been significantly reduced due to several factors, including, but not limited to substantially fewer airport operations and industrial activities on the property, as well as a significant reduction in impervious surfaces. In addition, since the early 2000s, potential stormwater impacts related to new development are managed and minimized through compliance with the DEP stormwater program, which is the same process employed for new development projects within in the whole town of Brunswick.

Based upon numerous environmental assessments and studies conducted by the Navy over the years, the MRRA-owned stormwater distribution system (pipes) does not appear to contain any CERCLA Contaminants of Concern. However, the Navy and MRRA continue to study for other potential contamination entering the stormwater system, including substances resulting from the historical use of fire-fighting foam products on the former base. It should be noted that the Navy has developed some innovative approaches in addressing the management and treatment of these chemicals when found in groundwater on Brunswick Landing.

The town of Brunswick is currently leading an effort to develop a plan for the Mare Brook Watershed. Mare Brook is an Urban Impaired Stream that begins and runs through the developed areas within the town of Brunswick and a portion of Brunswick Landing. MRRA actively participates in this important watershed planning effort.

Based upon the Navy’s planned clean-up of the Picnic Pond contaminants, the ongoing Mare Brook Watershed planning effort and the significant local public interest and extensive dialogue regarding the legacy stormwater management system associated with the former Navy base, we believe there is a great opportunity to develop an innovative approach to the problem that that could result in the environmental restoration of the ecological values of the Picnic Pond drainage system, as well as the potential to re-design the Brunswick Landing stormwater distribution and management systems.

In order to achieve this objective, MRRA has invited the town of Brunswick, the Maine DEP and other key local, state and federal stakeholders to be part of a task force with the mission of exploring the feasibility of and developing a long-range plan for this effort. It is envisioned that this initiative would involve several phases, all of which would require funding for both planning and implementation actions.

We believe such a unified and focused effort can demonstrate how we can work together to couple a significant economic development initiative with an innovative environmental remediation and restoration program that reflects our ultimate vision of taking an old Navy base and creating a great new place.

Steve Levesque is the executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority.

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Environmental advocacy coalition sues Homeland Security, alleging fed officers’ tear gas, chemical munitions causing health hazards

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A coalition of environmental advocacy groups on Tuesday filed suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, alleging federal officers’ use of tear gas and other chemical munitions are causing grave health and environmental hazards.

The suit alleges the federal officers’ use of the tear gas, pepper spray and other munitions violates the National Environmental Policy Act, as the chemicals have accumulated in and on city streets, sidewalks and bioswales that carry stormwater runoff and into the Willamette River’s banks and waters.

They allege that the national environmental policy act required the federal agency to consider the  environmental and human health impacts of its Operation Diligent Valor that brought additional federal officers to Portland to safeguard the downtown federal courthouse and other federal buildings since early July, but the agency has not done so.

The suit also cited the federal officers’ use of a new contraption last weekend outside the U.S. Immigration and Enforcement Building in South Portland – a thermal fogger that dispersed tear gas or smoke toward people ordered to leave the property. It alleges that federal officers have fired tear gas and other chemical munition canisters that have expired, manufactured as far back as 2000.

The plaintiffs include the nonprofits Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, Willamette Riverkeeper, Cascadia Wildlands, Neighbors for Clean Air and 350PDX that works to address the causes of climate change.

“Protesters are not pests and the prolonged use of pesticides and similar chemicals to disperse a crowd, without knowing the consequences, is unacceptable,” said Ashley Chesser, executive director of Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, in a statement. “We don’t have any idea what repeated exposure to tear gas does to human health or the environment. DHS had a legal duty to research this before they started gassing Portland, and they may have caused significant harm by failing to do so.”

The lawsuit is the latest in at least a dozen legal actions filed stemming from federal officers’ clashes with demonstrators in Portland in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost eight minutes.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler in September barred Portland police from using tear gas to disperse protesters, after a judge’s order had restricted its use by Portland police to encounters where lives or public safety were at risk.

In late July, Oregon environmental regulators required the city of Portland to test stormwater around the federal courthouse and parts of downtown, citing the “unprecedented amount of tear gas” used by local and federal law enforcement agencies since May.

In September, the city tested three sets of samples on August 6 from stormwater pipes in downtown Portland, and found elevated levels of barium, copper, lead, and zinc at the federal courthouse site, with levels of all four metals dropping before reaching the Willamette River. Additional sediment sampling at six storm drains also showed higher levels at the federal courthouse than at the control site outside the protest zone, according to the city. The city also notified the federal General Services Administration that it was fining it $20,000 for blocking city access to a storm drain behind the fence erected around the courthouse.

— Maxine Bernstein

Email at mbernstein@oregonian.com; 503-221-8212

Follow on Twitter @maxoregonian 

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