The Blog Aquatic » epa http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 EPA Helps Address Ocean Acidification http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/06/02/epa-helps-address-ocean-acidification/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/06/02/epa-helps-address-ocean-acidification/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 01:04:46 +0000 Ryan Ono http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8428

Photo: Misti Weathersby

Today, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy announced that the agency is proposing new rules to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. The new rules, which the EPA is calling their “Clean Power Plan,” would reduce carbon emission from existing power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, an amount equal to the pollution emitted by more than 150 million cars. But what does all of this mean for the ocean? Many people may not realize it, but by proposing the Clean Power Plan, the United States took a significant step towards addressing ocean acidification. Reducing carbon pollution from power plants means there will be less carbon pollution in the atmosphere. And less carbon pollution in the atmosphere means less carbon pollution that is absorbed by the ocean, turning it more acidic.

Many marine species and the coastal communities dependent upon them are at risk of being harmed by the large amount of carbon pollution that has already been absorbed by the ocean. Oyster growers in the Pacific Northwest have already experienced major business losses due to increasingly acidic water. Scientists are worried about how lobsters, crabs and squid will respond to a more acidic ocean. A reduction in US carbon emissions from power plants is a much-needed step towards addressing ocean acidification on a larger scale.

We applaud the efforts of the EPA, the Obama administration, and the many other industry and community groups that have helped to create this proposed rule.  There is a long way to go, but this is a great step to address the root cause of ocean acidification.

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Reprieve from Arctic Drilling Creates an Opportunity for Progress http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/09/10/reprieve-from-arctic-drilling-creates-an-opportunity-for-progress/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/09/10/reprieve-from-arctic-drilling-creates-an-opportunity-for-progress/#comments Tue, 10 Sep 2013 18:30:13 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6620 Polar Bear Mother and Cubs near Pack Ice

Photo © Image Plan/Corbis

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, Shell Oil had a fleet of vessels in the Arctic Ocean in an attempt to drill for oil off the north and northwest coasts of Alaska. But Shell’s 2012 season was plagued by mishaps and mistakes, from the near-grounding of the drillship Noble Discoverer last July to the all-too-real grounding of the drilling unit Kulluk on New Year’s Day this year.

In the end, Shell failed to complete a single Arctic well, and both the Noble Discoverer and Kulluk were so badly damaged that they were towed to Asia for repair earlier this year. In fact, the EPA just fined Shell $1.1 million for unauthorized levels of air pollution from the two vessels — yet another reminder that Shell was not prepared for its Arctic operations.

Shell’s disastrous 2012 season caused oil companies to retreat from proposed offshore drilling plans in the U.S. Arctic. Shell abandoned its plan to drill wells in the Arctic Ocean this year, and ConocoPhillips and Statoil announced they won’t attempt to drill their leases in the Chukchi Sea until at least 2015. This summer, the Arctic Ocean got a reprieve.

Make no mistake, though: this is a temporary reprieve. Shell has made clear that it is still committed to drilling in the Arctic, and ConocoPhillips and Statoil have not given up on their Arctic oil leases either. As I’ve written before, the threat of drilling in Arctic waters is still very much alive.

Even so, this temporarily provides an important opportunity to advocate a better, more thoughtful approach to decision-making in the Arctic. That’s why Ocean Conservancy has been pushing for meaningful changes to the way that federal agencies plan for and manage oil and gas operations in the Arctic. Fortunately, we’re starting to see some progress.

For example, the Department of Interior has announced its intent to improve federal regulations that govern offshore oil and gas operations in the Arctic. We’ve long advocated this kind of reform, since existing regulations don’t reflect the special challenges presented by drilling in Arctic conditions. So far, the Interior Department is considering regulations relating to specific issues like containment systems, relief well capability, and mutual assistance and resource sharing in Arctic waters. Those changes would be a good first step, but the Interior Department also needs to undertake more comprehensive regulatory reform to ensure risks and benefits are weighed properly at the beginning of the planning process.

In addition, the Obama administration released a new National Strategy for the Arctic Region that crystallizes some important concepts. Among those, it calls for protection of the Arctic environment and conservation of Arctic resources, and it recognizes the need for scientific research and traditional knowledge to improve our understanding of the Arctic region. Moreover, the strategy endorses a more coordinated approach to Arctic decision-making called Integrated Arctic Management.

As my colleague Stan Senner noted in an earlier blog post, the piecemeal approach to decision-making that has been used in the Arctic so far has made it difficult to assess the cumulative impacts of multiple development decisions. Integrated Arctic Management is a different approach that should help to identify environmentally sensitive areas at the outset to help ensure they are protected, monitored and managed appropriately.

The Department of Interior’s new regulations and the Obama administration’s new National Strategy for the Arctic Region show promise, but they are still in early stages. Real change will come when the Interior Department finalizes comprehensive regulatory reform, and when the words and goals articulated in the National Strategy are realized in concrete conservation actions. We’re making progress, but we still have a long way to go.

Help us put Arctic drilling plans on ice until oil companies prove they can clean up an oil spill in severe Arctic conditions. Sign the petition today.

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Create an Ocean-Friendly Organic Garden (Part 2) http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/21/create-an-ocean-friendly-organic-garden-part-2/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/21/create-an-ocean-friendly-organic-garden-part-2/#comments Thu, 21 Mar 2013 17:40:54 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5032

GMO vegetables with syringes. Credit: DenisNata / Shutterstock

After our first blog post about greening your garden practices, are you not yet convinced of the benefits to organic farming? That’s fine, because this second installment was written with the goal of illustrating all of the benefits that can come from gardening the organic way. Part 1 was designated for the “how” questions surrounding organic gardening, but in Part 2 we’ll tackle the “why” factor.

You can dish out a lot of cash on trying to eat all-organic, and that seems especially true for fruits and vegetables. This brings me to my first point in the myriad reasons why greening your garden can be so beneficial; it can save you tons of money! You know what you’re putting into the crops, and you know what you’re getting out economically (and physically). If you’re interested in growing to save you some green, check out this article from The Daily Green about the most cost-effective garden crops. Worried about not having fruits and vegetables during the winter months? Not a problem! Check out this information from GrowVeg.com to see which vegetables are best suited for different types of preserving.

The only real pitfall of organic to the pesticide-ridden alternative is shelf life; gardening guru Melissa says that “organic produce might go bad a little faster than the inorganic stuff you find at the grocery store. But, wouldn’t you rather be eating something that fresh as opposed to something that has been traveling around the country for two weeks in the back of a truck?” Yes, please. If you’ve ever tasted a fresh tomato (or enter vegetable X here), you know that there’s really no replacement for the taste you get from a home-grown crop.

It’s important to remember that while organic vegetables are good for you, they’re also much better for the environment. The EPA says that runoff water from pesticides can “kill fish and wildlife, poison food sources, and destroy the habitat that animals use for protective cover,” among other problems. Everything eventually leads to the ocean, so we need to remember that these dangerous chemicals have contagion effects on many different kinds of wildlife.

There are many positive impacts of gardening that you might not anticipate at first, but you’ll soon realize. Of course I’ve talked about how you’re doing a service to the environment and to your wallet, but did you also think about how you’re doing a service to yourself? Americans don’t spend nearly as much time outside as they used to, and gardening gets you doing a fun activity with the outdoors as a main component. You’ll get a nice workout from plotting and picking, and the added sunlight should give an endorphin buzz to your brain. Some people even consider gardening and farming a form of therapy, and it’s not hard to see why; the calm, creative atmosphere is definitely something to crave during the spring and summer months when we can all enjoy the warmer weather.

Among the many personal, environmental and economic upsides to growing your own organic vegetables, Melissa’s main takeaway from working at the world’s largest soil rooftop farm perhaps offers the greatest benefit of all. “At some point in life, everyone should have the unique and gratifying experience of growing your own food and taking full responsibility of some of your sustenance from seed to plate.” Personally, I couldn’t agree more.

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This Spring, Create an Ocean-Friendly Organic Garden (Part 1) http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/19/this-spring-create-an-ocean-friendly-organic-garden-part-1/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/19/this-spring-create-an-ocean-friendly-organic-garden-part-1/#comments Tue, 19 Mar 2013 15:21:40 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4995

Organic Veggies: The Fruits of Labor. Credit: udra11 / Shutterstock

With spring quickly approaching, it’s time to think about your gardening plans. If you’d like help going organic or starting from scratch, we’ve created a guide with the help of an industry pro. This topic will be split into two segments, with the first dedicated to a how-to and the second geared toward a few reasons that might (read: should) make you change your mind about greening your garden.

I interviewed my friend, Melissa Kuzoian, who works at the Brooklyn Grange in New York City, for some tips. The Brooklyn Grange boasts the largest rooftop soil farm in the world–and it’s all organic! They own two separate lots in the city and harvest over 40,000 pounds of produce annually, grown on a total of about 2.5 acres.

That’s not all the Brooklyn Grange has to offer, though; you can do anything here from taking a general tour, to hosting a corporate retreat, a cocktail reception and even tying the knot! For New Yorkers especially, this is the perfect place to get closer to the earth while in the middle of it all.

In 2010, the Brooklyn Grange crew started a process that “took six days of craning 3,000lb soil sacks seven stories up to the roof.” Today, they’ve created a harvest haven in New York. There are always events going on at the Brooklyn Grange, so if you’re in the area I encourage to stop by and show this amazing farm some love. Want to try some of their homegrown produce for yourself? Stop by one of the restaurants or markets they partner with!

So what can you do to create your own little garden paradise?

For starters, Melissa says that even if you don’t have a rooftop or a full yard to plant your seedlings in, there are other options. “Even if you live in a small space…there’s plenty of opportunity to experience the unmatched satisfaction of growing your own food…With all of the damage we’re doing to our environment these days, its so important to do what you can with what you’ve got.” Think about creating some cute window boxes or utilizing a small part of your deck and voila! You’re good to go.

Melissa also tells me it’s important to start with some quality soil. “Good soil means healthy plants that are better equipped to combat pests,” she explains, and a good source for natural superpowers in your soil is compost. “Composting is so important!” she exclaims, “40% of our country’s food goes to waste every year; if you aren’t eating it, why not put it to good use instead of letting it go sit in a landfill? And the stuff is great; compost is like black gold for your plants.” Check out this infographic from Sustainable America to learn how you can create your own compost. You can also contribute to local composting initiatives; farmers are always willing to take in extra compost, and you’re still keeping unnecessary things out of a landfill.

You might be wondering if one particular crop is easier to grow than another. While a good rule of thumb can be to pick vegetables that are commonly grown in your region, Melissa says that “a little love and attention can go a long way. Some of my favorites that  are good for beginners include radishes, lettuce, carrots, green beans, and basil.”

Vigilance against weeds is always important (the best defense is a good offense), but you can also use mulch around them to prevent their growth. Don’t be too overzealous with uprooting them though; “try to identify what the weed is and see if you can eat it before just getting rid of it! Lamb’s quarters and purslane are two examples of weeds we have at the farm that are actually pretty tasty and very nutritious.”

Once you’ve had a successful season, you’ll want to prepare for the next. The Brooklyn Grange uses clover, rye, buckwheat and oats as a cover crop during the off-season, and Melissa explains why: “They establish root and grow strong quickly, so we can easily plant them at the end of the season to cover most of the farm…These plants are nitrogen fixers, so they can take nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that the plant can use.” The roots are kept to decompose in the spring, adding nitrogen and making for healthier plants. Changing up where you place each type of crop from season-to-season can also help as a nitrogen fixer. As an added bonus, using a cover crop during the winter months acts as good protection against wind erosion.

That marks the end of part one, but we’ll have another green gardening post later this week that explains all the personal and overall benefits that come from an organic garden.

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Don’t Let Shell Drill in the Arctic Based on Shortcuts and Excuses http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/21/dont-let-shell-drill-in-the-arctic-based-on-shortcuts-and-excuses/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/21/dont-let-shell-drill-in-the-arctic-based-on-shortcuts-and-excuses/#comments Sat, 21 Jul 2012 13:36:40 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1846

Reckless Arctic drilling isn’t worth the risk. Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service.

In its quest to drill exploratory oil wells in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska, oil giant Royal Dutch Shell made a lot of promises to government regulators about its ability to run a safe and clean drilling operation in the challenging Arctic environment. But as the drilling season approaches, Shell is already experiencing setbacks and backtracking on its commitments.

In the face of these broken promises, stand with us against Shell’s reckless plans to drill for oil in the Arctic.

First, Shell is changing its story about its capacity to clean up spilled oil in the Arctic. Portions of Shell’s Arctic oil spill response plans are based the unrealistic assumption that Shell would be able to clean up 90 percent of the oil released in a worst case spill. Actual recovery rates—even in optimum conditions—rarely exceed 20 percent. When confronted with questions about its spill plan, Shell back-pedaled, claiming that it didn’t mean that it would actually be able to clean up 90 percent of the spilled oil, only that it would be able to “encounter” 90 percent of the spilled oil.

Second, Shell is having problems obtaining Coast Guard certification for one of its oil spill response vessels. Because of the harsh conditions of the Arctic, the Coast Guard requires Shell’s vessel to withstand the conditions and forces generated by a severe storm that might happen once every 100 years. Shell’s vessel failed to meet that stringent standard. In the face of this setback, Shell suggested a shortcut: it asked the Coast Guard to use a less rigorous certification standard.

Third, Shell recently admitted that it won’t be able to meet the air emissions standards established in Clean Air Act permits granted by the EPA. Instead of addressing the issue at an earlier stage, Shell waited and hoped for the best. When tests showed that emissions from Shell’s drillship and oil spill response vessel would exceed the air pollution limits set by the permits, Shell once again tried for an easy way out, requesting that EPA grant a waiver to allow the vessels to emit more pollutants.

And then there’s the incident in Dutch Harbor… This past Saturday, Shell’s 500 foot drillship—the Noble Discoverer—dragged anchor and nearly ran aground (or did in fact run aground, depending on who you ask) near Dutch Harbor in Alaska. Photos show the Discoverer very close to the shoreline. Fortunately, tugs were able to pull the drillship back to deeper waters. If Shell was not able to control its drillship in the relatively protected waters of Unalaska Bay, how will it fare in the more challenging environment of the Chukchi Sea?

Stand with us to tell the government it can’t accept Shell’s excuses and shortcuts, and it shouldn’t allow Shell to drill in the Arctic Ocean this summer.

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