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July 2009 Archives

July 13, 2009

National Park Service to Store Species’ DNA at New York City Museum

On July 8, 2009, the National Park Service and the American Museum of Natural History announced that they had signed an agreement to add tissue samples of endangered species from U.S. parks to the museum’s state-of-the-art storage facilities.

The samples, which will be stored in a half-dozen metal vats cooled with liquid nitrogen in the museum’s basement, will help provide researchers with the genetic information they need to trace migrations and estimate population sizes. The first samples from the National Park Service, which lacks a similar facility, will be blood samples from foxes from California’s Channel Islands, followed by specimens from the American crocodile and the Hawaiian goose.

The DNA lab is part of the Museum’s Ambrose Monell Collection for Molecular and Microbial Research.

July 16, 2009

Report Details Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Adirondack State Park

In April 2009, a report was released by the Adirondack ADKCAP that inventoried greenhouse gas emissions in Adirondack State Park. According to the report, the forests absorb about 600,000 tons of carbon each year, which is less than a third of what is emitted by human activity in the Adirondack State Park. The report shows that steps must be taken to reduce fossil fuel use by Adirondack residents and visitors.

ADKCAP is a consortium of government, academic, civic and non-profit groups that grew out of a climate change conference in November 2008. The greenhouse gas audit was done by the environmental consulting firm of Ecology and Environment, with guidance from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

The report found that home heating was a major source of emissions. In addition, the park’s large size requires many residents to drive long distances, which boosts gasoline use. All that adds up to an annual energy bill for the region of about $1.5 billion, which includes all gasoline purchases. Despite these factors, the average Adirondacker emits about 16 tons of carbon dioxide annually -- much less than the U.S. average of almost 25 tons.

July 17, 2009

DEC Finalizes Greenhouse Gas Review Policy under SEQRA

On July 16, 2009, DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis announced that greenhouse gas emissions will be included in New York’s environmental review of large-scale projects under SEQRA. The policy provides guidance to help DEC staff consider greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency when conducting environmental reviews of new projects.

Environmental reviews under SEQRA require that a “lead agency” identify and assess actions for their potential adverse environmental impacts, and in certain cases, develop an environmental impact statement and propose mitigation strategies. Although the policy expressly applies where DEC is the lead agency, it will be helpful to any project proponent or other lead agency considering greenhouse gas impacts.

The policy was proposed in March 2009. It becomes effective in 30 days.

July 26, 2009

Public Service Commission Announces Approval of Smart Grid Initiatives

On July 24, 2009, the Public Service Commission (PSC) voted to approve a wide-range of advanced smart grid initiatives as proposed by six major electric utilities in New York. The PSC’s approval of the cutting-edge projects is contingent upon the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarding a 50% matching federal grant. Since the federal stimulus funds available from DOE will only cover up to 50% of the total costs of the proposed smart grid projects, the utilities filed requests with the PSC to recover the portion of the costs not covered by the DOE grant from ratepayers. The PSC approved a series of projects with a total cost of about $825 million and ratepayer matching funding of approximately $390 million.

The utilities seeking ratepayer recovery for matching funding of smart grid investments, and the amounts of such funding approved by the Commission today include: Consolidated Edison of New York, Inc. (Con Edison) for $175 million; National Grid $145 million; Rochester Gas and Electric Corporation (RG&E) $36 million; New York State Electric and Gas Corporation (NYSEG) $20 million; Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corporation (Central Hudson) $10 million; and Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc. (O&R) $5 million.

The ratepayer-matching funding will be provided through a temporary surcharge to be implemented upon completion of each project. Surcharge proposals by the affected utilities will be made after DOE grants are announced and will be subject to comment by interested parties as to the manner and classes of ratepayers impacted by the surcharge.

In approving proposed utility projects for ratepayer-matching funding, the PSC determined that projects provide a reasonable investment in technology that improves the efficient and intelligent operation of the electric grid in New York State. The PSC concluded that there are substantial benefits to be gained by beginning to invest in the use of advanced technology and communication to improve grid operations. Smart grid projects that will improve grid operations and potentially enable expansion of demand response resources and opportunities for residential customers to manage energy costs were approved in all of the electric service territories.

A smart grid uses advanced technology and two-way communications to improve operations and efficiency of the entire electric grid from the generation source to end-use consumption. Among other benefits, a smart grid will allow operators to more effectively operate the power grid, and will potentially enable consumers to actively monitor energy consumption and better control their bills. A smart grid can also enable the accommodation of all generation sources, including renewables, and storage options.

Several non-smart grid projects for Con Edison were also approved totaling approximately $2.5 million in ratepayer funds. Ratepayer contribution to these projects represents less than 50 percent of the projects costs because the utilities recruited partners for the projects. The projects include deployment of 2,250 solar panels at its Astoria complex to test the company’s system for the integration of solar resources and battery storage; a study conducted with other partners to assess off-shore wind resources; and a partnership with Chrysler and the U.S. Postal Service to test new technologies for vehicle transportation that ultimately may promote the reduction of greenhouse gases.

July 30, 2009

Study Finds Link Between Exposure to Air Toxics and Lower Intelligence Quotient

On July 20, 2009, a study was released in the August issue of the journal Pediatrics that found that prenatal exposure to air toxics is associated with a lower intelligence quotient in children.

In the study, “Prenatal Airborne Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Exposure and Child IQ at Age 5 Years,” researchers from Columbia University and the Southwest Research Institute studied nonsmoking women from Washington Heights, Harlem, or the South Bronx in New York City who had been recruited into the study between 1998 and 2003. The mothers were monitored for exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) throughout their pregnancies. PAH are the product of incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, tobacco, and other organic matter and are known or suspected to cause cancer and other serious health and environmental problems.

Researchers gave 249 English-speaking children intelligence quotient tests at 5 years of age. The children exposed to PAH concentrations greater than a median of 2.26 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m3) had overall IQ test scores 4.31 points lower on average than participants with less exposure. Verbal IQ scores for the children with the highest PAH exposure were 4.67 points lower on average than for those with less exposure. Scores were controlled for maternal intelligence, home environmental quality, tobacco smoke exposure, and other factors, according to the study. The children’s PAH exposures ranged between 0.49 ng/m3 and 34.48 ng/m3. The study classified 140 of the 249 children as having high PAH exposure.

The observed decrease in overall IQ scores is equivalent to that seen in children with lifetime blood lead concentrations between 5 micrograms and 9.9 micrograms per deciliter, according to the study. According to researchers, prenatal exposure to PAH can cause complications with the immune system, metabolism, and neurological functions throughout life.

About July 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Envirosphere in July 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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