Posted on Categories Air, Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , ,

German court rules cities can ban diesel cars to tackle pollution

Kate Connolly, THE GUARDIAN

Millions of heavily polluting vehicles could eventually disappear from roads across Germany after its top administrative court ruled that cities have the right to ban diesel motors in an effort to improve deadly air quality levels.

Tuesday’s historic decision potentially affects an estimated 12m vehicles and has delivered a heavy blow to Europe’s largest car market, while being celebrated by environmental campaigners.

Germany’s highest administrative court in Leipzig ruled in favour of upholding bans that were introduced by lower courts in the cities of Stuttgart and Düsseldorf, two of the most polluted German cities, after appeals were lodged by the states of Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia.
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The Leipzig court ruling in the case, which was originally brought by the environmental groups Deutsche Umwelthilfe (German environmental aid or DUH) and ClientEarth, paves the way for cities across Germany to follow suit.

“It’s a great day for clean air in Germany,” Jürgen Resch, of the DUH, said.

Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/27/german-court-rules-cities-can-ban-diesel-cars-to-tackle-pollution

Posted on Categories Land Use, WaterTags , ,

Work begins at site of Dutra’s Petaluma plant

Matt Brown, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

Work has begun at the site of a controversial asphalt plant just outside of Petaluma, a long planned facility that environmentalists have said will degrade sensitive wetlands along the Petaluma River.

The Dutra Group has started site improvements on the 38-acre property at Haystack landing on the southern edge of Petaluma. Workers have installed a septic system and Sonoma County is in the final stages of issuing the company a permit to begin grading for phase one of the project, which includes space for a new station for the San Antonio Volunteer Fire Department, according to the county planning department.

The company still needs several state and federal permits in order to receive final permission from the county to begin the bulk of the construction.

“We’re being very cautious,” said Gary Helfrich, the county planner working on the project. “There’s a lot of passion about this project. We want to make sure that when and if we issue permits, we do it correctly.”

Dutra first proposed the asphalt plant in 2004. A political hot potato, it was narrowly approved by the county Board of Supervisors in 2010, and opponents almost immediately filed a legal challenge. A series of court rulings upheld the project, and the company has since moved forward in seeking necessary permits.

Read more at: Work begins at site of Dutra’s Petaluma plant | Petaluma Argus Courier | Petaluma360.com

Posted on Categories AirTags ,

Owner of Healdsburg’s Wilson Winery hit with $56,000 in pollution fines

Paul Payne, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A Healdsburg vintner with a history of breaking environmental laws agreed Thursday to pay about $56,000 for an illegal burn in 2016 that drew a large emergency response and violated air quality regulations.

Ken Wilson, co-owner of the namesake Wilson Winery and nine other boutique wineries, was fined for burning 31 debris piles over several days on his Shiloh Road property in Windsor.

The piles, created while clearing land for vineyard development, exceeded the size allowed by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and contained material that was not properly dried. The fires had the potential to grow out of control, prosecutors said.

“The quick response from our fire agencies prevented the spread of fire to other properties in the area,” Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said in a written statement.

Wilson, who was sentenced to jail time in 2002 for allowing soil erosion into a tributary of the Russian River, called the incident an “unfortunate thing.” He said it stemmed from his confusion over differences in the rules governing burning in Windsor and Healdsburg.

Read more at: Owner of Healdsburg’s Wilson Winery hit with $56,000 in pollution fines | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags , , , , ,

Bay Area air regulators outline plan to combat climate change 

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Read the draft plan: Spare the Air, Cool the Climate

Watch a video about the plan.

Lorna Ho of Santa Rosa, proud driver of an all-electric Nissan Leaf, said she’s happy to be part of the vanguard in combating climate change.

Ho, a retiree, gave up her gas-guzzling Mercedes that got 15 mpg in September and leased a Leaf that hums along on battery power, releasing zero pollutants.“All of that matters to me,” said Ho, who was recharging her vehicle Thursday at a power station at Coddingtown. “I’m very much aware of what’s going on in the environment.”

She’s also in sync with an ambitious pollution-fighting plan unveiled this week by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the regulatory agency best known for issuing winter “spare the air” alerts that prohibit burning wood in fireplaces and wood stoves on chilly nights when the air is likely to be fouled.

Now, the district’s “Spare the Air, Cool the Climate” plan lays out a blueprint for curbing tons of Bay Area greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with a payoff of avoiding nearly $1 billion in social and economic costs.

“This is a major initiative,” said Kristine Roselius, an air district spokeswoman, noting that the Trump administration is dismantling numerous clean air measures. “The Bay Area is marching forward. It’s too important to stop.

”The Bay Area air district covers most of Sonoma County, including Windsor, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Sebastopol, and all or part of eight other counties surrounding San Francisco Bay.

The plan, approved unanimously by the district’s 24 board members Wednesday, lays the groundwork for bringing Bay Area greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

It aims at big targets, such as oil refineries and diesel engines, emphasizes small, personal choices such as walking or biking to work, as well as eating more vegetarian and vegan meals.

“We really have to go beyond governmental actions to changes that people can make in their everyday lives,” said Abby Young, the district’s climate protection manager.

The plan, which includes 85 measures to curb Bay Area pollutants, “reaches beyond business as usual” for the district, she said. It targets pollutants from industry, transportation, agriculture, homes and businesses.

The air district will use its own authority to limit some emissions, and will work with cities and other agencies on issues related to transportation. The regulations will not be implemented for some time.

Read more at: Bay Area air regulators outline plan to combat climate change | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Air, Climate Change & Energy, Habitats, Water, WildlifeTags , , , ,

California environmental leaders, lawmakers gird for fight against President Trump 

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Restoring salmon in the Russian River and protecting the North Coast from oil rigs — two long-standing campaigns with broad public support — are among the goals likely to be challenged if not stifled by the sharp right turn of Donald Trump’s administration, environmental advocates and Democratic lawmakers said.

More broadly, the environmental camp fears that landmark legislation, including laws that protect endangered species, clean air and water, are imperiled by Republican control of the House and Senate with an avid deregulation partner in the White House.

The harbingers, they say, include Trump’s trail of tweets and speeches asserting that climate change is a hoax and his post-election appointments of a California water district lobbyist and a prominent climate change denier to head his transition teams at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, respectively.

Even if Republicans and their allies can’t roll back environmental laws they have long targeted — asserting they harm economic development — the GOP will have nearly unlimited control of national policy and can weaken environmental programs by turning off the cash spigot.

The Sonoma County Water Agency, for example, has received more than $15 million in federal grants in the last four years for a host of water-quality and Russian River watershed projects, including salmon habitat restoration on Dry Creek near Healdsburg, as well as operation of the fish hatchery at nearby Warm Springs Dam on Lake Sonoma.

Under President Trump, such programs may not favor as well in budget allocations, local lawmakers and others fear.

Read more at: California environmental leaders, lawmakers gird for fight against President Trump | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Air, Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

Grants available to replace wood-burning heating devices 

BAY CITY NEWS, via KRON

Money will be available starting Friday morning for roughly 1,500 Bay Area homeowners and landlords to help them upgrade their wood-burning heating devices with cleaner ones to reduce winter air pollution, officials with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District said today.

The program will open at 10 a.m. at http://www.baaqmd.gov/woodsmokegrant and (415) 749-5195.

Homeowners and landlords can apply online or call the phone number to give information to someone who will fill out the online application for the person, spokesman Tom Flannigan said.

The money is available on a first-come, first-served basis, air district officials said.Landlords and homeowners can install an electric heat pump or natural gas or propane stove or insert, which looks like a gas stove but is installed inside a fireplace.

“This program is really about removing wood burning devices from our region,” Flannigan said.The cleaner devices are designed to be the home’s chief heating source.

Read more at: Grants available to replace wood-burning heating devices | KRON4.com

Posted on Categories Air, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Sonoma County extends rebates for wood stove upgrades 

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County supervisors this week renewed a program offering some businesses and residents financial rebates for replacing old wood stoves with new, more environmentally friendly appliances.

Home and business owners along the coast, some parts of the Russian River and north of Windsor in the Highway 101 corridor are eligible to apply for rebates — $1,000 to $2,500 — to install new gas stoves, environmentally certified fireplaces and stoves that burn wood or biomass pellets.

The Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District, which is funding the program, has $30,000 this year from grants and air pollution fines levied on people who in the past violated air quality regulations, such as rules that prohibit burning trash.

District officials said they plan to begin accepting applications Oct. 15, and rebates are processed on first-come, first-served basis. Funding could provide roughly 15 to 30 replacements, depending on the type of appliance.

In the past two years of the program, the district has spent $40,000 on 33 stove replacements. The idea is to reduce fine particulates in the air from wood burning.

For more information and to view a map of the district boundaries go here.

Source: Sonoma County extends rebates for wood stove upgrades | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Air, TransportationTags , , ,

Sonoma County gets high marks for good air 

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County once again got straight-As on the American Lung Association’s latest air quality report card, which also cited California’s prolonged drought as a factor in fouling the state’s skies.

For the second year in a row, the county went without a single day of ozone or particle pollution exceeding federal standards, according to State of the Air 2015, the lung association’s annual report released Wednesday. Much of the credit can go to the breezy weather that typically blows away bad air.

Only three other coastal counties — Mendocino, Humboldt and Monterey — matched that perfect score, while Lake County came close with a single day of high ozone pollution, just as it did in last year’s report.

Read more via: Sonoma County gets high marks for good air | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Air, Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

Some states fight to keep wood fires burning

David A. Lieb, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Smoke wafting from wood fires has long provided a familiar winter smell in many parts of the country – and, in some cases, a foggy haze that has filled people’s lungs with fine particles that can cause coughing and wheezing.

Citing health concerns, the Environmental Protection Agency now is pressing ahead with regulations to significantly limit the pollution from newly manufactured residential wood heaters. But some of the states with the most wood smoke are refusing to go along, claiming that the EPA’s new rules could leave low-income residents in the cold.

Missouri and Michigan already have barred their environmental agencies from enforcing the EPA standards. Similar measures recently passed Virginia’s legislature and are pending in at least three other states, even though residents in some places say the rules don’t do enough to clear the air.

It’s been a harsh winter for many people, particularly those in regions repeatedly battered by snow. And the EPA’s new rules are stoking fears that some residents won’t be able to afford new stoves when their older models give out.

“People have been burning wood since the beginning of recorded time,” said Phillip Todd, 59, who uses a wood-fired furnace to heat his home in Holts Summit. “They’re trying to regulate it out of existence, I believe, and they really have no concern about the economic consequences or the hardship it’s going to cause.”

Others contend the real hardship has fallen on neighbors forced to breathe the smoke from winter wood fires.

Read more via News from The Associated Press.