Category Archives: Environment

When All Else Fails Break Out the Legal Mumbo Jumbo

What to do when you can't cap the gusher?  Why, set your attorneys loose:

Alabama Attorney General Troy King said tonight that he has told representatives of BP Plc. that they should stop circulating settlement agreements among coastal Alabamians.

The agreements, King said, essentially require that people give up the right to sue in exchange for payment of up to $5,000.

King said BP's efforts were particularly strong in Bayou La Batre.

The attorney general said he is prohibited from giving legal advice to private citizens, but added that "people need to proceed with caution and understand the ramifications before signing something like that.

(h/t to Ed Cone for the link)

A Question Only an English Major Would Ask

I'm no scientist (I'm actually the antithesis of a scientist), so this is probably the dumbest question ever asked, but I have to ask it: Is it wise to put a solar array on the roof of a hardware company's distribution center?  Still it's kind of cool that Winston-Salem will have two of Duke Energy's new solar sites.

Hybrids? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Hybrids!

The Freakonomics blog has a post about the Obama administration's decision to dramatically increase fuel economy standards.  I found this part the most interesting:

The new regulations mandate that by 2016 the fuel economy of new cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. increase to a combined city/highway m.p.g. of 35.5, up from about 27.9 under today’s CAFE standards.

Although hybrids and electric vehicles can help automakers meet these targets, enough efficiency can be reaped with internal combustion autos. This can come through improvements to things like tires, engines (e.g. smaller ones with turbocharging), air conditioning, transmissions, and vehicle weight. The administration estimates that this will cost $1,100 per vehicle but that the improvements will pay for themselves with $3,000 in fuel savings over the life of the car.

This caught my attention because my wife just returned from a trip to Richmond and was in awe that our eight year old Saturn got 38 miles to the gallon for the trip.  I've been driving the Saturn back and forth to Greensboro pretty much every day and I'm averaging about 32 miles a gallon even with city driving.  My Mom has a hybrid and she gets in the 40s per gallon, which is obviously better, but our car's been paid off for years and (knock on wood) hasn't needed any extensive work done on it. 

Only negative to the Saturn: I'm 6'2" and when I get in and out of it I look like a circus clown, but that's a small price to pay for keeping my gas tab down. 


I came across thispress release about a web-based company in Clemmons called Ecorations that has a pretty interesting product concept.

Ecorations, LLC is a web-based company launched in May 2008 by Kathy de Jong and Debora Owens. The concept was inspired by de Jong’s Dutch mother-in-law, who once presented Kathy with a Christmas gift wrapped in a burlap tote—only to promptly ask for it back (promising that she’d “see it again next year”). Today, Ecorations hopes to spread this lovely, timeworn tradition to the rest of the world.

Founded with the mission to reduce waste and shift standards in gift giving, the company is committed to quality and innovation “where green meets smart and chic.” Its bags and wraps are made in the U.S. of high-quality fabric, making them durable throughout years of reuse. Additional gift bag designs, including an apparel box wrap, structured pouch and wine bottle bag, come in several sizes (to fit any gift) and 10 reversible fabrics combinations for a variety of occasions

Sustainibility Quote of the Day

Fec, writing about the sustainibility movement, provides the quote of the day:

If climate change is a fact, and I believe it probably is, then we need to do something about it. However, clean coal, carbon capture and offsets are myths. Before we begin to indoctrinate society, I’d just like some agreed upon methodologies, rather than the hocus pocus money grab going on now.

More Lovely Side Effects of Coal Ash Ponds

A while back I wrote about the coal ash ponds we have in the Triad that are similar to the pond in Tennessee that ended up bursting and flooding surrounding areas with all kinds of nasty gunk.  Well there's a story out out of Asheville about some residents in a subdivision who have a "cenosphere, a hollow, inert, nontoxic silicon particle that contains gas" that is blowing off a nearby coal ash pond and coating their roofs and cars.  Progress Energy, the owner of the pond, is working with North Carolina environmental officials to see how they can keep wind from blowing ash from their pond onto their neighbors.  Lovely.

Pictures of That Fly Ash Spill in Tennessee

A photographer from Banner Elk flew over the site of the fly ash spill in Tennessee and sent the pictures and write up to the folks at the Freakonomics blog.  You can see the pictures and read her comments here.  This is scary stuff:

Three days earlier, a retention pond for fly ash (a waste product from burning coal) burst in Kingston, Tenn., spilling an estimated 1 billion gallons of sludge containing years’ worth of waste from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s adjacent coal-burning power plant over an area of 300 acres, Griffith explains. 

And you might recall that we have an operation similar to the TVA's here in the Triad

Dangerous Water?

Ed Cone points to an interesting and scary article in the New York Times about coal ash ponds similar to the Tennessee pond that recently burst and contaminated hundreds of surrounding acres.  If you look at this map you'll see that there are a couple just north of us here in Forsyth County.  My question is this: What's the risk that those ponds could be contaminating the water system that feeds into the Triad?

I think I found a copy of the EPA report referenced by the New York Times article here.  The report lists two cases of proven damage in North Carolina, one at Hyco Lake (Roxboro) and the other at Belews Lake.  The Duke Power Allen Steam Generating Plant is listed under the category of potential damage.  If you look at the location of Belews Lake on Google Maps you'll see that it's right in the heart of the Piedmont Triad, right by Walnut Cove (see below). I'm no expert on the watershed of the Triad, but that seems awful close for comfort.

According to Ed's post the Environmental Integrity Project is set to release a report on hundreds of these sites this afternoon.  Should be interesting.

links for 2008-08-20