Activists in Hood River County, Oregon have been attempting to stop the Nestle Corporation from bottling water at Oxbow Spring located at the Columbia River Gorge for the past seven years. The activists have organized themselves to form the Local Water Alliance and are working together to finally put an end to the possibility that any bottled water company could ever use the Spring. They are doing so by working towards this goal by having the issue added to the ballot during the upcoming November election. The vote could result in an environmental regulation banning commercial bottling operations from the county. The potential ban would become known as the “Hood River Water Protection Measure.” Activists need 664 residential signatures in order to have the issue added to the ballot.
The Cascade Locks City Council has already approved a tentative deal with Nestle. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is on board as well. In the deal, Nestle would be treated as a water customer, but would receive a discounted price. This means the water bottling company would have full access to the county’s entire water supply.
Members of the Local Water Alliance feel that the plans between the city council and Nestle are irresponsible. The plan sells the public water supply and could put resident at risk during periods of drought. Hood River County has had to declare a state of emergency in the very recent past due to drought conditions and does not wish to repeat history. Extreme drought conditions in nearby states like California have residents on high alert as they witness the associated struggles.
Activists have also gained the support of local Native American Tribes. Tribes have been steadily protesting and even threatening hunger strikes. The Columbia River Tribe has protested at the governor’s offices and for other officials, stating that the sale of the spring violates Treaties signed with the tribe hundreds of years ago. The tribe also values the Oxbow Spring as a sacred place that has provided their people with life for centuries.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revealed that German automaker; Volkswagen has intentionally cheated clean air rules and environmental regulations by tampering with emissions tests. They did so for at least 500,000 diesel cars, with significant discrepancies being found in up to 11 million vehicles across the globe.
Software that was intentionally designed to help pass VW’s diesel cars showed emission levels up to 40% less than what they would produce on the roads. For over a year the motor vehicle company stated that any discrepancies between test levels and actual emissions were merely technical errors. The company eventually acknowledged that tests were deliberately tampered with after intense pressure from the EPA.Since their admission of guilt, Volkswagens has recalled all of its 2015 & 2016 diesel model cars. The CEO has also resigned and stock value has plummeted.
The EPA has much more power than other automotive groups like the National Highway Safety Administration (NHSA) due to powers provided under the Clean Air Act. With that said the EPA is planning on holding VW accountable by charging a $37,500 fine for every car recalled. The penalty could total as much as $18 billion. The car company has already set aside $7.3 billion to begin salvaging their reputation.
The European Union is expected to have suffered the greatest air quality pollution since diesel cars are much more popular there than in the United States. Diesel cars only makes up about 3% of passenger vehicles in the U.S. Officials estimate that almost 1 million extra metric tons of nitrogen oxide were emitted last year due to cheated emissions tests. This is more pollution than the United Kingdom was expected to produce all year in all regards.
The intentional deception by an automotive giant has made the public as well regulatory officials suspect of the motor vehicle industry. Critics wonder, was VW the only company doing shady things or are others doing the same, just not being caught?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a plan outlining how a decontamination plant located near the upper Hudson River. General Electric (GE), a Connecticut based power company has been decontaminating the sediment and water in the upper Hudson River over the past six years. GE has been held responsible for cleaning up the water contamination after they discharged polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) into the Hudson River from the 1940s to the 1970’s at two of its manufacturing plants. The region became an official EPA Superfund site and cleanup projects began soon after and would continue for decades to come. Eventually the EPA decided that dredging the river’s sediment would be the best cleanup option.
GE agreed to conduct this portion of the Superfund project. The EPA had estimated that approximately 2.7 million cubic yards of sediment over a 40 mile stretch of river would have to be dredged and treated. This area lies between Fort Edward and Troy, New York. With such a large scope of project, the electric company knew that infrastructure would have to be built. For instance, a sediment treatment facility had to be built, a wharf for barges to dock, as well as a railroad system and roads to transport the contaminated sediment
Many critics believe that the decontamination facilities should not be dismantled since there is much clean up left to be done at the Superfund site. They worry that continued cleanup will be extremely difficult without the facilities. General Electric feels that they have already held up their end of the cleanup and close up shop for good later in the year. The company states that they have worked 24 hours a day for six months a year for almost six years and that sediment samples have now revealed that is PCB free. The EPA is taking public comments and opinion in the meantime.
As debates continue over the legalization of marijuana, the legalization of its non-mind altering cousin , hemp is also up for discussion. Advocates would like hemp farming to become legalized in all fifty U.S. states so that they product can start to be used as an alternative building material. Hemp makes excellent sustainable insulation. Hemp insulation is currently in about a dozen U.S. homes, but that number is expected to quadruple over the next year.
Hemp insulation is known as hempcrete, which is a mix of ground hemp stalk, lime and water. The mixture is poured into wall forms which are moved once the hempcrete has set. Hemp makes an ideal insulation product as it allows humidity in a room to regulate itself, the product is also resistant to mold and mildew. This could help protect residents from dangerous mold spores that often linger in homes.
Hemp is an environmentally sustainable material to use instead of traditional foams or fibreglasses. The plant grows in giant stalks between nine and fifteen feet tall. Hemp is also used to make many other products like textiles, oils, as well as health and beauty products.
If the crop could be grown in the U.S. on a large scale, it would no longer need to be imported from places like China. Growing locally would decrease the carbon emissions associated with international shipment.
Despite the potential of hemp, the plant faces many critics. On one side, people oppose hemp production because they assume that it is the same thing as marijuana. The anti drug movement has blacklisted the plant, even though it does not contain enough THC to result in an altered state of mind. Prior to WWII, hemp was widely used as a fiber in the manufacturing of paper, cloth, and car parts. In fact, the Declaration of Independence is written on paper made from hemp.
On the other side of the spectrum, hemp production is being protested by marijuana growers. They feel that hemp will cross pollinate with their crops and lower their THC levels. Hemp farmers promise to take all measures possible to avoid this cross pollination. This includes keeping all male plants that produce potent pollen in green houses.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is advocating the use of wood as an ideal building material in the green construction movement. They are doing so by offering grants to companies interested in building tall buildings with wood. So far a proposed 10 story condominium unit in New York City has received half of the $3 million grant up for grabs. The other half is being awarded to a developer in Portland, Oregon looking to construct an office and mixed retail building. This money is to offset many of the extra cost associated with the unchartered green architecture.
The tall buildings would be made of cross-laminated timber or CLT, which consists on multiple boards compressed together, resulting in timber as strong as steel. Currently there are seventeen buildings over seven stories high the in the world that have been built using this product. The tallest wood building is currently being constructed in Norway and will be fourteen stories high once completed. Other buildings reside in Australia, Canada, and Europe. The New York and Portland projects would be the first tall buildings made of CTL in the United States.
Since constructing tall buildings with wood is so new, builders face many regulatory obstacles and expenses that are not associated with traditional materials like steel. For instance, tests must be performed to determine the strength and durability of CLT. This data has never been collected and is needed in order to improve the building process and figure out just how tall the building can safely be built. Safety permits and inspections may currently not exist, complicating the building process.
Similarly, builders have to demonstrate the CLT’s ability to withstand fire. So far they have concluded that the timbers stand up very well to fire since they burn slowly. The outside of the logs char, but the timber keeps 80% of its original strength. This allows anyone in the building enough time to safely exit.
Cutting down trees to build buildings seems counterintuitive to environmental sustainability, but there are several reasons why those doubts are untrue. First, trees trap carbon, so using them in green construction keeps that carbon trapped rather than releasing it into the atmosphere. New trees can then be planted to replace the trees harvested for timber. The new trees will then absorb and store carbon. Studies have also revealed that “harvesting, transporting, and using wood in lumber and panel products in building yields fewer air emissions- including greenhouse gases-.”
The U.S. Forest Service also hopes that using wood in more construction could help put the 45 million acres of dying trees across the nation’s national forests to use. These trees are extremely vulnerable to wild fires, which would release carbon back into the atmosphere. The dead trees also allow wildfires to spread more easily and put residents in danger.
Using wood in constructing tall buildings could also improve the economies of small towns across the United States by reviving the timber and milling industries. New job opportunities would be created to fulfill building supply demands