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[ Seaweed-An Overlooked Ally In Fight Against Climate Change ]

Oceana is reporting seaweed could be scrubbing way more carbon from the atmosphere than we expected:

If you’ve even eaten sushi, you know that seaweed goes great with rice and fish. But recent research suggests that seaweed is more than just a culinary partner — it could be an overlooked ally in the fight against climate change. By dying and drifting down to the deep sea, seaweeds like kelp may sequester more carbon than all other marine plants combined.

That’s a big deal, because saltwater plants like mangroves and seagrasses are well-known dynamos when it comes to storing carbon. Per acre, these “blue carbon” ecosystems can take up 20 times more CO2 from the atmosphere than land-based forests. The secret to their carbon-storing success lies not in the plants, but in the rich muck they grow in. As marine plants grow and die, their leaves, roots, stems and branches wind up buried in underwater sediments. These low-oxygen sediments can store carbon for decades or longer.

Seaweeds, on the other hand, were long ignored as a carbon sink. These algae grow on rocky surfaces where their fronds can’t be buried in soil or sediment. Some species even have air bladders that make them less likely to sink. Seaweed cells are soft and easy to digest, so they are more likely to be eaten by animals or broken down by bacteria. Digestion or decomposition releases seaweeds’ stored carbon back into the air or water, where it reacts with oxygen to become CO2.

But a study published in Nature Geoscience found that our assumptions about seaweed could be wrong. The study estimated that about 11 percent of total seaweed production may be sequestered, most of it after it sinks down into the deep sea.

Read the full story from Oceana here.

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[ DEP to Reduce Power-Plant Water Pollution ]

The Department of Environmental Protection has agreed to a settlement to reduce toxic water pollution from 10 coal fired power plants.

In settling a lawsuit brought by environmental groups, the DEP has agreed to a schedule to update and draft new water permits for the plants, that have been operating with expired permits.

Discharges from those power plants include pollutants like arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury that end up in rivers and streams. George Jugovic Jr., vice president of legal affairs at PennFuture, says federal law requires power plants to renew their permits every five years.

“As those permits are renewed, the limits in the permits will be ratcheted down, meaning less pollutants will be discharged from the power plants as new technologies to control those pollutants become available,” says Jugovic.

Under the settlement, the DEP plans to have permits for all 10 power plants finalized by March of next year.

Larger rivers like the Susquehanna are sources of drinking water, and even smaller streams are used for recreational fishing. Jugovic points out that pollutants in power plant discharges can accumulate over time.

“The fish in the streams ingest these pollutants,” he says. “They are stored in their fatty tissue, and then humans eat the fish and ingest those toxic pollutants.”

Arsenic is a known carcinogen, mercury is highly toxic, and lead is especially harmful to children.

Jugovic says coal fired power plants are among the most polluting industries in the state. While getting the DEP to enforce the requirements of the Clean Water Act won’t solve all the pollution problems, he sees it as a step in the right direction.

“One of our prime objectives is to lead Pennsylvania into a clean energy economy, and one of the ways we do that is by holding dirty energy companies accountable,” says Jugovic.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit included the Sierra Club and the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper.

-Andrea Sears, Keystone State News Connection

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[ People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Student Design Competition ]

It’s the Environmental Protection Agency’s 14th annual People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Student Design Competition!  Under P3, college teams apply for grants to develop and display innovative solutions for a sustainable future, offering students hands-on experience with classroom learning. The P3 application period is now open. Applications are due by February 7.
https://www.epa.gov/P3
What is P3? Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URGEUcDtaMA

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[ Apply Now For Northeast PA Audubon Society College & Family Camp Scholarships ]

audubon_logo2The Northeast Pennsylvania Audubon Society is now accepting applications for its annual $4,000 college scholarship, available to students who wish to pursue a career in an environmental field such as forestry, natural resources, environmental planning, environmental engineering, fish, game or wildlife management, ecology and/or environmental science.
Applications are due April 30.
Applicants must be from Pike, Wayne, Lackawanna or Susquehanna counties and must enroll full-time in an accredited two or four-year college or university program.
The winning applicant will receive $1,000 per year for up to four years.
The scholarship is funded by the Audubon Arts and Craft Festival held each July.
Click Here for all the details and the application.
Family Camp At Hog Island, Maine
The Northeast PA Audubon Society is also accepting scholarship applications to attend the Family Camp on Hog Island in Maine the week of August 12 to 17. The camp is designed for families with children ages 8 to 13 years old.
Applicants must be from Pike, Wayne, Lackawanna or Susquehanna counties
Applications are due March 15.
Click Here for all the details.

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[ Chesapeake Bay Health Indicators Showing Positive Results ]

The federal Chesapeake Bay Program issued its annual Bay Barometer: Health And Restoration in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed report Thursday showing a majority of Bay health indicators are showing positive results, an encouraging sign EPA said, restoration efforts are working.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker said,  “This is great news! The federal/state partnership we call the Bay Blueprint is working. But is the Bay saved? Not even close!

“That is why we urge Congress to fully fund EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program.

“We also urge EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to cease his ongoing efforts to weaken federal clean air and water laws. Now, more than ever, we need EPA as a federal partner that will champion clean water.”

Thanks to the efforts of local governments, private landowners and watershed residents, nutrient and sediment pollution entering local waterways and the Bay have declined, but agricultural and urban and suburban runoff continue to be a challenge.

Read the full story from PA Environment Digest here.

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[ PA Pipeline Delayed, But Its Critics Push for More ]

Environmental groups are calling on the state to cancel construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline.

Last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection suspended the pipeline permit, saying Sunoco needs to correct what the agency termed “egregious and willful violations,” including unauthorized drilling and failure to notify the agency of discharges and spills. But Sam Rubin, Eastern Pennsylvania organizer with the group Food and Water Watch, argued suspending work on the pipeline, intended to carry shale-gas liquids across the state, isn’t enough.

“What we really need is a full revocation of this permit, and a full plan to shut this pipeline down,” Rubin said. “I think it’s very easy to read this as still a plan to let this pipeline be built.”

A spokesperson for Sunoco said the company is committed to protecting the environment and is confident it will be authorized to resume work on the pipeline soon.

But Rubin contended the real issue isn’t adherence to the permits, but whether the pipeline is safe – an issue the permits do not address.

“We have never actually seen a transparent, open and publicly accessible risk assessment to this pipeline,” he said; “even though this pipeline cuts across the entire state of Pennsylvania, directly through communities.”

He added that there are 40 schools within what he calls the “blast zone” along the pipeline route. And Rubin noted that this pipeline would be carrying ethane, posing what he describes as an extreme risk in the event of a leak.

“The contents are heavier than air,” he said. “Meaning that they don’t disperse, and instead form a low-lying, invisible, odorless vapor cloud – which remains explosive, under the right circumstances, down to parts per million.”

He said the suspension of construction permits gives pipeline opponents an opportunity to build on their efforts to bring the project to a complete halt.

-Andrea Sears, Keystone State News Connection

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[ UGI Penn Natural Gas Launches Energy Efficiency/Conservation Rebate Program ]

UGI Penn Natural Gas Thursday announced the formal launch of the company’s comprehensive Energy Efficiency and Conservation Program. The UGI program provides financial incentives that encourage consumers to reduce energy consumption and costs.

The UGI PNG EE&C program includes several rebate options for customers who upgrade heating systems or appliances to more efficient equipment or convert to natural gas.

The program also offers incentives for commercial and industrial customers, including those replacing less-efficient heating systems with high-efficient Combined Heat and Power (CHP) units.

UGI proposed the EE&C Program as part of its 2017 Penn Natural Gas base rate filing made before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC). The EE&C was approved by the PUC as part of the base rate case settlement.

Brian Meilinger, UGI’s Manager, Energy Efficiency and Conservation, said the company already has received significant customer interest in the program.

“We’re very pleased at the response from customers who have heard we were launching this program,” Meilinger said. “We believe UGI’s EE&C program has the potential to reach a significant number of customers interested in becoming more energy efficient.”

Read the full story from PA Environment Digest here.

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[ President’s Environmental Youth Award ]

Your project – or one you are sponsoring – could be an award winner. Apply or encourage a student you know to apply for the President’s Environmental Youth Award(PEYA) and see what a difference they can make for the environment with an award-winning project. Applicants from all 50 states and U.S. territories are eligible to compete for a regional certificate of special recognition and a national Presidential award. The application period for the PEYA program is now open. Applications are due by March 1.
https://www.epa.gov/education/presidents-environmental-youth-award

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[ Delaware Highlands Conservancy To Begin Accepting Entries For Eagles & Their Environs Photo Contest Jan. 15 ]

The Delaware Highlands Conservancy will begin accepting entries for a new juried photo contest– Sharing Place: Eagles and Their Environs— for the Upper Delaware River region on January 15. The deadline for entries is February 15.
The contest is open to professional and amateur photographers who are invited to submit no more than two photos to the contest.
The Conservancy invites photographers to capture striking eagle-inspired photos in four categories: eagles; healthy eagle habitat; factors important to eagle welfare; and a wild card to feature insights gained in the process of photographing eagles and their habitat.
Photos will be judged on creativity, originality, composition, clarity and quality, and impact.
The Conservancy is also offering a guided Photo Workshop Bus Tour on February 3 with instruction from local photographer Sandy Long, but participation in the bus tour is not required to enter the contest.
Photographers must follow Eagle Etiquette when photographing eagles and avoid disturbing or disrupting the birds or their habitat.
The winning 15 photos will be chosen by a panel of judges, along with one People’s Choice, and will be hung at the ARTery gallery in Milford, Pike County, beginning with a reception on April 21st from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. and on display until May 7th. The ARTery is a cooperative owned and operated by successful and emerging artists and artisans from the Tri-State area.
The winning photos will be exhibited with the ARTery member artists’ own interpretations of eagles, raptors, and other species of birds. During the opening reception, members of the Conservancy will present a short background on the organization and eagles in the region.
For all the details, including the required rules acknowledgement form, visit the Conservancy’s Sharing Place: Eagles and Their Environs webpage.
Questions about the contest should be directed to Outreach Coordinator Jason Zarnowski by sending email to: jason@delawarehighlands.org or call 570-226-3164 ext. 6.

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[ January is National Radon Action Month ]

Test your home for radon, an invisible radioactive gas that causes lung cancer. Testing is the only way to know whether your home contains high radon levels.
https://www.epa.gov/radon

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