High ozone levels aren’t healthy for people, especially the very young, elderly or sick. But the pollution is bad for plants, too, and researchers at Mammoth Cave National Park are trying to determine its effects on the park’s flora.
Ozone is created when pollution cooks in the sun. There’s a federal standard for ozone pollution—and the EPA announced this week that it will become more stringent soon—but that’s based on human exposure.
Bobby Carson is the chief of science and resources management at Mammoth Cave. He says the National Park Service has been measuring ozone damage to plants annually, and has found many are sensitive to high ozone concentrations.
“What we’ve been seeing is obviously these plants, trees and vegetation are out there in the resource 24/7, so they’re getting a lot more exposure,” said Carson.
Carson says common symptoms on plants include black spots, and high exposure to ozone makes them more susceptible to disease and insects. He says ozone levels will have to be reduced in order to adequately protect the plant species in the national park.
Originally published on Tue November 18, 2014 1:59 pm
The Senate is scheduled to vote tonight on the Keystone XL pipeline. The bill cleared the House last week, and if passed in the Senate, the next stop is President Barack Obama’s desk.
NPR’s Jeff Brady, who covers energy, speaks with Here & Now’s Robin Young about the potential impact the pipeline could have on the American public, including the possibility of creating potential jobs, lowering energy prices and affecting the environment.
An energy policy non-profit today released its annual ranking of states by energy efficiency programs.
Though Kentucky is still in the bottom half of the list, it was recognized as one of the “most-improved” states. Indiana, on the other hand, fell the furthest and is currently ranked 40th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is a D.C.-based non-profit that works to advance energy efficient policies. Energy efficiency is widely seen as one of the best ways to reduce pollution and combat climate change; if you use less energy to produce the same benefits, that’s less coal or natural gas that has to be burned. Common ways of doing this include state and utility-based incentives to reduce energy waste, like using updated appliances and weatherizing homes.
A new study conducted by researchers from West Virginia University and Indiana University links mountaintop removal coal mining with health problems in nearby residents.
The study took dust samples from homes near a mountaintop removal site in West Virginia, as well as a control site far from mining in the eastern part of the state.
IU professor and study co-author Michael Hendryx says researchers exposed both human lung cells and mice with tumors to the dust. They concluded that the mountaintop removal dust promotes lung cancer development and helps the disease progress quickly.
There have been other studies on health problems related to mountaintop removal mining, but Hendryx says this is the first one with direct environmental data linking the process directly with lung cancer.
“I think if you look at the body of research from this study and from others that we’ve done, the types of changes that we see and the types of chemicals that we see in the dust, if you put it all together, then I think that we’re at a point where we can say dust from mountaintop removal activity increases lung cancer among the people that live there," said Hendryx.
The results of the study were published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology.
A new analysis from an environmental group takes a deep look at the potential health consequences of either retrofitting or retiring a Western Kentucky power plant.
The Shawnee Fossil Plant is near Paducah, on the Ohio River. It’s a coal-fired power plant operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Right now, TVA is preparing to retrofit the plant with pollution controls so it can keep burning coal and comply with federal air pollution regulations. But in a draft document that will be finalized later this year, the company said it was evaluating the future of the Shawnee plant.
“The intent of this project is to look at how health can be impacted either if they retrofit the plant and continue operation or if they retire the plant and close down, and the health impacts associated with that,” she said.
A partnership between the local utility and state and federal government will build Kentucky’s largest solar array at Fort Campbell. The solar array will cover about 20 acres at the army base, and will produce five megawatts of power.
Kenya Stump, Kentucky’s assistant director of the Division of Renewable Energy, said five megawatts is enough energy to power about 500 homes.
The array will sit on an abandoned landfill, Stump said.
“The landfill itself wasn’t in a position to be utilized since it was already capped and just sitting there, so they had space,” Stump said. “So the array actually fits perfectly with the abandoned landfill.”
She said it’s only one example of using brownfields sites to spur renewable energy development, which is an initiative the Environmental Protection Agency has been working on for awhile. And in Kentucky, it’s becoming more feasible.
“I think as the price of solar is dropping, I think we’re starting to see a little bit more demand from the consumers to utilize solar resources,” Stump said.
The chief law enforcement officer at Mammoth Cave National Park says one of her top challenges is keeping ginseng-poachers out of the area.
The plant’s root is highly prized for its alleged medicinal benefits, and Mammoth Cave Chief Ranger Lora Peppers says wild-grown ginseng can command high prices on the black market--especially in certain Asian countries.
“Digging ginseng in the park is obviously not allowed, but a lot of people are looking for that wild-grown ginseng. The ginseng that you find in some farms is not valued as highly as native ginseng.”
Peppers, an Edmonson County native and WKU graduate, says park employees have scoured the area to find ginseng and mark plants found within the park’s boundaries. Those markings make it much easier to prosecute poachers who sell illegally-harvested ginseng taken from the Mammoth Cave area.
Kentuckians have more time to give feedback on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules requiring states to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.
The EPA is extending the public comment period 45 days, making the new deadline December 1.
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is one of the stakeholders that asked for more time to review the regulations that were introduced in June.
"We're really reaching out to our member companies and forming coalitions with the coal industry, utility companies, and other business groups to try to really understand the true economic impact of these regulations, said Chad Harpole, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber of commerce argues the EPA regulations would lead to higher electric rates and harm the state’s ability to attract new companies.
Kentucky is among 12 states that have filed a legal challenge to proposed regulations that call for a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants by 2030.
The Kentucky Division of Water has identified potentially harmful algal blooms, or HABs, in 15 Kentucky lakes this summer, including Carpenters Lake in Daviess County. The lakes are still open, but the DOW advises the public to avoid exposure to HABs, which can cause skin irritation and stomach pain.
Environmental biologist for the DOW Mark Martin said more data is needed to determine whether or not HABs are happening more frequently, but the amount of nutrients like nitrates and phosphorous that are making their way into the watershed has increased over the last few decades, improving conditions for HABs.
Martin said Division of Water will analyze west Kentucky lakes next year. He says HABs prefer still water and may not be much of a concern in Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley because the water flows through them quickly. He said it is more likely to find HABs in bays where backwater stagnates, allowing for the accumulation of algae.