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Pollution

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A top California official says heat waves and drought gripping California highlight the urgency to slash fossil fuel use and remove planet-warming emissions from the air. California EPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld spoke Thursday as state air regulators opened a hearing on a new climate-change roadmap for the state. It lays out a plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2045. That means the state would remove as much carbon from the air as it emits. The timeline is among the most ambitious in the nation and world. But many environmental critics say it relies too much on carbon removal technology and doesn't do enough to reduce reliance on oil and gas.

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Hundreds of protesters have marched on New Jersey’s Capitol to urge Gov. Phil Murphy to deny permits to any future project that involves the burning of fossil fuels. Environmentalists listed a litany of proposed projects around the state that they want the governor to reject, including power plants and transport facilities for liquefied natural gas. The Democratic governor did not see or hear Thursday's protest because he was in Washington attending a White House meeting on offshore wind energy development. Seventeen-year-old Rey Watson of Whitehouse Station came to the protest out of frustration that those in power are not doing enough to address climate change.

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Okinawa is marking the 77th anniversary of the end of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. Its Governor Denny Tamaki is calling for further reduction of the U.S. military presence there amid growing fear of the southern Japanese islands will become embroiled in regional military tension. The Battle of Okinawa killed about 200,000 people, nearly half of them Okinawan residents. In May, Okinawa marked the 50th anniversary of its reversion to Japan in 1972, two decades after the U.S. occupation ended in most of Japan. Tamaki said Okinawa still faces burdens related to American troops including noise, pollution, accidents and crime.

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A Houston dredging company has been ordered to pay a $1 million fine for an oil spill that occurred when a subcontractor cut through a pipeline during Louisiana barrier island restoration work in 2016. A news release says Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company was sentenced last week for violating the Clean Water Act. The company pleaded guilty in June 2021. As part of the plea, it said it violated state and federal laws by failing to alert pipeline companies about continuing work near their pipelines. Subcontractor employee James Tassin pleaded guilty in a separate criminal case in March 2021. His sentencing is scheduled Aug. 16.

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Thousands of farmers have gathered in the central Netherlands to protest the Dutch government’s plans to rein in emissions of nitrogen oxide and ammonia. They drove their tractors across the country in slow-moving convoys and snarled traffic on major highways Wednesday. The protest was organized after the government published steep nationwide targets for cutting emissions. Calling it an “unavoidable transition,” the government mandated changes that will likely make many farmers drastically reduce their livestock or get rid of them altogether. Farmers claim their livelihoods and those of thousands of people who work in the agricultural services industry are on the line.

European Union lawmakers are requiring deeper emission cuts from power plants, factories and planes in Europe while endorsing an unprecedented import tax to step up the fight against global warming. The European Parliament on Wednesday advanced draft climate legislation that would slash the EU's greenhouse gases by at least 55% in 2030 compared with 1990 rather than by a previously agreed 40%. The legislation also includes a tool that would allow the EU to raise the prices of steel, aluminum and some other imported goods that are spared the climate-protection costs faced by manufacturers in the 27-nation bloc.

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The European Union’s executive arm has proposed legally binding targets to reduce the use of chemical pesticides by 50% by 2030 and a ban on all pesticide use in areas such public parks, playgrounds and schools. The European Commission said Wednesday that the current rules limiting the use of pesticides were too weak and have not been applied consistently. A study by the group Pesticide Action Network Europe last month said that pesticide contamination of fruit and vegetables produced in the European Union has substantially increased over the past decade. The commission says farmers would be able to use EU funds to cover the cost of the proposed requirements.

Some Oregon business groups are suing over the state’s new job site rules mandating that employers take steps to protect workers from extreme heat and wildfire smoke. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the regulations adopted in May lay out steps employers must take when the temperature or air quality reaches a certain threshold. Oregon Manufacturers and Commerce, Associated Oregon Loggers Inc. and the Oregon Forest & Industries Council are seeking an injunction to stop the state from enforcing the rules. They say several provisions are too vague to be fairly enforced and that the state’s workplace safety agency overstepped its authority. A spokesperson for Oregon OSHA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Kentucky's governor has run into a roadblock in seeking relief for Louisville-area motorists forced to pay more at the pump for reformulated gas. Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday that federal regulators turned down his request. He's seeking a waiver to temporarily remove the requirement that costlier but cleaner-burning reformulated fuel be sold in Metro Louisville. He says reformulated fuel costs 20-30 cents more per gallon than other kinds of gas. During a time of skyrocketing gas pries, that’s adding to the financial strain for motorists in Jefferson County and parts of neighboring Oldham and Bullitt counties. Jefferson County includes Louisville.

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The German government says it remains committed to its goal of phasing out coal as a power source by 2030, despite deepening worries about a cut in Russia’s gas supplies. Russia’s Gazprom announced last week that it was sharply reducing supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany for what it said were technical reasons. The German government says the move appears politically motivated. On Sunday, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Germany will try to compensate by allowing increased burning of coal, a more polluting fossil fuel. Habeck, a member of the Green party, said the move was “bitter” but “simply necessary.” A spokesman for his ministry said Monday that the 2030 target "isn’t wobbling at all.”

Germany’s economy minister says the country will limit the use of gas for electricity production amid concerns about possible shortages caused by a reduction in supplies from Russia. Germany has been trying to fill its gas storage facilities to capacity ahead of the winter months, when gas is more urgently needed as a heating fuel. Economy Minister Robert Habeck said that Germany will try to compensate for the move by increasing the burning of coal, a more polluting fossil fuel. He described the move as “bitter, but it's simply necessary in this situation.”  While the situation on the gas markets has become more acute in recent days, storage facilities are still able to make up the shortfall from Russia with purchases from elsewhere.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has increased the Port of Morrow’s groundwater contamination fine to $2.1 million following additional wastewater violations. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the agency added $800,000 to the Port’s original $1.3 million fine Friday for over-applying nitrogen-rich wastewater on agricultural fields in the Lower Umatilla Basin. The area is burdened with groundwater pollution and is the primary drinking water source for Morrow and Umatilla counties. A DEQ spokesperson says the agency knew about additional violations but needed further documentation. The Port's executive director says the company recognizes groundwater contamination has been a serious problem but says it’s also a community problem that will require a community solution.

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An ambitious California proposal aims to reduce plastic production for single-use products like shampoo bottles and food wrappers by 25% starting next decade. The bill introduced late Thursday aims to bring environmental and business groups together to avoid a similar ballot measure slated to go to voters in November. California has been at the forefront of setting restrictions on single-use plastic, but the industry has successfully fought some of the broadest efforts. The bill would require plastic producers operating in the state to raise $500 million annually for a fund to mitigate pollution. But at least one proponent of the ballot measure hasn't committed to withdrawing it if the bill passes.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is moving closer to a final rule that would dramatically change what public companies reveal about the risks posed by climate change to their operations. Public comment on the proposal closed Friday. Companies, auditors, trade groups, lawmakers, individuals and others submitted more than 10,000 comments. Opinions ranged from skepticism about the SEC’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions data at all, to praise that the nation’s top financial regulator was finally looking to mandate climate-related disclosures.

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Equating the oil and gas industry to Big Tobacco, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says that “fossil fuel producers and financiers have humanity by the throat.” But President Joe Biden wasn’t quite itching for a fight. With both soaring energy prices and a warming planet weighing on world at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, Biden on Friday talked about trying to ease the pain of high gas prices while pushing more long-term green policies. Guterres dismissed the idea of boosting gasoline production and bluntly vilified the fossil fuel industry at a virtual session that included oil rich Saudi Arabia, China, Europe and Egypt. It was the first time Guterres compared the energy industry to tobacco interests.

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Australia’s new foreign minister has made New Zealand the first stop on her third Pacific trip in a month as Canberra steps up efforts to counter China’s growing influence in the region. Foreign Minister Penny Wong is promoting her administration’s stronger ambition on curbing greenhouse gas emissions as evidence that Australia shares the South Pacific’s primary security concern: climate change. Australia formally committed on Thursday to reduce emissions by 43% by the end of the decade. The previous government had pledged to reduce emissions by only 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030. On Friday, Wong will become the first Australian minister to visit the Solomon Islands since its government signed a security pact with China.

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Many novel devices are being used or tested worldwide to trap plastic trash in rivers and smaller streams before it can get into the ocean. In India, there are floating fences. Baltimore has four water- and sun-driven conveyor belts embellished with googly eyes and personalities. In The Netherlands, there are rechargeable robots and a bubble barrier. Millions of tons of plastic wind up in the ocean every year. It kills a wide variety of plants and animals. Officials with a federal Marine Debris Program say we need to make big changes to solve the problem, but trash traps can help reduce it.

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New Jersey officials are suing Ford Motor Co. because they say the automaker contaminated the ancestral homeland of a Native American tribe by dumping paint sludge and other pollutants into a former mine. The state filed the suit Thursday and seeks unspecified damages to restore the land and to compensate state and local communities. Much of the land is the ancestral home of the Ramapough Lenape Nation. Its members believe cancer deaths and other illnesses are attributable to the contamination. Ford issued a statement saying it takes its environmental responsibility seriously and has worked with local, state and federal officials on the matter.

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New Mexico and the U.S. government have reached a $32 million settlement to address claims stemming from a 2015 mine spill that polluted rivers in three western states. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other state officials announced the agreement Thursday. The spill released 3 million gallons of wastewater from the inactive Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado. The bright-yellow plume of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals flowed south to New Mexico, the Navajo Nation and Utah. Water utilities were forced to shut down intake valves and farmers stopped drawing from the rivers as the plume moved downstream. Colorado and the tribe also have reached multimillion-dollar settlements.

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Severe weather has forced Abbott Nutrition to pause production at a Michigan baby formula factory that had just restarted. The company said late Wednesday that production for its EleCare specialty formula has stopped, but it has enough supply to meet needs until more formula can be made. Abbott says it needs to assess damage and re-sanitize the factory after severe thunderstorms and heavy rains swept through southwestern Michigan Monday evening. The company didn’t indicate how much damage the factory sustained. Abbott had restarted the Sturgis, Michigan, factory on June 4 after it had been closed since February due to contamination.

Italian luxury sportscar maker Ferrari has outlined an electrification strategy that calls for 40% full-electric and 40% hybrid models by 2030. CEO Benedetto Vigna confirmed Thursday that the first electric car will be presented in 2025, with the first deliveries the following year. Now, just four Ferrari models, or 20% of the range, are hybrid cars. Its first hybrid model was the limited edition La Ferrari launched in 2013, capitalizing on Formula 1 technology.  Vigna, a former technology entrepreneur who joined Ferrari as CEO nine months ago, said the electrification strategy is “highly relevant" to meet emissions regulations and to enhance performance.

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