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Saturday, July 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Down To Earth

Another Green Monday

DTE took a much-needed break over the weekend to head east over the mountains to Missoula for a Clumsy Lovers concert, and while it's good to be back in Spokane - the conditions of the air quality both here and there make us forget that we were in different places. There's something to be said about living amongst mountains and higher elevations, but a thermal inversion is still a thermal inversion.  DTE is gleefully looking forward to the "cleaner" air that comes with warmer temps - but we could always afford for it to be a littler cleaner.  Here are some stories from the week that  you might have missed.

Sticking to a budget in a store with no prices. That’s the analogy that Google.org - the philanthropy arm of Google - used to explain the way consumers spend money on electricity usage. This in an announcement from Google that they have developed a free web service called PowerMeter that consumers can use to track energy use in their house or business as it is consumed. “Google’s mission is to ‘organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,’ and we believe consumers have a right to detailed information about their home electricity use,” Google said on their Official Google.org blog. Now if Google would just start taking steps to reduce their own energy usage. Read more from The New York Times HERE.

And now more on technology and the environment.  Microsoft announced last week that their Dynamics AX software, a business management solution used by companies to track information like financing, human resources, etc.. will now be able to track indicators related to greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption.  One of the most important steps businesses can take in this rocky economy is one towards efficiency, and by looking at ways to become more sustainable, and more conservative with resources, businesses improve their efficiency - a win/win situation.  Read more from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer HERE.

Stimulus passes.  Now what does that mean for the BLM, Forest Service, and National Parks?  Below is a brief description of some of the areas of the stimulus that effect nature and the environment.

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT MANAGEMENT OF LANDS AND RESOURCES.
The conference agreement provides $125,000,000 for management of lands and resources instead of$135,000,000 proposed by the Senate; there was no House proposal. The conference agreement provides flexibility to the agency in determining the allocation of this funding among various program activities and sub-activities. The conferees encourage that selection of individual projects be based on a prioritization process which weighs the capacity of proposals to create the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time and which create lasting value for the American public. While maximizing jobs, the Bureau should consider projects on all Bureau managed lands including deferred maintenance, abandoned mine and well site remediation, road and trail maintenance, watershed improvement, and high priority habitat restoration

CONSTRUCTION
The conference agreement provides $180,000,000 for construction as proposed by the Senate instead of $325,000,000 proposed by the House. The conference agreement provides flexibility to the agency in determining the allocation of this funding among various program activities and sub-activities. The conferees encourage that selection of individual projects be based on a prioritization process which weighs the capacity of proposals to create the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time and which create long lasting value for the American public. While maximizing jobs, the Bureau should consider priority road, bridge, and trail repair or decommissioning, critical deferred maintenance projects, facilities construction and renovation, and remediation of abandoned mine and well sites on all Bureau managed lands.

FOREST SERVICE CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT AND MAINTENANCE
The conference agreement provides $650,000,000 for Capital Improvement and Maintenance as proposed by both the House and the Senate. The conference agreement provides flexibility to the agency in determining the allocation of this funding among various program activities and sub-activities. The conferees encourage that selection of individual projects be based on a prioritization process which weighs the capacity of proposals to create the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time and which creates lasting value for the American public. While maximizing jobs, the Service should consider projects involving reconstruction, capital improvement, decommissioning, and maintenance of forest roads, bridges and trails; alternative energy technologies, and deferred maintenance at Federal facilities; and remediation of abandoned mine sites, and other related critical habitat, forest improvement and watershed enhancement projects.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE CONSTRUCTION
Appropriates $589,000,000 for construction by the Senate instead of $1,700,000,000 as proposed by the House. Eligible projects include but are not limited to major facility construction, road maintenance, abandoned mine cleanup, equipment replacement, and preservation and rehabilitation of historic assets. The conference agreement provides flexibility to the agency in determining the allocation of this funding among various program activities and sub-activities. The conferees encourage that selection of individual projects by the National Park Service be based on a prioritization process which weighs the capacity of proposals to create the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time and which create lasting value for the Park System and its visitors. Funding for historically black colleges and universities has been provided under the Historic Preservation Fund account.

Crude oil drops, gas prices rise. Looks like Americans are paying at the pump again: $2 gas has returned, expected to go to $2.50 by Spring. The recession has cut the demand for crude oil, and refiners have “slashed production to avoid taking losses on gasoline no one will buy.” More of the complex answer and conspiracy theories here.

One gem: "It got really low during the elections and now it's going back up," said Christel Sayegh in the AP, a 23-year-old graphic designer in Los Angeles. "They do that every election, though, right?"

Drill, baby, drill.

How the West was mined. As mentioned earlier, the stimulus package includes funding for public lands which could help mine cleanups. Sometimes we forget the impact of mining; the Government Accountability Office believes there are at least 161,000 abandoned hard-rock mines in Alaska and 11 other Western states, in addition to South Dakota. Below is a sample estimate from a report by the Government Accountability Office on the number of abandoned hard-rock mines and hazards by state:


Washington
Mine sites: 3,629
Unsafe features: 1,608
Sites with environmental degradation: 50

Idaho
Mine sites: 7,100
Unsafe features: N/A
Sites with environmental degradation: N/A


Oregon
Mine sites: 3,823
Unsafe features: N/A
Sites with environmental degradation: 140

Montana
Mine sites: 6,000
Unsafe features: 6,000-22,000
Sites with environmental degradation: 331

The Environmental Protection Agency believes it could cost as much as $50 billion to clean up all the nation’s abandoned hard-rock mines, and groups like Earthworks argue it will boost the economy. “These much-needed funds will create thousands of jobs, reduce water pollution, eliminate public safety threats, and restore fish and wildlife habitat in rural communities across the country,” said Lauren Pagel, policy director for Earthworks in the S-R. Full story here.

Mining has polluted 40 percent of the headwaters of watersheds across the West, deeply affecting the Spokane River and Coeur d’Alene basin.  For more information, check out an old DTE feature, “How The West Was Mined.”

Addendum: Let’s not forget mining in the East either. The Appalachian mountains have been destroyed to obtain coal and on Friday the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a federal judge's ruling to require greater environmental review of permits for mountaintop removal in West Virginia. The battle continues.


 




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Down To Earth

The DTE blog is committed to reporting and sharing environmental news and sustainability information from across the Inland Northwest.