Entries in Environmental Protection Agency (5)


EPA Testing for Radiation in New Mexico Wildfire

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(LOS ALAMOS, N.M.) -- The wildfire that surrounds the nuclear lab in Los Alamos, New Mexico, has grown to at least 61,000 acres amid mounting concerns about what might be in the smoke from the blaze that's so big it's visible from space.

Such fear has prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to bring in air monitors, along with a special airplane that checks for radiation levels. So far officials have not been able to find anything.

"Our facilities and nuclear material are protected and safe," Laboratory Director Dr. Charles McMillan told ABC News.

The Los Alamos facility -- the birthplace of the atomic bomb -- was shrouded in secrecy long before it was surrounded by smoke after the Las Conchas fire began Sunday.

"It contains approximately 20,000 barrels of nuclear waste," former top security official Glen Walp said.  "It's not contained within a concrete, brick and mortar-type building, but rather in a sort of fabric-type building that a fire could easily consume."

"Potential is high for a major calamity if the fire would reach these areas," he added.

Reports have indicated that the flames from the 95-square-mile fire have reached as close as 50 feet from the grounds.  With a wildfire this close, lab officials, along with government officials such as New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, are trying to reassure the public of the plant's safety.

"I'm confident in saying that they are committed to making it safe," Martinez told ABC News.

After a mass evacuation, the city of Los Alamos remains a ghost town.  Most of its 12,000 residents were evacuated Monday, some leaving their sprinklers on to protect their homes.

Still, according to Police Chief Wayne Torpy, about 150 die-hard residents have stayed behind, unfazed by the danger presented by their nuclear neighbor.

Firefighters have made progress in the past few days, and have said that the risk of the flames reaching radioactive material is slim.  Still, they caution that winds Wednesday could change, as could their level of confidence.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Supreme Court: Only EPA Can Place Limits on Greenhouse Gases

John Foxx/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court made it clear Monday that it's up to the Environmental Protection Agency alone to place restrictions on greenhouse gases emitted by companies.

In the unanimous eight justice decision, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor recusing herself, the high court said a lower court was wrong to have ruled that federal judges can issue restrictions in a case involving six states that sued five major power companies.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court that "the critical point is that Congress delegated to EPA the decision whether and how to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants; the delegation is what displaces federal common law."

The ruling still allows states and conservation groups to file lawsuits against the EPA, which will formulate new regulations later this year to restrict carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas.

Monday's ruling by the high court is its most important decision on climate change since the EPA was granted authority in 2007 to curb greenhouse gas emissions, which are blamed in large part for global warming.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Trace Amounts of Japan's Radioactive Fallout Found in US Rainwater

Michael Blann/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The damage at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan has had a residual effect felt all the way in the U.S., with rainwater here showing trace amounts of radiation.

It seems that the very lightly contaminated rain is turning up coast-to-coast, with radiation showing up in Nevada and other Western states and as far East as North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

One of the radioactive by-products found in U.S. rain is in iodine-131, which briefly caused Japan to institute a ban on tap water in Tokyo and other prefectures.  However, there are no such worries here, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

In fact, the risk to the public is so low that the EPA says that Americans are exposed to far more radiation when they take an international airline flight.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


EPA Proposes Standards to Cut Power Plant Pollutants

Tom Brakefield/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new standards to reduce mercury and other harmful emissions at power plants across the nation.

The agency announced the proposed guidelines Wednesday in response to a looming court deadline.

Toxic air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants have been shown to cause neurological damage, including a lower IQ, in children exposed in the womb and during early development.

Mercury, arsenic, chromium and nickel also damage the environment and pollute lakes, streams, and fish.  The pollutants lead to premature death, heart disease and asthma.

Certain seafood can be high in mercury.  In such levels, it can be toxic, particularly to pregnant women.  Experts say it can damage an unborn baby or young child's central nervous system and has been linked to heart problems in adults.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


EPA and Transportation Department Propose New Fuel Standards for Trucks and Buses

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation are proposing new national standards to improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from heavy trucks and buses.

"These new standards are another step in our work to develop a new generation of clean, fuel-efficient American vehicles that will improve our environment and strengthen our economy,"  EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson said.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood calls the proposals a "win-win-win for the environment, businesses and the American consumer" due to a reduction in transportation's environmental impact as well as a reduction in the cost of transporting freight.

These proposals, the firsts of their kind, will be phased in starting in 2014 if approved. 

The government says the new standards will reduce GHG emissions by nearly 250 million metric tons and save 500 million barrels of oil within the first five years.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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