Category Archives: Environment

The US Economic Impacts of Climate Change and the Costs of Inaction

Source: Center for Integrative Environmental Research, University of Maryland

The range of climatic changes anticipated in the United States – from rising sea levels to stronger and more frequent storms and extreme temperature events – will have real impacts on the natural environment as well as human-made infrastructures and their ability to contribute to economic activity and quality of life. These impacts will vary across regions and sectors of the economy, leaving future governments, the private sector and citizens to face the full spectrum of direct and indirect costs accrued from increasing environmental damage and disruption.

Executive Summary (PDF; 1.7 MB)
Full Report (PDF; 5.2 MB)
Regional Summaries (PDFs)

Center for the State of the Parks: Park Assessments — National Parks of the Great Lakes

Source: National Parks Conservation Association, State of the Parks, July 2007

From the press release:
The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today released a report that highlights threats to the natural features and cultural sites in six national parks along the Great Lakes–Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin; Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana; Isle Royale National Park, Michigan; Keweenaw National Historical Park, Michigan; Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan; and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan.

The report describes these sites and their significance, and summarizes resource conditions. Also noted are funding and staffing considerations, park planning efforts, resource education opportunities, and external support provided by volunteers and partner organizations.

According to NPCA’s Center for State of the Parks report, the Great Lakes parks face threats from air and water pollution, non-native species that are seriously damaging ecosystems, adjacent development, and funding shortfalls that are threatening every aspect of the parks.
See also:
Summary

Who Pays for the Water Pipes, Pumps and Treatment Works? – Local Government Expenditures on Sewer and Water – 1991 to 2005

Source: Rich Anderson, Mayors Water Conference, 2007

Local government spent $82 billion to provide sewer and water services and infrastructure in FY2005, up from $45 billion in FY1992. The local government share of spending on sewer is just over 95 percent, and the state share is just under 5 percent. The local government share of spending on water supply is over 99 percent. Total spending on sewer and water from 1991-1992 to 2004-2005 is $841 billion.

The trend is for greater spending levels. Factors contributing to the increased need for investment include: population growth and land use development; an aging water infrastructure that needs constant maintenance and rehabilitation; and climate change impacts that threaten water supplies from drought; reduced snow-pack; salt water intrusion on coastal aquifers from rising sea levels; increased storms, hurricanes and flooding that require infrastructure hardening.

Local government is the primary investor in public-purpose sewer and water. Costs and spending will increase dramatically over time, and the added costs from climate change impacts are not currently included in infrastructure financing discussions. The nation’s cities need more help from the federal government and greater access to private equity to address investment needs over the next 50 years.

State of the Industry Report 2007: Setting the course for a brighter future

Source: John Mann and Jon Runge, Journal AWWA, Vol. 99 no. 10, October 2007
(subscription required)

From the summary:
The State of the Industry (SOTI) survey, now in its fourth year, has compiled a wealth of trending data on the water industry. These data–reflecting input from utility representatives, service providers, and other professionals across the United States and Canada–help illuminate the water industry’s current and future concerns.

1,333 Unsafe Dams Threaten Nation’s Communities

Source: American Rivers, September 6, 2007

From the press release:
More than ten thousand dams across America could become killers if they fail and 1,333 of those dams are considered unsafe. This Sunday, the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) holds their annual conference in Austin, TX. Statistics developed by ASDSO show that an alarming number of dams in the United States pose a threat to human life and many of them are structurally unsafe.

Congress will soon consider the Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act of 2007 (H.R 3224) which would direct $200 million to states for improving the safety of publicly-owned dams, through either repairing or removing problem dams. To date, only 11 members have signed on to co-sponsor the bill introduced by Congressman John Salazar (D-CO).
+ ASDSO Statistics

The Next Drug Problem

Source: Patricia Frank, American City & County, Vol. 122 no. 6, June 1, 2007

Hidden among the well-known problems faced by water professionals — aging infrastructure, dwindling supply — is another emerging issue: rising amounts of pharmaceutical compounds in surface water and drinking water. And, considering the increasing numbers of people being treated with drugs at earlier ages and an aging population taking multiple medications for a variety of health conditions, more of those compounds likely will find their way into the nation’s wastewater facilities.

Early signs of the problem were discovered in US Geological Survey (USGS) research in 1999. Of the 60 pharmaceuticals the agency was testing for, it found 30 of them in 139 streams in 30 states. In addition, 80 percent of the streams had one or more contaminants, 54 percent had five or more, and 13 percent showed 20 or more.

“We can measure over 150 compounds in water alone,” says Dana Kolpin, a research hydrologist and member of the USGS study team. “Now, the big question is, what kind of environmental consequences [do they pose] to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and, maybe in the long term, even human health. We just don’t know what the exposure risk is to many of these compounds.”

Tough Act to Follow

Source: Linda Sikkema and Melissa Savage, State Legislatures, Vol. 33 no. 3, March 2007
(subscription required)

As the Federal government wrestles with its role in controlling greenhouse gasses, one state hasn’t hesitated to attack global warming.

Massachusetts is suing the Environmental Protection Agency to force regulation of greenhouse gas emissions in a case that is before the U.S. Supreme Court. At issue is whether the Clean Air Act requires EPA to control these gases, which contribute to global warming. States are split on either side of the issue in Massachusetts v. EPA, with 11 states siding with Massachusetts and 10 with the federal government.

Steel Magnolias: Labor Allies With the Environmental Movement

Source: David Foster, New Labor Forum, Vol. 16 no. 1, Winter 2007

The Donora disaster was the root cause of the USW’s subsequent embrace of environmental issues that led eventually to the founding on June 7, 2006 of a new Strategic Alliance between North America’s largest private sector manufacturing union, and the Sierra Club, the country’s oldest and largest grass-roots environmental organization. While the decision to align the USW and the Sierra Club originated in their shared history of supporting environmental protections like the Clean Air Act, the new Alliance was sparked by the accelerating pace of globalization and the seismic social shifts accompanying it. Both organizations realized that for the first time in human history any meaningful improvement in the economic well-being of the world’s population was dependent on the sustainable management of our planted and its resources.

What Do We Know and Need to Know About the Environmental Outcomes of Collaborative Management?

Source: Tomas M. Koontz and Craig W. Thomas, Public Administration Review, December 2006, Vol. 66 supplement

To what extent does collaborative management lead to improved environmental outcomes? Despite the academic excitement over collaborative management, the authors of this provocative article argue that the empirical evidence on existing practices does not match the desired outcome of a better environment. Although we know a great deal about the why, how, and what of collaborative management, it is no panacea. Rather, students of this subject should remain hard-headed realists and focus on whether actual environmental improvement results. Does real-world application of collaborative management processes achieve more or less than alternative managerial methods such as traditional top-down, command and control, or newer market-driven techniques?