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WNYC News

New York Planners Prep For A 'New Normal' Of Powerful Storms

Thursday, December 13, 2012

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, New Yorkers, local politicians and scientists face a tough decision: How to spend limited funds to defend themselves in a world where climate change is making flooding from coastal storms ever more likely.

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Transportation Nation

Report: National Weather Service Says NJ Transit Didn't Ask About Flooding

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hoboken Terminal, post-Sandy (photo by NJ Transit via flickr)

The National Weather Service says New Jersey Transit didn't call.

The Star-Ledger is reporting the agency never consulted the National Weather Service, which predicted storm surges of up to 11 feet.

But NJ Transit isn't backpedaling from its costly decision to store rail cars in yards that later flooded during storm Sandy.

NJ Transit director James Weinstein told a State Legislative panel Monday the agency relied on weather reports and past storm experience to determine where to store hundreds of rail cars and locomotives.

The transit agency's Kearny facility, which sustained almost $100 million in damage, is only ten feet above sea level.

Weinstein told lawmakers the agency's decision-making process was sound.

New Jersey Transit says it's standing by his testimony.

To see what areas flooded during Sandy, check out the map below.

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WNYC News

Seafood Sleuthing Reveals Pervasive Fish Fraud In New York City

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Red snapper, wild salmon, and other fish sold in some outlets were other, cheaper species, according to DNA tests done by an ocean conservation group. The report is just the latest in a string of investigations revealing that seafood mislabeling is commonplace.

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Transportation Nation

Confusion at the Gas Pump: Which Grade is Best?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Octane ratings at a California gas station, 2007 (photo by f31fud via flickr)

(Isabel Angell -- San Francisco, KALW) Gas prices in California are always a big problem. And this year, the average price per gallon is set to hit four dollars – the highest average ever. It seems like there’s nothing the average driver can do to lower their fuel costs – except, maybe, change what grade of gasoline they buy. Most people, though, have no idea what that means for their car.

A choice at the pump

At a gas station in El Cerrito, people pull up in their cars to fill up their tanks. At some point, each of them presses a button: regular, mid-grade, or premium. The higher the grade, the higher the octane content. And the higher the octane content, the higher the price. At this gas station, regular gasoline costs $3.82 per gallon and premium costs $4.05 – twenty-two cents more expensive. I’m curious, so I start asking people what kind of gas they’re buying, and why.

Kate Foley buys gets regular because it’s the cheapest, she tells me with a laugh.

Susie Marcus went for the regular unleaded, “I guess because it’s the least expensive and I have not seen any proof that buying the better gas makes you go farther or better mileage.”

Ariana Jones sprung for the premium. She tells me it’s the only kind her car will take.

So, how are they making these decisions? If it’s just based on price, there’s no reason to use premium, unless the more expensive gas is actually better.

For answers, I turned to Daniel Kammen, a professor at the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley. He told me octane is a measure of energy content. So the different grades of gas have different energy contents. I asked him what that means for my car.

“You get more zip in the car when you use a fuel with a higher energy content,” says Kammen.

But before you start imagining your humble Honda Civic transforming into a fiery red Mustang, a word of warning from Kammen: “There's very little difference in everyday behavior. So if you're doing urban driving, you’re not going to notice much difference because you're not going at the speeds when it matters. And on the highway you have to have a really high performance car to really see that difference.”

And by high performance car, he doesn’t mean a lowly BMW.

“You most likely see it when you start driving Lamborghinis and Ferraris,” says Kammen.

The latest numbers from the California Energy Commission say that 18 percent of gas sold in California in 2010 was premium. But 18 percent of Californians probably don’t own a Lamborghini.

So why do people buy premium when they don’t have to? I asked Sudhot Bhat, who teaches marketing strategy at San Francisco State. He says that most consumers are not experts in the things that they buy.

“Even for things like toothpaste, they are not very good judges of quality,” Bhat says. “So what I sometimes think is that a lot of consumers use price as a gauge of quality. If they do not know much about a product, they tend to think that the product with the higher price is higher quality.”

Bhat says because most people don’t know what’s going on in their gas tank, some consumers might spring for the premium gas just because it’s more expensive. But he has a solution for people who want to get the most bang for their buck: look it up on the internet.

“I think if consumers had more time and they did some research, they would know what really is good quality. You don't have to take the manufacturer's word for it, you can actually go on see what other people are saying,” says Bhat.

One of the big reasons people say they like to buy premium is to prevent engine knocking, when the fuel doesn’t explode the right way in the engine, and that makes a knocking sound. It means you’re not getting the full power of the gas – and if it keeps happening, it can actually hurt your car. But, for the last fifteen years or so, engines have been built with sensors to prevent this exact thing from happening.

So what should you be buying? I took Sudhot Bhat’s advice and turned to the Internet. What I found matched what Berkeley’s Dan Kammen told me: if your car’s manual says it runs on regular, there’s no reason to splurge on a higher grade. And many high-performance cars will run on regular – you just might not get the maximum power possible. Turbo-charged really do require the high-octane premium, so check with your mechanic before making the switch.

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Transportation Nation

NJ Transit Chief: We Thought We Had 20 Years to Respond to Climate Change

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hoboken Terminal, flooding during Sandy (photo by accarrino via flickr)

The head of New Jersey Transit dug in his heels on Monday, defending the agency's preparations in advance of Sandy -- and adding it previously thought it would have at least 20 more years to adapt to climate change.

As Transportation Nation reported, critics say there's a direct line between NJ Governor Chris Christie's  inaction on climate change and New Jersey transit’s costly decision to store brand-new trains in low-lying, flood prone rail yards during storm Sandy.

At a Senate subcommittee hearing last week, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg questioned NJ Transit's decision to park trains in rail yards that flooded during Sandy. But when agency head James Weinstein defended that decision, saying his information indicated an "80 to 90 percent range that no flooding would happen," the questions stopped.

For four days.

At a New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee hearing in Trenton on Monday, Weinstein was asked to retread the steps the agency took to secure its fleet in the face of the oncoming storm -- and explain why it decided not to study the impact of climate change on its rolling stock.

Assemblywoman Linda Stender picked up the issue.  "Back in March," she said, "it was reported that New Jersey Transit declined to have climate change consultants do an analysis -- they were told to skip it."

Not so, Weinstein said.

"Basically, it was a study to determine a study," he said. 'It was sort of the beginning of a process, and I think the response and the decision that as made at that time was  that if we understand the vulnerability of our properties, where we store equipment -- the way you deal with equipment is to move it to places where it's not vulnerable.  So I'm not quite sure what a consultant would have told us, other than ' this facility is in harm's way,  you need to move it out of harm's way.'"

Stender wasn't mollified. "I guess my concern is I don't understand why a decision like that was made," she said, pointing out that other transit agencies were studying the issue. "It really seems to me that was a very bad choice to have skipped something like that."

Weinstein disagreed with that characterization. The agency did the study, he said -- just not all of it.

"We did not skip the study," Weinstein retorted. "We actually executed the study. The only thing we didn't do in that study was an analysis of the actual equipment. We did an analysis, the beginning of an analysis, on the facilities...and the reason that we did that is because if you determine that the Meadowlands Maintenance Facility, for instance, is flood-prone, then.. that informs your decision not to keep equipment there...We actually -- that study is actually complete, I've seen a copy of it, although I confess I have not studied it, but I don't want to leave the impression that we just said 'no, we're not going to do that.' That's not what we did. We did the study; we just concluded that the way you address the equipment problem, the rolling stock problem, is by moving it."

But wouldn't a study show that the facility was vulnerable and the equipment should have been moved, countered Stender?

"Actually, Assemblywoman, that study showed -- concluded -- that we had as much as 20 years to start making -- to adapt to climatological changes that are taking place," said Weinstein, "and I just go back and say this: it was the worst storm in my memory, in our generation, and the reality is that there is no history of flooding at the Meadowlands Maintenance Complex. I know everybody says it's in a flood zone. It's not! The western part of Hoboken Terminal is not in a flood zone. Now, having said that, we are informed. We know now that under circumstances like Sandy that that's going to flood. So we've got to come up with a better idea."

"I would really recommend that ... you revisit that issue," said Stender. "The fact that it happened means that there was a possibility that it could happen and somebody didn't see it."

Later in the hearing, Weinstein said the Meadowlands facility could not be relocated -- "nor frankly do I believe, at least at this point, that there is a necessity to do it. I believe that we can build some resiliency in, and we're going to be looking that those, but frankly, rail yards have been located in that area of our state for well over 100 years."

He said NJ Transit planned to elevate some electrical substations. And, he said, it had learned from Sandy's experience. "I can assure you that we will not be parking equipment at the Meadowlands Maintenance Facility in the face of a similar storm in the near future."

Weinstein  also assured lawmakers NJ Transit wouldn't raise fares to cover the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage it sustained during the storm.  "Absolutely not. There will be no fare increase to cover the costs. We believe all of those costs will be covered by other means -- insurance, FEMA reimbursement. Period."

That assertion was questioned by Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, who sounded incredulous. "You're assuring [us] that there won't be any rate increases, even though the insurance companies -- once they cover your damages -- they're going to hike up your premiums?"

"There will be no fare increases," Weinstein said firmly.

"For how long?" pressed Chivukula. "This is the question the committee - "

"For as long as I am executive director," Weinstein interjected.

"I don't know how long that will be," said Chivukula.

"Nor do I, sir," responded Weinstein, causing the assemblyman to dissolve into laughter.

 

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Transportation Nation

Critics: Christie Deep-Sixed Climate Change Prep

Friday, December 07, 2012

Christie on December 7 photo: NJ Governor's Office

"I know there are some folks at Rutgers who are looking at whether climate caused all this, but I certainly haven't been briefed in the last year, year-and-a-half on this," Christie told WNYC's Bob Hennelly last month.

But the question may be more than academic.

The state's transit agency that answers to Christie, New Jersey Transit, acknowledged this week it lost $100 million in trains and equipment. Some critics are linking NJ Transit's decision to store trains in low lying rail yards during the storm to its lack of a climate change preparation plan. The agency said, before the flood, it had figured that there was an "80 to 90 percent chance" there wouldn't be flooding.

That turned out to be a losing gamble, and one, critics say, that reflects a pattern in Christie's term in office.

In his first year, Christie closed the Office of Climate Change and Energy which had been created and given top-level priority under Jon Corzine.

It was run by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Its mission was to ready the state  to handle more severe storms, heat and rising sea levels.

“So none of this work is getting done,” said Bill Wolfe, a 30-year-veteran of DEP and now a harsh critic.

“And if you want to get something done, the DEP has all the tools to get something done and they’ve chosen not to use those tools for political reasons, reflecting the Governor’s priorities and Governor’s policy,” Wolfe said. “And they just don’t want to own up to that.”

Robert Martin, Commissioner for the Department of Environmental Protection, defended the Christie Administration’s efforts. The DEP hasn’t been weakened, he said, it’s been streamlined to cut red tape and wasteful spending.

Thrift is an issue Christie is comfortable talking about. Climate science isn't. As Sandy was bearing down on the region , WNYC’s Bob Hennelly asked Christie if the Governor was discussing the increasing severity of storms with climate change scientists.

“No, that’s over my head.,” Christie replied.

That’s been Christie’s approach to questions about climate change. Once he said he was "skeptical." When he was pressed about the increasing severity of storms, he maintained he’s a lawyer, not a scientist.

“But that’s what we have an academic community to do is to think about those bigger issues and if those experts have an answer for me, my door is always open to listen to them,” Christie said.

Several of the people who lost their jobs when the Office of Climate Change was cut now work in academia -- at Rutgers University.

The Bergen Record earlier this month dug up a video of David Gillespie, director of Energy and Sustainability Programs for NJ Transit, specifically saying the agency decided not to develop a climate adaptation plan.

 “The mitigation plan that we have for movable assets -- our  rolling stock --  is we move it out of harm’s way when something’s coming,” Gillespie said. “Generally we have enough time to do that, so we didn’t spend a lot of money on that.”

Gillespie said there’s  no need to make changes in the next five to 20 years, and that the agency has 50 years to adapt to climate change.   That's despite a federal study distributed to all the nation's transit agencies that warned them to protect their assets by readying for worsening storms.   And despite the lessons of Irene, where New York's transit system suffered the worst transit damage in modern history.

New Jersey was well prepared for Sandy,  said Martin, the DEP chief. “While unfortunately some lives were lost, by and large we protected the state, we protected thousands of lives and lots of homes and lots of property overall and again we’ve done a great job with that and the Governor provided great leadership overall."

And NJ Transit's James Weinstein told a Senate committee Thursday that the agency had no choice -- if moved elsewhere out of potential flood zones, the trains could have been damaged by falling trees, or stranded, as they were during Irene.  "Keeping the trains in the yards was the best decision, especially in light of what happened during Irene.”

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WNYC News

At Doha Climate Talks, Modest Results At Best

Friday, December 07, 2012

Diplomats in Doha, Qatar, are working late into the night to hammer out a deal in the 18th round of U.N. climate talks. Expectations are low as the talks are part of a multiyear process to make a transition from the fading Kyoto climate treaty to something that engages all nations of the world.

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Transportation Nation

NJ Transit Chief: Our Trains, Equipment, Suffered $100 Million In Sandy Damage

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Bay Head Comet III's with debris (photo by NJ Transit via flickr)

New Jersey Transit lost $100 million in trains and equipment during storm Sandy, NJ Transit chief James Weinstein told a U.S. Senate panel Thursday.

The $100 million is part of a $400 million bill Sandy left for NJ Transit. The total includes damage to all 12 rail lines, which suffered flooding and some 630 downed trees.  This is the first public accounting of the  Sandy-related damage to NJ transit equipment.

The transit agency has been scrutinized in the wake of its decision to store trains during Sandy at two facilities that are in high-risk areas for flooding during hurricanes. By contrast, the New York MTA moved its trains out of Coney Island and Queens, two areas in New York's evacuation zone.

"Based on the information that we had in terms of the likelihood of flooding occurring at the Meadowlands complex, or at the Hoboken yard, that indicated there was a likelihood in the 80 to 90 percent range that no flooding would happen," Weinstein told the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security, chaired by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).

In 2011, as TN has reported, the Federal Transit Agency issued a study warning transit authorities that storm surge-related climate change would create risks for transit agencies, and exhorted local transit agencies to move their trains out of harm's way during storms.  The FTA said the risk of flooding would increase over the years.

But just months ago, NJ Transit specifically rejected a climate change adaptation plan, as the Bergen Record reported this week.  "At a symposium of state and federal transportation officials in March, NJ Transit executive David Gillespie said he had told climate-change consultants working for the agency to skip any analysis of potential impacts on train cars and engines," The Record wrote.

By contrast, the NY MTA had developed a climate change adaptation plan and appointed two officials to oversee the MTA's response to hurricanes.

Weinstein maintained NJ Transit had little choice. He said the agency has few options about where to store trains. "That combined with the history led us to conclude that [yards in the Meadowlands and Hoboken were] the appropriate place to put the equipment, based on the information we had at the time we had to make the decision."

In response to a question from Senator Lautenberg, Weinstein said "this was the best decision, especially in light of what happened during Irene." Weinstein said during that storm, NJ Transit stored equipment in Pennsylvania -- where it was stranded as a result of inland flooding and trees falling on the tracks. "That's another factor that informed our decisions," Weinstein said.

"Some of that equipment was new, up-to-date?" Lautenberg interjected.

"Yes, sir," Weinstein responded. "We had some new locomotives that hadn't been accepted yet. Water penetrated up to the axles where the bearings are."

Then Lautenberg tossed Weinstein a lifeline: "It didn't sound like there were other choices to be made," said the senior U.S. Senator from New Jersey -- who, like  Weinstein, is in a position of pleading for relief funds from the federal government in the middle of difficult negotiations over tax hikes and spending cuts to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff."

"If you lay a flood plain map over our rail map there are very few places that are not prone to flooding," Weinstein said.  "I had 630 trees come down. If that starts coming down on equipment, it damages equipment every bit as badly as flooding would."

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Transportation Nation

Bloomberg: In Reponse to Climate Change, NYC Needs Levees

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg (photo: New York City Mayor's Office)

New York needs more coastline protections in the wake of climate change.  So says New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg Thursday, in a major address on rebuilding after storm Sandy delivered Thursday. Bloomberg was introduced by former Vice President Al Gore.

"Over the past month," Mayor Bloomberg said, "there has been a lot of discussion about sea walls. It would be nice if we could stop the tides from coming in, but King Canute couldn’t do it – and neither can we, especially if, as many scientists project, sea levels continue rising. However, there may be some coastline protections that we can build that will mitigate the impact of a storm surge – from berms and dunes, to jetties and levees."

We'll have more soon.  Meantime, you can find the full transcript of the remarks here.

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The Takeaway

Students Fight for Colleges to Drop Fossil Fuel Holdings

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Climate change never found its way into the 2012 presidential campaign, but college students across dozens of campuses have launched a campaign of their own. Their goal is to divest university endowments of holdings in fossil fuel companies.

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Transportation Nation

WATCH: Superstorm Sandy: The Devastating Impact on the Nation's Largest Transportation Systems

Thursday, December 06, 2012

(The hearings have ended.  Here's our story. Follow along with the live webcast of a Senate subcommittee hearing here . It begins at 10:30 eastern time.

We will be tweeting highlights -- so follow along.

Here's who's on tap to testify.

Witness Panel 1

  • Honorable Charles Schumer
    United States Senator, New York
  • Honorable Robert Menendez
    United States Senator, New Jersey
  • Honorable Kirsten Gillibrand
    United States Senator, New York

Witness Panel 2

  • Mr. John Porcari
    Deputy Secretary
    U.S. Department of Transportation

Witness Panel 3

  • Mr. Joseph Boardman
    President
    National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)
  • Mr. Joseph Lhota
    Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
    Metropolitan Transportation Authority
  • Mr. Patrick Foye
    Executive Director
    Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
  • Mr. James Weinstein
    Executive Director
    NJ Transit
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The Takeaway

With Little Fanfare, UN Climate Talks Underway in Doha

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Delegates from around the world are in Doha this week for UN talks on climate change. With the Kyoto Protocol set to expire this year, countries will discuss plans for a new climate deal to begin in 2015, but there are already fears that talks may be derailed over a dispute regarding funding. Roger Harrabin is the BBC's environment correspondent, and he says the lack of political engagement is also hurting the chances of a successful climate change deal in Doha. 

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Transportation Nation

Senate Hearing Will Detail Hurricane Sandy's Transit Damage

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The heads of transit agencies affected by Sandy will testify on Capitol Hill Thursday, in what will be the most public assembly of the top brass of the NY MTA, NJ Transit, Amtrak and the Port Authority of NY &NJ in one public place for the first time since the storm.

New Jersey senator Robert Menendez called Hurricane Sandy the "largest mass transit disaster in our nation's history" last week. Thursday's Senate hearing should reveal additional details about the damage and destruction.

The transit agencies of both New York and New Jersey are largely functional -- but none are back at 100 percent. New York's MTA suffered $5 billion worth of damage. One-quarter of New Jersey Transit's passenger rail cars were flooded. And the Port Authority still can't say exactly when its Hoboken PATH train terminal will reopen.

Because so many Northeasterners use transit to commute, Senator Menendez said last week Hurricane Sandy affected 40 percent of the nation's mass transit users.

Thursday's hearing is being chaired by New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg. A spokesman for the senator said "the hearing will allow Senator Lautenberg and his colleagues to further review the devastation to the region's infrastructure and move forward rebuilding New Jersey's transportation systems so they're stronger and better prepared to handle the next storm."

One question expected to come up: why New Jersey Transit parked so many rail cars in an area that had been predicted to flood.

Lawmakers from both states are eager to receive federal disaster relief. New Jersey estimates that it suffered $37 billion worth of damage; New York is requesting $42 billion in aid.

We'll be live tweeting the hearing, which starts at 10:30am. Follow along on @TransportNation.

 

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Transportation Nation

Homeowners Group Notches Up Fight Against Billion Dollar Highway Expansion

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

(Washington, D.C. -- WAMU) A state project with federal money is meeting with local opposition, in a sign that construction and infrastructure expansion often sparks not-in-my-backyard resistance. A homeowners group in a Washington, D.C. suburb says studies performed by traffic and environmental analysts it hired show the construction of a highway ramp near their homes will ruin their quality of life.

Members of Concerned Residents of Overlook, an upscale community adjacent to I-395 in Alexandria, Va., pleaded with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Tuesday night to support their request that the Virginia Department of Transportation suspend construction of the ramp, which is the planned northern terminus of the future 95 Express Lanes, 30 miles of high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes extending from the Edsall Road area in Fairfax County to Garrisonville Road in Stafford County. The $1 billion public-private project is scheduled for completion in December 2014.

“VDOT has usurped its responsibility. It has provided only a regional analysis of the impact of pollutants and traffic congestion. They haven't evaluated the public health risk to the residents,” Sue Okubo, an Overlook resident, told the board.

“This ramp, if it goes through as proposed, will bring major congestion as well as major amounts of pollution,” said Mary Hasty, Okubo’s neighbor.

The county supervisor who represents their neighborhood, Penelope Gross, rebuffed their plea, telling them to contact VDOT because it is a state project on state property, although staff of Board Chairman Sharon Bulova briefly met privately with Okubo to listen to her concerns.

The Overlook group claims VDOT failed to adequately study noise and air quality impacts that will result when traffic exits the new express lanes onto I-395 or local roads. The neighbors fear exiting highway traffic will back up and idle on the exit ramp.

“Our experts say that they will be standing for extended periods of time. That’s going to cause a concentration of pollutants that well exceeds EPA standards for safety for humans,” Hasty said. “One of the pollutants exceeds EPA standards by four-thousand percent.”

Concerned Residents of Overlook hired the national law firm of Shrader & Associates to manage their independent analyses. Shrader has litigated cases involving plaintiffs who claimed they were harmed by toxic chemicals and dangerous products.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has denied that it failed to adequately study the environmental impacts on the 95 Express Lanes project.

“It would be very difficult to make a change at this point having gone through a lot of the studies and approvals at the state, regional, and federal levels,” said John Lynch, VDOT’s regional transportation director for Virginia megaprojects, in a prior interview.

“We went through the federal requirements and developed an environmental assessment which includes analysis for both noise and air quality,” Lynch said.  “The bottom line is those studies met all the federal requirements and it was reviewed by both the Federal Highway Administration and Environmental Protection Agency. We wouldn’t have gotten approval to move forward with this project if it didn’t meet those requirements.”

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Community, Education, and Agriculture

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Eric Herm examines the vital relationship between humans and nature and how our modern agricultural system and in many of our business and political policies have strained this relationship. In Surviving Ourselves: The Evolution of Community, Education, and Agriculture in the 21st Century, Herm, a fourth-generation farmer, shares his own personal experiences, as well as the inspiring stories of others changing the way we farm.

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Transportation Nation

New Yorkers Believe Climate Change Caused Hurricane Sandy: Poll

Monday, December 03, 2012

Areas of Long Island, N.Y. following Hurricane Sandy Oct. 30, 2012. (Photo by U.S. Coast Guard / Petty Officer 2nd Class Rob Simpson)

Most New Yorkers say climate change is the reason for severe storms like Hurricane Sandy.

According to a recent Siena poll, at least 63 percent of voters from across the state -- including two-thirds of upstate residents and three-quarters of those in New York City – say severe storms over the last two years demonstrate the existence of global climate change.

"There may be a debate about what has caused the global climate change," says Siena pollster Steven Greenberg, "but for most New Yorkers there is no debate that it is occurring.”

That mirrors national numbers. In a pre-Sandy poll conducted in October by the Pew Research Center, 67 percent of respondents said they believed in global warming.

But the issue reveals a stark partisan divide. In the Siena poll, eight in ten Democrats say severe storms demonstrated climate change -- whereas Republicans are nearly evenly divided, with 46 percent saying climate change is behind big storms and 44 percent calling them isolated weather events. The Pew poll found similar national numbers.

(Two New Yorkers who believe in climate change: Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The latter said it was the prime force behind his endorsement of  President Obama for reelection. And the governor is likely to be talking about it as he makes the rounds in D.C. to push for disaster aid.)

But as politicians, these two are outliers. Neither Obama nor Republican Mitt Romney mentioned climate change during the presidential debates. A Frontline documentary that aired in October provides some thoughts as to why: climate skeptics have worked hard to introduce doubt into the conversation surrounding the climate change debate -- successfully making it a partisan issue.

Watch Climate of Doubt on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Fracking: Hurry Up and Wait

Monday, December 03, 2012

Tom Wilber, journalist in Central New York and the author of Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale, talks about the latest deadline extension to finalize regulations on New York State fracking, a decision process that is moving too fast according to anti-fracking activists.

 

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Photographing the Changing Arctic

Monday, December 03, 2012

Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen discuss the changing climate of the arctic, which Nicklen has been photographing for years. The NRDC is awarding Nicklen with a first-ever BioGems Visionary Award for his Arctic photography. Nicklen, born and raised on Baffin Island, Nunavut, grew up in one of the only non-Inuit families in a tiny native settlement amid the ice fields of Northern Canada. His photography book Polar Obsession captures up-close documentation of the lives of leopard seals, whales, walruses, polar bears, bearded seals, and narwhals, and gives a vivid portrait of two extraordinary, endangered ecosystems. 

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Transportation Nation

NY/NJ Port Official: We Never Thought We'd See 13-Foot Storm Surge

Friday, November 30, 2012

(Bob Hennelly, WNYC -- New York) The New York City region’s cargo port system may have been up and running six days after Sandy struck, but the storm's unprecedented storm surge left its mark and is prompting a review of past assumptions about port vulnerabilities to another Sandy-like event.

"No one believed there could be a 13-foot storm surge ever in this port and there was," said retired Rear Admiral Rick Larrabee, director of Port Commerce for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. "I talked to people who have worked here for 30 years who said they never feared for their lives but they did that night."

The Port Authority's cargo handling operation is a sprawling complex that encompasses waterfront facilities in Brooklyn and Staten Island, in New York as well as vast terminals in Newark, Bayonne and Jersey City in New Jersey

Top of the to do list is exploring how to make their facilities less vulnerable to the kind of prolonged power outage that came after the storm. "We have got to work with the utilities," Larrabee said. "We are all interdependent."

He also thinks it’s critical to keep a sense of urgency when it comes to following up on lessons learned.

"I have a theory about the half life of events like this. The further out it gets from when it first happened the fuzzier it gets," Larrabee said.

Larrabee said the storm surge enveloped 14,000 new cars on the docks on the New Jersey side of the Hudson, incapacitated 40 percent of the 50 gargantuan cargo cranes that stand several stories high and took out 2,500 trucks critical to moving freight off the docks.

It also flooded Larrabee's Ports Administrative Office and the Port's police headquarters, which still remains out of commission a month later.

Larrabee says before the storm, the area’s cargo network was headed for an increase in volume, but the storm and its aftermath could hurt the final annual total.

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WNYC News

Greenland, Antarctic Ice Is Melting Faster

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The good news: Sea level has risen by just a half-inch in the past 20 years as a result of shrinking ice. The bad news: The melting is now speeding up. Over the next century, this could contribute to another 2- to 3-foot rise in sea level — enough to flood New York City every few years.

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