The Takeaway

Future of Coal Industry Before Supreme Court

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The EPA says power plants that run on coal and oil emit too many harmful chemicals like mercury and arsenic. But industry backers say reducing emissions is too expensive. 

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On The Media

Someone at the EPA Really Likes Kim Kardashian's New iPhone Game

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Late last night, the official Twitter account for the Environmental Protection Authority accidentally tweeted an excited proclamation about their success in the Kim Kardashian's new mobile game, which invites you to "create your own celebrity and rise to fame and fortune!" 

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The Takeaway

Why Environmental Crime Goes Unpunished

Monday, July 14, 2014

A new investigation finds that existing environmental regulations are rarely enforced — and environmental crimes are almost never prosecuted.


The Takeaway

EPA Head: States Hold the Power

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that largely affirms that the EPA has the power to regulate sources responsible for 83 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says now it's up to states to do the rest of the dirty work.

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The Takeaway

Coal Country Responds to Obama's Carbon Cuts

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The border of Southeast Ohio and West Virginia has long been considered coal country. In the wake of President Obama's announcement that he plans to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent, Bob Vincenzo, the mayor of St. Clairsville, Ohio, is worried about the future of his town—and the region.

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The Takeaway

New Carbon Regulations May Provoke Political Fight

Monday, June 02, 2014

Today President Obama announces new rules on carbon emissions for existing, coal-fired power plants. The EPA’s proposals would cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to 30 percent, but not without a few lawsuits and political battles in the process.

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The Takeaway

Oklahoma Pushes Back Against the EPA

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Last June, President Obama instructed the EPA to issue new regulations on power plant emissions. But Oklahoma is saying not so fast. Attorney General Scott Pruitt is questioning the EPA's legal authority to impose limits state by state.

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The Takeaway

How Much Power Should the E.P.A. Have?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Today the Supreme Court hears arguments in the case Environmental Protection Agency vs. EME Homer City Generation. At the heart of the case is the question of who has the power to act on issues of controlling environmental hazards. Jeff Holmstead is a former assistant administrator for the E.P.A. who is now an attorney with the firm Bracewell and Giuliani. While the Obama Administration defends the E.P.A.'s right to regulation, Holmstead disagrees. 

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EPA Seeks Ideas for Carbon Emissions Regulations

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Clean air advocates are supporting the Environmental Protection Agency's controversial efforts to curb carbon emissions from power plants.

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Shutdown Hits Environmental Agency Hard

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The U.S. Government is shutting down non-essential services for the first time in nearly two decades, and thousands of federal workers are being told to stay home. In the EPA’s Region II, which covers New York and New Jersey, just 36 out of 861 staff are being asked to report to work throughout the shutdown.

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Transportation Nation

Striking Vintage EPA Photos Show Troubling Proximity of People and Pollution in 1970s

Friday, March 29, 2013

"Chemical plants on shore are considered prime source of pollution." (Marc St. Gil, Lake Charles, Louisiana, June 1972. National Archives, EPA Documerica Project)

These photos are beautiful. They're also sad, and hopeful, and quaint.

In the 1970s the EPA commissioned photographers to roam the country and document daily life in places like coal mines, riverbanks, cities, and even an early clean tech conference in a motel parking lot. The images were meant to be a baseline to measure change in the years to come, but there was no funding to go back to the original places.

The Documerica project photos are up on Flickr now (hat tip to FastCoExist for posting some of these gems). It's an overwhelming album of nostalgia for everyday life, but also, devastatingly depressing to see how dirty and toxic so many inhabited places could be in the 1970s ... and how little has changed in some places today.

What makes the project so powerful though, is how beautiful the photography is, even of the mundane moments, or tragic scenarios like kids playing in a river next to a power plant.

Strum through the albums yourself and share your favorites with us on our Facebook page and we'll add more pics to this post later on.

In the albums, there are also early editions of clean technology, like Frank Lodge's photos from the first First Symposium on Low Pollution Power Systems held at what seems to be a motel parking lot.

Exhibit at the First Symposium on Low Pollution Power Systems Development Held at the Marriott Motor Inn, Ann Arbor, Mich. Vehicles and Hardware Were Assembled at the EPA Ann Arbor Laboratory. Part of the Exhibit Was Held in the Motel Parking Lot the Ebs "Sundancer", an Experimental Electric Car, Gets Its Batteries Charged From an Outlet in the Parking Lot 10/1973 (Frank Lodge. National Archives, EPA Documerica Project)


"Children play in yard of Ruston home, while Tacoma smelter stack showers area with arsenic and lead residue." (Gene Daniels. Ruston, Washington, August 1972. National Archives, EPA Documerica Project)


David Falconer documented the fuel shortage in the west during the 1970s, as well as water pollution in the area at the time.  (David Falconer, National Arcives, EPA Documerica Project)


Miner Wayne Gipson, 39, with His Daughter Tabitha, 3. He Has Just Gotten Home From His Job as a Conveyor Belt Operator in a Non-Union Mine. as Soon as He Arrives He Takes a Shower and Changes Into Clothes to Do Livestock Chores with His Two Sons. Gipson Was Born and Raised in Palmer, Tennessee, But Now Lives with His Family near Gruetli, near Chattanooga. He Moved North to Work and Married There, But Returned Because He and His Wife Think It Is a Better Place to Live 12/1974 (Jack Corn. National Archives, EPA Documerica Project)

 Follow Alex Goldmark on Twitter @alexgoldmark

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The Takeaway

New Obama Appointees for E.P.A., Energy, and OMB

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

President Obama has announced three new cabinet appointments for departments under serious scrutiny: Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Management and Budget. All three of these nominees will require Senate confirmation, and Takeaway Washington correspondent Todd Zwillich explores what's ahead.

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Federal Cleanup Plan for Gowanus Canal Could Cost $504 Million

Friday, December 28, 2012

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has put forward a plan to clean up the beleaguered Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. 



EPA Proposes Gowanus Canal Cleanup Plan

Thursday, December 27, 2012


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released its proposal to clean up the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.



NY, 6 Other States Will Sue Over Drilling Methane

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New York and six other states say they plan to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over methane emissions from oil and gas drilling.



After Gowanus Canal Floods Its Banks, Fears of What's Left Behind

Friday, November 16, 2012


Businesses along the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn fear toxic contamination may have tagged along with flood waters during Sandy’s vicious storm surge.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

30 Issues: Big Energy vs. Big Environment

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

30 Issues in 30 Days is our election year series on the important issues facing the country this election year. Today: The conflicting forces of the energy lobby and environmentalist groups. Visit the 30 Issue home page for all the conversations.

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Soda 'Ban' Puts Bloomberg to the Left of Obama on Regulations

Friday, September 14, 2012

This bold, unapologetically regulatory and somewhat nannyish would not be instigated on the federal level by Obama or any president.

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Transportation Nation

BREAKING: Court Upholds EPA's Emissions Rules

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

(photo by Josh Koonce via flickr)

A federal appeals court Tuesday said the Environmental Protection Agency was "unambiguously correct" in using existing federal law to limit greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Several industry groups -- as well as the state of Texas -- had argued that the science behind climate change was uncertain, and that the EPA lacked the legal authority to use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from factories, power plants, and automobile tailpipes.

But the court unanimously rejected that view. "This is how science works," the judges wrote in the 82-page decision (pdf). "EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question."

The opinion cites not only a previous Supreme Court ruling but also Schoolhouse Rock.  (As a generation of schoolchildren knows, 'by that time, it’s very unlikely that [a bill will] become a law. It’s not easy to become a law.'")

Read the decision here.

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Transportation Nation

NYC, 44 Other Regions, Blow 2008 Smog Standards

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

(photo by: harry_nl)

(New York -- WNYC) New York City and surrounding suburbs currently blow past smog limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The agency’s latest data, released Tuesday, found that forty-five areas of the country fail to meet air quality standards for ground level ozone.

The standards were set by the Bush Administration in 2008. They allow 75 parts of smog per billion cubic feet of air. As you can see on the map below, pockets of the country in almost all regions fail to meet air quality standards, but the bulk of "nonattainment" areas are along the Northeast corridor and throughout California. (See the EPA's designations for each area here.)

The agency said that the noncompliant areas were assigned a classification based on how close they are to meeting the standards. The classifications range from marginal to moderate, serious, severe and extreme. Most of the areas that do not meet the standards, including the New York region, are classified as marginal – that is, closest to meeting the standards.

The EPA said it expects these areas would be able to comply within three years, usually as a result of recent and pending federal pollution control measures.

“The standards are too weak,” said Frank O'Donnell, president of the DC-based non-profit environmental group Clean Air Watch. O’Donnell is pushing for the EPA to move ahead with low-sulfur gasoline. “Now that gasoline prices are dropping, we urge the House Energy and Commerce Committee to drop plans to kneecap EPA authority to see cleaner gas standards,” said O’Donnell.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office said in a statement that the city has made progress on cleaner air... cutting greenhouse gasses by 12 percent below 2005 levels.

In an email, an EPA spokeswoman said it was a “coincidence” that the data was released on May 1st, World Asthma Day. Smog can reduce lung function and aggravate asthma.

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