Southern California environment news and trends

Apple drops green standard, loses business in San Francisco

Courtesy of Apple

Apple's newest MacBook Pro with Retina Display.

In a somewhat surprising move, digital giant Apple last week pulled 39 of the company’s desktop computers, laptops and monitors from EPEAT, a global registry of environmentally-friendlier products regulated by the government and in part created by Apple.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, EPEAT is federally funded by the EPA and a group of manufacturers, and “awards products a seal to certify they are recyclable and designed to maximize energy efficiency and minimize environmental harm.”

“They said their design direction was no longer consistent with the EPEAT requirements,” said Rob Frisbee, CEO of EPEAT to the Journal. “They were important supporters and we are disappointed that they don’t want their products measured by this standard anymore.”

The move comes close on the recent announcement of Apple’s most recent MacBook Pro with retina display, which comes with the battery pack glued to the machine among other features that make the model extremely difficult to repair.

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Natural gas catches up with coal in America

Mercer 4605

David McNew/Getty Images

The AES Corporation 495-megawatt Alamitos natural gas-fired power station stands on October 1, 2009 in Long Beach, California.

There’s nothing quite like the first time. That’s the sentiment behind last week’s announcement by the U.S. Energy Information Association that the amount of electricity being generated by natural gas is in a dead-heat with the amount derived from coal.

As reported by Treehugger, April data shows that natural gas plants generated 32 percent of the nation’s power, the same share produced by coal plants. That’s 95.9 million megawatthours from natural gas, compared to 96.0 megawatthours from coal.

According to the EIA, natural gas was able to catch up due to prices being at a 10-year low in April and reduced demand for electricity thanks to a mild winter (and spring). The EPA also recently imposed new rules limiting emissions of mercury, chromium and more. Another far more controversial reason behind the natural gas boom is the hydraulic drilling process of “fracking.”

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EPA awards over $175K to California urban waters projects

Jerry Gorin/KPCC

View north along the L.A. River toward the 6th Street Bridge.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced this week that it would be awarding $2.7 million to restore and revitalize urban waters across 46 organizations in 32 states and Puerto Rico. The EPA’s Urban Waters program “support community efforts to make water quality restoration relevant to public health, social, economic, and livability goals,” according to their official website.

The chosen organizations were culled from over 600 applicants, with three of the 46 based here in California: Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed in Brentwood, Revive the San Joaquin in Fresno and Council for Watershed Health, based in Los Angeles. Each group will receive around $60,000.

“We are very excited to receive the award,” said Nancy L.C. Steele, executive director of Council for Watershed Health when reached by phone. “It’s a very important award for the region, as it’s going to allow us take a look at the whole of the L.A. River watershed, analyze and communicate to the public and elected officials how it’s doing and exactly what is the state of the river. We already monitor the watershed primarily for water quality and habitat, so with this grant we can expand out and look at things like water supply and overall social-economic issues related to water access, and develop a report card for the river. It will tell us how we can improve.

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EPA proposes stricter national limits on fine particle pollution

A view of downtown Los Angeles,Californi

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

Under pressure from a lawsuit submitted by 11 states (including California) and the National Lung Association, the Environmental Protection Agency is submitting new air quality standards that would restrict the amount of soot that can be released into the air.

As reported by the L.A. Times, the proposed change would decrease the allowable fine particle pollution (AKA soot) across America to a range of between 12 and 13 micrograms per cubic meter of air from the current 15 micrograms. Soot has been linked to premature deaths, asthma attacks, lung cancer and heart disease.

“Through this rule making, the EPA will get information into the hands of American families so they can manage their lives better,” said Gina McCarthy, the assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the EPA during a telephone press conference today. “Mothers of asthmatic children, the elderly, folks who suffer from respiratory or cardiac or pulmonary challenges.”

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118 MPGe: Honda Fit EV earns highest EPA fuel efficiency rating ever

2010 Honda Fit Sport

Automaker Honda has announced that the 2013 Honda Fit EV subcompact has earned a 118 MPGe rating (a combined adjusted miles-per-gallon equivalency) from the Environmental Protection agency, making it the most fuel-efficient vehicle soon to be available. The Fit also gets an estimated 82 miles on a single charge for city and highway driving combined.

The Fit bested the electric Ford Focus, which received a rating of 105 MPGe and 76 miles per charge, and the Nissan Leaf, which came in at 99 MPGe and 73 miles per charge.

As reported by CNET, breaking down exactly how the EPA came up with these combined adjusted equivalency ratings is somewhat tricky, but the proof is in the wallet:

"MPG equivalent is a bit of an odd number, a fuel economy equivalent calculation between gasoline and electricity. Because of the very different nature of filling a gas tank versus charging a battery, car owners may not immediately grasp the difference. When it comes to running costs, however, owners will see a huge delta, not only due to the better efficiency of the electric cars but also due to electricity rates that are typically lower than equivalent per gallon gas prices. The EPA's annual fuel cost for the Fit EV is just $500."

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