ENVIRONMENT

Connecticut Losing Ground On Building Emissions Despite Efficiency Programs

Sep 16, 2021

Greenhouse gas emissions from heating and cooling buildings continue to rise in Connecticut despite the state’s efforts to improve energy efficiency.

An annual greenhouse gas inventory released last week for 2018 — the latest available data — showed vehicle exhaust remains the state’s largest problem, but the sharpest year-over-year increase came in the residential sector. Commercial building emissions were also higher.

In the big scheme of things, the Bobryk forest is pretty small potatoes. It’s about 300 acres of birch, hemlock and other hardwood trees, sandwiched between two larger state forests in western Massachusetts.

“It feels weird to say this forest isn’t special because that’s not what I mean,” says Laura Marx, a forest ecologist at The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts. Rather, says Marx, Bobryk forest is “a really cool example” of things gone right, and an illustration of exactly how preserving forests might help slow climate change.

South Hadley High School in South Hadley, Massachusetts.
Courtesy / South Hadley Schools

Students at South Hadley High School begin the semester Thursday — online and two weeks late.

Signs in Lee, Massachusetts, call for no PCB dumps in the area.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

A legal challenge against an agreement to dispose toxic waste in Lee, Massachusetts, has been dismissed. That's the ruling of Berkshire Superior Court judge Michael K. Callan.

Health leaders across Connecticut are warning state legislators about the dangers of dirty air. But the head of the state Senate said Monday the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) will not be on the agenda during a special session expected to occur within the next two weeks.

Massachusetts Bill Aims To Stomp Out Biomass Power Subsidies

Sep 14, 2021
Waste wood from a logging operation that's been chopped into "chips" for a biomass facility.
Annie Ropeik / NHPR

With regulations ready to take effect that effectively close about 90% of the state's land area to new wood-burning power generation facilities, Springfield-area lawmakers on Monday pushed for legislation that would more permanently eliminate state clean energy program subsidies for biomass anywhere in Massachusetts.

A lawn sign in Lee, Massachusetts, designed by Reed Anderson of Great Barrington, calls for no local dumps for PCB waste from General Electric.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

Opponents of a waste dump containing PCB sediment planned for Lee, Massachusetts, took their case before the federal Environmental Appeals Board on Thursday.

An invasive insect, the caterpillar Lymantria dispar.
Didier Descouens / Creative Commons / wikimedia.org

Very hungry caterpillars have been killing mighty oak trees across southern New England for years.

The Northeast sees a lot of different insect invaders, says Audrey Barker Plotkin. She's a scientist with Harvard Forest.

Some trees will die because of insect defoliation, but Plotkin learned in her recent multiyear study why some oaks have more resilience.

Gov. Baker Urges Massachusetts Lawmakers To Move On Climate Projects

Aug 31, 2021
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, at center, with State Sen. John Velis, at right, arriving at a press conference in Easthampton on Aug. 31, 2021. At far left is Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides.
Don Treeger / The Republican / masslive.com

Available federal resources create an opportunity for Massachusetts to undertake "transformational" work on climate and environmental issues, Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday as he again pitched his plan for spending a portion of the state's American Rescue Plan Act allocation.

If you’re tossing all of your glass into a blue recycling bin, wishing and believing you’re doing the planet a favor, you may be wrong, said Bethel First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker.

“Not all glass is created equal,” he said. “A great deal of that glass is not recyclable, and even worse, it contaminates some of the materials that are recyclable.”

That’s because when it comes to buying and selling recycled material, Knickerbocker said, there’s “good glass” and there’s “bad glass.”

A section of the Housatonic River in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where PCBs sediment was excavated and removed, in a file photo.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

The decades-long battle to remove PCBs from the Housatonic River continues later this week, when the EPA's appeals board hears oral arguments against the agency's cleanup plan. 

Some Nantucket residents and a prominent conservative lawyer are suing the federal government over its approval of the offshore wind farm Vineyard Wind. The lawsuit contends the project off Martha's Vineyard will harm critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whales.

As Tropical Storm Henri batters much of New England this weekend with damaging winds, heavy rainfall, storm surges and a large possibility of inland flooding, it may feel like one more item to add to the list of abnormal weather events we’ve seen this year.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

Mayor Luke Bronin told the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority’s board of directors Wednesday that bringing “massive amounts of trash” into Hartford shouldn’t be the long-term solution to a looming waste crisis slated to impact about 50 towns in less than a year.

The Northern New England Poison Control Center says the surfeit of mushrooms this summer and an increase in foraging during the pandemic is keeping their lines busy.

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The center typically gets between 35 to 49 calls about mushroom poisonings from New Hampshire annually. This year, they’ve already received over 40 calls from the Granite State.

A small frog with a big voice is starting to make a comeback in Massachusetts, thanks to some help from state scientists and student volunteers.

The eastern spadefoot is about 2 inches long, with a big head and yellow, cat-like eyes. The males have a distinctive mating call, which sounds something like a crow blowing its nose.

Goodrich Family Farm in Salisbury is now home to the largest anaerobic digester in the Northeast. Several dozen people, including Gov. Phil Scott, gathered at the dairy farm Wednesday to celebrate.

So how exactly does the digester work?

The digester has the capacity to turn more than 180 tons of food waste, and 100 tons of cow manure, into biogas in a single day.

Shipworms are saltwater mollusks known for consuming wood, causing extensive damage to ships and piers. They may also offer a key to new types of biofuel.
Reuben Shipway / UMass Amherst

Researchers at UMass Amherst say they've solved at least one mystery about a destructive saltwater mollusk known as the shipworm.

A proposal to burn about 2,500 tons of old coal at a major Hartford trash plant is getting a strong rebuke from state regulators. But the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA) said Wednesday that burning the coal in Hartford is “the most environmentally sound” way to get rid of it.

MIRA wanted to burn up that old coal by gradually mixing it in with trash from its member towns.

An American robin is measured as part of federal research on urban wildlife in a backyard in Greenfield, Massachusetts, in a file photo.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

Wildlife biologists have received reports of sick and dying songbirds in some mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states. There's no evidence the disease has reached New England, but Massachusetts officials are asking birdwatchers to take preventative steps.

The polling place at St. Elizabeth Parish Center in North Adams, Massachusetts, on Sept. 19, 2017.
Adam Frenier / NEPM

You might be thinking about your vacation plans or backyard barbecues, but there are several mayoral races heating up across western Massachusetts. 

Decades Later, Greylock Glen Project Coming Together In Berkshires

Jul 14, 2021
A scene from the Greylock Glen trail system.
Department of Conservation and Recreation / State of Massachusetts

The headlines in the Sept. 17, 1974 edition of the Berkshire Eagle brought news of a delay in the Greylock Glen project in Adams, Massachusetts. The timeline, according to Sen. Adam Hinds, had been pushed back two years to 1976.

Sand and ocean waves in a photograph taken at Salisbury Beach in Salisbury, Massachusetts, during the summer survey of grain size and face slope.
Steve Mabee, Massachusetts State Geologist / Submitted Photo

Our New England landscape was shaped over 10,000 years ago by glaciers that deposited sediments. On sunny summer days, people flock to relax on some of those glacial sediments — or beaches — up and down the New England coast.

Watch out for loon chicks if you head out on a boat in New Hampshire in the coming weeks.

It's nesting and hatching season for the loons, a protected species, in lakes and fresh waters north and south of the White Mountains. The Loon Preservation Committee, based in Moultonborough, says boat traffic – even non-motorized vessels like kayaks – can put them at risk.

Expert Recommends Blood Testing for Chemical Contaminant

Jul 7, 2021
Water running from a faucet.
Skitterphoto / Creative Commons

Offering blood testing for people in areas exposed to PFAS, additional funds for statewide research, education, and surveillance, and passing laws restricting the use of certain firefighting foam and food packaging were all part of a set of recommendations a top academic expert offered this week to a state task force investigating the impact of the chemicals in Massachusetts.

A coalition of First Nation tribes in Quebec is filing suit against the provincial government to stop construction of a controversial powerline that would bring electricity from government-owned dams through Maine into the New England grid.

A photograph of a garden at Bill Noble's property in Norwich, Vermont. Bill Noble's personal garden is included in the Smithsonian Institution's Archive of American Gardens.
Image used with author's permission

Garden designer and author Bill Noble says gardening is about feeling connected and getting familiar with your chosen piece of earth.

A 2019 protest in Springfield, Massachusetts, against the Palmer wood-burning plant.
Courtesy of Rene Theberge / via WBUR

A new report from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America finds that Springfield, Massachusetts, now ranks No. 12 on the list of the worst places in the country to live with asthma — an improvement from past years. 

Congestion Roared Back To Eastern Massachusetts In Late 2020, Research Says

Jun 29, 2021
Early afternoon bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 93 in Milton, Mass.
Jesse Costa / WBUR

Boston-area drivers wasted an average of 50 hours in traffic congestion last year, as traffic returned following a brief respite during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report.

The 2021 Urban Mobility Report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, which looked at traffic conditions for 494 urban areas in the U.S., ranked the Boston area sixth worst in the nation for total annual delays and second worst in terms of delays absorbed by daily commuters.

Back in the fall, Michelle Shiota noticed she wasn't feeling like herself. Her mind felt trapped. "I don't know if you've ever worn a corset, but I had this very tight, straining feeling in my mind," she says. "My mind had shrunk."

Shiota is a psychologist at Arizona State University and an expert on emotions. When the COVID-19 crisis struck, she began working from home and doing one activity, over and over again, all day long.

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