Friday, June 24, 2011

Black carbon is the latest environmental battleground

Patti Epler in the Alaska Dispatch: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is being threatened with legal action by environmentalists again, this time over its failure to reduce black carbon that’s ends up on sea ice and glaciers. The Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday notified EPA of its intent to sue if the agency doesn't start taking some action within 60 days.

Participants at the recent Arctic Council meeting, a gathering of eight Arctic nations in Nuuk, Greenland, identified black carbon emissions in the far North as coming from old diesel engines and woodstoves. The black particles absorb heat and warm the atmosphere while in the air, and then spread over the ice and snow, absorbing heat and increasing melting.

The environmental group called on EPA to take action to reduce and ultimately regulate the particulates in February 2010, but the agency never responded, according to the letter of intent to sue filed Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Matt Vespa, a senior attorney with the center in San Francisco, said the EPA needs to first identify the problem through monitoring and measuring and then consider ways to reduce the pollutants. In Alaska, he said, local sources tend to be the older diesel engines and cook stoves that burn wood or coal. The problem could be stopped with filters, for instance, that reduce particulate emissions or requiring stoves that use natural gas instead of other fuels, he said…

A 1942 picture of a worker at a carbon black plant n Sunray, Texas

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