Understanding the Texas Drought

With all the rain coming down the last few months, it’s an appropriate time to explore our water system. Anyone living in the central Texas region is aware of the Edwards Aquifer. Maybe you have seen “Recharge Zone” signs while driving through the hill country or you have heard newscasters refer to its levels during the drought ridden summer months, but how much do you really know about this vital part of our lives? Here is your chance to learn more about this inextricable and necessary part of our lives that we so often take for granted. Continue reading

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New historical research platform: Google Earth Engine

Google has done it again. They’ve found another way to use technology to improve lives. With the help of Imazon, a non-profit research institution that promotes sustainable development in the Amazon through research, Google has developed Google Earth Engine. Continue reading

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Top Environmental Prose posts from 2014

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America’s changing energy landscape

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant Photo Credits: Toby Talbot, AP

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant
Photo Credit: Toby Talbot, AP

Commercial energy production in the United States has in recent years been a mixture of coal, nuclear, natural gas, solar, and wind. Due to advancements in technology and the abundance of natural gas, traditional coal powered plants and nuclear reactors may soon become artifacts of the past. While large-scale infrastructure changes are typically slow, on December 19, the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant officially went offline citing future cost of energy production as their main concern. According to National Geographic, this is the fourth U.S. nuclear facility to close in two years. Continue reading

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Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from The Banks Group!

We’re wishing you all the best in the new year!

Merry Christmas from Banks Environmental Data

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Fracking Debates Continue in New York and Michigan

Photo: Dale G. Young / The Detroit News

Photo: Dale G. Young / The Detroit News

After last month’s vote to ban fracking in Denton, Texas, there was speculation the result could trigger a domino effect around the country. While the issue has been addressed in multiple regions, the results have been mixed across the board. Continue reading

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Deforestation Spikes in the Brazilian Amazon

Last year, I wrote an article about an effort by university researchers and Google to create satellite imagery based map of global deforestation. The post hit all the familiar notes regarding the alarming rate of forest lost annually, but also hinted at the glimmer of hope of slower rates of deforestation and actual gains in Brazil. Well as it turns out, that glimmer was blinking out at about the time that article was posted.
Continue reading

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Breakthrough in measuring atmospheric aerosols

Scientists from University of Leiden in the Netherlands have created a low-cost, mass producible device that would allow everyday citizens to aid scientists in measuring atmospheric aerosols. Over the course of three days, 8,000 Dutch citizens lifted their smartphones to the sky. Using the iSPEX device attached to their smartphones, they were able to map aerosol properties with unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution. People using the device did not need any special training, just equipping them with the device allowed them to take part in a larger effort of data collection. Continue reading

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Chemical leak causes four deaths in Texas

DuPont_LaPorteA chemical leak caused four deaths and one injury at a DuPont facility in La Porte Texas. The chemical, methyl mercaptan, leaked for two hours in the early morning Saturday. There were five employees in the facility who were responding to the leak when they were exposed to the chemical. The cause of the leak was not immediately known. The toxic chemical, Methyl mercaptan, is used to make insecticide and fungicide products and to odorize natural gas for safety purposes.

The DuPont plant manager released a statement informing the public that the community is not in danger and that the company will be pursuing an internal investigation to find out what happened. Local, state, and federal investigations will also be conducted. Continue reading

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Debate heating up over Denton ban on fracking

City of Denton, TX

City limits of Denton, TX

Last week residents of Denton, Texas voted to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, within the city limits. This decision drew national attention and seemed to produce equal amounts of enthusiasm and unrest. The next day, officials at the Texas General Land Office and the Texas Oil and Gas Association filed separate legal challenges to the new ban.

The measure, which passed with 59% approval, is the first of its kind in the state. Denton residents have cited noise complaints, decreased property values, under-regulation and environmental concerns as reasons for passing the ban. Similarly, other local bans have recently passed in Ohio and California. Continue reading

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Georgia Water Coalition’s “Dirty Dozen” for 2014

Each year the Georgia Water Coalition publishes a list of the top twelve threats to Georgia’s water resources. These threats can ultimately harm property owners, communities downstream, fish and wildlife, and the countless ecosystems that depend on clean water. Click through the slides below to learn more about the “dirty dozen”. Each threat is hyperlinked to the full story so you can become an expert on Georgia water affairs.

Special thanks to the Georgia Water Coalition for all the hard work!
 
Jordan Schmidt environmental professional
Editor
jschmidt@banksinfo.com

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Orphan Sites: Why they exist and how we address them

No, we’re not talking about Orphan Annie here! If you have ever worked on an environmental site assessment (ESA), you may be familiar with the term “orphan site,” or may know it as an “unmapped site.” An orphan site is an environmental record from various state or federal databases that cannot be accurately mapped or “geocoded” based on the information provided by the data source. As environmental data providers, we collect and maintain datasets for the Phase I process. It is important that we use all tools available to us to map environmental records accurately when possible and, alternatively, clearly indicate relevant orphan sites for environmental professional (EP) review. Continue reading

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Natural disaster planning with new technologies

Since we are once again in hurricane season, it seems like a good time to address how geospatial data and new data collection systems are shaping the way that we now interact with forces of nature. Although we have not yet experienced any major hurricanes this season, the lingering effects of hurricanes in past years are still present in many areas. Due to a new drone system, we may soon be able to learn more about hurricane patterns before they touch land. Continue reading

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Possible foreshadowing in Texas Supreme Court Ruling

In March, we presented a story that involved arguments at the Texas State Supreme Court regarding underground trespassing. While a decision is still pending in that case, the court’s recent ruling on a similar argument may provide insight on future rulings. Continue reading

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EPA removes E1527-05 from AAI

Effective October 6, 2015 the use of the historical standard (ASTM E1527-05) will no longer be in compliance with the All Appropriate Inquiries Rule (AAI).

On December 20, 2013 ASTM E1527-13 procedures were published by the EPA for persons conducting all appropriate inquiries (AAI). When initially published, the new rule did not require the use of E1257-13 but allowed previous standards to be used to comply with AAI assessments.

Earlier this year the EPA proposed an amendment to all appropriate inquires under CERCLA to remove the reference to E1527-05. Public commenters suggested EPA should continue to allow the use of E1527-05 arguing that vapor releases are not a CERCLA concern. EPA disagreed with the assertion with the following explanation found in the Federal Register’s October 6 Final Rule.

Summary from the Federal Register Docket
The scope of the AAI Rule and the ASTM E1527–05 standard always included the requirement to identify all indications of releases and threatened releases of hazardous substances, or “recognized environmental conditions (RECs),” including indications of vapor migration or vapor releases. With the updates included in the 2013 version of the ASTM E1527 standard, ASTM modified the definition of migration to specifically include vapor migration and remove any confusion regarding the need to identify all RECs, or all indications of releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, when conducting an AAI investigation.

Other commenters noted environmental professionals need more time to finish ongoing investigations and adequately become familiar with the updated industry standard (ASTM E1527-13). EPA agreed that one year would be sufficient time for AAI investigations to adhere to the new standard.

environmental dataCarissa Ries
carissar@banksinfo.com

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