Federal court cites ‘The Lorax’ to blast US Forest Service for approving pipeline

A federal appeals court cited Dr. Seuss' The Lorax to slam the U.S. Forest Service for granting a private company a permit to build a natural gas pipeline across two national forests and the Appalachian Trail. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA., said in a ruling on Thursday that the U.S. … Continue reading “Federal court cites ‘The Lorax’ to blast US Forest Service for approving pipeline”

A federal appeals court cited Dr. Seuss' The Lorax to slam the U.S. Forest Service for granting a private company a permit to build a natural gas pipeline across two national forests and the Appalachian Trail.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA., said in a ruling on Thursday that the U.S. Forest Service “abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources” when it granted the permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to Dominion Energy, the pipeline's lead developer, NPR reported.

“We trust the United States Forest Service to 'speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues,’” the three-judge panel said in the ruling, quoting the classic story.

"We trust the United States Forest Service to ‘speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.’"

— The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

The court decided that the Forest Service did not have the authority to grant the permits to build a pipeline that would originate in West Virginia and stretch across Virginia and North Carolina.

The pipeline plans caused uproar among environmental groups as parts of it would have to be built through the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests and across the Appalachian Trail, the NPR reported.

“This conclusion is particularly informed by the Forest Service's serious environmental concerns that were suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company's deadlines,” the judges said.

"This conclusion is particularly informed by the Forest Service’s serious environmental concerns that were suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company’s deadlines."

— The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

“Construction would involve clearing trees and other vegetation from a 125-foot right of way (reduced to 75 feet in wetlands) through the national forests, digging a trench to bury the pipeline, and blasting and flattening ridgelines in mountainous terrains,” the ruling read, detailing the damage to the environment.

“Following construction, the project requires maintaining a 50-foot right of way (reduced to 30 feet in wetlands) through the [two national forests] for the life of the pipeline,” the judges added.

A hiker pauses on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

Several environmental groups brought the lawsuit against the private energy company. The Southern Environmental Law Center said that the Forest Service was initially skeptical towards the project, but later changed its mind after the Trump administration came into power.

“I think what happened here is for years the Forest Service was asking tough questions about this project and requesting additional information and it turned on a dime when the Trump administration came into power," Patrick Hunter, a lawyer for the environmental group, told West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

“The pipeline route that Dominion has chosen cannot be approved as of right now, and so if they want to keep working on this thing, they're going to have to go back to the drawing board,” Hunter added.

Dominion Energy said they will appeal the decision in a statement to NPR.

“If allowed to stand, this decision will severely harm consumers and do great damage to our economy and energy security,” said Aaron Ruby, a spokesman for Dominion Energy.

“Public utilities are depending on this infrastructure to meet the basic energy needs of millions of people and businesses in our region.”

Lukas Mikelionis is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LukasMikelionis.

Carbon dioxide emissions rise in 2018, scientists say

Carbon dioxide emissions across the world made their largest jump in the past year, rising an estimated 2.7 percent, according to three studies released Wednesday.

The studies, released by the Global Carbon Project, found that this year the world would spew 40.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide, up from 39.8 billion last year — with the margin of error at about one percentage point on either side.

TERRIFYING CLIMATE CHANGE WARNING: 12 YEARS UNTIL WE'RE DOOMED

The research conducted by the project, which is an international scientific collaboration of academics, governments and industry that tracks greenhouse gas emissions, puts some of the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change almost out of reach, according to scientists.

Federal climate change report warns of economic impacts

"This is terrible news," Andrew Jones, co-director of Climate Interactive, which models greenhouse gas emissions and temperatures, told The Associated Press. "Every year that we delay serious climate action, the Paris goals become more difficult to meet."

The Paris accord set two goals. The long-held goal would limit global warming to no more than 1.8 degrees from existing levels, with a more ambitious goal of limiting warming to 0.9 degrees from now.

The Global Carbon Project uses government and industry reports to come up with final emission figures for 2017 and projections for 2018 based on the four biggest polluters: China, the United States, India and the European Union.

The U.S., which had been steadily decreasing its carbon pollution, showed a significant rise in emissions — up 2.5 percent — for the first time since 2013. China, the globe's biggest carbon emitter, saw its largest increase since 2011: 4.6 percent.

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The increase is a "reality check," according to the lead author on the study, Corinne Le Quere. She said she doesn't think the world will return to the even larger increases seen from 2003 to 2008, and noted she thinks unusual factors are at play this year.

Harrison Ford gives impassioned speech about climate change

For the U.S., it was a combination of a hot summer and cold winter that required more electricity use for heating and cooling. For China, it was an economic stimulus that pushed coal-powered manufacturing, Le Quere said.

John Reilly, co-director of MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, said the results aren't too surprising because fossil fuels still account for 81 percent of the world's energy use. The burning of coal, oil and gas release carbon dioxide, which warms the Earth. Reilly, who wasn't part of the study, praised it as impressive.

Global carbon dioxide emissions have increased 55 percent in the last 20 years, the calculations show. At the same time, Earth has warmed on average about two-thirds of a degree, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nicole Darrah covers breaking and trending news for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @nicoledarrah.

Target pays out $7.4 million in California waste suit

Target has reached a $7.4 million lawsuit with the state of California over allegations that the company improperly dumped hazardous materials between 2012 and 2016.

California Attorney General Havier Becerra said Wednesday that the mega-chain would have to pay $3.2 million in fines, and an additional $3 million will go toward compliance inspections and audits of its trash facilities. Target will also fund environmental projects as part of the settlement.

The state and 24 local governments alleged that between 2012 and 2016, Target mishandled hazardous waste ranging from batteries and aerosol cans to fluorescent light bulbs.

“Target’s ongoing and improper disposal of hazardous waste and contaminants harmed the public and the environment,” Becerra said in a statement.

The district attorney’s office alleged that Target “unlawfully disposed” of 2,038 hazardous waste items, 175 items containing confidential medical information and 94 items deemed medical waste between 2012 and 2014 alone.

According to Becerra’s statement, Target was accused of violating state laws and “injunctive terms” from a previous lawsuit in 2011 because of the findings.

“We are confident that with these strong injunctive terms and penalties, Target will implement meaningful changes to prevent this from ever happening again,” Becerra said. “However, the wise move for all companies is to abide by the law and employ proactive training and processes to help ensure that hazardous waste violations are avoided in the first place.”

This is the second settlement of allegations that Target violated hazardous waste rules. Under the 2011 settlement, Target agreed to pay $22.5 million in penalties, court fees and environmental funding.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Paulina Dedaj is a writer/ reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @PaulinaDedaj.

California mandates solar panels for homes built in 2020 and later

California lawmakers on Wednesday officially approved a measure that mandates all homes built in the Golden State in 2020 and beyond be solar-powered.

The new standards were approved earlier this year and voted on unanimously by the California Building Standards Commission, the Orange County Register reported.

CALIFORNIA EXPECTED TO MANDATE SOLAR PANELS FOR NEW HOMES

Officials heralded the move as a “historical undertaking” that “will be a beacon of light for the rest of the country.”

The provisions add an estimated $10,000 to the cost of building a single-family home – including more than $8,400 for installing solar and roughly $1,500 for energy efficiency. Proponents of these requirements, however, say the 30-year lifespan of the solar panels will offset the utility bills. A solar-industry representative cited by the Register said the net savings would come out to roughly $500 a year.

CALIFORNIA SOLAR PANEL MANDATE AN ABSOLUTE CON JOB: REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN

But not everyone was on board with the new measure. According to the Register, the Building Standards Commission has received more than 300 letters denouncing the move.

One California resident wrote that the solar mandate “will be costly to homeowners in California and also eliminates personal choice.” She estimated that the installation fees will run “more than $25,000” not $8,400.

“With median home prices in California already more than double the national average, this decision will make it even more difficult for the average Californian to afford a home,” wrote Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City.

Meanwhile, a commission member voiced his concern that the solar panels would make rebuilding a home more expensive in the wake of a mass fire.

California homeowners will have the option to either pay the costs up front or sign a “power purchase agreement,” which pays for the electricity without buying the panels, according to an official with the California Energy Commission.

Bradford Betz is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bradford_betz.

New Orleans looks underground as parts of city slowly sink

NEW ORLEANS – “I know where I live,” said Keith Daggett.

Daggett’s home sits by the London Avenue Canal. The floodwall along the canal breached during Hurricane Katrina more than 13 years ago. An outdoor exhibition now stands at the site of the devastation, marking the flooding caused by the failures of the canal.

“Yes, there is a flood risk here,” said Daggett, who recently moved to the neighborhood.

Tulane University environmental sciences professor Alex Kolker reiterated that the future of the area looks dire.

“The neighborhood lies eight to 10 feet below the canal, and that’s an enormous flood risk,” said Kolker.

Hydrogeologists said the city sinks 6 to 8 mm a year. A large part of the city is already below sea level, and the Gentilly neighborhood, where Daggett lives, is one of the fastest sinking areas.

Dutch-based company Deltares drilling in New Orleans. It’s part of a bigger project to make the city resilient in relation to climate change and sea level rise.  (Deltares)

Kolker is part of a team of researchers, which includes Dutch-based research institute Deltares and the Water Institute of the Gulf, trying to figure out which sections of the city are sinking, how fast, and why. They say subsidence was one reason why Katrina was catastrophic. Water flooded the low-lying areas and had to be pumped out.

“After having experienced the damaged city in 2006 and working there all those years after, New Orleans became part of me. This project helps to collect the missing information needed to take appropriate measures to ensure the [city] is a safe place in the future in relation to sea level rise and changing climate dynamics,” said Roelof Stuurman, a water specialist at Deltares.

The city-led project called “Reshaping the Urban Delta” is being funded by a $141.3 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It largely focuses on the city’s subsurface.

As the first comprehensive resilience district in the Gentilly neighborhood, the city said, the project includes over $90 Million in urban water management projects that largely focus on the city’s subsurface.

“We cannot manage what we don’t understand; so the first step is to ground truth the assumptions we’ve made from past studies and build upon the best available science,” said Tyler Antrup, urban water program manager from the city’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability.

Experts theorize the underlying geology could be one reason for the sinking, also known as subsidence.

Homes by the London Avenue Canal in New Orleans sit eight to 10 feet below the canal, a flood risk for residents in the area.  (Fox News)

“There’s a whole bunch of old swamps beneath the city of New Orleans and when these swamps dry out the ground they take compact and compress and the ground above them sinks,” said Kolker.

Cracked pipes could also play a part.

“Water and mud can flow into them and erode the ground around them. And then you'd create a hole, and that hole is almost a sinkhole,” added Kolker.

Stuurman believes managing the way water flows in and around the city could mitigate the rate of subsidence. Last week, Deltares led a group on several soil drilling operations around the city taking sediment samples, the first step of this study.

“The objective was to determine the ‘mean lowest groundwater level’ and the amount of organic material in the soil and clay saturation because these determine the subsidence risk,” said Stuurman.

New Orleans is not alone in this ordeal. Tokyo and even parts of the Houston-Galveston area have sunk as well, particularly in the middle of the 20th century.

The project will take about 18 months, culminating with the design and installation of an integrated water monitoring network.  (Tulane University)

“There, they did take a lot of effort to better monitor the rate at which they pulled out ground water. And, that did help slow the subsidence in (the Houston-Galveston area),” said Kolker.

Researchers said there’s an added sense of urgency as storms, especially in the Gulf Coast region, are expected to become stronger, thanks to climate change.

“New Orleans is one of the most vulnerable cities in the United States [due] to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise. As we see more frequent and intense rainfall events, we have to adapt by living with water, reducing the subsidence of our soils, and preserving the quality of life and culture of our City,” said Antrup.

The entire study will take about 18 months, culminating with the design and installation of an integrated water monitoring network.

“Knowing that they are at least addressing the problem, to whatever degree,” Daggett said, “does give me some comfort.”

Madeleine Rivera is a multimedia reporter based in Houston, Texas.