Environment and Outdoors

Environmental news

New Carbon Rules: Is New England Already Complying?

May 20, 2014
iStock Photo/Thinkstock

Coal-burning power plants are bracing for new carbon regulations due out in June. In the Midwest where there are states that get as much as 70 percent of their electricity from coal, many are worried that these new regulations will cost jobs.  But New England may already be compliant with the rules before they are even written.

You know it's springtime in Maine when the birds wake you up before your alarm clock does. Right now is peak season for the spring bird migration. That means bird watchers -- both amateurs and experts -- are out with their binoculars in woods and fields all over Maine. Jennifer Rooks headed out to Wolfe's Neck Woods State Park with ornithologist Jeff Wells.

When Jeff Wells heads into the woods, he hears things most of us don't.

"That super-high pitch sound, 'zzzz,' that's a blackburnian warbler," Wells says.

Not background noise. But discrete, individual voices.


May 19, 2014

Where to birdwatch in Maine and which birds to look for. Birdwatching is one of the fastest-growing pastimes in America. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service estimates that 48 million of us are birders, the same report shows that Maine is second only to Montana in the percentage of people who are bird-watchers. And why not? By many measures, Mainers are living in bird-watching paradise. Especially right now, during the spring migration season, when songbirds arrive from South and Central America.

Patty Wight / MPBN

The Portland Water District wants you to think before you flush - that is, if you plan on throwing something other than toilet paper down the toilet. Flushed baby wipes are clogging pipes and pumps across the state and the country, creating a mess and costing cities and towns tens of thousands of dollars to fix.

  What gets flushed down the toilet eventually makes its way to a pumping station like this one in Westbrook. It's a small, cylindrical brick building.

Nick Woodward / MPBN

Most people probably know that the giant panda, the Siberian tiger, and the Northern right whale are in danger of dying out. But what about the Leicester Longwool, the Suffolk Punch, or the Mulefoot Hog? Those are farm animals that appear on a list of critically endangered domestic breeds. Biodiversity in the world's farmyards is shrinking, say experts, and that's not a good thing. But efforts are underway to - pardon the pun - take stock of these critters. And Maine's small farms might serve as an ark for them.

Offshore Wind Developer Agrees to Right Whale Protections

May 7, 2014
Wikimedia Commons

Conservationists and offshore wind power company Deepwater Wind announced an agreement today aimed at better protecting endangered North American right whales.

The Conservation Law Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation and Deepwater Wind have agreed to implement new safeguards for marine mammals -  including the iconic right whale - during wind development in areas off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts considered to be whale habitat.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has withdrawn a proposed rule that would have added the cancer-causing chemical formaldehyde to the state's priority chemical watch list as way to protect children's health. The rule would have required manufacturers to disclose which of their children's products contain formaldehyde, sometimes found in crib sheets, bibs and baby shampoo.  As Susan Sharon reports, health and environmental groups were quick to attack the move as caving to the chemical industry lobby.

Courtesy photo / Citizens' Task Force on Wind Power

One of the lead opponents of a wind energy joint venture has reversed its opposition to the project, and says it's OK to go ahead under certain conditions. Maine's Office of the Public Advocate - or OPA - issued a brief on Friday regarding plans by Canadian utility Emera - owner of the companies formerly known as Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service Company - to enter into a joint venture with Boston-based First Wind.  Tom Porter has more.

Susan Sharon

Residents of a Richmond trailer park were ordered to vacate their homes by 5:00 P.M. today because of a sewage overflow problem that required water to be shut off.  But most of the residents are low income and on disability or public assistance.  Some say they will be forced to sleep in their vehicles.  Others don't know where they'll go.  And as Susan Sharon reports, they blame the park's owner, who says he's been duped by the man he hired to fix the mess.

Patty Wight

Maine's elver fishing season, already delayed by a few weeks, is off to a slower, less frenzied start, compared with the soaring prices and chaos of the past few years. After a colder-than-normal March, glass eels are finally beginning to make their way into the state's rivers in larger numbers, as the water warms up. But, as Jay Field reports, new state regulations have also limited how many pounds of elvers Maine fishermen can catch.

Maine Conference Addresses Rail Disaster Readiness

Apr 24, 2014

A tragedy on the Canadian border a year ago has offered lessons for emergency responders here who must be prepared to confront a train derailment anywhere in the state. Fire and police officials who were called to the Lac Megantic derailment last year discussed the experience with their Maine counterparts during a two-day conference in Augusta. But as A.J. Higgins reports, those insights prompted some firefighters to recall their own rail disaster right here in Maine.

Courtesy: Maine Department of Forestry /

One of the most damaging native insects of spruce and fir trees is wreaking havoc in Quebec, where it has defoliated eight million acres of forest over the last several years.  Forestry officials are now bracing for an imminent outbreak of spruce budworm in neighboring New Brunswick, one of the most forestry-dependent provinces in Canada.  And here in Maine there are fears that the voracious insect could start destroying forest stands in the next two to four years.  Now, steps are underway to fight back.

  Steve Curwood, Executive Producer and Host of Public Radio International's Living on Earth, delivered the keynote address at Coastal Enterprises Inc.’s 36th annual meeting. Curwood covered what he called the “Three C’s” – creatures, chemicals and climate change.

This talk was recorded March 11, 2014 at Thorne Hall on the campus of Bowdoin College.

  How might this year's harsh winter impact invasive pests? Might it help the problem or make it worse?

Host Jennifer Rooks speaks with:

Charlene Donahue, Forest Entomologist with Maine Forest Service’s Insect & Disease Laboratory

Charles Lubelczyk, Vector Ecologist with the Maine Medical Center Research Institute Vector-borne Disease Laboratory

Nancy Sferra, Director of Science and Stewardship for the Nature Conservancy in Brunswick

  The recent Camden Conference on the Global Politics of Food and Water featured this talk by Berkeley law professor Andrew Guzman, which is based on his research for his book “Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change.”

This talk was recorded February 22, 2014 at the Camden Opera House.

Visit the Camden Conference website