Some Recent News Affecting (Mostly) Your (Urban) Environment

This article touches on a number of news items, with my comments.

1) [This post ended up being longer than expected]. According to the NY Post (sorry), the New York City Council is considering a proposal to require stores to charge ten cents for every plastic or paper bag used at checkout. So far, 19 council members have sponsored the bill (26 are needed to pass it). The last time the City Council tried to implement such a measure it failed with only 8 sponsors. The current proposal would add to the coffers of the storeowners rather than the City. While it is an important measure in that it will probably cut down on disposable bag use, particularly plastics, I feel that paper bags should carry a five cents fee and plastic bags should carry the proposed ten cents fee. Paper is, after all, more easily recyclable and more readily compostable–particularly brown paper. Moreover, as the Post states, “[T]he city expects to save money by reducing harm caused by plastic bags clogging storm drains and jamming machinery and recycling plants.” A lesser fee for the paper bags would still alter people’s habits but potentially incentivize consumers to stop using plastic bags first–a lofty goal all around.

Of course, using one’s own reusable bag or carrying goods by hand with no bag avoids the fees. As for those who do not have reusable bags, for example low-income consumers, “[T]he council and a coalition called Bag It NYC would seek to raise private funds for a reusable bag giveaway, primarily for low-income neighborhoods.” As for this latter plan’s effectiveness, we shall see. Considering the poverty rate in NYC (in late 2012, the rate was 21% of NYC residents below the federal poverty rate), I hope worthy environmental measures are not conducted without considerations for the poorer among us.

from here:

2) Noise! And maybe a little less noise? Probably not. In the already noisy city, one city council member wants to require snow plows to have loud sounds to warn pedestrians. This proposal is a response to the death this winter of two pedestrians by snow plows. Something like, and perhaps these very, warning noises are needed to prevent further tragic deaths. But considering the 24 hour runs of snow plows with multiple trucks occasionally going up one residential street, more noise–especially overnight–might be something residents don’t need. Noise can be, after all, pretty unhealthy.

But on the other hand, Gov. Cuomo has ordered the Port Authority to install 16 portable noise monitors “as part of a long-term effort to manage jet engine sounds in communities near Kennedy and LaGuardia airports as well as those below the flight path.” Cuomo also pledged to further community participation and input with Port Authority and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). However, considering the FAA’s NextGen program, it is doubtful FAA will simply reroute flight paths, and it is not a given that noise monitors will do anything to actually reduce the noise impacts on residents under flight paths and near airports. On the other hand, perhaps more information will influence the FAA and Port Authority to make decisions better accounting for the surrounding neighborhoods as opposed to accounting only for airplane companies.


3) This comment is about Ukraine and the Crimea. In early March, as things were unfolding, Bloomberg News reported a push within the US by congresspeople and natural gas company interests to shore up the export of US natural gas to Ukraine and to Western Europe. The purpose was to remove these countries from Russia’s gas supply and thus give them a form of “energy independence” to increase self-determination. This stance is not energy independence here or overseas. After all, why would we need to export natural gas when we instead need it for “abundant and domestic energy?” Oh yeah, money. And we don’t need it. Europe doesn’t need it either. They are already on their path to real energy independence–part of which involves policy decisions on energy conservation and mass transit that lawmakers in the United States do not like. And if European nations decide to drill for their own natural gas, which I think it is a bad idea, then we should let them. The U.S. does not need to export carbon fuels.