TIME Environment

Cost to Enter Yellowstone National Park Going Up

Mount Washburn in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in July 2011
Anick Jesdanun—AP Mount Washburn in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in July 2011

The bump should boost the park's revenue by about $3 million annually

(YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo.) — Beginning June 1, it will cost more to visit Yellowstone National Park.

The National Park Service announced Monday that the entrance fee to the first national park will increase to $30 per vehicle. The current fee is $25. The pass is good for seven days.

In addition, the pass will no longer cover the entrance fees for both Yellowstone and neighboring Grand Teton National Park in northwest Wyoming.

If people want to visit both within seven days, they must buy a new $50 pass, which saves them $10 but is double the current charge.

The higher fees will boost the park’s revenue by about $3 million a year.

Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk says that will help fund various park projects.

Yellowstone last raised its entrance fee in 2006.

TIME Environment

This Hormone Seems to Be Changing The Sex of Fish in U.S. Rivers

The hormone is used in the raising of cattle, but finds its way to rivers and streams

A chemical compound used to stimulate weight gain in cows may be contaminating aquatic ecosystems in the United States and disrupting the reproductive processes of fish, according to a new study in the journal Nature Communications.

Cattle farmers have been using the chemical compound trenbolone acetate (TBA) for decades. The hormone has a potentially toxic byproduct, 17-alpha-trenbolone, but earlier research had seemed to show that the chemical breaks down and becomes harmless when exposed to sunlight. But it turns out that when the chemicals wind up in rivers and streams, they transform back into 17-alpha-trenbolone when it gets dark, according to new Nature Communications study.

“As goes the compound, [so] goes the risk. In the sunlight the compound goes away, therefore the risk has also gone away,” said lead study author Adam Ward, assistant professor at Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “What our study shows is that chemically that’s not true.”

Read More: Rare Cancer Discovered in Pennsylvania Smallmouth Bass

The full extent of the damage that may be caused by the hormone isn’t entirely clear. The hormone 17-alpha-trenbolone leaves cows through their manure and moves into rivers, streams and other bodies of water where it can disturb fish and other water dwellers. The hormone resembles testosterone in its effects, but it’s ten times as strong. It also has been shown to reverse the sex of fish and reduce their rates of reproduction. “We’re releasing this into the environment at levels that are potentially problematic for the ecosystem,” said Ward. “If you’re an amphibian, a fish, a minnow, you spend your whole life being bathed in this sort of low dose of testosterone.”

The implications of the research challenge the way regulators approach risk management in water systems, Ward said. Typical water management programs assess the risk that individual substances pose to the water supply. Managing 17-alpha-trenbolone and all of its related compounds requires considering “potency of mixtures,” Ward said, not just the potency of individual compounds. And trenbolone acetate is far from the only endocrine disruptor affecting aquatic life in lakes and streams across the country, according to research from the U.S. Geological Survey. Vinclozolin, a fungicide, and insecticides like DDT and carbaryl have also led to similar changes.

“The prevailing wisdom on risk management is incomplete,” he said. “We’ve got tens of thousands of compounds that we produce and use in this country every year, but we don’t know what happens to them into the environment in complicated systems.”

TIME Environment

U.S. Government Approves Shell’s Arctic Drilling Plan

Sven Zacek—Getty Images

The company still must receive approval from a number of other regulatory agencies

The federal government has approved Shell’s plan to drill in the Arctic from this summer, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced Monday.

The oil and gas giant still must receive approval from other agencies, but a stamp of approval from the federal BOEM removes what was perhaps the plan’s most significant potential stumbling block.

“We have taken a thoughtful approach to carefully considering potential exploration in the Chukchi Sea,” said BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper in a statement. The drilling would be consistent with “high standards for the protection of this critical ecosystem, our Arctic communities, and the subsistence needs and cultural traditions of Alaska Natives,” she said.

The decision drew immediate condemnation from environmental groups that argued the plan could lead to an oil spill worse than the 2010 spill that devastated the Gulf of Mexico while also threatening local wildlife and entrenching American reliance on fossil fuels. In particular, environmental groups pointed to Shell’s troubled 2012 Arctic exploration efforts as evidence that the company isn’t prepared to launch a large-scale drilling operation in the area. The company struggled to deploy spill containment technology during testing, and, later, an inoperational drilling rig nearly ran aground.

“We can’t trust Shell with America’s Arctic,” said Alaska Wilderness League Executive Director Cindy Shogan in a statement. The 2012 incidents “demonstrated to the nation that drilling in the Arctic is reckless and irresponsible and that no oil company should develop there.”

Shell spokesperson Curtis Smith said that the company is currently testing to ensure operations meet “the high bar stakeholders and regulators expect of an Arctic operator.” Further permits should be issued promptly, he said. “The approval of our Revised Chukchi Sea Exploration Plan is an important milestone and signals the confidence regulators have in our plan,” he said in an email. “It’s imperative that the remainder of our permits be practical, and delivered in a timely manner.”

The relationship between environmental groups and the White House has been fraught with disagreement as well as collaboration throughout the Obama presidency. Environmental groups have praised Obama’s aggressive stance on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but they have also criticized his support of efforts to allow drilling in new areas like the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Southeastern U.S.

“This decision places big oil before people, putting the Arctic’s iconic wildlife and the health of our planet on the line,” said Erik Grafe, a staff attorney at environmental advocacy group Earthjustice, in a statement. “Arctic Ocean drilling is far too risky and undermines the administration’s efforts to address climate change and transition to a clean energy future.”

TIME Environment

How Garbage Spawned a Grizzly Problem at Glacier National Park

Greeting Card from Glacier National Park. ca. 1941, Glacier National Park, Montana, USA, Greeting Card from Glacier National Park
Universal Images Group / Getty Images Greeting Card from Glacier National Park. ca. 1941

May 11, 1910: Glacier National Park is established

Glacier National Park, which spans more than a million acres of pristine Montana wilderness, is home to a variety of predators, from cougars to wolves to grizzly bears. Most of the time they pose no danger to hikers, for whom the adage, “They’re more afraid of you than you are of them,” holds more or less true. For more than half a century after the park was founded — on this day, May 11, in 1910 — the park’s native grizzly bear population left its human visitors alone.

That changed in 1967, when two young women, both 19, were mauled to death by grizzlies at separate campsites on the same night. As TIME reported, the emboldened bears weren’t discouraged by noise or the sight of bonfires — and they didn’t stop attacking even when the campers played dead.

At one campsite, five people hid in their sleeping bags while a grizzly “ripped apart packs and bit into bedrolls, and even slashed the shirt from the back of one camper, who lunged in desperation and hit the bear on the nose,” per TIME. When the bear reared up, four of the campers escaped by climbing trees, but one woman couldn’t get out of her sleeping bag in time, and was carried away and killed.

Meanwhile, 20 mi. away, another young woman was dragged screaming into the night after her male companion endured a mauling without moving, and was therefore abandoned in favor of the livelier prey.

The attacks, immortalized in the bestselling book Night of the Grizzlies, were provoked in part by the hordes of park visitors who had left a trail of trash behind over the years, acclimating the grizzlies to their presence and making them associate humans with food, according to a 2010 PBS documentary. The producer of that documentary believes the lessons learned on that grisly night are still relevant today.

“The problem started with people feeding bears and leaving garbage out,” producer Gus Chambers told PBS. “That’s still an issue, and if people don’t learn from this historic event, more people and more bears will die.”

Ten people have been killed by bears in the park’s 105-year history, compared with seven at Yellowstone National Park. The National Park Service points out that more people have died — at Yellowstone, at least — by drowning or from burns sustained when they fell into the park’s thermal pools.

“To put it in perspective, the probability of being killed by a bear in the park (7 incidents) is only slightly higher than the probability of being struck and killed by lightning (5 incidents),” NPS writes on its Yellowstone National Park website.

Still, the night of the grizzlies prompted the park service to clean up its act at Glacier, Yellowstone and other national parks. Biologists, who had long warned of the dangers of the parks’ open dumpsites, advocated for a staggered removal of what had become the bears’ primary food source, according to Slate. When the dumps were instead eliminated in a single stroke, bears fled the parks to find food on privately-owned land, where they were fair game for hunters — who decimated their population. By 1975, when they were given protection under the Endangered Species Act, there were fewer than a thousand grizzlies in the U.S., down from tens of thousands in the early 1800s, per Slate.

Only in recent years have the bears’ numbers edged up again. And while overhauled park policies have made deadly encounters between humans and grizzlies less likely, there is still the risk of a terrifying confrontation when the two apex predators cross paths on a trail.

Read TIME’s original report on the 1967 attacks, here in the archives: Night of Terror

TIME States

Nuclear Power Plant Fire in New York Spills Oil Into Hudson River

APTOPIX Indian Point Fire
Craig Ruttle—AP New York State Troopers stand at the main entrance of the Indian Point nuclear power plant after a transformer failed causing a fire that was later extinguished in Buchanan, N.Y., on May 9, 2015.

Several thousand gallons of oil leaked into the river that flows from the Adirondacks to the Atlantic Ocean

BUCHANAN, N.Y. — Part of a New York nuclear power plant remained offline Sunday after a transformer fire created another problem: thousands of gallons of oil leaking into the Hudson River, officials said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said emergency crews were out on the water near Buchanan trying to contain and clean up transformer fluid that leaked from Indian Point 3.

“There’s no doubt that oil was discharged into the Hudson River,” Cuomo said. “Exactly how much, we don’t know.”

It could be weeks before Indian Point 3 is reopened again, said a spokesman for Entergy Corp., the plant owner.

The transformer at the plant about 30 miles north of midtown Manhattan failed on Saturday evening, causing a fire that forced the automatic shutdown.

Cuomo revealed Sunday that even after the blaze on the nonnuclear side of the plant was quickly doused, the heat reignited the fire that was again extinguished.

The governor said oil in the transformer had seeped into a holding tank that did not have the capacity to contain all the fluid, which then entered river waters through a discharge drain.

Joseph Martens, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said measures were taken to keep the oil from spreading, including setting up booms over an area about 300 feet in diameter in the water.

The cleanup should take a day or two, Cuomo said.

A spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said several thousand gallons of oil may have overflowed the transformer moat.

The reactor itself was deemed safe and stable, said Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi. The plant’s adjacent Unit 2 reactor was not affected and remained in operation.

The Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan supplies electricity for millions of homes, businesses and public facilities in New York City and Westchester County.

“These situations we take very seriously. Luckily this was not a major situation. But the emergency protocols are very important,” Cuomo said Saturday. “I take nothing lightly when it comes to this plant specifically.”

The transformer at Indian Point 3 takes energy created by the plant and changes the voltage for the grid supplying power to the state.

The blaze, which sent black smoke billowing into the sky, was extinguished by a sprinkler system and on-site personnel, Nappi said.

He said a foam-like substance containing animal protein and fat was used to put out the fire, leaving an oily sheen on the water that does not harm the environment. He said he cannot confirm that fluid from the transformer leaked beyond the holding tank until a probe is conducted.

It was not immediately clear what caused the initial failure.

Officials did not know how long the 1,000-megawatt reactor would be down. Nappi estimated it could be “a few weeks” before Indian Point 3 reopened.

Cuomo said there had been too many emergencies recently involving Indian Point. Unit 3 was shut down Thursday morning for an unrelated issue — a water leak on the nonnuclear side of the plant.

“We have to get to the bottom of this,” the governor said.

In March, Unit 3 was shut down for a planned refueling that took about a month.

Diane Screnci, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said an agency inspector was at the site Sunday and the agency would follow up as Indian Point assesses the affected equipment.

She said there was no impact on the public.

The environmental watchdog group Riverkeeper issued a statement Sunday saying the latest Indian Point accident proves that the plant should be closed for good.

TIME Environment

Here’s How Much We Spend Powering ‘Always-On’ Inactive Devices

They're consuming plenty of energy while plugged in, even if they're not used actively

Americans spend some $19 billion a year on electricity for devices that are powered on but inactive, according to a new report that aims to help reverse the trend.

Electricity consumed by devices like televisions, computers, printers and game consoles accounts for the majority of the figure, which translates to roughly 50 large power plants’ worth, according to the study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). All of those devices consume energy while plugged in, even if they’re not used actively, and ones like refrigerators, washers and dryers that have electronic controls or displays—even Internet connectivity—are also a factor.

The NRDC recommends that consumers unplug appliances like televisions, computer and game consoles when they’re not being used, as well as choose more energy efficient products when replacing older models or buying newer ones. The report also calls on manufacturers to reduce the amount of energy that their products require in sleep mode, with the report’s author, Pierre Delforge, labeling the reduction of always-on consumption “a low-hanging fruit opportunity to cut climate-warming pollution.”

That reduction could have a significant effect on consumer’s bottom line, the report argues, stating American consumers could knock $8 billion off their collective utility bill if they reduced their electricity use by always-on devices to the consumption level of the 25% most efficient households surveyed. It’d help the environment, too, by preventing some 44 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution.

Read the full report here.

TIME public health

Cities like Baltimore Still Suffer From the Toxic Legacy of Lead Contamination

Abandoned row houses are shown in the Sandtown neighborhood where Freddie Gray was arrested, in Baltimore on May 3, 2015.
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Abandoned row houses are shown in the Sandtown neighborhood where Freddie Gray was arrested, in Baltimore on May 3, 2015.

Before Freddie Gray suffered a fatal injury at the hands of the police, the Maryland native was allegedly the victim of lead poisoning

The Sandtown neighborhood of Baltimore has all the markers of the depressed inner city. Unemployment is high, drug abuse is rampant and many houses are vacant and dilapidated. Less apparent—but equally insidious—is the prevalence of lead poisoning.

More than a decade before Freddie Gray suffered a fatal injury while in custody of the Baltimore Police Department, the Maryland native was allegedly the victim of the neurotoxin that contaminated the walls and windows in the dilapidated home where he grew up, according to a report in the Washington Post. Gray reportedly struggled academically, accumulated a criminal record and had trouble focusing—all outcomes associated with the long-term effects of lead poisoning.

Gray was not alone. Hundreds of thousands of young Americans were exposed to lead during their childhood, and, for many, the poisoning has been associated with dramatic problems in their day-to-day lives as adults. And despite the fact that lead was phased out as an additive in gasoline in the 1970s and 1980s, lead poisoning continues to affect children—most of them poor—to this day.

Baltimore, a city where nearly a quarter of the population lives in poverty, has become ground zero in the fight against lead poisoning. Many Baltimore homes were built in an era when the use of lead paint was common, and economic crisis has left many homes and neighborhoods in disrepair, exposing children to lead in chipping paint.

Lead hasn’t been used in paint since 1978, and regulations require landlords to reduce the risk that their tenants are exposed to the substance. But many landlords opt to use risk reduction methods that contain lead temporarily, but leave tenants vulnerable in the longterm. For instance, a landlord may paint over lead paint with safe paint to meet regulations. That reduces the chance of exposure but doesn’t eliminate it. Furthermore, the regulations in Baltimore don’t address owner-occupied homes. To eliminate risk paint needs to be stripped entirely and windows and doors need to be removed, said Ruth Ann Norton, who heads the Baltimore-based Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning.

“If land lords don’t comply with the law, we need to have strong and immediate enforcement,” she said. “But the truth is we have to couple that with investment to actually do the work, to hire young men and women to to replace windows and to remove the lead paint.”

Given that lead was banned in the 1970s, many people are unaware that the toxin is still present in some homes. More than 525,000 children were diagnosed with an elevated level of lead in the 200s, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Most people think lead is history, that we passed a ban, therefore it’s not a problem,” said Norton. “Since 1993, we have reduced childhood lead poisoning by 98%, but the job isn’t done.”

For those exposed to lead as children when their brains are still developing, the poisoning can be devastating. The cognitive effects of lead poisoning include diminished intelligence, shortened attention span and increased risk for developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, according to Mount Sinai’s Dr. Philip Landrigan, who did pioneering research in the 1970s on the health effects of lead. “Unfortunately, it’s permanent,” he said. “The human brain displays very little capacity to repair itself once it’s damaged.”

And it might be difficult to recognize when a child has been exposed. Symptoms aren’t immediately visible, and a lead dust specimen the size of nickel could contaminate a 3,000 square-foot home, Norton said.

The effect of lead poisoning on the brain at an early age can hold back victims for life. Like Gray, many victims of lead poisoning have struggle to find and keep jobs. Some research has even suggested that lead poisoning causes sufferers to lose control of their impulses and behave erratically, which may make it more likely that they’ll commit violent crimes.

“If we’ve poisoned the child the rest of the investment fails, they can’t read, they can’t get to the classroom and they can’t learn,” said Norton “And I don’t want to fill our jails with kids.”

TIME solomon islands

People on the Solomon Islands Have Killed Over 15,000 Dolphins For Their Teeth

Dolphins in Minsk, Russia, March 8, 2015
Vasily Fedosenko—Reuters Dolphins in Minsk, Russia, March 8, 2015

The teeth are used by the islanders as a currency

Villagers in the Solomon Islands killed over 15,000 dolphins from 1976 to 2013 for their teeth, which are used as currency or personal ornamentation, according to a study published Wednesday in Royal Society Open Science.

In 2013 alone, more than 1,600 dolphins were killed by residents in the village of Fanalei. The extracted teeth are valued at 70 cents apiece.

The traditional hunting method involves up to thirty canoes driving dolphins to shore, where they are killed.

Such hunts have been going on sporadically since the early histories of the villages. There was a brief respite in 2010 when the Earth Island Institute paid villagers to stop, but the agreement deteriorated in 2013 and 1,000 dolphins were killed.

While dolphins are not classified as endangered, the resurgence of these dolphin hunts worries scientists and conservation activists because they claim far more dolphin lives than hunts in Japan and elsewhere.

TIME Environment

Watch Oregon’s Lost Lake Disappear Through a Hole in the Ground

It looks like a draining bath tub

Lost Lake in Central Oregon looks a bit like a draining bath tub.

Melted snow fills up the basin with water at the end of winter creating a lake. But at the bottom of the body of water is a giant hole that sucks down the water, much like the drain in a bath tub. The drain, an open lava tube, is one of many throughout the region, according to a report in The Bend Bulletin. The water is likely absorbed by material just below the surface.

[The Bend Bulletin]

TIME China

China Ties Officials’ Promotions to Saving the Environment

People do morning exercises on a polluted day in Jiaozuo
China Daily/Reuters People do morning exercises on a polluted day in Jiaozuo, Henan province, China, on March 16, 2015

No longer is rampant growth the Communist Party's overriding priority

For decades, Chinese officials’ job prospects have depended on one factor above all others: economic growth. The incentive structure seemed to make sense given that China has enjoyed one of the greatest economic expansions in human history. But on May 5, new Chinese regulations added another inducement to the mix: environmental protection. Officials will be held accountable for the air, water and soil in areas under their control. Should they fail an environmental responsibility audit, promotions will be nixed.

It’s no secret that China’s breakneck growth has devastated the country’s environment. Even by the government’s own reckoning — which some consider an underestimation of the problem — only eight of 74 Chinese cities met national standards for clean air last year, according to state newswire Xinhua. Sixty percent of ground water in one official survey was deemed “bad” or “very bad,” reported Xinhua.

Beijing is now talking tough and last year declared a “war against pollution.” A revised environmental law, which took effect on Jan. 1, promises to target polluters and officials who fake environmental data. Last month, construction on a controversial $3.75 billion dam was blocked. During his annual address in March, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang vowed “a firm and unrelenting approach to ensure blue skies, clear waters, and sustainable development.”

According to Xinhua, the government guidelines released on May 5 state that “by 2020, China aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40% to 45% from the 2005 level, and increase the share of nonfossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 15%.”

Earlier this year, a documentary made by former state TV journalist Chai Jing showed how state-owned industries were complicit in degrading China’s environment. The online video racked up more than 200 million views, and the country’s new Environment Minister Chen Jining praised China’s version of Rachel Carson. But a few days later, the video was pulled from the Chinese digital space.

Ma Jun, a Chinese environmentalist and former journalist, wrote about Chai for this year’s TIME 100 list of the most influential people in the world. (Ma is also a former TIME 100 honoree.) Reacting to the latest antipollution guidelines, Ma wrote on his microblog: “In the future, officials will feel more pressure to protect the environment. But how to assess the officials’ efforts to protect the environment is still a pivotal issue.”

Indeed, China’s Environment Minister has described the need for the country’s environmental legislation to have “steel teeth,” rather than acting as a “paper tiger.” So will the latest guidelines, which were formulated by China’s Cabinet, be enforced? Even the Xinhua article about the new policies ended with a note of caution, quoting a government-affiliated academic:

“The key for the next step is whether we can seriously implement the guideline,” noted Wang Yi, head of the Institute of Policy and Management under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

With reporting by Gu Yongqiang / Beijing

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