August 1, 2014

Study: New buildings under construction meeting code for energy conservation

So far, so good.

A statewide spot check by the Nebraska Energy Office is finding most new buildings under construction are meeting guidelines laid out in what’s known as the International Energy Conservation Code.

Ginger Willson, director of the state Energy Office, says they looked at 38 commercial buildings across Nebraska in different stages of construction.

Willson says, “Overall, just with the statewide average at 83%, we were very happy that we are making some very progressive and positive steps forward in building code compliance.”

The code requires 90% compliance by 2017 and Willson says this check allowed the state to form a baseline and understand areas of compliance that need improvement by that deadline.

Willson says, “The report gave us some very good recommendations on what we could do to focus training in certain competency areas and knowledge of the code, such as the building envelope, the HVAC systems, the lighting systems, those types of things.”

Willson says students from the University of Nebraska were extremely helpful in completing the check.

She says future energy code education and experience in knowing and checking compliance for those codes will be a focus for architecture and construction management students.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


EPA meets with critics, seems determined to expand Clean Water Act (AUDIO)

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency has met with some of her fiercest critics, but seems unwilling to modify a proposed change to the Clean Water Act.

Sen. Mike Johanns joined other Republican senators from the Senate Agriculture Committee in confronting EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, arguing against expansion of the Clean Water Act which could lead to the regulation of ponds and streams on farms.

“She was polite and she listened to us, but at the end of the day, I’m not certain that we moved the ball down the field at all,” Johanns tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call. “I think she’s determine to regulate. I think she believes she has the power to do that and she’s going to do it.”

The EPA is considering the removal of the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act, a word that restricts the EPA’s regulatory power to bodies of water that support watercraft. Agricultural groups worry removal would allow the regulatory arm of the EPA to reach into agricultural operations, with the potential to impose federal regulations on ponds, creeks, streams, even ditches which run only after heavy rains.

The proposal to expand the Clean Water Act only feeds fears that added federal regulations could greatly harm the Midwest economy.

Johanns and others have criticized the EPA proposal to mandate states cut carbon dioxide emissions 30% by 2030, a move they contend would greatly increase the cost of electricity in a section of the country that relies heavily on coal-fired power plants.

Johanns says Republicans expressed frustration with what he calls a long list of regulatory burdens against agriculture.

“The five-and-a-half years of this administration giving ag producers the cold shoulder when it comes to regulations really does need to end.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:40]

Chadron resident kills young cougar that fails to flee

A young female mountain lion has been shot and killed when it failed to flee a home near Chadron.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission says the homeowner reported he shot the 5-month-old female Saturday at his home south of Chadron.

According to the resident, the mountain lion crouched in the grass about 20 yards from his house where two young children were on the patio. The man says he retrieved a rifle from the house, approached the cougar, and then shot it when it stood but did not flee. The mountain lion weighed about 30 pounds.

The man notified authorities of the shooting in accordance with state law.

The Dawes County Sheriff’s Department investigated the incident and took possession of the animal. It was transferred to Nebraska Game and Parks officials Sunday.

Authorities determined the man acted within the law.

Health alert lifted for one southeast lake, imposed on another

Just as a health alert ended for one Nebraska lake, it began for another.

State authorities have issued a health alert for toxic blue-green algae for Rockford Lake in southern Nebraska’s Gage County.

That news comes on the heels of the state lifting a health alert for another southeastern Nebraska lake, Kirkman’s Cove in Richardson County.

The state routinely monitors lakes during the summer vacation season.

Samples taken from Rockford Lake have registered above the state health alert threshold of 20 parts per billion (ppb) of total microcystin (a toxin released by certain strains of blue-green algae.)

Health alerts last for at least two weeks, because lakes must record two consecutive weeks of readings below the threshold before the state lifts the alert.

Swimming beaches have been closed at Kirkman’s Cove. Recreational boating and fishing are permitted. The public is advised to avoid ingestion of water or full immersion in water. Camping, picnics, and other outdoor activities will continue during the health alert.

Sampling results for toxic algae and bacteria will be updated every Friday and posted on NDEQ’s web site,

(For more information about potential health effects of toxic blue-green algae, what to look for, and steps to avoid exposure, please refer to the Fact Sheet by clicking here.

Senators see little impact from Supreme Court EPA ruling (AUDIO)

A United States Supreme Court ruling restricting the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t restrict it all that much, according to Nebraska’s two senators.

A Supreme Court decision declares the EPA went too far in regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, but only a bit too far.

Sen. Deb Fischer sees little practical effect from the decision.

“My understanding is it will not change what’s going on with power plants and the big emitters of emissions. It will only affect smaller businesses,” Fischer says.

The court, in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, upheld the EPA’s authority to regulate major sources of carbon emissions, but stated the agency had gone too far in interpreting its power. Opponents of the EPA latched on to the court’s ruling of over-reach. Yet, even the court itself stated its ruling only pulls back the EPA a little bit.

Earlier, the court upheld the EPA on its move to regulate air pollution that drifts across state lines.

The latest ruling comes on a case filed before the EPA announce further moves to restrict coal-fired power plants.

Sen. Mike Johanns says the Supreme Court merely nibbled around the edges of the EPA’s power.

“I think coal-fired plants are still under attack by the EPA,” according to Johanns. “I think you’re going to see that continue, no doubt about it.”

The EPA has announced it wants to cut carbon emissions from existing plants by up to 30%, a move that would affect the Midwest, including Nebraska, greatly due to its reliance on coal as a power source.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]