Sustainability Reads: May 2- May 15

NYC Council passes controversial 5-cent bag fee
NYC finally moved forward with a plastic bag bill that was in the works for years. Starting October 1, 2016,  a 5-cent fee (down from the proposed 10-cent) will be placed on both single-use paper and plastic bags. The bill is good news as it will disincentivize the use of single-use bags at retail, grocery, and convenience stores as well as some street vendors; restaurants and individuals shopping through government assistance programs are exempt. The aspect that sets the NYC bill apart from other plastic bag bills in the U.S., is that the stores get to keep the income from selling bags, it doesn’t go for education or cleanup. We hope that the bill is successful in reducing plastic bag use and litter in the city because it is needed badly, but unfortunately with the fee low at 5-cents and without funds going towards education the bill is not as strong as it should be. By Kristin Musulin on Waste Dive.

The Philippines investigates Shell and Exxon over climate change
The Commission of Human Rights of the Philippines will investigate if 50 fossil fuel companies violate the human rights of those hit by extreme weather caused by climate change, in particular, the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan which hit the Philippines and that killed more than 6,300 people and causing billions of dollars worth of damage. The petition was filed by Greenpeace and the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement on behalf of typhoon survivors. The hearing will consider whether companies’ policies and investments adequately address human rights issues and decide whether to hold them accountable for the vulnerable most impacted by extreme weather as a result of their GHG emissions. By Emma Howard at The Guardian.

EPA Releases First-Ever Standards to Cut Methane Emissions from the Oil and Gas Sector
A move forward in another area lacking attention: methane emissions in the U.S. On May 12th, the EPA announced the first-ever standards to cut methane emissions, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and toxic air emissions from the oil and gas sector. Although it’s only for new, modified and reconstructed sources, the EPA press release said “EPA is also starting the process to control emissions from existing sources by issuing for public comment an Information Collection Request (ICR) that requires companies to provide the information that will be necessary for EPA to reduce methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources.” We’ll take it for now.

The vicious cycle that makes people afraid to talk about climate change
An interesting study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology explores a phenomenon coined “pluralistic ignorance” in which people don’t talk about certain issues (climate change today, racial segregation in the 70’s) because they think they feel differently than the majority, but in fact, the majority of Americans feel the same way (climate change is real, racial segregation is bad). In two samples, the tendency to feel uncomfortable talking about climate due to a fear that others don’t feel the same way is real. What can we do to address this in our everyday lives? Talk about climate change. Article by Chris Mooney, research by Nathaniel Geiger and Janet Swim.

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