Recent News

Into the Void

EPA science adviser says clearing board of experts leaves “huge void.”

On Monday, 38 of the EPA’s research advisers found out that their terms, set to end in August, would not be renewed.

One of them is Elena Craft, a senior health scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. “It creates a huge void in terms of scientific capacity,” Craft told Grist. “Systematically gutting these committees is essentially cutting off access to some of the greatest science advisers really in the world.”

The purge will leave 11 members on the Board of Scientific Counselors’ subcommittees. The latest move follows sweeping cuts to federal agencies in April. The empty seats on the EPA’s advisory board are expected to be filled with a more industry-friendly bunch.

Craft said that after the announcement, Robert Kavlock, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s research arm, told the advisers in a phone call that he expected the board to pay less attention to climate change.

The board of experts has counseled the EPA on its research programs for two decades. Last year, the board’s subcommittees recommended that the agency work on engaging with communities in its clean-air programs and investigate environmental risks from toxic chemicals. All this advice comes free of charge. 06-23-17

Read more at Grist


EPA cuts will harm NC’s air and water quality, hurt fishing, says state agency

Planned staff cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency, which employs more than 2,000 people in Research Triangle Park, are seen as the beginning of major cutbacks to scientific research and pollution enforcement in North Carolina.

This week’s buyout offer to more than 1,200 employees agency-wide comes in advance of Congress taking up the Trump administration’s proposal to cut the EPA’s budget by 31.4 percent. Congress may not adopt all of the administration’s suggestions, but any cuts approved in the coming months could affect jobs filled by some 700 nonprofit and state employees, most of them in the Triangle, who don’t work for the agency but whose salaries are covered through EPA funding.

“The final product may not look like this,” said Robin Smith, a former state environmental official, “but what’s scary is this is the starting point for the federal budget discussions.”

North Carolina’s EPA-funded jobs include 341 state workers at the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, many of whom issue federal permits and monitor violations under the federal Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.

The clean water law controls the quality of treated sewage that can be legally released into streams and rivers by hog processors, wastewater treatment plants and other heavy industries. The clean air law sets legal limits on smokestack emissions from power plants, chemical companies and others. 06-22-17

Read more at The News & Observer


What Happens When Organic Farms are Forced to Spray Conventional Pesticides?

One Oregon farm’s viral plea shines a national spotlight on what is usually a local debate about mandatory pesticide applications.

The plea for help from Azure Standard, a large organic farm in Central Oregon, was bound to go viral.

In mid-May, the company posted a video and call to action on Facebook labeled, “An Organic Farm Under Threat,” stating that the local government was about to spray Roundup and other toxic herbicides across more than 2,000 acres of certified organic wheat, peas, and barley.

Within days, officials in rural Sherman County—where less than 2,000 people live—had received more than 57,000 emails urging them not to spray the farm. The most comments they’d received on an ordinance in the past was five.

The underlying situation was more nuanced than a local government out to destroy an organic farm, however. (And many of the facts relayed in the social media campaign have been disputed by county officials. For instance, they never proposed using Roundup, but it makes for a splashier headline than Milestone, a lesser known herbicide.) But the incident shocked consumers and activists because of its implication: After years of cultivating healthy organic soil, could the government really mandate the use of chemical pesticides in the name of weed control?

In fact, conversations with dozens of organic activists and farmers across the country have made it clear that situations like this, while not common, do arise—usually regarding pest, rather than weed, management. And in some cases, farmers may be forced to spray pesticides on their own or the government may do it for them, using the legal authority granted by local pest and weed control ordinances.

Read more at Civil Eats


U.S.-China Beef Deal Puts Higher Emissions on the Menu

The growing Chinese middle class has a love affair with beef, and it now has a new supplier. The deal could increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from livestock.

Credit: Brandi Simons/Getty Images

Livestock production accounts for more than 14 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, the third-largest contributor after energy and transportation. Credit: Brandi Simons/Getty ImagesFor the first time in 14 years, American beef will end up on Chinese dining tables, thanks to a trade deal finalized this week.

For a meat-loving Chinese middle class, this comes as good news. But the arrangement could lead to millions of tons of additional greenhouse gases from the United States’ cattle industry, the world’s largest beef producer, especially if Chinese beef consumption continues its expected climb.

The production of livestock accounts for more than 14 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, the third-largest contributor after energy production and transportation. Of all livestock, beef cattle are the most greenhouse gas-intensive, accounting for about 40 percent of all livestock-related emissions. That’s largely because of the methane cattle emit when belching and the impact of feed production, which includes lands being converted for grazing or growing grain.

The Chinese government banned imports of American beef in 2003 after mad cow disease was discovered in some U.S. cattle herds. But the U.S. beef industry has pushed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop measures that persuaded the Chinese government to reopen its market. The final push came in the last couple of months, after President Donald Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss U.S.-China trade in April. 06-17-17

Read more at Inside Climate News


May Continues a Ridiculous Warm Streak for the Planet

This May was the second-hottest May on record. Credit: NASA GISS

Another month is in the global temperature record books. While May just missed setting a record, the data is another reminder that climate change is making the world hotter and pushing it into a new state.

This May was the second-warmest May on record, according to NASA data released on Thursday. The planet was 1.6°F (0.88°C) warmer than normal last month, trailing 2016 by just a 10th of a degree.

Widespread hot spots stretched from pole to pole, showing no corner of the globe is untouched by the impact of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Temperatures soared up to 13.8°F (7.1°C) above normal in parts of Antarctica while a wide swath of heat cooked northern Africa and western Europe.

With May in the record books, NASA data also shows that this was the second-warmest spring on record, again trailing only 2016. NASA climate researcher Gavin Schmidt said the first five months of the year make it likely that this will be the second-hottest year on record trailing only, you guessed it, 2016. 06-15-17

Read more at Climate Central


Solar Battle Continues as Duke-Backed Energy Bill Passes North Carolina House

North Carolina solar jobs by county. Solar Foundation.

Alongside Highway 401 in northern North Carolina is a 21st-century twist on a classic rural scene. A few miles outside of Roxboro, sheep graze among 5,000 panels at the Person County Solar Park, keeping the grass tidy on the rural installation.

Fields like these aren’t just scenic settings for roadtripping tourists to snap photos. Solar has “been some of the only economic development to happen in rural North Carolina in the last 30 years,” explained Richard Harkrader, CEO of a local solar company.

For companies like Harkrader’s Carolina Solar Energy, the Tar Heel State is a great place to do business. Abundant sunshine, ample support for clean energy and smart public policy have spurred the rapid growth of solar. Today, North Carolina boasts more solar capacity than every state except California. In the first quarter of 2017, North Carolina added more solar than any other state, and its solar industry employs more people than Wake Forest University. 06-13-17

Read more at EcoWatch


How This Energy Company’s Deep Influence Is Tainting Atlantic Coast Pipeline Approval Process

There is a growing political scandal in Virginia regarding the ubiquitous influence of the state’s largest energy company, Dominion Energy, and it’s raising fundamental questions about the integrity of the governor’s office and state regulators who will decide the fate of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Dominion’s longstanding exercise of power and influence in Virginia is no secret—the company is the largest corporate donor to state candidates.

But a new report by the Public Accountability Initiative documents in one place the company’s extensive, revolving door relationships with the very regulators charged with issuing permits for this controversial, $5 billion fracked-gas project.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a joint venture of Dominion, Duke Energy and Southern Company, but Dominion is the leading owner and will operate the pipeline if it goes ahead.

The project, which would source fracked gas from West Virginia, plans to traverse the Allegheny Highlands bordering West Virginia and Virginia, cut a large swath through Virginia to the Hampton Roads area, and branch south into North Carolina.

The new report details how Dominion’s influence penetrates every level of state government, from Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) officials, through General Assembly members on both sides of the aisle, to the governor’s mansion.

These relationships are fundamental to the fate of the pipeline. 06-08-17

Read more at EcoWatch


Senators Question DeVos on Connection to Heartland Institute’s Mailing to Educators Denying Climate Science

USAG- Humphreys

Four Democratic senators sent a letter to Education Sec. Betsy DeVos this week calling out her support of President Trump’s decision to pull out of Paris.

The letter points out that DeVos has not commented “on any administration decisions or policies outside of the purview of the Department of Education” except for Paris, which she praised in a statement last week.

The senators raised concerns over a Heartland Institute-funded campaign to distribute climate denier literature to every public school science teacher in the country, and questioned if DeVos or her staff had contact with the Heartland Institute on climate science issues. 06-08-17

Originally published on EcoWatch


Defying Trump, Hawaii Becomes First State to Pass Law Committing to Paris Climate Accord

Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s Anahola solar array in Hawaii in 2015. Credit Kent Nishimura for The New York Times.

Hawaii on Tuesday became the first state to pass a law committing to the goals and limits of the Paris climate accord, defying President Trump, who announced last week that he would withdraw the United States from the historic agreement.

The state’s governor, David Y. Ige, signed two bills at a ceremony at the state’s capitol rotunda in Honolulu. One of the bills was explicitly geared toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the landmark goals adopted by world leaders with the Paris Agreement in 2015. The other will establish a task force to help the state improve soil health and remove carbon from the atmosphere.

He was joined by mayors from around the state, who signed an agreement to commit to the goals of the accord.

“Many of the greatest challenges of our day hit us first, and that means that we also need to be first when it comes to creating solutions,” Mr. Ige, a Democrat in his first term as governor, said in remarks before the signing. “We are the testing grounds — as an island state, we are especially aware of the limits of our natural environment.” 06-07-17

Read more at The New York Times


Justice for All

As Trump ignores enviro justice, congressional reps step up.

Grist 50-er Nanette Diaz Barragán of California, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, and Donald McEachin of Virginia introduced a package of bills aimed at ensuring communities disproportionately effected by climate change, pollution, and environmental contamination are not forgotten.

The longshot legislation proposed by the three freshman Democrats follows their cofounding in late April of the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force, as well as a letter they sent to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt last month, urging him not to erase his agency’s progress on environmental justice.

While President Trump’s proposed budget suggests crippling the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, one of the newly introduced bills would “officially establish” the office and arm it with $16 million annually to distribute as small grants to communities developing solutions to environmental and public health disparities. 06-05-17

Read more at Grist


Regional Officials to Ask Trump Administration to End Uranium Mining Ban Near Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon North Rim. Jerry and Pat Donaho/CC

A draft letter backed by officials in Arizona and Utah is urging the Trump administration to review the uranium mining ban near the Grand Canyon. The letter, which is expected to be sent to Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke on Monday, asks the department to completely overturn the Obama-era environmental protections.

The 20-year ban was issued in 2012 by former Sec. of Interior Ken Salazar. It prohibits new claims for mining in the region, which includes more than 1 million acres of public land adjacent to the Grand Canyon. The ban, however, does not restrict existing mines, four of which continue within just a few miles of the rim of the Colorado River.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has completed many reports on the safety of the water in the region, which helped lead to the ban. In 2010, they found that 15 springs and five wells contained concentrations of uranium that exceeded drinking water limits. Also in 2010, the USGS found radioactive dust several hundred feet from the Kanab North Mine Site at more than 10 times the background concentration for uranium, according to Grand Canyon Trust.

But the draft letter to be sent by the Mohave County board and other regional leaders says that the ban is unlawful and stifles the economic growth of the mining industry. A second letter, planned to also be sent on Monday, will ask the federal government to rollback national monument protections for popular tourist destinations, including the Vermilion Cliffs area in northern Arizona and the Sonoran Desert near Phoenix.

Board chairman Gary Watson told The Guardian, “I think the Trump administration is very interested in looking at the situation. A number of companies are very anxious to get in there and start extracting uranium. There is no danger.” 06-05-17

Read more at EcoWatch


Paramilitary security tracked and targeted DAPL opponents as “jihadists,” docs show

As people nationwide rallied last year to support the Standing Rock Sioux’s attempts to block the Dakota Access Pipeline, a private security firm with experience fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan launched an intrusive military-style surveillance and counterintelligence campaign against the activists and their allies, according to internal company documents.

Its surveillance targets included everyone from Native American demonstrators to the actress Shailene Woodley, along with organizations including Black Lives Matter, 350.org, Veterans for Peace, the Catholic Worker Movement, and Food and Water Watch. The records label the protestors “jihadists” and seek to justify escalating action against them.

The activities of the company spanned, but were not limited to, the four states through which the pipeline passes: South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. The documents also show that its surveillance efforts continued after the breakup of the Standing Rock camps this winter, including at ongoing pipeline protests in southeastern Pennsylvania, Iowa, and South Dakota.

The internal documents from the firm, called TigerSwan, take the form of situation reports, or “sitreps,” prepared between September and April for its employer, Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners. The records detail a range of tactics that experts from the American Civil Liberties Union, National Lawyers Guild, and Electronic Frontier Foundation say would likely be illegal if conducted by law enforcement. 06-01-17

Read more at Grist


Exxon Shareholders Approve Climate Resolution: 62% Vote for Disclosure

The landmark investor vote defied Exxon’s management. It requires the oil giant to begin reporting climate-related risks to its business.

Karen Bleier, Getty Images

ExxonMobil shareholders voted Wednesday to require the world’s largest oil and gas company to report on the impacts of climate change to its business—defying management, and marking a milestone in a 28-year effort by activist investors.

Sixty-two percent of shareholders voted for Exxon to begin producing an annual report that explains how the company will be affected by global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris climate agreement. The analysis should address the financial risks the company faces as nations slash fossil fuel use in an effort to prevent worldwide temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.

Last year, 38 percent of Exxon shareholders supported essentially the same measure, which at the time was a record.
The vote at Exxon shows the rapid erosion of support for the company’s defiant stance on climate disclosure, and it caps a shareholder meeting season that saw unprecedented support for greater corporate disclosure on climate change. In recent weeks, shareholders voted in favor of climate risk analysis at two other major energy companies, Occidental Petroleum and PPL, Pennsylvania’s largest utility. Climate-related shareholder resolutions also garnered record support at other big U.S. utilities that rely on fossil fuels: Dominion Resources (47.8%), Duke Energy (46.4%) and DTE Energy (45%).
In a week when President Donald Trump is expected to either back out of the Paris accord or scale down the U.S. commitment to cut carbon emissions, the vote at Exxon shows that momentum for action on climate is growing without White House leadership. 06-01-17

Eat Less Meat, Save the Planet

A few times a year, new research reminds us that Americans eat a lot of beef, pork, and chicken.

Industrial agriculture is reshaping the world, from our atmosphere to our dinner plates. Familiarize yourself with the current landscape: Meet your meats. 05-31-17

Read more at Civil Eats


Michael Mann: If You Believe in Science You Must Now Make Your Voice Heard

It’s an honor to address this group of distinguished faculty, proud parents, supportive family members and friends.

We’re gathered here in this idyllic location to celebrate the accomplishments of these young adults as they successfully complete one great challenge and prepare for others to come.

So please join me in congratulating Green Mountain College’s (GMC) Class of 2017.

I’m especially honored to be giving the commencement speech at Green Mountain College for at least two reasons.

First of all, this is my home—broadly speaking.

I grew up in the foothills of the Green Mountains. Well, those of us in the slightly less “green” state of Massachusetts call them the Berkshires—but it is the same mountain range, the same magical small corner of the world.

Growing up in the town of Amherst, Massachusetts 100 miles southeast of here, I gained an appreciation for the wonder of nature hiking those mountains, wading in those streams, bicycling up and down those same hills.

I was an avid cyclist—though I didn’t rack up the 4,000 miles a year that your president does.

Really? 4,000 miles a year President Allen?? [looking at him]

Have you tallied the carbon footprint of all of that respiration? I did (the nerd in me couldn’t possibly resist). It’s 95 entire kilograms of CO2 equivalent.

I hope that’s been accounted for in GMC’s carbon footprint estimates.

But let me get back on message… 05-21-17

Read more at EcoWatch


Fossil Fuel Groups Want Out of Children’s Climate Change Lawsuit

The industry groups fought to have the case dismissed. If allowed to withdraw now, they could avoid releasing documents and answering questions under oath.

Several of the children suing the government over climate change joined the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., in April. Credit: Zahra Hirji/InsideClimate News

The country’s most powerful fossil fuel lobbies have asked a federal judge for permission to withdraw from a groundbreaking climate change lawsuit, a stark about-face after the groups voluntarily intervened in the case two years ago and fought assiduously to have it dismissed.

The federal lawsuit, Juliana et al v. United States, was brought in August 2015 on behalf of 21 youths, now aged 9 to 21, over the federal government’s alleged failure to rein in fossil fuel development and address climate change. The American Petroleum Institute (API), the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) joined the federal government’s side as intervenors, saying the case was a “direct threat” to their businesses.

It is unusual for intervenors to seek to withdraw from a case. API and AFPM filed withdrawal motions in federal district court in Eugene, Oregon, on Thursday, and NAM filed a similar motion on Monday. It is unclear when federal magistrate judge Thomas Coffin will rule on their requests.

The intervenors and the Justice Department have repeatedly filed motions to have the case dismissed. But federal judges have ruled against them, and the case could go to trial as early as November. In the interim, lawyers for both sides could seek documents from one another and question people under oath through what is known as the discovery process.

Julia Olson, one of the lead counsels for the plaintiffs and executive director of the environmental group Our Children’s Trust, said the industry lobbyists are seeking to withdraw in order to avoid handing over potentially damaging information. 05-28-17

Read more at Inside Climate News


With public lands at stake, outdoors enthusiasts head to D.C.

This story was originally published by Fusion and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Climber Tommy Caldwell speaks during a news conference in El Capitan meadow in Yosemite National Park, California, in 2015. AP

Professional rock climber Tommy Caldwell admits he feels more comfortable climbing sheer cliff faces thousands of feet in the air than discussing public policy with national lawmakers.

“Climbing big walls is what I know,” says the 38-year-old climber, who made national headlines for bagging the first free ascent of Yosemite’s Dawn Wall in 2015. “Getting dressed up in a suit and going up to Capitol Hill is definitely not my safe spot.”

Nevertheless, Caldwell, along with a number of the world’s top climbers like Alex Honnold, Kai Lightner, Sasha DiGiulian, and Libby Sauter, joined advocacy groups and outdoor industry representatives in Washington, D.C., last Thursday to lobby for the protection of our nation’s public lands.

“I’ve spent my entire life on public lands. More than 50 percent of the days of my life have been spent in national parks,” Caldwell says. “I think public lands may be the best thing about America, and I don’t want that going away.”

“One of the goals was to provide a unique voice so that congressional representatives could understand a different perspective on public lands,” says Erik Murdock, policy director at the Access Fund, one of the advocacy groups behind the event. “About 60 percent of our climbing areas across the country are on federal lands. Our mission is to make sure that these areas are protected and conserved for future generations.” 05-21-17

Read more at Grist


Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas Has a Problem with Science – and with Voters

A 2007 view of the Pebble mine project test drilling in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska near the village of Iliamma, Alaska, near some of the world’s most productive wild salmon streams. Photo: Al Grillo/AP

For most of his four years as chair of the Science Committee, Republican Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas has served up more spectacle than policy. As arguably the showiest climate denier and opponent of environmental regulations in Congress, Smith has orchestrated climate change hearings that are the scientific equivalent of pro-wrestling matches. Stacked with skeptics who mocked mainstream climate science, they offered virtually no chance for significant dialogue. Similarly, Smith’s challenge to the well-documented relationship between air pollution and lung disease was seen as little more than a craven nod to the energy companies that were responsible for that pollution. And his repeated use of his subpoena power has served mostly to attract attention and make life difficult for the scientists and government workers he has targeted.

But Smith, who has boldly argued against funding for an institute that studies the toxicity of substances such as lead and asbestos, and has rushed to the defense of Monsanto’s RoundUp, is no longer just throwing bombs from the margins. With Trump in the White House and Scott Pruitt at the helm of the EPA, Smith now has the power to turn his visions of regulatory rollback into realities.

Already this session Smith revived two bills that, before the election, had been dismissed as nuisances. The Honest Act, which grew out of a strategy developed by the tobacco industry, is designed to prohibit the EPA from using public health research; the other bill, known as the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act, was crafted to allow industry representatives to serve on scientific boards. Both bills were passed by the House in March. 05-20-17

Read more at The Intercept


Climate change is messing with all your favorite birds

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Timing is everything for migratory songbirds chirping away in North America’s trees

If they arrive too late, they’ll get only the scraps of spring’s insect buffet. Plus, the best nesting spots and mates will be taken, leaving them with lackluster prospects for making baby birds. Arrive too early, and they’ll face a hostile winter chill.

Yet climate change is making it harder for birds to get it right. Spring is arriving earlier in the eastern states and later in the west, disrupting the timing of dozens of songbird species, a new study found.

As birds struggle to settle in and lay eggs, it could create a “domino effect” that threatens the survival of many popular backyard species, U.S. and Canadian researchers said in a study published Monday in the journal Scientific Reports. 05-16-17

Read more at Mashable

 

 


U.S. Population Reaches New Milestone

The total number of people living in the U.S. surpassed 325 million Sunday, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In the past 50 years, as the global human population has doubled, wildlife populations have been halved. During that same period, the U.S. grew by more than 100 million people. The United Nations predicts that the world’s human population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050 and exceed 11 billion by 2100.

“Hitting this population record highlights the danger of the Trump administration’s attacks on reproductive healthcare and environmental protections,” said Leigh Moyer, a population organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“We’re crowding out wildlife and destroying wild places at alarming rates, and Trump’s reckless actions will worsen the effects of our unsustainable population growth, overconsumption and urban sprawl.”

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the U.S. population grows by one person every 14 seconds. While the U.S. accounts for less than 5 percent of the global population, it is responsible for at least 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The Trump administration has already instituted policies that prevent U.S. dollars from funding clinics that provide family planning and reproductive health aid if they also provide abortion service, despite the fact that government money is not used to fund abortion. The administration has also taken steps to roll back protections for wildlife, clean air and water and the climate, which all face increased pressure with a growing population. 05-15-17

Read more at EcoWatch


Germany Breaks Record: 85% of Energy Comes From Renewables Last Weekend

Germany’s “Energiewende”—the country’s low-carbon energy revolution—turned another successful corner last weekend when renewable energy sources nearly stamped out coal and nuclear.

Thanks to a particularly breezy and sunny Sunday, renewables such as wind and solar, along with some biomass and hydropower, peaked at a record 85 percent, or 55.2 gigawatts, and even came along with negative prices for several hours at the electricity exchange.

Conversely, coal use was at an all-time minimum. According to DW, on April 30, coal-fired power stations were only operational between 3 and 4 p.m. and produced less than eight gigawatts of energy, well below the maximum output of about 50 gigawatts. 05-04-17

Read more at EcoWatch


Glacier National Park used to have 150 glaciers. Now it has 26.

Glacier National Park is losing its namesake glaciers and new research shows just how quickly: Over the past 50 years, 39 of the park’s glaciers have shrunk dramatically, some by as much as 85 percent.

Of the 150 glaciers that existed it the park in the late 19th century, only 26 remain.

“The trend is consistent, there’s been no reversal,” Daniel Fagre, the U.S. Geological Survey scientist who led the research, said.

The loss of glaciers potentially affects not just tourism to the park, which hit a record 2.9 million visitors last year, but also local ecosystems that depend on the summer release of glacial meltwater.

The pristine, 1 million–acre park sits along the border with Canada in Montana and has long been a poster child for climate change in U.S. national parks. Side-by-side photo comparisons show in the starkest terms just how far some glaciers have retreated, with some only reduced to small nubs of ice. 05-11-17

Read more at Grist


Hog poop bacteria from big NC farms taints nearby homes

As the state bats around a bill shielding hog farms from some nuisance lawsuits, new evidence filed in court last week finds harmful bacteria on homes near large confinement farms.

Bacteria from large-scale industrial hog farms in North Carolina are contaminating the homes, lawns and air of nearby private homes, according to new evidence.

The bacteria, called pig2bac, are a marker for pig poop, which contains hundreds of other pathogens many of which can make people sick.

The evidence was filed in federal court last Friday and comes as state Republicans are pushing forward a bill to shield large-scale farms from many of the legal claims that seek to recover damages from lost property value, health effects and overall suffering from living near hog farm pollution and smells.

The evidence was from a study by Shane Rogers, a professor and researcher at Clarkston University in New York, who tested the air and land and exterior walls of 17 homes near a Smithfield Foods hog confinement operation. The testing was done was done in 2016.

Rogers, who is an expert witness in a lawsuit by hundreds of people from North Carolina against a Smithfield Foods subsidiary, reported that 14 of the homes tested positive for the pig2bac bacteria.

In the six dust samples he collected from the air and yards of four residences he found “tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of hog feces DNA particles.” 05-11-17

Read more at Environmental Health News


Huge Victory: Natural Gas Storage Plan Halted at Seneca Lake

The news broke Wednesday in the most banal of venues: the biweekly environmental compliance report submitted by Arlington Storage Company to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Deep in the third paragraph of section B, this wholly owned subsidiary of the Houston-based gas storage and transportation giant, Crestwood Midstream, announced that it was walking away from its FERC-approved plan to increase its storage of methane (natural gas) in unlined, abandoned salt caverns along the shoreline of Seneca Lake.

In its own words, “Arlington has discontinued efforts to complete the Gallery 2 Expansion Project.”

It was a blandly expressed ending to a dramatic conflict that has roiled New York’s Finger Lakes region for more than six years. Together with a separate—and still unresolved—plan for lakeside storage of propane (LPG) in adjacent salt caverns, Crestwood’s Arlington operation has been the focus of massive, unrelenting citizen opposition that has taken many forms. 05-11-17

Read more at EcoWatch


Logging Plays Bigger Climate Change Role Than U.S. Acknowledges, Report Says

Officials underestimate the role that preserving forests can play in addressing the climate crisis, according to the Dogwood Alliance.

Credit: David McNew/Getty Images

The report also seeks to rebut the notion that burning wood is a “carbon neutral” alternative to burning coal and oil for electricity.

The U.S. has consistently underestimated the impact that logging has on accelerating climate change and the role that preserving its forests can play in sucking carbon out of the atmosphere. That’s the conclusion of a new report that also seeks to rebut the notion that burning wood is a “carbon neutral” alternative to burning coal and oil for electricity.

Published by the Dogwood Alliance, a North Carolina-based forest conservation group, the report argues that the U.S. has placed too much emphasis on protecting the world’s tropical forests, while ignoring the logging industry’s impact on greenhouse gases released from cutting its own natural woodlands, especially older forests.

“The U.S. has just failed to acknowledge the role that the logging industry has played in the climate crisis, and has failed to embrace the need to restore old growth, intact forests across the U.S. as a critical piece of the puzzle in solving the climate crisis,” said Danna Smith, a co-author of the report. 05-05-17

Read more at Inside Climate News


Florida’s building boom threatens wildlife-rich lagoon

Richard Graulich/the Palm Beach Post via AP

The most biologically diverse waterway in America is seriously ill.

The Indian River Lagoon is repeatedly being choked with oxygen-robbing algae, its surface increasingly dotted with thousands of dead fish, manatees, birds and other creatures.

The culprits: farm runoff and a huge influx of people that has sent lawn fertilizer and other pollutants into the lagoon, which runs 156 miles along Florida’s Atlantic Coast, almost to Palm Beach, and includes the Cape Canaveral area.

“It’s the death by a thousand cuts,” said Bob Knight, an environmental scientist with the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute who has studied Florida’s waters for 40 years.

The lagoon’s woes threaten the region’s $2.5 billion recreation, fishing and tourism economy, alarming kayak tour operators, charter boat captains, restaurateurs and organizers of bird-watching festivals.

Environmentalists are distressed to see the lagoon’s rich variety of life threatened in a crisis similar to what has happened in recent decades in such places as the Chesapeake Bay, Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico. 05-04-17

Read more at Lancaster Online


Not a Drill

Alaska Natives are fighting Trump’s call to “drill, baby, drill.”

Last Friday, the president signed an executive order to open up territory in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans to offshore oil and gas exploration. On Wednesday, the group Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands joined other environmental groups — including the League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council — in filing a lawsuit in federal court to stop that order.

President Trump was aiming to undo a move that then-President Obama made in December, one month before Trump’s inauguration. Obama banned oil drilling in nearly all of the U.S.-held Arctic, as well as underwater canyons in the Atlantic. Obama’s move relied on an obscure law from the 1950s which literally states that the president can “from time to time, withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer continental shelf.” 05-03-17

Read more at Grist


Omnibus deal ignores Trump calls for deep energy, enviro cuts

Photo: Hannah Northey, AP Images & NRDC

Congressional leaders reached a bipartisan deal last night to fund the government through the rest of the year that avoids steep cuts for U.S. EPA and renewable energy programs sought by the Trump administration.

The bill would also provide a long-sought, permanent fix to guarantee health care benefits for retired union coal miners and their widows. It does not contain many of the policy riders sought by Republicans to ease environmental regulations.

Lawmakers need to approve the $1.017 trillion deal by the end of the week and avoid a federal shutdown when current, stopgap funding expires late Friday. The legislation would provide funds for the final five months of the fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30.

Appropriators have spent months negotiating the omnibus package, which will include all 11 remaining fiscal 2017 spending bills. In advance of the deal, federal agencies have been operating under fiscal 2016 spending levels with little flexibility in making budget changes. 05-01-17

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