Thoughts from the Science March in Berkeley
At the urging of my STEM-educated husband, I went to the UC Berkeley campus on Saturday for the science march. Despite living six years in Berkeley during my PhD work, this was my first protest at Sproul Plaza, site of the Free Speech Movement of the sixties, and many legendary protests since.
I had been avoiding this event because I don’t like crowds, and because I expected a flyover-state-bashing smug-fest from my fellow liberals. One of the distinct problems of the politics of our time is that they have become wholly tribal. The only explanation for the average non-ExxonMobil-affiliated conservative rejecting the science on climate change is that for some reason their tribe ended up on the other side. Unlike, say, guns or taxes, most conservatives have zero personal stake in the continuing use of fossil fuels. So seeing my own tribe of political liberals get together for what I thought would be a ritual shaming of the “red-state rubes” didn’t sound like my idea of a good time. 04-23-17
N.C. Bill to Shield CAFOs’ Liability Would Curb Legal Rights for Hundreds of Thousands
North Carolina lawmakers are rushing to pass legislation to fundamentally alter the legal rights of property owners, severely restricting the longstanding right to fair compensation for hundreds of thousands of residents whose air, water, health, quality of life and property values are threatened by the pollution and stench of animal waste from factory farms.
Despite bipartisan outcry that the measure is an unconstitutional attack on traditional property rights, House Bill 467 was fast-tracked through the state House of Representatives and approved April 10 by a vote of 68-47. It is now under consideration by the state Senate, where a nearly identical companion bill, SB 460, is in the Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
The legislation would cap the amount of damages that could be sought in so-called nuisance suits brought by owners of property near concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. Under the bill, people living near CAFOs or any other “agricultural or forestry operations” could only recover damages equal to an estimate of the reduction in the fair market value or fair market rental value of their property, barring compensation for illness, injury, damage to other physical property, or the inability to use and enjoy the property. 04-17-17
The woman who stopped a fracking truck
Fed up with pollution in her town, one woman decided to block a truck from entering a fracking site – by putting her own body on the line.
Oil and gas extraction releases ozone and methane. So when a fracking boom started near Dallas, Texas, air pollution there got worse. Elida Tamez lives in Denton, where the problem is especially bad.
Tamez: “During the hottest part of the summers, you really can’t go outside and breathe very easily, especially if you’re young, and also if your health is compromised like mine.”
Tamez has cancer, but it has not stopped her from getting involved. Two years ago, the state legislature reversed a city ban on fracking in Denton. So she went out to the fracking site to protest. 04-17-17
North Carolina is Latest in State CAFO Battles
A bill to restrict damages in active lawsuits in North Carolina against the world’s largest hog grower and pork producer may be one of the more aggressive moves nationally to shield intensive livestock agriculture from court penalties. But it’s far from the only example.
The number of livestock farms converting to densely populated concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) has grown in recent decades. So have state laws written to shield the farms from interference by neighbors who oppose the odors and other conditions the farms can create.
The latest effort to do so in North Carolina comes as evidence has increased that CAFOs may sometimes pose health risks to people living nearby, such as respiratory problems, increased blood pressure, and increased stress. exposure to antibiotic resistant bacteria and mental health strains.
It also arrives as disgruntled CAFOs neighbors in this state, frequently black citizens in low-wealth communities, have more allies than ever, especially lawyers and environmentalists. 04-13-17
House passes limited hog farm liability bill
proposal to limit the financial payoff from citizen lawsuits against North Carolina’s hog farming operations passed the state House on Monday, but only after lawmakers agreed to exempt lawsuits currently pending.
The passage of House Bill 467 keeps alive 26 lawsuits pending in federal court against Smithfield Foods subsidiary Murphy-Brown. The suits, filed by 541 residents of Eastern North Carolina, allege that hog farmers spraying their fields with liquified swine waste causes offensive odors, swarming flies and other problems.
The bill had initially been written to include the pending lawsuits against Murphy-Brown, but several Republicans said during Monday’s debate that interfering with a lawsuit was unconstitutional and would deprive citizens of their legal rights and property rights. The bill, which would now affect only future lawsuits, heads to the state Senate for further debate.
Republican Rep. Jimmy Dixon, a retired farmer from Duplin County who sponsored the bill, said the lawsuits against Murphy-Brown were filed by residents who “are being prostituted for money” by opportunistic lawyers who fly in on Lear jets and troll for clients. 04-10-17
California’s cap-and-trade program isn’t a tax, court rules
State judges told the California Chamber of Commerce on Thursday that its members don’t have a right to pollute, rejecting claims by its attorneys that payments required to release greenhouse gases under a marquee climate program are a kind of tax.
The state appeals court ruling could have profound implications for the future of the state’s embattled cap-and-trade program, making it more likely to survive beyond 2020, when it could help the state meet some of the world’s most ambitious climate targets.
“The onus on us was to demonstrate that it wasn’t a tax,” said Stanley Young, spokesperson for the California Air Resources Board, which operates the cap-and-trade program and defended it in court. “We disproved the tax theory.”
Unless the ruling is overturned by the state’s supreme court, state Democrats may only need a simple majority of the legislature to support an extension of the program beyond 2020. Taxes in California require two-thirds majority votes to enact — a challenging hurdle to overcome despite a Democratic supermajority in both chambers. 04-07-17
7-Eleven to Power 425 Texas Stores With Wind Energy
The energy will come exclusively from wind farms in Texas, which is a state with more than 10,000 turbines. The agreement is 96 months and begins June 1, 2018.
“This agreement is beneficial for 7-Eleven on several fronts,” Ben Tison, 7-Eleven senior vice president of development, said in a press release. “Wind energy is a renewable, more cost-effective resource that will lower the carbon footprint of these stores as well as operating costs. Our customers, particularly Millennials and the younger Generation Z, care about sustainability and reducing environmental impacts, and they’re paying attention to what companies are doing.” 04-05-17
30-Year EPA Veteran: ‘I Have Never Seen Anything Like It’
Echoing this sentiment, retiring EPA climate change specialist Michael Cox sent a damning letter to Administrator Scott Pruitt Friday claiming “morale at EPA is the lowest since I started in 1987.” In his four-page letter, Cox wrote that he become “increasingly alarmed about the direction of EPA under your leadership.” He cited problems such as “denying fundamental climate science,” “indefensible budget cuts,” “appointing political staff who are openly hostile to EPA” and “lack of understanding of what we do at EPA.”
Emphasizing government’s role to serve the people, Cox said:
“I, and many staff, firmly believe the policies this Administration is advancing are contrary to what the majority of the American people, who pay our salaries, want EPA to accomplish, which are to ensure the air their children breath[e] is safe; the land they live, play, and hunt on to be free of toxic chemicals; and the water they drink, the lakes they swim in, and the rivers they fish in to be clean.” 04-04-17
Bill would weaken neighbors’ ability to be compensated in hog farm lawsuits
The civil justice system in North Carolina exists to protect people and their property from unreasonable actions by others. One of the longest standing causes of action in civil courts is for nuisance claims, which allow you to bring suit when your neighbor creates a condition on their property that interferes with your ability to use and enjoy your property, such as excessive noise, poorly stored garbage that might attract vermin or foul odors.
Yet, House Bill 467, which is being fast-tracked through the legislature, would prevent hundreds of rural landowners from recovering more than token damages even if a court were to decide that the corporations responsible for factory farming have committed just such a nuisance.
Nuisance suits are already limited to addressing conditions that are unreasonable for the area where they occur. They also protect pre-existing businesses, such as farms, from suits by people who “come to the nuisance” and then take issue with their surroundings. In rural agricultural areas, some noise, dust and smells are expected and reasonable; our state’s Right to Farm Act adds additional protections for farmers from being sued over such typical agricultural impacts on neighbors. So why eliminate damages for landowners that prove a nuisance which does not involve a typical agriculture impact?
Donald Trump’s Disastrous Plan To Derail U.S. Climate Action
The long-awaited order instructs the Environmental Protection Agency to review the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s signature policy for slashing greenhouse gas emissions from the utility sector, by far the country’s biggest emitter. This review marks the first step toward scrapping the regulation.
“Perhaps no single regulation threatens our miners, energy workers and companies more than this crushing attack on American industry,” Trump said at the 2 p.m. signing at the EPA. “We’re ending the theft of American prosperity and rebuilding our beloved country.”
Trump’s order also directs the Department of the Interior to lift a temporary ban, put in place last year, on coal leasing on federal lands. In addition, it eliminates federal guidance instructing agencies to factor climate change into policymaking and disbands a team tasked with calculating the “social cost of carbon.” 03-29-17
Will Trump’s EPA Greenlight a Pesticide Known to Damage Kids’ Brains?
We’ll find out by March 31.
By Friday, President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency will have to make a momentous decision: whether to protect kids from a widely used pesticide that’s known to harm their brains—or protect the interests of the chemical’s maker, Dow AgroSciences.
The pesticide in question, chlorpyrifos, is a nasty piece of work. It’s an organophosphate, a class of bug killers that work by “interrupting the electrochemical processes that nerves use to communicate with muscles and other nerves,” as the Pesticide Encyclopedia puts it. Chlorpyrifos is also an endocrine disrupter, meaning it can cause “adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects,” according to the National Institutes of Health.
Major studies from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the University of California-Davis, and Columbia University have found strong evidence that low doses of chlorpyrifos inhibits kids’ brain development, including when exposure occurs in the womb, with effects ranging from lower IQ to higher rates of autism. Several studies—examples here, here, and here—have found it in the urine of kids who live near treated fields. In 2000, the EPA banned most home uses of the chemical, citing risks to children. 03-27-17
Trump to Strike Biggest Blow Against Obama Climate Legacy
“The Trump Administration continues to fulfill its campaign promise to trample on environmental protections and prioritize the jobs of fossil fuel executives under the guise of protecting American workers,” said Ken Berlin, president and CEO of The Climate Reality Project.
While the move to scrap the Clean Power Plan raises questions on the efficacy of the U.S. involvement in the Paris agreement, a White House official said on a Tuesday night press call to review the order that staying in Paris is “still under discussion.” 03-28-17
Fracking Ban Nears Approval in Maryland
With the state’s Republican governor saying he will sign it, a bill to prevent the drilling practice nears a vote in the Senate.
The permanent ban would go into effect before a moratorium on the drilling practice expires, meaning that fracking in the state would end before it ever began.
Late last week, Hogan, a Republican who has called fracking “an economic gold mine,” announced his unexpected support for the ban.
“We must take the next step to move from virtually banning fracking to actually banning fracking,” the governor said at a press conference last Friday. “The possible environmental risks of fracking simply outweigh any potential benefits.”
It marked a stunning turnaround for a Republican governor, especially as the Trump administration has voiced unfettered support for the fossil fuel industry. Maryland’s bill needs a full Senate vote to pass, but especially now that the governor has added his support, legislators and activists have said it seems likely that it will succeed. 03-23-17
Read more at Inside Climate News
Green energy in a coal state: the struggle to bring solar jobs to West Virginia
Local entrepreneurs want to replace disappearing coal jobs with employment in solar – but that’s a tough move in a state that lacks the solar-friendly regulations of places like California
If solar energy were Dan Conant’s only passion, the West Virginia native could have stayed in Vermont, working for a fast-growing startup in a state friendly to renewables.
Instead, Conant returned home to Shepherdstown, where he started an installation company, Solar Holler, in 2014. Now, with three employees and a crew under contract, Conant’s new passion comes with an audacious goal: bring solar jobs to communities hit hard by the decline of coal.
“I really feel like we’re in a race against time, that it’s important we diversify quickly so young folks don’t have to move away,” says Conant. “It’s been really frustrating over the years to see all of my friends leave – pretty much everyone I went to high school with. The state is experiencing a serious brain drain.”
Conant is part of a small group of entrepreneurs who believe in the possibility of replacing disappearing coal jobs with employment in solar in West Virginia. It’s a monumental challenge. The state lacks the mix of solar-friendly regulations, financial incentives and high electricity prices that have made solar affordable and created a booming market in states such as California and Massachusetts. 03-19-17
Air Pollution Denial Is the New Climate Denial
The latest right-wing lie is even crazier than the supposed global warming “hoax.” But it’s gaining influence in the Trump administration.
It was known as the Great Pea Soup. In 1952, a thick, greenish-yellow fog smothered London, halting traffic and daily life. At the time, when households burned cheap coal for heat, factories spewed unregulated smoke, and buses burned diesel fuel, Londoners were used to a certain degree of greasy haze. But the Great Smog or Big Smoke, as this 1952 pea-souper was also known, was unprecedented. Bitterly cold air “soaked up the pollution and held it like a blanket over the city” for four days straight, according to the Daily Mail. Twelve thousand people died.
Sixty-five years later, our scientific understanding of air pollution has advanced immeasurably. We now know—because of events like the Great Pea Soup, but also a groundbreaking 1993 Harvard University study of smog-ridden U.S. cities and countless research papers since then—that short-term and long-term exposure to air pollution can kill people, particularly those with pre-existing conditions. “The evidence is so large,” said C. Arden Pope, a professor at Brigham Young University world-renowned researcher of air pollution’s impacts on human health. “There are very few people conducting this research and publishing it in the peer-reviewed literature who don’t think fine particles pollution can lead to death.”
Cook Inlet Gas Leak Remains Unmonitored as Danger to Marine Life Is Feared
Ice cover prevents pipeline company from monitoring the environmental impacts of the leak, as scientists fear for the health of endangered belugas and other species.
As the underwater methane leak in Cook Inlet, Alaska continues well into its third month, even basic environmental monitoring has been impossible because of ice cover. The ice also prevents any repair to the pipeline or response to the leak.
While much about the natural gas pipeline leak remains unknown, including its exact location or how the methane may be affecting the inlet’s endangered beluga whales, enough is known to make some environmental scientists concerned about a potential environmental disaster in the making.
Because of where the gas is leaking, a massive amount of water is continually exposed to the methane. And as each day goes by without a fix to the pipeline, the potential problems could be getting worse.
“It’s like a perfect storm of conditions that would encourage or enhance the diffusion of the methane into the waters,” said Chris Sabine, a chemical oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “And that’s a bad thing for the water and for the organisms that live in it.”
The 8-inch pipeline carries natural gas 15 miles from land to four offshore oil platforms. It has been leaking between 210,000 and 310,000 cubic feet of gas per day since at least late December, according to the company. The gas is about 99 percent methane. Federal regulators have said the line must be shut down if it’s not repaired permanently by May 1. Two environmental groups have separately announced their intent to sue if the pipeline is not repaired soon.
These creatures faced extinction. The Endangered Species Act saved them.
The federal Endangered Species Act has been called the world’s gold standard for environmental protection. Passed in 1973, it strengthened earlier federal protections for animals that had been nearly wiped out by humans, including bald eagles, humpback whales and California condors.
But the act has faced opposition from those who believe it unfairly protects animals that sometimes poach livestock and that it unfairly restricts land use.
At a recent hearing to discuss “modernizing the Endangered Species Act,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the ESA “is not working today.”
On the House side, Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said the act “has never been used for the rehabilitation of species. … It’s been used to control the land. We’ve missed the entire purpose of the Endangered Species Act. It has been hijacked.”
A former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director at the Senate hearing responded to calls that the law needed a dramatic change by reminding committee members of how the law is viewed in other parts of the world. “The Endangered Species Act is the world’s gold standard” for conservation and protection of animals, said Daniel M. Ashe, now president and chief executive of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. 03-11-17
Scott Pruitt’s office deluged with angry callers after he questions the science of global warming
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s phones have been ringing off the hook — literally — since he questioned the link between human activity and climate change.
The calls to Pruitt’s main line, 202-564-4700, reached such a high volume by Friday that agency officials created an impromptu call center, according to three agency employees. The officials asked for anonymity out of fear of retaliation.
By Saturday morning calls went straight to voice mail, which was full and did not accept messages. At least two calls received the message that the line was disconnected, but that appeared to be in error.
EPA spokeswoman Nancy Grantham said in an email that the agency “has logged about 300 calls and emails.”
While constituents sometimes call lawmakers in large numbers to ex
Pruitt’s comments on the CNBC program “Squawk Box” — that “we need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis” over climate change — prompted an immediate pushback from many scientists and environment groups. It also drew a rebuke from at least two of his predecessors at the EPA.press outrage over contentious policy issues, it is unusual for Americans to target a Cabinet official. 03-11-17
Chief Environmental Justice Official at EPA Resigns, With Plea to Pruitt to Protect Vulnerable Communities
Mustafa Ali quits after 24 years, as new administrator prepares deep cuts in programs affecting the poor and minorities.
The head of the environmental justice program at the Environmental Protection Agency has stepped down, departing the government with a lengthy letter to Scott Pruitt, the EPA’s new administrator, urging him not to kill the agency’s programs
Mustafa Ali, a senior adviser and assistant associate administrator at the agency, worked to alleviate the impact of air, water and industrial pollution on poverty-stricken towns and neighborhoods during nearly a quarter century with the EPA. He helped found the environmental justice office, then the environmental equity office, in 1992, during the presidency of President George H.W. Bush.
Ali leaves the EPA as Pruitt, who took office Feb. 17, prepares to implement deep cuts in the agency’s budget and staff. A Trump administration proposal would cut the EPA’s $8 billion budget by $2 billion and reduce its roster of 15,000 employees by 20 percent. An internal memo obtained by multiple news outlets on March 1 called for a complete dismantling of the office of environmental justice and elimination of a number of grant programs that address low-income and minority communities. A story in the Oregonian reported that funding for the office would decrease 78 percent, from $6.7 million to $1.5 million. 03-08-17
These 76 Women Scientists Are Changing the World
Heidi Steltzer’s job, as she put it, is “hiking where no one else will go.” As a mountain and polar ecologist studying rare plants, she’s accustomed to traveling to breathtaking Arctic vistas to chase flora along mountain ridges.
But watching glaciers calve on her first trip to Antarctica last December was a one-of-a-kind experience for the scientist. “You kind of want to see it,” she said. “Even though you know it’s not a good thing, you kind of want to be there.”
As she watched the great icebergs float by the boat in Neko Harbor, another member of Seltzer’s trip waved her arm at the scene, as if summoning a force to shave the glaciers surrounding them.
“Can you imagine if any one of us had that kind of power to see ice calve when you wanted to see it?” laughed Seltzer. “But at the same time, we knew, collectively—we do have that power. You can’t say these specific glaciers are definitively calving because of human action. But these events continuing to happen is consistent in that system and consistent with what we know about human activity and climate change.” 03-08-17
‘Just racist’: EPA cuts will hit black and Hispanic communities the hardest
Proposal would remove environmental justice office, tasked with bridging gap in pollution in black, Hispanic and low-income areas and wealthier white ones
Planned cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency are set to fall heaviest upon communities of color across the US that already suffer disproportionately from toxic pollution, green groups have warned.
Donald Trump’s administration is proposing a 25% reduction in the EPA’s $8.1bn budget, eliminating nearly 3,000 jobs and several programs including the agency’s environmental justice office. Funding for the cleanup of lead, marine pollution, tribal lands and the Great Lakes region faces severe cuts, while climate initiatives are earmarked for a 70% budget reduction.
The environmental justice office is tasked with bridging the yawning disparity in pollution experienced by black, Hispanic and low-income communities and wealthier white neighborhoods. It provides grants to communities to mop up toxins and rehabilitate abandoned industrial facilities that are invariably found in poorer areas. 03-03-17
Debunking ‘Alternative Facts’ About Pesticides and Organic Farming
With the growing demand for organic foods in the U.S., there has been a backlash from agribusiness groups, companies and individuals who see organic as a threat to their interests. These critics accuse the organic industry of using deceptive marketing practices to get consumers to pay more money for organic food. Another line of attack has been that organic farmers use lots of pesticides, some of which are more toxic than those used by conventional farmers.
The reality is that some organic farmers do use pesticides but such products are primarily derived from natural substances, go through a strict regulatory approval process to ensure they are not harmful to the environment and human health and are only allowed to be used when other pest control methods aren’t successful.
The fact is that the organic farming and food movement is based on producing healthier foods without the use of toxic pesticides. 03-01-17
Hundreds of North American bee species face extinction: study
More than 700 of the 4,000 native bee species in North America and Hawaii are believed to be inching toward extinction due to increased pesticide use leading to habitat loss, a scientific study showed on Wednesday.
The Center for Biological Diversity’s report concluded that of the 1,437 native bee species for which there was sufficient data to evaluate, about 749 of them were declining. Some 347 of the species, which play a vital role in plant pollination, are imperiled and at risk of extinction, the study found.
“It’s a quiet but staggering crisis unfolding right under our noses that illuminates the unacceptably high cost of our careless addiction to pesticides and monoculture farming,” its author, Kelsey Kopec, said in a statement. 03-01-17
House Passes NRA-Backed Bill Legalizing the Killing of Bear Cubs in Wildlife Refuges
The House of Representatives approved a controversial bill to overturn an Obama-era rule that protects wolves, bears, coyotes and other animals on more than 76 million acres of national wildlife refuges in Alaska. The measure was passed 225-193 on Thursday on a mostly party-line vote.
Animal welfare advocates said that the resolution allows trophy hunters to go to den sites to shoot wolf pups, use painful steel-jawed traps to ensnare animals and even chase down grizzlies with aircraft.
House Joint Resolution 69 (H. J. Res. 69), citing authority under the Congressional Review Act, would rescind U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rules enacted in August that are meant to maintain a sustainable population of native Alaskan wildlife.
But on the House floor, Young said his measure was about overturning “illegal” Obama administration rules and ensuring the “right of Alaskans and the right of Alaska to manage all fish and game.” 02-17-17
Study: Global warming is shrinking river vital to 40M people
Global warming is already shrinking the Colorado River, the most important waterway in the American Southwest, and it could reduce the flow by more than a third by the end of the century, two scientists say.
The river’s volume has dropped more than 19 percent during a drought gripping the region since 2000, and a shortage of rain and snow can account for only about two-thirds of that decline, according to hydrology researchers Brad Udall of Colorado State University and Jonathan Overpeck of the University of Arizona.
In a study published last week in the journal Water Resources Research, they concluded that the rest of the decline is due to a warming atmosphere induced by climate change, which is drawing more moisture out of the Colorado River Basin’s waterways, snowbanks, plants and soil by evaporation and other means.
Their projections could signal big problems for cities and farmers across the 246,000-square-mile basin, which spans parts of seven states and Mexico. The river supplies water to about 40 million people and 6,300 square miles of farmland.
The Colorado River and its two major reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are already overtaxed. Water storage at Mead was at 42 percent of capacity Wednesday, and Powell was at 46 percent. 02-23-17
Dell is turning pollution into products
The company announced today that it was starting a pilot program aimed at harvesting 25 per cent of the plastic used to build its popular XPS 13 2-in-1 laptop from the ocean.
“I have been in supply chain and operations for twenty years, and this is the first time my 10-year-old daughter has gotten excited about what I do,” Dell chief supply chain officer Kevin Brown said in a Feb. 22 statement. “This new packaging initiative demonstrates that there are real global business applications for ocean plastics that deliver positive results for our business and planet.” 02-22-17
Trump’s potential science adviser William Happer: hanging around with conspiracy theorists
The Princeton atomic physicist is no climate scientist – and he’s pushing the same old denier myths
Happer is well known for his contrarian views (that’s the polite term) on human-caused climate change.
So when it emerged last week that the professor might seriously be in the running to be President Donald Trump’s science adviser, that Princeton tag no doubt added an air of authority to his opinions.
In short, Happer thinks more CO2 will only be good for the planet – putting him at odds with science academies around the world. 02-20-17
Manhattan-Sized Iceberg Breaks off Antarctica
Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier lost another large chunk of ice at the end of January. The section of ice that broke off the glacier on the western coast of Antarctica was roughly the size of Manhattan. It was 10 times smaller than the piece the same glacier sloughed in July 2015.
After the enormous piece of ice broke off The Pine Island Glacier in 2015, cracks were spotted during a late 2016 flyover, Climate Central reported. The recent smaller, though still substantial, ice breakage is considered an “after-shock” event, Ohio State glaciologist Ian Howat told NASA. NASA’s Operational Land Imager captured a series of images documenting the ice loss.
The Pine Island Glacier is known as a fast stream glacier because it moves quickly and commonly sheds ice. It is already responsible for 25 percent of Antarctica’s ice loss, according to Digital Journal. 02-19-17
Trump Administration Sued for Suspending Protections for Endangered Bumble Bee
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued the Trump administration Tuesday for illegally suspending the rule to put the rusty patched bumble bee on the endangered species list. The rusty patched bumble bee has lost approximately 90 percent of its range in the past 20 years. It is the first bumble bee ever listed under the Endangered Species Act.
“The Trump administration broke the law by blocking the rusty patched bumble bee from the endangered species list,” Rebecca Riley, senior attorney with the NRDC, said. “The science is clear—this species is headed toward extinction and soon. There is no legitimate reason to delay federal protections for this bee. In this case, the decision to freeze protections for the rusty patched bumble bee without public notice and comment violates the law.” 2-16-17
Say Goodbye to Coal-Free Streams
President Trump has officially killed the Office of Surface Protection’s Stream Mining Rule, as he signed legislation undoing the Obama era protection Thursday.
Surrounded by lawmakers, coal miners and friendly coal executives, Trump blasted the rule as “another terrible job killing rule” and promised to save jobs “especially in the mines, which, I have been promising you—the mines are a big deal.”
A report issued by the Congressional Research Service last month found that the rule would have eliminated a minimal amount of jobs in the coal industry, while generating an additional 250 jobs per year. 02-17-17
Researchers find pesticide spills, accidents may alter farmworkers’ DNA
Study of Iowa, North Carolina farmworkers finds high doses of pesticides can potentially impact DNA, triggering cancers later in life.
Farmworkers who have a high pesticide exposure event—such as a spill—are more likely to experience molecular changes on DNA that may lead to certain cancers, according to a large U.S. study of pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina.
The research, part of the ongoing Agricultural Health Study that is monitoring the health of more than 57,000 private and commercial pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina, adds to growing evidence that high exposure to certain pesticides may spur prostate and other cancers in people handling the chemicals.
“This lines up perfectly with what the National Cancer Institute is doing on the markers that increase the risk of cancer. It’s a timely, relevant study,” said Linda McCauley, dean and professor of Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. McCauley was not involved in the study.
Researchers have long suspected pesticides may play a role in the elevated cancer rates among farmers and others who apply pesticides. 02-16-17
“Dark Forces” Are Coming for Your Organic Food
So says the former Obama USDA appointee who helped create national organic standards.
The Freedom Caucus is a rowdy band of GOP US House members most famous for triggering government shutdowns, pushing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and driving former GOP Speaker John Boehner from his post on the theory he wasn’t conservative enough. And now they’re coming for your certified-organic food.
Merrigan warned that “forces of darkness” are “coming together and saying, ‘Let’s sharpen our knives on organic.'”
Back in December, the Freedom Caucus released a “recommended list of regulations to remove.” Among its 228 targets—ranging from eliminating energy efficiency standards for washing machines to kiboshing rules on private drones—the group named the National Organic Program. 02-09-17
The Holocene climate experience
The history of climate and human health gives us a glimpse of the dramatically amplified risks we face if present trends continue.
What can we learn from the past to guide us in adapting to future climate change? What does the story about human experiences of past natural climatic changes tell us in broad terms? At the least it points to the types of risks to the health, survival, and social stability that may result from this century’s human-driven climate change.
The Holocene spans 11,000 years, a mere sliver of the total Homo sapiens experience of climate variation, but it provides a good entry point. The rigors of the preceding ice age gave way to climatically congenial times which have been sustained, by and large, throughout the Holocene epoch.
This latest of the nine interglacial periods during the past million years has been the one in which anatomically and behaviorally modern humans began exerting increasing control over the environment and its carrying capacity by shifting toward growing crops, herding animals, managing water flows, and building settlements. 02-07-17
Tech Trends That Are Changing the World for Animals—
for the Better!
Many of us just couldn’t wait for 2016 to be over, and now 2017 is off to a rocky start as well. What better way to cheer ourselves up than to take a peek at some technology trends that are revolutionizing the world for animals?
Trend #1: The Future of Protein
Imagine a world in which factory farming no longer exists, and we can feed the world high-quality protein with minimal inputs of energy, water, fertilizer, and no antibiotics! A world in which the suffering and environmental destruction inherent in factory farming is a thing of the past. This world is not as far off as you might think, thanks to advancements in cellular agriculture.
Over the past few years, innovators have been leveraging tissue engineering, synthetic biology, bioengineering, and materials science to grow or replicate factory farmed products—such as meat and dairy—in a laboratory setting. You may have heard of the Impossible Burger, Hungry Planet’s Range-Free™ burger, and Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger—which is now supported by an investment from Tyson Foods—and these are just the beginning! 02-09-17
Target’s new chemicals policy hits a bullseye
A chemical reaction needs at least two elements and a catalyst to begin a swift and irreversible change. Starting in 2017, Target’s new chemicals strategy promises to cleanse its shelves, and the brands along its value chain, of toxic chemicals. If enacted properly, the fallout of the policy and its implementation can have lasting, positive repercussions.
Target’s Jan. 25 announcement is the first push from a U.S. retailer encompassing every product it sells — including its in-house and national brand consumer products — and its operations. The process calls for several ingredients: Strategic planning from the retailer; the commitment of its business partners; and best practices borrowed from NGOs.
The hoped-for result? A healthier consumer base with loyal purchasing power, meaning sustainable returns for the company.
“Our chemical strategy will be one of the most comprehensive in the U.S. retail industry, including all Target-owned and national brand products and operations, not just formulated products,” wrote Jennifer Silberman, Target’s chief sustainability officer (CSO), in the press announcement. “Ultimately, we want to bring all stakeholders together to innovate and champion a consistent, industry-wide approach to greener chemistry.” 02-10-17
Green groups file sweeping lawsuit accusing Trump of seizing Congress’s powers on regulations
Three advocacy groups filed a sweeping federal lawsuit Wednesday, challenging President Trump’s executive order requiring two federal regulations to be “identified for elimination” for every new one added — arguing that the order fundamentally takes over Congress’s powers to enact laws to protect public health, safety, and the environment.
“The Executive Order exceeds the President’s authority under the Constitution, usurps Congress’s Article I legislative authority, and violates the President’s obligation to ‘take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,’” says the lawsuit filed by Public Citizen, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Communications Workers of America.
The executive order in question did not garner nearly as much attention as Trump’s executive order on immigration. Yet although in a very different sphere from immigration, the question the lawsuit raises is similar to that now playing out in court before the 9th Circuit — does a Trump executive order violate a very basic element of the Constitution? 02-08-17
Food Security, Forests At Risk Under Trump’s USDA
U.S. food security, forest health, and the ability of farmers to respond to climate change are all at risk if President’s Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture brings climate change skepticism to the agency, agricultural researchers and environmental law experts say.
That concern takes root not only in Trump’s own statements scoffing at climate policy, but also in the words and actions of his nominee for Agriculture secretary — former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who in 2007 resorted to prayer as a strategy to deal with a severe drought Georgia was enduring.
“Snowstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes have been around since the beginning of time, but now they want us to accept that all of it is the result of climate change,” Perdue, whose Senate confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled, wrote in a 2014 National Review column. “It’s become a running joke among the public, and liberals have lost all credibility when it comes to climate science because their arguments have become so ridiculous and so obviously disconnected from reality.”
In fact, the science of human-caused climate change is far from a running joke. 02-07-17
Does the Constitution hold the key to climate action?
How a group of young climate plaintiffs are making their case.
The day before Donald Trump’s inauguration, a group of environmental lawyers had hoped to depose Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for secretary of State, in Dallas, Texas. Julia Olson wanted to grill the former ExxonMobil CEO and American Petroleum Institute board member about climate change: what his industry knew, when they knew it, and how they lobbied the federal government to address — or ignore — the problem.
Industry lawyers disputed the request, and at press time it was unclear if the deposition would actually happen. But if it does, Olson will add Tillerson’s testimony to the evidence she is gathering for a trial in Oregon later this year, where she will try to convince a federal judge that the government’s failure to stem the climate crisis violates the constitutional rights of her clients — 21 young people not yet old enough to legally buy a drink.
This lawsuit is as broad as most are narrow. Environmental litigation is often incremental, ensuring that the government dots its i’s and crosses its t’s when permitting energy projects or carving out endangered species habitat. Olson’s case is instead designed to upend our entire fossil fuel-based energy system. 02-06-17
Mark your calendars! The March for Science is happening in D.C. on April 22.