Recent News


Latinos Leading On Climate Change

A recent study by Yale Climate Change Communications found that U.S. Latinos are significantly more worried about climate change than other groups and are willing to take action. They also tend to be more vulnerable to air pollution and extreme weather because of where they live and work. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, for example, hit Latino communities especially hard. All across the country, Latinos are working hard to fight polluters and protect our air, water and climate.

Here are the Latino voices leading the way in fighting climate change.

Elizabeth Yeampierre – Executive Director, UPROSE

Elizabeth Yeampierre leads UPROSE, Brooklyn’s oldest Latino community-based organization. She is a national leader on climate justice who advocates for sustainable development and she was the first Latina chair of the EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. In 2015, she was one of the opening speakers at Pope Francis’s Climate Change Rally at the National Mall in Washington DC.

“As we face a full-scale assault on our very existence, we are planning, organizing, building, educating and resisting with an understanding of what this means for our communities.” Op-ed in the Guardian.

Read more at Huffington Post


Trump’s Mine-Safety Nominee Ran Coal Firm Cited for Illegal Employment Practices

Records show the coal mining company formerly run by David Zatezalo retaliated against a foreman who complained of harassment and unsafe conditions

The coal mining company run by President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the nation’s top mining regulator has already come under criticism for weaknesses in its safety record. It turns out the company was also found by the government to have illegally retaliated against a foreman who complained about sexual and ethnic harassment from supervisors, unsafe conditions and drug use at one of its mines.

The little-noticed case involved a foreman at a mine operated by Rhino Energy WV. At the time, the president of the mine’s parent company, Rhino Resource Partners, was David Zatezalo, who is now Trump’s nominee to run the Mine Safety and Health Administration. A Senate committee is scheduled to vote on his nomination Wednesday.

In the West Virginia case, Michael Jagodzinski, a foreman at the mine located near the town of Bolt, complained in 2011 that he was the target of ethnic and gay slurs. The company illegally retaliated against him, falsely accusing him of sexual harassment, and then fired him, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found. As a result, Rhino Energy WV entered into a five-year consent decree last year, agreeing to pay $62,500 to Jagodzinski and implement reforms, including a policy against harassment and training for all managers and employees on prohibitions against discrimination and retaliation. The company also agreed to report how it handles any internal complaints of discrimination to federal regulators, and post notices about the settlement at all mine sites. 10-17-17

Read more at ProPublica


Cleanup From California Fires Poses Environmental and Health Risks

National Guard members helped returning residents dig through the debris of their homes in the Larkfield area of Santa Rosa, Calif. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

SANTA ROSA, Calif. — Dr. Karen Relucio has heard reports of people digging into the ashes of their burned homes in recent days without gloves, wearing only shorts and T-shirts, looking for sentimental items that might have survived California’s horrific wildfires. And as the chief public health officer in Napa County, one of the hardest-hit places, she has used her office as a bully pulpit to urge them to stop, immediately.

“Just think of all the hazardous materials in your house,” she said in an interview. “Your chemicals, your pesticides, propane, gasoline, plastic and paint — it all burns down into the ash. It concentrates in the ash, and it’s toxic,” said Dr. Relucio, who declared a public emergency over the hazardous waste from the fires, as have at least two other counties.

California’s fires are far from out. They have killed at least 41 people and burned about 5,700 structures and over 213,000 acres since they exploded in force on Oct. 8 and 9 — record totals for a state that is used to wildfires. Thousands of firefighters are still at work fighting blazes and tens of thousands of people remain under mandatory evacuation from their homes, though fire officials have expressed cautious optimism about bringing the fires into containment.

But even as the smell of smoke still wafts through this area north of San Francisco, public health officials and environmental cleanup experts are starting to think about the next chapter of the disaster: the huge amount of debris and ash that will be left behind.

Read more at The New York Times


‘This is the future’: solar-powered family car hailed by experts

The Nuna 9 solar car won the solar race. Photograph: David Mariuz/AAP

As the annual solar race across Australia wraps up, a Dutch entry averaged 69kmh from Darwin to Adelaide and resupplied the grid

A futuristic family car that not only uses the sun as power but supplies energy back to the grid has been hailed as “the future” as the annual World Solar Challenge wrapped up in Australia.

The innovative bi-annual contest, first run in 1987, began in Darwin a week ago with 41 vehicles setting off on a 3,000km (1,860-mile) trip through the heart of Australia to Adelaide.

A Dutch car, Nuna 9, won the race for the third-straight time, crossing the finish line on Thursday after travelling at an average speed of 81.2kmh (55.5 mph).

It was competing in the challenger class, which featured slick, single seat aerodynamic vehicles built for sustained endurance and total energy efficiency.

But there was also a cruiser class, introduced to bridge the gap between high-end technology and everyday driving practicality.

German team HS Bochum was the first to arrive Friday with its stylish four-seater classic coupe, featuring sustainable materials such as vegan pineapple leather seats.

But another Dutch team, Eindhoven, was set to be crowned overall champion based on a system taking into account design, practicality, energy efficiency, and innovation, organisers said.

Read more at The Guardian


New Mexico’s Largest Utility Will Stop Burning Coal, Despite Trump’s Clean Power Plan Rollback

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt announced Monday that the Trump administration is rolling back the Clean Power Plan to end the previous administration’s “war on coal” but there’s a big problem: Obama didn’t kill the coal industry—the market for cheap natural gas and increasingly affordable renewable energy did.

Case in point, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that New Mexico‘s largest utility still plans to phase out coal as a power source in 2031. The Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) currently uses coal for 56 percent of its energy generation but wants drop use to 12 percent by 2025.

“The actions we have planned represent the most cost-effective ways to serve our customers with reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible energy,” Ray Sandoval, a company spokesman, explained to the publication.

In April, Pat Vincent-Collawn, CEO of PNM Resources, said moving toward renewables and natural gas is “the best, most economical path to a strong energy future for New Mexico.”

PNM intends to stick with the Obama-era regulation even though it specifically targeted emissions from the nation’s coal-burning power plants.

Pruitt argues that the 2015 climate policy overstepped federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet. 10-11-17

Read more at EcoWatch


Complaints surge about weed killer dicamba’s damage to oak trees

Oak trees with cupped leaves, a sign of damage from drifting pesticides like dicamba. Darrell Hoemann/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

As soybean and cotton farmers across the Midwest and South continue to see their crops ravaged from the weed killer dicamba, new complaints have pointed to the herbicide as a factor in widespread damage to oak trees.

Monsanto and BASF, two of agriculture’s largest seed and pesticide providers, released versions of the dicamba this growing season. The new versions came several months after Monsanto released its latest cotton and soybean seeds genetically engineered to resist dicamba in 2016.

Since then, farmers across the Midwest and South have blamed drift from dicamba for ruining millions of acres of soybeans and cotton produced by older versions of seeds.

Now, complaints have emerged that the misuse of dicamba may be responsible for damage to oak trees in Iowa, Illinois and Tennessee.

  • In Iowa, the Department of Natural Resources has received more than 1,000 complaints about oak tree damage from unknown pesticides, some of which cited dicamba as a cause.
  • In Illinois, retired biologist Lou Nelms who was a researcher at the University of Illinois, has documented damage to oak trees across the state from dicamba and filed numerous complaints with Illinois Department of Agriculture.
  • In Tennessee, the Department of Agriculture investigated and confirmed complaints that dicamba had damaged oak trees at the state’s largest natural lake.

“I’ve seen (pre-planting damage) year after year after year,” Nelms said of dicamba’s effect. “I’ve been seeing these signs for 40 years. To me, it’s just obvious.” 10-9-17

Read more at Investigate Midwest


Wood Pellet Demand, Opposition Growing

The Dogwood Alliance and other groups say forests across the Southeast are being clear-cut for wood pellets as biofuel in Europe. Photo: Dogwood Alliance

Wood pellets are often marketed as an energy source that’s a better alternative to fossil fuels, but environmental groups worry about ties between the industry and loss of biodiversity, deforestation, faulty trade policies and climate change.

At a forum last week in the Warwick Center on the University of North Carolina Wilmington campus, speakers focused on the effects of the wood pellet industry in North Carolina. They said that wetlands and mature forests are at risk here, industry logging is hurting water quality and wildlife and increasing heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere.

“Forests aren’t a big part of the conversation about climate change, but they need to be,” said Danna Smith, founder of the Dogwood Alliance, one of the forum sponsors, along with the Cape Fear Sierra Club and Clean Air Carolina.

Demand for wood pellets has increased rapidly in recent years, said Robert Abt, a resource economist at North Carolina State University. Abt noted the decline in traditional timber markets and pine plantations, and how, thanks to an increasing demand from Europe, the wood pellet industry has grown here in the Southeast with the construction of 19 facilities across the region and more on the way. 10-6-17

Read more at Coastal Review


These Suburbanites May Have No Fracking Choice

North of Denver, suburbia meets an oil and gas field. Photographer: Christopher Wurzbach for Bloomberg Businessweek

In Colorado, it’s hard to keep drillers out of the neighborhood.

When Bill Young peers out the window of his $700,000 home in Broomfield, Colo., he drinks in a panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains. Starting next year, he may also glimpse one of the 99 drilling rigs that Extraction Oil & Gas Inc. wants to use to get at the oil beneath his home.

There’s little that Young and his neighbors can do about the horizontal drilling. Residents of the Wildgrass neighborhood own their patches of paradise, but they don’t control what’s under them. An obscure Colorado law allows whole neighborhoods to be forced into leasing the minerals beneath their properties as long as one person in the area consents. The practice, called forced pooling, has been instrumental in developing oil and gas resources in Denver’s rapidly growing suburbs. It’s law in other states, too, but Colorado’s is the most favorable to drilling.

Now fracking is coming to an upscale suburb, and the prospect of the Wildgrass homeowners being made by state law to do something they don’t want to do has turned many of them into lawyered-up resisters. “It floors me that a private entity could take my property,” says Young, an information security director. 10-3-17

Read more at Bloomberg Business Week


Coca-Cola increased its production of plastic bottles by a billion last year, says Greenpeace

Increase puts Coke’s production at more than 110bn single-use plastic bottles a year, according to analysis by the green group

Greenpeace Canada Oceans campaigner Sarah King with a collection of Coca-Cola bottles and caps found on Freedom Island, Philippines. Photograph: Daniel Müller/Greenpeace

Coca-Cola increased its production of throwaway plastic bottles last year by well over a billion, according to analysis by Greenpeace.

The world’s biggest soft drinks company does not disclose how much plastic packaging it puts into the market. But analysis by the campaign group Greenpeace reveals what they say is an increase in production of single-use PET bottles from 2015-2016.

The increase puts Coke’s production at more than 110bn bottles each year, according to Greenpeace.

Coca-Cola has confirmed that single-use plastic bottles made up 59% of its global packaging in 2016 compared to 58% in the 12 months before.

The scale of production contributes to a plastic mountain which is growing vastly year on year. Figures obtained by the Guardian reveal that by 2021 the number of plastic drinks bottles produced globally will reach more than half a trillion.

But only a tiny fraction of these bottles are recycled. Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead, most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean. 10-2-17

Read more at The Guardian