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Sue Sturgis' Posts

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Do dirty coal plants make us more vulnerable to swine flu?

Scientists have discovered that exposure to a common pollutant may make people more likely to experience severe symptoms from swine flu -- and it's a pollutant emitted in large quantities by coal-burning power plants and other industrial facilities. The culprit is arsenic, a highly poisonous semi-metal which, according to a new study by researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory and Dartmouth Medical School, compromises a person's ability to mount an immune response to the H1N1 swine flu virus.  Most disturbingly, the study -- published last month in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives -- found that arsenic can weaken the immune …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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Supreme Court rules against coal company accused of buying a West Virginia judge

After the Massey Energy coal mining company lost a $50 million verdict to a competitor, CEO Don Blankenship spent $3 million electing a friendly judge to West Virginia's Supreme Court of Appeals who went on to cast the deciding vote in a case that overturned the verdict. But yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court handed a setback to Massey, a company notorious for its reliance on destructive mountaintop removal mining throughout Central Appalachia, as well as other companies that use their financial clout to influence the judiciary, with a ruling that elected judges must recuse themselves from cases involving big campaign …

Read more: Politics

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KBR, Halliburton sued over war-zone’s toxic burn pits

Confronted with the need to dispose of enormous quantities of war-related trash including batteries, pesticide containers, medical waste and even human body parts, but lacking proper incinerators, private contractors working for the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan came up with a simple solution. They burned the trash in big, open pits. But now soldiers, contractors and civilians have filed a series of class-action lawsuits against the companies behind the burning, saying the smoke from the pits -- which at times was so heavy it reduced visibility to only a few yards and filled soldiers' living quarters -- contained toxic …

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On the passing of Father Thomas Berry, noted ecological thinker

Thomas Berry, a Catholic priest and self-described "Earth scholar," passed away June 1 in Greensboro, N.C., where he was born in 1914. He was 94 years old. A member of the Passionist order that was founded to teach people how to pray, Berry went on to become an influential eco-theologian -- though he preferred to call himself a "geologian." By the age of 8 he had concluded that commercial values were threatening life on Earth, and three years later had an epiphany in a meadow in which he came to understand that the evolution of the universe was for humans …

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Virginia OKs uranium mining study

A proposal to mine uranium in south-central Virginia advanced this week when a key state body approved a study of the matter. The targeted site is in Virginia's Pittsylvania County just north of the city of Danville and close to the border with North Carolina's Rockingham and Caswell counties. A subcommittee of the Virginia Commission on Coal and Energy OK'd the study yesterday after deciding on exactly what issues should be examined, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports: Some opponents asked the panel to vote against the study, hoping that would kill the mining proposal. But state Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, a …

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DUMPING IN DIXIE

Toxic waste from New York river cleanup headed to Texas

In a bit of good news for the environment, work got underway this week to clean up hazardous PCB pollution that General Electric dumped into New York's Upper Hudson River. But there's also some bad news -- which is that the toxic waste is being sent to a landfill that sits atop the Ogallala Aquifer, a key drinking-water source for West Texas. "This is like a shell game, moving hazardous toxic PCBs from one sensitive location to another," said Dr. Neil Carman, a chemist with Sierra Club's Lone Star chapter. "We are concerned about contamination of the Ogallala Aquifer and …

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Hot potato

Pennsylvania rejected TVA coal ash that’s going to poor communities in Alabama and Georgia

Some of the more than 1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash that spilled from an impoundment at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston power plant in eastern Tennessee last December is making its way to landfills in poor and black communities in Alabama and Georgia, as we reported last week at Facing South. It turns out that TVA also looked into sending the waste to Pennsylvania for dumping into abandoned mines -- but that state's Department of Environmental Protection rejected the ash as substandard. "This ash material was accidentally released from a disposal impoundment and mixed with unknown materials in …

Read more: Politics