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Agencies Dodge Responsibility for Human Cost of Mountaintop-Removal Coal Mining

This week, we got some disappointing news - a judge ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers isn't responsible for considering the health effects of coal pollution when it issues permits to fill valleys with rubble from mountaintop-removal coal mines. As Appalachian residents continue to suffer every year from well-documented health problems linked to mountaintop removal, this decision highlights a deadly loophole that requires long-overdue action from the White House and Congress. Responsibility is a tricky thing. In our daily lives we work to be conscientious of our bills, our taxes, our family lives and a myriad of other duties …

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Can We Prevent A Food Breakdown?

As food supplies have tightened, a new geopolitics of food has emerged—a world in which the global competition for land and water is intensifying and each country is fending for itself. We cannot claim that we are unaware of the trends that are undermining our food supply and thus our civilization. We know what we need to do. There was a time when if we got into trouble on the food front, ministries of agriculture would offer farmers more financial incentives, like higher price supports, and things would soon return to normal. But responding to the tightening of food supplies …

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Alpha coal executives get $2 million bonuses amid falling stock price and record Clean Water Act fines

Alpha Natural Resources, the third largest US coal company, had a rough few days in the stock market last week. First, it tumbled after news that the company would have to pay $200 million to stop illegally dumping toxic pollution into the waterways of Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, as well as a $27.5 million fine - the largest penalty in history under section 402 of the Clean Water Act, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. (Of course, a better approach would be to properly regulate the coal industry and actually prevent pollution into our waterways from …

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Can a Novel City-Utility Partnership Green a Big City Grid?

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John Farrell

In pursuit of a cleaner energy future last August, the city of Minneapolis came to the brink of putting a city-owned utility on the ballot. It was the culmination of a grassroots effort to get cleaner energy and local investment from the city's energy utilities. It won't be a city-owned utility on the agenda this spring, but Minneapolis may launch a novel city-utility partnership that will allow them to race ahead of state renewable energy targets and prioritize local and equitable economic investment. "This first-in-the-nation arrangement would be an innovative and pragmatic approach to coordinating City and utility clean energy …

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Our Last Coal Ash Spill: No More Delays for Coal Water Pollution Protections

Last week, security guards at Duke Energy's Charlotte headquarters blocked me from delivering 9,000 petitions signed by Duke customers calling on the company to clean up its toxic coal ash, in the wake of a spill that decimated 70 miles of the Dan River. It was the culmination of a dramatic rally that shone a glaring spotlight on one company’s reckless pollution practices, and the urgent need for the Environmental Protection Agency to finally close coal water pollution loopholes, without delay. After keeping the crowd waiting for 45 tense minutes, a Duke spokesperson finally accepted our petitions. You'd think Duke …

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Frackwater: The latest fragrance from Jerry Brown

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Remember that Stetson ad from the early 2000s with a hunky Matthew McConaughey? You know, the one where he's deftly jumping over fences and seducing a woman in a field full of horses? Well, today we're releasing a remade version of that ad, featuring none other than California's septuagenarian Governor, Jerry Brown.* Backed up by new analysis of campaign records and other contributions filings, the online video shines a light on a cozy relationship that's emerged between Governor Brown and the oil industry in California. The video parody, entitled “Frack Water” and produced with our friends at Heavy Crude Video, portrays a Governor Brown …

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Snakebit Supply Chains

Ever hear of a reality show called “Snake Salvation?” Me neither, until one of the serpent-handling co-stars was bit last month by a snake during a church service and later died. How does this unfortunate incident relate to sustainability and supply chains? Overlooking the obvious can come back to bite you. We all remember the discovery that Kathy Lee Gifford’s clothing line was being made in sweat shops and, more recently, the deaths of garment workers in Bangladesh making products for global brands and retailers. And just weeks ago, U.S. Food & Drug Administration officials traveled to India to address …

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Generation Gap: Wind Opens Big Lead over Nuclear in China

By J. Matthew Roney In China, wind power is leaving nuclear behind. Electricity output from China’s wind farms exceeded that from its nuclear plants for the first time in 2012, by a narrow margin. Then in 2013, wind pulled away—outdoing nuclear by 22 percent. The 135 terawatt-hours of Chinese wind-generated electricity in 2013 would be nearly enough to power New York State. Once China’s Renewable Energy Law established the development framework for renewables in 2005, the stage was set for wind’s exponential growth. Wind generating capacity more than doubled each year from 2006 to 2009 and has since increased by …

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Obsoleting Bertha: Viaduct traffic plummets

Sightline's Clark Williams-Derry has a terrific post on the astounding decline in traffic on the Alaskan Way Viaduct since Seattle's Big Dig II began.  Trip volumes are down 40% in just 3 years!  Clark analyzes the remarkable trend and concludes: At this point, nobody knows if [tunnel-boring machine] Bertha will ever get moving again, let alone complete her job. But given these figures, maybe it doesn’t matter. Seattle has seamlessly adapted to losing the first 48,000 trips on the Viaduct. No one even noticed. No one even noticed that 40 percent of the Viaduct’s traffic just disappeared! Could accommodating the loss of another …

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Five Reasons Solar’s Win Over Gas in Minnesota is Just the Beginning

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Solar advocates were popping corks when a New Year’s Eve ruling by an administrative law judge in Minnesota said that distributed solar arrays were a more cost-effective resource than natural gas to meet Xcel Energy’s peak power needs. The energy media were aflutter for weeks, but many missed the bigger significance. If solar trumps gas for peaking power in Minnesota, there’s little reason to be building new natural gas peaking capacity anywhere in the country.  Ever again. Let’s look at the 5 reasons why solar’s triumph over natural gas is likely to stick: Solar Wins on Cost It’s not the …

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