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How to Have a Very Happy New Year

As the confetti is swept away and the world gets back to work, will 2014 be a banner year or will we be singing that “old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind” a year from now? Here are a few reasons to think the world will be greener a year from now, both environmentally and economically. Just before the holidays, I met Mayor Paulo Altomani and his Director of Sustainable Science and Technology Development, Professor José Galizia Tundisi, of the Brazilian city of Sao Carlos. The fact that a city with about a quarter million people has a …

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Congressional Climate Task Force calls for coal leasing reform

The Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change today released several recommendations for the Department of Interior to support President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, including a call to reform the federal coal leasing program. The white paper states: BLM should also revisit policies that subsidize fossil fuel development on federal land by increasing royalty rates for federal coal leases, reviewing its procedures for determining “fair market value” during its coal leasing process, and reforming its leasing practices in the Powder River Basin The Department of Interior’s coal leasing program (administered by the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM) has come under …

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Five Years After Tragic Disaster in Tennessee, Still No Coal Ash Safeguards

This coming Sunday, Dec. 22,  marks five years since the Kingston Coal Plant’s ash dam in Tennessee ruptured, sending more than a billion gallons of toxic sludge into homes, onto farmland, and into the Emory and Clinch Rivers in Roane County - one of the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Five years later, we're still waiting - and pushing - for the Environmental Protection Agency to put in place long-overdue protections to prevent more coal ash disasters. We saw the photos of huge "ash-bergs" in the rivers, of homes decked out with Christmas wreaths buried in toxic coal ash …

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As Sea Ice Shrinks, Arctic Shipping Options Expand

By Janet Larsen and Emily E. Adams On October 7, 2013, the Nordic Orion bulk carrier ship completed its journey from Vancouver, Canada, to Pori, Finland, having traveled northward around Alaska and through the Northwest Passage. It was the first large commercial freighter ever to make the voyage through these typically ice-covered Arctic waters. Avoiding the longer journey, through the Panama Canal, reportedly saved $80,000 in fuel costs and five days in travel time. Taking a deeper route than the Panama Canal also allowed the ship to carry a heavier load of its cargo: coal. A second Arctic shipping option, …

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The Solar Opportunity

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The coming of solar grid parity offers an opportunity for millions of Americans to go solar affordably. But it also means a potential transformation, a democratization of an electricity system long dominated by centrally-controlled utilities and centralized ownership and production of electricity. When solar can undercut grid electricity prices, it may also undercut this 20th century system of centralized ownership, bringing economic sunshine and self-reliance to communities along with solar electricity. This is the third of five parts of our Rooftop Revolution report being published in serial.  Read Part 1 or Part 2. Download the entire report and see our …

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Less Than 3 Percent of Oceans in Marine Parks Despite Recent Growth

By J. Matthew Roney In May 1975, rising concerns about overfishing and deteriorating ocean health prompted scientists and officials from 33 countries to meet in Tokyo for the first global conference on marine parks and reserves. Noting the need for swift action to safeguard more of the sea, the delegates were unanimous in calling for the creation of a global system of marine protected areas (MPAs)—zones explicitly managed for the conservation of aquatic ecosystems. Today, with oceanic resources more threatened than ever, the world is far from that envisioned MPA network. Although coverage has doubled since 2010, just 2.8 percent …

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‘Watershed’ Climate and Energy Agreement Between CenterPoint Energy and City of Minneapolis

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In a groundbreaking agreement announced earlier this year, the gas utility serving Minneapolis, MN – CenterPoint Energy – will work with the city of Minneapolis to achieve a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.  The agreement, negotiated with the grassroots campaign Minneapolis Energy Options, secures the support of the gas utility for a variety of measures intended to advance clean, affordable, and local energy. The memorandum of understanding, signed ahead of the city’s franchise contract renegotiations with CenterPoint next year, includes efforts to maximize the impact of the utility’s state-mandated conservation program, track building energy use and methane …

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What’s At Stake: Clean Air and Public Health in our Highest Courts on December 10

This Tuesday, December 10, our nation's highest courts will hear two landmark Clean Air Act cases that have big implications for public health. First and foremost, the Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday on the Environmental Protection Agency's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. Back in 2011, EPA unveiled this update of a critical public health protection that would reduce power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, dangerous pollutants that form soot and smog and contribute to poor air quality days and respiratory illnesses affecting millions of Americans. They call this the Cross State Air Pollution Rule because it curbs …

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Will Your Tax Dollars Fund a Highway that’s a Mountaintop Removal Coal Mine in Disguise?

Today, Appalachian community leaders are in Washington, D.C., to protest a Virginia coal boondoggle that has set its sights on $2 billion of your federal tax dollars. Mountaintop removal coal mining is already a shocking, devastating, and destructive practice on its own - but what happens when you add in coal companies making deals with state and federal transportation agencies in order to seize private land and blow it up for coal? Well then you get the planned Coalfields Expressway in Southwest Virginia. The project is a public-private partnership between the Commonwealth of Virginia and coal mining companies, including Alpha …

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India’s Dangerous ‘Food Bubble’

By Lester R. Brown India is now the world's third-largest grain producer after China and the United States. The adoption of higher-yielding crop varieties and the spread of irrigation have led to this remarkable tripling of output since the early 1960s. Unfortunately, a growing share of the water that irrigates three-fifths of India's grain harvest is coming from wells that are starting to go dry. This sets the stage for a major disruption in food supplies for India's growing population. In recent years about 27 million wells have been drilled, chasing water tables downward in every Indian state. Even the …

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