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EPA will let frackers keep on dumping chemicals into the sea

Santa Barbara Beach
Chuck Rogers
Fracking chemicals are out there.

Companies that frack the seafloor off the coast of Southern California have some new federal rules to worry about. Unfortunately, the new rules will still allow their fracking fluids to be unleashed into the sea -- including chemicals that are known to stunt human development and hurt wildlife. The companies will just have to tell the government what they're unleashing.

Under new rules that will take effect March 1, the companies must report the "chemical formulation, concentrations and discharge volumes" to the EPA of any "chemicals used to formulate well treatment, completion and workover fluids" that end up in the ocean.

So, hey, at least we'll know more about fracking pollution. (Assuming, that is, that the frackers are honest.)

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Coal chemical spills in West Virginia, leaving 300,000 without tap water

poison
Shutterstock

What has Freedom Industries, a major supplier of chemicals to coal companies, done for the cause of freedom lately? It liberated thousands of gallons of a toxic chemical in Charleston, W.Va., poisoning drinking water for some 300,000 people and triggering state and federal emergencies. The Charleston Daily Mail has the appalling details:

Read more: Climate & Energy

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The week in GIFs: Beef, bees, and vodka

Welcome to 2014. McDonald's is shifting -- really slowly -- to sustainable beef: Tumblr The White House gave climate deniers a smackdown! Tumblr The first bookless, all-digital public library opened. Tumblr Bee theft is on the rise in the U.K. Apparently everyone wants bees! Canada's no more interested in fixing the climate than the U.S. is. Tumblr A company is making vodka out of melted icebergs: Tumblr

Read more: Living

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Leslie Hall is our favorite vegan superstar

leslie-hall-2
Facebook

Jay-Z went vegan for three weeks? PFFFT. Leslie Hall is totally vegan and 1,000 PERCENT AWESOME. Hall got internet-famous in 2000 for her massive gem sweater collection and then turned into a legit Iowa-based comedic hip-hop star. When she’s not singing about crafting, her cat (the No. 1 cat in America), or her skintight gold jumpsuit, she slips in references to being a vegan. “I was a vegetarian for YEARS UPON YEARS and decided vegan had more of a social impact, which is my reasonings,” she told Grist in an email. Like we needed a reason to worship her any more!

She manages to sneak in nods to veganism and public transit in a hilarious, non-preachy way: “My hair is wavy, smooth like veggie gravy,” she sings on "Hydrate Jirate." On "Power Cuddle," she promises, “I’ll be your black bean burger.” And on "No Pants Policy," she raps, “I’m takin’ public transportation, takin’ lady vitamins” -- oh, just watch it; you’ll love it!

Read more: Food, Living

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Feather in his cap-and-trade: Brown pledges polluter fees to poor communities

Jerry Brown Oakland rally
Steve Rhodes

While free-market environmentalists push cap-and-trade systems as a panacea for climate change worries, many in the environmental justice community have yet to buy into it. Their reasons for this vary, but one major concern is that there’s little guarantee that overburdened communities won’t still catch the brunt of industrial pollution. What stops billionaire companies like ExxonMobil from continuing to pollute poor communities if, rather than rein in their emissions under the established cap, they can simply purchase more permits to pollute?

When California started its cap-and-trade system in late 2011, lawmakers addressed these concerns by requiring 25 percent of all revenue from permit auctions to go toward programs that help disadvantaged communities. Also, 10 percent of the revenue would have to be spent directly in those communities. But last year, when the auction dividends started rolling in, Gov. Jerry Brown reneged on that deal, putting $500 million from the permit auction profits into the state’s rainy day fund.

This obviously didn’t endear many environmental justice activists to the cap-and-trade dream.

The governor is on the path to redemption, though. When he unveiled his budget Thursday, it included plans to not only pay back $100 million of what he “borrowed” from cap-and-trade fees, but also a pledge to make some much needed investments in low-income communities across the state.

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Elsipogtog epic: How a tribe’s fight against an energy company caught fire

BurningCar
Laura Brown

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a grassroots movement rarely catches the attention of the media until a car is on fire.

There were several cars on fire on Oct. 17, 2013, and for a few days the world was interested in what was happening in a remote part of New Brunswick. Media attention moved on, as it does, but the story it left behind is worth revisiting.

Partly, it's just a great tale -- of how a small First Nations tribe allied with locals and faraway sympathizers to throw a major wrench into a big energy company's plans to explore for natural gas. Beyond that, it's also representative of a host of new regional battles over pipelines, rail networks, and refineries across the U.S. and Canada. They're being fought by small bands of people who, in may cases, do not even consider themselves environmentalists. Together, they have large implications for global energy markets and climate change.

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Newt Gingrich spouts nonsense about dinosaurs and climate change

Newt Gingrich
Gage Skidmore

It’s been pretty cold across the U.S. these past few days, and most people aren’t so into that. Naturally, some conservatives are keen to use the weather to cast doubt on climate change. Or, if they take themselves a little too seriously for that, they might cast doubt on climate change by coming up with other pseudo-scientific arguments, like that warmer weather was great for stegosauruses, so why worry.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich falls into the latter category. As a host of CNN’s Crossfire, Gingrich described himself as an “amateur paleontologist” and went on the following riff on Tuesday:

The age of the dinosaurs was dramatically warmer than this is right now and it didn’t cook the planet. In fact, life was fine. The number of people leaving Minnesota this evening to get to the Caribbean versus the number of people leaving the Caribbean to try to get to Minnesota would argue that slightly warmer wouldn’t be a crisis.

Gingrich is not, even by his own admission, a professional paleontologist, much less a climate scientist. So I called a real climate scientist, Ralph Keeling, director of the CO2 Program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, and asked for an assessment of Gingrich’s comments. You’ll be shocked to discover that he doesn’t share Gingrich’s rosy outlook. Here’s what Keeling had to say, lightly edited for brevity and clarity:

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At least EPA is doing a little something to help bees

a bee on a honeycomb
Shutterstock

The U.S. EPA still won't follow Europe's lead and suspend or ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides believed to be killing honeybees and other pollinators -- to the horror of beekeepers and environmentalists, who are suing the federal government over its inaction.

But at least the agency is doing something. On Wednesday, EPA announced it was awarding $460,000 in funding for research into integrated pest management, to help reduce the use of pesticides and lower risks to bees -- "all while controlling pests and saving money."

Louisiana State University, one of the grant recipients, will use its share of the funds to investigate how bees can be protected from pesticides used to control mosquitoes. Penn State University researchers will investigate the benefits of growing crops without treating seeds with neonic pesticides.

Read more: Food

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This guy raised a duckling under his beard

duck_beard_2I know opinion on beards varies widely, but I'm usually in the "what good is it?" camp. I mean, I guess beards are good if you want to mark yourself out as being Brooklyn-hip, but otherwise they seem to just hang around under your chin picking up food particles. Well, Reddit user Spongi has shown me the light: The purpose of a beard is to provide a comforting snuggle spot for lonely ducks.

Spongi tried to incubate some chicken eggs, but unexpectedly ended up with no chicks and one duckling; he writes, "it turns out one of the eggs in there was a duck egg and apparently duck eggs are more hardy or tolerant of shitty incubation techniques." But baby ducks get lonely without constant company, so Spongi had to let his beard sub in for a mama duck's wing.

duck_beard_1

Read more: Living

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Rio’s hosting its first ever cargo bike championship

cargo bike race
Bristol Cycling Campaign

Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize is raising money on Rockethub for Brazil's first cargo bike championship race, which will take place in Rio de Janiero in May of 2014.

Rio's got hundreds of cargo bike delivery people, who transport food, water, mattresses, dogs, and a whole bunch of other random stuff around the city every day. According to Colville-Andersen, this used to be true in Copenhagen, too, and starting in 1942, the city hosted cargo bike races:

The races become incredibly popular in Copenhagen. Thousands came out to watch. There was prize money, but really it was about honour, and winning the right to call yourself the King of Copenhagen – at least until the next race. These Svajerløb races were held until 1960, when cars and vans started to dominate goods transport in the city.

Read more: Living