Skip to content Skip to site navigation
Gristmill: Fresh, whole-brain news.


Comments

ExxonMobil spills chemicals in Louisiana while cleaning spilled oil in Arkansas

The Chalmette refinery
skooksie
The Chalmette refinery.

Even as ExxonMobil was mopping up after its disgusting tar-sands oil spill in Arkansas on Wednesday, it spilled an unknown amount of unknown chemicals -- possibly hydrogen sulfide and cancer-causing benzene -- during an accident at a riverfront refinery in Louisiana.

The Chalmette refinery chemical spill might have gone unnoticed, except that it stank out the city of New Orleans and several nearby parishes, leading to state and federal investigations (we told you about that mysterious odor yesterday). Frankly, ExxonMobil's track record here sucks: The same refinery spilled 360 barrels of crude oil in January.

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

American kids still pretty lead-poisoned

Image (1) leadabatement_flickr_stevendepolo.jpg for post 49073
stevendepolo

Lead-free gasoline: It's pretty great, as far as gasoline-without-extra-toxins goes. But even though we've made great strides in reducing lead pollution over the last few decades, America's still full of the stuff.

More than half a million American children under 5, or 1 in 38 young kids, have low-grade lead poisoning, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The surveys from 2007 to 2010 showed an 8.6 percent decrease in childhood lead poisoning compared to 1999-2002.

Until last year, the CDC only tracked people with 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, considered the threshold for lead poisoning by the CDC, World Heath Organization, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. But five micrograms per deciliter is considered enough to potentially cause damage.

Those approximately 535,000 kids aren't really a representative sample of American youth, though.

Read more: Living

Comments

Meet Roy Blunt, the senator from Missouri — and Monsanto

monsanto-withered-featureAfter much hemming, hawing, and Hulking, some crack reporters have solved the case of the Monsanto rider, the new law that gives GMO crops legal immunity.

It was Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) in the boardroom with the inappropriate relationships with Big Ag lobbyists!

Politico first broke the Blunt story, but Tom Philpott at Mother Jones highlights just how cozy the Missouri senator is with the GMO giant, who he "worked with" to write and pass the rider.

"If Sen. Blunt plans to continue carrying Monsanto's water in the Senate, the company will have gained the allegiance of a wily and proven political operator," he writes. More from MoJo:

The admission shines a light on Blunt's ties to Monsanto, whose office is located in the senator's home state. According to OpenSecrets, Monsanto first started contributing to Blunt back in 2008, when it handed him $10,000. At that point, Blunt was serving in the House of Representatives. In 2010, when Blunt successfully ran for the Senate, Monsanto upped its contribution to $44,250. And in 2012, the GMO seed/pesticide giant enriched Blunt's campaign war chest by $64,250.

Read more: Food, Politics

Comments

New culprit in sea-level rise: Pretty Arctic clouds

Clouds over Greenland accelerated last summer's melt.
boegh
Clouds over Greenland accelerated last summer's melt.

Newly published research suggests that Greenland's ice melted super fast last summer, and the world's ice could soon melt faster than anybody had anticipated -- all because of pretty white clouds hanging low above frigid seas.

Last year's Greenland ice sheet melt was considered a 1-in-150 year phenomenon -- the most dramatic melting season since 1979. It was cause for alarm because, when ice melts, it turns into water that raises the sea levels. If Greenland's ice sheet totally disappeared, the seas could swell by an estimated 24 feet, drowning many of the world's coastal cities.

"Of course, there is more than one cause for such widespread change," said University of Wisconsin atmospheric and oceanic sciences professor Ralf Bennartz, one of the authors of a study published today in Nature that concludes that the clouds that drifted over Greenland last summer bore properties that could be likened to a perfect ice-melting storm. "We focused our study on certain kinds of low-level clouds."

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

Something smells bad in New Orleans (more than usual)

gasmask
Shutterstock

What the hell is that smell?

That's the question that residents of coastal southeastern Louisiana have been asking since about 1 a.m. Wednesday.

New Orleans and surrounding cities sit at ground zero for a growing hive of Gulf of Mexico oil and gas drilling and processing facilities. Since early Wednesday, residents report being overwhelmed by yet another mysterious and powerful chemical odor (this one smells either like burning tires or a gas station, depending on who you talk to).

Nobody seems to know where the acrid smell is coming from. But given that it smells like toxic petrochemicals, it's a pretty safe bet that the toxic petrochemicals industry has something to do with it. On Thursday, the Coast Guard said it was investigating whether the odor was coming from a wastewater spill at an ExxonMobil refinery.

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

Nevada utility to stop burning coal, which will probably just be burned somewhere else

coal
Shutterstock

More good news on America's shift away from coal: Nevada's largest utility plans to very gradually shutter its dirty coal generators over the next 12 years.

Some of the coal-fired energy sold by utility company NV Energy will be replaced with renewable sources. But 60 percent of their coal-fired energy will be replaced by that cool-kid fossil fuel that contaminates groundwater supplies: fracked natural gas.

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

Good news, Arkansas: Tar-sands oil isn’t oil-oil

So far, the thousands of barrels of tar-sands oil that spilled into a middle-class neighborhood in central Arkansas on Friday have driven 22 families from their homes and killed and injured a grip of local wildlife. So far, the oil hasn't contaminated the local lake or drinking water supply, according to ExxonMobil. It's a "major spill," according to the EPA, and the cause is so far still under investigation.

But since it's not oil-oil, ExxonMobil hasn't paid into the government clean-up fund that would help bankroll the epic scrub-down necessary to rid poor unsuspecting Mayflower, Ark., of all that bitumen.

"A 1980 law ensures that diluted bitumen is not classified as oil, and companies transporting it in pipelines do not have to pay into the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund," writes Ryan Koronowski at Climate Progress. "Other conventional crude producers pay 8 cents a barrel to ensure the fund has resources to help clean up some of the 54,000 barrels of pipeline oil that spilled 364 times last year."

Here, this helpful infographic might clear things up for you:

oilversustarsands

Comments

Two new bills aim to save California farmland from rampant sprawl

california_state_capitol_building_wikipedia_180x150.jpgCalifornia's super-productive farmland is being overrun by development projects. Sprawly exurban housing development and even solar projects threaten to gobble up all the Golden State's arable land. As of 2007, California was home to more than 25 million acres of cropland, but that's shrinking by more than 1 percent each year, according to the American Farmland Trust.

All's not lost, though: Two proposed bills could give a boost to California agriculture big and small, and potentially change the way the Golden State develops over the coming years.

Read more: Food, Politics

Comments

Texas cities roping in more wind energy

The electricity that powers Dallas is about to get a whole lot windier.
Shutterstock / Brandon Seidel
The electricity that powers Dallas is about to get a whole lot windier.

Something refreshing is about to blow into Dallas, Houston, and other oil-soaked Texan cities: wind energy. Lots of wind energy.

A wind-farm boom has been brewing in the blustery Texas panhandle, where wind turbines now provide 9.2 percent of the state's electricity. That figure is growing quickly, with more than $3 billion expected to be spent on new wind generation during the next two years alone. Meanwhile, Sustainable Business reports that the world's most powerful battery system is helping to store wind energy produced during off-peak times so that it can be sold when demand for electricity is highest.

But the state's biggest cities are in the east, far away from the graceful wind turbines and snazzy batteries of the west, making it difficult to deliver the renewable energy into most of the state's homes and offices.

That bottleneck will ease by the end of the year, when the state completes a scheduled $6.8 billion effort to double the capacity of power lines from western wind farms to its eastern municipalities. That will provide an even bigger market and new incentives for potential wind power developers eying opportunities in the Panhandle.

Comments

Even the Tea Party is pissed about the ‘Monsanto Protection Act’

Everybody’s gotta pitch in to bring down Hulk, er, Monsanto.
Denis Giles
Everybody’s gotta pitch in to bring down Hulk, er, Monsanto.

Feeling angry about the "Monsanto Protection Act"? You know, the sneakily passed piece of legislation that allows GMO crops to be planted even in defiance of a court order? Well, you’re not alone! The law is so scary that it's inspiring outrage from the far right.

It’s always a delight to see the left and right agree on anything, and when it comes to fighting genetically modified giant Monsanto, it may well take just that kind of a passionate coalition to get anything done.

But it’s not the GMO issue that’s turning Tea Party Patriot Dustin Siggins’ stomach — it’s the precedent this could set for other corporations that might want legal immunity. From Siggins' blog:

Read more: Food, Politics