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Gristmill: Fresh, whole-brain news.


Go (slightly) greener by getting your groceries delivered

          Be lazy, be green.

Do you drive to the grocery store? That's not very green, nobody needs to tell you that. New research suggests you could halve the carbon footprint of your shopping just by putting your feet up and getting your groceries delivered to your door.

That's according to calculations by University of Washington engineers. They point out in a paper published in the Transportation Research Forum journal [PDF] that delivery trucks follow efficient routes as they drop off groceries at customers' homes.


ExxonMobil’s tar-sands pipeline leaks again

Crews responding Wednesday to an oil spill in Doniphan, Mo.
Lori Arbeau via KFVS
Crews responding Wednesday to an oil spill in Doniphan, Mo.

ExxonMobil's 1940s-era Pegasus pipeline has been shut down since it ruptured more than a month ago in the Arkansas town of Mayflower, spilling tar-sands oil and making a big mess. But the company is legendary when it comes to spilling oil, and it wasn't going to let a little pipeline shutdown hold back its oil-spilling ways.

The very same pipeline that blackened Mayflower has leaked oil into a yard and killed plants in Doniphan, Mo., some 170 miles northeast of Mayflower.

From KFVS Channel 12:

"My grandfather noticed an oil spill that was in the yard [on Friday, April 26,] and it got bigger so we were concerned that it was going to go into the well water because we have well water to drink," said Lori Arbeau.


Climate hawk Markey wins primary, moves one step closer to Senate

Ed Markey
Martha Coakley campaign
Markey, one step closer to the U.S. Senate.

On Tuesday, Rep. Ed Markey handily won the Democratic primary for Massachusetts’ special election to fill the Senate seat recently vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry. In June’s general election, Markey will go up against Republican candidate Gabriel Gomez, an ex-Navy SEAL, son of Colombian immigrants, successful businessman, and political outsider who has never held office.

Markey, one of the most passionate environmentalists in Congress, coauthored the big climate bill that passed the House in 2009 but failed in the Senate. A 20-term House veteran, he ran on his long liberal track record, but he also got a boost from green backers. The League of Conservation Voters spent nearly $850,000 in support of his campaign. Meanwhile, San Francisco rich-guy do-gooder Tom Steyer spent more than $400,000 on “online ads and microtargeting,” according to Mother Jones; many of those ads attacked Markey’s primary opponent, South Boston “conservative” Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch, for his support of the Keystone XL pipeline. And it doesn’t look like Steyer plans on closing his pocketbook after this early victory, MoJo reports:


Climate-denying GOP rep wants to take science-funding decisions away from scientists

Lamar Smith
Rep. Lamar Smith, thinking deeply about science.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), a climate skeptic who somehow became chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, wants Congress to meddle in decisions about which science research efforts should get government funding.

Perhaps that’s because scientists have a scary track record of finding out bothersome stuff. Like about climate change and whatnot.


Uranium mining is coming soon to the Grand Canyon area

Paul Fundenburg

So much for that ban on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon that Obama imposed early last year. The U.S. Forest Service just went ahead and gave a Canadian company approval to begin mining for uranium a mere six miles from the Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim entrance, which nearly 5 million people visit every year.

Canadian company Energy Fuels Resources says its rights to mine the area, granted in 1986, should be grandfathered in, and the Forest Service concurred. In response, three environmental groups and the local Havusupai Tribe filed suit in March against the feds. They say the 1986 environmental impact review that originally gave the mine clearance needs to be updated. From The Arizona Republic:

Opponents say newer studies indicate pathways for trouble. One study, conducted in preparation for an old development plan at Tusayan, found that groundwater pumping at that Grand Canyon gateway sucked water from the vicinity of the mine. Another, by the U.S. Geological Survey, included models based on known subsurface geology funneling water toward Havasu Springs.

The Forest Service had no way of knowing these things before the 1986 approval, Northern Arizona University hydrogeologist Abe Springer said.

“Nobody ever asked the question” back then, he said.

A spokesperson for the mining company argues, naturally, that the review is still adequate, and calls the old Canyon Mine, now set to reopen in 2015, “tiny.” But Roger Clark, director of Grand Canyon Trust, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, compares the area -- which will be stripped of vegetation -- to the size of a Walmart parking lot, and tells The Guardian about other contamination concerns:

Clark argues that uranium's radioactive properties only become dangerous once it is brought up out of the ground and exposed to air and water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, such properties include radon gas, a substance that was not regulated when the government conducted its initial study of the mine in 1986. The lawsuit contends that radon and other chemicals could pollute the area.

The mine is located on a site sacred to the Havusupai and other tribes, including the Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo.


Climate change hurts women. Wall Street Journal sneers.

Agricultural workers in the developing world, many of them women, are vulnerable to climate change.
Shutterstock / Donya Nedomam
Women in the developing world, many of whom work in agriculture, are vulnerable to climate change.

Apparently the idea of girls being sold off into early marriage and women being pushed into prostitution is fucking hilarious.

Or so thinks the right-wing media machine, confronted this week with warnings about the negative ways climate change could affect women around the world.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and 11 other House Democrats, both men and women, introduced a resolution that aims to raise awareness about the vulnerability of women and girls to global warming.


New Mexico county is first in the nation to ban all drilling and fracking

The ruins of Fort Union in Mora County, N.M.
The ruins of Fort Union in Mora County, N.M.

Mora County, N.M., has a message for the oil and gas industry: "You're not welcome here."

County commissioners voted 2-1 on Monday to ban all oil and gas extraction in their drought-ravaged county near Santa Fe, home to fewer than 5,000 people. A temporary drilling moratorium is already in place in neighboring San Miguel County, but it is believed that Mora County is the first in the nation to impose an outright ban on all oil and gas drilling.


Anti-Keystone ads banned by Facebook

The ad that Facebook banned.
CREDO Facebook page
The ad that Facebook banned.

Activist cell-phone company CREDO tried to run an advertisement on Facebook calling on Facebook's founder to stop running TV ads that support the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Guess whether the social media giant liked that idea.

Facebook quickly rejected the ad, saying it violated its advertising policies.


Frackers leaking less methane than previously believed, EPA says

"Frack is Wack" sign
Ed Yourdon
Just how wack is it? The jury's out.

Some seemingly happy news about fracking emerged this week: The EPA has lowered its estimate of how much methane escapes during the production of natural gas, down about 20 percent from previous estimates.

If the EPA is right, that’s good, because methane is a particularly potent greenhouse gas. If we’re going to frack for natural gas (which is mostly methane), we want to be burning that gas for energy rather than having a bunch of it escape into the atmosphere.

But not everyone buys the EPA's new numbers.


Bills to ban fracking in California move forward

a no-fracking sign

Could California put a halt to fracking? Some lawmakers are pushing legislation that would do just that.

On Monday, the state Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee approved no fewer than three bills calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing until its environmental and health effects are thoroughly studied by the state. Meanwhile, another bill pending in the state Senate would allow fracking to continue for now but would impose a moratorium if the state fails to complete a comprehensive review by January 2015.

David Roberts recently offered a list of reasons why a California fracking frenzy is a bad idea, one of which is the lack of oversight from state regulators so far. The new proposed bills aim to address this problem. From The Sacramento Bee: