You don't need to be a scientist to realize that allowing a mammoth gold and copper mine to tear up sensitive habitat near Alaska’s Bristol Bay would be a dreadful idea. But being a scientist sure would help you articulate the dangers of the plan -- and do so with loads of credibility.
Fortunately, hundreds of scientists with backgrounds in ecology and natural resource-related disciplines have done just that. On Tuesday, 360 of them sent a letter to the EPA calling for the Pebble Mine proposal to be rejected, and thanking the agency for its recent assessment that found the mine would inflict severe damage on waterways, wildlife, fisheries, and Native Alaska cultures.
Barack Obama has been just as bad as George W. Bush when it comes to curbing ground-level ozone pollution. But soon he'll have another chance to get ozone regulations right.
Ozone rocks when it's up in the stratosphere, protecting us from UV rays and skin cancer. But when it's at ground level, where it's the main component of smog, it can cause respiratory infections, asthma, and other ailments. Ground-level ozone pollution is produced when sunlight triggers reactions involving the chemicals that are spewed out of factories and tailpipes. Naturally, oil companies and other polluting industries don't want to be required to rein in this pollution.
In 2008, the last year of the Bush administration, the EPA finalized new rules on ground-level ozone, allowing 75 parts per billion in the air. Clean air advocates and enviros had called for a lower limit of 60 ppb, saying it was needed to protect public health. In 2011, the EPA was poised to tighten the standard, but the Obama White House cravenlyquashed the effort, fearing backlash from industry the year before a presidential election. At the time, John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council called this "the most outrageous environmental offense of the Obama administration."
Under the requirements of the Clean Air Act, the EPA was supposed to revise its ozone rules in 2013, but it missed the deadline. Now it's being sued by environmental and health groups for its tardiness.
It sucks to be crapped on by a bird. So imagine being crapped on by hundreds of millions of them every year.
That's the reality for Chesapeake Bay.
In the adjacent state of Maryland, more than 300 million chickens in factory farms produce more than a billion and a half pounds of waste every year. Most of that waste is spread over farmland -- ostensibly as a fertilizer, but that just happens to be the cheapest way of disposing of all that crap. Now almost half the farms in the state are saturated with phosphorous from the manure; that phosphorus runs off the farms and into the estuary and bay, where it fertilizes algal blooms that threaten the seafood and tourism industries.
Last year, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) backed away from proposed new regulations to deal with the problem, caving to pressure from the poultry industry. But now two state lawmakers have stepped up by introducing legislation that would compel poultry companies to pay to help protect and restore Chesapeake Bay.
“Poultry companies are polluting with impunity while the public pays for the cleanup,” said one of the lawmakers, Shane Robinson, a Democrat.
When frackers operate, they produce pollution that's been linked to birth defects -- volatile organic compounds, benzene, nitrogen oxides, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, among other nasties.
And now new research has found higher incidences of birth defects in babies born near some fracking areas.
The Colorado School of Public Health funded research by university and state scientists that looked for any correlations between fracking operations and nearby rates of congenital heart defects, neural tube defects, and oral clefts. The researchers analyzed 124,842 births between 1996 and 2009 in rural Colorado and compared them with locations of known fracking wells.
The results, published late last month by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, suggest that being pregnant near a fracking site is a bad idea.
"[W]e observed an association between density and proximity of natural gas wells within a 10-mile radius of maternal residence and prevalence of CHD [congenital heart defects] and possibly NTD [neural tube defects]," the scientists concluded in their paper.
With global warming changing growing seasons and ranges, and with droughts and storms picking up in intensity, the men and women who produce America's food could use some scientifically sound advice for coping with the changing climate.
The hubs will provide information about ways producers can prepare for potential threats to their crops and livestock as parts of the country are experiencing increasing severe weather events and pest invasions, which scientists have tied to the affects of climate change. And they will coordinate resources through federal and state governments, universities and non-governmental agencies.
It's bad enough that the federal government leases out public lands to private companies to be torn up and mined for coal. Even worse is that the feds are ripping off taxpayers in the process, leasing the coal tracts at way-below-market prices, through a totally inept program, according to a new federal study.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has leased 107 coal-laden tracts of land to mining companies since 1990, recently generating about $1 billion a year for federal coffers. Coal mining on federal land accounts for two-fifths of the 1 billion tons of coal mined every year in the U.S. Less coal is being burned in the U.S. these days, but it still produces about 40 percent of the nation's electricity. Meanwhile, coal exports are growing.
Wildfires not only jeopardize lives and property. They also cause air pollution -- from planet-warming carbon dioxide to health-endangering soot and nitrogen oxides. This pollution can trigger hospital visits. It can also hamper agricultural output, and damage forests and other ecosystems.
This will be a particular problem in California, according to new research published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Scientists analyzed future climate and population scenarios for the state and forecast that air pollution from wildfires in California could increase by between 19 and 101 percent by the end of the century. They found that the worst effects will likely be experienced in Northern California, particularly in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and in the Klamath-Siskiyou region at Oregon's border.
Before today only Ecuador and Dominican Republic had included climate change in their constitutions.
Speaking to RTCC from Tunis, [Member of Parliament] Dhamir Mannai, who proposed the inclusion of a climate amendment, said legislators were concerned about the potential impacts a warming world could have on Tunisia.
“This opens the door for legislation for both the environment and climate protection,” he said.
“As MPs we wanted to tackle the issue head on, and then tackle it through climate legislation, and hopefully put us in a position where we can demand that other countries do the same.”
Retiring a coal power plant in North Carolina wasn't enough to prevent it from fucking up the environment.
Tens of thousands of tons of coal ash and tens of millions of gallons of polluted water have burst out of Duke Energy's shuttered Dan River Steam Station, severely soiling the Dan River -- a waterway popular with hikers, campers, fishing folks, and recreational boaters. The pollution can be seen miles downstream.
The power plant operated from 1949 until 2012, and the coal ash being stored on site was residue left behind after coal was burned. Coal ash contains poisonous heavy metals including arsenic, mercury, and lead. A state agency and environmentalists have been suing Duke in an effort to force it to clear out 14 such coal-ash dump sites across the state, including the one that just ruptured.
But Duke insisted that its dump sites were safe. Just last month, Duke spokeswoman Erin Culbert told the Asheville Citizen-Times that the utility was monitoring groundwater around its coal-ash storage sites to ensure that its neighbors are protected. She rejected environmentalists' calls for the coal-ash ponds to be cleaned up. "[S]pecial interest groups rely on emotion, not facts, to advance their mission to phase out coal," Culbert told the newspaper.
It gets worse.
"We are confident," Duke's general manager at the power plant told the EPA in a 2009 letter, "that each of our ash basin dams has the structural integrity necessary to protect the public and the environment."
We sure hope it felt nice to be so confident about that.
Specifics on the spill are still hard to come by, but it appears that a 48-inch stormwater pipe burst at the power plant, releasing enough ash from a 27-acre storage pond to fill 20 or 30 Olympic-sized swimming pools. According to company estimates, 50,000 to 82,000 tons of ash flowed into the river, along with 24 million to 27 million gallons of tainted water.
Members of Congress have been clamoring for months to undo one of the most ambitious pieces of climate-related legislation they ever passed. The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 would force coastal property owners to pay full market rates for their flood insurance. The law barely mentioned climate change, but it laid the groundwork for a more sane approach to building -- and rebuilding -- along increasingly disaster-prone coastlines and riverbanks.
Last Thursday, however, the Senate voted 67 to 32 to approve the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, which would delay the phaseout of federally subsidized flood insurance by as many as four years. That would postpone flood-insurance hike shocks for Americans living in coastal and shoreline properties. But it would also mean that the federal government would continue to encourage homebuilding in vulnerable areas -- with taxpayers picking up the tab following inevitable inundations.