We told you last week that the EPA is abandoning an investigation that linked fracking chemicals with groundwater contamination in Wyoming. Amid controversy over that move, news about EPA delaying another fracking study got overlooked by most media.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in India over the weekend and gave a speech urging the fast-developing country to work closely with the U.S. and other countries on solutions to climate change.
Kerry is leading a delegation to Delhi for U.S.-India talks focused on trade and energy; Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is part of the visiting group. The stop in Delhi is one leg of a trip Kerry is making throughout the region.
The Americans' arrival in Delhi coincided with deadly floods in northern India that some Indian officials have linked to global warming. But though climate change poses urgent dangers in India, Kerry's speech was not received warmly by all of the nation's environmentalists. Some felt they were being lectured to by the secretary of state, a representative of a nation that is second only to China in total greenhouse gas emissions.
“I do understand and fully sympathize with the notion that India’s paramount commitment to development and eradicating poverty [by increasing electricity supplies] is essential,” Mr. Kerry said in a speech at the start of a two-day visit. “But we have to recognize that a collective failure to meet our collective climate challenge would inhibit all countries’ dreams of growth and development.”
Writer and gay-rights activist Dan Savage has a provocative piece in the Seattle alt weekly The Stranger, comparing today's climate deniers to gay men in the early '80s who refused to face up to the reality of AIDS.
He starts out discussing a recent This American Life segment on ranchers in Colorado who won't acknowledge that climate change is happening, even as it's ravaging their land and livelihoods.
Listening to the ranchers in [reporter Julia Kumari] Drapkin's report—hearing the anger, denial, and fear in their voices—took me back 30 years. They sounded like another group of people whose world was on fire and who also couldn't bring themselves to face reality. They sounded like people I used to know. They sounded like those faggots who stood around in gay bars in 1983 insisting that AIDS couldn't be a sexually transmitted infection. Even as their friends lay dying, even as more of their friends and lovers became sick, they couldn't accept that sex had anything to do with this terrifying new illness.
Obama announced the news in his weekly video address on Saturday. "This Tuesday at Georgetown University, I'll lay out my vision for where I believe we need to go: a national plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change, and lead global efforts to fight it," he said in the video, which was set to overwrought music and peppered with gauzy scenes of American landscapes. (Watch for yourself below.)
A huge new coal-mining project just approved by the federal government pits a Montana tribe against native communities in the Pacific Northwest.
The Crow Nation in southern Montana overlaps the coal-rich Powder River Basin. The tribe is sitting on a deposit of up to 1.4 billion tons of coal -- more than the United States produces in a year -- and on Thursday, the federal government approved the lease of that coal to mining company Cloud Peak Energy. The company has begun preliminary work on a mine that could eventually produce up to 10 million tons of coal every year, much of which it hopes to move through three proposed export terminals in Washington and Oregon to sell to Asian markets.
As demand for coal in the U.S. fizzles thanks to the natural-gas boom, the coal industry is banking on a growing Asian appetite for cheap power to keep it afloat. And the Crow Nation is banking on the deal with Cloud Peak to turn its fortunes around. The Associated Press details what's in it for the tribe:
“Our goal is not to identify problems to prosecute,” said Abby Arnold, AWWI’s executive director. “Our goal is to develop a really good analytic tool that experts — biologists, statisticians, ecologists — and the wind industry can use to understand what these impacts are, where they’re occurring, and how we can address them.” …
Whales, dolphins, and manatees will finally enjoy some peace and quiet in parts of the Gulf of Mexico following a legal settlement that will restrict the use of oil industry air guns.
As if dodging oil spills and dead zones in the Gulf isn't bad enough, the marine mammals there are also subjected to deafening pulses of noise fired from boats searching for new oil fields to drill. “These super-loud airblasts hurt whales and dolphins,” said Miyoko Sakashita of the Center for Biological Diversity in a statement. “The seismic surveys sound like an underwater explosion, causing deafness and stress that can disrupt whales’ behaviors and even lead to strandings.”
The legal settlement filed Thursday with a federal court will block the use of the sonar guns in parts of the Gulf until the end of 2015. It will also add manatees to the list of species whose presence requires an automatic silencing of sonar blasts. From the Associated Press:
The EPA is dropping its only investigation that has found evidence of water contamination from fracking.
Following a three-year study of groundwater pollution around Pavilion, Wyo., the EPA concluded in a draft report in 2011 that fracking chemicals were a likely cause. The finding was obviously controversial — frackers would like us to believe that injecting poisonous chemicals into the ground couldn’t possibly poison water. Critics of the research found fault with the EPA’s methodology and said contamination could have predated fracking.
In the face of these controversies, the agency backed down Thursday, announcing that it was halting the research and abandoning its own draft findings. From The Hill:
The EPA said it will not complete or seek peer review of a 2011 draft study, which found that groundwater pollution in the Pavillion, Wyo., area was consistent with chemicals used in gas production.
Record-breaking air pollution caused by peatland fires in Sumatra has Malaysians and Singaporeans locked indoors -- and Indonesia today plans to try an unconventional approach to tackling the flames.
The Indonesians will dump chemicals from aircraft high above smoldering palm plantations in hopes of changing the weather. The goal is to seed clouds and force them to rain their moisture out over the stubborn conflagrations, which were triggered by slash-and-burn forest-clearing by the palm oil industry.
It's almost surprising that Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) has never run for national office. In the realm of GOP presidential aspirants, he could give Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann a run for their money when it comes to political ineptitude and pure crazy. He’s told the NAACP to “kiss my butt,” and he recently used a violent sodomy analogy to describe a state lawmaker at a public rally.
Evidence of this alleged opposition came in the form of a seven-month investigation of Patricia Aho, commissioner of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and a former corporate lobbyist, the results of which were published in the Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal, and the Morning Sentinel. The papers reported that Aho “has scuttled programs and fought against laws that were opposed by many of her former clients in the chemical, drug, oil, and real estate development industries.” The commissioner stalled a 2008 law to keep dangerous chemicals out of children’s products, weakened enforcement of real-estate and development laws, rolled back recycling programs, and oversaw a purge of information from the DEP’s website and a restriction of its employees’ ability to communicate with lawmakers, the public, and each other.
Aho’s performance lines up with LePage’s well-established allegiance to corporations before citizens.