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Pollution

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Are Canada’s disastrous tar sands coming your way?

Alberta's scenic tar sands.Photo: Suncor EnergyThis essay was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom's kind permission. For years, "not in my backyard" has been the battle cry of residents in Cape Cod who stand opposed to an offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound. The giant turbines will forever mar the beauty of the landscape, they say. Energy is ugly. Some forms more so than others, as nuclear near-meltdowns in Japan, the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and deaths in a West Virginia coal mine explosion have driven home in the last year. Energy kills …

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Seven ways a government shutdown will hurt the environment

During a government shutdown, federal law enforcement agents continue to work, but what about the people tasked with protecting the environment? Yeah, they all go home. Here's how things will go down if our leaders can't come to an agreement over the nation's uteruses: 1. No more environmental protection Non-essential EPA employees will be furloughed. This includes the ones who clean  up Superfund sites.  2. No more climate research NASA, NOAA, NSF -- all those scientific bodies that are studying that thing that Republicans think isn't happening anyway? They will shut down. Grants will go un-examined, contractors will be forced …

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350.org and 1Sky merge into one mass climate movement

Let's get together -- yeah, yeah, yeah.We environmentalists hear this periodically from friends and family and other concerned citizens: "I wish there weren't so many groups. It's confusing. I don't know who to volunteer for. Wouldn't it work better if you all got together?" This isn't quite as obvious as it sounds. Different groups have sprung up at different times to fill different niches. You wouldn't look out at a marsh and say, "It would be much nicer if there were just one kind of frog to keep track of." Diversity has some very real purposes. But there are moments …

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Fukushima in a decade: Bucolic beach resort or Road Warrior-esque hellscape?

Technology Review's Kevin Bullis points us to a package at Nature, on the long-term impacts of the Fukushima disaster. It's kind of a nice antidote to all the hysterical day-to-day coverage (the leak's stopped, by the way) as viewed through the cold, dispassionate eye of science. That doesn't mean it's rosy: Fully decommissioning the plant could take more than a decade, in part because damage to the plant could be "worse than a partial meltdown." Most of the radioactive material will clear relatively quickly, but not cesium-137, which 30 years from now will still be putting out half the radiation …

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Americans are crap at recycling mercury-containing CFLs — here’s how to do better

Update: Turns out the original story on which this post is based is bunk. Check out an update direct from the EPA here: CFLs are not a significant source of mercury, says EPA Every year, Americans recycle only 2 percent of the compact fluorescent light bulbs they toss an unknown proportion of the CFLs they toss. The unrecycled portion leads to the release of four tons a negligible amount of mercury into the environment annually. That’s almost 10 percent of the amount of mercury released by coal fired power plants, which are this country's No. 1 source of the fish-and-pregnant-woman-contaminating pollutant. The problem is …

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Do environmental justice groups have a legitimate beef with California’s cap-and-trade program?

Photo: ItzaFineDayAn environmental justice coalition called the Association of Irritated Residents (not making that up) has sued to stop implementation of California's AB 32 climate program, and it looks like they've won the first round. A judge has ruled that the state's Air Resources Board didn't fully consider alternatives to the cap-and-trade portion of the program. The launch, slated for January 1, 2012, is in limbo. Environmental justice groups' beef with emission trading in California goes way back, and I don't pretend to know the entire history in detail. But as I understand it, the core of the objection is …

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By 2015, it will be illegal for New Yorkers to throw electronics in the trash

If you thought forcing restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus was an intrusion by the nanny state, get ready for the Mary F'in Poppins of regulations: To prepare consumers and businesses for the arrival of a 2015 law that will ban the disposal of electronics in the trash, New York state is forcing all electronics manufacturers to take back and recycle your old electronics. It's all  part of a larger effort, happening concurrently in almost two dozen other states, to bring U.S. law in line with the European standard of "cradle to cradle design." In this philosophy, the …

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Anti-EPA House votes to let agribusiness dump pesticides in our water

Cross-posted from Wonk Room. The Tea Party Congress doesn't just hate EPA rules that protect against industry destroying our country with greenhouse-gas pollution, mercury, coal ash, and mountaintop removal. By a veto-proof margin, the U.S. House of Representatives voted yesterday to prohibit Clean Water Act limits on pesticide pollution of lakes, streams, and rivers. Lobbyists for industrial agriculture polluters cheered the 292-130 vote for H.R. 872, which "will amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Clean Water Act to clarify Congressional intent and eliminate the requirement for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits for applications of …

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The nuts were right — airplane contrails WILL kill you

Wow, Fortean Times was right about something: Airplane contrails really are dangerous. The carbon emissions from air travel are profound, but the water vapor planes emit is just as bad, or worse. And airplane-spawned water vapor is what makes up the high, thin clouds known as contrails. Michele Bachmann would surely object -- water vapor is part of Earth’s life cycle! But water vapor that comes out of a plane’s butt actually acts like an atmospheric Snuggie, insulating the Earth and increasing warming. Contrails also inhibit the formation of regular cirrus clouds, which reduces the warming effect -- but not …

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Sen. Stabenow jumps on climate denial train

Debbie Stabenow says no to M!ch!gan!Cross-posted from the Wonk Room. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has joined the pro-polluter frenzy sweeping the U.S. Senate, introducing legislation to permanently cripple Clean Air Act rules on global warming pollution. The small business legislation, the SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S. 493), introduced by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), is being used as a vehicle for senators who wish to prevent regulation of greenhouse pollution from oil refineries, coal-fired power plants, heavy industry, and other major emitters. Stabenow has added her amendment to three others intended to hamstring the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of …