Category Archives: environment

Here’s Who’s Getting Paid to Destroy the Endangered Species Act

A small yet vocal group of congressmen are gearing up this summer to dismantle the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Campaign finance records of these lawmakers reveal that they have all taken significant money from extractive industries frustrated by the law’s protection of critical habitat for endangered species.

The ESA has proven to be a powerful, effective conservation safeguard. More than 99 percent of species that have been designated for federal protection continue to exist in the wild today, including the bald eagle, grizzly bear, the leatherback sea turtle and the Florida manatee.

bald eagle
Image: Electric Light and Power

But the work of the ESA has only grown more urgent as many scientists agree that the planet is either on the cusp of or already experiencing a sixth mass wave of extinction. A study last week by Stanford scientists found that a significant number of plant and wildlife populations are growing dangerously thin.

Earthjustice is working with coalition partners to oppose efforts on Capitol Hill to weaken protections for endangered species. The public can also make a difference in this fight—despite the big money from fossil fuel industries funding opponents of the ESA—by contacting their Congressional offices (use this call-in tool to be directly connected).

The assault on the ESA comes in the form of dozens of legislative proposals and amendments tacked onto spending bills.

One bill that’s expected to be introduced in a matter of weeks is the handiwork of Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

A Republican from Wyoming, Barrasso shares something in common with other politicians who have made it a legislative priority to weaken or undermine this conservation law. He’s received substantial campaign contributions from extractive industries that wish to exploit public lands for mining, drilling and other environmentally destructive operations. Across the American West, for instance, the fossil fuel industry is often pitted against conservationists because habitat for the imperiled sage grouse overlaps with lands eyed by industry for mining or drilling.

More from Ecowatch

Posted by Libergirl

Botched nuclear shipment puts pressure on Los Alamos to make changes

Small amounts of radioactive material being transported incorrectly has led to the firing of several employees after an incident at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the prominent facility that specializes in nuclear weapons.

Last month, federal regulators launched an investigation into the lab after small amounts of nuclear materials were shipped by air, instead of by ground, as they were intended to be. They were supposed to be sent to facilities in California and South Carolina aboard a commercial cargo plane. Air transport of these materials is not allowed due to US regulations, according to a press release by the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The laboratory has said it will not comply with requests to provide any details about the mistakes of its employees in connection to last month’s error and have said that everyone involved in the mishap has been held to account for their actions, according to the Associated Press.

The lab has transferred the duties related to certain nuclear shipments to another division in the wake of the accident. They have also created more controls for the making of shipment labels.

A spokesman for Los Alamos said “the lab is putting into place laboratory-wide measures to significantly reduce the likelihood of similar events occurring,” the Albuquerque Journal reported.

The lab also said in a statement that “although these shipments arrived safely at their destinations and no one was hurt, this mistake, taken together with other mistakes in recent years, is unacceptable and is in the process of being addressed promptly and thoroughly.” They went on to say “our response to this incident is not business as usual,” the AP reported.

Nuclear watchdog groups spoke out following the incident and said that the lab was lucky to avoid a disaster because its packaging of materials allowed for possible rapid pressure changes.

No contamination or loss of radioactive material was found after tests were done on the shipments when they arrived at their destination.

Los Alamos is currently preparing to ramp up production of a key plutonium component for the US cache of nuclear weapons. Federal regulators, which are composed of an independent panel, have opened up a review of the lab’s track record and its ability to work safely with plutonium, the AP reported.

The lab is operated by Los Alamos National Security LLC, which is a private consortium, which includes the University of Southern California and Bechtel. Following performance reviews that were deemed unsatisfactory, the federal government made the decision to not extend the consortium’s more than $2 billion annual operating contract past 2018. The feds have also started to compose and rebid the contract. There has been increased criticism of Los Alamos after many articles were written by the Center for Public Integrity about federal regulators’ interest in safety lapses at the lab, according to the Journal.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

American public to President Trump: Leave our national monuments alone

The comment period for the Trump administration’s national monument review has officially ended, and the administration if facing stiff public backlash over its attempt to downsize national monuments across the West.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order in April directing the Department of the Interior to review two decades’ worth of national monument designations in an effort to decide whether to rescind, modify, or maintain their designations. The review encompasses 21 monuments, mostly located in the Western United States, from New Mexico to Washington.

Image: Patrick Whittle, Associated Press

The review’s public comment period, which lasted for 60 days, elicited more than 2.5 million responses. According to a Center for Western Priorities analysis of the 654,197 comments that had been processed by Interior Department staff as of Monday morning, 98 percent were supportive of maintaining or expanding current national monument boundaries, while just 1 percent supported the idea of shrinking monuments.

Several recently-designated monuments have been the target of Republican lawmakers, primarily the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, which President Obama designated in December of 2016. The designation, which was granted after a proposal from five indigenous tribes, meant that oil and gas companies would not be allowed to drill or mine for minerals in some 1.35-million acres of the state. On June 13, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke released a recommendation calling for Bears Ears to be downsized, which Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a fierce opponent of the national monument, called “ an unquestionable victory for Utah.”

More from Think Progress

Posted by Libergirl…and you’re worried about Russia

Work To Complete Disputed Dakota Access Oil Pipeline Underway

Construction of the Dakota Access pipeline under a North Dakota reservoir has begun and the full pipeline should be operational within three months, the developer of the long-delayed project said Thursday, even as American Indian activists vowed to fight in the courts to protect their water supply.

The Army granted Energy Transfer Partners formal permission Wednesday to lay pipe under Lake Oahe, clearing the way for completion of the 1,200-mile, $3.8 billion pipeline. ETP spokeswoman Vicki Granado confirmed early Thursday that construction resumed “immediately after receiving the easement.”

More from Talking Points Memo

Posted by Libergirl

Cancer burger? Fast food wrappers contain carcinogenic chemicals, study says

The next time you get a craving for a greasy burger from the drive-thru, you may want to reconsider. A new study has found that fast food packaging contains cancer-causing chemicals – showing that the risk of quick meals goes beyond trans fats and calories.
It’s no secret that fast food contains a huge amount of oils, but in an effort to repel those oils, the packaging is actually posing a huge risk to consumers, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.

In an effort to determine whether the wrappers contained harmful chemicals, the researchers gathered 400 take-out packaging samples from fast food restaurants across the US.

They then analyzed them for fluorinated chemicals, a family of chemicals which has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, decreased fertility, thyroid problems, changes in hormone functioning in adults, and adverse developmental effects and decreased immune response in children.

Forty-six percent of food contact papers and 20 percent of paperboard were found to contain the harmful chemicals.

But the problem wasn’t just contained to the wrappers. The chemicals were found to migrate from the packaging to the food itself.

“Food contact material is a direct route of exposure to these chemicals for us, it’s as if you were drinking them in your drinking water,” Tom Brunton of the Green Science Policy Institute, which was involved in the study, told CBS Bay Area.

Study co-author Graham Peaslee, a physicist at the University of Notre Dame, said he was “very surprised to find these chemicals in food contact materials from so many of the samples we tested,” according to a Green Science Policy Institute press release.

He went on to note that the chemicals are “persistent and some bioaccumulate in the body,” and stressed that “safer non-fluorinated alternatives” are available.

Co-author Dr. Arlene Blum of UC Berkeley and the Green Science Policy Institute also stressed that “we can stop using fluorinated chemicals where they are not necessary, such as in food packaging, and all be healthier.”

And although fluorinated chemicals are also found in everyday products including water-repellent outdoor gear, stain-resistant clothing and furniture, and non-stick pans, Brunton was quick to point out that they are likely the most harmful in the fast food context.

“You’re likely not going to get the same exposure from those products…you’re not eating your rain jacket…,” Brunton said.

The Green Science Policy Institute noted, however, that many major retailers have eliminated high-fluorinated chemicals from their products, and encouraged the fast food industry to do the same.

From Russia Today

Posted by The NON-Conformist

After court threat, state of Michigan removed Flint’s power to sue

Days after Flint Mayor Karen Weaver served notice that her city might file a lawsuit against the State of Michigan over the Flint drinking water crisis, the state removed Flint’s ability to sue.

Though Flint has not been under a state-appointed emergency manager since April 2015, the state still exerts partial control over the city through a five-member Receivership Transition Advisory Board, whose members are appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The board moved quickly to change the rules under which Flint is governed so that the city cannot file a lawsuit without first getting approval from that state-appointed board.

In other words, Flint cannot sue the state without getting the state to sign off on it first.

More from Detroit Free Press

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Nuclear threats in US worse than previously known — study

Conflicting with a prior industry study, a new analysis claims 96 nuclear facilities in the US are less safe than reported, citing risks such as terrorism and sabotage. The study says there remain lessons to be learned from the Fukushima disaster.
Neglect of the risks posed by used reactor fuel, or spent nuclear fuel, contained in 96 above ground, aquamarine pools could cost the US economy $700 billion, cause cancer in tens of thousands of people as well as compel the relocation of some 3.5 million people from an area larger than New Jersey, a study released May 20 finds.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s study, ‘Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of US Nuclear Plants,’ is the second installment of a two-part study ordered by Congress on the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. It not only cites, but also outright challenges a 2014 study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the US industry’s regulator and enforcer of safety standards.

The spent fuel, The Academies’ study recommends, is safer in dry casks rather than pools, because of the risk of leaks, drawing water away from the irradiated nuclear rods. An accident, terrorist attack or malicious employee all pose greater dangers to the pools, the study says.

Aside from calling on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to offer a better evaluation of the health risks posed, The Academies study conducted by 17 engineers, nuclear physicists and other scientists demands the commission fulfill a 10-year-old promise to put together an impartial review of the surveillance and security policies on spent nuclear fuel.

“Even with the recommendations that the Academies’ board has put together,” Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Scott Burnell responded, “we continue to conclude that spent fuel is being stored safely and securely in the US.”

“Nothing in the report causes immediate concern,” Burnell added, although the commission is planning a more formal follow-up later this year, according to The Center for Public Integrity.

Congress felt compelled to fund the study on Japan’s natural-turned-nuclear disaster to help prevent a similar accident from occurring in the US. On March 11, 2011, the Daiichi nuclear plant in Fukushima was thrashed by an earthquake and tsunami, leaving three reactors without power or coolants, which resulted in their radioactive cores melting down.

Pure luck kept the disaster from becoming even worse, The Acadamies found. Instead of Daiichi’s highly radioactive rods being exposed to oxygen, which would have sent over 13 million people packing from as far as 177 miles south in Tokyo, a leak happened to be situated between a fuel rod pool and a reactor core, which sent just enough coolant to keep the vulnerable rods from rising above the water. In the end, 470,000 people were evacuated and the still ongoing cleanup is estimated to cost about $93 billion.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s 2014 study put the highest odds of an earthquake happening near spent fuel storage at one in 10 million years, boasting that “spent fuel pools are likely to withstand severe earthquakes without leaking,” while the odds of a terrorist attack or internal subversion were deemed incalculable and left out of any risk assessment.

Calling that cost-benefit analysis “deeply flawed,” The Academies panel member Frank von Hippel, also an emeritus professor and senior research physicist at Princeton University, complained that the commission’s study also left out the impact on property contamination in a 50-mile radius of an accident, tourism rates and the economy, The Center for Public Integrity reported.

The new analysis also calls for new officially designated risk assessments of safety and financial impacts at the federal level as well as what improvements aboveground dry casks may bring compared to pools. The latter is estimated to cost upwards of $4 billion by the industry.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist