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Robert K. Musil is President and CEO of the Rachel Carson Council, author of Rachel Carson and Her Sisters and Hope for a Heated Planet, and an award-winning journalist.

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Rachel Carson Book Named "2016 Outstanding!"

Rachel Carson Council President, Dr. Robert K. Musil, has had his book Rachel Carson and Her Sisters: Extraordinary Women Who Have Shaped America's Environment named a "2016 Outstanding Book" by Choice magazine. Choice, the leading journal for libraries and academic researchers, reviews over 7,000 titles and selects their top choices each year.

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Dupont and Dow to Get What they Asked for: Tough EPA Oversight

Congress is working to send President Barack Obama the biggest overhaul of rules governing chemicals in four decades, a change sought by an industry that has faced a hodgepodge of retailer bans, consumer boycotts and state regulations.

Dupont corporate headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The Senate is near an agreement to pass a revised Toxic Substances Control Act that would expand the Environmental Protection Agency's oversight of chemicals used in products such as spot cleaners and paint strippers. The chemical industry, including lobbyists for DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co., pushed for the legislation to provide companies with consistent rules to follow. "Chemical companies were finding their inability to satisfy their customers was starting to hurt their bottom line," Richard Denison, a senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, said in an interview. "It was becoming the Wild West out there, and they needed a sheriff." ...Full article

Renewable Energy Jobs Surpass Oil and Gas Sector for First Time in U.S.

The number of jobs in the solar business grew 12 times faster than overall job creation in the U.S. last year and outpaced those in the oil and gas sector.

According to the latest data by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the overall clean energy sector (excluding hydropower) employed 8.1 million people worldwide in 2015, up from 7.7 million in the previous year. IRENA expects worldwide jobs to reach 24 million by 2030 ...Full article

E.P.A. Methane Leak Rules
Take Aim at Climate Change

A pump jack near Ardmore, Okla. New regulations seek to control emissions of methane gas that could leak from new oil and gas wells. Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times

The Obama administration on Thursday unveiled the first federal regulations to control emissions of potent planet-warming methane gas that could leach from new oil and gas wells, the next step in President Obama's effort to combat climate change.

The methane rules, the final version of draft regulations put forth last year by the Environmental Protection Agency, require oil and gas companies to plug and capture leaks of methane from new and modified drilling wells and storage tanks, not older, existing wells.

The E.P.A. estimates that the rules will cost companies around $530 million in 2025, but it also estimates that they will yield companies savings of as much as $690 million from reduced waste, a potential net benefit of $160 million. The agency said the regulations would lower methane emissions by 510,000 tons in 2025, the equivalent of 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide ...Full article

Oil and Gas Quakes Have Long Been Shaking Texas, New Research Finds

Waste disposal from fracking has been the recent culprit in causing man-made earthquakes, but industry has likely been triggering them for decades, study says.

A new study suggests the oil and gas industry has triggered earthquakes across Texas since 1925. The research, which publishes Wednesday, attempts to set the record straight on what has become a hot-button issue across the state.

With citizens expressing concern about the state's growing number of quakes lately, scientists have published studies indicating that recent quakes are likely tied to the disposal of oil and gas wastewater, but state energy regulators say there's still not enough information to explain what's going on. Last year, state regulators at the Texas Railroad Commission-the agency that oversees oil and gas exploration-cleared two energy companies of responsibility for causing more than two dozen earthquakes in North Texas with their waste disposal ...Full article

Climate change, runaway development worsen Houston floods

With clay soil and tabletop-flat terrain, Houston has endured flooding for generations. Its 1,700 miles of man-made channels struggle to dispatch storm runoff to the Gulf of Mexico.

Now the nation's fourth-largest city is being overwhelmed with more frequent and more destructive floods. The latest calamity occurred April 18, killing eight people and causing tens of millions of dollars in damage. The worsening floods aren't simple acts of nature or just costly local concerns. Federal taxpayers get soaked too. Extreme downpours have doubled in frequency over the past three decades, climatologists say, in part because of global warming. The other main culprit is unrestrained development in the only major U.S. city without zoning rules. That combination means more pavement and deeper floodwaters. Critics blame cozy relations between developers and local leaders for inadequate flood-protection measures ...Full article

How Factory Farms Play Chicken With Antibiotics

The inside story of one company confronting its role in creating dangerous superbugs

The massive metal double doors open and I'm hit with a whoosh of warm air. Inside the hatchery, enormous racks are stacked floor to ceiling with brown eggs. The racks shake every few seconds, jostling the eggs to simulate the conditions created by a hen hovering atop a nest. I can hear the distant sound of chirping, and Bruce Stewart-Brown, Perdue's vice president for food safety, leads me down a hall to another room. Here, the sound is deafening. Racks are roiling with thousands of adorable yellow chicks looking stunned amid the cracked ruins of their shells. Workers drop the babies into plastic pallets that go onto conveyor belts, where they are inspected for signs of deformity or sickness. The few culls are euthanized, and the birds left in each pallet are plopped on something like a flat colander and gently shaken, forcing their remaining shell debris to fall into a bin below. Now clean and fluffy, the chicks are ready to be stacked into trucks for delivery to nearby farms, where they'll be raised into America's favorite meat.

Not long ago, this whole protein assembly line might have been derailed if each egg hadn't been treated with gentamicin, an antibiotic the World Health Organization lists as "essential" to any health care system, crucial for treating serious human infections like pneumonia, neonatal meningitis, and gangrene. But the eggs at Perdue's Delmarva chicken production farms have never been touched by the drug ...Full article

Chicken Giant Perdue Just Nixed a Nasty Clause from Its Contracts with Farmers

The clause took "ag gag" to a new level, advocates say

Back in 2014, a chicken farmer named Craig Watts allowed the animal-welfare outfit Compassion in World Farming to film inside one of his chicken houses, where Watts raises birds under contract with poultry giant Perdue. In a video released in December of that year (below), Watts complained about the conditions imposed by Perdue, as footage of birds with featherless, raw-looking bellies played on the screen. Perdue swiftly responded, declaring that the "conditions shown in this farmer's poultry house do not reflect Perdue's standards for how our chickens are raised." Until recently the company, the nation's fourth-largest chicken processor, was presenting farmers with a contract that included a provision that would clamp down on such rare public glimpses behind the walls of contract poultry farming. I obtained a leaked copy of such a contract, one that forbid farmers from taking photos or audiotapes of the chickens in their own facilities without company permission. Bruce Stewart-Brown, Perdue's senior vice president of food safety, quality and live operations, confirmed that this language has been included in all new contracts since October 2014-before the release of the Watts video ...Full article

Climate Change and the
Case of the Shrinking Red Knots

Animal migrations combine staggering endurance and exquisite timing.

Consider the odyssey of a bird known as the red knot. Each spring, flocks of the intrepid shorebirds fly up to 9,300 miles from the tropics to the Arctic. As the snow melts, they mate and produce a new generation of chicks. The chicks gorge themselves on insects, and then all the red knots head back south.

"They are there less than two months," said Jan A. van Gils, an ecologist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research. "It's a very tight schedule."

It is also a vulnerable one. The precipitous decline of the red knots that winter in West Africa may provide a small but telling parable of the perils of climate change …Full article

Why the Biomass Industry's Carbon Arguments Should Make You Spit Out Your Coffee

Recently, Senate friends of industrial bioenergy proposed - and passed - an amendment to the Senate version of the Murkowski Energy Bill that compels EPA to treat burning biomass as "carbon neutral."

Bioenergy isn't carbon neutral, of course, at least not in any timeframe we care about for addressing climate change. Wood-burning power plants emit more CO2 than coal plants, per megawatt-hour, and re-growing trees to resequester that carbon takes decades. Even when the wood fuel comes from "waste," the emissions from burning it exceed those from coal.

Editorial Boards at both the New York Times and the Washington Post have recognized the danger of forcing EPA to treat biomass as carbon neutral. The stakes are high: nothing less than the ability of the Clean Power Plan to actually reduce emissions, rather than just reducing them on paper. The stakes are high for the biomass industry, too - because they see a potential market worth hundreds of millions for replacing coal with wood in the US, just as is occurring in Europe (with American forests paying the price) …Full article

Children in Farm Communities Pay a Steep Price for the Food We Eat

The evidence linking pesticide exposure to childhood cancers and learning and behavioral problems has grown increasingly strong.

If you're an urban parent, you might spend time worrying about your children's exposure to pesticides through the foods they eat and the lawns on which they play. Now, a new look at kids living in agricultural communities might put those concerns in perspective.

The report out today from Pesticide Action Network (PAN) found that children in rural and agriculture communities across the United States are effectively exposed to a "double dose" of pesticides. They're exposed both directly, through pesticide drift, and indirectly, through the residue that makes it home on their family members' bodies and clothing. At the same time, PAN researchers say many children in rural communities also experience economic and social pressures that can exacerbate the adverse health effects of these chemicals ...Full article

'Mistaken' Release of Glyphosate Report Raises Questions Over EPA's Ties to Monsanto

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee is questioning why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted and then suddenly pulled its highly anticipated risk assessment of glyphosate, the main ingredient in weedkillers such as Monsanto's flagship herbicide Roundup.

Sources told Sustainable Pulse that the EPA allegedly attempted "to take the legal pressure off the pesticide industry and specifically large producers of glyphosate-based herbicides such as Monsanto," by releasing the Cancer Assessment Review Committee draft report.

On April 29, the EPA's Cancer Assessment Review Committee published a report online about glyphosate concluding that the chemical is not likely carcinogenic to humans. However, even though it was marked "Final" and was signed by 13 members of CARC, the report disappeared from the website three days later.

The EPA said that the report was "inadvertently" released. A spokeswoman said:

"Glyphosate documents were inadvertently posted to the Agency's docket. These documents have now been taken down because our assessment is not final. EPA has not completed our cancer review. We will look at the work of other governments as well as work by HHS's Agricultural Health Study as we move to make a decision on glyphosate. Our assessment will be peer reviewed and completed by end of 2016." ...Full article

Duke Study: Rivers Contaminated With Radium and Lead From Thousands of Fracking Wastewater Spills

Thousands of oil and gas industry wastewater spills in North Dakota have caused "widespread" contamination from radioactive materials, heavy metals and corrosive salts, putting the health of people and wildlife at risk, researchers from Duke University concluded in a newly released peer-reviewed study.

Some rivers and streams in North Dakota now carry levels of radioactive and toxic materials higher than federal drinking water standards as a result of wastewater spills, the scientists found after testing near spills. Many cities and towns draw their drinking water from rivers and streams, though federal law generally requires drinking water to be treated before it reaches peoples' homes and the scientists did not test tap water as part of their research ...Full article

Two hydrologists blame toxin used to kill fish for Parkinson's diagnoses

It was well after dark on Dec. 2, 2009, when a team of government workers, wearing thick gloves and respiratory masks, began to pour 2,200 gallons of milky white liquid into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in Illinois.

Ryan Jackson, then 34, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, watched the work begin from the shore, before readying his own boat with a colleague, Kevin Johnson, and heading out onto the water. The men were tasked with tracing the chemical's path by injecting a pink fluorescent dye into the water where the translucent toxin would be.

They were told the chemical, known as rotenone, was not toxic to humans, only to fish. They were told protective clothing was not necessary. But Jackson still recalls the potent chemical scent that accompanied the poison, and the way a steam vapor hung over the water despite below-freezing temperatures.

Before dawn, the bodies of tens of thousands of fish flapped at the water's surface, convulsing violently before growing lifeless. They blanketed the canal like thick, silver algae, and marked one of the largest fish kills in U.S history ...Full article

Regenerative Farming:
Number One Antidote to Climate Change

North Carolina farmer Suzanne Nelson has this thing about farming as a regenerative rather than an extractive business.

She also has a thing for cows.

Nelson says people should do what they love doing. For her, "for whatever reason, I love cows. I loved cows before I knew I loved cows."

She says she now tends to Jersey dairy cows, St. Croix sheep, heritage pigs, laying hens, meat chicken and, seasonally, turkeys. Cows, she believes, "are the only animal that can live on one acre and make four acres fertile." She sees properly managed pastured livestock as "our number one antidote to climate change," helping, with a boost from legumes and soil microbes, boost soil fertility and keep carbon in the soils and not excessively in the atmosphere ...Full article

Ruined Chernobyl nuclear plant will remain a threat for 3,000 years

30 years since Chernobyl may seem like a long time, but it's really just the start. Below reactor's ruins is a 2,000-ton radioactive mass that can't be removed. How do you protect a site for as long a time as Western civilization has existed?

Before the fire, the vomiting, the deaths and the vanishing home, it was the promise of bumper cars that captured the imagination of the boys. It will be 30 years ago Tuesday that Pripyat and the nearby Chernobyl nuclear plant became synonymous with nuclear disaster, that the word Chernobyl came to mean more than just a little village in rural Ukraine, and this place became more than just another spot in the shadowy Soviet Union. Even 30 years later - 25 years after the country that built it ceased to exist - the full damage of that day is still argued. Death toll estimates run from hundreds to millions. The area near the reactor is both a teeming wildlife refuge and an irradiated ghost-scape. Much of eastern and central Europe continues to deal with fallout aftermath. The infamous Reactor Number 4 remains a problem that is neither solved nor solvable ...Full article

Blind mice and bird brains: the silent spring of Chernobyl and Fukushima

Evolutionary biologist Timothy Mousseau and his colleagues have published 90 studies that prove beyond all doubt the deleterious genetic and developmental effects on wildlife of exposure to radiation from both the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters, writes Linda Pentz Gunter. But all that peer-reviewed science has done little to dampen the 'official' perception of Chernobyl's silent forests as a thriving nature reserve.

Although it's too early to assess the long term impact on abundance and diversity around Fukushima, there are very few butterflies and many birds have declined in the more contaminated areas. If abundance is compressed, biodiversity will follow. He has spent 16 years looking at the effects on wildlife and the ecosystem of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. He and his colleagues have also spent the last five years studying how non-human biota is faring in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdowns in Japan.

"I suppose everyone loves a Cinderella story", speculated Mousseau, an evolutionary biologist based at the University of South Carolina. "They want that happy ending." But Mousseau felt sure the moment he read the Forum report, which, he noted, "contained few scientific citations", that the findings "could not possibly be true." ...Full article

Essay: Tracking a hummingbird's arrival,
for fun and science

I love watching a hummingbird zip in and hover over a flower or feeder. Turns out my observations could have an important role in assessing how the species is adapting to a shifting spring.

It's that lovely time of year when folks-myself included-don floppy hats, binoculars and notepads to monitor our migrating feathered friends.

We're a big bunch: There are an estimated 47 million birders in the United States. And we play an increasingly important role: Scientists need more than our interest and camera phone pictures for one important pollinator, the hummingbird. They need our observations.

As climate change threatens hummingbird habitat ranges they're reaching out to birders to help track the birds' habits and health. Hummingbirds could lose vast amounts of their range over the next 60 years.

Climate change creates imbalances in temperature and migratory bird timing, and scientists say hummingbirds, which are important wildflower pollinators in North America and food pollinators in tropical regions, are particularly vulnerable. A warming climate can alter when flowers bloom. This earlier blooming can create a mismatch between hummingbird arrival and flowers, which they suck nectar from throughout the day to stay alive.

A 2014 report from National Audubon Society scientists is grim: Hummingbirds could lose vast amounts of their current ranges over the next 60 years if climate change continues on its current path ...Full article

The Clean Power Plan's on Hold,
but Clean Agriculture Can Move Forward

The Supreme Court's unexplained stay of the EPA's Clean Power Plan was "one of the most environmentally harmful judicial actions of all time," writes Michael Gerrard of Columbia Law School in this excellent blog post. But rather than vent outrage, Gerrard quickly moves on to explain that the Clean Power Plan isn't the only way to cut carbon pollution.

Ramping up fuel efficiency standards for cars, trucks and buildings, he notes, will also help reduce carbon pollution. Gerrard mentions a couple of points about agriculture, but often, this sector is overlooked when it comes to climate solutions. It's worth taking a closer look at some of the golden opportunities to reduce climate pollution from our food system ...Full article

A Year of Fear and Distrust in Dukeville

How tainted well water and conflicting health information have turned one North Carolina family's life upside down

Deborah Graham's life changed on April 18, 2015, with the arrival of a letter. Graham was in the kitchen, pouring a cup of coffee. Her husband, Marcelle, opened a large certified envelope just dropped off by the mail carrier. "The North Carolina Division of Public Health recommends that your well water not be used for drinking and cooking," the letter said. "What did you just say?" Graham asked, incredulous. "The water's contaminated," her husband replied. Graham's eyes flew to her kitchen faucet. She thought about the coffee she'd just swallowed. The food she'd cooked and sent over to her church. The two children she'd raised in this house. She dumped the rest of her coffee down the sink. The ordinary routines of the Graham household had been disrupted by vanadium, which can cause nausea, diarrhea and cramps. In animal studies, vanadium has caused decreased red blood cell counts, elevated blood pressure and neurological effects.

"We just want to be able to look at our water and not fear turning on the faucet."-Deborah Graham ...Full article

Fracking Wells Released Over
5 Billion Pounds of Methane in One Year

Being in close proximity to fracking operations could screw up your sexual health, cause developmental defects and cancer, induce seismic activity around you, and the list goes on.

Does all that doom and gloom seem, well, a little vague? An Environment America report released Thursday offers raw numbers, based on a set of industry-reported data going back for more than decade.

Frackers, the report concludes, have used billions of pounds of cancer-causing chemicals in at least 137,000 wells from 2005 to 2015, including:

• 5 billion pounds of hydrochloric acid, a caustic acid

• 1.2 billion pounds of petroleum distillates, which can irritate the throat, lungs and eyes; cause dizziness and nausea; and can include toxic and cancer-causing agents

• 445 million pounds of methanol, which is suspected of causing birth defects

Remember, that’s according to the industry’s own numbers. Not necessarily all of this is affecting drinking water, but some chemicals have made their way into private wells. For example, Pennsylvania officials found 260 instances of private well contamination from fracking in the past decade — a “severe” underestimation, says Environment America ...Full article

Disturbing New Evidence About What Common Pesticides Can Do to Brains

For defense against the fungal pathogens that attack crops-think the blight that bedeviled Irish potato fields in the 19th century-farmers turn to fungicides. They're widely sprayed on fruit, vegetable, and nut crops, and in the past decade, they've become quite common in the corn and soybean fields (see here and here for more). But as the use of fungicides has ramped up in recent years, some scientists are starting to wonder: What are these chemicals doing to the ecosystems they touch, and to us?

A new paper in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications adds to a disturbing body of evidence that fungicides might be doing more than just killing fungi. For the study, a team of University of North Carolina Neuroscience Center researchers led by Mark Zylka subjected mouse cortical neuron cultures-which are similar in cellular and molecular terms to the the human brain-to 294 chemicals "commonly found in the environment and on food." The idea was to see whether any of them triggered changes that mimicked patterns found in brain samples from people with autism, advanced age, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's ...Full article

Two widely used pesticides likely to harm 97% of endangered species in US

Malathion and chlorpyrifos are each likely to harm most of the 1,782 mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and plants listed under the Endangered Species Act

The grizzly bear is one of the animals named in the EPA ana

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