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Critics Charge an Ill Wind Blows From Raleigh

A bill known as the "Military Operations Protection Act of 2016" that breezed through the state Senate this week appears to have little to do with protecting the military, at least according to the Pentagon.

After starting out as yet another bill to reduce or eliminate regulations when filed in April 2015 in the state House, HB 763 was transmogrified this month by the state Senate into a bill that supporters contend will protect military planes that could be endangered by wind turbines when flying low-altitude training missions. Others consider it a wind turbine killer, disguised as a shield to protect vital military interests in the state. The Pentagon was never asked if it needed the protection.

"I think it can have devastating effect because it would eliminate large swaths of North Carolina from (wind) development," said Henry Campen Jr., a partner with Raleigh-based Parker Poe law firm, which represents three wind-energy companies seeking to develop in eastern North Carolina.

Millions of dollars in tax revenue and other benefits for some of the poorest areas in the state where wind farms are being planned, or seriously discussed - Washington, Tyrrell, Perquimans, Chowan and Beaufort counties - would be threatened by the legislation, he said ...Full article

A solar-powered plane just crossed the Atlantic

If you thought there was something solar power couldn't do, think again, because the sun just carried an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean.

Early Thursday morning, Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard successfully landed the Solar Impulse 2 in Spain after a four-day journey that began in New York. All the while, the scrappy little plane, powered by 17,000 solar cells, emitted no pollution and guzzled no fuel.

This flight was the latest leg in a round-the-world journey set to end in Abu Dhabi, and is particularly symbolic "because all the means of transportation have always tried to cross the Atlantic," Piccard told the Guardian.

With seating room for one, the Solar Impulse - which has a larger wingspan than a Boeing 747 but is lighter than a car - isn't going to start ferrying the environmentally-conscious across The Pond any time soon. Besides, sitting upright in an unheated, unpressurized cabin for four days sounds a tad worse than flying coach ...Full article

Demanding Ban on Deadly
Pesticides, Advocates Drop Millions of
Dead Bees on EPA Doorstep

'What's happening today to pollinators is no different than what happened 50 years ago with the collapse of the bald eagle due to the use of DDT' "In the five years since I started keeping bees, I've seen many hives killed by pesticides," said James Cook, a beekeeper who drove the truck filled with dead bees from Sacramento, Calif., to Washington, D.C. (Photo: U.S. Geological Survey/flickr/cc)

Advocating for a ban on toxic pesticides that have led to massive bee die-offs nationwide, a truck filled with millions of the dead pollinators has trundled across the country to reach its final destination on Wednesday afternoon: the front steps of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington, D.C. "If we stop keeping bees, who's going to pollinate your fruits and vegetables? This can't go on." -Roger Williams, Central Maryland Beekeepers Association ...Full article

Now Residents Of The U.S.'s
Second-Largest Pig Producing State Can See Where The Waste Flows

Livestock farming - especially hog and poultry farming -
is big business in North Carolina.

Manure is sprayed on a North Carolina field

The country's second-largest pig producer and third-largest chicken producer, North Carolina has thousands of farming operations clustered throughout the state. And while those farms produce billions of dollars in economic revenue, they also produce something far more sinister: millions of tons of animal waste that can make its way into the air or water, polluting nearby communities and watersheds. In an effort to help spotlight the issue of animal farming and waste disposal in North Carolina, Waterkeeper Alliance and the Environmental Working Group have teamed up to release a first-of-its-kind mapping project, detailing exactly where North Carolina's hog and poultry farms are located. The project also claims to be the first to reveal the location of more than 3,900 poultry operations across the state, the locations of which have not been publicly available until now. As it's being released into the air, it's what we have to breathe ...Full article

Why the GOP is trying to stop the
Pentagon's climate plan

The Defense Department, long in the vanguard in dealing with climate change, may see its latest plan defunded.

In Washington, big agencies rarely get high marks for innovation and foresight. But when it comes to coping with climate change, the largest federal agency-the Pentagon-has taken a spot in the vanguard. As far as back as the George W. Bush administration, the Defense Department was warning that global warming posed a threat to U.S. national security, and that the military needed to be preparing accordingly.

This year it went further, laying out a new game plan that assigns specific top officials the jobs of figuring out how climate change should shape everything from weapons acquisition to personnel training.

Last week, however, House Republicans voted to block it. By a 216-205 vote Thursday, the House passed an amendment prohibiting the department from spending money to put its new plan into effect. Not a single Democrat voted for the amendment, which was attached to the defense spending bill. It's the second time in just a few weeks that the House GOP has tried to halt the Pentagon's climate policies; a similar measure attached to the House's defense authorization bill, which also received no Democratic votes, passed in May ...Full article

The case for a child-centered energy
and climate policy

Children suffer the most from fossil fuel burning

Fossil fuel combustion and associated air pollution and carbon dioxide (CO2) is the root cause of much of children's ill health children today as well as their uncertain future. There are strong scientific arguments, as well persuasive economic ones, for reducing the world's dependence on energy generated by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, diesel and gasoline.

These include the 7 million adult deaths per year attributed to ambient air pollution, most of it from fossil fuel burning. Less recognized is the huge and largely silent toll on children's health and development from both air toxics and climate change. Children, whose bodies and brains are especially vulnerable to harm as they develop in utero and in the first years of life, bear a disproportionate burden of disease from both air pollution and climate change.

Exposure to toxic air pollutants released during fossil fuel combustion contributes to low birth weight, cognitive and behavioral disorders, asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Climate change is linked to increases in heat-related disease, malnutrition, infectious disease, physical trauma, mental health issues and respiratory illnesses ...Full article

5 More U.S. Nukes to Close,
Will Diablo Canyon Be Next?

A rising tsunami of U.S. nuke shut-downs may soon include California's infamous Diablo Canyon double reactors. But it depends on citizen action, including a statewide petition.

Five U.S. reactor closures have been announced within the past month. A green regulatory decision on California's environmental standards could push the number to seven. The focus is now on a critical June 28 California State Lands Commission meeting. Set for Sacramento, the hearing could help make the Golden State totally nuke free, ending the catastrophic radioactive and global warming impacts caused by these failing plants. A public simulcast of the Sacramento meeting is expected to gather a large crowd at the Morro Bay Community Center near the reactor site. The meeting starts at 10 a.m., but environmental groups will rally outside the community center starting at 9 a.m.

The three State Lands Commissioners will decide whether to require a legally-mandated Environmental Impact Report under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). If ordered, a public scoping process will begin, allowing interested groups and individuals to weigh in on the environmental impacts of operation of two nuclear reactors on California's fragile coastline …Full article

Fracking produces tons of radioactive waste. What should we do with it?

By products from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, produces radioactive waste like the truckload shown here at Wetzel County landfill in West Virginia. BIll Hughes

The Marcellus Shale has transformed the Appalachian Basin into an energy juggernaut. Even amid a recent drilling slowdown, regional daily production averages enough natural gas to power more than 200,000 U.S. homes for a year.

But the rise of hydraulic fracturing over the past decade has created another boom: tons of radioactive materials experts call an "orphan" waste stream. No federal agency fully regulates oil and gas drilling byproducts - which include brine, sludge, rock, and soiled equipment - leaving tracking and handling to states that may be reluctant to alienate energy interests.

"Nobody can say how much of any type of waste is being produced, what it is, and where it's ending up," said Nadia Steinzor of the environmental group Earthworks, who cowrote a report on shale waste. (Earthworks has received funding from The Heinz Endowments, as has the Center for Public Integrity) …Full article

The next U.S. president could
save or destroy the Arctic

The next president will decide the fate of pristine waters 3,000 miles away from the Oval Office - a decision that would resonate for decades. Nearly 400 scientists sent a letter Wednesday calling on President Obama to close the Arctic to the oil industry. Right now, Obama's five-year draft plan for offshore drilling offers two lease sales, one in the Beaufort Sea in 2020 and one in the Chukchi Sea in 2022. But it's not just Obama who will determine the fate of the Arctic; his successor's choices will outlast his or her tenure by a long shot ...Full article

Threat Map' Aims to Highlight the
Worst of Oil and Gas Air Pollution

Two activist groups used government data to show 12.4 million
people in the U.S. live within a half-mile of an
oil and gas facility-and its pollution.

An oil field in Long Beach, CA sits in the midst of a residential community. Credit: Getty Images

Environmentalists have launched a new mapping tool that allows people in the U.S. to see whether they live and work in areas at risk of harmful air pollution from nearby oil and gas activities.

According to the map, which was published online Wednesday by the advocacy groups Earthworks and the Clean Air Task Force, a lot of people do: about 12.4 million people live within a half-mile of active oil and gas wells and related facilities that could release harmful pollutants such as benzene and formaldehyde into the air. The map also details the 238 counties in 21 states that potentially face a high cancer risk because of that pollution ...Full article

U.S. Chamber of Commerce
oins Anti-solar Crusade

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the latest conservative group to start spreading anti-solar messages. In an email sent to supporters on Wednesday, the chamber attacks net metering, a policy in place in many states that pays people with solar panels on their roofs for the electricity they feed into the grid. The group also posted a video on YouTube last week making its anti-net metering case.

This is fairly new territory for the chamber, according to energy regulation experts. In its email, the group warns: "While your neighbor is receiving a credit (in the form of a reduced electricity bill) for putting excess energy back on the electricity grid, these outdated net metering policies overlook the costs to use, maintain, and update the grid. So, who is actually paying those costs? You - and everyone else!" ...Full article

Senate Legislation Cedes the US Forest Carbon Sink to the Biomass Industry – Even as Forests Are Already Declining

To keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees C, there is wide consensus that we need to not just reduce carbon emissions, but actually take carbon pollution that’s already in the atmosphere out.

The blue line charts the course that climate modeling shows is necessary for staying below a 2 degree C rise in temperature. Sabine Fuss et al, 2016. Betting on Negative Emissions. Nature Climate Change.

Right now, the only way to take large amounts of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere is to protect and expand forests – as recognized in the Paris climate agreement, which states, Parties should take action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases… including forests …Full article

Renewables are poised to put global fossil fuel investment to shame

As the cost of wind and solar plummets and technology improves, global renewable energy generation is poised to outdo gas in just over a decade, according to an analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The report, New Energy Outlook 2016, forecasts investments of $7.8 trillion in renewables by 2040. That’s much more than what will be invested in fossil fuels, putting renewables on track to overtake gas by 2027 and coal by 2038.

Even that massive growth in renewables isn’t nearly enough, especially to keep us under the global goal of 2 degrees Celsius of warming. To prevent the worst of climate change, according to Bloomberg, the world will need to see an additional $5.3 trillion in zero-carbon energy …Full article

Court Documents Show Peabody Energy Funded Dozens of Climate Denial Groups

It’s no secret that the fossil fuel industry funds climate denial organizations and pseduo-scientists. Regardless, it’s always nice to have proof that deniers are hired guns.

The latest batch of evidence comes from Peabody Energy, the biggest coal company in the U.S. It’s gone bankrupt and the related court documents list those to whom they still owe money. Try to contain your surprise: many of the usual suspects in the deniersphere show up. Unfortunately, the amounts owed and dates aren’t listed, so we don’t know how much money was supposed to change hands or when. But we do know there is a funding relationship between the coal giant and the climate deniers …Full article

Want to help fight climate change?
Start with reproductive rights

With overpopulation a key environmental concern, safe access to birth control, abortion and reproductive health services offer a simple solution

Studies show women are more likely to believe climate change will affect them personally. Photograph: Nick Ut/AP

An often-ignored factor when examining environmental issues and climate change is the powerful role played by women. In the developed world, although women still struggle to achieve parity in issues of pay and opportunity, we typically hold the most sway in household decisions. According to the Wall Street Journal, women control nearly three-quarters of consumer spending in the US and two-thirds in the UK, including "making the decision in the purchases of 94% of home furnishings ... 92% of vacations ... 91% of homes ... 60% of automobiles".

This massive buying power means that most of the time, women hold the reins when it comes to making large, environmentally friendly decisions like deciding to vacation close to home rather than taking another long-haul flight, buying a modestly sized dwelling rather than a McMansion, and choosing a compact hybrid car rather than a gas-guzzling SUV ...Full article

Meet the scientist who wants to save the world with just renewables

Stanford University scientist Mark Z. Jacobson believes the world can be powered on 100 percent renewable energy, and he has a plan to get there. Photo by Umair Irfan.

With his hands in the air, professor Mark Z. Jacobson lets out an exasperated sigh.

A Twitter dispute between him and a conservative commentator is playing out in front of his 6,000 followers. The back-and-forth stems from a paper Jacobson published last year in the journal Energy & Environmental Science outlining paths for all 50 states to run on renewable energy by 2050.

The paper estimated that the number of jobs created by the transition would far outweigh jobs lost in the fossil fuel and nuclear energy sectors, including construction. But the critic said that the construction jobs would go away once it's built, echoing a complaint many opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline raised about that project's job numbers.

Jacobson countered that his construction job estimate was not a one-time deal, as workers are hired to continue to install renewables over the next few decades. The build-out is gradual, he explained, so the comparison to Keystone XL construction jobs is void. "I just don't like it when people lie about my work," he said in his daylit office ...Full article

Hard-Pressed Rust Belt Cities Go Green to Aid Urban Revival

A community farm in Detroit, which has been a leader in green urban renewal.

Gary, Indiana is joining Detroit and other fading U.S. industrial centers in an effort to turn abandoned neighborhoods and factory sites into gardens, parks, and forests. In addition to the environmental benefits, these greening initiatives may help catalyze an economic recovery.

Depending on how you look at it, Gary, Indiana is facing either the greatest crisis in its 110-year history, or the greatest opportunity. The once-prosperous center of steel production has lost more than half its residents in the past 50 years. Just blocks from city hall, streets are so full of crumbling, burned-out houses and lush weeds that they more closely resemble the nuclear ghost town of Pripyat, near Chernobyl, than Chicago's glitzy downtown an hour to the northwest. Air, water, and soil pollution are severe.

Yet in the midst of this, Gary has quantities of open space that more prosperous cities can only dream of, and sits on a stretch of lakeshore where plant biodiversity rivals Yellowstone National Park. Now, the big question for Gary, and for dozens of other shrinking cities across the United States' Rust Belt - which collectively have lost more than a third of their population since the middle of the 20th century - is how to turn this situation to their advantage ...Full article

A Rhode Island senator speaks out often
about the dangers of climate change

Sea levels along the coast of Rhode Island have risen 10 inches since a destructive hurricane in 1938. Areas around Narragansett Bay are beginning to see the effects. Credit: Save the Bay

Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has risen 135 times on the Senate floor to urge his colleagues to act on climate change.

They may not be listening, but that won't stop him from speaking, he says. "I'm from the Ocean State," he explains. "Ninety-plus percent of the heat captured from greenhouse gases has been taken up by the oceans. So they're warming and you [can] measure that with thermometers. And unless somebody's going to repeal the law of thermal expansion, when oceans warm they get bigger, and when they get bigger they rise against our shores."

Off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island, scientists have measured 10 inches of sea level rise since a devastating hurricane in 1938, Whitehouse points out. And while the oceans are rising and taking up heat, they're also taking up carbon dioxide …Full article

North Carolina's Duke Energy Says It's Safe to Have 16 Million Tons of Ash at Lake Norman

A concrete pipe below this Duke Energy coal ash pond failed in 2014, releasing ash into North Carolina’s Dan River. Steven Alexander U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

As Gov. Pat McCrory and state legislators battle over control of Duke Energy's coal ash cleanup, the Marshall power plant on Lake Norman shows there will be no easy solutions.

Since 1965, when the plant opened, Marshall has accumulated so much ash that the company says it can't meet a state deadline of 2024 to get rid of it. Ash results from burning coal, and it holds metals that can be toxic in high doses. It has contaminated groundwater at all 14 of Duke's N.C. coal plants, although the company maintains it has not reached private wells. At Marshall, more than 16 million tons of ash lie submerged in a "pond" - the largest Duke owns in North Carolina - that could hold a small fleet of boats. Duke officials say it would take 800,000 truckloads and two decades to haul it away, as the state ordered last week ...Full article

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

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

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

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

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