Green Divas myEARTH360 Report: Environmental News Update 2.27.14

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This week’s rundown of environmental news — from the dark side of yellow, and the underbelly of a fracking CEO … to good news for farm workers that work with pesticides.

Who doesn’t love the color yellow and it’s sunny, cheerful disposition? Turns out it may be toxic. Of course, there’s no shortage of other WTF news, but this time (and in future posts) you can count on a mix of encouraging headlines to brighten up your day (or at least counteract some of the side effects of what can be downright discouraging environmental stories) topped off with a way you can take action.

Listen to this Green Divas myEARTH360 segment for the week of 2.24.14 . . . 

Let’s get the WTF News out of the way…

oil wellExxon CEO Joins Lawsuit Against Fracking Project Near His Home.

As ExxonMobil’s CEO, it’s Rex Tillerson’s job to promote the hydraulic fracturing enabling the recent oil and gas boom, and fight regulatory oversight. The oil company is the biggest natural gas producer in the U.S., relying on the controversial drilling technology to extract it.

The exception is when Tillerson’s $5 million property value might be harmed. Tillerson has joined a lawsuit that cites fracking’s consequences in order to block the construction of a 160-foot water tower next to his and his wife’s Texas home.

The Wall Street Journal reports the tower would supply water to a nearby fracking site, and the plaintiffs argue the project would cause too much noise and traffic from hauling the water from the tower to the drilling site. The water tower, owned by Cross Timbers Water Supply Corporation, “will sell water to oil and gas explorers for fracing [sic] shale formations leading to traffic with heavy trucks on FM 407, creating a noise nuisance and traffic hazards,” the suit says. Read the full story….

BP gets slick in trying to undermine gulf oil spill settlement

In full-page ads, BP ridicules payouts it believes are undeserved, including $8 million to famed chef Emeril Lagasse and $173,000 to an escort service.

It would be perfectly proper for BP, the giant British oil company, to feel a sense of corporate remorse.

After all, the firm was responsible for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and well blowout that took 11 lives and created “immense environmental damage” in and around the gulf. (Those words were uttered by a Department of Justice official just over a year ago, when BP pleaded guilty to a dozen felony charges and agreed to pay $4 billion in penalties and fines.)

“Buyer’s remorse,” however? That’s a different story. Read the full story…

Are long-banned PCBs hiding in your clothing, food packaging & paint?cute baby in yellow towel

A Rutgers University study found that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), are ending up in the color yellow, used for clothing and paint.

This notoriously toxic chemical was banned in the 1970s. So why is it cropping up in yellow dye?

Researcher Lisa Rodunberg from Rutgers University wrote about “TSCA’s dirty loophole” on Safer Chemicals Healthy Families‘ blog this past summer. Rodunberg described how PCB’s were ending up in paints and dyes used for clothing, even though they had been banned. Rodunberg states,

“… a little known fact is that the Toxic Substances Control Act has a big loophole: PCBs are allowed in consumer products as long as their production is unintentional. Oftentimes, PCBs are by-products of chemical processes.”

Read the full story…

Fake food: Criminal gangs move from drugs to a new ‘underground economy’

Fake food pedalled by organised criminal gangs that could be harming children and people who suffer from allergies is being sold across Europe, it has been reported.

It is believed drug gangs have moved to counterfeiting food as the penalties are far lower than those for narcotic-related crime.

Products seized in the UK recently include goat’s milk diluted with cow’s milk, and cheaper peanut powder used instead of almond flour, which could seriously harm people with allergies.

Other illegal products include children’s sweets containing the carcinogenic industrial red dye Rhodamine B, 17,156 litres of fake vodka found in a 40ft lorry, and 22 tons of long-grain rice to be sold as high-quality basmati. Read the full story…

tarsands keystone xl pipeline protestDid the State Department Fail Obama on Keystone XL?

Hearing that Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) convened a press conference yesterday, and fired off a letter (PDF) to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, in an effort to revisit whether a study of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline was compromised by corporate conflicts of interest, a cynic might be inclined to accuse the distinguished gent from Tucson of grandstanding. If built, Keystone XL would carry heavy crude from Alberta’s tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico by bisecting Nebraska, not the Grand Canyon. (Well, he is a ranking member of the House subcommittee on public lands and environmental regulation.)

An investor in TransCanada (TRP), the Calgary-based company that wants to lay the 875-mile final leg of pipe, meanwhile, might wonder if the congressman simply doesn’t know when he has lost. Grijalva, you may recall, wrote another letter back in December urging the full environmental impact statement (EIS) not be released until after the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General had completed a review of conflicts of interest uncovered between TransCanada and the firm, Environmental Resources Management, hired to do the assessment and generate the report. Grijalva collected 24 signatures from the House of Representatives for the letter, but the only response he received from State was the release of the environmental report on the Friday before the Super Bowl. The inspector general review he sought was nowhere to be seen. If that’s how State treats U.S. elected officials, it’s no wonder some foreign leaders are wary. Read the full story…

And now for some Encouraging News!

Post-Sochi: Environmentalists Call on Olympic Committee to Consider Future Game’s Climate Impactssochi olympics mountain

A letter was sent to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday from Global Greengrants Fund asking it to change course on how it chooses future Olympic sites and to call on Russian authorities to release imprisoned environmentalists. The request comes as a final report cataloguing the extensive environmental destruction has been released, and as jailed Russian environmental activist, Yevgeny Vitishko, continues his hunger strike and is transferred to a penal colony for a three-year sentence.

“The environmental destruction caused by the Sochi Games, and the arrest and imprisonment of environmentalists who are simply trying to get the word out, is unconscionable,” said Terry Odendahl, executive director and CEO of Global Greengrants Fund. “The Olympic Charter says it is committed to ‘building a peaceful and better world by educating youth,’ and the Sochi Olympics have violated that charter.” Read the full story…

EPA Announces New Protections for Farmworkers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its long-overdue proposal for Farm Worker Protection Standards (WPS), which are designed to provide protections from pesticide exposure for more than 2 million farm workers and their families across the nation. The proposal is a small step in the right direction; however, farmworker advocates say they do not go far enough.

“It took the EPA 20 years to make this announcement, how long will it take them to implement those standards? It won’t be until late 2016 until it’s implemented!” said Nelson Carrasquillo, executive director of El Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores (CATA-The Farmworkers’ Support Committee) and Beyond Pesticides board member.

The proposed changes to the Farm Worker Protection Standard include:

  • Raising the level of training for workers and handlers from every five years to once a year. The training will include information on farmworker protections required, restrictions on entering pesticide-treated fields, access to information and use of personal protective equipment. It will also provide instructions on reducing pesticide exposure in the home.
  • Requiring mandatory posting of no entry signs in treated areas which have a re-entry time of more than 48 hours rather than either oral or posted notification.
  • Setting the minimum age of pesticide applicators and early entry works to 16 years of age; previous rules had absolutely no minimum age requirements.

Read the full story…

fruits and vegetablesVegetarian diet may lower your blood pressure

Nearly a third of American adults have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Often called the “silent killer” because it provides few warning signs, hypertension increases a patient’s risk for heart attack and stroke.

New research suggests eating a vegetarian diet could help combat this deadly disease.

A healthy blood pressure is 120/80 mm HG. Previous studies have shown that each increase of 20/10 mm Hg in that number doubles the patient’s risk of cardiovascular disease. But lowering that top number just 5 mm HG can reduce your chances of dying from cardiovascular disease by about 7%. And eating more fruits and vegetables may be a good way to do that, according to the new study, published Monday in the scientific journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Read the full story…

99 Percent Of New Power Generation Added In January Came From Renewable Energy

More than 99 percent of new electric capacity added in the U.S. in January came from renewable energy sources, according to data released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Thursday.

Of the 325 megawatts of new capacity installed, solar led the way with 287 megawatts added in January. That was followed by geothermal power with three new units totaling 30 megawatts, one new unit of wind energy with an installed capacity of 4 megawatts, and three new units of biomass totaling 3 megawatts. In addition, there was 1 megawatt added that FERC defined as “other.”

Despite significant gains, renewables are still a relatively small piece of the overall capacity picture in America. Read the full story…

Shell Gets Go-Ahead to Design Carbon Capture for U.K. Gas Plant

Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) will proceed with a project to capture carbon dioxide from a U.K. gas-fired power plant after signing an agreement with the government.

Shell will carry out detailed design work for the facility in Peterhead, northeast Scotland, Jonathan French, a company spokesman, said today by telephone. He declined to comment on financial arrangements with the government, saying only that Shell would make a contribution.

Britain is seeking to get a carbon capture and storage, or CCS, industry off the ground by the end of the decade to clean up fossil-fuel power stations and factories. Trapping emissions for burial would allow the country to keep burning coal and gas and running the manufacturing units that drive economic growth.

The Peterhead project, led by Shell and supported by utility SSE Plc (SSE), was one of two selected 11 months ago to win funding of 1 billion pounds ($1.7 billion) from the government. Read the full story…

USDA Spending $3M to Feed Honeybees in Midwestbees cartoon

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will spend millions of dollars to help farmers and ranchers improve pastures in five Midwestern states to provide food for the nation’s struggling honeybees under a program to be announced Tuesday.

Commercial honeybees pollinate an estimated $15 billion worth of produce each year. Many beekeepers bring hives to the Upper Midwest in the summer for bees to gather nectar and pollen for food, then truck them in the spring to California and other states to pollinate everything from almonds to apples to avocadoes.

But agricultural production has been threatened by a more than decade-long decline in commercial honeybees and their wild cousins due to habitat loss and pesticide use. Colony collapse disorder, in which honeybees suddenly disappear or die, has made the problem worse, boosting losses over the winter to as much as 30 percent per year. Read the full story…

Random News

For the Supreme Court, a Case Poses a Puzzle on the E.P.A.’s Authority

In trying to decide whether the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority under two programs to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources like power plants, the Supreme Court on Monday faced what Justice Elena Kagan called “the conundrum here.”

One part of the Clean Air Act, she said, seemed to require that such emissions be regulated. But another part set the emission thresholds so low that even schools and small businesses would be covered.

The agency’s solution was to raise those thresholds, and the resulting standards covered far fewer sources. That move was at the center of Monday’s arguments, and the justices seemed divided along ideological lines over whether it was a sensible accommodation or an impermissible exercise of executive authority. Read the full story…

Action of the Week!

Click here to sign the petition asking the Exxon CEO for his help in protecting people everywhere from fracking, not just in his backyard! Your Voice Counts!

Oil rig image via shutterstock.
Tarsands image via shutterstock.
Mountain image via shutterstock.
Fruits & veggies image via shutterstock.
Cute baby image via shutterstock.
Bees image via shutterstock.

About the author / 

Green Diva Lynn

Lynn Hasselberger is the former Managing Editor of The Green Divas blog and was a producer of the Green Divas Radio Show. She's also a mom, writer and award-winning cat-herder who lives in Chicagoland. Sunrises, running, yoga, chocolate and comedy are just a few of her fave things.

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