Transportation & Infrastructure
The state of U.S. passenger rail - I—by ObamOcala: "This is the first of a multi-part series on the history and current state of passenger rail in the United States. I had originally hoped to publish the first part some time ago, but research, chasing photos and writing took longer than expected. Today being National Train Day, however, I decided this would be a good time to kick things off. I hope to publish a diary each Saturday over the next several weeks. It has long been fashionable on the right to attack all passenger rail as being the product of a bygone era, a relic of our pioneer past best left in the ashpit of history. But in a rush to embrace high-speed rail, it apparently has now become fashionable on the left to bash conventional intercity passenger rail in exactly the same way. In commenting on the aforementioned diary, for example, I was flamed for pointing out that Amtrak's current equipment is capable of top speeds of 110 mph, and upgrading existing rail infrastructure to accommodate that speed would be relatively easy and inexpensive. The gist of the comments flaming me (and another commenter who defended Amtrak's Acela service) was that 110 mph was laughably slow, and I'm a fool for thinking achieving that speed is a worthwhile goal. The same tone permeated the Midday Open Thread piece, as well as the WIRED blog post it linked to — that new locomotives being built for corridor services throughout the U.S. are laughable because they're 'only' capable of going 125 mph."
Hack journalist Krauthammer, climate denier, here's your "superstition"—by gnosticator: "Despite 97 to 98 percent of climate scientists contradicting Hack Krauthammer's climate predictions, this vile yellow journalist decided to go on Fox News and try the old mockery bully technique that is so popular with conservatives of all ages. Charles Krauthammer believes climate change is a mere superstition, just like the 'rain dance of Native Americans.' Appearing Tuesday on Fox News' 'Special Report,' the conservative pundit rejected the consensus of between 97 and 98 percent of scientists who believe climate change is real and is fueled by human activity. 'It's always a result of what is ultimately what we're talking about here, human sin with pollution of carbon,' Krauthammer said. 'It's the oldest superstition around. It was in the Old Testament, it's in the rain dance of Native Americans—if you sin, the skies will not cooperate.'Blah blah blah goes the Worst Hack Journalist Ever as he does the dirty work of the Koch paymasters. But I have something I give to the rank and file conservatives on Facebook who dare publicly deny climate change, who parrot this propaganda and subsequently risk their kids futures."
Charles Krauthammer says climate change is superstition just like the rain dance of Native Americans—by HoundDog: "In Krauthammer: Climate Change Is 'Superstition' Like 'The Rain Dance Of Native Americans,' Catherine Thompson of Talking Points Memo exposes Charles Krauthammer's primitive lack of understanding of basic science and climate models as well as his insensitivity to Native Americans. With a video and selected comments of his appearance Tuesday night on Fox News' 'Special Report' Krauthammer offered himself up as an example of the prototypical 'climate denier' rejecting the latest series of major scientific reports from the White House and IPCC indicating that climate change is real, here now, and caused by human activity. Others have castigated him for speaking of Native American culture in a such a derogatory way to make this point."
Global Warming and Pascal's Wager—by Bright Creature: "I am responding to the following link, where Bill Nye is making the claim that global warming is the most important issue of our time. I both agree and disagree with Bill Nye. I totally agree that global warming is desperately vital to address. No matter what people's beliefs, if the world ends tomorrow, there are no "oops, heh, guess I was wrong wasn't I's?" This subject is like Pascal's Wager but applied to belief in global warming instead of God. By choosing to believe in global warming and acting on it as if it were a threat, we're safe because we're doing what we need to do about situation, so we'll manage to save our collective asses. Also, not believing in global warming but acting as if it were reality anyway is safe because we acted on it even if we acted only out of insurance. Furthermore, by not believing in global warming and not acting upon it and if we're right that warming does not exist, then we're just fine. However, if we do not believe and don't act on it and global warming is real then we're all in bad shape, or all dead."
Rising CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere will make some staple food crops Less Nutritious—by Lefty Coaster: "More bleak news about what our deteriorating environment has in store for us and our children in the not too distant future, as a result of our dumping CO2 into the atmosphere. Crops grown in the high-CO2 atmosphere of the future could be significantly less nutritious, a new study published today in Nature suggests. Based on hundreds of experiments in the field, the work reveals a new challenge as society reckons with both rising carbon emissions and malnutrition in the future."
Climate Change Short and Sweet—by DoctorNoren: "Our President spoke to Al Roker in an interview and discussed Global Climate Change. He explained that his view was that he was very concerned over Climate Change and that Congress didn't want to overreact since the American public is still mixed on it. News flash...there are millions of INFORMED Americans that are very clearly against further use of fossil fuels."
Spring Equinox Begins with a Bang!—by Joseph Manson : "Extreme weather stories are getting repetitive. “I’ve never seen anything like this before” is a common reaction that people experience when they experience an intense weather event. The situation in South Surrey, British Columbia, was no different. 'Nine acres of Yue’s crops were destroyed after the South Surrey area was pounded by more than 91 millimeters of rain on Sunday.' This represented over a months worth of rain in less than 36 hours. Other areas around the area had intense downpours, but of course its variable and often location specific. Vancouver managed to avoid most of the deluge. Next time, they may not be so lucky. The issue in this story of an extreme weather event was that it hit farmer's crops. Hence, these torrential downpours have real consequences beyond damage to property. Things like compromised food or water security, have the potential to affect more people than those that suffered the deluge."
New El Nino Coming?—by greenman3610: "I interviewed Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and Dr. Josh Willis of NASA JPL."
The Great Outdoors
The Daily Bucket - Deep Dark Woods: The Old Man Down the Road—by foresterbob: "My work is seldom boring. Sure, there is plenty of repetition in what I do. But there is something different about every patch of woods. Sometimes it’s the trees themselves. Sometimes it’s the terrain or access. Sometimes it’s the weather. Sometimes it’s the critters. Sometimes it’s the neighbors. [...] Last Saturday morning I made the 50 mile drive from my house to begin my latest project, which would require three days of field work. On this first day, I would hang up flagging to mark stream buffers, taking GPS points along the way in order to create a useful map. Armed with maps and an aerial photo, I found the land easily. It was hard to miss, having paved roads on two sides and a river on another side. One road was a state highway with a bridge over the river. The other road dead-ended at the river bank. I decided to park on the latter road because it wouldn’t have much traffic. Where the road met the river, a line of No Parking signs stood to deter visitors from crossing private land to get to the river. I found a spot next to one of those signs where the shoulder was wide enough that I could park on my client’s land instead of the road right-of-way."
Food, Agriculture & Gardening
The Power of Our Food Choices—by Ellen Moyer: "We see the problems in our lives and in the world and ask, 'What can we do?' The answer is, 'We’re doing it now.' Whether we like it or not, or know it or not, our small actions repeated day after day add up to huge impacts. Consumers weigh in on a vast array of issues every day. As for any species, from microorganisms on up, food is at the heart of our lives and how we fit into the web of life. Our eating habits profoundly affect our individual health and well-being; our social, economic, and political systems; and our environment. Our future success as a species may hinge on our food habits. Our food choices influence whether we protect or devastate our environment and our fellow species. Approximately 38% of the world’s ice-free land is dedicated to raising crops and livestock, and the clearing of grasslands and forests for agriculture is a major driver of wildlife extinction. As much as half of all the food produced in the world ends up being thrown away. Only 55% of world crop calories feed people; 36% feeds livestock and 9% is used for biofuels and industrial products. Livestock production requires vastly more water, land, and energy that plant foods and is a major cause of the world’s most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Our present style of industrial agriculture emits more climate-disrupting greenhouse gases than transportation does."
Ikea introduces meatless meatballs, highlights need for more action to help cut meat consumption—by VL Baker: "Furniture and now sustainable giant Ikea is planning to introduce a vegetarian version of their famous signature meatballs in an effort to be more eco-friendly. From Eater: Green Business reports that Joanna Yarrow, the head of sustainability for Ikea, said this week at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change event that the regular meat meatballs are the 'most carbon intensive' dish on their menu. The Telegraph notes that this is because of the 'high carbon dioxide emissions involved in the farming process' of cattle and pork and the high volume, around 150 million meatballs, that Ikea sells each year. A less carbon intensive chicken meatball is also currently in development. Could Ikea's sustainability people be reading DKos? I wrote about Ikea's impressive carbon reduction commitment of being carbon neutral by 2020 here. I ended the article with this paragraph: I don't see how they can continue selling their famous swedish meatballs if they expect to be carbon neutral by 2020. Meatless meatballs anyone?"
Jackson County, Oregon v. Monsanto and GMO giants—by madame damnable: "Jackson County, Oregon, is a largely agricultural county, home to numerous small family farms, a thriving Grower's Market system (multiple markets in multiple towns), acres of pear orchards, vineyards and many commercial seed growers. We have a ballot measure for the upcoming May 20th election that would ban the growing of certain genetically modified crops. Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, DuPont and other multinational chemical companies have donated a combined $455,000 to defeat the measure, a huge buy of commercial time in a small market like ours. Yikes! Measure 15-119 seeks to protect farmers from contamination by pollen drift from genetically modified crops. A local farmer had to destroy his entire crop of organic swiss chard seed because of trespassing pollen contamination from a nearby GMO sugar beet crop. Farmers in eastern Oregon lost sales of wheat to Japan after GMO wheat was discovered in a non-GMO field. Even the possibility that a crop might be contaminated can cause an entire crop to be rejected by buyers overseas where most countries forbid the growing of GMO crops. Areas that ban the growing of GMO crops like Santa Cruz, CA have actually seen an increase in agricultural profits because of food safety concerns."
Stopping Fossil Fuel Exports - An Interview with Bill McKibben—by James Wells: "People in our corner of northwest Washington have a lot of gratitude to author Bill McKibben. In addition to his national leadership on climate, Bill came out here in May, 2011 to help raise the alarm about plans for North America's largest coal export terminal. Since then, we have taken that ball and ran with it! Prior to his pending return to Bellingham, on May 16 and 17, Bill was kind enough to give an interview by email both about climate activism generally and also about our specific regional issues.
James Wells: A lot has happened here in Whatcom County since your last visit in 2011. At that time, the planned Gateway Pacific coal export terminal was widely regarded as unstoppable. Now, after three years of determined organizing and opposition, the proposal has been greatly delayed and may be on the rocks. While you have put a lot of public emphasis on KXL, where do the coal export plans rank into your portfolio of concern?
Bill McKibben: I think it’s just as important as KXL, one of the most crucial fights for American climate activists to win. There’s as much carbon in the Powder River basin as there is in the Canadian tar sands - it’s all got to stay in ground if we’ve got a chance."
Collapse of efficiency bill and Keystone XL proposal show how unserious Republicans are on energy—by Meteor Blades: "Republican senators had a chance this past week to prove they have at least some sense when it comes to the nation's energy future. They could have shown they really do believe in a kind of bipartisanship that isn't branded my-way-or-the-highway. And they could even have made their point once again about the wisdom of building the Keystone XL pipeline together with nearly a dozen like-minded Democrats. But they blew it on all counts out of intransigence and myopia. There were two proposals at issue. One was the Shaheen-Portman bill, a modest but worthwhile bit of energy efficiency legislation that should have garnered the votes of three-quarters or more of the Senate but had been held up since last year because of Republican Sen. David Vitter's demand that it be tied to a vote on Obamacare. The other was Landrieu-Hoeven, a bill to transfer authority for deciding the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline from the president to Congress in hopes of approving the project that is still undergoing a mandated review by the State Department."
Bipartisan energy efficiency bill stalls due to G.O.P. holding out for Keystone vote and amendments—by HoundDog: "Katie Valentine of Think Progress reports that a Bipartisan Energy Efficiency Bill Stalls Again, Along With Keystone Vote, due to G.O.P. political maneuvering. The “Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act" supported by both parties, as well as several industry and consumer groups looks as if it will die in the Senate next week, held hostage by Republicans trying to attach five amendments to it, including one to force a vote on the Keystone XL pipeline and an anti-EPA measure. As E&E News reports, Majority Leader Harry Reid took steps on Wednesday to block five Republican amendments the the Shaheen-Portman bill. The amendments included ones to speed up natural gas exports and oppose EPA regulations on future power plants. Since the amendments aren’t getting attached to the bill, Republicans have rejected the offer to vote in favor of the bill in return for a vote on Keystone XL. Republican Senators, wanting to pass this bipartisan bill, asked me to bring the bill to a vote as soon as possible—as is,” Reid said in an emailed statement to ThinkProgress. 'For those Republicans acting in good faith, passage of the energy efficiency legislation was the most important thing. Unfortunately, though, the obstructionist wing of the Republican caucus decided once again to block the bill.'"
Oil Spills are Job Creators—by jqjacobs: "I see no need to comment further as this speaks for itself: An oil conglomerate seeking to expand its pipeline through pristine First Nations territory in British Columbia has taken the notion of looking on the bright side to a new level. In its 15,000-page application to the National Energy Board, Kinder Morgan Canada suggests that accidents actually carry within them the seeds for economic advancement. 'Pipeline spills can have both positive and negative effects on local and regional economies, both in the short- and long-term,' the company, a subsidiary of Houston-based Kinder Morgan, stated in its NEB application."
Coal—by indycam: "Great Barrier Reef on brink of devastation in relentless quest for coal. The Queensland and federal governments' mining push is a catastrophe in the making, write Helen Caldicott and Reese Halter. [...] By 2030 Australia is predicted to increase its export of coal from 240 million tonnes this year to 787 million tonnes in 2030. Queensland's liquefied natural gas and coal exports are soaring in order to deliver atmospheric-warming carbon fuels to satisfy Chinese and Indian markets. [...] The ports of Gladstone and Abbot Point are poised to become the busiest in the world. In 2011, the shipping industry alone increased our export trade coffers by $38 billion. In 2012, 3950 ships entered these Great Barrier Reef ports and these numbers are set to treble by 2030."
Why Does Fusion Energy Research need a Bake Sale?—by Frank Paine: "Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP) started a crowd source funding campaign at IndieGoGo. Eric Lerner, President and Chief Scientist at LPP researches electrical power generation directly from fusion energy and without steam or neutrons. Anyone who believes that fusion energy can phase out carbon fuels should support this campaign. Developing fusion technology is a legacy for future generations. We must phase out the Carbon Fuel Colossus that powers our civilization and poisons our planet. It is top dog in our modern times and its fall will be tragic for some, joyous for others. Let’s hope it doesn’t take down our civilization with it."
White House Quietly Launches $2 Billion Solar Jobs Program—by ericlewis0: "Turns out President Obama wasn't just acting locally today when he reinstalled solar panels on the White House. He was also thinking globally...Today, President Obama announced more than 300 private and public sector commitments to create jobs and cut carbon pollution by advancing solar deployment and energy efficiency. The commitments represent more than 850 megawatts of solar deployed—enough to power nearly 130,000 homes—as well as energy efficiency investments that will lower bills for more than 1 billion square feet of buildings. Additionally, the President announced new executive actions that will lead to $2 billion in energy efficiency investments in Federal buildings; smarter appliances that will cut carbon pollution by more than 380 million metric tons—equivalent to taking 80 million cars off the road for one year—and will save businesses nearly $26 billion on their energy bills; and training programs at community colleges across the country that will assist 50,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020."
The Florida Stupid! It Burns—by chiphmartin: "They’ve got sunshine in their nickname, but the reactionaries in Florida can’t seem to figure out that solar could be the next big boom industry in the state. Witness the inane ramblings of Rep. Ritch Workman (R-Utility). According to The Tampa Bay Times, there’s a movement afoot to put before the voters a constitutional amendment that would give tax breaks to businesses that install solar panels on their roofs. But Workman, chairman of the Florida House Finance and Tax Committee, has decided he’s having none of that whole 'let the voters decide' stuff (maybe he, like his governor, is afraid the WRONG people will vote). He has planted himself squarely in the way because, well, I have no earthly idea. Here’s what he had to say (as reported by the Times): I just don’t see the need to continue to expand the incentives and underwriting of solar. Solar is coming a long way and eventually it’s going to be able to stand on its own two feet. But right now it doesn’t. Ah. So subsidies for traditional fuel sources, in the form of guaranteed profits for the utilities: Good. But small-business tax breaks (wait, I thought Republicans supported tax breaks for small businesses? I’m so confused) to install solar panels on their roofs? Bad because ... yeah, I still have no idea."
AfP/Koch Setup Anti-Renewable Energy PAC, Deny it, Get Caught, Change Story.—by tmservo433: "It all began with a simple mailer that went out to Kansans encouraging them to talk to their legislators (who are not in session) about repealing RPS, the Renewable Energy Program in the state of Kansas. Bryan Lowry at the Wichita Eagle was able to ask AFP and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, managed to get both to go on the record that they were not a part of this mailer. Postcards warning that renewable energy standards have caused higher utility bills came from a new group run by the sister of the chair of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and represented by a lobbyist who previously ran the state chapter of Americans For Prosperity. Last week, the Kansas House rejected legislation meant to end the state’s renewable energy standards, also called RPS, which require that utility companies get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020."
Did ABC News Get Duped by Couple Claiming "Wind Turbine Syndrome"?—by TheGreenMiles: "Last fall, ABC News profiled a Massachusetts couple who blamed a single wind turbine more than five football fields away for a litany of health problems and their home's falling value. But a recent local hearing on the couple's claims included a major revelation that wasn't included in the ABC report, raising serious questions about the network's reporting. The ABC News report that aired on Good Morning America gave an extremely long, very credulous account of the story of Sue and Edward Hobart. The Falmouth homeowners claim a wind turbine 1,600 feet away—well over a quarter of a mile—caused a wide range of mysterious health problems. The Hobarts filed a six-figure lawsuit against the turbine manufacturer, claiming the turbine hurt the value of their home. [...] The Hobarts stuck to their story even as Sue Hobart later admitted that she had suffered from ringing in her ears for "quite a while," but claimed it had gotten worse 'since the turbines.' [...] To review: They admit they've always felt sick, they sign a legal document that their symptoms pre-date the turbine, and a home inspection shows serious health concerns inside the home. Yet none of that made it into the ABC News story."
California: Stop fracking. Don't tax it.—by RLMiller: "An oil severance tax bill, SB 1017, passed a California state senate committee yesterday. The bill would place a 9.5 percent tax on oil, with 50 percent of the money going to higher education (specifically, deferred maintenance, equipment replacement, and bond repayment) and the remainder divided between state parks and health and human services. The bill has attracted support from higher education - earnest young college students lobbied and Associated Student presidents testified for the bill in committee. The students lobbying for the oil severance tax are part of Generation Hot, the people most affected by climate change. For emphasis: SB 1017 will not hire a single professor or lower a single student loan. It will simply go to deferred maintenance, equipment replacement, and bond payments."
Keystone and Other Fossil Fuel Transportation
Feds Publish "Lessons Learned" Pipeline Safety Bulletin on 2010 Enbridge Kalamazoo River Spill—by LakeSuperior: "This is a very brief post to let the Daily Kos community know about an important pipeline safety bulletin published yesterday by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The PHMSA safety bulletin is entitled: Integrity Management Lessons Learned from the Marshall, Michigan. The bulletin addresses the July 25, 2010 massive release of heavy sour crude oil from tar sands from Enbridge Line 6B. All in #NoXKL Camp will want to take a look at this safety bulletin which discusses the Enbridge deficient operation and stewardship of their own pipeline. Note that the entire Enbridge spill in Michigan was a completely preventable accident according to the National Transportation Safety Board."
DOT Orders rail carriers to declare Bakken crude to states—by Horace Boothroyd III: "At least for trains carrying more than thirty five cars of it. As well as a set amount of gallons. This will at least make emergency responders in each state aware of the tools and equipment they will need to contain these disasters on rails. The emergency order also says to cull the tank cars in order to make safety a priority over profit by neglecting maintenance. This is very important because these machines need to be treated like we depend on them to protect lives. Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued an Emergency Order requiring all railroads operating trains containing large amounts of Bakken crude oil to notify State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) about the operation of these trains through their states."
Eco-Activism & Eco-Justice
The Myth Of Tomorrowland: Thoughts On A Protest (#no KXL, 05/08/2014)—by Randle Aubrey: "There was a protest in my neighborhood yesterday. The president's in town, fund raising for the DNC. He's staying at one of the city's most expensive hotels in the heart of downtown San Jose, and the people gathered in the public square facing the hotel - La Plaza De Cesar Chavez - to demonstrate against the Keystone XL pipeline project at the behest of Credo Action Network. About two hundred people eventually showed up, cordoned off well away from the hotel until the president's motorcade arrived. Once he got there, dozens of protesters bum-rushed the front door, desperate to gain access to the event taking place inside. Countless others howled and chanted in the plaza, waving signs and banners proud and fierce. It was a spirited event, demonstrating once again that, if you manage to achieve the right combination of numbers, hostility, and bravery bordering on recklessness, a spark will be lit and a story will be made to tell. It's shame that this one will serve only as a footnote in the history of the protest movement, as much for those who demonstrated yesterday as for the causes they were demonstrating against. Today, La Plaza De Cesar Chavez is empty, and the president is gone. But there is still so much to fight for."
Eco-Related DC & State Politics
A Mother’s Day Interview with Sen. Barbara Boxer—by Marcia Y Yerman: "You are an example to women political leaders and grassroots mother/activists. In your role as Chairperson of the EPW, you must deal with other senators who are 'climate deniers.' You make a point of pushing back and reading information into the record that reflects the scientific data. Are you hopeful that your committee and the Congress will get through the partisan intransigence to deal with the science at the heart of climate change? 'The latest report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) adds a tremendous sense of urgency for Congress to wake up and do everything in its power to reduce dangerous carbon pollution. And the projections for the future give us more reason to worry—a 2014 study in a peer reviewed journal published by NIH predicts that by mid-century heat waves are expected to grow increasingly more frequent—causing up to 19 times more heat-related deaths. I have formed the Senate Climate Action Task Force with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and we are working to 'wake up Congress' to climate change. We are realistic about the current makeup of Congress and the difficulty in passing climate change legislation, but we are not going to sit back or give up trying to raise visibility of the serious threats facing our nation. The great news is that we have a group of 23 Senators who are all committed to using our bully pulpit to elevate the issue and 'wake up Congress.'"
Hawaii's biggest utility company is forced to help customers install solar panels by PUC—by HoundDog: "Clean Technica reports that Hawaii’s Biggest Utility Company Forced To Help Customers Install Solar Panels, by the state"s Public Utility Commission which ruled that HECO was putting up roadblocks to consumers trying to connect their residential solar systems to Hawaii's electric grid. Hawaii's consumers are rebelling against huge energy bills and the realization that the payback times for some system with federal credits can apparently be as little as 3 - 6 years, and 0.8 to 3.0 year for commercial customers. Am I reading this chart correctly? Incredible! [...] The PUC ruled that HECO was not moving fast enough to address key sources of customer frustration, namely challenges connecting solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to the electric grid. “The PUC is giving Hawaiian Electric up to 120 days to come up with a more comprehensive strategy that can lower energy costs and help connect more PV systems to the grid,” KHON2 News reported."
MI-Sen: Tom Steyer's NexGen Climate Goes After Koch Bros' Ally Terri Lynn Land (R)—by poopdogcomedy: "In a new web video, NextGen Climate is calling out Michigan Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land after her shameful ad made false accusations over funds pledged toward the victims of wildfires. But it’s Land who welcomed millions in outside money into her race—including the Koch brothers’ PAC. These are the same Koch brothers that have threatened Michigan’s air and water quality with their dirty petroleum coke stockpiles. Instead of launching false attacks, Land should stand up to the Kochs and publicly oppose the efforts to bring their dirty tar sands byproducts back to Michigan.
Vermont Governor To Sign GMO Labeling Law Friday - Food Industry Announces Lawsuit—by Leslie Salzillo: "Vermont's governor just announced some very important news that's bound to make millions of concerned consumers around the country—very happy. The small New England state seems to be on a dynamic roll these days. Last week Vermont became the first state to pass a Joint Resolution (JRS 27) to overturn Citizens United. This week, Governor Peter Shumlin (D-VT) announced, when he signs the H.112 bill on Friday, Vermont will also be the first state to pass a law that requires GMO (genetically modified organism) labeling on all food products."
How House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Upton Can Make the World a Better Place: Retire—by Bruce Brown: "I’m usually left mildly irritated by the occasional messages that Fred Upton, my congressional representative, sends to his email subscribers. His most recent email got me thoroughly pissed. I’m pretty sure he’s not stupid, but he must think his constituents are. If you’re chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wouldn’t that automatically make you one of the nation’s strongest advocates for the business of researching, developing, and producing green energy? You could personally help lead the nation—and the planet—into the future, toward the most vital development ever in the evolution of humanity: our inevitable transition from black energy to green. Instead, Upton is one of the strongest proponents of same-old big oil and the Keystone XL pipeline. His email said KXL should be part of North America’s “new architecture of abundance.” He complained about the indefinite extension of the pipeline’s review. You don’t need audio to hear the whine: We will never be allowed to take full advantage of North America’s growing energy resources if it takes over five years to simply approve a privately-built pipeline. We are going to need to build dozens of new oil and natural gas pipelines and transmission lines over the next decade to fully realize the potential our newfound energy abundance."
Trade & Foreign Policy
Why Does The Solar Industry Keep Hitting Itself?—by chiphmartin: "Damn you, Department of Commerce. You could have settled this bloody trade war between the Chinese and American solar industries two years ago when you decided in SolarWorld’s favor in 2012. Here’s a little advice: You should probably fire all the lawyers involved in crafting that decision because they left open a loophole so big you could steer the USS Theodore Roosevelt through."
Investigation Into Oakland Bird Killing—by Richard Lyon: "The public furor over the slaughter of night heron chicks on the grounds of the Oakland post office is unabated. Postal officials are trying to claim that no birds were harmed. Eyewitnesses tell a different story. It turns out that the post office was in violation of the law the begin with by not applying for a city permit to trim the city owned trees. Investigators with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state Department of Fish and Wildlife are looking into the matter, examining witnesses' photographs and videos, interviewing Pulido and witnesses and even looking at the wood chipper. Penalties include fines, depending on how many birds were harmed, and six months in jail."
USPS Perpetrates Massacre In Oakland—by Richard Lyon: "If this isn't a tale of stupid heartless bureaucrats I never heard one. Washing the mail trucks couldn't have been that hard. Shorebird wood chipper massacre reported in Oakland. Oakland has come to love the squawking black-crowned night herons that have taken up residence downtown. City work crews leave them alone, and residents say they adore the colony's rain-forest-like cacophony—a bit of nature amid the hardscrabble urban landscape. But the shorebirds aren't so cute to the U.S. Postal Service. Officials at the downtown post office ordered nearby trees trimmed Saturday because nesting birds were defecating on the mail trucks. The result, witnesses said, was a feathery massacre that ended with nests—and baby birds—fed through a wood chipper, hysterical neighbors protesting in the street, and a call to Oakland police officers, who ordered the trimmers to stop."
The Daily Bucket-Water Nymphs—by Wood Gas: "A seagull has spotted something interesting. Grab it, mine, mine. The gull has caught a Nereid worm , of the polychaete class of annelids. Nereid worms spawn in swarms and in some species at least, timed to a lunar cycle."
Water & Drought
Urge EBMUD To Support Wild & Scenic Protection For The Mokelumne River!—by Dan Bacher: "The bill to protect 37 miles of the Mokelumne River as a California Wild & Scenic River passed a key Senate committee last week on a 7-2 vote. Introduced by Senator Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), S.B. 1199 would permanently protect the Mokelumne and its extraordinary scenic, recreation, historical/cultural, and water quality values. But there are hints that the powerful East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) may take a position next week to oppose the bill and we need your help to convince EBMUD to either support the bill or take a neutral position. EBMUD owns and operates two large dams on the Mokelumne and sells the water stored behind the dams to residents of Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond, San Leandro, and other cities in the East Bay. In response to a lawsuit two years ago, EBMUD removed from its long-term water plan a proposal to expand its existing Pardee Reservoir, which would have flooded a portion of the river proposed for protection in S.B. 1199. This segment includes two whitewater boating recreation access sites, the historic Middle Bar Bridge, and numerous Gold Rush era historical sites and Native American cultural values."
Department of Water Resources establishes two new sections to implement tunnel plan—by Dan Bacher: "The Brown administration is stepping up its efforts to fast-track the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels, as revealed in a memorandum to Department of Water Resources (DWR) staff on May 6 from DWR Director Mark Cowin. Cowin said two new organizations will be established within the agency to implement the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) - a DWR BDCP Office and the Delta Conveyance Facilities Design and Construction Enterprise (DCE) - beginning June 1."
Water Conference to be held in Fresno on May 10—by Dan Bacher: "The Valley Water Consortium will hold its second FREE water conference, H2O #2, on Saturday, May 10, 9 A.M. -3:30 P.M., in the Social Science Building at Fresno City College. Morning Plenary speakers include economist Dr. Jeffrey Michael, Barbara Barrigan-Parilla of Restore the Delta, Hydrologist Ken Schmidt, Lloyd Carter of Save our Streams, Chief Caleen Sisk of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Adam Scow of Food and Water Watch, and Chris Acree of Revive the San Joaquin."
Pollution, Hazardous Wastes & Trash
Benghazi: the environmental angle—by danps: "One of the stranger stories in Washington this week happened in a House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday. The committee was investigating allegations of bad conduct at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and it certainly looks like some stricter oversight is in order. While it's nothing compared to the Bush administration's coke-snorting and lobbyist-banging Minerals Management Service, the theft of nearly a million dollars by (now jailed) former deputy assistant administrator John Beale is definitely worth a hearing or two. What's particularly interesting about this is that Beale initially said he was working undercover for the CIA, which kicked investigative authority over to the agency's Office of Homeland Security, or OHS (not in any way connected to the Department of Homeland Security, of course). OHS is responsible for hazardous waste cleanup in the event that terrorists managed to, say, poison the water supply of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Since its investigations touch on national security, no one must know any details about them - including the agency it works for. In this case, OHS basically stonewalled the EPA Inspector General."
Update on Plutonium Released From Fukushima: Measuring Roadside "Black Substances" in Hot-Zones—by MarineChemist: "This diary serves as an update to a previously published diary summarizing efforts to determine how much plutonium (Pu) was released to the environment as a result of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear disaster. Plutonium is an alpha radiation emitting isotope that, if internalized, can represent a significant radiological health risk. Previous measurements of Pu in air, soil, plants and seawater following the 2011 disaster suggest that Fukushima released about 100,000 times less Pu to the environment than the Chernobyl disaster did in 1986. New measurements of "black substances" found along roadsides in high radiation areas in Fukushima Prefecture support previous work showing that Pu was released from the Fukushima plant. Based on the relative activity of Pu to radioactive cesium (137-Cs) the study determined that 2.3x10^9 Bq of 239,240-Pu (580 mg) was released or about 0.00004% of the Pu core inventories. This release from Fukushima is roughly 40,000 times lower than Chernobyl and 5,000,000 times lower than 239,240-Pu released during atmospheric weapons testing in the 20th century."
First Results of Kelp Sampling Program Looking For Fukushima Radioisotopes Off North American Coast—by Marine Chemist: "This short diary's purpose is to report the first results made public by Dr. Steven Manley and Dr. Kai Vetter's program Kelp Watch 2014. The goal of the program is to measure radionuclides in various species of kelp collected up and down the Pacific coast of North America and Hawaii to monitor for the presence of Fukushima sourced isotopes in the marine biota. First results of measurements made in kelp collected during February-March 2014 have just been made public. Data indicate that Fukushima derived isotopes were not detected in any of the samples given the absence of the short lived isotope of cesium (134-Cs half life ~2 years) that serves as a fingerprint of the Japanese source. Longer lived 137-Cs (half life ~ 30 yr) was detected in the kelp that is a legacy of atmospheric weapons tests in the 20th century. Compared to naturally occurring isotopes (e.g. Uranium and Thorium decay series) the activities of Cs isotopes resulting from human activities were 10,000-100,000 lower."
Products & Miscellany
North Dakota was the deadliest state to work in 2012—by Laura Clawson: "The workplace fatality rate held steady at 3.4 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2012, which means that 4,628 workers were killed on the job in America in 2012, according to the AFL-CIO's annual "Death on the Job" report. Where you work makes a huge difference in the risk of death. Take North Dakota: The state’s 2012 job fatality rate of 17.7 per 100,000 is more than five times the national average and is one of the highest state job fatality rates ever reported for any state. The state’s fatality rate more than doubled from a rate of 7.0 per 100,000 in 2007, and the number of workers killed on the job increased from 25 to 65. Latino workers accounted for 12 of the North Dakota deaths in 2012, a fourfold increase from the three Latino worker deaths in 2011. The fatality rate in the mining and oil and gas extraction sector in North Dakota was an alarming 104.0 per 100,000, more than six times the national fatality rate of 15.9 per 100,000 in this industry; and the construction sector fatality rate in North Dakota was 97.4 per 100,000, almost ten times the national fatality rate of 9.9 per 100,000 for construction. By contrast, the workplace fatality rate in Massachusetts was just 1.4 per 100,000 workers."