Food Irrigated With Fracking Water May Require Labels In California

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A new bill proposed in California would require all produce irrigated with fracking wastewater to come with warning labels. 

The bill, which Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D) introduced on Monday, would require any crops grown with water that had previously been injected into rock formations to free oil and gas reserves and sold to consumers in the state to be labeled. The warning would read, “Produced using recycled or treated oil-field wastewater.”

“Consumers have a basic right to make informed decisions when it comes to the type of food that ends up on the family dinner table,” Gatto said in a press release from his office. “Labeling food that has been irrigated with potentially harmful or carcinogenic chemicals, such as those in recycled fracking water, is the right thing to do.”

Federal officials, environmentalists and the petroleum industry remain intensely divided on how safe fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is. Debates over fracking largely revolve around whether the practice contaminates nearby groundwater, but an increase in farmers hydrating their crops with treated, previously injected water purchased from oil companies has aroused new concern. 

A report released last month by the California Council on Science and Technology did not discover strong evidence of dangerous chemicals in the recycled water — but it also found that state regulators did not have an adequate testing process and that there was “not any control in place to prevent [contamination] from happening.” 

It’s a risk Gatto believes people should be informed of. 

“No one expects their lettuce to contain heavy chemicals from fracking wastewater,” he said. “Studies show a high possibility that recycled oil-field wastewater may still contain dangerous chemicals, even after treatment.”

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Tokyo Heat Wave Lasted Eight Days, Doubling All-Time Record; 55 Confirmed Dead in Japan

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A heat wave that has already killed dozens and sickened thousands in Japan reached another torrid milestone Friday as the nation’s capital, Tokyo, suffered an unprecedented eighth consecutive day of extreme heat.

Tokyo reached 37.7 degrees Celsius (99.9 degrees Fahrenheit) Friday, marking its eighth straight day of highs at or above Japan’s “extreme heat” threshold of 35 C (95 F). An analysis of Japan Meteorological Agency data, conducted by The Weather Channel, confirmed that the previous record was just four consecutive days sent on five different occasions between 1978 and 2013. Records began in central Tokyo in June 1875.

The torrid late-morning reading also marked central Tokyo’s highest reported temperature since August 2013. The city’s all-time record high remains 39.5 C (103.1 F) set July 20, 2004.

The toll from Japan’s ongoing heat wave accelerated last week, boosting the year’s official tally to 55 heat-related deaths and sending more than 11,000 to the hospital according to new government figures released Tuesday.

According to Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency, 25 people died from heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses nationwide during the week of July 27 through Aug. 2. It was by far the deadliest week so far this year in Japan, nearly equaling the death toll of 30 in the preceding three months combined.

Public broadcaster NHK said another 5 heat deaths were confirmed Wednesday in Japan, in addition to 7 unconfirmed heat deaths.

The toll seems likely to rise even further as more deaths are officially attributed to the heat. NHK, citing local authorities, said heat-related illnesses are suspected of causing 68 deaths in Tokyo alone between July 11 and Aug. 4. The official national count of 55 only includes two deaths in Tokyo through Aug. 2.

The number of people sent to hospitals for heat-related illnesses also skyrocketed, reaching 11,637 when excluding the 25 deaths. This was more than double the figure for the same period in 2014. Since April 27, more than 35,000 people have been hospitalized due to hot weather in Japan. Of those, 855 have required at least three weeks of hospitalization due to the severity of their illness.

The heat has spared no region of the country. Heat-related deaths have been reported in 29 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, and each of the 47 prefectures has reported at least 100 heat-related illnesses.

The greatest concentration, however, has been in the nation’s urbanized areas – in part due to weather and in part simply due to larger populations. The Greater Tokyo area accounts for 19 of the 55 heat deaths this year, with Saitama prefecture suffering the highest death toll (nine) of any single prefecture. Tokyo proper leads the casualty count with 3,037 people affected by the heat, including two deaths.

Japan’s aging population is particularly vulnerable to the heat. Just over 49 percent of this year’s illnesses have involved people at least 65 years old. Children account for about 15 percent of the total, with adults ages 18 to 65 constituting the rest of the total.

The heat has expanded in recent days. According to data from the Japan Meteorological Agency, 223 of the nation’s 928 temperature observation sites recorded a high of at least 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday (Aug. 1), and more than two-thirds of the observation network hit at least 30 C (86 F).

Aided by abundant sunshine and a dearth of thunderstorm activity, more than 81 percent of JMA’s observation network hit the 30 C mark Tuesday, the highest figure since Aug. 22, 2012. The heat spread even further Wednesday, when 822 out of 928 sites reached 30 C, a level not matched since Aug. 6, 2010.

The heat even spread to the normally cool shores of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four main Islands. The city of Nemuro reached an all-time record high of 33.6 C (92.5 F) Wednesday, topping the previous record of 33.0 C (91.4 F) set Aug. 6, 1960. Records in Nemuro date all the way back to 1879, making this an especially significant record climatologically.

Arguably the epicenter of the heat has been in the northern suburbs of Tokyo, which are among the hottest regions of the country owing to their low elevation, long distance from the coast and southerly latitude – a rare combination in Japan.

The city of Tatebayashi in Gunma prefecture recorded its 13th consecutive day of temperatures 35 C or higher on Wednesday, reaching 39.8 C (103.6 F). That’s the highest temperature recorded anywhere in Japan this year, according to JMA, and ties for the 25th-highest daily high temperature ever recorded in Japanese history.

In Japan, a day with temperatures reaching or exceeding 35 C (95 F) is known as a mōshobi, written as 猛暑日 and meaning “extremely hot day.” It’s likely no coincidence that the first character of that term is also the first character of Japan’s highest category of typhoon – mōretsu, written as 猛烈 and meaning “violent.”

The latter term was applied to Super Typhoon Soudelor when it peaked in intensity Monday. The typhoon impacted Japan’s southernmost islands on Friday, but was too far south to bring any heat relief to the mainland.

 

Conor Burns responds to article in Private Eye about Navitus Bay ‘bias’

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MP Conor Burns has responded to an article implying he has opposed the Navitus Bay wind farm for personal gain.

The article, which appeared in fortnightly journal Private Eye, notes that the Bournemouth West MP “receives regular payments” from Trant Construction Ltd, an engineering firm connected with the oil and gas industry – including Wytch Farm oil field in Poole Harbour.

The company is listed in Mr Burns’ register of interests.

The article says Navitus is proposed for beds “thought suitable for oil and gas drilling”, and that despite opposing the wind farm partly on the grounds of its potential impact on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, Mr Burns has not “spoken up” against plans by Infrastrata to drill for oil and gas in Swanage.

Responding to the article, Mr Burns said: “I have seen a mischievous article related to my position on Navitus.

“Any financial interest any Member of Parliament has is openly registered and made public. The only interest I have to declare on Navitus is the interest of my constituents who are overwhelmingly opposed to it.

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All About The Benjamins: Coal, Pollution & Mine Inspectors In Appalachia

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In June 2013, mine operator and Kentucky state representative Keith Hall went to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet with a complaint.

Kelly Shortridge, a mine inspector with the Division of Mine Enforcement and Reclamation in Pikeville, had been soliciting Hall for bribes to ignore violations on Hall’s Pike County surface mines.

Hall told two cabinet officials that he had already paid Shortridge “a small fortune,” and that the mine inspector “liked the Benjamins.” A report was drawn up, forwarded to the cabinet’s investigator general and Secretary Len Peters, and went nowhere.

The FBI began investigating the matter when the Lexington Herald-Leader published Hall’s complaint report through an open records request. In June, Hall was found guilty of bribing Shortridge to ignore Hall’s safety and environmental violations.

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During the trial, the bureau submitted evidence that strongly suggests Keith Hall was not the only operator paying Kelly Shortridge. Shortridge himself has admitted to taking bribes from other Pike County operators.

So how deep does the conspiracy go? That’s the question many are asking in the wake of Hall’s trial. The Herald-Leader published a recent editorial that pointed out the familiar territory here:

This is not the first time questions have arisen about the Pikeville office of the Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement where Shortridge, an inspector for 24 years, worked.

Other Pikeville-based inspectors allowed a surface mine (not owned by Hall) to operate without a permit for 18 months, until July 2010, when rain dislodged the unreclaimed mountain and flooded out about 80 families. One of the inspectors retired a month later.

Remember, too, that the division went years without penalizing coal companies for filing bogus water pollution reports by copying and pasting the same data, month after month.

This falsified water pollution data was only discovered after a coalition of environmental and citizen groups including Appalachian Voices discovered water monitoring reports that the department had neglected to review for over three years. The fact that the FBI had to find out about Hall’s allegations by reading the newspaper – and not through the cabinet itself – reveals a similar pattern of negligence.

How committed is the cabinet to enforcing Kentucky’s environmental and safety regulations around mining? The answer may lie in the phenomenally small salary that the state was paying Shortridge at the time of his 2014 resignation: $45,160 a year.

This may seem like an insignificant detail, but it speaks volumes about how our regulatory systems function, what they prioritize, and what motivates the individuals who operate within them. Shortridge was using his small salary, in addition to the bribes he was taking from Hall and others, to pay for his wife’s medical bills. It’s impossible to speculate about his personal character, but it does seem clear that he was responding to a specific set of material conditions in a way that most individuals on that kind of salary – and in that kind of position – very likely would.

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Without much incentive to enforce existing regulations, and knowing that it pays more to cozy up to the industry than to fight it, we really must ask: how many other Kelly Shortridges are out there? This doesn’t seem like an unreasonable question to ask of a regulatory system that, at best, lacks the political capital and material resources to enforce violations, and, at worst, is overseen by the very mine operators it’s supposed to be regulating. (Before being voted out of office in 2014, Keith Hall was the vice chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.)

Finally, Keith Hall’s remark that Kelly Shortridge “liked the Benjamins” – an incredibly condescending statement from a man who once appropriated his own county’s coal severance tax to the benefit of one of his companies – is revelatory. It hints that there are boundaries to what is and what isn’t acceptable within relationships between the coal industry and the state: Shortridge was getting ambitious; his greed was somehow different than Hall’s. Keep in mind that this was confessed to two cabinet officials, mob-style, as if Shortridge was breaking a set of established rules. Hall needed Shortridge until he didn’t, and then sold him down the river when he became an annoyance.

Now that they’re both paying for breaking the rules, will Governor Steve Beshear’s administration adequately investigate further possible corruption? It unfortunately doesn’t look likely.

As the Herald-Leader editorial notes, “This should be a moment of truth, but history tells us not to expect an aggressive self-examination of the state agency’s love affair with the coal industry.”

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– See more at: http://appvoices.org/2015/07/30/a-moment-of-truth-for-kentuckys-coal-regulators/#sthash.oVZYbSbu.dpuf

These Beautiful, Translucent Barriers Quiet Traffic—And Generate Power At The Same Time

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Where could this be? The Netherlands of course, where it seems like all such clever plans start (solar bike path, anyone?).

And this has to be one of the best Dutch ideas yet—roadside noise barriers that also generate solar power. Not only that, they work on cloudy days, and one kilometer (0.62 miles) provides enough electricity to power 50 homes.

The plan seems so obvious, you wonder why it hasn’t been done before. But the key is a new kind of solar panel. They’re cheap, they’re transparent, and they use a different light-gathering tech that works under the gray skies of Northern Europe. They’re called luminescent solar concentrators (LSC), and they’re translucent sheets which bounce light internally to the edges of the panels, where it is beamed onto regular solar panels “in concentrated form.”

The LSC panels can be made in different colors, so the result is something like an oversized stained-glass window. Because light can shine through them, they could be used in urban areas, shielding noise without making either pedestrians or motorists feel cut off.

The test, which launched on June 18, along the A2 highway near Den Bosch, includes regular solar panels as a control, and also to see how both kinds of barrier fare in the outside world, when subjected to real life and real vandalism.

The project is being run by researcher Michael Debije, at the Eindhoven University of Technology. Debije’s breakthrough is this new kind of LSC panel. Regular LSC panels reabsorb light as they channel it to the solar arrays at their edges. Debije’s panels fix this. Added bonus: they also look good.

Seven remaining residents: The town of Centralia the real inspiration for Silent Hill….

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The Centralia area has grown to be a tourist attraction. Visitors come to see the smoke on Centralia’s empty streets and the abandoned portion of PA Route 61 where it detours around the former site of Byrnesville. But this was not always the case, once upon a time Centralia was a functioning town with a population of 2,761 nowadays it’s population numbers seven. The rest of the town was compulsorily purchased by the state as a means of obliging people to move out of a town that had become subject to dangerously high levels of Carbon Monoxide.

Well, you may say, what type of disaster could possibly have forced all the residents of Centralia to pack up their bags and leave? The answer to that appears to be incredibly simple and yet incredibly complex. Joan Quigley argues in her 2007 book The Day the Earth Caved In that the fire had in fact started the previous day, when a trash hauler dumped hot ash discarded from coal burners into the open trash pit.

She noted that borough council minutes from June 4, 1962, referred to two fires at the dump, and that five firefighters had submitted bills for “fighting the fire at the landfill area”. The borough, by law, was responsible for installing a fire-resistant clay barrier between each layer,but fell behind schedule, leaving the barrier incomplete.

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This allowed the hot coals to penetrate the vein of coal underneath the pit and light the subsequent subterranean fire. In addition to the council minutes, Quigley cites “interviews with volunteer firemen, the former fire chief, borough officials, and several eyewitnesses” as her sources.

In short, negligence in fireproofing two landfill sites led to hot coal ash being tipped onto a coal seam, and this triggered off a subterranean coal-mine fire that has continued to burn from 27 May 1962 until the present day.

One would have thought that the residents could have sued Centralia Borough for its negligence. But the minute disaster hit, it became apparent that the borough had covered its own ass, minutes were produced proving that the council had voted to close down the landfill site, although the minutes did not describe the proposed procedure. Nonetheless, the Centralia council had set a date and hired five members of the volunteer firefighter company to clean up the landfill, according to the minutes.

Subsequent action that was taken to put out the mine fire was insufficient because to all intents & purposes officials were far too concerned with covering up the extent of the problem.

Until that is 1984, when, with the help of congress, families still residing in this carbon-monoxide-bound hell where able to accept a buyout offer and move to the nearby communities of Mount Carmel and Ashland. 

So there the town of Centralia, with its seven residents, abides, along with the town of Byrnesville, a few miles to the south, which has also had to be abandoned and levelled due to the spread of the subterranean mine fire.

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Two whole towns have lain deserted for decades, just because of gaping holes in the sides and base of a landfill site that could easily have been filled in and safely lined at very little cost. When you have examples like this to hand, you have to wonder why mountain- top removals have been permitted, and why Shale Oil Fracking has been given pride of place in Pennsylvania.

Pollution isn’t colorblind: environmental hazards kill more black americans

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The call for racial and economic justice is getting louder and stronger. But while we are out on the streets fighting for equality, African American kids are being poisoned by the air they breathe. Environmental injustices are taking black lives – that’s why our fight for equality has to include climate and environmental justice too.

African-Americans are more likely to live near environmental hazards like power plants and be exposed to hazardous air pollution, including higher levels of nitrogen oxides, ozone, particulate matter and carbon dioxide than their white counterparts. The presence of these pollutants increases rates of asthma, respiratory illness and cardiovascular disease. It puts newborn babies at risk. It causes missed days of work and school. We can’t afford this. Black kids already have the highest rate of asthma in the nation, and our infant mortality rate is nearly double the national rate.

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Increased health problems hit people financially. African-Americans typically spend a higher share of their income on health care than their white counterparts (16.5% v 12.2%), and roughly one in five African-Americans don’t have health insurance.

President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is a desperately needed response to this problem. The Clean Power Plan would cut carbon pollution from power plants and put our country on a path towards cleaner energy solutions. It could stop up to 6,600 premature deaths and prevent up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children over the next 15 years – especially in African-American communities.

The total climate and health benefits from the Clean Power Plan could add up to as much as $93bn. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), every dollar we spend on the Clean Power Plan will translate into $7 in health benefits for American families. That’s a good return on investment.

But some utility and fossil fuel companies are spending a lot of money to scare black people into believing this plan will hurt them. They’re afraid that tackling climate change and cleaning up pollution will cut into their enormous profits – and they want us to think it will hurt us, too. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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Pollution from power plants is America’s single largest contributor to climate change. But you won’t hear these industry executives talk about the toxic air their companies spew into communities of color or the disproportionate health costs we shoulder. They won’t spend time explaining that carbon emissions from power plants amplify the devastating effects of ozone and other pollutants, or that their pollution leads to a direct worsening of asthma symptoms. Nor will they admit that economic projections show that the Clean Power Plan will reduce utility costs for American families. The EPA estimates that electricity bills will go down by roughly 8%, saving customers almost $100 dollars annually – and that’s on top of the savings in health costs.

According to the NRDC, the Clean Power Plan would create good, well-paying jobs in green technology and renewable energy. There are already more solar industry jobs than coal jobs in the United States. This energy revolution is an opportunity to increase African-American employment in a booming sector.

Centuries of racial discrimination as well as bad trade deals and economic policies that favor the wealthiest have led to black Americans being almost three times more likely to live in poverty than white Americans. We can’t fight this trend by believing the lies that rich fossil fuel and utility executives tell us. Black lives matter more than corporate profits –now is a chance to make sure our laws reflect that.

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