BP oil spill altered coral, shipwrecks in gulf, scientists say

Oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the dispersant used to break the oil into tiny droplets might have affected the genetic balance of deepwater corals in the Gulf of Mexico. They also might have altered the thin biofilm that covers and protects the metal of deepwater shipwrecks, according to new research discussed Monday (Feb. 22) at the American Geophysical Union’s Ocean Sciences conference in New Orleans.

Amazing new video shows deepwater shipwrecks corroded by BP oil spill

The Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010 taught us a lot about deep water — foremost about the engineering challenges in plugging a blown-out well a mile below the sea’s surface. Everything’s different down there. Chemistry is different at those pressures, where it’s completely dark. But, as we reported early on, there’s still life down there — exotic, weird, a little scary.

Peru oil spill pollutes Amazon rivers used by indigenous group

At least 3,000 barrels of crude oil have been spilled in an Amazonian region after leaks from Peru’s main oil pipeline, the state oil company said.

The oil has polluted two rivers that at least eight indigenous communities rely on for water, the government and indigenous leaders said.

Petroperu has promised a full clean-up and is also providing food and water.

About 20 geese cleaned after oil spill in Potomac, released back to the river

About 20 Canada geese were released Monday after a rescue group helped clean them following an oil spill last month in the Potomac River.

The Delaware-based Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research group retrieved about 60 waterfowl that were taken out of the Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary, which feeds into the Potomac, three weeks ago. The Coast Guard reported that 29 of those birds have died.

Pine Grove Water Advisory Still in Effect After Oil Spill

A water advisory remains in effect in Pine Grove after an oil spill in a northern West Virginia creek. The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register reports officials say Pine Grove residents still shouldn’t use the town’s water for anything but flushing toilets.

Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kelly J. Gillenwater said officials from MarkWest Energy’s Mobley natural gas processing plant in Wetzel County reported the heat transfer oil spill Saturday

Oyster harvesters allege damages after oil spill

A larger collection of owners and lease holders of an oyster bed are seeking damages after an oil spill allegedly contaminated their property.

Mathew J. Lepetich, M.J. Lepetich Oysters LLC, M.J. Lepetich Marine LLC, et al. filed a lawsuit Feb. 19 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana against Burnett & Co. Inc., certain underwriters at Lloyd’s of London, Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., Water Quality Insurance Syndicate and Gemini Insurance Co., citing the Oil Pollution Act.

The Biggest Oil Leak You’ve Never Heard Of, Still Leaking After 12 Years

Far away from TV cameras and under the radar of the nightly news, oil has been continuously leaking from a damaged production platform located just 12 miles off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico—causing an oily sheens on the surface that stretch for miles and are visible from space.

These underwater oil wells have been leaking since 2004 and continue to leak as you read this. Unless it is plugged, the government estimates the leak might continue for 100 years until the oil in the underground reservoir is finally depleted.

With Some Tar Sands Oil Selling at a Loss, Why Is Production Still Rising?

Like a supertanker unable to make quick turns, production from tar sands in the Canadian oil patch continues to increase despite prices so low producers have to sell their output at a loss.

The industry’s inability to cut production could have a profound impact on the climate as well as corporate bottom lines. Despite reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across Canada, continued tar sands oil production will most likely keep the nation from meeting targets it set as part of the international climate accord agreed to in Paris.



Stanford Scientist Finds People Living Near Shallow Fracking Wells at Risk of Drinking Water Contaminated With Methane

A Stanford University scientist has found that people who live near shallowly drilled oil and natural gas wells risk drinking water contaminated with methane. A potent greenhouse gas, methane is highly flammable.

“The main risk is from chemical spills and poorly constructed wells that leak,” said Rob Jackson, a professor of Earth System Science at Stanford, who presented his findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, DC, last week. “Our research shows that most problems typically occur within half a mile.

Two Pennsylvania families who say fracking fouled water take case to trial

Jury selection began on Monday in a federal lawsuit in which two northeastern Pennsylvania families allege that Cabot Oil & Gas Corp contaminated their well water with methane when it began fracking for natural gas near their homes.

Two couples – Scott Ely and Monica Marta-Ely, and Ray and Victoria Hubert – are the only plaintiffs remaining in a case that initially involved more than 40 people. The rest have settled with Cabot, a major producer in Susquehanna County.

Pennsylvania fracking trial begins, pitting families against driller

Cabot Oil & Gas Co contaminated drinking water for two Pennsylvania families in its rush to begin fracking operations during the state’s natural gas boom, a lawyer told a federal jury in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday at the start of a civil trial.

Leslie Lewis, who represents two families from the town of Dimock, told a six-member jury that Cabot had shown “reckless disregard” for the safety of her clients and other local residents.

Madison County judge to issue decision on Illinois’ fracking regulations

Regulations that govern high-volume hydraulic fracturing in Illinois are still unsettled after a Madison County judge heard arguments on whether to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the way the regulations were written.

High-volume hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is the process of using water, chemicals, pressure and explosions underground to loosen up earth in order to extract oil and gas.

Fracking disaster looms, thanks to Tallahassee lawmakers

The oil fracking bill sailed through the Florida House but is meeting some resistance in the Senate — as well it should. Let’s hope senators like Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and appropriations chief Tom Lee will continue to oppose putting Floridians’ health and safety at risk.

Fracking is the process of drilling and then pumping water and chemicals into wells at great depths and pressures to release oil and gas from rock formations.

Coast Guard Drops Controversial Proposal to Ship Toxic Fracking Waste

In a win for clean water and public health, the U.S. Coast Guard quietly dropped its proposal today to allow barges on the nation’s rivers and inter coastal waterways to transport toxic fracking wastewater.

“Shipping thousands of barrels of toxic wastewater down the rivers we drink from was a recipe for disaster,” said Rachel Richardson, director of Environment America’s stop drilling program. “For the sake of our drinking water and our safety, we’re glad to see this bad idea put to rest.”

Massive Methane Leaks From Texas Fracking Sites Even More Significant Than Infamous Porter Ranch Gas Leak

After the mammoth methane gas leak that spewed uncontrollably from a damaged well in California’s Aliso Canyon was finally capped last week, residents of nearby Porter Ranch began trepidatiously returning to their homes. Lingering doubts over whether Southern California Gas Company will continue using the underground storage field have left many wondering if concerns for their safety are being considered at all—particularly considering the company has, so far, only been charged with misdemeanor violations.



Fukushima: Five Years Later

A 50-foot wall of water spawned by the quake exploded over Daiichi’s seawall, swamping backup diesel generators. Four of six nuclear reactors on-site experienced a total blackout. In the days that followed, three of them melted down, spewing enormous amounts of radiation into the air and sea in what became the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The Japanese government never considered abandoning Fukushima as the Soviet Union did with Chernobyl. It made the unprecedented decision to clean up the contaminated areas—in the process, generating a projected 22 million cubic meters of low-level radioactive waste—and return some 80,000 nuclear refugees to their homes.

Judge: State failed to stop pollution from FPL cooling canals

A Tallahassee judge has ordered state environmental regulators and Florida Power & Light to clean up the utility’s troubled cooling canals at Turkey Point after blaming the system for polluting South Florida’s groundwater.

In the sharpest indictment yet of the aging canals, Administrative Law Judge Bram Canter found that the canals had caused a massive underground saltwater plume to grow, threatening to contaminate wellfields providing drinking water for the Florida Keys and parts of Miami-Dade County. Florida regulators, the judge found, then let the utility off the hook by failing to stop the pollution when the state’s Department of Environmental Protection approved a faulty management plan in the midst of the Christmas holiday more than a year ago over the objections of nearby cities, the county, environmentalists and rock miners.

Japan’s Kansai Electric to stay with Takahama restart plan

Japanese utility Kansai Electric Power said on Monday it will stay with its scheduled restart of the Takahama No. 4 reactor at the end of February, rescinding the possibility of a delay after a contaminated water leak on Saturday.

Kansai Electric, Japan’s second-biggest utility, had earlier on Monday said it may delay the restart after a leak of 34 litres of slightly radioactive water on Saturday at the No. 4 unit at its Takahama nuclear plant in Fukui prefecture, 500 km (310 miles) west of Tokyo.

For some Fukushima mothers, protecting children from radiation comes at heavy price

Three-and-a-half years after fleeing to central Japan, a mother received a package from her husband who had opted to remain at their home in Fukushima Prefecture despite the nuclear disaster.

From Tamura, about 35 kilometers west of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the father sent snacks for the couple’s two children. The cardboard box also contained divorce papers.

Hollande acknowledges ‘consequences’ of nuclear tests on Polynesia trip

Compensation for the victims of three decades of French nuclear tests was a focus of President François Hollande’s visit to French Polynesia on Monday, his first stop on a tour of the Pacific and Latin America.

Hollande’s first move was to lay a wreath at the grave of Pouvanaa a Oopa, the anti-colonialist considered the founder of modern Tahitian political culture. But the focus of the visit was very much on the victims of 193 nuclear tests carried out by France between 1966 and 1996 on the atolls Mururoa and Fangataufa.

Indian Point nuclear plant called “disaster waiting to happen”

The recent radioactive leak at New York’s Indian Point nuclear power plant is prompting renewed calls for the site to be shut down, amid growing concerns about the potential damage a nuclear accident could do in one of the most densely populated parts of the country.

In the past year alone there have been a number of mishaps at Indian Point, including a power failure in the reactor core, a transformer fire, an alarm failure, and the escape of radiated water into groundwater. The plant sits about 25 miles north of New York City, so a serious mishap could potentially put millions of people in harm’s way.

$107.7 billion needed to finish Hanford cleanup

The latest price tag for the remaining environmental cleanup of the Hanford nuclear reservation comes to an estimated $107.7 billion.

The estimate — released Monday by the Department of Energy with its regulators, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Washington — includes cleanup work planned to be largely completed by 2060, plus some post-cleanup oversight.

Nuclear fuel arrives in Tennessee

Spent nuclear fuel originally intended for Idaho National Laboratory has instead arrived at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and research on the highly radioactive material is underway.

The 100 pounds of “high burnup” nuclear material — one of two proposed shipments that sparked major controversy in Idaho — did not appear to gather much attention in Tennessee. The Knoxville News Sentinel first reported on the material’s arrival from the North Anna Power Station in Virginia last week.

New bacterial pump could be used to remove cesium from the environment by light

A novel cesium-transporting bacterial pump developed by researchers at the NITech could be beneficial in radioactivity decontamination efforts. These findings were recently reported in The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.

The NITech-led team, in collaboration with colleagues at The University of Tokyo, successfully induced a molecular pump found in bacteria to transport cesium. The process simply requires the presence of light to make it function. The finding could pave the way for a new means of extracting cesium from the environment, potentially speeding up decontamination efforts following the radioactive fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.

Reactor coolant leak caused by weak bolt tension, Kansai Electric says

A radioactive coolant water leak at one of the idled reactors at the Takahama nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture was caused by insufficient tension of a bolt in a valve installed in a pipe, according to Kansai Electric Power Co.

The power company said earlier that an estimated 34 liters of coolant water leaked Saturday in a building attached to the No. 4 reactor. It said Monday that the radioactivity level was below that which requires notifying the government.

Centrus announces shutdown at Piketon Plant

Layoffs will start next week at the American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, Ohio.

Late last week, Centrus Energy Corp. announced the company will demobilize the demonstration cascade and reduce its workforce at Piketon, starting with laying off 60 employees.

Nuclear commission proposes firms transfer cash by 2022 to pay for clean-up

Germany’s utilities will have to transfer provisions set aside to pay for the interim and final storage of nuclear waste to a fund in cash by 2022, according to a draft report from a government-appointed committee seen by Reuters on Monday.

The report recommends that Germany’s “big four” utilities — E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall — remain liable for the cost of up to double the 18 billion euros ($19.8 billion) allocated so far to pay for interim and final storage.



Even in sunny L.A., warming climate may be the next big public health problem

For years scientists have warned that climate change will cause melting ice caps, rising sea levels and severe droughts and floods. But global warming’s effects can also be far more personal, seriously harming human health.

Most recently, the mosquitoes that can transmit the Zika virus, once found only in Africa and Asia, now breed all over the world, carrying the threat of new, sometimes deadly diseases.

How climate change destroyed Britain’s ‘Atlantis’

There was an entire city out there, David Sear knew.

Beyond the faded town and crumbling cliffside, past the skeleton of a long-abandoned church that was itself just one strong storm away from tumbling into the water, through the sand and scrubby sea grass and under the waves, lay the remains of a British Atlantis. There were shipyards and guild halls, mansions and market squares, two friaries, six or seven churches, an untold number of homes.

How to Keep Companies Honest About Fighting Climate Change

Going green is the latest corporate trend—but it can be tough to separate the companies that are actually making major environmental commitments from those that are just giving lip service to the cause.

Now that Walmart, Google, Goldman Sachs and other international corporations have pledged to cut their carbon footprint—commitments that would have been almost unimaginable a decade ago—climate leaders are turning their attention to the next challenge: ensuring that companies follow through on their promises. That’s the aim of a new effort spearheaded by the U.N.’s recently appointed climate champion, French climate change ambassador Laurence Tubiana. She hopes to build a system that measures corporate efforts to address climate change, with non-governmental organizations playing a role as fact checkers.

What The Candidates Say About Climate Change

Two studies published Monday connect increasingly routine tidal flooding in many East Coast communities to climate change caused by human-produced greenhouse gases.

This morning on the Fox Business Network, Republican presidential candidate John Kasich said “I’ve talked about climate change. I think there is such a thing,” making him stand out among rivals who question climate change science.

Increased flooding in US coastal cities caused by climate change, study says

Rising sea levels are putting increasing pressure on US coastal cities, with a new analysis showing that human-driven climate change is to blame for three-quarters of the coastal flooding events over the past decade.

The Climate Central research shows that coastal flooding days have more than doubled in the US since the 1980s, the primary drivers of which have been the warming of the atmosphere and oceans. The findings are based on a separate study, released on Monday, that found the Earth’s seas are rising at a pace unseen in the past 2,800 years.

Dark taiga under threat through climate change

Climate change is transforming the Earth, particularly in high-latitude regions. The boreal coniferous forests of the northern hemisphere will witness an increased abundance of deciduous trees. This is according to discoveries made by an international team of researchers headed by Susanne Tautenhahn, formerly a scientist at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry and now working at Friedrich Schiller University Jena. These changes will, in turn, have an impact on the climate – whether global warming will be intensified or decelerated as a result, however, is something that remains to be seen.

Wildflowers provide clues on climate change in Alberta

A tiny wildflower is helping scientists better understand how plants will adapt to climate change in Alberta, and how human intervention might save rare flora and fauna from extinction.

“We wanted to look at a controversial conservation tool called ‘assisted migration’ which is literally picking up the species and helping it colonize or move to cooler temperatures,” said Scott Nielsen, a conservation biologist in the University of Alberta’s Department of Renewable Resources, who oversaw the research.

Blame Zika on climate change

On Feb. 1, the World Health Organization declared the spread of Zika virus across Latin America a “public health emergency of global concern.” Zika is a mosquito-borne virus related to the dengue and yellow fever viruses. In most cases, infection by Zika has no symptoms, which means the disease is usually not diagnosed. Only 20 percent of Zika cases are accompanied by symptoms such as fever and rash. The disease, which originated in Brazil, has spread to almost 30 other countries and territories, including the United States, where at least 82 cases have been reported.

Congress backs court challenge to Obama’s climate change plan

More than 200 members of Congress are backing a court challenge to President Barack Obama’s plan to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.

A brief filed Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington argues that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its legal authority and defied the will of Congress by regulating carbon dioxide emissions.



Czechs Protest Polish Greenhouse Over Light Pollution

It’s much ado about a greenhouse.

A huge and well-lighted greenhouse opened last year on the Polish side of the border with the Czech Republic. The light helps tomatoes grow, and makes Czech neighbors growl.

The dispute has engaged diplomats and the governments. The European Parliament might be the next stage for the spat.

Meet the scientist connecting the dots between air pollution and dementia

At first blush, you might not think air quality is related to brain health. But what if the two are connected? Air pollution continues to worsen in the developing world, especially in rapidly developing countries like China and India; at the same time, our global population is aging, and dementia rates are expected to rise accordingly. Increasingly, research suggests a link between air pollution exposure and the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. How might this relationship be possible, and what might it mean for what the world is — or isn’t — prepared to handle in the coming decades?

Refinery neighbors sue Marathon over pollution impacts

Lawyers representing residents living next to the Marathon refinery in southwest Detroit filed a class action in U.S. District Court in Detroit on Monday alleging the refinery’s fumes and noise cause a perpetual nuisance harming their lives.

The lawsuit seeks in excess of $5 million, as well as a court order that Marathon cease the release of all contaminants into what it calls the “class area” — residential neighborhoods within blocks of the factory bounded by Pleasant Street to the north; Schaefer Highway to the south; Bassett Street to the east and Edsel and South Patricia streets to the west. The lawsuit also calls for Marathon to abate its noise and odors; and for it to investigate, identify and remove all refinery contaminants from class members’ properties.

Farmer Martin Hamilton fined for polluting River Enler

Martin Hamilton of Ballyrainey Road in Comber, was convicted in connection with pollution of the River Enler in February last year.

A court in Newtownards was told that one of two incidents of pollution left the river “grossly polluted”, while a second incident days later caused “serious pollution”.

China tackles pollution crisis by changing the level of what it says is unsafe in Beijing

China has said it will increase the threshold at which it will warn people about air pollution in Beijing. From March, the highest alert will only be issued when the daily average air quality index is forecast to exceed 500 for a day, 300 for two days in a row or 200 for four days.

At present, a red alert is issued when the AQI is forecast to exceed 200, a level the US deems “very unhealthy”, for at least three days.

Indonesia’s Solution for Pollution Is in the Bag

Indonesia has started charging consumers for plastic bags, in a move aimed at cleaning up the environment and cutting waste in one of the world’s worst plastic polluters.

The program is in a trial phase and the Indonesian government has set a minimum fee of 200 rupiah ($0.015) per bag that will apply initially to supermarkets, convenience stores and some other retailers.

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