With Brad Friedman & Desi Doyen...
By Desi Doyen on 12/2/2010, 1:29pm PT  


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IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Happy birthday, EPA! Now die! (Same to you, FDA!); Huge food safety overhaul passes in the Senate (maybe); Updates from the international climate summit in Cancun ...PLUS: USA's 'Sputnik Moment' --- Losing the race for clean energy ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

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IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Oil spill panel chief 'mystified' by GOP block on subpoena power, mulls broader drilling regulations; US lab develops grid controls to handle renewable energy; Leaking Siberian ice raises a tricky climate issue; Homeland Security panel on at-risk chemical plants stacked with insiders; Divers find more oil on Gulf sea floor; U.S. Rescinds Expansion of Offshore Drilling; Coal: EPA withholds study on Spruce Mine alternatives; Appeals court halts U.S.-sanctioned killing of sea lions ... PLUS: Breaking away from coal: Utilities increasingly turn to natural gas, away from coal ...

STORIES DISCUSSED IN TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

  • Happy 40th Birthday, EPA!:
    • The EPA Turns 40: 'Job-killing' environmental standards help employ more than 1.5 million people (EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, op-ed, Wall St. Journal) [emphasis added]:
      Last month's elections were not a vote for dirtier air or more pollution in our water. No one was sent to Congress with a mandate to increase health threats to our children or return us to the era before the EPA's existence when, for example, nearly every meal in America contained elements of pesticides linked to nerve damage, cancer and sometimes death.
      ...
      The most common arguments against these protections are economic, especially as we continue to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Fortunately, the last 40 years show no evidence that environmental protection hinders economic growth... In fact, a clean environment strengthens our economy.
      ...
      Holding polluters accountable sparks innovations like the Engelhard Corporation's catalytic converter....
    • WATCH: VIDEO: The EPA at 40: A Conversation with Administrator Lisa P. Jackson (Aspen Institute)
    • On Your 40th Anniversary, Thank You EPA (National Geographic):[emphasis added]
      Consider that by 1990, the EPA’s actions had prevented 205,000 premature American deaths, 189,000 cardiovascular hospitalizations and 18 million child respiratory illnesses. The EPA has reduced 60% of dangerous air pollutants in the air we breathe. They have transformed 67% of contaminated Superfund Brownfield sites nationwide into livable neighborhoods and active business centers. In the four decades of its existence, millions of lives have been impacted by the EPA.

      Including my own. As I relayed in my introductory post here, I grew up in a community where “affordability” was a code word for low income and high pollution.

  • Important For Anyone Who Eats: Massive Food Safety Overhaul Clears Senate (for now), But Right-wingers Are, Predictably, Against It:
    • Food Safety Bill Passes the Senate: What it Means for Eating in America (Treehugger):
      The US Senate just passed the first major update to the nation's food safety policies in decades --- the bill gives the FDA the ability to test foods for dangerous pathogens, to issue food recalls, and requires that it do better and more frequent inspections of industrial food production plants. All of that is good news for the nation's food consumers --- namely, us. The stream of cases of tainted peanut butter, eggs, spinach, etc had drastically, and rightfully, weakened our confidence in national food safety. Will this bill repair it?
      ...
      It will help. A lot. It's not perfect (yes, the perfunctory phrase that must be uttered before discussing every single piece of legislation passed by Congress ever), but frankly, it does a lot of things that we should have been doing for a long time now.
    • Food safety bill enters horror-movie phase, thanks to Senate snafu (Grist)
    • Senate food safety bill leaves out meat, eggs (McClatchy):
      The food-safety bill passed Tuesday by the Senate does not cover meat, poultry, or eggs and does not sort out overlapping federal agency jurisdictions. Louisiana's Sen. Mary Landrieu also won an exemption for oysters. Now a technical glitch may allow the GOP, which has vowed to stop all legislation, to block the bill, which passed the Senate 73-25.
    • FACT v. FICTION:Beck invents facts to attack food safety bill (MediaMatters.org)
  • COP16: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun, Mexico:
  • INTERACTIVE GRAPHS!: Cancún: The crucial climate data:
    Find out how the key countries compare, from carbon emissions to climate aid. Source for climate aid pledges: WRI (Guardian UK)
  • Greenpeace: Calculate the Cost of Inaction on Climate Change at CostsOfClimateChange.org (Greenpeace)
  • Developments at the Climate Summit in Cancun:
  • Global Emissions to Reach Record Levels in 2010>
    • Cancun: Politics vs. Science (Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones) [emphasis added]:

      [W]e're already on the path to dangerous warming, and the actions countries have put forward so far aren't nearly strong enough to avert dangerous warming.

      A set of papers from the United Kingdom's Royal Society takes a look at the implications of the current path in a new set of reports. If action isn't taken, they conclude, the world is likely to warm 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) in the next 50 years. Despite the political goal of 2 degrees drafted in Copenhagen last year, the continued rise in emissions and the delay of a legally binding deal, the researchers conclude, means the world is going to exceed that goal.
      ...
      [N]ew findings about the impacts of a 2-degree rise indicated that the goal"now more appropriately represents the threshold between 'dangerous' and 'extremely dangerous’ climate change."

    • World is warming quicker than thought in past decade, says Met Office (Guardian UK):
      The world warmed more rapidly than previously thought over the past decade, according to a Met Office report published today, which finds the evidence for man-made climate change has grown even stronger over the last year.
    • Royal Society special issue details 'hellish vision' of 7°F (4°C) world - which we may face in the 2060s!: "In such a 4°C world, the limits for human adaptation are likely to be exceeded in many parts of the world, while the limits for adaptation for natural systems would largely be exceeded throughout the world." (Climate Progress)
    • Climate change scientists warn of 4C global temperature rise: Team of experts say such an increase would cause severe droughts and see millions of migrants seeking refuge (Guardian UK)
    • Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions Climb as Economy Recovers (Environment News Service):
      Global emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide are likely to reach record levels in 2010, according to research led by the University of Exeter, published today in the journal "Nature Geoscience." The 2009 drop in emissions due to the global financial crisis will be more than offset by renewed growth in fossil fuel burning in 2010.
    • Deaths from climate-related disasters more than double in 2010: Climate-related disasters killed 21,000 people in the first nine months of this year, more than double the number in 2009, the humanitarian organization Oxfam reported on Monday. (Reuters)
    • Climate change could cut clean water to three billion people: report: Almost half of humanity could lose clean water access due to climate change, according to a British report to be released tomorrow ahead of an international climate change conference in Mexico. (Raw Story)
    • Loss of ocean phytoplankton a casualty of global warming?: Phytoplankton, the bedrock of the food chain and major oxygen generator for the atmosphere, has dropped by 40 percent since 1950. Scientists link the rise in ocean temperatures to global warming. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • USA's "Sputnik Moment": Sec. Chu and Falling Behind in the Coming Clean Energy Boom:>
  • 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

    • Oil spill panel chief 'mystified' by block on subpoena power (The Hill) [emphasis added]:
      Senate Republicans blocked that authority, and several have alleged that the panel is tilted toward anti-drilling advocates.

      Commission co-chairman Bob Graham, a former Democratic senator from Florida, said Thursday that the obstruction made the investigation more difficult. "I am very impressed by what we have been able to accomplish without subpoena power," he said.

      "I remain mystified as to why a few senators decided to deny this commission this power when subpoena power has been granted as almost an absolute for congressional commissions which have analogous responsibilities to ours," Graham added, although he did not call out the GOP specifically.
      ...
      [H]e said the probe has revealed that "three major companies were fully implicated in the catastrophe," a reference to BP, Deepwater Horizon rig owner Transocean, and Halliburton, the oil services giant that handled the cementing work on BP's ill-fated Macondo well.

    • Oil Spill Panel Leans Toward Broader Drilling Regulatory Overhaul (Wall St. Journal):
      The panel appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama appears likely to recommend a restructuring of the nation's offshore drilling regulator that is broader than the overhaul already being implemented by the Obama administration.
    • U.S. Rescinds Expansion of Offshore Drilling (NY Times) [emphasis added]:
      The Obama administration announced on Wednesday that it had rescinded its decision to expand offshore oil exploration into the eastern Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Coast because of weaknesses in federal regulation revealed by the BP oil spill. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that a moratorium on drilling would be in force in those areas for at least seven years....
      ...
      The decision essentially reverses the much-disputed drilling plan announced in March, which would have initiated environmental studies and exploration activity in previously untouched areas off the Gulf Coast of Florida and along the East Coast from Florida to Delaware.
    • A national lab develops grid controls to handle renewable energy (ClimateWire):
      The looming emergence of electric vehicles and the need for ways to store more electricity and to get electricity consumers to reduce peak demands will add still more complexities, Imhoff said. "The grid is going to be changing a lot over the next 10 years. We want to anticipate that and to some extent, to guide it. Right now, I think we're kind of backing into the future," he said.
    • VIDEO: Report calls for radical redesign of cities to cope with population growth (Guardian UK):
      A study by the environmental think tank Megacities on the Move report says authorities must start planning their transport infrastructure now for a future when two thirds of the world's population will live in cities.

      Forum for the Future... argues that authorities must begin to plan now in order to create easier and more sustainable ways of accessing goods and services in the world's ever-growing cities. Citizens must also be encouraged to change their behaviour to keep cities liveable.

      By 2040, the world's urban population is expected to have grown from 3.5bn to 5.6bn. The new report calls for a radical re-engineering of cities' infrastructure to cope.

    • The Influence Industry: DHS panel on at-risk chemical plants is stacked with insiders (Washington Post):
      When the Department of Homeland Security wants advice on how to guard against terrorist attacks at chemical plants, it relies heavily on a special agency panel focused on the topic.

      There's just one problem, critics say: The committee is stacked with more than a dozen chemical corporation lobbyists and other industry representatives, who have worked to water down agency standards and oppose tougher security requirements.

    • Deep-Water Dive Reveals Spilled Oil On Gulf Floor (NPR):
      When the BP oil well blew out earlier this year, the 4 million barrels that flowed into the sea didn't simply vanish. There's growing evidence that a good portion of it sunk to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, where some of it remains.
      ...
      We see this brown stuff on coral fans, hit like pine trees along a dusty dirt road. More slimy brown stuff hangs over some of the odd formations of frozen natural gas here half a mile below the surface. Crabs here normally pick at worms that actually live in this methane ice.

      "The crabs don't look healthy. See all the dark spots and lesion looking things? That's not normal," she says.

    • VIDEO: Leaking Siberian ice raises a tricky climate issue
      (USA Today):

      Gas locked inside Siberia's frozen soil and under its lakes has been seeping out since the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago. But in the past few decades, as the Earth has warmed, the icy ground has begun thawing more rapidly, accelerating the release of methane — a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide — at a perilous rate.

      Some scientists believe the thawing of permafrost could become the epicenter of climate change. They say 1.5 trillion tons of carbon, locked inside icebound earth since the age of mammoths, is a climate time bomb waiting to explode if released into the atmosphere.

    • EPA won’t release Spruce Mine alternatives study (Coal Tattoo, Charleston Gazette):
      So, imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail message last week from Greg Peck, chief of staff in EPA’s Office of Water, in which EPA refused to provide me important public information about the federal agency’s review of the Spruce Mine permit.
    • Appeals court halts U.S.-sanctioned killing of sea lions (Greenwire):
      A federal appeals court has put a stop to a program in the Pacific Northwest that authorized the killing of sea lions in order to protect the stock of salmon in the Columbia River. The National Marine Fisheries Service allowed the states of Oregon and Washington to kill up to 85 sea lions a year at the Bonneville Dam.
      ...
      Although the Marine Mammal Protection Act does allow NMFS to take action against predators to protect Endangered Species Act-listed salmon populations, the appeals court held that it did not follow the correct procedures under the Administrative Procedures Act.
    • Breaking Away From Coal: Utilities Shifting Away from Coal Toward Natural Gas (NYT Green):
      “It’s a turning point,” said Bill Johnson, chairman and chief executive of Progress Energy, the parent company. “We’ve been a coal-based generator for decades, and until a few years ago, we thought we would remain largely coal-based and nuclear until people started talking about carbon regulation. We decided we had to do something about it.”