This Week in Eco News - February 22, 2013

Happy Friday! Here is a compilation of stories we followed this week. We circulate these internally and publish synopses throughout the week as Eco News, which you can find all week long — in real time — in the column to the right. You can also sign up to receive them via email each Thursday. If you see a story you think we should include, drop us a line at [email protected].


To Go: Plastic-Foam Containers, if the NYC Mayor Gets His Way
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a city-wide ban on plastic foam containers. According to city officials, the ban could save millions of dollars a year. Plastic foam is not biodegradable and can add up to $20 per ton in recycling costs when the city processes recyclable materials. [New York Times]

Why Russia Is Saying 'Nyet' To US Meat Imports
Russia has suspended import of any American meat products – worth $500 million a year – until the meat is certified free of ractopamine. Some US meat producers add ractopamine to the feed that they give to their pigs, cattle or turkeys so the animals convert more of their feed into valuable lean protein, rather than fat. While the FDA says the chemical is safe, safety officials in the European Union, China and Russia have refused to approve it based on reports that the chemical causes health problems in animals. [NPR]

Farmer's Supreme Court Challenge Puts Monsanto Patents at Risk
Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard the case of Bowman v. Monsanto Co. Bowman, a 75-year-old farmer from southwestern Indiana, is challenging Monsanto's patent on seeds and the Court's decision will determine whether patents on seeds extend beyond the first generation. [New York Times]

New Report Exposes Devastating Impact of Monsanto Practices on US Farmers
The Center for Food Safety has released a new report, "Seed Giants vs. US Farmers", that investigates how corporations like Monsanto use patents to consolidate and control the global seed supply, as well as sue US farmers for alleged seed patent infringement. [Center for Food Safety]

Supreme Court Appears to Defend Patent on Soybean
In the case of Bowman v. Monsanto Company, which addressed whether patent rights to seeds and other things that can replicate themselves extend beyond the first generation, the Supreme Court has sided with Monsanto. This will allow the agri-giant to continue to sue farmers for patent infringement and consolidate and control the global seed supply. [New York Times]

Campaign to End Antibiotic Use in Healthy Livestock
Representatives from the Pew Charitable Trust campaign against antibiotic use in healthy animals are in Iowa this week meeting with state officials, researchers and others involved in the livestock industry. The goal of the meetings is to bring to light the public health crisis caused by the overuse of antibiotics in livestock, and to influence policy makers to regulate usage. [Radio Iowa]

13,200 Boxes of Girl Scout Cookies Destroyed: Food Waste in America
In Riverside, CA, 13,200 boxes of perfectly edible (and not expired) Girl Scout cookies were taken to a local landfill and destroyed. The report highlighting the incident has wrought public outcry, and is just another glaring example of the problem of food waste in America. [Washington Times]


Tuesday Trifecta: Colorado River Basin 'Dead Pool' Redux!
Could the incredibly important Colorado River run so low that it no longer can be of use? Here’s a look back at some blog posts by Dr. Michael "Aquadoc" Campana discussing the dreaded possibility. [WaterWired]

UNESCO-IHE Rector Predicts Water Cooperation, Not Conflict
In a media briefing, UN water education official, András Szöllösi-Nagy, pointed to the historical record of cooperation, not conflict, over freshwater resources. Or in his words, "The history of humanity over the past 4,000 years shows that water – as it connects – was more like a peace-builder than a primary source of conflict." [IPS-Inter Press Service]

Michigan's 21 Million-Gallon Frack Job: A National Record?
According to a Michigan-based fracking opposition group, Encana Oil & Gas – already known for their "super-frack" jobs – might have just set the record for gallons of water used for a single frack job with 21,112,194 gallons of water. Thats an incredible amount considering the typical frack job in the Marcellus Shale region is about 4.5 million gallons of water. [Ban Michigan Fracking]

Fracking Wastewater Dumped Down Youngstown Storm Drain
An Ohio newspaper obtained documents that showed "employees of a northeast Ohio company were directed to dump up to 20,000 gallons of gas drilling wastewater [which included oil and highly saline brine] down a storm drain." Well done, D&L Energy Group! [Canton Rep]

Why Water Markets Aren't Everywhere: Lessons from New Mexico
After working in New Mexico, a water consultant gives seven reasons why water trading markets are not yet widespread (but could become so.) Here are a few from the list: Private transactions; Poor record keeping; Political opposition to water trading; Administrative costs; Overall economic growth/decline. [actively moving water]

Matt Damon Goes on Strike!
Matt Damon, co-founder of, held a press conference at which he asked people to join him to "say no to toilets; say yes to clean water and sanitation for all." Yep, hes on strike from using the toilet until everyone in the world has one. (Ok, so its a joke we think.) []

It's Not Easy Being Green
The New York Times' David Leonhardt talks about why it makes economic sense to confront climate change: "In the end, the strongest economic argument for an aggressive response to climate change is not the much trumpeted windfall of green jobs. Its the fact that the economy wont function very well in a world full of droughts, hurricanes and heat waves." [New York Times]


For The First Time, EPA Report Shows Methane Emissions From Oil and Gas
The results of the first EPA greenhouse gas inventory to include emissions from the oil and gas industry do not paint a pretty picture: Petroleum and natural gas systems in the US accounted for 40 percent of the methane emissions reported in 2011. [E&E News]

Keystone XL Protesters Pressure Obama on Climate Change Promise
An estimated 35,000 protesters descended on Washington DC last weekend demanding President Obama shut down the Keystone XL pipeline project to show he is serious about taking action on climate change. [The Guardian]

Murdoch Reveals Keystone XL Opposition via Twitter
Rupert Murdoch recently went on a Twitter rampage revealing his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. Of course, Murdoch being Murdoch, he wants to see more fracking instead because, as he tweets, "Gas means half carbon emissions and no need for ridiculous windmills." [FuelFix]

Texas Developer Cancels Power Plant, Blames Obama Climate Push
While President Obama's interest in addressing climate change surely played a part in the canceled plans for a new 1,200 megawatt coal plant in Texas, another big issue was the large volume of water the plant would consume in a drought-ravaged region. [E&E Public]

Nebraska Utility to Test Solar Powered Irrigation System
The Nebraska Public Power District, which provides electrical power to more than 30,000 center pivot irrigation systems across Nebraska, is launching a project to test the feasibility of using solar photovoltaic energy to power them. [Triple Pundit]

New Database to Help Increase Environmental Responsibility of Ocean Power
"Tethys" is a new database that will allow regulators to better understand the environmental impacts of the many different ocean energy technologies (e.g. tidal turbines and offshore wind farms) being tested around the world. [EcoGeek]

Death on the Gas Field Illustrates High Risks of the Rush to Drill
Here's a disturbing look into the extremely dangerous work conditions at oil and gas sites, and how the pressure to produce on schedule and keep costs down is forcing workers to cut safety corners, sometimes resulting in serious injuries and death. [E&E News]

Seawater Desalination Plant Might Be Just a Drop in the Bucket
The nation's largest desalination plant is about to begin construction near San Diego, but the future isn't bright for the technology. It takes a lot of money and energy to turn ocean water into drinking water, and the process destroys marine life. In San Diego, the project is expected to provide no more than a tenth of the county ratepayers' overall water supply. [Los Angeles Times]