This Week in Eco News - March 22, 2013

Happy Friday! We're kicking off this week's compilation of Eco News stories with a link to our Best of the Web Video feature. We alternate weekly to share the best in food, water and energy videos from around the web along with the news stories we follow, circulate internally and publish synopses of throughout the week. You can find them all week long — in real time — in the column to the right, just above our Best of the Web Video viewer. You can also sign up to receive Eco News via email each Thursday. If you see a story you think we should include, drop us a line at [email protected].

Best of the Web Video

Food Hero: The Nelson Family
Produced as part of Anna Lappe's Food MythBusters project, this inspiring video tells the story of a family dairy farm that successfully transitioned from conventional to organic.

Take Action
: Keep the Farm Bill Fair


Antibiotic Resistance Poses 'Catastrophic Threat', Says Britain's Top Health Officer
Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England, said that the looming threat of antibiotic resistance means more patients having minor surgery risk dying from infections that can no longer be treated. Davis also said that global action is needed to address this public health crisis, including researching new methods of treating infections. Equally as essential to solving this problem is addressing the overuse of antibiotics in livestock production. [Huffington Post]

Legislator Leaps into 'Frankenfood' Debate
Pennsylvania is the latest state to weigh in on the GMO labeling debate. Senator Daylin Leach has introduced legislation that would require the labeling of food containing GMOs. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Soda Wars Backlash: Mississippi Passes 'Anti-Bloomberg' Bill
Mississippi lawmakers have passed an "Anti-Bloomberg" bill which would prevent counties and towns from enacting rules that cap portion sizes, require posting of calorie counts or keep toys out of kids' meals. The bill is now on the desk of Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, where it is expected to be signed into law in a state where one in three adults is obese - the highest rate in the nation. [NPR]

Slaughter Introduces Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act
This week New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (who happens to be the only microbiologist in Congress) introduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) for the fourth time since 2007.  PAMTA is designed to stop the overuse of antibiotics in livestock production, which is responsible for accelerating the growth of antibiotic-resistance disease. [Rep. Louise Slaughter]

Minority Groups and Bottlers Team Up in Battles Over Soda
The soda industry has a surprising ally in the battle against Bloomberg's soda ban. African American and Hispanic groups - who are hit hardest by the obesity epidemic - are fighting the ban on large sugary drinks. Why? Over the last decade, they have received tens of millions of dollars from the beverage industry for nonprofit and educational programs. [New York Times]

What Are They Trying To Hide?
Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Dianne Feinstein (CA) have proposed legislation that would require the FDA to disclose how the antibiotics sold are administered and marketed and how important they are for human medicine. [NRDC Switchboard]

Breaking the 'Grass Ceiling': More Women are Farming
USDA data shows that women are taking more leading roles in farming than in the past. The number of woman farmers has increased 19% from 2002, "far outpacing the 7% increase in the number of farmers overall." [USA Today]

Mayor Emanuel Launches New ''Farmers For Chicago'' Network For Chicago Urban Farmers
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Growing Power have announced a new seven-acre urban "accelerator farm" taking root on Chicago's south side called South Chicago Farm. The Farm will be the home of Farmers for Chicago, a new recruiting program that will provide space for urban farmingand help expand the supply chain for local neighborhood-level food production and wholesale. [City of Chicago]

The USDA's Sustainable Food Champion Steps Down
Kathleen Merrigan has resigned from her position as US Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Merrigan, who is celebrated by many as a champion of sustainable food, gave no reason for her departure but stated that she is confident that the Know Your Farmer initiative she built will continue to grow. [Mother Jones]

Senate Approves Measure to Avoid Meat Inspector Furloughs
On Wednesday the Senate approved a measure that would direct $55 million from other areas of the USDA to the Food Safety and Inspection Service in order to avoid meat inspector furloughs that were scheduled to occur due to the sequester. The inspector furlough would have caused the US meat industry to essentially shut down for 11 days. [Food Safety News]

Grocers Won't Sell Altered Fish, Groups Say
Several supermarket chains including Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Aldi have pledged to not sell genetically modified salmon, which could potentially be the first genetically modified animal to hit the nation's grocery stores. [New York Times]

Doctors Call for Ban on Using Antibiotics for Animal Growth
Doctors in Ontario, Canada are calling for a ban on the use of antibiotics to promote growth in livestock, a practice which they said is the principal cause of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a looming and potentially deadly public health crisis. [Toronto Sun]

Argentina's Bad Seeds
Argentina's soy industry is booming - largely thanks to genetically modified crops and the aggressive use of pesticides. While Argentina's leaders say it has done wonders for the economy, others say there have been dire consequences including a surge in cancer rates, birth defects and land theft. [Al Jazeera] 


Where's the Water of the Future? Right Here
The New York Academy of Sciences brought together an eminent panel of water experts to discuss ways to ensure that there will be sufficient water in the future. The conclusion: We already possess the solutions – like watershed protection, wastewater reuse and more efficient agriculture – we just need the will to implement them. [Live Science]

China Comes Clean on Water Pollution
Even though China's airpocalypse gained international notoriety, it's really all about the water pollution - like river water so noxious that even a $30,000 reward couldn't entice a government official to swim in it. Chemical water pollution from industrialization is so intense and widespread that "cancer villages" are popping up, forcing transparency onto the central government. Last week, the Chinese government issued a list of chemicals and industries that will be prioritized for pollution prevention and control. [Al Jazeera]

Oklahoma Water Resources Board Director Calls for More Conservation
The Executive Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, J.D. Strong, is forthright in his assessment of the condition of his state's drought-impacted freshwater supply: "It is a crisis," he said, and now is the time for residents to "think about the value of that water and how they could use it more efficiently." [Oklahoma Watch]

Mixing Oil and Water: Scenes From the Texas Oil Boom
Ceres, an environmentally minded investment advisor, will produce a report detailing the impact that fracking could have on water resources. This two-part National Geographic post previews some of their findings. [National Geographic]

Wet Times Are Masking New York's Real Drought Risk
The New York City watershed (Catskill-Delaware) simply can't rely on the precipitation level remaining the same as it's been over the last several decades because the region's history is rife with intense, long-term drought, according to research from a Columbia University Tree Ring Laboratory. This is further reason for water managers - and the general population - to not fall into complacency about water abundance. [Climate Central]

Will There Be Enough Water?
What can civilization do to ensure that we have enough freshwaterfor our future needs? A panel at the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy summit proffered ideas like the selection of more water-friendly crops coupled with better irrigation techniques and closed cycle and air-cooled systems instead of antiquated once-through systems. [Scientific American]

Water Scarcity Could be Liquid Gold for Investors
Corporations, fund managers and investors: the time is ripe to invest in water-related infrastructure because, well, "Water is the ultimate commodity." For the investor, what water scarcity really points to is resource scarcity and that leads to, you got it, "nexus thinking." [Market Watch]

Parallel Worlds: Water Management in Israel and California
As arid locales with a Mediterranean climate, water resource professionals in Israel and California can learn a lot from one another. Find out some of what was learned and shared in a recent Water Diplomacy tour by a UC-Center for Hydrologic Modeling team to Israel, Jordan and Palestine. [National Geographic]

"Even though China's airpocalypse gained international notoriety, it's really all about the water pollution - like river water so noxious that even a $30,000 reward couldn't entice a government official to swim in it."

America's New Love: Water
Water has now surpassed soda as America's favorite beverage after the sugary stuff's two-decade dominance. One caveat: The surge in bottled water consumption has led the charge in water's return to numero uno. It's enough to warm a CEO's water bottlin' heart. [AP]

Our [Water] Pipes Are Full Of Power That We're Wasting
Can plumbing be made cutting-edge sexy? It sure can when energy is harvested from the pressurized water flowing through pipes, trimming energy use while saving money, as designed by enterprising business, Energy Recovery. [Fast Company]

'Water for Jobs': How Investing in Water Can Put People Back to Work
The US water and wastewater infrastructure is nearly failing (the American Society of Civil Engineers gave it a grade of D- in their report card) and people need jobs. Let's take a tip from the Water Environment Federation-led campaign that shows that for every dollar invested in water infrastructure there is the potential for a private GDP output gain of $6.35 with an estimated 26,000 jobs created on a $1 billion investment. We can call it the "Good Deal." [WaterWorld]

As Fracking Increases, So Do Fears About Water Supply
Water use for frackingmight be small within the context of overall US water use, but in oil and gas country it can add up to a significant amount. In arid climates, like those at Texas's Eagle Ford Shale and Permian Basin plays, there are concerns of overstretched water supplies. The industry says that they will be recycling more wastewater, but environmentalists point out it's not enough. [Texas Tribune]

Chinese Fracking Plans Prompt ''Water-grabbing'' Fears
As enormous as US shale gas reserves are predicted to be, China could have the world's largest although they are situated primarily in arid climes. Yet as water constrained China embarks on fracking, alarm bells are ringing after a test drilling site required so much water that local officials temporarily stopped the provision of drinking water to a neighboring city. (Gotta get that water!) [China Dialogue]

Thousands of Pig Carcasses Removed From Key Chinese River
The furor in China continues over 6,600 dead pigs found floating down a Shanghai river used for drinking water, even as authorities claim the water is safe. It is believed that swine farmers in the upstream Jiaxing region might have been dumping diseased pigs after a crackdown on their now-illegal sale. [The Irish Times]


What Coal-Train Dust Means For Human Health
Washington and Oregon may soon be the home of five coal export terminals, which means that dust swirling off of the trains of coal on their way to the terminals could pose a public health threat to communities all along the rail lines. [KUOW]

Heating and Cooling No Longer Majority of US Home Energy Use
A new residential energy consumption survey found that between 1993 and 2012 overall energy use is down, and for the first time energy consumed for heating and cooling is now second to energy used to power our appliances and electronic gadgets. [Today in Energy]

US to Investigate Hydrokinetic Power
Hydrokinetic power - energy generation from waves, tides and currents - is getting a push in the US thanks to a recent agreement between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, US Coast Guard and US Department of Homeland Security to further explore the potential of hydrokinetic power in the US. [UPI]

Forget Dexter: Today's Most Dangerous Serial Killer Is Coal
A new study found that from 2011 to 2012, emissions from Indian coal plants resulted in 80,000 to 115,000 premature deaths and more than 20 million asthma cases, at a cost of $3.3 to 4.6 billion per year. (A 2010 study attributed 13,000 deaths each year to fine particle pollution from US power plants.)  [Take Part]

Solar Trade Group Reports Surge in US Installations
Largely because the average cost of a solar panel has declined by 60 percent since the beginning of 2011, the amount of new solar electric capacity in the US increased in 2012 by 76 percent as compared to the previous year. [New York Times]

New York State Could Run On Wind, Water and Sunlight
For the first time, the cost of air pollution impacts on public health from burning fossil fuels has been factored into a comprehensive plan for meeting the entire energy demand of a state with renewable sources. The result, in the case of New York State, is that 100 percent renewable is attainable by 2030 with today's technologies. [CleanTechnica]

Biofuels to Boom by 2020 as Cellulosic Ethanol Becomes Competitive, Reports Say
About 80 percent of energy industry participants in a recent survey said that up to a fifth of the world's energy supply will come from biomass by 2020. [E&E News]

New York to Seek Power in Case Nuclear Plant Closes
New York State is getting prepared to meet electricity demand in case the Indian Point nuclear plant shuts in 2015 when its last reactor operating license expires. The plan so far depends heavily on new transmission lines and power plants, while strangely anticipating little relief from energy efficiency. [Reuters]

And as GRACE's Kyle Rabin points out in his letter to the editor responding to this story, what goes boom often goes bust, which doesn't portend well for fracking.

EPA Likely to Delay Climate Rules for New Power Plants
Wary of lawsuits from the energy industry, the Obama administration reportedly plans to rewrite its proposal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants, a move that would delay tougher restrictions that were expected to go into effect on April 13. [Washington Post]

Days of Promise Fade for Ethanol
Nearly ten percent of the nation's ethanol plants have stopped production over the past year because of drought, rising commodity prices and a dip in gasoline demand. Now thousands of barrels of ethanol sit in storage because there is not enough gasoline in the market to blend it with. And as GRACE's Kyle Rabin points out in his letter to the editor responding to this story, what goes boom often goes bust, which doesn't portend well for fracking. [New York Times]

Balancing More Food and Energy with Less Pollution
You know about the food, water and energy nexus, but how about the "Nutrient Nexus?" A new UN report says that the world needs to more efficiently use nitrogen and phosphorous across all sectors to produce more food and energy while reducing environmental pollution. [The Fish Site]

Obama Will Use Nixon-Era Law to Fight Climate Change
Obama is expected to announce that all federal agencies must consider the impact on global warming before approving major projects with 25,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions per year. Those behind construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, natural gas export facilities and ports for coal sales to Asia are getting a wee bit nervous. [Bloomberg

Can a Divestment Campaign Move the Fossil Fuel Industry?
Recent rallies have convinced four US colleges to rid their endowments of fossil fuel investments, and divestment campaigns have sprung up at 250 other colleges and universities. While it may not cause a lot of financial pain for the oil and gas industry, it directly targets the one thing that those companies can't buy: their reputation. [Yale e360

Is the US Oil Boom Coming to an End?
By next year, foreign imports of oil to the US should fall to 32 percent of consumption, but OPEC says price issues and a slowdown in growth from tight oil developments in states like North Dakota could mean that the US boom is starting to fizzle. [Christian Science Monitor]