This Week in Eco News - March 29, 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 - have you checked that out? We'll 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

Freeing the Grid
Why GRACE Recommends: Net metering and interconnection policies empower energy customers to use rooftop solar and other small-scale renewables to meet their own electricity needs. This Freeing the Grid video explains how better policies can unleash our tremendous renewable energy potential.

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: Freeing the Grid


Definitive Link Confirms Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Transmits from Livestock to Humans
A new study conducted by genetic researchers confirms that MRSA, which kills more Americans each year than HIV/AIDS, can be transmitted from livestock to humans. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter reacted to the study by urging the FDA to take immediate action to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock production. [House.Gov]

Petitioners Ask FDA to Regulate Use of Antibiotics in Distillers Grains
The Center for Food Safety and Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy have filed a petition with the FDA asking the agency to regulate the antibiotics used in ethanol production so that the leftover "mash," which is fed to livestock, does not continue to add to the overuse of antibiotics in livestock production which creates antibiotic-resistant bacteria. [Lexology]

EPA Sued Over Failure to Protect Bees from Pesticides
Beekeepers and activists groups have filed a lawsuit against the EPA to try and force the agency to ban or better regulate neonicotinoids and other pesticides known to cause colony collapse disorder - the massive and devastating declines in bee and butterfly populations. [Grist]

Resistance to Antibiotics Now Kills More People Than AIDS
Antibiotic-resistant infections are a huge public health crisis in the US, and the misuse of antibiotics in the livestock industry are a major culprit. The most common infection, MRSA, alone kills about 18,000 Americans a year. [Treehugger]

Farmers Protest Monsanto Protection Act At White House
President Obama has signed the Monsanto Protection Act into law. The provision was slipped into the House Resolution 933 anonymously and grants the USDA the authority to essentially ignore any judicial ruling stopping the planting of a genetically modified crop. Remember how our founding fathers so brilliantly instated a system of checks and balances to make sure there was a balance of power? Well, the Monsanto Protection Act is the exact opposite of that. [The Inquisitr]

NRDC Reveals Failed Safeguards for Pesticides
Investigations by the NRDC reveal a deeply flawed system that allowed bad-actor pesticides, including nanosilver and the neonicotinoid pesticides linked to bee deaths, to be approved through a 'conditional registration' loophole. [NRDC]

From Actor to Grocery Entrepreneur: 'Treme' Star Wendell Pierce Works to Combat Food Desert
Wendell Pierce, an actor and producer best known for "The Wire" and "Treme," is now working to combating food deserts by opening a new grocery store chain called Sterling Farms in New Orleans. [CNN]

Bill to Curb Food Waste Linked to Climate Change Passes Iowa Senate
The Iowa Senate has approved a bill that would require the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to promote the reduction and recovery of excess food items on a large scale, including uneaten food and food scraps, and oils, fats and other food preparation products. The bill was proposed by three young students from Iowa City, and is opposed (predictably) by McDonald's and the American Forest & Paper Association. [Des Moines Register]

Antibiotics and the Meat We Eat
In a New York Times op-ed, Former FDA commissioner David Kessler calls for the agency to track antibiotic use in livestock to curb antibiotic-resistance in humans. [New York Times] 


Adults Who Consume Fluoride In Drinking Water At Decreased Risk For Tooth Decay
There has been a longstanding fight about whether fluoride in drinking water is effective at combatting tooth decay. Now a study by a joint research team from UNC-Chapel Hill and Australia’s University of Adelaide has found strong evidence that fluoridated water provides dental health benefits to adults, even those who had not received fluoridated drinking water as children. [Medical News Today]

Prioritizing Water: Combating Scarcity
Will wars fought over water be inevitable and constant in the 21st century as strains on water resources will likely exist? If history is any indication, cooperation over trans-boundary (multinational) water rights will be more common, although it all depends on trust and political will. [The Broker Online]

[Denver] Area Water Providers Will Seek to Restrict Watering to Twice a Week
The widespread, ongoing drought continues to impact water use nationwide, as indicated by the twice-weekly, lawn-watering restriction imposed by Colorado's largest water provider, making these some of the toughest limits ever. This makes sense since spring and summer lawn irrigation is by far the biggest direct-use draw on water supplies. [Denver Post]

Hug a Hydrogeologist: March 10-16 Was National Groundwater Awareness Week
Groundwater scientists and engineers are important to our society's functioning, but they (and groundwater) "don't get no respect". This whole month is the time to appreciate both their work and the vital water hidden underground. Give 'em a hug (and maybe a smooch!) [WaterWired]

China's Dead-Hog Scandal Is Gross -- But So Is the Hog Feces in US Waterways
Thousands of battered pig corpses floating in a Chinese river is rightly revolting, but the US has disgusting water problems of its own with enormous amounts of untreated pig manure (among that of other livestock) flowing freely from factory farms fouling up our water resources. Phewww! [Mother Jones]

Groundwater scientists and engineers are important to our society's functioning, but they (and groundwater) "don't get no respect". This whole month is the time to appreciate both their work and the vital water hidden underground. Give 'em a hug (and maybe a smooch!)

New Study Highlights Pesticides As Potential Source Of Noroviruses In Fresh Food
The human norovirus (hNoV), commonly known as the "winter vomiting bug," could possibly be entering the human food chain through contaminated water used to dilute pesticides, according to a study by a group of Dutch scientists. "The authors conclude that the application of pesticides on fresh produce may not only be a chemical hazard, but may in fact also be a microbiological risk factor; both having consequences on public health." [Medical News Today]

California May Start Huge Water Project Before Knowing If It'll Work
Without knowing the limits of how much water can be exported to SoCal from California's Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta while restoring the precarious smelt and salmon population, construction on the massive Tunnel Project is expected to begin. Fingers crossed. [LA Times]

Rivers and Dams: Can You Keep Your Head Above Water? – Quiz
Test your knowledge of international rivers and the impact - often negative - that dams have on them with this interactive, online quiz. The quiz is in support of International Rivers' efforts to highlight the plight of many of the world's waterways, having recently held their annual International Day of Action. [Guardian]

Pennsylvania Pushes Drillers to Frack with Coal Mine Water
Pennsylvania has a long and widespread history of coal mining, with many abandoned mines to prove it. Now lawmakers and state environmental regulatory officials are preparing legislation to have natural gas companies treat and use hazardous mine discharge in fracking operations, thus preventing some wastewater drainage from polluting state waterways. The question is whether fracking will leave another environmental mess for future state residents. [AP]

Scientists Puzzled by Manatee Deaths on Florida's East Coast
What is killing off Florida's manatees on both the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts? It's the water, or more precisely algal blooms in the water, like the current Gulf Coast red tide outbreak that creates neurotoxins (brevetoxins), which kill off fish, shellfish, and marine mammals like manatees. The East Coast deaths are more of a mystery, although indications point to a chocolate brown algae bloom that has wiped out sea grass that manatees eat in the Indian River Lagoon. [Tampa Bay Times]


Both Sides Agree on Tough New Fracking Standards in Northeast
Several environmental groups and energy companies have agreed on a voluntary set of air and water standards for gas and oil fracking in the Northeast that may go further than existing state and federal pollution regulations. Fracking operations that are found to be abiding by the standards will receive the blessing of the newly-created Center for Sustainable Shale Development. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

With Turbines on the Watery Horizon, Hopes for a More Streamlined Permitting Process
Western Europe has installed enough offshore wind turbines to match the capacity of five large nuclear power plants, so why has the US failed to install just one turbine? There are too many federal agencies involved in the approval process, but unlike Europe there are also marine mammal migrations, scenic vista issues and submerged tribal lands to consider. [E&E News]

Clean Energy Trends: The Future Is all About Deployment
Whether it's huge utility-scale solar installations, crowdfunding for small solar systems or real estate solar financing tools, deployment of proven clean energy technologies is finally gaining steam. [Renewable Energy World]

A Forewarning on Fracking
GRACE's own Kyle Rabin writes a Letter to the Editor of the New York Times about the ominous parallels between the recent ethanol bust and the current shale gas boom, particularly the impacts suffered by communities that choose to exploit their extractive resources. [New York Times]

Ohio Fracking Boom Has Not Brought Jobs
More evidence that the natural gas boom does not always result in a jobs boom. A new study found that in northeastern Ohio, where fracking kicked off in 2011, there was no more jobs growth last year than there was in the state's unfracked western and southern regions. [Grist]

China's Power Utilities Exposed to Water Disruption
Northern China is home to 60 percent of the country's thermal power capacity but only 20 percent of its fresh water supply. The water-scarce region's coal-fired power plants are exposed to water supply disruptions and it will cost up to $20 billion to improve their resilience. [Bloomberg New Energy Finance]

A new study found that in northeastern Ohio, where fracking kicked off in 2011, there was no more jobs growth last year than there was in the state's unfracked western and southern regions.

Los Angeles Will Be Coal-Free By 2025
Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced that the city will eliminate coal power entirely from its electrical grid by 2025 - the city currently gets around 39 percent of its power from coal. [Environmental Media Association]

Life After Oil and Gas
Thirteen countries got more than 30 percent of their electricity from renewable energy in 2011, yet the conventional wisdom in the US is that we must stick with oil. But as other countries and recent US studies have shown, that conventional wisdom has very little basis in reality. Renewables and efficiency are ready now, and our dependence on fossil fuels is anything but inevitable. [New York Times]

Insight: Low-Carbon Electricity Can Save Water and Money
It's possible to reduce electricity-sector carbon emissions and water use at the same time, but different strategies yield very different results. For the biggest water savings, we need to move towards energy efficiency and renewables. [Environmental Research Web]

IMF: End Fossil Fuel Subsidies, Tax Carbon
The International Monetary Fund reports that, globally, fossil fuels are receiving nearly $2 trillion in subsidies per year, and the US leads the way with $502 billion. The IMF in turn suggests that governments end fossil fuel subsidies and tax carbon emissions to discourage excessive energy consumption and combat climate change. [E2 Wire]