This Week in Eco News - April 12, 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'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

Winners of NRDC's 2013 Growing Green Awards
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) announces its fifth annual Growing Green Awards to recognize individuals who have demonstrated original leadership in the field of sustainable food. The NRDC recognizes the extraordinary contributions that advance ecologically-integrated farming practices, climate stewardship, water stewardship, farmland preservation, and social responsibility from farm to fork. The four categories are Food Producer, Business Leader, Food Justice Leader, and Young Food Leader.

Take Action
: Learn Why Sustainable Agriculture is Critical for our Food System


Pictures Don't Lie: Corn And Soybeans Are Conquering US Grasslands
US Grasslands continue to be converted to soy and corn production, wreaking havoc on soil, waterways and wildlife. [NPR]

Taping of Farm Cruelty Is Becoming the Crime
Industrial livestock producers wholeheartedly support "Ag-Gag" legislation, which conveniently impedes documentation of abhorrent conditions on factory farms. [New York Times]

Trans Fat Reduction Policies Are Working to Reduce Consumption, Says WHO
Good news: if you implement policies to reduce trans fats in foods, they actually work!  And benefit public health! [Food Navigator]

Surprise: Antibiotics Are Allowed in Organic Apple and Pear Farming
By this time, you're probably aware that antibiotics are used recklessly by industrial livestock producers - but did you know they can also be used on organic apple and pear farms? The National Organic Standards Board will review the issue when they meet this week. [Take Part]

Smithfield Makes Fortune's Most Admired Companies List, World Gapes at Irony
Industrial pork giant Smithfield was ranked second most admired food production company by Fortune magazine. Wenonah Hauter explains why this is outrageous. (Spoiler: it has to do with the fact that the corporation is anti-environment/small farmer/animal welfare/labor/fair markets/anything else that could reduce its profits.) [Food & Water Watch]

Fetus Not Vulnerable to BPA, Government Study Shows
BPA, an endocrine disruptor at high levels, has been shown to lead to developmental and behavioral problems in fetuses and infants. But after testing on rodents and monkeys, findings show that BPA is effectively metabolized in the body by the mother, placenta and fetus. Even if a new government study shows that BPA is 'safe' for mom and baby, shouldn't we implement the precautionary principal? [Food Safety News]

Food Politics Creates Rift in Panel on Labeling
A dietitian working to set the policy on genetically modified foods for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) says she was removed for pointing out that two of the panels members had ties to Monsanto. Not only were two of the panel tied to Monsanto, but a professor, who was against the CA labeling measure and worked for a university with Monsanto ties, was tasked with writing up the paper for the academy. She started writing the paper before the panel came to their conclusion. Hmmmm.... [New York Times]

Internal Emails Reveal FSIS Was Divided on 'Pink Slime'
Not only is it the year anniversary of pink slime, but Food Safety News obtained several thousand fascinating internal emails from USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service shedding some light on the lack of transparency within the department. Many FSIS employees had never heard of the slime while others thought it was "GROSS" or couldn't care less. And most importantly, why didn't USDA require the product to be labeled? [Food Safety News]


New Mexico Farmers Seek 'Priority Call' as Drought Persists
In the face of the terrible drought, downstream New Mexican farmers are calling for reinstatement of western water law's "priority" rights, which means those that have historically held water rights get water before other users. Western water politics expert, Dr. Daniel McCool, argues that farmers won't win because "we could dry up some hay farms or we could dry up Las Vegas...It's going to be the new economy of the West with the focus on recreation and tourism and hunting." [New York Times]

What Drought? Just Don't Tread on Our Green Grass
The Texas drought is now hitting suburbanites where it hurts - their thirsty, St. Augustine-type grass lawns. Because of the stronger political will in state government to restrict water use in the face of shortages, some of that soft, green grass might be heading for browner days. [New York Times]

Sustain Creates New Water Footprint Calculator
UK-based environmental consulting agency, Sustain, has created a food-only water footprint calculator that focuses on a meal's specific ingredients and the ingredient's country of origin to improve its accuracy. (Note that this WFC is an Excel spreadsheet download.) [Green Hotelier]

Massive Misuse of Fresh Water: Why Isn't the Problem Being Addressed?
We depend on "other people's'" water because we import huge quantities of virtual water in all the goods we import. As such, water problems elsewhere are ours, too. Water footprint creator, Dr. Arjen Hoekstra, provides three principles to help guide us towards sustainable water use around the world. They are: 1 ) national river basin water footprint caps; 2 ) water footprint benchmarks for products; 3 ) equitable water use across communities. [Earthscan from Routledge Blog]

Study: Three in Four Asia-Pacific Nations Facing Water Security Threat
You know water is a major concern when 75 percent of Asian countries in the Pacific region "are either suffering from low levels of water security or have barely begun to engage in the essential task of improving water security." The major goal of developing water and sanitation infrastructure as well as smart water management policy will be the key to improving the economic and physical health of these countries. [Asian Development Bank]

Does Poland Spring Water Actually Come From Poland Spring?
In short; no. Despite the appealing name of the "spring" on the bottled water label, it's likely that the water's source is actually some other location and may well just be a hook up to ye ol' municipal tap water. You would know if you could find out... [Mother Jones]

Despite the appealing name of the "spring" on the bottled water label, it's likely that [Poland Spring's] water source is actually some other location and may well just be a hook up to ye ol' municipal tap water. You would know if you could find out...

Progress Report On US National Water Census Released
With water resources getting squeezed due to many factors, the Department of the Interior has issued a progress report on the USGS-developed National Water Census, which Secretary Salazar says "will give the nation critical new information about the availability and use of America's freshwater resources." Ultimately, a "water budget" approach will be used to analyze watershed inputs and outputs to determine water availability and manage its sustainable use, with the potential to do so in real time. [RTTNews]

Esposito: New York Isn't Protecting Long Island's Aquifer
Long Island, NY environmental advocate, Adrienne Esposito, is concerned about pesticide contamination in the Island's drinking water and cites the recent release of a state strategy as a regression from a more promising 2011 draft pesticide management plan. Instead of filtering polluted drinking water, the more sensible approach is to protect the Island's sole source aquifer through monitoring and prevention while banning use of three toxic pesticides - imidacloprid, metalaxyl and atrazine - thus reducing health, environmental and financial costs. [Newsday]

Investor Group Calls for Water Utilities to be More Open About Climate Risks
Environmentally minded investors at Ceres have devised a new risk-reporting framework for water utilities and management companies as they confront pressures associated with climate change, such as a greater likelihood for more intense droughts and precipitation events. Investors with $100s of billions sunk into water bonds want it known that "[t]he operating environment of water providers is changing, and investors need to be sure utilities whose debt they are holding are adapting," or utilities "may end up not having the money to repay their debts." [E&E News]

Amazon Tribe Threatens to Declare War Amid Row Over Brazilian Dam Project
Armed Brazilian troops are protecting hydropower dam construction efforts from the Amazonian Munduruku tribe who feel "betrayed" and are willing to disrupt work after the federal government decided to push ahead on the mega-dam project without community consent, in defiance of Brazilian law. [Guardian]


Emissions Rules Put Alternative-Fuel Vehicles in a Bind
It's possible that the EPA's newly-proposed low-sulfur gasoline rules will have unintended consequences. By requiring internal combustion engines be more efficient, conventional automobiles may be able to survive against competition from vehicles powered by electricity, natural gas and other cleaner alternatives. [New York Times]

Toxic and Tax Exempt: How Tar Sands Spills From Michigan to Arkansas Cost Us All
Companies that transport oil are required to pay into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, giving the government a pot of money for immediate spill responses. Oh but what is you're not transporting "oil?" Companies that pipe unconventional oils, like the bitumen spilled in Arkansas or the billions of gallons of tar sands crude that passes through US pipelines every year, are exempt from paying into the fund. [Earth Island Journal]

A Building Not Just Green, but Practically Self-Sustaining
A commercial building in Seattle is about to open to tenants, and if all goes as planned, it will collect enough rainwater and generate enough solar power (to complement its energy efficiency) to be completely water and energy independent. [New York Times]

Major Food Services Group Pushes Sustainability Into its Kitchens
A new data management tool will help the world's largest food services company track and better manage the carbon, energy, water and waste streams - with the groan-inducing moniker "foodprint" - of its 10,000 cafes. [E&E Public]

Frackers Are Losing $1.5 Billion Yearly to Leaks
If all you needed to do to save $1.5 billion was to patch some leaky pipes, would you do it? So far, the natural gas industry has said no. So not only are there wasted dollars leaking into the air, the methane leaking from those pipes is a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. [Climate Desk]

Activists Claim Arkansas Oil Spill Diverted Into Wetland
Activists conducted interviews with residents near the Arkansas tar sands spill and released videos as evidence that oil from the pipeline rupture was diverted from a residential neighborhood into a wetland area to keep it out of the press. [Raw Story]

Renewable Energy Provides 82 Percent of All New US Electrical Generating Capacity in Fir
The first three months of 2013 saw the electricity-generating capacity of biomass, geothermal, solar, water and wind grow nearly five times as much as natural gas (coal, oil and nuclear haven't grown at all). The maxim that renewable energy can't compete with conventional power becomes sillier each day. [EcoWatch]

With Help From Nature, a Town Aims to Be a Solar Capital
The Republican mayor of the high desert California town of Lancaster wants his city to be the first in the world to produce more electricity from solar energy than it consumes on a daily basis. The city now boasts a 15-minute solar permitting process and requires that nearly all new homes either come equipped with solar panels or be in subdivisions that produce solar energy. [New York Times]

As US Readies Shale Gas Exports, Domestic Users Face Hit
In a battle sure to make every pro-industry fundamentalist's head explode, US manufacturers are trying to keep the US oil and gas industry from exporting its cheap natural gas. Who will win this showdown of the industrial titans?! [SmartPlanet]

Solar Rubbish and Recycling Bins to Grace Garbage-y Times Square
New York City has a pathetic 15 percent recycling rate, but it's shooting to double that by 2017. As a step towards that goal, Mayor Bloomberg just rolled out 30 solar-powered waste and recycling stations - called BigBellies - in Times Square. [Mother News Network]