This Week in Eco News - April 26, 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 - Water

Ocean Acidification...In a Nutshell

Burning fossil fuels creates carbon dioxide emissions that not only raise the temperature of the atmosphere, but also create more acidic ocean waters, which disrupts ocean ecosystems from plankton up to the biggest of big fish!

Take Action
: Learn how to take steps towards renewable energy production and away from our dependence on fossil fuel use that acidifies our waters.


In Conversation: Michael Pollan and Adam Platt
In anticipation of the release of his new book, Cooked, Michael Pollan talks to Adam Platt about gardening, the controversy over the word "foodie," the evolution of the food movement and why he prefers to be called a "nature geek" over a "food geek." [New York Magazine]

Is Organic Better? Ask a Fruit Fly
Ria Chhabra, a 16-year-old middle school student from outside of Dallas, tracked the effects of organic and conventional diets on the health of fruit flies. Ria found that flies who dined on organic food fared better, and her research earned her top honors in a national science competition and publication in a respected scientific journal. [New York Times]

Court Orders FDA to Enact Food Safety Regulations
A federal court has ruled that the FDA's failure to enact new food safety regulations by set deadlines is illegal. The judge has ordered the FDA to work with the Center for Food Safety to establish a new timetable to implement these critical regulations. [Center for Food Safety]

One Ag-Gag Bill is Dead in California, Another is Approved in Tennessee
Last week there were two important developments in ag-gag legislation: In California, a state lawmaker withdrew an ag-gag bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Patterson and the California Cattlemen's Association that would have prevented animal advocates from documenting systematic cruelty of animals raised in factory farms. Things didn't go as well in Tennessee, where an ag-gag bill was passed by one vote. [Grist]

Dirty Dozen: EWG Releases 2013 List Of Most Pesticide-Heavy Fruits And Veggies
The Environmental Working Group has released its annual Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The guide ranks pesticide contamination on 48 popular fruits and vegetables, and the 12 that rank the highest in pesticide load are known as the Dirty Dozen. So if you can't buy all organic produce, you should at least try to buy organic versions those 12. [Huffington Post]

Mondelez Overhauls Women's Rights Commitment After Criticism
Oxfam International's 'Behind the Brands' campaign has had another huge victory: Mondelez, the biggest chocolate maker in the world, has joined the ranks of Nestle and Mars in making commitments to tackle gender inequality on cocoa farms after Oxfam's campaign brought to light the mistreatment of women in the industry. [Confectionery News]

Poland Announces Complete Ban on Monsanto's Genetically Modified Maize
Following in the anti-GMO footsteps of nations like France and Hungary, Poland has announced that it will ban Monsanto's GM maize. Poland's agricultural minister has stated in addition to being linked to many health ailments, the pollen originating from the strain may be causing a rapid decline in honeybee populations. [Natural Society]

Ground Beef and Chicken ''Riskiest Meats'', According to CSPI Report
According to a new report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), ground beef and chicken are the "riskiest" meats and poultry products when it comes to foodborne illness and hospitalization. [Food Production Daily]

USDA Ruffles Feathers With New Poultry Inspection Policy
Under the USDA's new poultry inspection plan, a single federal inspector would oversee lines killing as many as 175 birds per minute (there are currently four inspectors overseeing up to 140 birds every minute). This could have dangerous implications for the safety of the food of the workers. [Mother Jones]

FDA vs EWG: Report on Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs in Meat Oversimplified?
The Environmental Working Group's new analysis of antibiotic-resistant superbugs in our meat struck a nerve at the FDA, and the agency posted a rebuttal on its website. Marion Nestle breaks down the debate. [Food Politics]


Oceans May Explain Slowdown in Climate Change: Study
One climate change mystery: Since 2000, why has the rate of surface-warming slackened while greenhouse gas emissions climbed ever higher? In a new study, climate science sleuths have found that the "pause" might be due to heat absorption by vast ocean waters; and a rapid transfer to atmospheric heating could follow. [Reuters]

Good Stuff International Supports Water Footprint Assessment in Porce Basin, Colombia
Thought to be the largest scale water footprint assessment ever, the nation of Colombia will involve all water users and stakeholders in assessing the entire Porce River Basin. By engaging the public, all levels of government, water utilities, farmers, factories, and so forth they intend to develop policies that better manage water demands in the important river basin. [Good Stuff International]

Crabs, Supersized by Carbon Pollution, May Upset Chesapeake's Balance
The famed crabs of the Chesapeake Bay are becoming bigger and more lethal predators because of an influx of carbon that is pouring in from sources like power plants and automobiles. Excess carbon "supersizes" crabs that eat more oysters and other marine life, while simultaneously acidifying Bay waters, which kill creatures like oysters, scallops and coral, and disrupt ecosystem health. [Washington Post]

Texas High Plains Prepare for Agriculture Without Irrigation
The Ogallala Aquifer is in decline in the southern Great Plains, which creates major problems for farmers there because irrigation water made the region the US breadbasket (and "cotton" basket). Farmers experiencing drought and depleted aquifers, like those in the Texas panhandle, are now devising ways to produce crops with more efficient water use, and to offset farming with a burgeoning wind power sector. [Circle of Blue]

Think Those Chemicals Have Been Tested?
The chemicals in your hand soap and deodorant have been tested and proven safe, right? Probably not. Regulation of such industrial chemicals falls under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which asks little of companies and puts the burden of safety testing requirements on the overstretched EPA. Having tested only a tiny fraction of the 85,000 (that's right) industrial chemicals in use today, maybe it's time for a Control Act update considering it hasn't been touched since its 1970s-era adoption. Whadya think? [New York Times]

Seven Water Organizations You Should Know
Here are seven water groups, primarily focused on water concerns related to international development, including and our friends at the Columbia Water Center. [Goodnet]

Can the World Afford Cheap Water?
As water supplies become tighter, methods of allocation might, in part, rely on setting higher prices on water. History shows the problem with higher water prices, as Scientific American editor David Bello points out, is that poorer people and local communities sometimes get squeezed out. This and more from his coverage of the water-themed State of the Planet conference at Columbia University. [Scientific American]

In a federal agency throwdown, the State Department, which recently said the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would have minimal impact on the environment, received harsh criticism from the EPA regarding greenhouse gas emissions related to the project, pipeline safety and alternative routes.

Hurricane Sandy Leaves New Jersey With $2.6B Tab for Water Infrastructure
Over 100 New Jersey drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities were damaged by Hurricane Sandy, setting the state back an estimated $2.6 billion. Besides how to pay for the facilities, a big question is how best to rebuild the water infrastructure in a smarter, more resilient manner so that such devastation doesn't happen with every major storm -- a standard that a recent blue ribbon panel proclaimed the state unable to meet. [NJspotlight]

Alberta Says Suncor [Tarsands] Spill Would Have Killed Aquatic Life if Undiluted
The massive tar sands extraction company Suncor spilled about 350,000 liters of industrial wastewater into Alberta, Canada's Athabasca River for the second time on March 25. A company spokesperson stated that the diluted wastewater caused "a short term, negligible impact on the river," and, according to the provincial government, it was not harmful to fish because it was diluted. An investigation on the toxicity of undiluted wastewater is underway. The solution to pollution...and all that drivel. [Globe and Mail]

The Columbia River Treaty: On Track. How About A Columbia River Compact?
While the great Columbia River has its own binational treaty, established and last acted on in 1964, many in the Pacific Northwest feel there is a need for a Columbia River Compact. The treaty ends in 2024 and creating a compact would potentially be a "flexible, adaptive, binding document to ensure a relatively peaceful, secure water future for the states of the Columbia-Snake basin." [WaterWired]


Environmentalists: Oil, Gas Surveys Could Hurt Ocean Life
Oceana released a report finding that the proposed seismic testing for fossil fuels in Florida's coastal waters would put at risk more than $15 billion in economic activity and 400,000 tourism, recreation and fishing jobs. [USA Today]

Update: Solar Wins in Louisiana Net Metering Fight
Thanks to grassroots support, the Louisiana Public Service Commission opted NOT to dismantle the net metering, the simple state policy that clears the way for customers to save on their electricity bills by going solar. [Renewable Energy World]

EPA Faces Lawsuit Threats Over Blown Climate Rule Deadline
Because of power industry complaints, the EPA recently delayed releasing rules for emissions at new power plants. Now, a dozen states and cities are jointly threatening to sue the agency for yet again punting on the rules. [E2 Wire]

Intel, Microsoft Top Clean Energy Ranking
The Department of Energy released its quarterly list of the top 50 organizations that use clean energy, including Apple, Wal-Mart, Wholes Food and...the DOE itself (ahem). Number one on the list was Intel, which uses clean energy including solar, wind, biomass and small hydroelectric to cover 100 percent of its electricity load. [SmartPlanet]

EPA Releases Harsh Review of Keystone XL Environmental Report
In a federal agency throwdown, the State Department, which recently said the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would have minimal impact on the environment, received harsh criticism from the EPA regarding greenhouse gas emissions related to the project, pipeline safety and alternative routes. [Los Angeles Times]

The Worst Part about BP's Oil-Spill Cover-Up: It Worked
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of workers on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico suffered severe ailments possibly due to exposure to the oil dispersant "Corexit." A whistleblower has exposed BP's knowledge of Corexit's risks and the price that it and the spilled oil have taken on cleanup workers, coastal residents, and the ecosystem of the gulf. [Grist]

US States Turn Against Renewable Energy as Gas Plunges
With natural gas prices remaining low and the economy sluggish, the fossil fuel industry and its supporters are seizing the opportunity to wage a legislative campaign to undo existing state laws requiring utilities to buy renewable energy. [Bloomberg]

Rivers Act as 'Horizontal Cooling Towers' for Power Plants, Study Finds
A study of power plants in the Northeastern US found that the plants have "considerable" impact on river water temperatures, which affects fish habitat, potentially impacting 4,700 river miles in the region. [Science Daily]

Solar Jobs Map Reveals Leaders, Laggards
Solar is beginning to rival more traditional fossil fuel based employment, such as in California where there are now more solar workers than actors. Maybe some of those with dashed Hollywood dreams can find solace in the solar industry? [SmartPlanet]

This Solar Power System Makes Electricity and Clean Water at the Same Time
Swiss engineers have created the Swiss army knife of solar energy systems: a dish that collects both electrical and thermal energy AND desalinates water at the same time. [Grist]