This Week in Eco News - January 17, 2014

It seems that allowing the fossil fuel industry to regulate itself might not have been the best idea, considering last week's coal chemical spill in West Virginia, the latest in a string of hazardous incidents. This week was also a newsy one for regulation issues, as the USDA went ahead and greenlit use of Dow's 2,4-D seeds, despite potential drift damage to non-GMO crops. See a story we should share? Drop us a line at [email protected]

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Agrichemical Companies Sue to Halt Kauai Restrictions of GE Crops and Pesticides
It is no surprise that Kauai's new GMO law has biotech companies fuming. The first of its kind in Hawaii (a hotspot for biotech research), the law requires companies to release information about pesticides they use and create buffer zones near communities. Mandating that companies protect the public from the toxic chemicals biotech sprays? That's just ridiculous, right? [Beyond Pesticides]

Charges Dropped Against Animal Rights Investigator Accused of Animal Cruelty
Taylor Radig, an undercover investigator, was charged with animal cruelty last November after a video she took led to charges against three livestock workers. The charge that Radig was negligent in not turning in her video sooner was finally dropped following major public outcry and a review of the evidence against her. Hooray for a big ag-gag shutdown! [One Green Planet]

Monsanto Critics Denied US Supreme Court Hearing on Seed Patents
On Monday, the US Supreme Court refused to hear the case brought against Monsanto by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and many organic and conventional farmers. The group was hoping to preempt lawsuits brought against farmers whose fields become contaminated with Monsanto-patented product, but now chances seem low. Monsanto has sued over 100 farmers for patent infringement so far. [Reuters]

Forget The Golf Course, Subdivisions Build Around Farms
Talk about local food! A new trend is growing in the US to incorporate farming into subdivisions, complete with pigs, chickens, produce and even wine. Developers are seeing an increasing demand for access to fresh food, and have begun to design communities with farmers and CSA options at their core. Fashionable or not, local looks great on everyone. (So much for ticky-tacky, eh?) [WUIS 91.9 ]

USDA Greenlights Dow's 2,4-D Seeds
Scientists and environmental advocates are cringing at the USDA's decision to deregulate genetically engineered crops resistant to the herbicide 2,4-D. Critics argue that the draft Environmental Impact Statement, now open for public comment, overlooks the potential havoc of exorbitant increases in 2,4-D usage, which has caused major drift damage to non-GM crops already. [Civil Eats]

Meatless Monday

Foods That Make You Feel Full
Epicurious offered tips on nutritious foods that make you feel full, consulting with dieticians including Diana Rice of the Meatless Monday campaign, Tanya Zuckerbrot, creator of the F-Factor Diet; and Paige Einstein, project coordinator for Center for Science in the Public Interest's Nutrition Action Healthletter. Everyone's favorite green, kale, was recommended along with other leafy greens, fiber and protein. [Epicurious]


Critics Say Chemical Spill Highlights Lax West Virginia Regulations
For days, some 300,000 West Virginians have been without safe tap water after coal-processing chemicals leaked from a poorly-sited storage facility into the Elk River, rendering water from the state's largest treatment plant hazardous. This incident in the so-called "Chemical Valley" is another in a long list of environmental and public health failures in a state where the coal and chemical industries dominate. [New York Times]

Louisiana's Water Campus
Louisiana already has 42 percent of national coastal restoration firms working in-state, but that strong presence will likely grow further after the announcement of a 27-acre research park campus in Baton Rouge that could establish the state as a bastion of water management and coastal studies. The hope is that the multiparty initiative will not only lift scientific understanding, but also the economy. [Business Report]

Snow: Waste Not, Want Not
In some cold weather climates, like much of Canada, snow totals are enormous and require costly removal and disposal efforts. People are reconsidering snow's value as resource through storage in the winter and used to cool buildings in the summer through the use of a heat exchanger, a process that has proven successful in Sweden and other countries. [Water Canada]

Inside California's $25 Billion Plot to Save its Water Supply
California's Bay Delta Conservation Plan - currently open for public comment - continues to polarize as it seeks to avert the collapse of the state's crucial estuary and source for much of its freshwater. As Matthew Booker professor and author of book on the Delta says, "Here is this unbelievable, maybe unsolvable, problem of the Delta. And if you can just build a big enough project, you can solve it." [The Verge]


What is Nest and Why Does Google Want to Buy It?
Nest Labs, famous for its automated, remotely-controlled thermostat, was purchased by Google for $3.2 billion dollars. (Who says home energy efficiency doesn't pay?) The deal means that the energy-saving tool will likely be available globally, and it could help the US move towards a smart grid as more customers adopt the automated thermostat. [Pocket Lint]

GOP's Anti-Regulations Push Hits Snag
The anti-regulation zeal that's swept over Congress has run into hard reality with the recent coal-related chemical spill in West Virginia and a pair of oil-carrying train derailments in North Dakota. It's almost as if allowing the fossil fuel industry to regulate itself isn't such a good idea. [E2 Wire]

Solar Micro-Grid Aims to Boost Power and Food in Haiti
An organization called Earth Spark is building solar-powered micro-grids in Haiti to help power lights and phone chargers in people's homes. With new funding they are now expanding the number of solar installations to help power agricultural processing, like milling, to help extend the shelf life of locally-grown food. [National Geographic]

King Coal is Dead. Long Live King Coal!
Coal use is going down in the US, right? Yes, but thanks to a recent rise in natural gas prices the coal industry is enjoying a minor growth spurt. The long-term prognosis is still not good because recently-approved air quality regulations, once enacted, will likely knock a number of coal plants out of commission. [Christian Science Monitor]

Energy in 2013 : Changes and Constants
Last year saw significant changes in how and where energy resources are gathered, but there are two constants: the slow pace of energy transitions and the continued high inequality of energy use. Our transition to renewables is occurring slowly just as past transitions have done, and big energy growth in developing nations like China and Brazil is not being matched in much of Africa. [Global Energy Initiative]

Climate Change

As Polar Vortex Brings Deep Freeze, Is Extreme Weather Linked to Climate Change?
In this video, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now talks to Jeff Masters of Weather Underground about the deep freeze we just experienced. There is a connection to climate change; check out the video to learn just what that is. [Democracy Now]

The Flood Next Time
"Rising sea, sinking land" is the way the US East Coast's climate change travails are characterized. Combine geological forces that lead to land subsidence with the current glacier melt that contributes to sea-level rise, and the entire eastern seaboard is a hot spot for going under. And some regions - like the Chesapeake Bay, Norfolk, Virginia and the New Jersey Shore - are doing so rapidly. [New York Times]


10 Vegetables and Herbs You Can Eat Once and Regrow Forever
This is fun little photo essay. If you have a window that gets good sunlight you can regrow a bunch of vegetables and herbs from the tops or bottoms that you would normally just toss (or compost). This could be a nice activity to get through the winter. [Food Hacks]

Niagara Falls Froze Over and It Looked Amazing
The recent deep freeze in the US and Canada caused Niagara Falls to ice over. There were a lot of photos of the crazy ice sculptures that formed and they were all beautiful. Here's a nice photo set. []

Frigid Day a Challenge For New York City's Outdoor Workers
Despite less than ideal recent weather conditions, a wastewater treatment plant with the capacity to treat 120 million gallons of wastewater a day needs to run around the clock, and that means frigid temperatures can't stop the routine for its workers. In this video New York City's NY1 News interviews the plant's workers. [NY1 ]

Interactive Tool Tracks Tars Sands Refinery Production in North America
Oil Change International recently launched an online tool that tracks the flow of Canadian tar sands crude oil to North America's refineries. The new tool enables users to discover how much tar sands crude is being processed at US refineries and which Canadian refineries are regularly refining this dirty source of crude. [EcoWatch]

Food Eco News contributed by Audrey Jenkins; Water Eco News by Kai Olson-Sawyer; Energy Eco News by Peter Hanlon and Multimedia content by Robin Madel.