This Week in Eco News - February 14, 2014

Sustainably grown flowers at Union Square Green Market. Photo by Robin Madel

Between chocolate, oysters and Valentines exchanged by food, water and energy, love is in the air this week - with an Ecocentric spin. We're proud to feature great work by Food Corps service members, Waterkeepers and good food advocates. See these stories, along with the latest Ecocentric blog posts, climate news and multimedia.

Best of the Web Video - Energy

My Sunny Valentine
There are plenty of reasons to love solar energy. Solar creates jobs. It increases energy independence. It offers hope in the fight against climate change. Talk about a friend with benefits. This Valentine's Day, let's show solar some love with help from Maroon 5 and our Vote Solar friends.

Take Action: Help Vote Solar cut through the red tape to help municipalities achieve solar permitting best practices.


Governor O'Malley Says He'll Veto Chicken Tax Bill
A bill to fund Chesapeake Bay cleanup by taxing poultry companies five cents per chicken delivered to Maryland farms reached the state assembly last week and immediately lost traction when Governor O'Malley threatened a veto. He claimed the bill would harm Maryland agriculture, but many complain O'Malley's move shut down a valuable debate about the role of chicken companies in bay pollution. [Delmar VA Now]

Fair Trade Chocolate Set for Uplift After Fresh Approach
Just in time for Valentine's Day, Fairtrade international is offering a new bulk buying scheme, enabling producers to purchase a single commodity as Fairtrade (like cocoa), instead of requiring that all of the brand's ingredients be Fairtrade. More companies, including Mars and other big manufacturers, are buying into the new program, which could have a sweet impact on global cocoa production. [Confectionery News]

Missouri Sues California For Requiring That Chickens Have Room To Move Their Limbs
Missouri filed a lawsuit to block California's ban on eggs from hens kept in conditions below California standards, which seems to beg the question: got problems with humane treatment? The claim is that California's law unduly burdens Missouri farmers who sell eggs that fail to meet such standards to California consumers. Advocates of the bill argue that California has the right to protect its public health. [Huffington Post]

Chick-fil-A: No More Antibiotics In Our Chicken Within Next 5 Years
Chick-fil-A has announced that it will make a break from antibiotic-fed chicken, but that it needs five years to do so. While it's heartening that major food companies are beginning to reject some of the worst agricultural practices, the industry as a whole has a long way to go. [Huffington Post]

European Union Moves To Approve US Genetically Modified Corn
Although two-thirds of its member states rejected the move, the EU took a major step to approve a GM corn variety this Tuesday. The European Food Safety Authority deemed the variety safe, but opponents are highly concerned that the herbicide-resistant, insecticide-producing GM crop poses threats to butterflies and moths, and ultimately human health. [NPR]

Meatless Monday

We (Heart) Comfort Food: Heart-Healthy Meatless Monday

To celebrate American Heart Month, Meatless Monday has a new, free cookbook chock full of comfort food tailor-made for snowy weekends. From chili to burgers to pastas and brownies, this is one mouthwatering collection guaranteed to warm you right up. [Meatless Monday]


'Significant' Coal Slurry Spill Blackens West Virginia's Kanawha County Creek
Last month Charleston, West Virginia's Kanawha River was contaminated by the massive coal-chemical spill, and now it is 100,000 gallons of coal slurry that has "blackened" a tributary and again polluted the River following a coal processing facility's pipe valve malfunction. "There has been a significant environmental impact," announced a state environmental and mining official. You don't say. [The Charleston Gazette]

NYC Promises Flood Protection from New Reservoir System
New York City is the first to launch a real-time computerized system that seeks to minimize storm-caused flooding in the vast upstate reservoir system. The system uses a model that allows water utility administrators to forecast flood risks with data sources like stream and rain gauges, snowpack monitors and data from National Weather Service. [Albany Times-Union]

Wastewater Plants Still Vulnerable
Superstorm Sandy didn't just wreck homes, cars and beaches in the New York metro area, but also wastewater treatment plants. Whether it's Newark, Yonkers or Long Island, Sandy knocked out plants and sent sewage into nearby water bodies, highlighting the region's low-lying topography and the trillions of dollars needed to shore them up for future storms. [Wall Street Journal]

British Politicians Blame One Another for Regional Flooding
Fingers are being pointed by British politicians about assigning blame for poor government preparation to extensive flooding that has swamped much of southern Britain and caused property damage and some deaths. Officials have been more agreeable to blame climate change for the precipitation, with the season starting in December most likely being the "rainiest season in at least 248 years." [New York Times]


US Power Grid Sabotaged
Remember when a California electrical substation was attacked by a group of highly-organized gunmen last spring? Neither do we, because the frightening incident wasn't reported until just recently. Cyber security for the grid has become a growing concern, but this attack raises the alarm about securing the actual nuts and bolts of the nation's grids. [Smart Planet]

Huge Leak of Coal Ash Slows at North Carolina Power Plant
Last week, a retired power plant in North Carolina spilled between 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal-ash slurry into the Dan River - what some watchdogs like the Waterkeeper Alliance are calling the result of decades of lax oversight. Towns downstream from the spill that use the Dan River for drinking water say they haven't reported dangerous levels of pollutants yet. [New York Times]

In California Drought, a Message to Consumers: Water is Power
Californians are getting an unusual message: save water so the state can conserve electricity. With the drought extending into a third year, water levels behind hydroelectric dams are at dangerous lows; not good news for a state that gets 15 percent of its electricity from hydroelectric generation. [Christian Science Monitor]


California's Drought Could Be the Worst in 500 Years
From agriculture to municipal drinking water to hydroelectric generation, the California drought is deeply affecting water availability around the state. The "this-drought-is-temporary" mentality must change so that increased water conservation and efficiency efforts are redoubled to face the challenge of California's drier future. [Mother Jones]

World Bank's'Thirsty Energy' Initiative Signals Growing Issue Importance
The World Bank thinks it's time for countries to plan for future energy and water infrastructure together. Why? Because it's estimated that a 35 percent growth in global energy consumption by 2035 will lead to an 85 percent increase in water consumption. [EDF Energy Exchange]

When Drought Occurs, Fracking and Farming Collide
A new report finds that nearly half of the 39,294 fracked wells drilled in the US since 2011 are in regions with high or extreme water stress. That means that there's yet one more source of growing demand - along with farmers, ranchers, industry and municipalities - on already limited water supplies. [Denver Post]


12 Complete Proteins Vegetarians Need to Know About
Are you thinking about becoming a vegetarian, or maybe cutting some meat from your diet, but wondering what sources of protein you could enjoy instead? Here is a list (with photos) of some easy to make and enjoy vegetarian protein sources. [Greatist]

The Power Behind the Throne
Plumbers can be expensive (and rightfully so), but have you ever looked at your toilet that needed servicing or even replacing and thought, "I could probably do this myself?" This infographic lays out exactly what you'll need. The work isn't difficult; the job just takes the right tools, some time and patience. [New York Times]

Own Less, Live More
This couple created a home that was just big enough for two of them, so they could spend less time on cleaning and maintenance and more time outdoors doing what they love. Check out these photos of some of the unique space-, water- and energy-saving features they installed. [New York Times]

Stunning Before and After Photos of California's Lakes Depleted by Extreme Drought
Most of California is in the Extreme Drought category, and some of it is in the Exceptional Drought category, according to the US Drought Monitor. The drought is also impacting recreational opportunities as evidenced by these photos of lakes throughout the state. [The Weather Channel]

First World Problems
Is having cold leather seats when you get into your car in winter the end of the world? Not having clean water? An entirely different story. In this video, people in developing nations read tweets labeled with the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems. The stark contrast is sure to make the line at Starbucks seem like much less of a big deal. [Elite Daily]

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.