This Week in Eco News - February 21, 2014

If a fracking gas well in your town just exploded, rest easy, because Chevron just might have a free pizza with your name on it! Some major chicken producers are going to sell antibiotic-free meat to consumers. We also have a roundup of California drought coverage, climate news and multimedia. See a story we should share? Drop us a line at [email protected]

Best of the Web Video - Water

Pipeline: Another Reason to Keep the Ocean Plastic-Free
Pipeline, the legendary surf spot on the North Shore of Oahu, is always a beautiful sight, perhaps never more so than when seen from above. Consider it just one more of the countless reasons to protect our oceans by keeping them plastic-free.

Take Action: Use the Beat the Microbead app to see if a product contains microbeads by just scanning the barcode with your smartphone camera.


Americans Want Antibiotic-Free Chicken, And The Industry Is Listening
Major chicken producers and purveyors, including Perdue Farms and Chick-fil-A, have taken recent steps to deliver antibiotic-free meat to consumers; some are already delivering, others are just making promises. While antibiotic-free chicken remains a small fraction of the market, consumer awareness of the risks associated with sub-therapeutic antibiotics is pushing companies to make large-scale antibiotic-free production possible. [NPR]

New Tools and Farmer Training Could Revolutionize Pesticide Management in West Africa
A study conducted in West Africa has shown that better farmer training, application of monitoring technologies and alternative methods of pest control can greatly reduce pesticide usage and improve crop production. By refraining from applying more than 47,000 liters of toxic pesticides, farmers saved nearly half a million dollars over the course of the study. [African Brains]

Idaho 'Ag-Gag' Bill Clears State Senate, Heads to House
A bill designed to hinder whistleblowing activity by animal-rights groups has passed Idaho's state senate. The "Agriculture Production Interference" act, which would raise penalties for trespassing on farms and ranches with the intent of documenting animal cruelty, is on a "fast-track" to becoming law, even with the recent release of undercover footage showing major animal-rights violations. [Food Safety News]

Denmark Starts Meaty Argument Over Animal Slaughter
By overruling the religious exemptions in Europe's pre-slaughter stunning laws, Denmark has effectively criminalized halal and shechita slaughter within its borders. The ban prioritizes humane treatment over religious freedoms, which has stirred opposition from religious groups. Many kosher and halal consumers, however, remain unphased due to either the availability of imported meats or their approval of pre-slaughter stunning. [the Guardian]

Meatless Monday

Heart-Healthy Food Ideas for American Heart Month
February is American Heart Month - how are you celebrating? Parade Magazine featured Meatless Monday's new e-cookbook as a tool to help maintain a more plant-based diet. [Parade]


Officials: Unsafe Levels of Arsenic from Duke Energy Coal Ash Dump Pouring Into River
Less than two weeks after a massive coal ash spill into North Carolina's Dan River, now under federal investigation, state officials found a second leak from the same Duke Energy coal ash dump. Groundwater containing hazardous levels of heavy metals like arsenic and lead is gushing into the River and coating the riverbed for 70 miles, although downstream drinking water supplies are safely being treated. [AP]

Emptying Reservoirs, Empty Words
Politicians and public officials from President Obama on down have acknowledged the terrible California drought yet still don't have a handle on what to say or do, whether it's golfing in the desert (Obama), claiming climate change has no impact (Congressman Nunes), or promoting water harvesting to offset water imports at a desiccated infiltration site (Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti). Keep it up boys... [Chance of Rain]

'Water Is Essential to What We Do'
The crippling California drought can be viewed through many lenses, and in San Diego - a major craft brewing hub - one can peer through the beer glass. Brewers must be sensitive to water quality and quantity issues, and as this article illustrates, in San Diego they are especially keen to lower their water footprints by going all out on conservation and efficiency measures. [Voice of San Diego]


Rent in Williston, ND Tops Averages in New York City and Los Angeles
The highest rents in the US are not in New York City or Los Angeles, they're in a small town in North Dakota. To rent a one-bedroom apartment at the center of a shale oil boom town will cost you about $2,400 a month thanks to an exploding population of oil field workers, some of who make six-figure salaries. [New York Daily News]

The Chevron Guarantee: Our Well Won't Explode...Or Your Pizza is Free!
Last week a fracking well explosion in a rural Pennsylvania town shook the earth, burned for five days and left one oil worker missing and presumed dead. But don't worry, because Chevron, the owner of the well, sent 100 town residents a note of apology and a coupon for a pizza - make that a "special combo only" - from a local pizzeria. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Study Finds Methane Leaks Negate Benefits of Natural Gas as a Fuel for Vehicles
City busses are often adorned with signs proudly declaring that they run on "clean natural gas." A new study says that while natural gas burns cleaner than diesel, the drilling and production of natural gas can lead to leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, ultimately harming the planet's climate. [New York Times]

Water Shortages Could Disrupt Britain's Electricity Supply, Researchers Warn
Yes, the UK is experiencing historic floods right now, but with climate change and a growing demand for water, the nation could soon find itself facing water shortages. Because its energy supply is so water dependent (just like in the US) there could be energy shortages, too.  [Environmental Research Web]


5 Reasons Why Climate Change is Back in the News
Climate change went away? That's news to us. CNN cites these reasons for climate change's headline-grabbing return: 1 ) Obama walks the talk (through "climate resiliency plan"); 2 ) Extreme weather (snow and ice out East, drought out West); 3 ) Kerry's trip to climate change hotbeds (of big emitters like China and Indonesia); 4 ) Keystone decision pending (big fight); 5 ) It's an election year (say no more). [CNN]

Science Linking California Drought to Global Warming Remains Matter of Dispute
Scientists are unsure about the role of climate change in the California drought although there is certainty that warmer temperatures brought on by climate change has deepened the drought because of higher evaporation rates. Regardless of the drought's cause, the Obama administration will provide $183 million in relief and has proposed a $1 billion "climate resiliency" program. [New York Times]


North Carolina Coal Ash Spill Raises Enforcement Questions
In early February more than 50,000 tons of coal ash leaked from a containment pond into the Dan River in Eden, NC. Questions raised by the spill about water safety and the regulators who oversee US industry are discussed in this podcast. [PBS]

California Drought: 17 Communities Could Run Out of Water Within 60 to 120 Days
As California's heads into what could be a mega-drought, 17 communities across the state face the likelihood of running out of water by summertime. In some communities, wells are running dry and in others, reservoirs are nearly empty. Some have long-running problems that predate the drought. And things could get a lot worse, according to one official interviewed in this video. [San Jose Mercury News]

A Hunk Of Planet Dissolves Before Our Eyes
Two men standing on the edge of an ice field with cameras watched the largest observed ice calving event ever recorded. A chunk of ice the size of lower Manhattan, hundreds of feet tall, broke off into the ocean. It took 75 minutes and, in this incredible video from the film Chasing Ice, you can see it condensed into a couple amazing seconds. [NPR]

Breathtaking Photos of the Coldest City in the World
Maybe this winter on the east coast isn't so bad when you consider that the average temperature in Oymyakon, Russia averages minus 58 degrees F, making it the coldest inhabited place on the planet. Find out how people there live, eat and stay warm in this photo essay. [The Weather Channel]

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.