This Week in Eco News - March 7, 2014

New EPA regulations should help some 50,000 kids with asthma (and their families) breathe a lot easier, the FDA's nutrition labels are sporting a spring makeover, and sadly, a soggy Oscar weekend didn't put a dent in California's drought. As usual, if you see a story we should share, drop us a line at [email protected].

Best of the Web Video - Energy

What's Behind the Natural Gas Boom?
From Texas to New York, natural gas has radically changed the energy landscape in America. But how did the practice commonly known as fracking explode so suddenly, and where is it actually happening?

Take Action: Don't Get Fracked! Steps to Keep You and Your Family Safe from Drilling from NRDC


The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics
Growing evidence indicates that chemicals found in packaging, containers and even plastic toys could be dangerous. Estrogen-like chemicals, including and beyond BPA, are linked to problems like cancer, diabetes, and obesity, yet the FDA and the plastics industry argue that levels are too low to matter. According to recent research testing BPA-free plastics, however, "low-level" exposure definitely matters. [Mother Jones]

Safeway and Kroger Say ''No'' to GMO Salmon
The two largest grocery stores in the country, Safeway and Kroger, announced this week that genetically modified "AquaAdvantage" salmon, set for FDA approval, will never reach their shelves. Joining dozens of other stores banning the salmon, these chains see no demand for GM fish. Without GMO labeling, however, avoiding GM salmon will still be difficult if the fish is approved. [Treehugger]

First Look: The FDA's Nutrition Label Gets A Makeover
A pending new look for nutrition labels was revealed last week and authorities are seeking feedback. The new design is aimed at both updating label content to reflect modern nutritional understanding and calculating serving size values to echo common eating behaviors, giving consumers a more accurate picture of their intake. The design is now open for public comment. [NPR]

Front Group Fights San Francisco Soda Tax
After San Francisco lawmakers introduced a bill to tax sugary beverages last month, the city has become the stage of a burgeoning new fight against big food, and the actors are really getting into character. Soda companies have established a front group disguised as advocacy for citizens' economic interests, even listing unwitting businesses as sponsors to gain credibility. [Civil Eats]

Support Your Local Slaughterhouse
Small farmers who relied on the now-closed slaughterhouse linked to the recent mass meat recall in Northern California point to the failure of current regulation to protect safe producers instead of rolling them into the contamination scandal. Even farmers who insured safe handling are facing hardship with products in recall and no slaughterhouse to process their meat. [New York Times]

Meatless Monday

7 Meatless

Recipes for Lent
Catholics don't eat meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday or other Fridays during Lent, which began earlier this week. The tradition began, in part, as recognition of meat as a luxury. Whether you're an observer or not, here are 7 Meatless Mondays-inspired dinner ideas. With delicious recipes like these, who needs fish sticks? [The Daily Meal]


Americans Use Twice as Much Water as They Think They Do, Study Says
New research based on a national survey finds that Americans' actual water use is double what they believe, as most greatly underestimate their water use. Respondents were unaware that toilet flushing is the largest in-home water user, that water efficient equipment could reduce use and that food and goods production requires enormous amounts of water. Reasons for better public education? [Los Angeles Times]

California Storms Did Little to Ease Drought Conditions
After last weekend's big rains - record-setting in some cases - the California drought is over, right?  Not by a long shot. While the heavy precipitation from the Bay Area to Los Angeles put a dent in the drought, much more is needed especially in the Sierra Nevada mountain snowpack where runoff substantially contributes to state water supplies. [Los Angeles Times]

Irrigation Water Cut, but Central Texans Worry Over Supply
California is not the only place in the United States suffering drought, as a Texas agency reduced irrigation water to rice farmers from the drought-plagued Lower Colorado River Authority for a third straight year. Yet because there are no water delivery guidelines, Central Texas municipalities worry farmers might get water later this year that could exhaust drinking water supplies. [Texas Tribune]

Mongolia's Water Scarcity Could Threaten its Economic Boom
Rich in minerals, including copper and gold, Mongolia's rapid economic rise is reckoning with its relative water-poverty as demands increase among the drinking water, agriculture and mining sectors. Particularly worrisome are the many mines located in the bone-dry Gobi Desert, which means that water solutions will depend on collaboration among all sectors. [Guardian]


Water Conservation's Other Benefit: It's a Power Saver
Our conservation efforts, even the tiniest ones, have a second overlooked benefit: They also save energy. 80% of the operating costs of a typical water utility are energy-related. In fact, if Angelenos dropped their use from 152 gallons per person daily to below 80 (as Sydney's residents have), LA's department of water and power wouldn't need so much coal-generated electricity. [Los Angeles Times]

Bakken Crude, Rolling Through Albany
A recent oil barge accident (thankfully, there was no spill) on the Hudson River brought attention to an increasing flow of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota. The oil is shipped by rail to Albany, NY and then sent by barge down the Hudson and ultimately to New Brunswick in Canada. Residents along this long pathway were unaware of the oil flowing through their communities, and are wary given the rash of recent rail accidents involving North Dakota crude oil. [New York Times]

Interior Takes Key Step on Atlantic Drilling
Last week the Interior Department released an environmental impact review that moves the US closer to conducting seismic surveys to test Atlantic waters for oil and gas. Those surveys involve deafening air gun blasts which can disrupt migration patterns and feeding habits of whales, dolphins and other marine life, potentially injuring or killing thousands of animals. [E2 Wire]

IEA Chief: Only a Decade Left in US Shale Oil Boom
The head of the International Energy Agency says in this interview that the current US shale oil boom is temporary, and that its "growth would not last - that it would plateau, and then flatten and go down. That means that from 2025 onward, it's again Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states that will come back." [Christian Science Monitor]

New US Fuel Standards Aim to Cut Asthma, Heart Attacks
Newly-announced EPA rules will sharply cut soot, smog and toxic emissions from cars and trucks as they are phased in between model years 2017 and 2025. The agency estimates that the standards will help avoid up to 2,000 premature deaths per year and 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children while adding an average of just 1 cent per gallon to the cost of gasoline. [Reuters]


NASA Animation Shows Relentless Pace of 60 Years of Global Warming in 15 Seconds
This 15-second NASA time-lapse video shows the steady and rapid warming of the planet since the middle of the twentieth century, with regions in the Arctic and Siberia warming as much as 3.6 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit above a long-term average. [EcoWatch]

Flood Damage Cost to Rise Fivefold Across Europe, Study Says
As evidenced by the dreadful UK flooding, intense rain due to climate change will increasingly occur and flood cover multiple watersheds. According to an innovative study, this will make them more expensive. By the year 2050, researchers expect that damage should cost four times as much and will necessitate greater European planning and cooperation. [Guardian]


A Man Takes A Single Rake to The Beach. And When You Zoom Out And See It... Mind BLOWN.
This is why it's important to protect beaches! So this man can make art like this. Andres Amador is an artist in San Francisco. He doesn't paint or sculpt. He prefers a medium that is temporary but absolutely beautiful: a sandy beach at low tide. He uses a rake to create works of art that can be bigger than 100,000 square feet. You can see some of them in these terrific photos. [Viralnova]

Stanford Professor's 50-State Plan For 100-Percent Renewable Energy
Stanford Professor Mark Jacobson and his team at the Solutions Project have unveiled a 50-state plan on how the US could shed itself from oil, coal and nuclear sources. It comes in the form of a large, interactive map that provides a plan and projection for each state when you click on it. Now this is looking to the future. [EcoWatch]

All Dried Up: Five Disappearing Lakes
We're losing our lakes around the world. The most common cause seems to be irresponsible irrigation practices. Check out these photos (some before and after sets) that show just how much water loss there is in the Aral Sea (Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan), Cachuma Lake (California), Lake Urmia (Iran), the Dead Sea (Jordan) and Lake Waiau (Hawaii). [Lake Scientist]

Touring Reactor No. 4 At Tsunami-Damaged Fukushima Nuclear Plant
It's been nearly three years since the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused the destruction of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Cleaning up and closing the plant means overcoming huge challenges and risks that are expected to last for decades. NPR's Anthony Kuhn recently went inside one of the plant's nuclear reactors and produced this podcast. [NPR]

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.