10 Ways the House Environmental Spending Bill Would Ruin Your Summer
While millions of Americans are relaxing and unwinding at parks, on beaches and in backyards across the country this summer, the House Appropriations Committee is launching a massive assault on their public health and summer vacations. The Fiscal Year 2014 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill is full of provisions to block the enforcement of clean air and clean water safeguards, eliminate protection for America’s public lands and make it easier for Big Oil and coal companies to pollute.
Any one of these special-interest provisions hidden in the annual spending bill is enough to wreck a vacation. Taken together, they are a far-reaching assault on your health and public lands. Here’s how these provisions would harm your summer vacation now and in the future.
1. The House bill would slash the budget of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by one-third. This would take environmental cops—the enforcers of pollution reductions—off of patrol, which will enable big polluters to continue polluting unchecked.
Public health protection should be a bipartisan no-brainer. President Richard Nixon created the EPA in 1970 to protect Americans from the unchecked pollution plaguing the entire U.S., including smog, untreated human waste and cancer-causing pollutants. The Clean Air Act signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, has produced $30 in benefits for the American public for every dollar in polluters’ cleanup costs over the past two decades. In 2010 alone the Clean Air Act prevented more than 160,000 premature deaths, 86,000 emergency-room visits, 130,000 heart attacks, 13 million lost work days and 1.7 million asthma attacks.
Cutting one-third of the EPA budget would disembowel enforcement of clean air and other health laws, threatening Americans’ lives and livelihoods.
2. The House bill would stop the EPA from reducing carbon pollution from electric power plants—the largest domestic source of climate pollution. Unchecked climate change would leave our children with a hotter planet, more extreme weather, sea-level rise and many other impacts that would fundamentally change the way Americans vacation and live. (Sec. 445)
President Barack Obama’s recently announced Climate Action Plan directs the EPA “to work expeditiously to complete carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.” By preventing the EPA from developing such carbon-pollution reductions, the House bill would ensure a hotter, more chaotic and extreme climate for decades to come.
3. The air in American cities is much cleaner overall than it was 20 years ago. Yet 150 million Americans—almost half of our nation’s population—live and recreate in places with unhealthy smog. The House bill would prevent the EPA from modernizing standards to further clean up gasoline and cars, which would cut smog-forming pollution from vehicles. (Sec. 451)
Cars and fuels are much cleaner than they used to be, but they still emit an unsafe level of pollution. The House bill blocks standards that would reduce smog-forming pollutants from cars and reduce the sulfur content of gasoline. By 2030 these standards would prevent up to 2,400 premature deaths, 3,200 hospital admissions, 22,000 asthma attacks and 23,000 respiratory symptoms in children every year.
4. The House bill would slash funds for drinking-water and sewage-treatment infrastructure by 86 percent. (Sec. 435)
There are federal “revolving loan” funds that lend states money so they can build or repair drinking-water facilities and sewage-treatment plants. Their repayments provide funds for additional projects. In its 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our nation’s drinking water and clean water infrastructure a “D+,” warning that:
[M]uch of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year … Capital investment needs for the nation’s wastewater and stormwater systems are estimated to total $298 billion over the next twenty years.
The proposed funding cuts in the House bill ignore the huge need for clean water investments.
5. The House bill would cut the current budget for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement by more than 40 percent, taking the cops off the beat who inspect and regulate offshore drilling operations to protect workers’ lives and prevent disasters. (Title I, pp. 19–20)
While massive flares of burning natural gas due to an offshore oil-rig blowout may in some ways serve as mood lighting for a nighttime stroll on the beach, it would be much better if they came without the ensuing danger to oil workers and the massive release of natural gas—made of the potent climate pollutant methane. Even with an offshore natural-gas rig burning out of control approximately 55 miles away from Louisiana’s coast, however, the GOP still does not see drilling safety as a priority.
6. The House bill may allow continued degradation of your favorite beach or fishing spot by virtually eliminating the National Ocean Policy, which coordinates federal management of our oceans, coasts and marine life. (Sec. 439)
The National Ocean Policy, initiated by President George W. Bush and finalized under the Obama administration, streamlines and coordinates the efforts of the 17 different federal agencies that contribute to the management of our ocean space. By eliminating all funding for the policy, however, the GOP is removing efficiencies from the government’s limited ocean funding and reducing the overall quality of ocean and fisheries management.
7. The House bill eliminates funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)—America’s premier conservation program—for the first time in history. It would redirect offshore oil and gas revenues from LWCF to unrelated spending instead of to parks, trails, and open-space protection.
Congress created the LWCF in 1964 to give federal, state, and local governments money to purchase land, water and wetlands for public use and enjoyment. These places provide millions of Americans with hunting and fishing areas, preserve wildlife habitat, protect archeological and historical sites and help provide clean water.
8. The House bill would slash the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s budget by more than one-fourth, limiting opportunities for Americans to hunt and fish, potentially causing some parts of refuges to close to the public, and devastating our nation’s ability to protect and recover endangered species.
The bill would, for the first time in our nation’s history, block the Fish and Wildlife Service’s ability to establish new wildlife refuges or expand their boundaries. Forty-seven million visitors come to America’s national wildlife refuges every year, providing approximately $4.5 billion in economic benefits through the purchase of fishing tackle, hunting licenses and other amenities.
9. The House bill would block the EPA from enforcing rules to limit exposure to lead paint. (Sec. 443)
Exposure to lead paint can result in permanent damage to the brain and nervous system in children, leading to behavioral and learning problems, lower IQs and hearing problems. It can also slow growth, cause anemia and, in severe cases, result in seizure, coma and death in young children. Lead is also a risk to pregnant women and can cause miscarriage, premature birth and reduced fetal growth. In adults, lead can damage kidney function and the cardiovascular, nervous and reproductive systems.
10. The House bill would block the EPA from clarifying which streams and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act, threatening sources of drinking water and waters that help with flood control. (Sec. 435)
The EPA determines which waters to protect based on the latest available science and best protects the public. Not allowing the EPA to do their job of protecting and continually adapting to new contamination threats to our waters means dirtier water for everyone.
To protect your summer—and every American’s health and well-being—the House of Representatives must stand up to oil, coal and utility companies and their congressional allies. Otherwise we will suffer from smoggy skies, dirty waters and despoiled wild places for many summers—and other seasons—to come.
Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.
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By Zahida Sherman
Cooking has always intimidated me. As a child, I would anxiously peer into the kitchen as my mother prepared Christmas dinner for our family.
Falling in Love With Food All Over Again<p>Slowly, through my most intimate relationships with friends and partners, I began to see the beauty — and rewards — of cooking.</p><p>I got tired of giving in to defeat and always bringing chips or paper products to social gatherings. I started asking my mom to send me her Christmas and Thanksgiving recipes. I even volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner at my place.</p><p>Each time I heard my loved ones sing the praises of the foods I prepared for them, I felt a tinge more confident that I could carry out our traditions my way.</p><p>In reaching out to other relatives for their favorite recipes, I learned that they had a little help of their own. They didn't rely solely on their ancestral cooking instincts. They turned to Black chefs for guidance.</p><p>These 7 cookbooks by Black chefs have inspired my family and fed us in nutrients, joy, and spiritual sustenance. They're also helping me overcome my personal fears of cooking.</p>
Get CookingWhether you're in recovery from cooking fears like me, or are just looking to expand your culinary confidence with dishes honoring Black heritage, these Black chefs are here to support you on your journey.Turn on some music, give yourself permission to make mistakes, and throw down for yourself or your loved ones. Glorious flavors await you.
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By Tara Lohan
The conclusion to decades of work to remove a dam on the Middle Fork Nooksack River east of Bellingham, Washington began with a bang yesterday as crews breached the dam with a carefully planned detonation. This explosive denouement is also a beginning.
The History<p>The Middle Fork Nooksack drains glacier-fed headwater streams that run off the icy summit of 10,778-foot Mt. Baker. The Middle Fork joins the North Fork and then the mainstem of the Nooksack River, which travels to Bellingham Bay and Puget Sound. The entire Nooksack watershed stretches 830 square miles across Washington and into British Columbia.</p>
A Plan Comes Together<p>The Middle Fork dam is not a pool dam built for water storage. Much of the time, water flows over the top until dam operators drop a floodgate to divert water to new locations. That water travels about 14 miles through tunnel and pipeline to Mirror Lake, then Anderson Creek, and to Lake Whatcom before finally being delivered to residents' taps.</p><p>Before removing the dam, engineers had to move the water intake 700 feet upstream and situate it at an elevation that still enabled city water withdrawals throughout the year, regardless of flow conditions.</p><p>They also needed to make sure that the rushing water didn't sweep up fish and accidentally send them through the water-supply system.</p><p>"The solution required a fairly complex design in the intake structure, including a fish exit pipe out of that structure to put fish back into the river in a way that meets current environmental permit standards," explains LaCroix.</p>
Project layout for the removal of the Middle Fork Nooksack diversion dam and rebuilding of water intake. City of Bellingham<p>Despite the cost and the work, she says, being able to continue to meet their municipal water obligations while opening up habitat for threatened species has been a win-win.</p><p>"I think there's a lot of benefits to having a dam removal versus fish passage — the main one being that you get a free-flowing river that can be a dynamic ecosystem and change over time," she says. "A static fish ladder just can't provide that same level of ecosystem benefit."</p>
Restoration Success<p>Despite local authorities' championing dam removal on the Middle Fork, the project has largely flown under the radar, overshadowed in the Pacific Northwest by heated discussions about a much larger potential project — removing <a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/feds-reject-removal-of-4-snake-river-dams-in-key-report/" target="_blank">four federal hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River</a>, a major tributary of the Columbia River.</p><p>Proponents of dam removal there see it as the best chance for recovering threatened salmon populations, including Chinook, which could help starving Southern Resident killer whales. Those dams also provide irrigation water, barge navigation and hydropower, so there's been more pushback against removal efforts.</p><p>Previous dam removals around the country, however, have proved successful at aiding fish recovery and river restoration.</p><p>Most notably the 1999 demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/edwards-dam-removal/" target="_blank">Edwards Dam on Maine's Kennebec River</a> restored the annual run of alewives, a type of herring essential to the food web. The fish run has gone from zero to 5 million in the two decades since dam removal. Blueback herring, striped bass, sturgeon and shad have also extended their reach. And the resurgence has brought back osprey, bald eagles and other wildlife, too.</p><p>The overwhelming success of river restoration on the Kennebec helped to spur a nationwide dam removal movement that's now seen 1,200 dams come down since 1999. Last year a record <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/conservation-resource/a-record-26-states-removed-dams-in-2019/" target="_blank">90 dams</a> were removed in 26 states, including <a href="https://therevelator.org/cleveland-forest-dam-removal/" target="_blank">20 dams in California's Cleveland National Forest</a>.</p>
Spider excavators remove on dam on San Juan Creek in California's Cleveland National Forest. Julie Donnell, USFS<p>The results have been seen in the Pacific Northwest, as well, which boasts the largest dam removal thus far in the country. In 2011 and 2014, the demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/elwha-dam-removal/" target="_blank">two dams</a> on Elwha River, which runs through Washington's Olympic National Park, opened up 70 miles of habitat that had been blocked for a century. Scientists have started seeing all five species of salmon native to the river coming back, particularly Chinook and coho. Bull trout, they've observed, have increased in size since the dams were removal.</p>
Benefits on the Middle Fork Nooksack<p>McEwan hopes to see a similar outcome on the Middle Fork.</p><p>Like the Elwha the Middle Fork Nooksack is a relatively pristine river with little development, and dam removal is expected to provide a big boost to fish. The additional miles of spawning habitat are important, but so is the temperature of that water.</p><p>The dam removal will open access to cold upstream waters, which are ideal for salmon and getting harder to come by as climate change warms waters and reduces mountain runoff.</p><p>"This is really great for the climate change resiliency for these species," says McEwan.</p><p>Steelhead will get back 45% of their historic habitat in the river, and scientists expect Chinook populations to increase in abundance by 31%.</p><p>That <em>could</em> help Southern Resident killer whales.</p><p>"When you get to the ocean, it's a little bit of a black box in terms of what you can model and say definitively is going to help, but more fish is better for orcas," McEwan says.</p><p>Upstream habitat will see benefits, too.</p><p>Oceangoing fish like salmon enrich their bodies with carbon and nitrogen while at sea. When they return to their natal rivers to spawn and die, the marine-derived nutrients they carry back upriver become important food and fertilizer for both riverine and terrestrial ecosystems — aiding everything from trees to birds to bears.</p><p>"Once the fish start making their way back, it will start changing the whole ecological system," says Delgado.</p><p><span></span>But any ecological benefit from salmon restoration, either in the ocean or the upper watershed, won't be immediate.<br></p><p>"The population of salmon on the Middle Fork is so low that we expect it's going to take quite a while to rebound," she says. "But the big picture is that what's good for salmon is good for the region — our history and our destiny are intricately intertwined."</p><p>After decades of work, that process of restoration has finally begun.</p>
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By Katie Howell
A new tool called The Food Systems Dashboard aims to save decision makers time and energy by painting a complete picture of a country's food system. Created by the Johns Hopkins' Alliance for a Healthier World, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Dashboard compiles food systems data from over 35 sources and offers it as a public good.
By Manuela Callari
It can grow to a maximum of six inches (16 centimeters), change color depending on mood and habitat, and, like all seahorses, the White's seahorse male gestates its young. But this tiny snouted fish is under threat.
Building an Ocean Seahorse Destination<p>Seahorses are found in tropical and temperate coastal water worldwide, but are most abundant around Australia, China and the Philippines. </p><p>Trade in the tiny creatures is strictly regulated because of their use in traditional medicine, aquariums and their sale as dried curios. But because they are poor swimmers and cannot easily move elsewhere, habitat loss is a particular threat for these curious animals. </p><p>Seahorses wrap their tails around seagrass and corals to avoid being carried away on currents. They use the habitat to spawn and hide from predators such as crabs, while also feeding on riches of plankton and small crustaceans living in the reef.</p><p><span></span>Where corals aren't available, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/aqc.1217" target="_blank">scientists</a> found seahorses taking up residence in fishing nets and old crab traps abandoned at the bottom of the ocean. </p>
Mixing With the Locals<p>Baby seahorse mortality is high in the wild because they are easily caught, so those bred in the protected environment of the aquarium weren't ready to be released into the wild until early May.</p><p>The team released 90 new arrivals into Sydney Harbor, placing some directly into the purpose-built hotels, and others onto a net that wild seahorses had already settled on.</p><p>Before setting them free, the researchers marked each young seahorse with a fluorescent tag with unique IDs inserted just beneath the skin to track how they get on in the different environments. </p><p>"The most exciting part was being able to put these animals into the wild and then go back a month later and still see them surviving and growing," said McCracken. </p><p>The seahorses will be old enough to mate and reproduce around October or November 2020. And researchers hope that by then, they will be able to breed with the wild population. </p>
Building a Global Seahorse Hotel Chain<p>With seahorses everywhere facing the loss of their coral reef homes, similar projects have sprung up in places like Greece and South Africa, home to the world's most endangered seahorse, the Knysna seahorse. </p><p>"The endangered South African seahorse is benefiting from something quite similar, even though it wasn't intentional," said Peter Teske, professor at the Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg.</p><p>In the South African <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322649251_An_endangered_seahorse_selectively_chooses_an_artificial_structure" target="_blank">case</a>, seahorses have bedded down in "Reno mattresses" — wire cages filled with rocks — that were used to build a new marina. Researchers from NGO Knysna Basin Project found the structures acted as a refuge for the animals.<span></span></p><p><span></span>While Teske describes the seahorse hotels as "a positive news story" and a great way to create public awareness of conservation, he added that establishing artificial habitats in some areas will only prevent the extinction of local populations.</p><p>"For a complete recovery, it is necessary to give the natural habitat a chance to regenerate," said the seahorse expert. </p>
Underwater Mascot<p>In Australia, the researchers hope the project could provide an opportunity to raise awareness not only of the plight of the Sydney seahorses but the other animals with which it shares its ocean habitat.</p><p>The waters around Sydney and the east coast are rich in biodiversity and include several threatened species like the weedy seadragon — a relative of the seahorse — and the grey nurse shark. Like the seahorse, they're also under pressure from pollution, ocean traffic and habitat loss through storms and coastal construction. </p><p>"It's a good thing to get people's support and interest. The seahorses are a useful vehicle to get people concerned if the harbor is in trouble," said David Booth, professor of marine ecology at the University of Technology Sydney who is also working on the project. </p><p>The hotels have become an attraction for divers hoping to catch a glimpse of these small but near mythical creatures. </p><p>"Everyone loves seahorses," added Booth, "they are so popular." </p>
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