Activists Flood EPA with Signatures to Stop Rubber-Stamping of Keystone XL
As the Army Corps of Engineers began granting TransCanada fast-tracked approval to start building the southern leg of the controversial Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline this week, people across the region and around the country called on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson to stand up for the public interest and intervene.
“President Obama abandoned Texans and Oklahomans to the whims of Big Oil and an Army Corps that appears only too willing to serve them,” said Kim Huynh, dirty fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “The Army Corps has shown a willful disregard for the concerns of residents whose health, land and livelihoods are at stake if Keystone XL is rubber-stamped, which is why we’re calling on Administrator Lisa Jackson to step in and call for a full environmental review.”
The New York Times reported this morning that one of the three regional Army Corps of Engineers offices reviewing TransCanada’s federal permit application had rubber-stamped the southernmost portion of the pipeline’s route through Texas on June 25.
On June 26 in Austin, concerned Texans converged to testify about the risks of tar sands oil pipelines at a state oil and gas hearing and are holding a press conference afterwards with Michigan resident Michelle Barlond-Smith, who described the ongoing impacts of the disastrous Enbridge tar sands oil spill into the Kalamazoo River. Today, concerned Oklahomans will hold a citizens’ “public hearing” in Tulsa to protest the Army Corps’ stonewalling of their concerns.
“On issues of concern for environmental justice, impacted communities, and public health related to environmental toxins, the Army Corps' has no jurisdiction, so why should they be the agency to have the last word on the Keystone XL pipeline?,” said Juan Parras, director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS). “I firmly believe the EPA is capable and better equipped to conduct an EIS and as such should do so.”
In Washington, D.C., activists delivered more than 117,000 signatures from CREDO Action and Friends of the Earth supporters to EPA headquarters on June 26, calling on Administrator Lisa Jackson to intervene and stop the Army Corp’s rubber-stamping of the Keystone XL southern segment permit. (View pictures of the delivery.)
“It is outrageous that the Army Corps of Engineers would rubber stamp, in one fell swoop, a foreign pipeline company’s request to endanger more than 100 waterways,” said Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager for CREDO Action. “Lisa Jackson has been the one leader in the Obama administration most willing to stand up to polluters and we're depending on her to be a hero once again. The EPA must take action to prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from selling us out to TransCanada and ensuring certain disaster for the environment and our public health.”
After splitting its Keystone XL project into two parts, TransCanada quietly applied to the Army Corps of Engineers offices in Galveston, Tulsa and Ft. Worth for a catch-all Nationwide Permit 12 for the southern leg. A Nationwide Permit 12 would grant blanket approval for hundreds of pipeline water crossings in Oklahoma and Texas without any environmental impacts review or public input, despite the determination by EPA Region VI Associate Director Dr. Jane Watson that the original Keystone XL project was ineligible for this blanket water permit.
“EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has stood her ground on numerous environmentally threatening lawsuits brought on by the State of Texas against the EPA, and in those situations, the EPA succeeded,” Parras said. “If in fact, environmental justice is a priority for this administration, as it has made us believe, then the obvious thing to do is to carry out the mandates of the Clean Water Act for the sake of making sure we all have safe drinking water, in the South as in other parts of the country.”
According to news reports, the Galveston and Tulsa offices’ 45-day windows for reviewing TransCanada’s application for a Nationwide Permit 12 were to run out on June 25 and June 28 respectively, at which time TransCanada’s permit could be approved by default. The Ft. Worth office has yet to publicly confirm its timetable.
“Politicians have an obligation to be fair and balanced. Landowners in Texas do not have a single politician to turn to for help. Their loyalty has been sold to the highest bidder. Texas U.S. Senate Candidates, Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst and former Solicitor General Ted Cruz, ignored landowners concerns about the Keystone XL pipeline in a recent debate,” said David Daniel, president of Stop Tar Sands Oil Pipelines and a landowner in east Texas whose property would be split in half by the southern segment.
Non-violent direct action to stop the export leg of the Keystone XL pipeline is already being organized for this summer, under the name Tar Sands Blockade, should TransCanada move ahead with construction.
The Obama administration’s decision on the Keystone XL pipeline’s northern and southern legs will have far-ranging consequences for communities’ drinking water, public health and local economies all along its path as well as for our shared climate. The southern leg of Keystone XL would provide the industry a crucial link for relieving the current glut of tar sands oil in the Midwest by piping it down to refineries and international shipping ports on the Gulf Coast for export. The project would inflate oil industry profits while threatening America’s heartland with costly spills, increasing already debilitating air pollution in refinery communities on the Gulf Coast, and driving the expansion of climate-destabilizing tar sands oil development and consumption.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The U.S. reported more than 55,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, in a sign that the outbreak is not letting up as the Fourth of July weekend kicks off.
- The U.S. Isn't in a Second Wave of Coronavirus – The First Wave ... ›
- Navajo Nation Has Highest Covid-19 Infection Rate in the U.S. ... ›
- U.S. Coronavirus Cases Top 2 Million as All 50 States Start ... ›
By Jason Bruck
Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
- Drone Footage Captures Rare Finless Porpoises in Hong Kong ... ›
- Brazil's Amazon River Dolphin Faces Extinction After Fishing ... ›
- 10 Surprising Dolphin 'Superpowers' - EcoWatch ›
Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral. gonzalo martinez / iStock / Getty Images Plus
On July 29, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill prohibiting local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens.
- Your Guide to Reef Friendly Sunscreens - EcoWatch ›
- Hundreds of Sunscreens Don't Work or Have Unsafe Ingredients ... ›
- FDA Study: Sunscreen Chemicals Seep Into the Bloodstream ... ›
By Kelli McGrane
Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks.
- Is Oat Milk Gluten-Free? - EcoWatch ›
- What Nutritionists Think About Starbucks' Three New Plant-Based ... ›
- 6 Alternatives to Milk: Which Is the Healthiest? - EcoWatch ›
"Emissions from pyrotechnic displays are composed of numerous organic compounds as well as metals," a new study reports. Nodar Chernishev / EyeEm / Getty Images
Fireworks have taken a lot of heat recently. In South Dakota, fire experts have said President Trump's plan to hold a fireworks show is dangerous and public health experts have criticized the lack of plans to enforce mask wearing or social distancing. Now, a new study shows that shooting off fireworks at home may expose you and your family to dangerous levels of lead, copper and other toxins.
- No Social Distancing or Mask Requirement at Trump's Mt ... ›
- Trump's Fireworks Show at Mt. Rushmore Is a Dangerous Idea, Fire ... ›
By Ashutosh Pandey
Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
- Dangerous Chemicals From E-Waste Found in Black Plastics From ... ›
- Electronic Waste Study Finds $65 Billion in Raw Materials ... ›
- Electronic Waste: New EU Rules Target Throwaway Culture ... ›
- COVID-19 Masks Are Polluting Beaches and Oceans - EcoWatch ›
- Plastic Packaging Use Increases During the Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Worsens Thailand's Plastic Waste Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Plastic Waste Polluting the Environment - EcoWatch ›