Coal Ash, Keystone XL Dropped from Transportation Bill
In the eleventh hour during negotiations on the transportation bill on June 27, language requiring approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and barring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation of coal ash waste was dropped.
The Keystone XL rider would have mandated approval of this unnecessary and dangerous tar sands pipeline that would threaten the nation's largest aquifer that supplies one-third of the U.S. irrigated farmland and drinking water for millions of Americans. Had the provision remained in the House Republican backed bill, it would have required the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve the pipeline within 30 days from receiving an application from TransCanada Corp.
The coal ash rider would have put communities at risk from the toxic solid waste leftover after coal is burned. Currently there are no federal standards for disposing of coal ash. On June 27, the EPA released information revealing the existence of hundreds of previously unknown coal ash dumps nationwide. The data released by the EPA reveal that there are at least 451 more coal ash ponds than previously acknowledged—significantly increasing the known threat from coal ash. The information comes pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request by Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice.
"Ever since I collected the first water samples from the Kingston Coal Ash disaster in 2008 I have seen firsthand the toxicity of coal ash on waterways and communities across America," said Donna Lisenby, Watauga Riverkeeper.
"Coal ash should be regulated as a hazardous waste because it is full of heavy metals. Getting the coal ash rider removed from the transportation bill is a major victory for clean water. The EPA should be allowed to properly regulate this toxic waste without further legislative interference. Waterkeepers send our thanks to members of Congress who acted to protect drinking water and human health today. We sincerely appreciate your efforts because many of our communities need strong coal ash regulations now," Lisenby said.
The growing Texas solar industry is offering a safe harbor to unemployed oil and gas professionals amidst the latest oil and gas industry bust, this one brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Houston Chronicle reports.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>