New Pipeline Threatens Wetlands in Gulf Coast Communities
In a region still scarred by the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Plains Southcap, LLC, is building a pipeline meant to carry conventional crude oil from Alabama to Mississippi, threatening waterways in both states.
Set to finish construction this year, Southcap’s underground pipeline would carry crude from the Ten Mile Terminal in Mobile, AL, to the Chevron refinery in Pascagoula, MS, tearing a path through Hamilton Creek, which feeds into Big Creek Lake, as well as Bangs Lake, only two miles from the refinery.
Pascagoula is among the many towns still in economic and ecological recovery since the BP spill. The Plains pipeline took many residents and activists by surprise. The “nationwide permit” issued by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) under the Clean Water Act of 1977, allows for the “expedited permitting and bypass[ing] of public notifications about wetlands,” according to the Associated Press.
In Mobile, county officials anxiously await a study by the Mobile Area Water and Sewer Service (MAWSS) of the potential impact the pipeline would have on the city’s drinking water. In the meantime, the city of Semmes, AL, has issued a stop-work permit on the pipeline.
“Hopefully, they can make the alternative routes to keep it away from key points in the watershed,” Mobile County Attorney Jay Ross told Alabama Media Group reporter John Sharp.
Despite concerns raised in Mississippi and Alabama, Plains Southcap vehemently defends the pipeline’s safety. The pipeline is slated to have round-the-clock monitoring as well as additional security features and failsafes. Sharp reported that the pipeline will be buried deeper than what is regulated, “which makes it less susceptible to third-party damage.”
Still, many conservationists and activists remain outraged over the potential damage a pipeline could create for the states’ wetlands. According to the Sun Herald in Mississippi, the USACE—which approved the pipeline's construction–said the project would require the pipeline to pass through 145 acres of wetlands and cross 33 streams.
While the pipeline is set to carry only medium-grade crude, Plains Southcap remained quiet as to whether the pipeline may switch to the more lucrative but hazardous tar sands in the future.
Visit EcoWatch’s PIPELINES page for more related news on this topic.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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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>
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