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Hurricane Maria bought down power lines like these in San Juan and left millions without electricity. EPA

Puerto Rico's Power Grid 'Virtually Gone' After Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico's power grid is "virtually gone," Acting Department of Homeland Secretary Elaine Duke told a Senate committee Wednesday, confirming that the massive humanitarian crisis on the island could endure for months.

"Our focus is not necessarily restoring energy," Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told CNN on Wednesday. "The energy grid has been destroyed .... And we need to rebuild it. That does not get rebuilt in days."


The future of the island's bankrupt and corrupt utility and its fossil-fuel-heavy colonial legacy are now top of mind as experts and officials begin to tackle the best way to restore power and rebuild the island's power grid. Most of the island is without power and 44 percent of the population lack drinking water over a week after Maria hit, and a haphazard distribution of emergency supplies and assistance is slowing recovery efforts and contributing to the devastation.

As reported by USA Today:

"Although the Senate hearing was called to assess the state of homeland security threats, much of the session focused on the dire conditions in Puerto Rico.

At one point, Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., read aloud a dramatic appeal from former Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia, who said that local hospitals 'are on the verge of collapse.'

Some in need of medical care are 'dying in their homes because they can't fill prescriptions' or access out-patient care, including dialysis. 'This is happening in America,' Hassan said, reading from Garcia's plea."

For a deeper dive:

Grid: USA Today, CNN, Wired, Bloomberg BNA, CityLab, Mother Jones. Utility legacy: Huffington Post, Washington Post. Commentary: Slate, Eleanor Cummins analysis

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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Patagonia

Why Trump’s Shrinking of Bears Ears Will Be Reversed

By Eric Biber, Nicholas Bryner, Sean B. Hecht and Mark Squillace

On Dec. 4, President Trump traveled to Utah to sign proclamations downsizing Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by nearly 50 percent. "[S]ome people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington," Trump said. "And guess what? They're wrong."

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NPR

Environmental Scorecard Highlights Need for Congress to Better Protect Our Environment & Health

Environment America released its 2017 Environmental Scorecard on Thursday, tracking how the U.S. Congress voted on bills that could protect our air, water, landscapes and the health of the planet. Absences count against a member's score.

Environment America's Washington, DC office director Anna Aurilio said the following:

"Sadly, Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much these days, including the need to protect our environment. It shouldn't be this way, it didn't used to be and we're doing all we can to make sure it's not this way in the future.

But, as we release our environmental scorecard for 2017, we want to not only applaud the Democrats who scored 100 percent, but also cheer on those members of both parties who boldly stood up for our planet this year.

Overall, the U.S. Senate had a score of 47 percent and the U.S. House of Representatives scored 45 percent, which does not bode well for our air or water.

The good news is that 139 members from the two branches voted with us 100 percent of the time, which means our planet and our families are represented by a lot of real environmental champs.

And on a number of issues, the environment received bipartisan support. In particular, a cadre of Republicans in the U.S. House supported funding to make public transit available and to ensure that the EPA had enough money to do its job protecting our air and water. In the Senate, limiting methane pollution was the big bipartisan winner.

Unfortunately, with 145 of our federal decision-makers scoring 0 percent, it's obvious we have a lot more work to do to make sure our elected officials represent the majority of Americans who want to see a cleaner, greener, healthier planet for future generations."

Business

Underground Farm Pays Rent in Heat It Supplies to Building Above

Vertical farms have been touted as a way to feed a rapidly urbanizing world population (I've waxed poetic about them myself.) Critics of the trending technology, however, contend that these energy-intensive hubs are too costly and perhaps impractical to maintain.

Sure, the naysayers have a point, but what if vertical farms did more than just feed mouths? In Stockholm, Sweden, the Plantagon CityFarm located in the basement of the iconic DN-Skrapan building in the Kungsholmen district has a whole other purpose besides nourishing the office workers on site—the farm also recycles its heat to warm the offices above.

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Animals

Herd of caribou on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Izuru Toki / Flickr

While America Focuses on Tax Bill, Congress Quietly Tries to Open Arctic Refuge to Oil Drilling

The U.S. Senate has passed a Republican tax-reform package that contains a provision to authorize oil drilling on the coastal plain of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, placing the biological heart of one of our last pristine, untouched places in severe peril.

"This vote to deface and pollute one of the nation's last pristine and untouched wild landscapes is outrageous," said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, in a statement after the Senate passed the tax package. "The Arctic Refuge drilling provision has no legitimate place in a tax bill, and this backdoor political deal now threatens to destroy the crown jewel of our National Wildlife Refuge System."

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As World Warms, Heart-Breaking Video Shows What It Looks Like When a Polar Bear Starves

By Julia Conley

A video of a starving polar bear led to calls for climate change denialists to confront the real-world effects of global warming this week. Taken by a Canadian conservationist and photographer and posted to social media, the video offered a stark visual of the drastic impacts of climate change that have already begun taking root.

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Trump Watch
Victoria Pickering / Flickr

The Mission of Scott Pruitt: End the EPA as We Know It

By Lukas Ross

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt headed to Congress for testimony before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on the environment. The topic of the hearing? "The Mission of the U.S. EPA."

Since Pruitt has been incredibly sparing in his appearances on Capitol Hill, this is a rare chance to ask hard questions of the most controversial administrator in the history of the EPA.

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Everyday Heroes and Thousands of Firefighters Step Up to SoCal Wildfires

As six large wildfires and several smaller fires burn across Southern California, firefighters, first responders and everyday Americans are stepping up—and risking their lives—to rescue fellow citizens, homes, buildings and animals from the blazes.

About 5,700 firefighters are battling the region's brushfires around the clock in intense heat and grueling conditions.

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Bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico. pmarkham / Flickr

Lawsuit Launched Against Trump EPA for Approving Fracking Waste Dumping Into Gulf of Mexico

The Center for Biological Diversity filed on Thursday a formal notice of intent to sue the Trump administration for allowing oil companies to dump waste from fracking and drilling into the Gulf of Mexico without evaluating the dangers to sea turtles, whales or other imperiled marine life.

In September the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a Clean Water Act permit for new and existing offshore oil and gas platforms operating in federal waters off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The permit allows oil companies to dump unlimited amounts of waste fluid, including chemicals involved in fracking, into the Gulf of Mexico.

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