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By Verner Wilson II

2018 was a breakthrough year for Arctic conservation work at the International Maritime Organization (IMO). I wrote partly about it in my previous blog. Aside from obtaining internationally recognized routing measures and shipping areas to be avoided (ATBA) in the Bering Sea, IMO also moved forward with regulations to ban the use of Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) in the Arctic.

The United Nations shipping agency also moved to regulate climate-change causing greenhouse gas emissions in the international shipping industry, which is one of the largest emitters of carbon and other atmosphere pollutants. I look forward to continuing that type of work into 2019. And there will be plenty of opportunity for that, as there are a number of IMO subcommittee meetings that will consider pollution reduction and prevention measures. The people who I believe made some of the most significant differences in this work in 2018 were able to come to IMO with me last fall.

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Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt at a meeting regarding the Colorado River on Sept. 27, 2017. Bureau of Reclamation

By Emilie Karrick Surrusco

As 2019 begins, it's out with the old and in with the same old, same old. Scandal-ridden Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke released a brief farewell letter Wednesday in red marker. With Zinke's successor not yet named, David Bernhardt becomes acting secretary. The move swaps out one political insider closely aligned with deep-pocketed special interests for another.

Bernhardt, who became deputy secretary of the Department of Interior in August 2017, is "a walking conflict of interest" who served as the Interior Department's top lawyer under George W. Bush—and went on to a lucrative career as a legal adviser for timber companies, mining companies and oil and gas interests. Since returning to the Interior Department under Trump, he has quietly implemented policy decisions that benefit his former corporate polluter clients.

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Advocates of labels for genetically modified food take part in the March Against Monsanto in Washington, D.C. Stephen Melkisethian / Flickr

By Andrea Germanos

Food safety advocates are expressing sharp disappointment with the final federal GMO labeling rule, released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

While industry-friendly Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asserted in a press statement that the new standard for foods produced using genetic engineering (GE or GMO) would boost "the transparency of our nation's food system" and ensure "clear information and labeling consistency for consumers about the ingredients in their food," groups like the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)—and even food giants like Nestlé—say it does nothing of the sort.

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pxhere

Encouraging news on the fight against plastic pollution! Europe is one step closer to banning some of the most common single-use plastics to help protect the environment and reduce marine litter.

Negotiators from the European Parliament and Council reached a provisional agreement on Wednesday to reduce use or eliminate plastic products such as cigarette butts, straws, bottles, cutlery and cotton buds. The European Commission—the EU's executive arm—first introduced the sweeping proposal in May.

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The planned Liberty Project is an artificial gravel island to allow oil drilling in the Arctic. Hilcorp / BOEM

Conservation groups are suing the Trump administration to halt construction of a controversial oil production facility in Alaska's Beaufort Sea, the first offshore oil drilling development in federal Arctic waters.

Hilcorp Alaska received the green light from the Interior Department in October to build the Liberty Project, a nine-acre artificial drilling island and 5.6-mile underwater pipeline, which environmentalists warn could risk oil spills in the ecologically sensitive area, threaten Arctic communities and put local wildlife including polar bears at risk.

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The Overpass Light Brigade at Bascom Hall in Madison, Wisconsin on April 4, 2014. depthandtime / Flickr

By Jake Johnson

While the COP24 climate talks are at risk of ending without a concrete plan of action thanks in large part to the Trump administration's commitment to a dirty energy agenda, environmental groups on Thursday celebrated a major milestone in the global movement to take down the fossil fuel industry after the number of public and private institutions that have vowed to divest from oil, gas and coal companies surpassed 1,000.

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Agricultural workers in Salinas, California. Michael Davidson / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Andrea Germanos

Denouncing his "strong ties to corporate agribusiness and pesticide companies," more than 240 groups urged the Senate on Wednesday to reject the nomination of Scott Hutchins, President Donald Trump's pick for chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

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Peyri Herrera / CC BY 2.0

By Kendra Klein

A groundbreaking new study in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that you can cut your cancer risk by eating an organic diet. The findings are dramatic. In a study that followed nearly 70,000 people, those who ate the most organic food lowered their overall risk of developing cancer by 25 percent. The relationship was strongest for two types of cancer: participants who frequently ate organic had 76 percent fewer lymphomas and 34 percent fewer breast cancers that developed after menopause.

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Caleb George / Unsplash

By Doug Norlen

This month the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a startling report, which finds that severe impacts of climate change are happening much sooner than previously expected, and that countries must take far more aggressive actions to avoid the most catastrophic impacts. The report finds that the burning of fossil fuels must be curbed sharply.

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Greenpeace fracking protest in London's Parliament Square. DAVID HOLT / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A string of small earthquakes were reported the town of Blackpool just days after fracking operations restarted in England after a seven year hiatus, raising concerns that the controversial drilling process could eventually trigger bigger temblors.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) detected five quakes since Thursday near the contentious Preston New Road site operated by UK shale gas firm Cuadrilla Resources.

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The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) logo. AlexCovarrubias, CC BY 2.5

By Steve Horn

While the oil and gas industry has lauded the new trade deal that may soon replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a provision added by Mexico, along with its new president's plan to ban fracking, could complicate the industry's rising ambitions there.

The new agreement, known as the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), has faced criticism as being tantamount to NAFTA 2.0—more of a minor reboot that primarily benefits Wall Street investors and large corporations, including oil and gas companies.

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