Category: Corporate Assault on Our Lives And Our Health


Published time: April 04, 2014 04:00

(AFP Photo / Dieter Nagl)

(AFP Photo / Dieter Nagl)

Rep. Mike Pompeo will introduce legislation backed by powerful trade groups to prevent states from passing laws requiring the labeling of genetically-modified foods, according to reports. The bill is linked to biotech giant Monsanto and Koch Industries.

Pompeo will offer the bill in the US House before Congress leaves for Easter recess later this month, The Hill newspaper reported, citing industry sources. Politico also reported on the impending proposal. Pompeo’s office would not comment on the congressman’s intentions for a labeling restriction.

The bill includes a “prohibition against mandatory labeling,” according to The Hill, echoing powerful interest groups that have already declared war against such “right to know” labeling laws around the nation.

It was revealed in recent months that powerful farming and biotechnology interest groups like Monsanto were joining forces – under the name ‘Coalition for Safe Affordable Food‘ – to push a federal voluntary labeling standard for food made with genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in an effort to stem the tide of state legislation seeking to mandate labeling.

In recent years, voters in states such as California and Washington have narrowly defeated ballot initiatives proposing mandatory GMO labeling, though not without dragging members of the new Coalition into expensive campaigns to defeat the measures. Many other states are now considering their own proposals to label GMO food.

A top member of the Coalition – the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a major food industry lobbying group – raised and spent the bulk of the overall $22 million that opponents of labeling sank into defeating Washington State’s ballot initiative on GMO labeling last year. That total number was three times the amount that proponents of labeling spent in the state. GMA was joined in its effort by allies such as biotech giants Monsanto, Bayer, and DuPont.

The Coalition said in February that it would seek to empower the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “to establish federal standards for companies that want to voluntarily label their product for the absence-of or presence-of GMO food ingredients.” In addition, the Coalition proposes the FDA mandate labels for GMO food or ingredients that the agency deems a “health, safety or nutrition issue,” though no consumables currently fall in such a category.

“The legislation we’re proposing would preclude state legislation that conflicts with the federal standards,” GMA president Pamela Bailey said of the Coalition’s aim, The Hill reported.

 

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Monsanto under investigation for ‘illegal dumping’

by SEAN POULTER

Last updated at 18:04 12 February 2007

 

Monsanto is under investigation amid allegations it sanctioned the dumping of toxic waste on sites across the country despite evidence that it would poison the landscape for generations.

The activities of the US chemical giant, best-known in the UK for its support of GM farming, are being examined by the government’s Environment Agency and public health bodies.

The focus of the investigation is a site in south Wales that has been called ‘one of the most contaminated’ in the country.

It appears that toxic chemicals were dumped in the Brofiscin quarry in the 1960s and 1970s despite the fact there was no licence for these materials and the site was not lined or sealed.

This meant a cocktail of highly poisonous chemicals has been able to escape into the environment and threatens to poison local streams and rivers.

The quarry, which is on the edge of the village of Groesfaen, near Cardiff, first erupted in 2003, spilling fumes over the surrounding area.

Since then surveys have found that 67 chemicals, including Agent Orange derivatives, dioxins and PCBs which could have been made only by Monsanto, are leaking from the site.

The Environment Agency says that if the dumping were to take place today there would be a criminal prosecution and civil action to raise the money needed to clean up the site.

However, it appears that much of the dumping was carried out during years when Britain’s regime for environmental protection was more lax.

Consequently, there are doubts as to how far any legal action can go or which companies should be liable for clean-up costs that are expected to run into tens of millions of pounds.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “Our overall aim is to understand the current risks to ground water and surface waters and to determine the most cost-effective way forward to protect the local environment and to recover costs from those liable.”

 

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Oil firm agrees to abide by EPA monitoring arrangements for five years, allowing it to bid for drilling contracts in Gulf of Mexico
BP

BP is still awaiting a US court ruling about whether it was grossly negligent over the Deepwater Horizon blowout in 2010. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

BP is closer to restoring its operations and reputation in the US after agreeing a deal with environmental protection authorities that it will enable the oil firm to bid for new drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico.

The British-based group had started legal proceedings against the US environmental protection agency (EPA) which had banned BP from new contracts on the grounds that it had failed to correct problems properly since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010.

BP said it had now dropped its law suit after resolving outstanding problems with the EPA but the firm will have to abide by monitoring arrangements with the agency for the next five years.

“After a lengthy negotiation, BP is pleased to have reached this resolution, which we believe to be fair and reasonable,” said John Mingé, head of BP America. “Today’s agreement will allow America’s largest energy investor to compete again for federal contracts and leases.”

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March 18, 2014

Huffpost Business

Government Declares BP a ‘Responsible’ Contractor: Workers and Taxpayers Beware

A scant five days before the Department of Interior opens a new round of bids for oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico, the EPA has blinked, pronouncing BP, the incorrigible corporate scofflaw of the new millennium, once again fit to do business with the government.

To get right to the point, the federal government’s decision that BP has somehow paid its debt and should once again be eligible for federal contracts is a disgrace. Not only does it let BP off the hook, it sends an unmistakable signal to the rest of the energy industry: That no matter how much harm you do, no matter how horrid your safety record, the feds will cut you some slack.

Back in 2012, the agency’s intrepid staff had finally gotten permission to pull the trigger on the company, de-barring it from holding any new U.S. contracts on the grounds that it was not running its business in a “responsible” way. Undoubtedly under pressure by the Cameron government and the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, BP’s most loyal customer, the EPA settled its debarment suit for a sweet little consent decree that will try to improve the company’s sense of ethics by having “independent” auditors come visit once a year.

To review the grim record: BP, now the third-largest energy company in the world, is the first among the roster of companies that have caused the most memorable industrial fiascos in the post-modern age.

  • Its best-known disaster, the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon, a drilling rig moored in the Gulf of Mexico that BP had hired to develop its lease of the Macondo well, killed 11 and deposited 205 million gallons of crude oil along the southern coast of the United States — the worst environmental disaster in American history.
  • In a troubling precursor, another explosion killed 15 and injured 180 at the company’s Texas City refinery in July 2005. This incident happened even after the plant manager there had gone on bended knee to John Manzoni, BP’s second in command worldwide, to plead for money to address severe maintenance problems that jeopardized safety at that plant after a consultant surveying refinery workers reported that many thought they ran a real risk of being killed at work. Those fears were warranted, it turned out.
  • Also in 2005, 200,000 gallons of oil spilled from a BP pipeline on Alaska’s North Slope.

 

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Published time: February 27, 2014 01:20

A farmer tills a rice paddy field on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka (Reuters / Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)

A farmer tills a rice paddy field on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka (Reuters / Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)

A heretofore inexplicable fatal, chronic kidney disease that has affected poor farming regions around the globe may be linked to the use of biochemical giant Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide in areas with hard water, a new study has found.

The new study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Researchers suggest that Roundup, or glyphosate, becomes highly toxic to the kidney once mixed with “hard” water or metals like arsenic and cadmium that often exist naturally in the soil or are added via fertilizer. Hard water contains metals like calcium, magnesium, strontium, and iron, among others. On its own, glyphosate is toxic, but not detrimental enough to eradicate kidney tissue.

The glyphosate molecule was patented as a herbicide by Monsanto in the early 1970s. The company soon brought glyphosate to market under the name “Roundup,” which is now the most commonly used herbicide in the world.

The hypothesis helps explain a global rash of the mysterious, fatal Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown etiology (CKDu) that has been found in rice paddy regions of northern Sri Lanka, for example, or in El Salvador, where CKDu is the second leading cause of death among males.

Furthermore, the study’s findings explain many observations associated with the disease, including the linkage between the consumption of hard water and CKDu, as 96 percent of patients have been found to have consumed “hard or very hard water for at least five years, from wells that receive their supply from shallow regolith aquifers.”

 

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democracynow democracynow

Published on Feb 21, 2014

http://www.democracynow.org – We speak with a University of California scientist Tyrone Hayes, who discovered a widely used herbicide may have harmful effects on the endocrine system. But when he tried to publish the results, the chemical’s manufacturer launched a campaign to discredit his work. Hayes was first hired in 1997 by a company, which later became agribusiness giant Syngenta, to study their product, Atrazine, a pesticide that is applied to more than half the corn crops in the United States, and widely used on golf courses and Christmas tree farms. When Hayes found results Syngenta did not expect — that Atrazine causes sexual abnormalities in frogs, and could cause the same problems for humans — it refused to allow him to publish his findings. A new article in The New Yorker magazine uses court documents from a class-action lawsuit against Syngenta to show how it sought to smear Hayes’ reputation and prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from banning the profitable chemical, which is already banned by the European Union.

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Published time: February 19, 2014 00:53
Joe Raedle / Getty Images / AFP

Joe Raedle / Getty Images / AFP

With one person missing and presumed dead in an explosion at a natural gas well in a small Pennsylvania town, the company responsible is now under fire after apparently apologizing to the local community by handing out vouchers for free pizza.

It took five days for emergency crews to safely extinguish a fire that was set by an explosion that shook the small town of Bobtown, located in the far southwestern corner of the state. The blast gave off a loud hissing noise that could be heard from hundreds of yards away.

One resident told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the explosion in a shale formation where Chevron Corp. has spent time fracking “sounded like a jet engine going five feet above your house.” John Kuis, 57, of nearby Dilliner said his dog started growling unusually at 6:45 a.m. on February 11 “then the house just sort of shock and there was a big loud bang.”

At least one employee who was working on the rig has not been found and is widely thought to have been killed – either in the initial explosion or during the five days the flames burned. Another worker was injured in the event.

Chevron has denied any knowledge of what caused the explosion. Company spokesman Ken Robertson told the local ABC affiliate that workers were preparing to run tubing, which is done when wells are being readied for production, and that “there is not enough fuel being emitted to sustain combustion, and with the cooling of the crane, the ignition source has been removed.”

The Philadelphia Daily News has since discovered that residents of Bobtown – a census-designated community of fewer than 1,000 people that revolves mostly around coal mining – have started receiving coupons for one free pizza and a two-liter of soda from the local Bobtown pizza.

Chevron recognizes the effect this has had on the community,” the company said on its website. “We value being a responsible member of this community and will continue to strive to achieve incident-free operations. We are committed to taking action to safeguard our neighbors, our employees, our contractors and the environment.”

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VOA

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Workers inspect an area outside a retaining wall around storage tanks where a chemical leaked into the Elk River at Freedom Industries storage facility in Charleston, West Virginia, Jan. 13, 2014.

Workers inspect an area outside a retaining wall around storage tanks where a chemical leaked into the Elk River at Freedom Industries storage facility in Charleston, West Virginia, Jan. 13, 2014.

Jessica Berman

Experts are calling for a targeted strategy to restrict the use of toxic industrial chemicals, which they say are causing a “silent pandemic” of brain disorders in children worldwide.  Scientists are urging action as more so-called neurotoxins have been identified but remain largely unregulated.

A rise in the number of pediatric brain disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, cerebral palsy and autism, may be the result of increased use of unregulated toxic chemicals around the world.

In the past seven years, researchers have identified six new chemicals that have been shown to be capable of damaging the brains of developing human fetuses and young children. The discovery brings to twelve the number of confirmed neurotoxins.  Experts estimate one in six children worldwide suffers from a neurodevelopmental disorder.

Pediatrician Philip Landrigan, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said exposure to neurotoxic chemicals was a serious problem that has reached pandemic proportions.

“Injury to the human brain in early life leads to problems like loss of IQ, shortening of attention span, behavioral problems.  And these effects by and large tend to be permanent,” he said.

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Number of chemicals linked to problems such as autism DOUBLES in just seven years

  • Researchers warn that chemical safety checks must be tightened
  • Many substances are found in everyday items like food, toys and clothes
  • And the study warns that these findings are just the tip of the iceberg

By Damien Gayle

|

The number of industrial chemicals known to trigger brain development problems like autism has doubled in just seven years, experts warned today.

A new study suggests toxic chemicals may be triggering increases in neurological disabilities among children, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia.

The researchers warn that chemical safety checks need to be tightened up around the world to protect our vulnerable youngsters from a ‘silent epidemic’ of brain disorders.

A tractor sprays barley crops: Pesticides are among the toxic chemicals which may be triggering neurological disabilities among children, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia

A tractor sprays barley crops: Pesticides are among the toxic chemicals which may be triggering neurological disabilities among children, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia

Their work also found that the list of chemicals known to damage the human brain but not regulated to safeguard children had also risen from 202 to 214.

These substances are found in everyday items including food, clothing, furniture and toys.

‘The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis,’ said Dr Philippe Grandjean, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

‘They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance.

‘Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes.’

He and his co-authors are calling for universal legal requirements forcing manufacturers to prove that all existing and new industrial chemicals are non-toxic before they reach the market place.

In the EU, the Reach (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) regulations already impose such rules.

But without them being applied globally, the world faces a ‘pandemic of neurodevelopmental toxicity’, warned Dr Grandjean.

‘Current chemical regulations are woefully inadequate to safeguard children whose developing brains are uniquely vulnerable to toxic chemicals in the environment,’ Dr Grandjean pointed out.

Neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia and cerebral palsy affect one in six children worldwide.

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EcoWatch

New Evidence Submitted in State Department Hiring of Oil Industry Consultant to Write Keystone XL Environmental Review

Sierra Club | February 12, 2014 10:34 am

 

Today Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth submitted evidence to the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General to support the ongoing inquiry into conflicts of interest and mismanagement in the environmental review of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The groups request that the Inspector General takes steps to ensure that the tainted Final Environmental Impact Statement, released on Jan. 31, is excluded from the agency’s National Interest Determination.

 

Untitled

Image courtesy of Friends of the Earth/ 350.org infographic

 

“The State Department hired an oil industry consultant to write the environmental review of Keystone XL without taking steps to guard against industry bias,” said Doug Hayes, Sierra Club staff attorney. “So it’s no surprise that the report attempts to minimize the pipeline’s massive carbon pollution and threats to human health and water quality. This flawed report should have no place in the decision making on this pipeline.”

 

In Aug. 2013, the State Department confirmed that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) had opened an inquiry into the agency’s hiring of the consultant Environmental Resources Management (ERM) to prepare the environmental review of the project. Evidence shows that ERM made false and misleading statements on its application for the contract.

 

“By hiring ERM, the State Department ignored its own guidelines and invited the fox into the hen house,” said Ross Hammond, Friends of the Earth senior campaigner. “ERM has an obvious self interest in making sure Keystone XL is built.”

 

“The process that allowed them to get this contract has been corrupt from day one and the American people deserve better from their government,” Hammond continued. “It’s up to the Secretary Kerry and the Inspector General to restore some integrity and accountability into the review process, not preside over a whitewash.”

 

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NEAT leaders: TransCanada dupes landowners about eminent domain

New concerns over the Keystone XL oil pipeline are prompting leaders of the Nebraska Easement Action Team, or NEAT, to send a letter to President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry and the Unicameral.

The letter expresses worry over TransCanada’s behavior and tactics in pursuing the proposed pipeline.

NEAT president Tom Genung, of Hastings, claims landowners are being misinformed about land seizures.

“Some of the land agents for TransCanada led landowners to believe that if they didn’t sign the initial proposal or the initial easement contracts that eminent domain would be implemented and that basically there would be no compensation,” Genung says, “which is not true at all.”

 

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JournalStar.com

Landowner group warns of perceived plans to bypass federal permit for Keystone XL

February 12, 2014 6:00 pm  • 

A Nebraska landowner advocacy group is warning state legislators and landowners to be aware that TransCanada, the company responsible for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, is offering easement agreements that mention bypassing the need for a presidential permit.

The Nebraska Easement Action Team Wednesday issued a strongly worded resolution condemning what it characterized as a history of deceptive practices by TransCanada and sought to bring attention to a sentence in a letter TransCanada sent this month to a Nebraska landowner.

The letter said if an easement was signed, paperwork wouldn’t be filed with the county recorder until TranCanada gets a presidential permit for the 1,179-mile pipeline or “modifies the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project in such a way that a presidential permit is no longer required.”

David Domina, an Omaha-based attorney who works with NEAT, said that single sentence changes the narrative TransCanada has put forth for years about building an international pipeline that requires a federal permit from Canada to refineries in Texas and Oklahoma.

“This (NEAT resolution) is intended as an alert to landowners and, frankly, to the members of the Legislature. There is something up. And we don’t know what it is,” Domina said. “This is not about the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline project, this is about something new that isn’t being disclosed and we don’t know what it is.”

TransCanada Spokesman Shawn Howard said the company has no plans to avoid the need for a presidential permit.

 

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EcoWatch

Senior Officials Accused of Skewing Science to Benefit Keystone XL Pipeline

PEER | February 6, 2014 11:44 am

Managers within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) overrode their scientific experts to adopt an inaccurate map based upon a flawed model that significantly shrank the range of an endangered species, according to agency investigative reports released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The managers not only retaliated against scientists who voiced objections but rushed into publication of a bogus scientific journal article to cover their tracks.

abb2004

The American burying beetle is an endangered species threatened by the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The American burying beetle (ABB), a critically endangered species, has seen its range dwindle from 35 states to the plains of South Dakota, Arkansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma —areas in the proposed path for the $5.3 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Based on complaints from FWS scientists, specially convened Scientific Integrity Review Panels found two “high-level” officials guilty of scientific misconduct. The panels found that Dixie Porter, supervisor of the FWS Oklahoma Ecological services field office in Tulsa, OK, and Luke Bell, FWS Branch Chief for Threatened and Endangered Species and Contaminants:

  • Adopted flawed models that dramatically shrunk the known range of the ABB
  • Compounded their misconduct by improperly rushing an article into publication that both “knowingly impeded” the original panel investigation and also would “further degrade the endangered status of the ABB.…” Despite this finding, FWS has yet retract the paper.
  • Retaliated against line scientists who objected, including imposition of “several staff suspensions.”

This is the first time an Interior agency has upheld a scientific misconduct complaint under its relatively new Scientific Integrity policies. Yet FWS refused to release the reports to PEER under the Freedom of Information Act. PEER obtained them by filing an appeal with Interior’s Office of Solicitor, the administrative step before a lawsuit, and the solicitor ordered release of redacted versions of the reports.

 

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A photo of a whooping crane.

The Canada-to-Texas flight route of the critically endangered whooping crane passes along Keystone XL’s route for hundreds of miles. Conservationists worry about the impact of pipeline power lines.

PHOTOGRAPH BY PAT SULLIVAN, AP

Mel White

for National Geographic

Published February 14, 2014

Climate change has been the focus of much of the opposition to TransCanada‘s Keystone XL pipeline. But many conservationists are also concerned about more immediate environmental consequences.

They’re worried about the pipeline construction’s impact on wildlife and ecosystems, and of possible spills of the heavy crude oil that will flow through the pipeline at the rate of 830,000 barrels a day. (See related: “Interactive: Mapping the Flow of Tar Sands Oil.“)

Some people, seeing a map of the pipeline’s proposed 875-mile route through the Great Plains, may picture the region in the terms of 19th-century explorers who called it the “great American desert”: a barren land lacking in natural-history interest. In fact, though the vast herds of grazing animals that Lewis and Clark saw are greatly diminished, rich ecosystems endure. And while the pipeline route crosses some agricultural land, much of it would traverse natural habitats in Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska where harmful effects on native animals and plants could—some say would, inevitably—occur. (See related, “Oil Flows on Keystone XL’s Southern Leg, But Link to Canada Awaits Obama Administration.“)

A photo of the Yellowstone River in Montana

PHOTOGRAPH BY ANNIE GRIFFITHS, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
Rich ecosystems surround the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers (the latter is pictured here). Keystone XL would cross both rivers in Montana.

Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers

The Keystone XL route crosses the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers, two of more than 50 crossings of perennial streams. Both rivers are home to the federally endangered pallid sturgeon, a bizarre-looking fish up to six feet long adapted to life in large rivers with silty bottoms. A serious oil spill has the potential to damage or even destroy habitat for this species. Such a spill could also harm habitat for least terns and piping plovers, two birds that nest along rivers and that have suffered serious declines in recent decades.

And pipelines do fail, conservationists note. The failure in 2010 of an Enbridge pipeline carrying Canadian crude oil triggered the costliest onshore oil spill in U.S. history, contaminating 40 miles of Michigan’s Kalamazoo River and surrounding wetlands. Last year, another pipeline carrying Canadian oil, Exxon-Mobil’s Pegasus line, ruptured in a the small Arkansas town of Mayflower, affecting wetlands connected to the largest man-made game and fish commission reservoir in the United States. (See related, “Oil Spill Spotlights Keystone XL Issue: Is Canadian Crude Worse?”) Officials are still reckoning the lingering environmental damage after massive and expensive cleanup efforts.

In its recent Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, the State Department admits that oil spills will occur and are a danger, but asserts that current technology and rigorous inspections make the odds of a serious spill remote. (See related, “3 Factors Shape Obama’s Decision on Keystone XL Pipeline.”)

Davis Sheremata, a spokesperson for TransCanada, said Keystone will incorporate construction and maintenance techniques more advanced than those of earlier pipelines. Safety measures “are the culmination of six years of consultation between TransCanada, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and many other federal and state environmental agencies,” he said. “The required environmental protection and pipeline safety measures set a new, and very high, standard unequaled by any other pipeline project.”

Whooping Crane

One of the greatest conservation concerns about the immediate effect of the pipeline centers on the critically endangered whooping crane. Most of these tall white birds nest in Canada and migrate through the central United States to and from their wintering grounds on the Texas Gulf Coast. The cranes’ flight route passes directly along the pipeline route for hundreds of miles.

It’s not the pipeline itself that’s of greatest potential danger to the cranes, though. Pumps needed to keep the thick Canadian oil flowing through the pipeline require power lines to supply them with electricity, and conservationists wonder what will happen when more than 300 miles of new power lines appear in formerly wide-open spaces in the birds’ flight path.

“The whooping crane is a species that we’ve really homed in on,” said  Jim Murphy, senior counsel for the National Wildlife Federation. “Power lines account for about 40 percent of juvenile whooping crane mortality, which is a big deal when you’re talking about a bird that has a population of about four hundred in the wild. Those concerns have never really been taken seriously.”

TransCanada’s Sheremata said his company and pipeline contractors “have committed to incorporate a number of conservation measures to prevent potential direct or indirect impacting to the whooping crane.” Measures include installing and maintaining avian markers (conspicuous objects designed to make lines more visible to flying birds) at pump stations “to reduce impacts to whooping cranes from power lines.”

Male Greater Sage Grouse

PHOTOGRAPH BY TOM WALKER, VISUALS UNLIMITED/CORBIS
A male greater sage-grouse does a mating display. The proposed route passes within a few miles of dozens of grouse “leks,” sites where males dance to attract mates.

Greater Sage-Grouse

Although the greater sage-grouse isn’t officially an endangered species, many bird experts believe it should be. They claim it has been kept off the list for fear of political backlash in conservative western states, where farming and ranching might face restrictions.

There’s no question that the grouse has suffered from loss of habitat: 20 of 27 known population groups have declined since 1995. The pipeline route passes within a few miles of dozens of grouse leks (sites where males “dance” to attract mates); ornithologists fear that noise from construction, roads, and pumping stations could affect breeding success of these notoriously shy and easily disturbed birds.

In addition, power-line towers serve as hunting perches for eagles and hawks, which prey on grouse. In treeless areas where grouse live, towers will bring new threats and greater potential mortality by providing raptor lookouts where formerly there were none.

A photo of a Swift Fox.

PHOTORGAPH BY JIM BRANDENBURG, MINDEN PICTURES/CORBIS
A swift fox stands alert in the South Dakota prairie.

Swift Fox

The swift fox, a small canine of grassland regions, is another controversial species that the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity believes belongs on the endangered-species list. The CBD finds it “dumbfounding” that Keystone XL environmental-impact statements fail to address the pipeline’s effects on the fox.

“It’s like they took a map and drew a pipeline along the remaining locations of known bands of the swift fox,” said Amy Atwood, senior attorney for the CBD. “That’s where the fox lives, because those are the areas that are not being used for agriculture and are on public land. That’s where pipeline companies like to site things these days to minimize landowner conflict or having to deal with eminent domain. And that’s where the wildlife is. They’ve been pushed out of other areas.”

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Ogallala Aquifer

 

From Wikipedia:

 

The Ogallala Aquifer is a shallow water table aquifer located beneath the Great Plains in the United States. One of the world’s largest aquifers, it underlies an area of approximately 174,000 mi² (450,000 km²) in portions of eight states: (South DakotaNebraskaWyoming,ColoradoKansasOklahomaNew Mexico, and Texas). It was named in 1898 by N.H. Darton from its type locality near the town ofOgallala, Nebraska. The aquifer is part of the High Plains Aquifer System, and rests on the Ogallala Formation, which is the principal geologic unit underlying 80% of the High Plains.

 

About 27 percent of the irrigated land in the United States overlies the aquifer, which yields about 30 percent of the ground water used for irrigation in the United States. Since 1950, agricultural irrigation has reduced the saturated volume of the aquifer by an estimated 9%. Depletion is accelerating, with 2% lost between 2001 and 2009[ alone. Certain aquifer zones are now empty; these areas will take over 100,000 years to replenish naturally through rainfall.

 

The aquifer system supplies drinking water to 82 percent of the 2.3 million people (1990 census) who live within the boundaries of the High Plains study area.

 

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  @Luhby February 6, 2014: 6:03 PM ET

AOL CEO: Obamacare leads to 401(k) cut
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

AOL became the latest company to blame Obamacare for cutting back on employee benefits.

The tech firm will now pay its 401(k) company match only to employees who are active on Dec. 31 of that year, as opposed to in their paychecks throughout the year. So those who leave the company before the end of the year will forfeit the match.

AOL (AOL) CEO Tim Armstrong blamed $7.1 million in additional Obamacare costs the company is facing this year. Had the company not made the change in its 401(k) payments, employees would have seen their health insurance costs increase, he told CNN Thursday.

Armstrong did not provide a lot of specifics about what aspects of Obamacare were pushing up the company’s health care costs, but said it was one factor affecting the 401(k) restructuring.

“The Obamacare Act and some of the changes that happened there had increases in our health care costs,” Armstrong told CNN. “We had to make a choice whether we pass those on or whether we took other benefits and reduce them.”

Some employees will still see their premiums rise, depending on the plan they picked, though AOL “ate a huge piece of the increase.”

The news came on a day when AOL announced 2013 was “its most successful year in the last decade,” reporting revenues of $2.3 billion.

Read More and Watch Video Here

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AOL chief cuts 401(k) benefits, blames Obamacare and two “distressed babies”

  • February 7 at 11:07 am

AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong blames the new health care law for why his company has made a major change to its 401(k) benefits. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg)
AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong blames the new health care law for why his company has made a major change to its 401(k) benefits. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg)

AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong Thursday offered a number of unusual explanations for why his company pulled back its 401(k) benefits for employees this year. The first reason: Obamacare. The second: two women at the company who had “distressed babies” in 2012.

The stock, which reached $51 on Thursday morning because of a good earnings release by AOL, fell to 47.15 by the end of regular trading. It’s down another 2.5 percent Friday.

How did this mess begin? The Washington Post reported Tuesday that AOL quietly made a major change to its 401(k) plan by switching its match to a lump sum at the end of the year, rather than contributing with every paycheck. The benefit is only available to employees who are still active on Dec. 31.

Retirement experts widely agree that the change hurts all employees–not just those who leave mid-year–since savers miss out on the benefits of investing more money throughout the year, a strategy known as “dollar cost averaging.”

When he was asked on CNBC this morning why AOL was making the change, Armstrong said it was to spare employees from what he described as the added costs of Obamacare.

Here’s the video:

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Starving hives: Pesticides cause bees to collect 57% less pollen, study says

Published time: February 02, 2014 21:15
Edited time: February 04, 2014 09:23

Reuters / Leonhard Foeger

Reuters / Leonhard Foeger

While some scientists hailed the findings, pesticide makers remained unimpressed

In a spin-off of their earlier study, a team of British scientists have revealed how the neurotoxic chemicals contained in agricultural neonicotinoids affect the very basic function of the honeybees – the gathering of pollen, or flower nectar.

“Pollen is the only source of protein that bees have, and it is vital for rearing their young. Collecting it is fiddly, slow work for the bees and intoxicated bees become much worse at it. Without much pollen, nests will inevitably struggle,” explained University of Sussex professor Dave Goulson, who has led the study. His comments were made in a statement released alongside the research.

Goulson’s latest paper called “Field realistic doses of pesticide imidacloprid reduce bumblebee pollen foraging efficiency” was published at the end of January in peer-reviewed journal Ecotoxicology.

The scientists exposed some of the studied bees to low doses of imidacloprid and tracked their movement with the help of electronic tags. Unexposed bees were also tracked, and each insect flying out and returning to a hive was weighed to find out the amount of pollen it gathered.

It turned out that bees exposed to the neonicotinoid brought back pollen from only 40 percent of their trips asopposed to 63 percent of useful trips which their “healthy” counterparts undertook.
Intoxicated bees cut the amount of pollen gathered by nearly a third – overall, the comparative study showed that the hives exposed to the pesticide received 57 percent less pollen.

“Even near-infinitesimal doses of these neurotoxins seem to be enough to mess up the ability of bees to gather food. Given the vital importance of bumblebees as pollinators, this is surely a cause for concern,” Hannah Feltham of the University of Stirling, another member of the research team, stated.

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