GOP lawmakers want to block EPA clean water rule

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No love for wetlands from new GOP majority in Congress. bberwyn photo.

Huge swaths of Colorado wetlands, streams at risk of degradation

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — You may not know it as you speed down I-70 from the Eisenhower Tunnel toward Summit County, but a small stream that runs parallel the freeway, just a few hundred yards away, is the main source of drinking water for the town of Dillon.

Straight Creek’s waters gather up between the craggy peaks high above the tunnel, starting from droplets at the edge of a melting snowdrift, to mossy rivulets and roaring cascades amidst granite boulders. Keeping that water pure is important, not only for Dillon residents, but for thousands of visitors staying at local lodges, resorts and campgrounds.

But some of the smallest streams, like the headwaters of Straight Creek, don’t flow year-round, and that has put them at focal point of a long-running debate about the extent of federal clean water rules. The discussion was center stage today during a rare joint hearing of the House Transportation and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where the new GOP majority grilled top EPA administrators about the proposed Clean Waters of the U.S. Rule. Continue reading

Environment: Report spotlights arsenic pollution

Millions of Americans at risk of exposure

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Arsenic pollution is widespread across the U.S.

Staff Report

FRISCO — According to scientists, arsenic in groundwater continues to be a major public health threat across the U.S. As many as 8 million people may be at risk of exposure to the toxic substance, mainly because of the lack of any regulations, homeowner inaction and inadequate mitigation measures.

A new report focusing on arsenic contamination wells also helps explain  the geologic mechanisms causing arsenic contamination and come as other studies show that even low doses of arsenic may reduce IQ in children, in addition to well documented risks of heart disease, cancer and reduced lung function. The reports comprise a special section in the journal Science of the Total Environment. Continue reading

Environment: Oxygen-depleted dead zones caused by reservoirs killing endangered fish embryos

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Pallid sturgeon embryos are dying in the dead zones of the Missouri River. Photo via Nebraska Games and Parks Commission.

‘We’re basically talking about a living dinosaur that takes 20 years to reach sexual maturity and can live as long as the average human in the U.S.’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A river fish whose genetic lineage goes back ten of million years has survived dramatic climate shifts and other earth-changing events, but may not be able to persist through the age of dam-building.

Oxygen-depleted dead zones between dams in the upper Missouri River Missouri River are preventing pallid sturgeon from reproducing, and there’s no sign things will get better, at least not without a little help from humans. Continue reading

Study eyes ‘pond scum’ environmental feedback loop

‘This is important because cyanobacteria are on the increase in response to global change …’

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Blue-green algae blooms can feed themselves by unlocking nutrients. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Fish-killing bacterial blooms are becoming more common in lakes around the world as the climate warms, and new research shows that aquatic microbes themselves can drive nitrogen and phosphorus cycling, resulting in a on-two environmental punch.

The findings of the study suggest cyanobacteria — sometimes known as pond scum or blue-green algae — that get a toe-hold in low-to-moderate nutrient lakes can set up positive feedback loops that amplify the effects of pollutants and climate change and make conditions even more favorable for blooms, which already pose a threat to water resources and public health worldwide. Continue reading

Colorado toughens fracking penalties

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Frackers in Colorado will face stiffer penalties for spills and other dangerous incidents. bberwyn photo.

New rules eliminate penalty cap

Staff Report

FRISCO — Daily penalties for fracking leaks and spills, or other environmentally dangerous accidents associated with fossil fuel development will go up to as much as $15,000 per day in Colorado, under new rules adopted this week by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.The beefed-up penalty structure also does away with a $10,000 penalty cap for each violation. Continue reading

XTO Energy to pay $5 million for fracking violations

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USA – fracking nation.

Clean Water Act penalties, cleanup costs assessed for West Virginia operations

Staff Report

FRISCO — ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy, Inc. will pony up about $3 million to restore eight West Virginia sites where the company illegally filled wetlands and polluted the water during fracking operations. The company will also pay a civil penalty of $2.3 million for violating the Clean Water Act, with impacts along more than a mile of stream and 3.38 acres of wetlands. Continue reading

Climate: USGS study tracks Chesapeake Bay warming

Chesapeake Bay in a Landsat photo.

Chesapeake Bay in a Landsat photo.

Water temps up 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit in 50 years

Staff Report

FRISCO— The huge Chesapeake Bay watershed — the country’s largest estuary — is warming steadily, USGS scientists say, warning that increase in temperatures is likely to have big consequences for the region’s ecosystems. Continue reading

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