Environmental groups slam McConnell-led Senate

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

100 days of pain …

Staff Report

FRISCO — A furious assault on the environment during the first 100 days of a GOP-controlled Senate has environmental advocates on the defensive.

Instead of making progress on climate change and other key conservation issues, progressives are in the position of trying to hold the line on gains they made during the first six years of the Obama administration.

According to a coalition of advocacy groups, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that his top priority is protecting polluters and dismantling clean air and public health protections. Continue reading

Environment: Blacktop runoff is deadly to stream life

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Off the road, into the stream … Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Transportation.

Coal-tar sealant fingered as highly damaging to DNA

Staff Report

FRISCO — New research led by U.S. Geological Survey scientists shows that pavement sealants made with coal tar are highly toxic. Runoff from surfaces treated with such sealants can kill fish and other stream organisms for months after it’s applied, the researchers concluded in a pair of recent studies.

Pavement sealant is a black liquid sprayed or painted on the asphalt pavement of parking lots, driveways and playgrounds to improve appearance and protect the underlying asphalt.

Pavement sealants that contain coal tar have extremely high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  Coal tar is a known human carcinogen; several PAHs are probable human carcinogens and some are toxic to fish and other aquatic life. Continue reading

Environment: Are research stations polluting Antarctica?

Study finds that some Persistent Organic Pollutants are ‘pervasive’ in the environment around Antarctic base

The ice fields of Antarctica

The ice fields of Antarctica. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

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FRISCO — Antarctica is often described as one of the last pristine environments on Earth, but that may be changing as human activity increases.

Researchers with the Australian Antarctic Division recently said they tracked pollutants from common household sources dispersing from a research station into the surrounding environment. As a result, the scientists are rethinking how they store and dispose of materials that could be the source of pollutants. Continue reading

Environment: Deep-sea fish not immune to pollution

New study finds liver damage and tumors in fish living a mile deep off the coast of France

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Even fish living deep in remote oceans are tainted by pollution.

Staff Report

FRISCO — As big and as deep as Earth’s oceans are, they’re still feeling the sting of human-caused pollution. Even a mile down, some fish have liver pathologies, tumors and other types of health problems that are often linked with exposure to toxic chemicals and carcinogens, according to a new study conducted in the Bay of Biscay, off the coast of France.

The study also discovered the first case of a deep water fish species with an “intersex” condition, a blend of male and female sex organs. The sampling was done in an area with no apparent point-source pollution, and appears to reflect general ocean conditions.

“Deep in the ocean one might have thought that the level of contamination and its biological impact would be less,” said Michael Kent, an Oregon State University microbiologist who co-authored the new study. “That may not be the case. The pathological changes we’re seeing are clearly the type associated with exposure to toxins and carcinogens,” said Kent, one of the study’s co-authors. Continue reading

Scientists urge greater care of World Heritage sites

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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef seen from a NASA satellite.

‘As a wealthy country, Australia has the capability and responsibility to improve its management of the reef’

FRISCO — Strong local management may be the key to preserving treasured world heritage sites, researchers concluded in a new study after taking a close look at threats facing the Amazon Rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef and Spain’s Doñana wetlands.

The team of scientists, who published their findings in the journal Science, said protecting such areas from the larger dangers of climate change requires addressing local threats, for example overfishing, fertilizer pollution and land clearing — all of which can exacerbate the effects of climatic extremes, such as heat waves and droughts. Continue reading

Federal judge blocks Four Corners coal mine plan

The Four Corners Power Plant in a 1972 photo via Wikipedia.

The Four Corners Power Plant in a 1972 photo via Wikipedia.

Regulators failed to consider environmental effects of burning the coal

Staff Report

FRISCO — Despite strong leadership from the Obama administration on climate change policy, the word apparently hasn’t trickled down to all levels yet, as federal agencies still routinely try to approve projects without evaluating carbon impacts.

Recently, the White River National Forest released a draft environmental study for a massive expansion of summer operations at Colorado’s Breckenridge Ski area without ever mentioning the words climate change, global warming or carbon.

But courts are increasingly holding those agencies accountable, including this week’s decision by U.S. District Court Judge John Kane to reject a 2012 Office of Surface Mining plan to expand coal mining at the 13,000-acre Navajo Mine near the San Juan River in northwestern New Mexico. Continue reading

New map IDs pesticide pollution hot spots

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Pesticide pollution hotspots are identified in a new map.

Global warming could exacerbate pesticide woes

Staff Report

FRISCO — The world has a long way to go to come to grips with pesticide pollution say scientists who recently created a global map showing which areas are most susceptible.

Their modeling suggests that streams across about 40 percent of the planet’s surface are at risk from the application of insecticides, with the Mediterranean region, the USA, Central America and Southeast Asia among the hotspots.

On average, farmers apply about 4 million tons of agricultural pesticides  annually, equating to an average of 0.27 kilograms per hectare of the global land surface. Continue reading

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