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G1. Progressive Green

Have mining companies ensnared Norway’s prime minister?

Bellona.org - Thu, 05/23/2024 - 08:24

The story coming from the government is the same wherever it’s told— whether at industry conferences, in talks with US allies, at climate summits to embarrassing effect, or during horse-trading in Norwegian Parliament: The only alternative to seabed-mined minerals is total dependence on China, Russia, and child labor in Congo.

Fortunately, there are better solutions.

Minerals are crucial for both European security and the green transition, and the need for them is expected to multiply in the next decade. Norway can play a key role — not through seabed mining, but through land-based mining. We have the deposits and the technology that can meet the mineral demand faster, cheaper, and far more sustainably than what we can do on the seabed. At the same time, significant progress is being made in recycling, which will both reduce the need for mining and reduce its consequences – by allowing mine waste to be used for something useful. Why then does the Norwegian government consistently choose to promote seabed minerals from deep sea mining?

Full speed into the unknown – consequences be damned

The government’s application for seabed mining was rushed through after a process that garnered strong criticism. The resource estimates, and thus the profitability assessments, were heavily criticized by the state’s expert authority on minerals and other leading experts. The Norwegian Environment Agency, on the other hand, stated that the knowledge base was too poor to justify an application. Internationally, efforts were made to make Norway reconsider, and warnings came from not only from the EU, but leading scientists and the journal Nature. The government did not listen.

Why couldn’t they wait for at least one environmental agency to deem the approval justifiable?

There is much to indicate that the government’s haste may be due to the hope of finding the new oil. The startup companies wishing to being seabed mining come precisely from the oil industry, and they argue that seabed minerals could provide the same profitability — they just need some subsidies from the state to prove it. But it’s quite different to extract minerals in low concentrations at depths of several thousand meters than oil and gas. Even for mines on land, it can be challenging today to finance new projects, and often the minerals are right at the surface.

It should not be difficult for the government to understand that Norway’s opportunities for mineral extraction are better on land than on the seabed. After all, the government has itself launched a strategy for land minerals with the ambition of developing the world’s most sustainable practices. At Bellona, we were pleased, for this is something we have recommended —  but by all current indications, that strategy has been shelved. The numbers speak for themselves – in the budget, the government allocated six times more for mapping the seabed than for following up on the mineral strategy with mapping on land.

Bellona collaborates with the Norwegian mineral industry to help Norway lead the way and set a greener standard for land-based mining. But it requires support from the authorities. And unfortunately, the authorities are preoccupied with an environmentally hostile looting expedition on the seabed.

The post Have mining companies ensnared Norway’s prime minister? appeared first on Bellona.org.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

California bill to protect children from lead exposure advances to Senate

Environmental Working Group - Wed, 05/22/2024 - 12:33
California bill to protect children from lead exposure advances to Senate rcoleman May 22, 2024

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – On May 21, California Assembly lawmakers passed a bill to safeguard children’s health from the lasting and devastating effects of lead exposure through drinking water, an urgent threat in the state.

Assembly Bill 1851, by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), would enact a goal of zero lead in school and childcare drinking water. It also would set up a state-funded pilot program to test for, and clean up, lead in drinking water in up to 10 school districts. The program would identify strategies schools can use to bring water lead levels to as close to zero as possible. 

The Environmental Working Group and Children Now are co-sponsoring the bill, which now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Lead is a potent neurotoxin that can permanently harm children’s intellectual development and affect their behavior and ability to concentrate. Even in tiny amounts, it can lower a child’s IQ, slow growth and harm hearing. Studies show lead’s harm cannot be reversed and there is no safe level of exposure to it.

Lead testing

Holden’s bill, if enacted, would create a state goal of zero lead in school and childcare facilities’ drinking water, help identify and clean up any faucets on campuses that release lead above 5 parts per billion, or ppb, and identify the most health-protective, cost-effective methods of sampling and removing lead in school drinking water.

“Lead consumption among youth and disenfranchised communities occurs at a higher rate. Assisting schools with the resources and appropriate standards to ensure the water our children drink is safe will help us protect our schools, students and communities,” said Holden. 

“Children do not become more resistant to lead’s toxic effects once they transition from daycare to kindergarten, so California should take the responsible step of aligning child care and school lead testing standards,” he added.

Holden has long championed drinking water safety. He authored a law in 2018 requiring licensed child care centers in the state to test their tap water for lead contamination. 

The results of those tests, released last year, revealed alarming levels of lead. The drinking water in nearly 1,700 licensed child care centers statewide – one in four – topped 5 ppb, the allowable threshold in California. 

Over 260 centers found levels between 50 and 1,000 ppb – 50 to 200 times the state’s limit. One center found levels as high as 11,300 ppb, a staggering 2,200 times the limit.

Irreversible damage

Because of the lifelong serious health harms linked to childhood lead exposure, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends lead in drinking water not exceed 1 ppb. 

"Even in minuscule amounts, lead can irreversibly damage young minds and bodies, leading to developmental delays, cognitive disorders and lifelong health complications,” said Susan Little, EWG senior advocate for California government affairs. 

“We must act swiftly to protect our children from the devastating effects of lead exposure, which can rob them of their potential and inflict a lifetime of suffering,” she said. “Lead is not just a neurotoxin; it's a ticking time bomb that threatens our kids' health and well-being.”

“Lead exposure is a health, education and racial justice issue for our kids,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, a statewide children’s advocacy organization. “We thank Assemblymember Holden for authoring this legislation to protect students from lead in drinking water, and we are pleased to partner with EWG to co-sponsor the bill. 

“Children Now is committed to ensuring that schools have the support and resources they need to keep kids safe,” said Lempert.

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action. Visit www.ewg.org for more information.

Children Now is a non-partisan, whole-child research, policy development and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting children’s health, education and well-being in California. The organization also leads the Children’s Movement of California, a network of over 4,800 direct service, parent, youth, civil rights, faith-based and community groups dedicated to improving children’s well-being. Learn more at https://www.childrennow.org

Areas of Focus Food & Water Water Family Health Children’s Health Toxic Chemicals Lead Regional Issues California Disqus Comments Press Contact Aimee Dewing aimee.dewing@ewg.org (818) 216-2639 May 22, 2024
Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Tell Vanguard: Make Climate Action a Priority!

Stop the Money Pipeline - Wed, 05/22/2024 - 11:32
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The post Tell Vanguard: Make Climate Action a Priority! appeared first on Stop the Money Pipeline.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Wildlife Groups initiate legal action: Feds too slow to protect Sonoran desert tortoise

Western Environmental Law Center - Wed, 05/22/2024 - 07:37

Today, WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, and the Desert Tortoise Council and Tucson Herpetological Society, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, are asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to reconsider its 2022 decision to deny protective status to the tortoise in the groups’ 60-day notice of intent to sue.

The groups are asking the Service to take another look at the imperiled status of the tortoise, including the most recent and best available science on the threats to the species now and into the foreseeable future. According to the groups, the population and habitat models the Service used to inform its 2022 decision were flawed and the agency failed to adequately consider the impacts of climate change, habitat loss from renewable energy development and off-road vehicle use, and damage to habitat caused by livestock grazing.

“The agency’s decision was flawed from the start because it was based on a purely speculative and overly optimistic population estimate,” said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center representing the groups. “The agency also severely downplayed likely future effects to the tortoise from increased drought frequency and severity.”

“The Sonoran desert tortoise is an icon of Arizona that the public knows and loves,” said Cyndi Tuell, Arizona and New Mexico director for Western Watersheds Project. “We worry that the Fish and Wildlife Service has used flawed models to assure the public that the population is going to be fine, when in fact this slowly reproducing animal may be on the brink of extinction and by the time the Service figures that out, it will be too late.”

The Sonoran desert tortoise is a distinct species of desert tortoise, separate from the Mojave desert tortoise. Sonoran desert tortoises are found in desert scrub habitats in Arizona and Mexico, east and south of the Colorado River. In 2010, in response to a petition from the groups to list the species under the ESA, the Service found it “warranted” for listing but placed it on the candidate list, without protections, due to “higher priorities.”

In 2015, the Service reversed its decision and determined the species “not warranted” for listing based mainly on a candidate conservation agreement that does not include binding commitments from the parties involved to take conservation actions, or any regulatory requirements to conserve the tortoise. In 2019, WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds sued the Fish and Wildlife Service because the agency failed to consider science on climate change and livestock grazing, among other factors. The Service settled that lawsuit and agreed to reconsider whether the tortoise deserved ESA protection, and in 2022, the Service used flawed population and habitat models to determine the species is not at risk.

“The risk of the Sonoran desert tortoise going extinct has only increased since 2010 when U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first considered listing the species,” said Chris Smith, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “The agency’s change of heart in 2015 and its doubling down on that decision in 2022 ignored the science and places this iconic species in an incredibly perilous position.”

“The Endangered Species Act is one of the most important conservation laws in the United States and can be a valuable tool to stem the extinction crisis, but only if the Fish and Wildlife Service is willing to base its decisions on a broader interpretation of the risks a species faces,” said Dr. Margaret Fusari with the Desert Tortoise Council and Tucson Herpetological Society. “When the decision states but then ignores the admitted risks from climate change and instead bases the decision on models that are speculative due to a lack of field data—this by the direct admission of the authors—they are leaving this animal on the fast track to extinction.”

The group’s letter asks the Fish and Wildlife Service to make another attempt to comply with the ESA. If the agency fails to do that, the groups will consider whether to bring the issue before a federal judge.

Contacts:

Matthew Bishop, Western Environmental Law Center, 406-324-8011, bishop@westernlaw.org

Cyndi Tuell, Western Watersheds Project, 520-272-2454, cyndi@westernwatersheds.org

Chris Smith, WildEarth Guardians, 505-395-6177, csmith@wildearthguardians.org

Maggie Fusari, Tucson Herpetological Society, tucsonherps@gmail.com, and Desert Tortoise Council, info@deserttortoise.org

The post Wildlife Groups initiate legal action: Feds too slow to protect Sonoran desert tortoise appeared first on Western Environmental Law Center.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Toxic pesticide linked to Parkinson’s may be banned in California

Environmental Working Group - Wed, 05/22/2024 - 07:32
Toxic pesticide linked to Parkinson’s may be banned in California rcoleman May 22, 2024

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Today the California State Assembly voted to ban the highly toxic pesticide paraquat, which is linked to Parkinson’s disease. If the Senate passes the bill and Gov. Gavin Newsom signs it into law, the state would become the first to ban the herbicide’s use. 

Assembly Bill 1963, authored by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Burbank) and sponsored by the Environmental Working Group, would prohibit the use of paraquat on California fields and orchards starting January 1, 2026. To become law, the bill must make its way through Senate committees, pass a Senate vote this summer and then be signed by Newsom by September. 

“Seasonal agricultural workers brave some of the worst environmental working conditions in the state. Agricultural field workers are also composed nearly entirely of undocumented or first-generation Latino immigrants that work for low wages in fields saturated by paraquat, mostly without access to quality health care. That lack of health care should not be compounded by work-issued Parkinson’s disease,” Friedman said. “We don’t have a cure for Parkinson’s, but A.B. 1963 will lessen the incidence rate for agricultural workers and communities surrounding the fields where paraquat is sprayed.”

Peer-reviewed science shows that paraquat exposure is associated with a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, a progressive brain disorder characterized by involuntary movements like tremors, stiffness and impaired balance. Over time, these symptoms worsen, leading to permanent and often profound impairment of movement and speech. 

“Assemblymember Friedman has shepherded this bill through the Assembly in order to protect farmworkers and nearby residents from a highly toxic pesticide that has been around too long,” said Bill Allayaud, EWG vice president of government affairs in California. “As proven by other countries where paraquat has been banned, the output of California’s farmers will not suffer.”

With A.B. 1963, California would follow in the footsteps of more than 60 countries that have already banned the chemical. Yet in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency continues to permit the use of paraquat on crop fields, despite mounting evidence of the danger it poses to people.

An EWG analysis released in March showed that paraquat is disproportionately sprayed in areas of California primarily inhabited by Latino farmworkers and their families, exacerbating environmental health risks for these communities.

“Farmworkers, their families, and nearby communities in California face serious risks from toxic pesticides like paraquat,” said renowned labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta at an April press conference about A.B. 1963 hosted by Friedman and EWG. 

A study using data from the National Institutes of Health found that workers who sprayed paraquat were more than twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those who applied other pesticides. And a meta-analysis of 13 studies found a 64 percent increase in the likelihood of developing Parkinson’s disease from paraquat exposure.

Most recently, findings from researchers at UCLA show paraquat sprayed within 500 meters, or about 1,640 feet, of where someone lives and works could more than double a person’s odds of developing Parkinson’s.

In April, EWG Senior Toxicologist Alexis Temkin, Ph.D. testified before the Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials about the robust body of scientific research on the herbicide’s serious health harms. She explained that paraquat “has both acute and chronic toxicity, meaning it can harm people both when they’re exposed one time to a single dose, or over time to lower doses.”

Investigative reporting by the nonprofit investigative news outlet The New Lede uncovered that Syngenta, the primary manufacturer of paraquat, chose to hide evidence for decades from the public and the EPA about how paraquat can accumulate in people’s brains. 

A.B. 1963 allows for a safety reevaluation of paraquat, with the potential for future use in agriculture, pending completion of the review process. Until then, the ban on paraquat would remain in effect.

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action. 

Full disclosure: The New Lede is a journalism enterprise of EWG but operates independently of the organization’s advocacy and communications departments. EWG has no influence on its editorial decision making.

Areas of Focus Farming & Agriculture Food & Farm Workers Toxic Chemicals Paraquat Regional Issues California Paraquat ban bill moves from State Assembly to Senate Disqus Comments Press Contact EWG Press Team press@ewg.org(202) 667-6982 May 23, 2024
Categories: G1. Progressive Green

The Green Connection In France, With SA Small-Scale Fishers, Supporting A Criminal Climate Change Complaint Against TotalEnergies

The Green Connection - Wed, 05/22/2024 - 05:38
This week, The Green Connection and small-scale fishers from South Africa are in Paris France to support French NGOs and […]
Categories: G1. Progressive Green

5 Beautiful Wetland Wading Birds That Will Amaze You

Dogwood Alliance - Wed, 05/22/2024 - 05:23

Many wading birds adapted to thrive in wetland environments. Wetland wading birds are some of the most vulnerable bird species when wetland areas decline. The US has lost more than […]

The post 5 Beautiful Wetland Wading Birds That Will Amaze You first appeared on Dogwood Alliance.
Categories: G1. Progressive Green

The House farm bill's disastrous dozen: 12 reasons to vote against GOP proposal

Environmental Working Group - Tue, 05/21/2024 - 10:58
The House farm bill's disastrous dozen: 12 reasons to vote against GOP proposal rcoleman May 21, 2024

There’s plenty to dislike about the farm bill proposal the House Agriculture Committee will consider this week, including its Department of Agriculture funding cuts and problematic provisions that would weaken environmental and other safeguards.

The Farm, Food and National Security Act was developed by committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.) and has disastrous proposals affecting a wide range of issues including farm subsidies, conservation spending, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, or SNAP, better known as food stamps, and more. Here are 12 reasons for panel members to vote against it:

  1. Cuts SNAP funding. Thompson’s proposal would hamstring the USDA’s ability to increase SNAP benefits and divert $30 billion in funding that would otherwise be used to feed hungry people. More than one in eight Americans – 41 million – rely on SNAP to put food on the table. 

  2. Privatizes SNAP. Thompson’s proposal to outsource SNAP administration to the private sector ignores previous similar attempts by states, which led to years of administrative chaos, losses in benefits for the needy and bureaucratic hurdles. 

  3. Postpones conservation spending. The bill would delay urgently needed spending for popular USDA conservation programs, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Conservation Stewardship Program, and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program by at least $4 billion over the five-year period covered by the next farm bill. That’s despite growing backlogs of farmers seeking funding for proven conservation practices, such as planting cover crops. 

  4. Creates conservation loopholes. The proposal would also generate new loopholes to subsidize equipment purchases by farmers for “precision agriculture,” diverting funds from proven practices such as cover crops.   

    Thompson’s proposal vastly expands the definition of “precision agriculture” to justify spending more on costly practices. Precision agriculture enhancements already received the most funding – more than $220 million – of all Conservation Stewardship Program enhancements between 2018 and 2023. 

  5. Removes climate guardrails. It would eliminate guardrails included in the Inflation Reduction Act that ensure farmers seeking help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have access to USDA funding. The bill would also undermine the carbon sequestration potential of the Conservation Reserve Program. 

  6. Blocks state animal welfare laws. The bill would quash state efforts to set standards that ensure humane treatment of farm animals. 

  7. Prevents state and local pesticide laws. It would also block passage of state and local pesticide laws, including state laws designed to protect schoolchildren from exposure to toxic pesticides. 

  8. Increases subsidies for large, Southern farmers. The proposal would divert anti-hunger funds to dramatically increase subsidies for a handful of large peanut, rice and cotton farmers, primarily in Southern states. Raising these subsidies will drive up the cost of renting and buying lands, further tilting the playing fields against family farmers, Black farmers and young farmers

  9. Increases subsidies for crop insurance, especially agents and companies. The bill proposes to raise subsidies for crop insurance, especially for crop insurance agents and companies. Fewer than one in five farmers – or 20 percent – can afford to participate in the crop insurance programs. 

  10. Enlarges the federal deficit. While the Congressional Budget Office has not produced a cost estimate for the bill, it would likely add tens of billions of dollars to the federal deficit to provide more money to large, Southern farms – even after $30 billion in SNAP cuts. 

  11. Undermines school food standards. The proposal would set the stage for an end run around the process for setting standards for school meals. It would also handicap the evidence-based approach to setting the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

  12. Weakens environmental safeguards. If enacted, the bill would threaten bedrock environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. 

There are many other reasons to oppose Thompson’s proposal, including his failure to boost funding for programs that help farmers build local markets. 

But perhaps the most compelling reason – other than cuts to SNAP and conservation programs – is that the proposal departs from the usual bipartisan process that has long been a feature of the farm bill. Instead, for the first time, the proposal would move money from one part of the farm bill to pay for another part. 

People outside the Beltway know that partisan solutions are not durable solutions, and that it’s never wise to rob Peter to pay Paul. 

Areas of Focus Farming & Agriculture Conservation Farm Subsidies Disqus Comments Authors Geoff Horsfield May 21, 2024
Categories: G1. Progressive Green

New EPA data confirm widespread ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

Environmental Working Group - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 13:43
New EPA data confirm widespread ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water rcoleman May 17, 2024

WASHINGTON – On May 16, the Environmental Protection Agency posted new data confirming 89.3 million people in communities throughout the U.S. have drinking water that has tested positive for the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.

But the actual scale of the PFAS contamination crisis is likely much greater, as the EPA’s results are based just on the latest testing from about one-third of water systems that serve 90 percent of the population. All public water systems serving over 3,000 people are required by the agency to test for 29 individual PFAS between now and 2026, so more results are coming.

“We call on water utilities to inform their customers immediately if PFAS have been detected, and to begin water treatment as quickly as possible to protect their customers from these toxic forever chemicals,” said John Reeder, vice president of federal affairs at the Environmental Working Group.

The EPA’s new data underscore the importance of the Biden administration’sunprecedented efforts to tackle PFAS contamination in drinking water, clean up contaminated sites and reduce unnecessary uses of forever chemicals.

Notably, the agency in April finalized landmark drinking water standards that establish health-protective legal limits for six PFAS in tap water, including a 4 parts per trillion, or ppt, limit on PFOA and PFOS – two of the most notorious PFAS. These new enforceable standards are expected to save thousands of lives, prevent tens of thousands of serious illnesses and improve drinking water quality for millions of people.

“The EPA data reaffirm the Biden administration’s decision to issue bold new drinking water standards for PFAS,” said Reeder.

The newly posted data reflect the results of water sampling for PFAS conducted from 2023 to 2024 at 4,750 water systems as part of the agency’s Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, or UCMR 5. 

The data show PFAS were present in 33 percent of systems tested. But the latest test results released by the EPA tell only part of the story – PFAS contamination is likely much more widespread.

2020 study published by EWG scientists estimated more than 200 million Americans are served by water systems with PFOA or PFOS in their drinking water at a concentration of 1 ppt or higher. The EPA only reports detections at 4 ppt or higher for these chemicals.

EWG’s interactive PFAS contamination map, which is updated frequently, shows public and private water systems known to be contaminated with toxic PFAS at thousands of locations. As of May 21, 2024, the map shows PFAS are known to contaminate 6,189 locations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four territories. 

Risks of PFAS exposure

“These chemicals are toxic at extremely low levels,” said David Andrews, Ph.D., EWG deputy director of investigations and a senior scientist. “Every week new research reveals the endless extent of contamination and detrimental impacts that PFAS exposure causes through the body.

“These new PFAS detections highlight a threat to the well-being of individuals and communities drinking this contaminated water,” he said.

PFAS are known as forever chemicals because once released into the environment they do not break down and they can build up in the body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has detected PFAS in the blood of 99 percent of Americans, including newborn babies

Very low doses of PFAS have been linked to suppression of the immune system. Studies show exposure to very low levels of PFAS can also increase the risk of cancerharm fetal development and reduce vaccine effectiveness

If you know or suspect PFAS are in your tap water, the best way to protect yourself is with a filtration system at home. EWG researchers tested the performance of 10 popular water filters and measured how well each reduced PFAS detected in home tap water. 

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The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

Areas of Focus Food & Water Water Toxic Chemicals PFAS Chemicals Disqus Comments Press Contact Monica Amarelo monica@ewg.org (202) 939-9140 May 20, 2024
Categories: G1. Progressive Green

What are ultra-processed foods?

Environmental Working Group - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 08:03
What are ultra-processed foods? rcoleman May 17, 2024

Most of the foods and drinks the average American consumes may be making them sick. 

So-called ultra-processed foods can be harmful to your health, according to study after study. The most recent one says several categories of these foods are particularly hazardous: certain ready-to-eat meat-, poultry-, and seafood-based products, sugary and artificially sweetened drinks, dairy-based desserts and certain breakfast items. 

These are familiar foods – ice cream, snack bars, frozen meals and salad dressing, cereal, baking mixes and soda, to name just a few. Many are often popular as kids’ snacks. And Americans are eating a lot of them.

Experts agree that foods containing certain ingredients – such as artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, thickeners, stabilizers, emulsifiers, gums and artificial sweeteners – are the hallmarks of ultra-processed food. Another shared characteristic is they’re hard to resist. 

Health harms

Research shows that ultra-processed foods are connected to a range of health problems. 

Obesity is chief among them. Rates of obesity in the U.S. and globally have skyrocketed in tandem with the rising consumption of ultra-processed foods. Ultra-processed foods have also been associated with other metabolic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes.

Heart disease and cancer, among other conditions, have been linked to ultra-processed foods. One study showed that the people who ate and drank the most of these items had a 50 percent higher risk of depression than those consuming the least.

One underlying problem with ultra-processed foods is the sugar, fat and salt they typically contain. Another is the presence of chemicals that in part define the foods as ultra-processed: industrial, lab-made ingredients, including potentially harmful food additives, such as artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors. 

More than half of U.S. consumption – and rising

The health problems associated with ultra-processed foods are likely to continue so long as Americans keep consuming them at the current pace.

The U.S. consumes more ultra-processed foods than any other industrialized country. These foods make up more than half the typical adult diet in this nation – and rising. In less than two decades, consumption went up from 54 percent of calories in 2001 to 57 percent in 2018.

This type of food is responsible for two-thirds of kids’ and teens’ calories – 67 percent in 2018, up from 61 percent in 1999. 

Experts say ultra-processed food and drinks trick people into eating more of them than they want – that the products are engineered to evoke a desire to consume more, especially soda. One study argues they prompt an addiction-like response, much the way people respond to nicotine and alcohol. 

Inequitable consumption 

But sometimes ultra-processed foods are the most affordable, easiest access choice. In many communities of color and neighborhoods of people living on less income, highly processed food is more accessible than unprocessed, whole foods and fresh produce.

These inequities in turn give rise to disparities in health outcomes. Black, Latino and Asian American people experience higher rates of the many health harms associated with consumption of ultra-processed foods.  

Economically underprivileged neighborhoods – those with fewer healthy food options – are most exposed to convenience stores and fast food restaurants, hubs of ultra-processed foods. Because of a history of systemic racism, the same is also true for many neighborhoods made up primarily of people of color.

Dollar stores too by and large sell ultra-processed foods, not fresh produce and other whole foods. They have become notorious as ready sources of these foods – and their number has skyrocketed in recent years. There are 35,000 of them in the U.S., counting the stores owned by just two companies. In what has been called “supermarket redlining,” these stores are especially prevalent in rural areas, communities of color and communities living on lower incomes. 

Studies show that the presence of stores with this abundance of ultra-processed foods harm communities’ chances of attracting traditional grocery stores, which put healthier foods closer at hand – though still often inaccessible, since they may cost more.

Regulatory state of play

It should not be left to consumers to shop their way out of this problem. But slow action by the federal government has led to that situation. Agencies have failed to protect consumers: Since 2000, almost all food chemicals – 99 percent – have been approved by the chemical industry, not the Food and Drug Administration.

For the moment, petitions to the FDA asking it to ban certain food chemicals, filed by a coalition of nonprofit organizations, including EWG, are under review. The chemicals include the additives Red No. 3, titanium dioxide in food, bisphenol A and butylated hydroxyanisole as well as cancer-causing substances used to process food – benzene and ethylene dichloride, methylene chloride and trichloroethylene. The presence of these chemicals, among many others, is a signature of ultra-processed foods.

In the absence of federal regulations, states are taking action. 

In March, a bill banning six harmful food dyes and titanium dioxide in public schools was introduced in California. The bill is co-sponsored by EWG and Consumer Reports.

This bill comes on the heels of a new Golden State law banning state-wide the manufacture, distribution or sale of food containing the chemicals Red Dye No. 3, propylparaben, brominated vegetable oil and potassium bromate. It was also co-sponsored by EWG and Consumer Reports.

California has long been a bellwether state, but 10 others – including Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania – are also looking to limit consumption of these chemicals and others in ultra-processed food. More states will likely soon follow suit.

And the Department of Agriculture 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines, under development now, may address processing rather than nutrition only. But the guidelines may have  a single focus: How are dietary patterns that include varying amounts of ultra-processed foods consumed linked to growth, body composition and risk of obesity? 

The guidelines won’t be released until next year. 

How to lower your consumption of ultra-processed food

Who doesn’t want a little junk food from time to time? It can be a treat that shouldn’t cause major health problems. The key is to avoid the health consequences that can come from consuming too much of it. You can: 

  • Eat primarily foods that are less processed, such as whole grains, beans and legumes, and fresh fruits and vegetables
  • If you choose to eat ultra-processed foods, do so in moderation. 
  • If you buy packaged foods, choose organic whenever possible – they’re made with fewer harmful ingredients, according to peer-reviewed EWG research
  • Study nutritional labels to find out what’s in the foods you want to buy. The fewer ingredients listed on the label, the less processed the food. If there are more than one or two ingredients you can’t identify, the product is likely ultra-processed and contains potentially harmful chemicals.
  • Beware front-of-packaging marketing language like “healthy.” The FDA studied front-of-packaging labeling, consulting focus groups and reviewing research on the issue. It has said it would propose a rule this summer providing guidance on this issue, but it’s not clear when or even if that will happen. For now, companies can use whatever language they want on front-of-package labeling, including using green packaging and graphics to hint at a higher nutritional value than a product merits.
  • Consult Food Scores, EWG’s searchable database of more than 80,000 foods, to learn more about the products you buy and their ingredients. Products are rated on the basis of ingredient, nutrition and processing concerns.

These foods don’t announce themselves as ultra-processed, but the ingredients label can inform you. And don’t be fooled: Some so-called healthy foods may well fit the description.

Areas of Focus Food & Water Food Family Health Children’s Health Toxic Chemicals Food Chemicals Disqus Comments Authors Ketura Persellin May 17, 2024
Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Benefit of boost in crop reference prices would mostly only aid large farmers in just 100 counties

Environmental Working Group - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 06:14
Benefit of boost in crop reference prices would mostly only aid large farmers in just 100 counties rcoleman May 17, 2024

Here we go again: House Republicans are trying to rig subsidy programs to benefit Southern farmers.

Their proposal would raise price guarantees for commodity crops in the upcoming farm bill, mostly to the benefit of farmers growing peanuts, cotton and rice, a recent study found – not corn and soybean farmers. 

And those farmers benefiting the most are located in just 100 counties – or a paltry 3 percent of U.S. counties. The proposed 10 to 20 percent increase in price guarantees would overwhelmingly help farmers clustered in a small number of counties in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, an EWG analysis of Department of Agriculture data finds. 

The study found that a 10 percent increase in price guarantees for major commodity crops would jack up the cost of the program by $17.4 billion.

EWG's analysis further showed that more than one-third of the dollars spent to boost price guarantees by 10 percent would flow to just 100 counties, primarily counties located in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Georgia.

Counties receiving one-third of payment increases

Image

Source: EWG, from the USDA Farm Service Agency, ARC/PLC Program Data, Univ. of Illinois - FarmDoc Daily

Once the price guarantees are triggered by declining market prices, farmers get a payment to make up the difference between the price guarantee in the farm bill and the market price. Since payments are linked to production, the largest producers receive the lion’s share of the funding. 

In 2021, the top 10 percent of farmers collected more than 80 percent of these Price Loss Coverage, or PLC, payments. 

Farmers growing covered commodities must choose between subsidies triggered either by crop prices through the PLC program or by crop revenue through the Agricultural Risk Coverage program. An increase in the price guarantees included in the farm bill will only increase subsidies triggered by crop prices in the PLC program. 

Farmers growing peanuts, rice and cotton are overwhelmingly expected to choose subsidies set off by crop prices, recent studies show. With the exception of rice growers in California’s Central Valley and Arizona cotton farmers, most are located in Southern states. 

The price guarantee for soybeans hasn’t been triggered since Congress created the PLC program, in 2014. By contrast, the price guarantee for peanuts has been triggered everyyear since 2014 and for rice in all but one year.

The recent study by experts in agricultural economy at the University of Illinois and the Ohio State University showed the unequal increase in payments if price guarantees go up. Payments made to rice farmers would rise by 140 percent. But soybean farmers would see just 8 percent more.

Payments linked to these price guarantees are predicted to skyrocket over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s most recent projections, from February 2024. Those predictions don’t take into account the House Republican proposals to increase these payments by 10 to 20 percent. 

If it seems like déjà vu all over again, that’s because it is – we’ve seen this favoritism of Southern farmers before. 

The Government Accountability Office found similar preferences in the Market Facilitation Program created by the USDA during the Trump administration to address damage caused by President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.

The GAO found the program paid cotton farmers 33 times more than the costs of the damage. 

And if you guessed that that increase mostly benefited Southern states, you’d be right. 

Areas of Focus Farming & Agriculture Farm Subsidies Disqus Comments Authors Jared Hayes May 17, 2024
Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Rallying Communities to Shape Our Climate Future: Stories of Impact & Resilience

350.org - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 02:48

The focus of our climate movement is clear: a world powered by climate-friendly, safe, affordable and just energy sources. We are making this a reality through moving from fossil fuel driven systems to those run on renewable energy. 

At the core of this energy transition lies the collective strength of communities. Worldwide, local groups are challenging the dominance of fossil fuels, rejecting their social acceptance, and pushing for their phased withdrawal. Along with advocating for better energy solutions, these communities are actively building them, whether it is through large-scale projects or grassroots initiatives.

It is the efforts of such ordinary people that really hold the key to achieving climate justice. Whether it’s through empowering others to own their energy generation or ensuring direct benefits from its production, community energy initiatives are the ones transforming our world based on fossil fuels to one driven by renewable energy. In fact, one thing is clear –  communities aren’t merely rallying beside us; they’re leading the charge. 

So let’s have a look at four amazing stories from different corners of the world that show us just how powerful community-led climate solutions can be. Together, we’re not just envisioning a better world; we’re actively building it, one community at a time:

These stories together present a vital fact: the future of renewable energy depends on what we do together as communities. These stories highlight that locals aren’t waiting for others to solve the problem—they’re driving change from the ground up. Moreover, in the face of climate-induced adversity, these resilient communities stand better prepared to support each other and bounce back.

Embracing this community-led approach to renewable energy, unlocks more than just cleaner air and water. It propels us closer to a world where each individual can have access to 100% safe, affordable and climate-friendly energy. The examples of Indonesia and Ghana vividly demonstrate how community initiatives can foster energy independence and lead us towards a sustainable energy future.  

Further, when we do cultivate stronger communities, we get a chance to hear each voice, particularly those historically marginalized, setting us up for a future that leaves no one behind. The unwavering dedication of groups like the Amazon Coalition showcases the power of community solidarity in fighting for climate justice, while efforts like those of 350NC in the US highlight the transformative potential of fostering collaboration among everyday citizens. Read more about 350.org’s impact through the lens of communities we collaborate with in our brand new Annual Report!

The post Rallying Communities to Shape Our Climate Future: Stories of Impact & Resilience appeared first on 350.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

The Power of Community in Indonesia’s Renewable Movement

350.org - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 01:27

In Indonesia, the journey toward sustainable energy has encountered its share of challenges. Despite boasting a potential capacity of over 3.6 million MW in solar energy, only a fraction has been tapped, with renewable sources contributing a mere 2% to the nation’s energy mix.

In the Indonesian Archipelago, passionate grassroots organizations are taking the lead in advancing renewable energy initiatives within their communities. These communities, equipped with a profound understanding of their local context and needs, have taken bold steps to harness solar and micro-hydro power, transforming schools, residential areas, and tourist destinations. Their actions are not just about adopting renewable energy; they represent a stand against environmental degradation, a push for economic stability, and a statement for energy independence.

Playing a vital role in this transformative journey, 350.org has provided crucial support through capacity building, mentoring, and fostering collaborations that amplify the impact of these initiatives. Through tackling obstacles like ambiguous regulations, financial accessibility, and technical readiness, 350.org has aided these communities in navigating the intricacies of the energy transition.

With the spirit of transitioning to renewable energy, 350.org Indonesia has a long-standing collaboration with the young climate activists, local CSOs, NGO partners, and education institutions. Among them is the Climate Rangers Community of Yogyakarta, one of the key partners who has been involved in utilizing and managing a micro-hydro power plant for electricity supply to each household in Kedungrong Hamlet. The micro-hydro power plant in Kedungrong Hamlet is one of the renewable energy power plants managed directly by and for residents. This power plant harnesses the potential of strong water flow from the Progo River.

The micro-hydro power plant in Kedungrong Hamlet is truly changing things for the better in the local community. With this plant, residents no longer have to depend on energy sources from distant places. It’s a major victory for everyone! Now, they can generate their own energy to fulfill their local needs, turning Kedungrong Hamlet into a self-sustaining energy hub.

This energy autonomy offers numerous advantages to the community members. Beyond providing power for homes, the micro-hydro power plant positively influences the local economy of the area. For instance, the electricity from the plant is extensively used by residents for welding jobs, running workshops, and operating food establishments. Essentially, the power produced by this sustainable energy facility is invaluable, catering not just to the everyday power requirements of the residents but also bolstering their economic pursuits.

The Kedungrong Hamlet story is just one chapter in a larger narrative; as 350.org Indonesia continues fostering collaborations with diverse partners, from North Sumatra to Bali, the impact of these initiatives expands exponentially. This movement is not just about energy transition; it’s a testament to the collective power of communities to drive significant, positive change on a global scale.

 

This is a story from 350.org’s 2023 Annual Report

Explore the report

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Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Movement hubs like the Network Council are essential to advancing climate justice in the U.S

350.org - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 01:26

The journey of the United States toward the effective implementation of renewable energy solutions has been marked by significant progress and notable challenges. In recent decades, the nation has increasingly recognized the urgency of transitioning to sustainable energy sources to combat climate change and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. Despite advancements, the journey is complex, with obstacles such as regulatory barriers, infrastructure limitations, and fluctuating political support. Organizations like 350.org, along with the many local groups that band together under the Network Council continue to push the envelope, driving the United States closer to a more sustainable and resilient energy future.

The 350 Network Council (350NC) is an association of the 12 largest independent 350 affiliates in the USA. 350.org’s affiliate groups are legally and financially independent organizations and they are 350.org’s closest allies. The affiliate groups run powerful grassroots campaigns for climate justice in cities and states across the country. Since 2009, community leaders and everyday citizens — including students, activists, farmers, teachers, and grandparents — have initiated local campaigns under the 350 banner, creating a nationwide network of more than 100 affiliates dedicated to mobilizing their communities within the global climate justice movement.

In 2018, 350.org partnered with these affiliate organizations to unite the most influential groups under a common goal: to amplify our impact through collaboration. The 350NC has facilitated training, coaching, strategic planning, and coordinated actions, all while maintaining laser focus on our core principles of climate justice and energy democracy.

The collaboration between 350.org and the 350 Network Council amplifies the impact of campaigns and helps connect local actions with a national narrative that underscores the urgency of the climate crisis. This partnership has led to impactful campaigns like the “Fossil Free Fed”, demonstrating the power of unity in efforts against the fossil fuel utility industry and the fight for a sustainable future.

In June 2023, the 350NC led a day of action to end the era of fossil fuels. This nationwide initiative mobilized over 2,000 participants in 65 actions across more than 25 states, including critical swing states. Through innovative tactics and the engagement of 70 partner organizations, the campaign spotlighted the urgent need for a transition to renewable energy and equitable climate solutions. The campaign’s message was amplified by significant media coverage, ensuring our demands reached a national audience and reignited the organizing base of the People vs Fossil Fuels coalition.

The 350 Network Council has made a significant impact by empowering communities and inspiring a shift towards renewable energy, leveraging community strength for systemic change. Through training, resource sharing, and coaching, it equips groups to foster a sustainable energy future. By promoting collaborations and grassroots initiatives for renewable solutions, the 350NC exemplifies the power of collective action, offering a blueprint for global communities to pursue climate justice collaboratively.

 

This is a story from 350.org’s 2023 Annual Report

Explore the report

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A Closer Look at the Amazon Coalition’s Fight Against Fossil Fuel Exploitation

350.org - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 01:26

The Amazon Basin found itself on the brink of an environmental crisis, with the prospect of fossil fuel exploration casting a dark shadow over its future. A diverse group of Indigenous Peoples, riverside dwellers, and Quilombola communities from Silves and Itapiranga got together to counter these potentially devastating projects, and formed the Amazon Coalition that we are proud to be a part of.

The Amazon Coalition adopted a multi-pronged approach to amplify their message and advocate for resistance for fossil fuel exploration. We initiated a Public Civil Action (PCA) to contest irregular public hearings and environmental licenses granted by regulatory bodies. Through rigorous legal scrutiny and persuasive advocacy, we highlighted the absence of consultation with impacted communities and the potential environmental hazards of gas exploration activities.

The coalition against fossil fuel exploitation in the Amazon went beyond legal action, conducting grassroots workshops and awareness campaigns to empower local communities. We established communication networks to coordinate stakeholders and foster unity, while effectively raising awareness and garnering global support through targeted media outreach and public events. By amplifying the voices of Indigenous leaders and activists through traditional and digital media, and collaborating with journalists and artists to craft compelling narratives, the coalition highlighted the environmental and social risks posed by fossil fuel activities, emphasizing the importance of protecting the Amazon rainforest from unsustainable development.

In May 2023, the collective endeavors of the Amazon Coalition culminated in a significant victory for environmental justice. The 7th Federal Environmental Court in Manaus ruled to suspend the public hearings and environmental licenses for gas exploration activities in the Azulão Field. This landmark ruling not only put a stop to destructive projects but also upheld the rights of Indigenous peoples and traditional communities to be consulted and heard in matters concerning their lands.

 

This is a story from 350.org’s 2023 Annual Report

Explore the report

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Categories: G1. Progressive Green

The Vital Role of Communities in Renewable Energy Adoption in Ghana

350.org - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 01:26

Ghana’s journey towards sustainable energy is powered by community-led initiatives, bridging the stark energy access divide between its rural and urban areas. This grassroots movement, driven by the urgent need for inclusive and sustainable energy solutions, has led to significant socio-economic progress and a reduction in inequalities.

The Renewable Energy for Communities Coalition (RE4CC), supported by 350.org and other partners, emerged from the successful opposition to a 700 megawatt (MW) coal-powered station. This alliance of civil society organizations, community leaders, and renewable energy experts is dedicated to promoting clean, reliable, and affordable energy by advocating for government investment in renewable solutions and leveraging the Renewable Energy Act of Ghana.

RE4CC’s work includes raising awareness, advocating for renewable energy policies, and launching projects like Solar for School, which not only brings light to classrooms but also nurtures environmental stewardship among students. Additionally, training sessions aimed at women and girls highlight the vital role of community participation in environmental advocacy, further driving the shift towards sustainable energy practices.

350.org plays a crucial role in this transformation, providing financial and technical support, facilitating knowledge exchange, capacity building, and policy advocacy. The alliance efforts to elevate the renewable energy conversation underscore the importance of community-centric approaches to achieving energy sustainability.

 

This is a story from 350.org’s 2023 Annual Report

Explore the report

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People Power in Collaboration: Advocating for Justice and Human Rights Amidst the Climate Crisis

350.org - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 01:26

As global leaders gathered at key international events like COP27 and the G20 Summit, our collective voice amplified the message that environmental and human rights struggles are inseparably linked.

During the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) from November 6th to 18th, 2022, human rights took center stage, when Alaa Abd el-Fattah, civil rights activist and one of the leaders of the Arab Spring embarked on a hunger strike, demanding the Egyptian government’s attention to the cause and securing his release. 350.org stood in solidarity with these calls, a deliberate acknowledgment of our view that human rights are central to the pursuit of climate justice.

At COP27, 350.org advocated for the recognition of “Loss and Damage” as a critical agenda item, which highlights the need for immediate action against the root causes of climate-induced devastations. This commitment was further evidenced by our support for the Kioa Climate Emergency Declaration, showcasing the resilience of Pacific communities at the forefront of climate impacts.

Our advocacy and support goes beyond these moments of attention: for instance, as we continue to campaign for the release of Hoàng Thi Minh Hồng, a revered colleague from Vietnam. Hồng’s arrest was a stark reminder of the risks faced by climate defenders worldwide. Despite her eventual guilty plea under duress, our movement to secure her freedom continues, highlighting the critical need for justice, especially as Vietnam accessed Just Transition funding. Hồng’s advocacy is central to the responsible use of such resources, ensuring they serve the communities most affected by climate change.

The G20 Summit in Indonesia presented another platform for our advocacy. Despite the summit’s theme of “Recover Together, Recover Stronger,” the suppression of civil society events revealed a glaring contradiction. 350.org’s presence at the summit and our support for activists worldwide underscored our belief in the power of community-led movements. By championing freedom of expression and human rights, we aim to ensure that recovery and resilience are inclusive and just for all.

Throughout 2023, our efforts exemplified the theme “People Power in Collaboration: Community-led Solutions, Global Impact,” underlining the indispensable role of grassroots activism in driving systemic change. By fostering collaborations that bridge environmental and human rights initiatives, we are not only fighting for a sustainable planet but also championing the dignity and rights of individuals and communities worldwide.

 

This is a story from 350.org’s 2023 Annual Report

Explore the report

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Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Biden administration to end coal leasing in Powder River Basin 

Western Environmental Law Center - Thu, 05/16/2024 - 07:59

The Biden administration announced today that it will end coal leasing in the Powder River Basin – the largest coal-producing region in the U.S. The decision represents an historic shift in federal management of coal in the region, recognizing that the market has shifted away from coal as an electricity source as states and energy-consuming companies seek out cleaner and more affordable energy sources.

The Bureau of Land Management released a final environmental impact statement for two Powder River Basin resource management plans (here and here), finding that there would be significant impacts to our climate, human health, and the environment from continuing to lease the region’s coal. BLM selected a “no future coal leasing alternative,” through which existing mines can develop already-leased reserves but cannot expand with publicly-owned coal reserves.

“This decision opens new doors to a future where our public lands are not sacrificed for fossil fuel profits and, instead, can prove a bulwark of ecological and community resilience in the face of a warming climate,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center. “We are so pleased to see the Biden administration take this critical step in our shared fight to protect public lands and the climate. And remember: this step would not have been possible without the persistent, decades-long hard work of our Wyoming partner groups.”

“Coal has powered our nation for many decades, but technology, economics and markets are changing radically. BLM’s announcement recognizes that coal’s era is ending, and it’s time to focus on supporting our communities through the transition away from coal, investing in workers, and moving to heal our lands, waters and climate as we enter a bright clean energy future,” said Paula Antoine, Western Organization of Resource Councils Board Chair, from Winner, South Dakota. 

“As someone who lives near some of the largest coal mines in the nation, I’m thankful for the leadership from the BLM in finally addressing the long-standing negative impacts that federal coal leasing has had on the Powder River Basin,” said Lynne Huskinson, retired coal miner and board member of Powder River Basin Resource Council and Western Organization of Resource Councils from Gillette, WY. “For decades, mining has affected public health, our local land, air, and water, and the global climate. We look forward to BLM working with state and local partners to ensure a just economic transition for the Powder River Basin as we move toward a clean energy future.”

“The BLM released a common sense plan that simply reflects the reality of today’s coal markets,” said Mark Fix, a Miles City, MT rancher and member of Northern Plains Resource Council. “Coal companies in this region already have decades of coal locked up in leasing, and it’s hard to imagine they’ll find buyers that far into the future given the competition from more affordable energy sources. This plan protects taxpayers from wasting publicly-owned resources on lowball leases to subsidize an industry in decline. It’s time we take a clear-eyed look at the future and start investing in a transition away from coal.”

In 2022, in response to a challenge from conservation groups, a federal judge found that the two resource management plans failed to address the public health consequences of allowing massive amounts of coal, oil, and gas production from public lands and minerals in the Powder River Basin, including approximately 6 billion tons of low-grade, highly polluting coal over 20 years. The court ordered BLM to redo its environmental analysis.

In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris found that BLM failed to comply with a previous court order directing the agency to account for the environmental and human health impacts of burning publicly owned coal. The judge also held that BLM failed to consider alternatives that would limit or end new coal leasing in the Powder River Basin in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

“People, businesses, and entire industries are feeling the effects of the climate crisis now and are overwhelmingly supportive of renewable energy as a cleaner, cheaper alternative to fossil fuels,” said David Merrill, senior field organizer at Montana Sierra Club. “This will signal a major turning point where the public’s best interest – and what’s best for our collective future – is at the heart of land-use decisions instead of a status quo where public lands are sold off to the highest bidder.”

The Powder River Basin is the largest single-source of carbon dioxide pollution in the nation, with almost all of the coal mined in the region used for electricity production. More than 43% of all coal produced in the U.S., and more than 85% of all federal coal produced in the U.S., comes from the Powder River Basin, which stretches more than 13 million acres across Montana and Wyoming. Coal production has already fallen sharply this year following a mild winter and increased competition from other energy sources, and has been on a downward trajectory since peak regional production in 2008. The BLM’s decision follows numerous company bankruptcies and coal mine closure announcements, and currently only a handful of coal lease applications are pending in the region – all of which have been delayed for years based on company requests.

“This is a monumental decision that will save lives, safeguard our environment, and significantly cut carbon emissions in the United States,” said Drew Caputo, vice president of litigation for lands, wildlife, and oceans at Earthjustice. “For years, conservation groups have litigated to get to this point – arguing that the federal government cannot simply lease away our public lands to coal companies while ignoring the impacts to public health. We are grateful that the Biden administration has shown the courage to end coal leasing in the Powder River Basin and at long last turn the page on this climate-destroying fuel.”

“This is what leadership on climate and energy looks like,” said Jeremy Nichols, senior advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity.  “We applaud the Interior Department in recognizing that our future should not be saddled with more costly coal leasing, but empowered with clean, affordable energy that safeguards our climate and future generations.”

“The BLM’s decision to end coal leasing is a sea change in the transition to clean energy,” stated Derf Johnson, Deputy Director of the Montana Environmental Information Center. “As we wind down the coal mining in the PRB, there is an immense opportunity to continue growing the clean energy economy.”

“Our country must leave coal in the past in order to build a future with a liveable climate for everyone,” said Kelly Fuller, climate and energy program director at WildEarth Guardians. “It’s heartening to see the Bureau of Land Management has recognized the need to move beyond  coal in its decision.”

Attorneys from Earthjustice, the Western Environmental Law Center, and Sierra Club represented the Western Organization of Resource Councils, Montana Environmental Information Center, Powder River Basin Resource Council, Northern Plains Resource Council, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, and Sierra Club in the legal challenge.

Contacts:

Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, Western Environmental Law Center, 575-751-0351, eriksg@westernlaw.org

Perry Wheeler, Earthjustice, 202-792-6211, pwheeler@earthjustice.org

Shannon Anderson, Powder River Basin Resource Council, 307-763-0995, sanderson@powderriverbasin.org

Noah Rott, Sierra Club, 406-214-1990, noah.rott@sierraclub.org

Jeremy Nichols, Center for Biological Diversity, 303-437-7663, jnichols@biologicaldiversity.org

The post Biden administration to end coal leasing in Powder River Basin  appeared first on Western Environmental Law Center.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Today’s student protests are not so different from 350’s own roots

350.org - Thu, 05/16/2024 - 07:57

Jeff Ordower, 350.org

As a climate activist, Jewish American, and Columbia University graduate, I want to share why I feel it’s so important to support the student protestors who are bravely taking a stand in support of Palestine, despite rising repression. We’re seeing it on college campuses across the country, including my alma mater. 

I’ve been talking recently with student activists. Each time, I am amazed at their courage, willingness to take risks, and their understanding of how climate change, the U.S. military, and the displacement and persecution of Palestinians are linked together.

Despite how the media may present the university protesters, the students I have spoken to show a clear understanding of what they are fighting and calling for. They are connecting the dots between their university trustees — often leaders in global finance and private equity — who are mining the planet, arming the Israeli military, and funding wars that result in millions of tons of carbon emissions each year.

For those of us at 350.org, these issues are all connected. When supporters like you helped launch the divestment movement, we knew the key to a changed planet was to cut off their finances. We also knew that the issues do not exist in a vacuum. As we stood against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, we targeted Wells Fargo with the understanding that their financing of the pipeline was one part of the same business that invests in private prisons and forecloses on private homes.  

As someone 30-plus years removed from college, I can only imagine the pressure and risk any given student is taking to occupy their campus. There’s the arrest itself, which carries varying levels of risk depending on a student’s background and immigration status. And there’s also the fact that universities now threaten suspension, expulsion, and loss of educational opportunities that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I often wonder, what can we do in the face of this kind of opposition?

We all need to think about what we can learn from these courageous students about the risk and commitment required to change the world. They are facing brutal police forces in addition to the financial and reputational risk of sacrificing their education. But they do it because they know their cause is just – and we need to stand in solidarity with them.

Our movement values our young people so highly for their clarity on climate change and for the ways in which they boldly speak truth to power: so why should we be so quick to assume they’re wrong about this? 

I know this is difficult and confusing, as it conflicts with part of the narrative that many major powers—including our own US government—may want us to believe. But Big Oil successfully hid the true impact of fossil fuels from public view until our movement turned that tide. 

We can’t separate out climate from militarism. In direct opposition to peace, the revenue generated by fossil fuel extraction plays a disturbing role in funding conflicts old and new. The fossil fuel industry has always fought against the right to self-determination; communities who wish to protect their lands from resource extraction, both at home and abroad, are often met with state violence. The amount of money some nations spend on wars, and on the enabling of resource extraction, directly impacts how much is available for a just transition to renewable energy. 

In other words, fossil fuel dependency exacerbates geopolitical tensions and climate change creates instability across so many systems–food, infrastructure, public health, transportation, and many more–that civilization depends on for peace and security. 

Forcing issues into artificial silos favors the status quo, which currently has us hurtling towards climate disaster. We have to call out systems of extraction and greed-fueled destruction everywhere we see them, or we will not achieve justice.

The mass murders of children in Gaza are a symptom of a broken system — and we have a responsibility to take action. We appreciate the students leading the way, and we must always remember that the money and power behind the guns in Gaza are the same money and power repressing activists in Uganda and Appalachia who are fighting pipelines in their communities.

Together we can take them on and create a better, more just world for future generations.

 

— Jeff Ordower, 350.org North America Director

 

We know that all of this may seem difficult and confusing, and we know how hard it can be to tease out and resist some of what we’ve been taught. That’s part of why we do this work to begin with: to fight back against the influence of a false narrative that allows extraction to continue despite the costs. So if anyone wants to take more time to listen, discuss, and unpack, we will be holding periodic listening sessions to better tease out what questions we have about where this fits into our collective climate justice work. Interested? Email jeff.ordower@350.org.

 

 

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Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Biochar: A critical perspective

Biofuel Watch - Thu, 05/16/2024 - 07:06
New Biofuelwatch briefing, May 2024: What does the science tell us about whether biochar reliably stores carbon and boosts soil fertility? Click here to download the fully referenced briefing

Introduction:

In 2011, Biofuelwatch published a comprehensive report, “Biochar: a critical review of science and policy”. In 2020, we provided an update to that report. Given the proliferation of initiatives to develop commercial-scale biochar and burgeoning policy and financial support, we feel compelled to provide this more recent update.

The published literature has dramatically expanded, reflecting great interest and an influx of funding to soil science research. Additionally, there has in recent years been a widening of the scope of proclaimed ‘uses’ for biochar – no longer just for carbon  sequestration or soil and crop improvement, but also for remediation of toxins, as a feed supplement for livestock to reduce methane emissions, for treatment of
waste water and more.

The overarching problem remain as results from biochar studies continue to be highly inconsistent, depending on what feedstock is used, how it is produced, the type of soil to which it is applied, the environmental conditions, what crop is grown, the study duration, and what kinds of measurements are made. Understanding of biochar is far from what would be required to enable reliable control over its influence on the environment. Given the risks discussed further below, it is highly premature to
promote biochar as deserving subsidies and other incentives.

Yet those policy support measures for biochar as a ‘carbon negative technology’ are being put in place. We are not alone in urging precaution, many in the scientific research community express similar reservations. For example: in “Rethinking biochar: black gold or not?” (Tan et al 2023) the authors conclude: “To date there is no conclusive evidence demonstrating environmental friendliness or long-term cost effectiveness of large scale biochar implementation in soil and climate agro-economic systems, let alone in water purification and energy storage and conversion.”

Xiang et al (2021) warn: “Considering the harmful components, structure and particle size of biochar, the negative effects of biochar application on the environment should not be ignored.

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