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Uranium Mining: Unveiling the impacts of the nuclear industry

By Bruno Chareyron, et. al. - Ejolt, November 15, 2014

Uranium mining and milling comprise the first phase of the nuclear fuel cycle, and is one of the most polluting ones. The aim of this report is to give workers and communities basic information about radioprotection. The document deals with the radiological characteristics of materials and waste from the mines, principles of radiation protection, and methods of dose evaluation.

The report draws from on-site studies performed in Bulgaria, Brazil, Namibia and Malawi in the course of the EJOLT project and from previous studies performed by CRIIRAD in France and Africa over the last twenty years. It gives examples of the various impacts of uranium mining and milling activities on the environment (air, soil, water) and provides recommendations for limiting these impacts.

This report aims to contribute towards the development of the critical capacities of communities, so that they might have more information with which to face conflicts with states or companies in relation to uranium mining projects.

Read the report (PDF).

Corporate Conquistadors the Many Ways Multinationals Both Drive and Profit from Climate Destruction

By Philippa de Boissière, et. al. - The Democracy Center, November 2014

Multinational corporations are relentlessly expanding their operations into ever more vulnerable and remote regions of the planet. As they do so they both drive the climate crisis and exacerbate its impacts. They bear responsibility for a global crisis which affects us all, and they bring social and environmental destruction to the local communities where they operate. A further legacy of their oil drilling, industrial mining and mega hydroelectric projects is the erosion of those communities’ resilience just as the impacts of climate change begin to take effect. These same multinationals are also the biggest barrier to meaningful action on climate change, blocking urgently needed regulations and genuine transformational solutions.

Despite this, corporations are gaining increasing access to climate policy-making spaces, both at national and international level, allowing them to put forward their own so-called ‘solutions’. But their market-based techno-fixes are not aimed at tack-ling the crisis at all. Rather, they allow the biggest polluters to line their pockets with public money while continuing with business as usual. Denouncing the connections between corporations and our decision makers, and delegitimising their seat at the table, is crucial if we are to chart a different course.

At the UN climate talks (the UNFCCC), twenty years of negotiating have failed to solve the crisis. This is due, in large part, to the corporate capture of national- level government policy and of the UN process itself. In 2014 negotiators will meet in Peru at the heart of one of the world’s regions most vulnerable to climate change and already one of the hardest hit. In the Amazon and the Andes forests are being destroyed, glaciers are melting and climate patterns are changing at an alarming pace. Communities living in these regions are seeing their natural support systems and means of survival irreversibly damaged.

Read the report (PDF).

Star Power: The Growing Role of Solar Energy, in America

By Judee Burr and Lindsey Hallock, Frontier Group and Rob Sargent, Environment America Research & Policy Center, Environment America - Publication, November 2014

America could meet its energy needs by capturing just a sliver of the virtually limit-less and pollution-free energy that strikes the nation every day in the form of sunlight. With solar installation costs falling, the efficiency of solar cells rising, and the threats of air pollution and global warming ever-looming, solar power is becoming a more attractive and widespread source of energy everyday.

Solar energy is on the rise across the country.The amount of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in the United States has tripled in the past two years. More than half of all new U.S. electricity generating capac-ity came from solar installations in the first half of 2014, and the United States now has enough solar electric capacity installed to power more than 3.2 million homes.

Read the report (Link).

Beauty and its Beast

By Alexandra Scranton - Women's Voices for the Earth, November 2014

3salon workers, a population dominated by women, are exposed to a myriad of chemicals of concern everyday in their workplaces. Hair sprays, permanent waves, acrylic nail application, and numerous other salon products contain ingredients associated with asthma, dermatitis, neurological symptoms and even cancer. Salon workers absorb these chemicals through their skin and breathe them in as fumes build up in the air of the salon over the course of the workday. Research shows that salon workers are at greater risk for certain health problems compared to other occupations. This report will highlight the results of decades of research on the beauty care workforce, demonstrating the disproportionate incidence of cancers, neurological diseases, immune diseases, birth defects, reproductive disorders, skin diseases, asthma, and breathing problems in this population. Clearly, action is needed to improve conditions for salon workers and to help create and ensure healthier workplaces in the future. Recommendations for salon workers, salon owners, salon product manufacturers, and researchers, as well as long-term policy solutions, are presented in this report as options for improving the health and safety of salon workers.

Read the report (PDF).

Billionaires' Carbon Bomb: The Koch Brothers and the Keystone XL Pipeline

By staff - International Forum on Globalization, November 2014

THE INTERNATIONAL FORUM ON GLOBALIZATION’S earlier report, Faces Behind a Global Crisis: U.S. Carbon Billionaires and the U.N. Climate Deadlock followed the flow of fossil fuels industry funds to find that Charles and David Koch are, in fact, the single largest financiers of efforts to stop the phase out of fossil fuels. This report reveals one reason for their spending: the Kochs’ enormous investments in tar sands could become “stranded assets” if Keystone XL, the Alberta Clipper, and other important infrastructure for tar sands expansion is not approved.

With more money (a combined net worth of $100B) than the world’s wealthiest man, Bill Gates ($86B) the Kochs outspent all other oil companies, even Exxon, in campaign contributions, lobbying expenses, denialist science, and myriad other activities since 1999 to stop solutions to today’s quickening global climate crisis.1 Unprecedented financial wealth combined with the Kochs’ fanatical belief in what they call “economic freedom” made them top spenders in the 2012 and 2014 U.S. elections. The Kochs have spent well over $22 million on traceable campaign donations since 1990, and almost four times that amount—about $76 million—on their lobbying expenditures since 1998 alone. This number does not include the vast sums of dark money moved through their web of influence, as mapped by IFG’s Kochtopus, and monitored by KochProblem.org, online tools to follow the Koch Cash moving through their influence network.

Since the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, “Koch Cash” has bought a radical faction in Congress that has seized the power of the purse, shrunk government by 8% via the sequestration, and restricted U.S. action on climate to President Obama’s narrow administrative authorities, which the Kochs are currently countering in court. Recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings on Koch-introduced legal cases have involved judges too friendly with the Kochs. These rulings undermine the legitimacy of the Court, the current composition of which is slated to continue to rule in the Kochs’ favor.

Read the report (Link).

Walmart’s Dirty Energy Secret: How the Company’s Slick Greenwashing Hides its Massive Coal Consumption

By Stacy Mitchell and Walter Wuthmann - Institute for Local Self reliance, November 2014

In October 2014, at an event broadcast live from Walmart’s Arkansas headquarters, the company’s top executives took the stage to extol its environmental leadership. The announcements they made that day would be covered widely by the press, including the Boston Globe, Guardian, and New York Times.

The event opened with a video listing Walmart’s achievements over the preceding months: “We signed our largest multi-state solar power purchase agreement,” the narrator says, over a shot of workers installing new, glossy solar panels. “We were recognized by President Obama for announcing that we will double the number of on-site solar energy projects.” Then Walmart’s CEO, Doug McMillon, and its vice president of sustainability, Manuel Gomez, addressed the crowd. “You get one point for launching a goal,” said Gomez, “and nine points for execution... and what you saw in the video is exactly what we’re doing: executing against these goals.”

But off the stage and out in the real world, Walmart’s sustainability initiatives are heavy on admiration-inducing goals and astonishingly light on execution. Nearly a decade ago, the company pledged to shift to 100 percent renewable energy and acknowledged its responsibility to reduce its climate emissions as quickly as possible. Today, however, Walmart remains as deeply committed as ever to the dirtiest fuels, especially coal. It derives only 3 percent of its U.S. electricity from its renewable energy projects, down from 4 percent two years ago.

In this first-of-its-kind analysis, ILSR provides new information about Walmart’s energy mix and environmental footprint. We calculate the total electricity use, coal-fired power consumption, and resulting carbon emissions of every Walmart store and distribution center in the country in 2013. We also evaluate the company’s renewable energy projects, finding that they are too small and located in the wrong places to have much of an impact on Walmart’s coal use and climate emissions.

Our analysis finds that Walmart’s electricity consumption entails burning a staggering amount of coal: 4.2 million tons a year. That’s enough to give every kid in America a stocking filled with 126 pounds of the sooty stuff as a holiday present. Or, to measure it another way: If you dumped coal on a football field, you’d have to pile it 35 feet high, from end-zone to end-zone, just to power Walmart’s U.S. stores for one week. Walmart sources more of its electricity from coal (40 percent) than the U.S. as a whole (39 percent) — a remarkable fact for a company that has touted its environmental responsibility for years. Indeed, we find that Walmart alone consumes 0.5 percent of all the electricity produced from coal in U.S., a stunning figure given the size of the entire national economy and population.

Read the report (PDF).

Breaking the Rules for Profit: An Analysis of the Frac Sand Industry’s Violations of State Regulations & Manipulation of Local Governments in Wisconsin

By Stephanie Porter - Land Stewradship Project, November 2014

The frac sand industry has rapidly proliferated across Wisconsin, with the number of facilities multiplying by more than tenfold within four years,from 10 in 2010 to 135in 2014. The Land Stewardship Project reviewed readily available public data from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR)and media reports to determine what conclusions can be drawn about this industry and its rapid growth. We found that:

  • Of the forty-seven frac sand companies currently operating in Wisconsin, twenty-four or 51% have seriously violated DNR regulations, manipulated local governments, or engaged in influence peddling and conflicts of interest.
  • Twenty of forty-seven companies (43%) not only violated DNR regulations, but they required substantial regulatory action to come into compliance —or, even worse, never came into compliance even after court action and fines. (One county-level regulator was quoted as saying “citations are pretty much ineffective for this industry.”
  • In total, between 2011 and 2014 there were at least nineteen cases of frac sand companies abusing the annexation process to avoid regulations, engaging in influence peddling, and creating conflicts of interest in local governments.

The industry in both Wisconsin and Minnesota has claimed that violations of state regulations and abuses of the public trust are isolated incidents by “bad apples” or new, inexperienced companies. However, the data paints a picture of an industry in which violations are the norm, not the exception, and insider dealing, conflicts of interest, and influence peddling are common.

As recently as October 6, for instance, a mine in Trempealeau County was shut down for operating without proper permits, prompting a frustrated local regulator to say “they are just running wild, with no permit at all.” This recent case was not the first time a violation this basic has occurred. In 2011, Unimin Corporation –which has been mining for over 40 years –began constructing a site without a permit and continued with construction even after being notified by the DNR of their violation. As seen in these examples and the many others detailed below, this is an industry that consistently ignores state regulations enacted for the sake of the health of local citizens, rural communities, and the land.

Read the report (PDF).

Low carbon jobs: The evidence for net job creation from policy support for energy efficiency and renewable energy

By Will Blyth, Rob Gross, Jamie Speirs, Steve Sorrell, Jack Nicholls, Alex Dorgan, and Nick Hughes - UK Energy Research Center, November 2014

‘Green’ sectors account for as many as 3.4 million jobs in the EU, or 1.7% of all paid employment, more than car manufacturing or pharmaceuticals. Given the size of the green jobs market, and the expectation of rapid change and growth, there is a pressing need to independently analyse labour market dynamics and skills requirements in these sectors. What is more controversial is the question of whether policy driven expansion of specific green sectors actually creates jobs, particularly when the policies in question require subsidies that are paid for through bills or taxes. There are strong views on both sides of this debate. Politicians often cite employment benefits as part of the justification for investing in clean energy projects such as renewables and energy efficiency. Such claims are often backed up by project or sector-specific analyses. However, other literature is more sceptical, claiming that any intervention that raises costs in the energy sector will have an adverse impact on the economy as a whole.

The UKERC Technology and Policy Assessment (TPA) theme was set up to address such controversies through comprehensive assessment of the current evidence. This report aims to answer the following question:

“What is the evidence that policy support for investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency leads to net job creation in the implementing regions?”

The focus on net jobs here is important: whilst it is clear that jobs can be created at a local scale by spending money on new infrastructure projects, other jobs may be displaced if the new project provides activities or services that would otherwise have been provided elsewhere in the economy. Analysis of net jobs therefore needs to take account of both jobs created and jobs displaced.

Read the report (PDF).

The Fossil Fuel Bailout: G20 Subsidies for Oil, Gas and Coal Exploration

By Elizabeth Bast, Shakuntala Makhijani, Sam Pickard, and Shelagh Whitley - Oil Change International, November 2014

Governments across the G20 countries are estimated to be spending $88 billion every year subsidising exploration for fossil fuels. Their exploration subsidies marry bad economics with potentially disastrous consequences for climate change. In effect, governments are propping up the development of oil, gas and coal reserves that cannot be exploited if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change.

This report documents, for the first time, the scale and structure of fossil fuel exploration subsidies in the G20 countries. The evidence points to a publicly financed bailout for carbon-intensive companies, and support for uneconomic investments that could drive the planet far beyond the internationally agreed target of limiting global temperature increases to no more than 2ºC.

It finds that, by providing subsidies for fossil fuel exploration, the G20 countries are creating a ‘triple-lose’ scenario. They are directing large volumes of finance into high-carbon assets that cannot be exploited without catastrophic climate effects. They are diverting investment from economic low-carbon alternatives such as solar, wind and hydro-power. And they are undermining the prospects for an ambitious climate deal in 2015.

Read the report (PDF).

Material Risks: How Public Accountability is Slowing Tar Sands Development

By Tom Sanzillo, Lorne Stockman, Deborah Rogers, Hannah McKinnon, Elizabeth Bast, and Steve Kretzmann - Oil Change International, October 29, 2014

The report, “Material Risks: How Public Accountability Is Slowing Tar Sands Development,” presents market analysis and industry data to support its estimates on lost sales revenue to the tar sands industry as public opposition creates delays and project cancellations. The report also describes other market forces that are putting tar sand developers at a growing disadvantage.

The report puts tar sands development lost revenue at $30.9 billion from 2010 through 2013, in part due to the changing North American oil market but largely because of a fierce grassroots movement against tar sands development. The report attributes 55% of the lost revenue, or $17 billion, to the diverse citizen protests against pipelines and the tar sands.

A significant segment of opposition, the report notes, is from First Nations in Canada who are raising sovereignty claims and other environmental challenges.

Among the reports findings:

  • Market forces and public opposition have played a significant role in the cancellation of three major tar sands projects in 2014 alone: Shell’s Pierre River, Total’s Joslyn North, and Statoil’s Corner Project. Combined, these projects would have produced 4.7 billion barrels of bitumen that would in turn have released 2.8 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. This is equivalent to the emissions of building 18 new coal plants that would last 40 years each.
  • Tar sands producers lost $30.9 billion from 2010 through 2013 due to transportation bottlenecks and the flood of crude coming from shale-oil fields. Of that, $17.1 billion, or 55 percent, can be attributed to the impact of public- accountability campaigns.
  • The combination of risks facing the industry has the potential for canceling most or even all of the planned expansion of the industry in Canada.
  • Rather than seeing more than a doubling of output from 2 million barrels of oil per day to 4.8 million barrels per days — as the industry predicts — the report projects flat production levels.
  • Tar sands producers have lagged, with 9 of 10 leading tar sands producers in Canada underperforming the broader stock market in the last five years.

Analysts have recently downgraded their outlook for tar sands production.

The report also explores how smaller tar sands producers are having trouble accessing capital markets, how the industry is increasing capital spending even as it faces declining cash flows, weak revenue expectations, rising production costs and tight margins.

Read the report (PDF).

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