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America gone crazy: College president forced to apologize for saying "all lives matter"

Natural News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) In the aftermath of grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of black suspects in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City recently, a number of Americans have protested what they view as inherent -- and often racial -- injustice in the justice...

Brazil on verge of violent regional wars over water rights - a sign of global trends

Natural News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) Persistent drought conditions that simply won't relent, according to new reports, have sparked something of a water war in Brazil, which oddly enough has more water resources than any other country in the world.The two largest cities in the South American powerhouse...

Inner and outer ear infections home remedies

Natural News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) Few things are more painful than an acute ear infection - that dull ache that throbs to the beat of your heart, interrupted now and again by what feels like an ice pick stabbed through your eardrum.All too often, we rush to treat an earache or an ear infection with...

Researchers develop natural purple and red, anthocyanin-rich potatoes

Natural News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) Scientists from the Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Maryland, have used conventional, non-genetic engineering techniques to produce three new varieties of potato that are exceptionally high in antioxidants. Both the skin and flesh of the potatoes are red...

There's no evidence that sewage isn't teeming with Ebola virus, according to researchers disputing WHO's claims

Natural News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) Practically nothing coming out of the mouths of government health officials these days concerning the spread of Ebola virus is scientifically verifiable. And in a new study, researchers from two prominent universities in Pennsylvania challenge specific claims by the...

4 enzyme rich foods that can dramatically improve digestion

Natural News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) Enzymes are very delicate nutrients that are responsible for carrying out virtually every metabolic function. We have around 3000 unique enzymes in our bodies that are involved in over 7000 enzymatic reactions. Simply put, without enzymes we would cease to function.Unfortunately...

After 2004 tsunami, newly planted mangroves protect from future disasters and increase fish population

Natural News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) Ten years ago this month, one of the worst natural disasters to ever affect humanity occurred in the Indian Ocean and involved a dozen nations. On December 26, 2004, the Indian Ocean Tsunami, also called the Boxing Day Tsunami, killed over 230,000 people and left millions...

California mega-drought worst in 1,200 years say scientists (and it's still getting worse)

Natural News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) Despite a recent downpour of rain in parts of Southern California, the state continues to suffer through its worst drought in centuries, according to the most recent research data.Scientists who are currently examining the collective effects of temperature, low amounts...

Man who treated stage III COPD with cannabis off all meds and back to work full time

Natural News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) Back in April of 2014, this author presented an article about how cannabis is very helpful for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The story of Jeff Waters, diagnosed with stage III COPD at the age of 36, was featured in that article. Some may wonder how he's...

Obamacare architect Gruber a promoter of abortion-facilitated eugenics that targets poor black families

Natural News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) Liberals love to pretend that they have so much more "compassion" than conservatives, especially for minorities, but in reality there isn't much compassion in policies that hurt minority communities by keeping them mired in failure and poverty.A perfect example of...

Want to learn real preparedness skills now? Follow The Prepared Mind channel on YouTube

Natural News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) One of YouTube's rising stars, at least in the arena of preparedness and survival, is Chris Tanner, developer of "The Prepared Mind" channel, where he discusses a range of survival topics and reviews tons of gear -- so you don't have to.Episodes on hunting and bushcraft...

Farm Wars GMO Labeling Challenge!

Farm Wars - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 03:19
I challenge everyone who reads this page to ask your friends the next time you see them eating, what the ingredients are in the food they are putting in their mouths. All of the ingredients, not just one or two. Chances are they do not know. Then ask yourself, after conducting this experiment, just how effective a deterrent is labeling?
Categories: Ecological News

Road Salt Increases Urban Stream Contamination

ENN Pollution - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 02:24
Average chloride concentrations often exceed toxic levels in many northern United States streams due to the use of salt to deice winter pavement, and the frequency of these occurrences nearly doubled in two decades. Chloride levels increased substantially in 84 percent of urban streams analyzed, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study that began as early as 1960 at some sites and ended as late as 2011. Levels were highest during the winter, but increased during all seasons over time at the northern sites, including near Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; and other metropolitan areas. The report was published today in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
Categories: Ecological News

Road Salt Increases Urban Stream Contamination

ENN Climate - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 02:24
Average chloride concentrations often exceed toxic levels in many northern United States streams due to the use of salt to deice winter pavement, and the frequency of these occurrences nearly doubled in two decades. Chloride levels increased substantially in 84 percent of urban streams analyzed, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study that began as early as 1960 at some sites and ended as late as 2011. Levels were highest during the winter, but increased during all seasons over time at the northern sites, including near Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; and other metropolitan areas. The report was published today in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
Categories: Ecological News

Northern California's Railroads Are Carrying More Crude Oil Than Ever—But These Neighbors Aren't Having It

Yes! Magazine - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 02:00

This article originally appeared at Faces of Fracking.

Ed Ruszel’s family business is in an industrial park in Benicia, California, where Valero Energy is hoping to build a new rail terminal at its refinery to accept 70,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Photo by Sarah Craig.

Ed Ruszel’s workday is a soundtrack of whirling, banging, screeching—the percussion of wood being cut, sanded, and finished. He’s the facility manager for the family business, Ruszel Woodworks. But one sound each day roars above the cacophony of the wood shop: the blast of the train horn as cars cough down the Union Pacific rail line that runs just a few feet from the front of his shop in an industrial park in Benicia, California.

By 2016 the amount of crude by rail is expected to increase by a factor of 25.

Most days the train cargo is beer, cars, steel, propane, or petroleum coke. But soon two trains of 50 cars each may pass by every day carrying crude oil to a refinery owned by neighboring Valero Energy. Valero is hoping to build a new rail terminal at the refinery that would bring 70,000 barrels a day by train—or nearly 3 million gallons.

And it’s a sign of the times.

Crude by rail has increased 4,000 percent across the country since 2008, and California is feeling the effects. By 2016 the amount of crude by rail entering the state is expected to increase by a factor of 25. That’s assuming industry gets its way in creating more crude-by-rail stations at refineries and oil terminals. And that’s no longer looking like a sure thing.

Valero’s proposed project in Benicia is just one of many in the area underway or under consideration. All the projects are now facing public pushback—and not just from individuals in communities, but from a united front spanning hundreds of miles. Benicia sits on the Carquinez Strait, a ribbon of water connecting the San Pablo and Suisun Bays in the northeastern reaches of the San Francisco Bay Area. Here, about 20 miles south of Napa’s wine country and 40 miles north of San Francisco, the oil industry may have found a considerable foe.

The geography of oil

The heart of California’s oil industry is the Central Valley—22,500 square miles that also doubles as the state’s most productive farmland. Oil that’s produced here is delivered to refineries via pipeline. For decades California and Alaska crude were the main suppliers for the state’s refineries. Crude came by pipeline or by boat. Over the last 20 years, imports from places like Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, and Iraq have outpaced domestic production. But a recent boom in “unconventional fuels” has triggered an increase in North American sources in the last few years. This has meant more fracked crude from North Dakota’s Bakken shale and diluted bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands.

Unit trains are becoming a favored way to help move this cargo. These are trains in which the entire cargo—every single car—is one product. And in this case that product happens to be highly flammable.

This is one of the things that has Ed Ruszel concerned. He doesn’t think the tank cars are safe enough to transport crude oil (or ethanol, which is also passing through his neighborhood) in the advent of a serious derailment.

In 2013, more crude was spilled in train derailments than in the prior three decades combined.

But he’s also concerned not just with the kind of cargo, but the sheer volume of it. If a derailment occurs on a train and every single car (up to 100 cars long) is carrying volatile crude, the dangers increase exponentially. The more trains on the tracks, the more likely something could go wrong. In 2013, more crude was spilled in train derailments than in the prior three decades combined, and there were four fiery explosions in North America in a year’s span.

This risk Marilaine Savard knows well. I met her in February of 2014 when she visited the Bay Area to tell residents about what happened in her town of Lac Megantic, Quebec. The closest word to describe the experience was “apocalypse,” she said, through tears.

Most people by now know of the train derailment that killed 47 people and incinerated half of Lac Megantic’s downtown in the wee hours of the morning on July 7, 2013. The fire was so hot the city burned for 36 hours. Even the lake burned.

We now have a term for this: bomb train.

Traffic jam

Just two days before the disaster in Lac Megantic, Ed joined a community meeting in Benicia about the Valero project. For many residents, it was the first they were learning of it, but Ed had known months before.

In January 2013, a train carrying petroleum coke from Valero’s refinery derailed. It was minor—no cargo spilled—but it did rip up a piece of track, and the stalled train blocked the driveway to Ruszel Woodworks for hours. It was one of three minor derailments in the industrial park in the span of 10 months.

Ed came outside to see what the problem was. “The Valero people told me, ‘Get used to it, because we’re really going to be bringing in a lot of cars soon,’” Ed says. “At that point I really started paying attention and I got really scared.” Ed soon learned about plans for Valero’s new terminal, the 100 train cars that would pass by his business each day, and that it appeared the city was ready to rubber stamp the project—no Environmental Impact Report required.

To explain one of the reasons for his concern, Ed shows me around his property where the land comes to a “V” and two rails lines intersect. The main line of Union Pacific’s track passes along the back of Ed’s property, about 75 feet from his building. Here, trains can get off the main line and switch to the local line that runs inside the industrial park; the local track passes by the front of Ed’s property, about 20 feet from the building.

Ed Ruszel drives by the Valero Refinery, which is about a mile from his family’s woodworking business in Benicia, California. Photo by Sarah Craig.

The tracks into the industrial park were not designed for a crude-by-rail facility, Ed says. There are no loops. For Valero to get crude tanks into the refinery, the train must pass by the back of Ed’s property on the main line, pull all the way forward (usually about a mile), and then back up onto the local line, past the front of Ed’s property and into the refinery. The process is reversed when the train leaves. The 100 train cars a day that Valero hopes to bring in will come by his business up to four times per day.

That’s a concern not just because of potential dangers from derailments and diesel fumes from idling trains, but also because the industrial park has a rail traffic problem.

“My big concern here is specifically with the rails—I realize there are other huge environmental issues and global issues with the kinds of fossil fuel production we’re dealing with now and where it’s going,” Ed says.

Already trains servicing the Valero refinery and other industry neighbors can cause traffic nightmares. The trains block driveways to businesses and sometimes major roadways. An off ramp from Interstate 680 empties into the industrial park. Ed has photos of cars trying to exit the highway but are backed up on the interstate because of train traffic.

The reason has to do with the area’s history.

The tracks that come through the industrial park were not built for industry, but for the U.S. Army.

From 1851 to 1964, part of the land now claimed as an industrial park was home to the Benicia Arsenal. Bunker doors in the hillsides and buildings from the 1800s are part of the area’s colorful history. The rail lines moved around troops and armaments from the Civil War through the Korean War, Ed says, but it’s ill-suited to servicing a busy commercial rail terminal.

The public comments

Ed’s family moved their woodworking business to the industrial park in 1980. His brother Jack and their father started the company when Jack was still in high school, and it’s grown to more than 20 employees. They’ve always played nice with the other businesses, including the refinery, which was built in 1968 and bought by Valero in 2000.

But the Ruszels felt the crude-by-rail issue demanded they take a stand. Although not aligned with any local activist groups, Ed and other members of his family have spoken publicly about their concerns.

“In some ways, getting outspoken, we feel like we’re sticking our necks out,” Ed says. “There are four generations of my family here in Benicia—I’ve got my 80-year-old mother, tiny little grandnieces and nephews, and they all have to live with it. But it is important enough.”

Their voices are part of a growing chorus in the area.

On May 31, 2013, the city of Benicia issued a Mitigated Negative Declaration, which means an initial study by the city concluded there were no significant environmental problems with the project that couldn’t be mitigated.

But many residents felt differently and commented on the initial study or voiced concerns at a July 9 city planning department meeting, which occurred just two days after the disaster in Lac Megantic drove home the reality of a catastrophic accident.

By August the city sided with concerned residents and decided that a draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) needed to be prepared to further review the project. An outside consultant was hired for the job but paid for by Valero. After much delay, the DEIR was released in June 2014 and was promptly slammed by everyone from the state’s Attorney General Kamala Harris to the local group Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community because it left out crucial information and failed to address the full scope of the project.

Just a week ago, a train derailed. Had the cargo been crude, it could have contaminated a reservoir for millions of Californians.

Even the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, which represents 22 cities in six counties that are “uprail” from the project, weighed in. It noted the draft EIR doesn’t offer any recommendations for safety measures because it concludes there is no “significant hazard.”

“We believe that conclusion is fundamentally flawed, disregards the recent events demonstrating the very serious risk to life and property that these shipments pose, and contradicts the conclusions of the federal government, which is mobilizing to respond to these risks,” the comment states. It even quotes a U.S. Department of Transportation report from May 2014 that says that Bakken crude-by-rail shipments pose an “imminent hazard.”

One of the biggest omissions in Valero’s DEIR was Union Pacific not being named as an official partner in the project. With the trains arriving via its rail lines, the railroad is responsible for all logistics. Not only that, but the federal power granted to railroad companies preempts local and regional authority.

This preemption is one of the biggest hurdles for communities that don’t want to see crude by rail come through their neighborhoods or want better safeguards. An October 2014 editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle lamented, “What’s really crazy is the federal law that allows preemption of municipal and state law when it comes to critical decisions on rail safety. Affected communities deserve a say over what rolls through their towns.” With preemption, that may be impossible.

The DEIR also doesn’t identify exactly what kind of North American crudes would be arriving and from where, deeming it “confidential business information.” Attorney General Kamala Harris called that omission an “overly broad determination of trade secrets.”

Different kinds of crude have different health and safety risks. A pipeline rupture carrying Canadian diluted bitumen in a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010 showed that the thick, corrosive crude is much harder (perhaps impossible) to clean up adequately and is different than conventional crude, which sheens on the surface of water. And Bakken crude has proved more explosive than other crudes because of its chemical composition. It’s likely that some of the crude coming to Valero’s refinery would be from either or both sources.

Further, the DEIR only examines the risks of a minor derailment along a 69-mile stretch of track between Benicia and Roseville. It doesn’t address the hazards (which could be catastrophic) of the three potential routes that the Union Pacific trains may take when entering California, which involve passing over mountains, through tinderbox-dry forests, and along critical water sources.

“For me it’s not only about whether they were going to bring [crude] by rail, but whether they were going to bring it at all.”

Just a week ago, a train derailed along one such route in the Feather River Canyon. Eleven cars plunged off the track and down the canyon. Had the cargo been crude instead of corn, its contamination could have made its way down the Feather River to Lake Oroville, a reservoir for millions of Californians.

Public comments on the DEIR closed on September 15, and now it’s a waiting game to see what happens next in Benicia. The planning commission will vote on whether to accept or deny the permit for the project. If the commission denies the permit, Valero can appeal to the city council. Either way, it’s likely to end up in court.

Cumulative impacts

Ed spends his weekdays on land in Benicia and his weekends on the water, sailing out of nearby Richmond. He has shaggy brown hair, a neatly trimmed salt and pepper goatee, and looks every bit the weathered sailor that he is.

Having worked professionally as a boat captain and even as a solo sailor to Hawai'i, Ed is a bit overqualified for the nearly windless fall Sunday we set sail with local activist Marilyn Bardet, a member of Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community.

Marilyn has been a refinery watchdog in Benicia for years and worries about more than just the transportation of fossil fuels. “For me it’s not only about whether they were going to bring it by rail, but whether they were going to bring it at all,” she says.

Sailing from Richmond, we get a good perspective of how pervasive the oil industry is in this area. We pass a couple of blue-and-white docked ships with their decals reading “Marine Spill Response.” Ever since the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, Ed explains, the industry pays into a fund that keeps ships at the ready in case of an accident.

No such thing exists for the crude-by-rail industry. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board reported in January 2014, “Current regulations do not require railroads transporting crude oil in multiple tank cars to develop comprehensive spill response plans and have resources on standby for response to worst-case discharges.”

Ed points the bow of the boat toward the Long Wharf in Point Richmond where hulking oil tankers sidle up to be unburdened of their cargo.

We also have a clear view of the large terra cotta-colored storage tanks nesting above neighborhoods in the hillsides of Richmond. These are part of the sprawling refinery operations run by Chevron but first begun by Standard Oil in 1901.

And it’s not the only refinery around here. In the North Bay, there are five along a 20-mile crescent, with Richmond and Benicia being the bookends. In between, Phillips 66 operates a refinery in Rodeo, and two other refineries (Shell and Tesoro) straddle Martinez.

Residents of these towns have joined in the crude-by-rail fights as well—lending their comments to Environmental Impact Reports, attending community meetings, and joining together for “healing walks” between communities.

The network of support has even extended hundreds of miles south. The Phillips 66 refinery has two parts—one in Rodeo and the other 200 miles away, just outside the town of Nipomo in San Luis Obispo County. A pipeline joins the operations. The refinery has expansion plans that are currently being reviewed. One part of those plans involves building a new rail unloading facility in Nipomo, which would bring in five unit trains of crude a week, with 50,000 barrels per train.

But the crude-by-rail projects in the area don’t end there. In nearby Pittsburgh, 20 miles east of Benicia, residents pushed back against plans from WestPac Energy. The company had planned to lease land from BNSF Railway and build a new terminal to bring in a 100-car unit train each day of crude. But WestPac’s plan has stalled after Attorney General Kamala Harris commented on a recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report and said the project had “significant legal problems” and “fails to disclose the sources and analyze the environmental impacts of the new crude.”

Further south in Kern County, in the heart of oil country, Plains All American just opened a crude-by-rail terminal that is permitted for a 100-car unit train each day. Another nearby project, Alon USA, received permission from the county for twice as much, but is being challenged by lawsuits from environmental groups.

Closer to home, though, unit trains are already arriving. In March, an investigation by local TV station KPIX revealed that Kinder Morgan, a “midstream” company which is in the business of transporting crude (usually by pipeline or rail), received a change-of-use permit for a rail terminal in Richmond. Kinder Morgan had been transporting ethanol, but the Bay Area Air Quality Management District OK’d Kinder Morgan to offload unit trains of Bakken crude into tanker trucks. KPIX journalists followed the trucks to the Tesoro refinery in Martinez, just across the Carquinez Strait from Benicia.

Train cars are parked at the Kinder Morgan rail facility in Richmond, CA. The facility is currently permitted to offload Bakken crude from unit trains. Photo by Sarah Craig.

Aimee Durfee is part of the Martinez Environmental Group. Not only is Martinez flanked by two refineries, but it’s also bisected by Union Pacific rail lines. Now, the residents also know that crude is arriving by truck. “We came to understand that we are collateral damage,” she said. “We get it coming and going.”

Ed is focused on the trains passing by his shop, but the process has opened his eyes to a lot more.

Aimee says her group’s biggest fear is the threat of derailment and explosion. The same is true for many Richmond residents near Kinder Morgan’s rail terminal.

“The permit was given illegally by the air district, without concern for the health and safety of the community,” says Andres Soto, an organizer with Communities for a Better Environment. “Should there be a catastrophic explosion, there are residences and two elementary schools across the street from the railyard.” He also says that the blast zone in Richmond contains a total of 27 schools. The blast zone is defined as a half mile away for evacuations if there is a derailment and one mile away if there is an explosion and fire.

Earthjustice, a nonprofit that litigates on behalf of environmental causes, has led legal efforts trying to block the permit for Kinder Morgan, but in September, Judge James Bush threw out the suit because it was not filed within 180 days of the permit issuance. (The catch-22 of course being that it hadn’t been filed in the proper window of time because no one knew it had even happened because public notice was not given.)

Earthjustice has appealed Judge Bush’s decision, but residents are continuing to fight the permit in other ways. On October 28, the Richmond City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to review and “if feasible, revoke the permit and subject the project to a complete CEQA process,” which would be a full environmental review.

The big picture

With all this crude-by-rail activity, some big-picture thinking would be helpful. As Attorney General Kamala Harris wrote about the Benicia project, “There’s no consideration of cumulative impacts that could affect public safety and the environment by the proliferation of crude-by-rail projects proposed in California.”

Ed has come to a similar understanding. He is focused on the trains passing by his shop, but the process has opened his eyes to a lot more. He’d heard about the impacts of tar sands and Bakken crude but didn’t have a personal connection to it until unit trains began arriving in California.

“Just focusing on what’s happening in my little neck of the woods has led me to spend more time really looking at the big picture,” he said. “The climate is rapidly changing for one reason or another, and probably a good portion of it is what we’re doing with the burning of fossil fuels and so forth, especially this rapid extraction.

“I can’t go to New York and demonstrate or deal with the Keystone XL pipeline, but we can look around here, keep our eyes open, and try to articulate what we’re seeing locally,” says Ed.

Tara Lohan wrote this article for Faces of Fracking, where it originally appeared. Tara writes about the intersections of water, food, and energy. Her work has been published by Bill Moyers, Salon, The Nation, AlterNet, Earth Island Journal, and others. Follow her at @TaraLohan.

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Categories: Ecological News

Update on Climate Change talks in Lima, Peru

ENN Climate - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 21:14
In the early hours of Sunday morning, bleary-eyed dealmakers from nearly 200 countries and the European Union set a framework for an agreement that would take an unprecedented approach to slowing climate change. Critically, however, they also delayed a host of decisions until next year, which could make reaching a landmark pact even more difficult.With a large rally in New York to complement it, the United Nations held a Climate Summit in September. Tara explains what the gathering was really all about.
Categories: Ecological News

Miscarriage and stillbirth linked to fracking chemical exposure

The Ecologist Magazine - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 19:40
Fracking for oil and gas uses a wide range of chemicals that disrupt reproductive function in both sexes, writes Tamsin Paternoster. Now an academic study has found a powerful correlation between stillbirth, miscarriage, low sperm count, and exposure to fracking chemicals.
Categories: Ecological News

Congress to nutritionists: Don't talk about the environment.

Environmental Health News - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 19:30
A government-appointed group of top nutrition experts, assigned to lay the scientific groundwork for a new version of the nation's dietary guidelines, decided earlier this year to collect data on the environmental implication of different food choices. Congress now has slapped them down.
Categories: Ecological News

MCHM toxic in pregnant rats, new study finds.

Environmental Health News - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 19:30
MCHM, the coal-cleaning chemical that contaminated the Kanawha Valley’s water supply in January, is toxic in large doses in pregnant rats, according to a new, preliminary study from the National Institutes of Health.
Categories: Ecological News

What is tinsel made of, and how has it changed over the years?

Environmental Health News - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 19:30
Tinsel—named from the Old French word estincele, for sparkle—was made with lead until the FDA outlawed the practice in 1972. Aluminum, sometimes combined with cellulose acetate, was also popular but flammable. Most tinsel nowadays is made with fairly ordinary plastics like PVC.
Categories: Ecological News
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