L.A.’s coast was once a DDT dumping ground. No one could see it — until now

L.A.’s coast was once a DDT dumping ground. No one could see it — until now

SOURCE: LA Times DATE; October 25, 2020 SNIP: Not far from Santa Catalina Island, in an ocean shared by divers and fishermen, kelp forests and whales, David Valentine decoded unusual signals underwater that gave him chills. The UC Santa Barbara scientist was supposed to be studying methane seeps that day, but with a deep-sea robot on loan and a few hours to spare, now was the chance to confirm an environmental abuse that others in the past could not. He was chasing a hunch, and sure enough, initial sonar scans pinged back a pattern of dots that popped up on the map like a trail of breadcrumbs. The robot made its way 3,000 feet down to the bottom, beaming bright lights and a camera as it slowly skimmed the seafloor. At this depth and darkness, the uncharted topography felt as eerie as driving through a vast desert at night. And that’s when the barrels came into view. Barrels filled with toxic chemicals banned decades ago. Leaking. And littered across the ocean floor. “Holy crap. This is real,” Valentine said. “This stuff really is down there. “It has been sitting here this whole time, right off our shore.” Tales of this buried secret bubbling under the sea had haunted Valentine for years: a largely unknown chapter in the most infamous case of environmental destruction off the coast of Los Angeles — one lasting decades, costing tens of millions of dollars, frustrating generations of scientists. The fouling of the ocean was so reckless, some said, it seemed unimaginable. As many as half a million of these barrels could still be underwater...
Mayan communities are suing the Mexican government over a million solar panel megaproject

Mayan communities are suing the Mexican government over a million solar panel megaproject

SOURCE: Climate Home News DATE: October 23, 2020 SNIP: Indigenous communities in Mexico are suing the government over plans by a Total-owned company to install more than a million solar panels near their homes. The 674-hectare site earmarked for the solar farm, between the Mayan-speaking villages of San José Tipceh and Plan Chac, in the southern state of Yucatán, is partly located on indigenous communal land. To make space for the photovoltaic panels, project developers plan to clear 600 hectares of trees and other wild vegetation. Residents fear deforestation of the site will create a “heat island” and worsen water shortages – potential side effects identified in the environmental impact assessment. Dependent on small-scale agriculture and bee farming, people in both villages have opposed the plans, saying the project will hurt their livelihoods for little reward. “The contracts only benefit… the Americans who designed the project. The villagers are only left with the crumbs,” Abraham Chi, a resident of the nearby town of Muna, told Climate Home News. “If there was a benefit for the community, I doubt there would be anyone opposing it.” The solar farm, which is divided into two sites, known as Ticul A and Ticul B, would see the installation of 1.18 million solar panels to generate 300MW of electricity. Opponents to the project are taking their case to a district court in the state of Yucatán, where they will argue their rights to consultation were violated – and environmental concerns have not been addressed. The case has become emblematic of failure to engage communities in the development of large energy projects on indigenous land,...
Big oil’s answer to melting Arctic: cooling the ground so it can keep drilling

Big oil’s answer to melting Arctic: cooling the ground so it can keep drilling

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: October 19, 2020 SNIP: The oil company ConocoPhillips had a problem. It wanted to pump 160,000 more barrels of oil each day from a new project on Alaska’s North Slope. But the fossil fuels it and others produce are leading to global heating, and the Arctic is melting. The firm’s drilling infrastructure could be at risk atop thawing and unstable permafrost. A recent environmental review of the project describes the company’s solution: cooling devices that will chill the ground beneath its structures, insulating them from the effects of the climate crisis. The oil development that is fueling climate change continues to expand in the far north, with companies moving into new areas even as they are paying for special measures to protect equipment from the dangers of thawing permafrost and increasing rainfall – both expected outcomes as Arctic temperatures rise three times as fast as those elsewhere. Countries from Norway to Russia are advancing new Arctic oil developments. But under Donald Trump’s administration, Alaska has emerged as a hotbed of Arctic oil extraction, with big projects moving forward and millions of acres proposed to be opened to leasing. The administration recently finalized its plan to open a piece of the Arctic national wildlife refuge to the oil industry. And drilling is expanding at an Indiana-sized region next door: the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, which, despite its name, also contains treasured subsistence areas for locals. The North Slope is already warming at disconcerting speed. Utqiagvik, the region’s hub town, is one of the fastest-warming communities in the nation, with its five record warmest winters all...
Fukushima: Japan ‘to release contaminated water into sea’

Fukushima: Japan ‘to release contaminated water into sea’

SOURCE: BBC DATE: October 16, 2020 SNIP: Japan is to release treated radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, media reports say. It follows years of debate over how to dispose of the liquid, which includes water used to cool the power station hit by a massive tsunami in 2011. Environmental and fishing groups oppose the idea but many scientists say the risk it would pose is low. The government says no final decision has been made. The release of more than a million tonnes of water, which has been filtered to reduce radioactivity, would start in 2022 at the earliest, according to Japanese media outlets including national dailies the Nikkei and the Yomiuri Shimbun. The water would be diluted inside the plant before release so it is 40 times less concentrated, the Yomiuri Shimbun said, with the whole process taking 30 years. There has been growing urgency over what to do with the water as space to store the liquid – which includes groundwater and rain that seeps daily into the plant – is running out. Most of the radioactive isotopes have been removed using a complex filtration process. But one isotope, tritium, cannot be removed so the water has been stored in huge tanks which will fill up by 2022. Environmental groups have long expressed their opposition to releasing the water into the ocean. And fishing groups have argued against it, saying consumers will refuse to buy produce from the...
Trump administration advances plan to cut protections for largest national forest

Trump administration advances plan to cut protections for largest national forest

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: September 24, 2020 SNIP: The Trump administration has announced it will move forward with a plan to roll back regulations protecting millions of acres in America’s largest national forest from logging, sparking an outcry from environmental advocacy organizations, Alaskan tribal nations, and fishermen. More than half of the Tongass national forest – a 16.7m-acre old-growth temperate rainforest in south-east Alaska – has been protected for the last two decades by the so-called “roadless area conservation rule”, which prohibits development in designated wild areas. The US Forest Service released a final environmental impact statement on Friday which would allow for the Tongass to be exempt from the rule, moving one step closer to ending the protections entirely. Supporters of the exemption see it as increasing access to federal lands for such things as timber harvests and development of minerals and energy projects. Republican leaders in Alaska have lobbied the federal government to reverse the rule over the last two years. In a Washington Post op-ed published last year, the Republican senator Lisa Murkowski wrote that the regulations were “an unnecessary layer of paralyzing regulation that should never have been applied to Alaska”. Under the former governor Bill Walker, the state asked the federal government to consider the exemption in 2018, and members of Alaska’s congressional delegation last fall supported a draft proposal that listed an exemption as a preferred alternative. Development could also have a devastating impact on the native people who call the area home. Critics say the move could also adversely affect wildlife, fuel the climate crisis and hurt tourism and recreation opportunities. The...