French ski resort moves snow with helicopter in order to stay open

French ski resort moves snow with helicopter in order to stay open

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: February 16, 2020 SNIP: A French ski resort has angered ecologists by using a helicopter to move snow from higher up the mountains after exceptionally mild weather left its slopes bare. Officials at Luchon-Superbagnères in the Pyrenees authorised the “exceptional” emergency operation overnight on Friday. The helicopter spent two hours transporting 50 tonnes of snow to drop on the lower slopes used by beginners and ski schools. Hervé Pounau, the director of the local department council, said the cost of the operation would be recouped many times over by the business that would have been lost to a lack of snow. “It will cost us between €5,000 and €6,000, in the knowledge that over the long term we will get at least 10 times’ return on that investment,” Pounau said in a statement. Keeping the station open safeguarded 50 to 80 jobs, including lift operators, ski school teachers, childminders, ski equipment rental shop staff and restaurant owners, he added. “We’re not going to cover the entire ski station in snow, but without it we would have had to close a huge part of the ski domain, and it’s during the holidays that we have the most activity for beginners and the ski schools,” Pounau said. He admitted it was not “very ecological”, but added: “It’s really exceptional and we won’t be doing it again. This time we didn’t have a choice.” The operation has angered French ecologists. Bastien Ho, the secretary of Europe Écologie Les Verts party, said the snow transfer operation was evidence of an “upside-down world”. “Instead of adapting to global warming we’re...
Oregon landfill accepted 2 million pounds of radioactive fracking waste from North Dakota

Oregon landfill accepted 2 million pounds of radioactive fracking waste from North Dakota

SOURCE: Oregon Live DATE: February 14, 2020 SNIP: A chemical waste landfill near the Columbia Gorge has been accepting hundreds of tons of radioactive fracking waste from North Dakota in violation of Oregon regulations. Oregon Department of Energy officials issued a “notice of violation” to Chemical Waste Management’s landfill near the small town of Arlington on Thursday for accepting a total of 2 million pounds of Bakken oil field waste that was delivered by rail in 2016, 2017 and 2019. With landfill officials’ permission, Oilfield Waste Logistics of Culbertson, Mont., dumped the waste, some of which registered radium at 300 times the state’s limits. On average, the waste registered radium at 140 picocuries per gram, according to Jeff Burright, a state nuclear waste remediation specialist. The state’s maximum level for waste stored at Arlington is 5 picocuries, he said. Energy Department regulators said the landfill won’t be fined for accepting the radioactive waste because they believe landfill operators misunderstood state guidelines and weren’t aware of the violations, said Ken Niles, assistant director for nuclear safety. He said the agency can only fine companies – ranging from $60 to $500 a day – under certain circumstances. Fines can be levied if a violator had previously been notified of a violation and repeated it or did something similar. The department also fines companies for willful violations or violations that result in “significant adverse impacts” to humans or the environment. Niles said none of those issues applied in the case of Chemical Waste Management. Regulators said they determined the biggest risks would be if the waste were ingested or inhaled, if people...
Trump is blowing up a national monument in Arizona to make way for the border wall

Trump is blowing up a national monument in Arizona to make way for the border wall

SOURCE: The Intercept DATE: February 6, 2020 SNIP: Contractors working for the Trump administration are blowing apart a mountain on protected lands in southern Arizona to make way for the president’s border wall. The blasting is happening on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a tract of Sonoran Desert wilderness long celebrated as one of the nation’s great ecological treasures, that holds profound spiritual significance to multiple Native American groups. In a statement to The Intercept, U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that the blasting began this week and will continue through the end of the month. “The construction contractor has begun controlled blasting, in preparation for new border wall system construction, within the Roosevelt Reservation at Monument Mountain in the U.S. Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector,” the statement said, referring to an area also known as Monument Hill. “The controlled blasting is targeted and will continue intermittently for the rest of the month.” The agency added that it “will continue to have an environmental monitor present during these activities as well as on-going clearing activities.” Rep. Raúl Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat and chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, told The Intercept that he has zero faith that the Department of Homeland Security’s “environmental monitor will do anything to avoid, mitigate, or even point out some of the sacrilegious things that are occurring and will continue to occur, given the way they’re proceeding.” Grijalva’s blunt assessment is based on a visit he made to Organ Pipe last month, alongside archaeologists and leaders of the Tohono O’odham Nation, whose ancestral homelands and sacred burial sites are in the crosshairs...
‘Blatant manipulation’: Trump administration exploited wildfire science to promote logging

‘Blatant manipulation’: Trump administration exploited wildfire science to promote logging

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 24, 2020 SNIP: Political appointees at the interior department have sought to play up climate pollution from California wildfires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels as a way of promoting more logging in the nation’s forests, internal emails obtained by the Guardian reveal. The messaging plan was crafted in support of Donald Trump’s pro-industry arguments for harvesting more timber in California, which he says would thin forests and prevent fires – a point experts refute. The emails show officials seeking to estimate the carbon emissions from devastating 2018 fires in California so they could compare them to the carbon footprint of the state’s electricity sector and then publish statements encouraging cutting down trees. The records offer a look behind the scenes at how Trump and his appointees have tried to craft a narrative that forest protection efforts are responsible for wildfires, including in California, even as science shows fires are becoming more intense largely because of climate change. James Reilly, a former petroleum geologist and astronaut who is the director of the US Geological Survey, in a series of emails in 2018 asked scientists to “gin up” emissions figures for him. He also said the numbers would make a “decent sound bite”, and acknowledged that wildfire emissions estimates could vary based on what kind of trees were burning but picked the ones that he said would make “a good story”. Scientists who reviewed the exchanges said that at best Reilly used unfortunate language and the department cherry-picked data to help achieve their pro-industry policy goals; at worst he and others exploited a disaster and...
Trump Removes Pollution Controls on Streams and Wetlands

Trump Removes Pollution Controls on Streams and Wetlands

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: January 22, 2020 SNIP: The Trump administration on Thursday finalized a rule to strip away environmental protections for streams, wetlands and groundwater, handing a victory to farmers, fossil fuel producers and real estate developers who said Obama-era rules had shackled them with onerous and unnecessary burdens. From Day 1 of his administration, President Trump vowed to repeal President Barack Obama’s “Waters of the United States” regulation, which had frustrated rural landowners. His new rule, which will be implemented in about 60 days, is the latest step in the Trump administration’s push to repeal or weaken nearly 100 environmental rules and laws, loosening or eliminating rules on climate change, clean air, chemical pollution, coal mining, oil drilling and endangered species protections. Although Mr. Trump frequently speaks of his desire for the United States to have “crystal-clean water,” he has called his predecessor’s signature clean-water regulation “horrible,” “destructive” and “one of the worst examples of federal” overreach. “I terminated one of the most ridiculous regulations of all: the last administration’s disastrous Waters of the United States rule,” he told the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention in Texas on Sunday, to rousing applause. “That was a rule that basically took your property away from you,” added Mr. Trump, whose real estate holdings include more than a dozen golf courses. (Golf course developers were among the key opponents of the Obama rule and key backers of the new one.) His administration had completed the first step of its demise in September with the rule’s repeal. Mr. Trump’s replacement, called the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” finishes the process....