On Baffin Island in the Fragile Canadian Arctic, an Iron Ore Mine Spews Black Carbon

On Baffin Island in the Fragile Canadian Arctic, an Iron Ore Mine Spews Black Carbon

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: April 2, 2020 SNIP: Even 150 miles away from the Mary River iron mine, Peter Ivalu can’t seem to escape its presence. He’s heard rumors of white foxes turning pink, and caribou, walrus and narwhal disappearing from traditional Inuit hunting grounds. Then last year, he noticed something bizarre at his family campground just south of Igloolik, a hamlet in the far northern Canadian province of Nunavut, where he lives. It was iron dust from the Mary River mine, Ivalu said. “That dust is now everywhere.” Operating since 2015, the mine produces up to 6 million metric tons of iron ore each year that then gets shipped from the frozen coasts of Canada’s Baffin Island, almost 1,400 miles north of Montreal, to parts of Europe and Asia. For a decade, Ivalu and other Inuit community members in the region have fought the mine’s development, worried about what excavating and shipping millions of tons of iron ore each year might do to one of the world’s most fragile ecosystems. Already, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, melting sea ice at alarming rates, causing mass die-offs of fish and birds and altering wildlife migration habits. Now, Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation, which owns the mine, wants to expand the operation by doubling its output to 12 million metric tons a year, and, starting in 2025, more than doubling that again to 30 million metric tons. That means two to four times as many ships carrying the ore through the icy waters, as well as the construction of a new rail line...
Revealed: Monsanto predicted crop system would damage US farms

Revealed: Monsanto predicted crop system would damage US farms

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: March 30, 2020 SNIP: The US agriculture giant Monsanto and the German chemical giant BASF were aware for years that their plan to introduce a new agricultural seed and chemical system would probably lead to damage on many US farms, internal documents seen by the Guardian show. Risks were downplayed even while they planned how to profit off farmers who would buy Monsanto’s new seeds just to avoid damage, according to documents unearthed during a recent successful $265m lawsuit brought against both firms by a Missouri farmer. The documents, some of which date back more than a decade, also reveal how Monsanto opposed some third-party product testing in order to curtail the generation of data that might have worried regulators. And in some of the internal BASF emails, employees appear to joke about sharing “voodoo science” and hoping to stay “out of jail”. The new crop system developed by Monsanto and BASF was designed to address the fact that millions of acres of US farmland have become overrun with weeds resistant to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weedkillers, best known as Roundup. The collaboration between the two companies was built around a different herbicide called dicamba. Dicamba has been in use since the 1960s but traditionally was used sparingly, and not on growing crops, because it has a track record of volatilizing – moving far from where it is sprayed – particularly in warm growing months. As it moves it can damage or kill the plants it drifts across. The companies announced in 2011 that they were collaborating in the development of the dicamba-tolerant cropping systems, granting each...
E.P.A., Citing Coronavirus, Drastically Relaxes Rules for Polluters

E.P.A., Citing Coronavirus, Drastically Relaxes Rules for Polluters

SOURCE: NY Times DATE: March 26, 2020 SNIP: The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced a sweeping relaxation of environmental rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing power plants, factories and other facilities to determine for themselves if they are able to meet legal requirements on reporting air and water pollution. The move comes amid an influx of requests from businesses for a relaxation of regulations as they face layoffs, personnel restrictions and other problems related to the coronavirus outbreak. Issued by the E.P.A.’s top compliance official, Susan P. Bodine, the policy sets new guidelines for companies to monitor themselves for an undetermined period of time during the outbreak and says that the agency will not issue fines for violations of certain air, water and hazardous-waste-reporting requirements. Companies are normally required to report when their factories discharge certain levels of pollution into the air or water. “In general, the E.P.A. does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the E.P.A. agrees that Covid-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the E.P.A. upon request,” the order states. It said the agency’s focus during the outbreak would be “on situations that may create an acute risk or imminent threat to public health or the environment” and said it would exercise “discretion” in enforcing other environmental rules. The memo said the compliance changes were retroactive to March 13. Environmental groups and former Obama administration officials described the policy as an unprecedented relaxation of rules for petrochemical...
Trump Administration Proposes Allowing GE Crops on Thousands of Acres of National Wildlife Refuges

Trump Administration Proposes Allowing GE Crops on Thousands of Acres of National Wildlife Refuges

SOURCE: Center for Biological Diversity DATE: March 20, 2020 SNIP: The Trump administration has proposed to approve genetically engineered crops on national wildlife refuges throughout the southeastern United States, a step likely to increase use of glyphosate and other pesticides known to harm wildlife. The Obama administration acted in 2014 to phase out GE crops on all national wildlife refuges following a successful decade-long campaign by the Center for Food Safety and others. The Trump administration reversed that decision in 2018, prompting a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety challenging the action in September 2019. The proposal released this week opens the door to escalating uses of GE crops and harmful pesticides across the Southeastern Region of the refuge system, which includes 131 refuges in 10 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “Only the Trump administration would aggressively promote the use of crops genetically engineered for pesticide tolerance on wildlife refuges,” said Hannah Connor, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s a no-brainer that this kind of pesticide-intensive agriculture shouldn’t be allowed on public lands that are critical to wildlife conservation and preservation of the unique ecosystems of the southeastern U.S.” National wildlife refuges are federal public lands specifically designated to protect fish and wildlife. The Southeastern Region is comprised of almost 4 million acres of refuge lands and waters that provide vital habitat for dozens of endangered species known to be imperiled by pesticide use — including bats, birds, freshwater mussels, and fish like the pallid sturgeon and Alabama cavefish. Genetically engineered corn and soy are typically designed...
Discarded coronavirus masks clutter Hong Kong’s beaches, trails

Discarded coronavirus masks clutter Hong Kong’s beaches, trails

SOURCE: Reuters DATE: March 11, 2020 SNIP: Discarded face masks are piling up on Hong Kong’s beaches and nature trails, with environmental groups warning that the waste is posing a huge threat to marine life and wildlife habitats. Most of Hong Kong’s 7.4 million people have for weeks been putting on single-use face masks every day in the hope of warding off the coronavirus, which has infected 126 people in the city and killed three of them. But huge numbers of the masks are not disposed of properly, and have instead ended up dumped in the countryside or the sea, where marine life can mistake them for food, washing up on beaches along with the usual plastic bags and other trash. Environmental groups, already grappling with the flow of marine trash from mainland China and elsewhere, say the cast-off coronavirus masks have compounded the problem and also raised concern about the spread of germs. “We only have had masks for the last six to eight weeks, in a massive volume … we are now seeing the effect on the environment,” said Gary Stokes, founder of the environmental group Oceans Asia. Densely populated Hong Kong has for years struggled to deal with plastic waste. A culture of eating out, fast food and takeaway has fueled a rising tide of single-use plastic. Very little rubbish is recycled with about 70 percent of the city’s 6 million tonnes of waste a year ending up in landfill. “Nobody wants to go to the forest and find masks littered everywhere or used masks on the beaches. It is unhygienic and dangerous,” said Laurence McCook,...