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The Dakota Access fight is moving to Louisiana.

On the first day of the state’s legislative session, nine Republican lawmakers filed legislation that would bar utilities from using electricity produced by large-scale renewable energy projects.

The bill, whose sponsors are primarily from the state’s top coal-producing counties, would require utilities to use only approved energy sources like coal, natural gas, nuclear power, hydroelectric, and oil. While individual homeowners and small businesses could still use rooftop solar or backyard wind, utilities would face steep fines if they served up clean energy.

Wyoming is the nation’s largest producer of coal, and gets nearly 90 percent of its electricity from coal, but it also has huge, largely untapped wind potential. Currently, one of the nation’s largest wind farms is under construction there, but most of the energy will be sold outside Wyoming. Under this bill, such out-of-state sales could continue, yet the measure would nonetheless have a dampening effect on the state’s nascent renewable energy industry.

Experts are skeptical that the bill will pass, even in dark-red Wyoming, InsideClimate News reports.

One of the sponsors, Rep. Scott Clem, is a flat-out climate change denier whose website showcases a video arguing that burning fossil fuels has improved the environment.

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The Dakota Access fight is moving to Louisiana.

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Pig Farms Can Control When You Get the Flu

Mother Jones

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For a fascinating new study, Duke researchers looked at flu patterns over four years across North Carolina, a state with high concentrations of intensive hog farming in some regions, and very little on others. The idea was to determine whether living near large-scale hog farms affects the way communities experience flu—a key question, because many flu strains mutate quickly and jump easily between people and hogs. The answer, in short, is yes.

To understand the findings, it’s important to note that each flu season brings different dominant strains that infect people. Some years, pig-adapted strains proliferate among people; other years, strains that aren’t adapted to those farm beasts do. Pig-adapted flu strains became more common after 2009, when H1N1 emerged and caused a global pandemic. It has been circulating ever since, and in some flu seasons (like 2015-’16) it is the predominant strain affecting people.

Over the study period, two of the flu seasons were dominated by pig strains—and in both, the flu season peaked earlier in hog-intensive counties, measured by the number of reported cases among people. In the other two non-pig flu years, flu seasons across North Carolina’s counties showed no such pattern.

Infectious-diseases writer Maryn McKenna has an excellent explainer on FERN’s Ag Insider:

What likely happened, they the authors say, is that the virus circulating in those flu seasons was carried onto farms by workers and spread to the pigs — and as it passed from pig to pig, the virus had a chance to reproduce in a manner that would not have happened in the absence of CAFOs. That much larger amount of virus spread back out into surrounding community, spiking the number of flu cases earlier in the flu season.

The upshot, the researchers say, is that vaccine strategies should expand. Currently, public health authorities target kids, elderly people, and people with compromised immune systems for flu-shot campaigns. People who work on and live near hog farms should also be encouraged to achieve “universal influenza vaccination,” they say.

Fair enough. But it also seems worth asking whether it’s a smart idea to concentrate hog farming so tightly. Every year, North Carolina’s confinement facilities churning out 10 million pigs—14.5 percent of total US production—the vast majority of which is crammed into a few eastern counties. These hyper-concentration of hogs creates what the authors call a “crucible for human influenza epidemics.”

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Pig Farms Can Control When You Get the Flu

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Exxon is looking for ways to slash carbon emissions

Exxon is looking for ways to slash carbon emissions

By on Aug 19, 2016Share

A new breakthrough in climate-change-fighting technology may come from, of all places … Exxon?

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Exxon and other fossil fuel companies are under pressure from lawmakers and stakeholders to publicly own up to its role in causing climate change.

Instead of, say, diversifying its portfolio in renewables, the oil giant is looking for an alternate way to decrease their footprint — one that will let them keep burning fossil fuels.

Reuters reports that scientists from ExxonMobil and the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a method to reduce carbon emissions from chemicals manufacturing. Currently, this is done using heat, but using a new method of reverse osmosis at room temperature theoretically would reduce the industry’s annual carbon dioxide emissions by up to 45 million tons if the technology were widely adopted, according to the company.

Now, if only they’d use all that brain power to create a time machine, go back to 50 years, and warn us about climate change when their own scientists first warned executives about it.

Election Guide ★ 2016Making America Green AgainOur experts weigh in on the real issues at stake in this electionGet Grist in your inbox

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Exxon is looking for ways to slash carbon emissions

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There’s a new toxin in your water to worry about, America

This Mess Again

There’s a new toxin in your water to worry about, America

By on Aug 11, 2016Share

To add to the “what might kill me in my home today?” files: According to a new report from Harvard researchers, 33 states have high levels of industrial pollutants polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl (PFASs) in their municipal water supplies.

There are loads of chemicals in our water, but PFASs are pretty rough. They’ve been linked with cancer, hormone disruption, high cholesterol, and obesity. High levels of the toxins were found in the water supplies of at least 6 million people, according to study author Xindi Hu, but because the government doesn’t keep data on PFASs in drinking water for a third of the country, exposure is likely far more widespread.

How did so many PFASs get in the water supply? Well, they can be found in literally thousands of wildly varied products — from pizza boxes to camping gear. They’re the Max Martin of product manufacturing.

“Virtually all Americans are exposed to these compounds,” Hu told the Washington Post. “They never break down. Once they are released into the environment, they are there.”

Currently, PFASs aren’t regulated at all. But in May, EPA issued health advisories for polyfluoroalkyl substances, and asked utilities to follow stricter standards. But as Hu notes, we’re definitely stuck with them for now.

Election Guide ★ 2016Making America Green AgainOur experts weigh in on the real issues at stake in this electionGet Grist in your inbox

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There’s a new toxin in your water to worry about, America

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The Meat Industry Is Killing Kids, Say Pediatricians

Mother Jones

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According to the National Pork Producers Coalition, the way the meat industry currently uses antibiotics is no problem. “Existing FDA regulations are increasingly strict and provide adequate safeguards against antibiotic resistance,” the group insists on its website.

But Jerome Paulson and Theoklis Zaoutis disagree. Pediatricians who serve on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health, they have published a blunt report in the journal Pediatrics, arguing that systemic overuse of antibiotics in livestock production is a key driver of the resistance crisis, which, they show, sickens 2 million Americans every year, kills 23,000, and runs up an annual healthcare bill of $21 billion annually.

With their developing immune systems, children are particularly vulnerable—salmonella alone causes more then 120,000 illnesses, 44,000 physician visits, 4600 hospitalizations, and 38 deaths annually among kids younger than five, the authors report.

They point out that US livestock producers uses a staggering 32.2 million pounds of antibiotics in 2012 (the last year for which data exist), more than four times the amount used to treat people. Fully 60 percent of the those farm-dispensed drugs “are considered to be important in human medicine,” they add. This annual bombardment of farm antibiotics, they show, kills susceptible bacteria and allows resistant ones to proliferate. Of the Salmonella that commonly show up in the US meat supply, 5 percent are are resistant to 5 or more classes of antibiotic drugs—and 3 percent can withstand ceftriaxone, the “first-line therapy for salmonellosis in pediatrics,” the authors note.

Paulson and Zaoutis then run through the various ways these superbugs move off of farms and threaten people. “Increasingly, food animals are raised in large numbers under close confinement, transported in large groups to slaughter, and processed very rapidly,” they write. “These conditions can cause increased bacterial shedding and contamination of hide, carcass, and meat with fecal bacteria.” Resistant bacteria can also escape the farm through farmers, farm workers, and farm families, and casual visitors, who then can spread the germs throughout the communities. Then there’s the vast concentrations of manure from these facilities, which “can contaminate foods when manure containing resistant organisms is applied to agricultural soils and the organisms are then present in farm runoff.”

They end with a critique of what those pork producers claim are “increasingly strict” FDA rules on farm antibiotic use. Currently, the rules allow farmers to use antibiotics not only to treat to disease but also “prevent” it—a loophole that, as I and others have shown, allows meat producers to maintain current practices. That practice “can harm public health, including child health, through the promotion of resistance,” the authors warm. Who are you going to believe—the folks charged with keeping your kids healthy, or the ones charged with profitably churning out billions of meat animals each year?

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The Meat Industry Is Killing Kids, Say Pediatricians

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