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Energy Transfer Partners has until April to develop an oil-spill response plan for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Today, the president signed two proclamations drastically cutting land from two federal monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, by 80 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

When President Obama designated Bears Ears a national monument last year, it was a huge victory for five Utah tribes — the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Hopi, and the Pueblo of Zuni — who came together in 2015 to push for the preservation of what they estimate are 100,000 cultural and ancestral sites, some dating back to 1300 AD, in the region.

“More than 150 years ago, the federal government removed our ancestors from Bears Ears at gunpoint and sent them on the Long Walk,” Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred said in statement. “But we came back.”

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president authority to establish national monuments, largely to thwart looting of archaeological sites. Trump is the first president to shrink a monument in decades.

The five tribes have said they will bring a legal case against the administration — the outcome could redefine the president’s powers to use the Antiquities Act. “We know how to fight and we will fight to defend Bears Ears,” Filfred said.

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Energy Transfer Partners has until April to develop an oil-spill response plan for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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Harvey’s record rains just triggered Houston dams to overflow

In 1935, a storm swept through Houston, turning parts of the city into a lake. It was a wake-up call to city officials; they needed to get serious about flood control. About a decade later, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finished building two massive reservoirs west and upstream of the city. For the better part of a century, the Addicks and Barker dams have held back water that would have otherwise surged through Buffalo Bayou, the flood-prone waterway that snakes through downtown Houston before dumping into the Ship Channel.

This week, for the second time in as many years, a storm has pushed the Addicks and Barker dams to their limit. Early Monday morning, as Tropical Storm Harvey lingered over Houston and drowned whole swaths of the city, the Army Corps of Engineers began controlled releases from the dams, the first time they’ve done so during a major storm. By Monday afternoon, several neighborhoods near the reservoirs were under voluntary or mandatory evacuation as officials announced that releases from Addicks and Barker would continue for the foreseeable future. By early Tuesday morning, Addicks had topped the dam’s 108-foot spillway, leading to what officials call “uncontrolled releases” from the reservoir. Some homes could be inundated for a month.

Harris County Flood Control District meteorologist Jeff Linder called the releases the least-worst decision officials could make in light of floodwaters that continue to fill the reservoirs faster than they can safely drain. “If you are upstream of the reservoir, the worst is not over,” Linder said at a Monday afternoon press conference, warning that “water is going to be inundating areas that have currently not been inundated.” When someone asked him, via Twitter, whether the dams could break and trigger a Katrina-like disaster, Linder offered a one-word response: “No.”

That assurance comes despite the Corps of Engineers labeling the dams an “extremely high risk of catastrophic failure” after a 2009 storm that saw only a fraction of the rain Harvey poured on Houston this week. Officials insist that the hair-raising label has more to do with the breathtaking consequences of any major dam failure upstream of the country’s fourth-largest city than the actual likelihood of such a breach. In 2012, they detailed how a dam failure during a major storm would cause a multi-billion dollar disaster that turns the city into Waterworld.

Still, the Corps in recent years has implemented only piecemeal fixes to the earthen dams, including a $75 million upgrade that was underway before Harvey hit this weekend. Officials are barely even discussing how to fund a third reservoir that some experts say the region desperately needs.

This is the second year in a row that severe floodwaters have tested Addicks and Barker. Just last year, during 2016’s so-called Tax Day Flood, for the first time, the reservoirs hit and surpassed the level of a 100-year flood. That happened again this weekend, meaning the dams have seen two extremely rare flood events (at least one-in-a-100-year events) in just as many years. Last year was also the first time the National Weather Service ever issued a flood warning for the Addicks and Barker watersheds.

The dams are in some ways emblematic of how flood planning in the Bayou City hasn’t kept up with the region’s booming population and development, even as experts predict that climate change will dump increasingly severe storms on Houston’s doorstep with greater frequency. They were built in a region of water-absorbing prairie grasses that have in recent years been paved over by water-impermeable parking lots, driveways and suburban streets. The Sierra Club even sued the Corps in a failed attempt to stop construction on a nearby stretch of the Grand Parkway, a major toll road project that some opposed fearing it would coax development in an area that’s critical to the region’s flood control efforts.

Still, as the Texas Tribune and ProPublica pointed out in this 2016 investigation, Houston-area flood officials refuse to connect the region’s flooding problems to poorly planned development. As a result, every year people will keep building hundreds, if not thousands, of additional structures in Harris County’s 100-year floodplains, even as those “rare” storms start to hit year after year.

In a Monday press conference, Edmond Russo, an engineer with the Corps’ Galveston district, said officials wanted to keep high water from building up and going over the Addicks and Barker spillways, “because in that case, we do not have control over the water.” He’d hoped releases would stay low enough so that the already overtaxed Buffalo Bayou stays at the same level in the short term. In the long term, officials say it could take one to three months to totally drain the reservoirs.

Of course, that all depends on what happens in the coming days. Updating reporters on the reservoirs’ status Monday evening, Linder said more heavy rainfall or levee breaches upstream could change how fast the dams must release water downstream.

“Our infrastructure is certainly being tested to its limits,” Linder said.

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Harvey’s record rains just triggered Houston dams to overflow

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God help us, Donald Trump tried to dispense energy facts again.

And pretty much nobody is happy about it, except maybe Nestlé.

Since 2011, 23 national parks had ended the sale of plastic water bottles to cut down on trash and litter. Before the ban took effect at the Grand Canyon, for example, water bottles made up 20 percent of the park’s total waste. But on Aug. 16, the Trump administration ended the six-year-old policy that enabled the ban, welcoming plastic bottles back to the Grand Canyon, Zion, and other national parks.

Bottled water companies had lobbied against the Obama-era policy for years. Coincidentally, the National Park Service’s statement on the reversal echoes the industry’s arguments: “It should be up to our visitors to decide how best to keep themselves and their families hydrated during a visit to a national park.”

Lauren Derusha Florez, Corporate Accountability International* campaign director, is calling for park superintendents to resist. “We know that many of our parks want to do away with bottled water,” she wrote in a blog post. “Let’s make sure they know that we support them in that move, even if the current administration doesn’t.”

*Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Florez as the campaign director at the Sierra Club.

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God help us, Donald Trump tried to dispense energy facts again.

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The Grand Design – Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow

READ GREEN WITH E-BOOKS

The Grand Design

Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: September 7, 2010

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER When and how did the universe begin? Why are we here? What is the nature of reality? Is the apparent “grand design” of our universe evidence of a benevolent creator who set things in motion—or does science offer another explanation? In this startling and lavishly illustrated book, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow present the most recent scientific thinking about these and other abiding mysteries of the universe, in nontechnical language marked by brilliance and simplicity. According to quantum theory, the cosmos does not have just a single existence or history. The authors explain that we ourselves are the product of quantum fluctuations in the early universe, and show how quantum theory predicts the “multiverse”—the idea that ours is just one of many universes that appeared spontaneously out of nothing, each with different laws of nature. They conclude with a riveting assessment of M-theory, an explanation of the laws governing our universe that is currently the only viable candidate for a “theory of everything”: the unified theory that Einstein was looking for, which, if confirmed, would represent the ultimate triumph of human reason.

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The Grand Design – Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow

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Road to Riyadh, Day Two

Mother Jones

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When I first saw this picture, I figured it was just a dumb Photoshop and skipped on by. But no. This is real:

King Salman seems genuinely fascinated by this modern miracle. El-Sisi obviously doesn’t give a shit and is just being polite. Trump looks like he’s trying to commune with Sauron. Naturally this turned into a huge Twitter meme instantly, and I imagine we’re going to be seeing this picture around for years.

And contrary to what I reported earlier, it turns out that Trump didn’t quite manage to recite today’s speech off the teleprompter correctly. He was apparently so nervous about the whole radical Islamic terrorism vs. violent extremism vs. Islamist extremism thing that he blew it:

Trump had been in Saudi Arabia for about 36 hours at that point. Only 150 hours to go!

Excerpt from: 

Road to Riyadh, Day Two

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This Clever Legal Strategy Could Take Down the Officer Who Shot Laquan McDonald

Mother Jones

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Last Thursday, prosecutors announced that Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke is facing new criminal charges in the fatal October 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke was indicted by a grand jury earlier this month on 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm—one count, apparently, for each bullet he fired at McDonald. Van Dyke had previously been indicted on charges of first-degree murder and misconduct in office. Special prosecutor Joseph McMahon filed the new indictment—which included the original charges—to replace the first one.

All of which begs a few questions: Why would prosecutors charge Van Dyke separately for each bullet he fired? How common are these kinds of charges in shooting cases? And how likely is it that a jury will buy the argument that Van Dyke committed 16 separate felonies?

To get some answers, I reached out to Robert Milan, previously the No. 2 prosecutor in the state’s attorney’s office for Cook County, which includes Chicago. Milan has personally tried more than 100 shooting cases, he says, and “I’ve never seen charges shot by shot.”

Prosecutors, he says, may have filed the aggravated assault charges to preempt the defense’s inevitable argument that Van Dyke had the authority to use deadly force to protect himself and others, or to prevent McDonald—who was wielding a knife and had reportedly attempted to break into cars—from committing a violent felony.

Jurors would consider the battery charges in addition to (not in place of) first-degree murder. So prosecutors could ask the judge to instruct the jury to consider Van Dyke’s self-defense claim only for the bullets he fired before McDonald fell to the ground, on the grounds that the claim no longer applied after McDonald was down.

“If Van Dyke gets the total defense instruction for the entire act, I’m sure prosecutors are concerned that it covers all 16 shots,” Milan said. But “if the judge buys it, and Van Dyke doesn’t get that instruction, then that defense goes flying out the window for those shots. I really think that’s what they’re doing here.”

Which means, even if jurors find Van Dyke not guilty of murder and not guilty of the battery charges attached to the first few bullets, they could still potentially convict him on battery charges for the later bullets. The prosecutor’s strategy seems tailored to counter the special consideration a police office usually receives in shooting cases: “He’s covering his bases. Doing what a good prosecutor would do.”

Van Dyke’s attorneys have tried to get the charges in the original indictment thrown out on the grounds that former Chicago prosecutor Anita Alvarez had tainted the grand jury process with “irregularities.” Alvarez—who lost a re-election bid last year in part because of voter dissatisfaction with her handling of the case—was under pressure to secure an indictment against Van Dyke. She filed the charges in November 2015, just hours before the city—under court order—released police footage of the shooting.

Van Dyke’s next court hearing is scheduled for April 20. His attorneys say they intend to file a motion to have the new charges dismissed. Milan says they may argue that Van Dyke should be charged with only one count of battery, since the 16 bullets were part of a single incident—but the judge is unlikely to oblige. “Bottom line is you have this videotape showing what took place. The burden is not high to get somebody indicted and to lay it out there,” Milan says. “I don’t see this case getting dismissed prior to trial.”

If Van Dyke were convicted of multiple battery counts, the sentences—ranging anywhere from 6 to 30 years in Illinois state prison—could be served concurrently. Milan won’t speculate on how a jury might rule, but he agrees that if the prosecutor’s strategy succeeds, it could easily spread to police shooting cases in other places.

Caution: This video of the shooting, while relevant, is graphic and disturbing.

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This Clever Legal Strategy Could Take Down the Officer Who Shot Laquan McDonald

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Climate change enjoyed its 2 seconds of fame in the final debate

Five minutes and twenty-seven seconds were spent on climate change and other environmental issues in the three presidential debates, 2 percent of the total time — and that was pretty much all Hillary Clinton talking. (Surprise, surprise.)

There wasn’t a single question on climate policy, and only one that directly related to energy — thank you, Ken Bone.

How does that compare to debates in past years? We ran the numbers on the past five election cycles to find out.

The high point for attention to green issues came in 2000, when Al Gore and George W. Bush spent just over 14 minutes talking about the environment over the course of three debates. The low point came in 2012, when climate change and other environmental issues got no time at all during the presidential debates. Some years, climate change came up during the vice presidential debates as well.

2016 total: 1 minute, 22 seconds in the first presidential debate, and 4 minutes, 3 seconds in the second. Climate got just a split-second in the vice presidential debate. Clinton only name-dropped climate change once in the final debate, adding a whole two seconds to the grand total.

2012: 0 minutes.

2008: 5 minutes, 18 seconds in two presidential debates. An additional 5 minutes, 48 seconds in a vice presidential debate.

2004: 5 minutes, 14 seconds in a single presidential debate.

2000: 14 minutes, 3 seconds in three presidential debates. 5 minutes, 21 seconds in a vice presidential debate.

In total, over the five election seasons we looked at, climate change and the environment got 37 minutes and 6 seconds on the prime-time stage during the presidential and vice presidential debates. That’s out of more than 1,500 minutes of debate. Not an impressive showing.

A note about how we arrived at these times:

We parsed questions asked of candidates and searched the transcripts for keywords like “climate,” “environment,” “energy,” and “warming.” We cross-referenced the transcripts with video of the debates. Only the mentions that pertained to fighting climate change, cleaning up the environment, and reducing emissions counted. President Obama’s passing reference to clean energy jobs in 2012 didn’t count, nor did discussions of energy security, because they were in the context of the economy and not fighting climate change.

Election Guide ★ 2016Making America Green AgainOur experts weigh in on the real issues at stake in this election

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Climate change enjoyed its 2 seconds of fame in the final debate

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Hurricane Matthew swept away the bank accounts of 2.1 million Haitians.

Ravaging crops, drowning goats, and wrecking fishing boats, the Category 4 storm devastated the financial mainstays of an already impoverished people, the Miami Herald reports.

While experts struggle to calculate Matthew’s long-term economic toll, Haitian farmers can see their losses in front of them, in fields littered with rotting fruit and fallen palms. Half the livestock and almost all crops in the nation’s fertile Grand-Anse region were destroyed. Although vegetables can be replanted, it will take years for new trees to bear fruit again. “This was our livelihood,” Marie-Lucienne Duvert told the Herald, of her coconut and breadfuit plantation. “Now it’s all gone, destroyed.”

The farmers, who have yet to receive any relief, are facing threats from famine and contaminated water. Matthew has already caused at least 200 cases of cholera, which could mark the beginning of an outbreak like the one following 2010’s crippling earthquake that claimed 316,000 lives and left 1.5 million homeless.

The death toll from the storm is over 1,000 in the Caribbean, a number that will likely continue to rise as Haitians struggle to find food.

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Hurricane Matthew swept away the bank accounts of 2.1 million Haitians.

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Sanders is going all-out against the Dakota Access Pipeline, while Clinton is dodging the issue.

Ravaging crops, drowning goats, and wrecking fishing boats, the Category 4 storm devastated the financial mainstays of an already impoverished people, the Miami Herald reports.

While experts struggle to calculate Matthew’s long-term economic toll, Haitian farmers can see their losses in front of them, in fields littered with rotting fruit and fallen palms. Half the livestock and almost all crops in the nation’s fertile Grand-Anse region were destroyed. Although vegetables can be replanted, it will take years for new trees to bear fruit again. “This was our livelihood,” Marie-Lucienne Duvert told the Herald, of her coconut and breadfuit plantation. “Now it’s all gone, destroyed.”

The farmers, who have yet to receive any relief, are facing threats from famine and contaminated water. Matthew has already caused at least 200 cases of cholera, which could mark the beginning of an outbreak like the one following 2010’s crippling earthquake that claimed 316,000 lives and left 1.5 million homeless.

The death toll from the storm is over 1,000 in the Caribbean, a number that will likely continue to rise as Haitians struggle to find food.

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Sanders is going all-out against the Dakota Access Pipeline, while Clinton is dodging the issue.

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How are you celebrating Oilfield Prayer Day?

Ravaging crops, drowning goats, and wrecking fishing boats, the Category 4 storm devastated the financial mainstays of an already impoverished people, the Miami Herald reports.

While experts struggle to calculate Matthew’s long-term economic toll, Haitian farmers can see their losses in front of them, in fields littered with rotting fruit and fallen palms. Half the livestock and almost all crops in the nation’s fertile Grand-Anse region were destroyed. Although vegetables can be replanted, it will take years for new trees to bear fruit again. “This was our livelihood,” Marie-Lucienne Duvert told the Herald, of her coconut and breadfuit plantation. “Now it’s all gone, destroyed.”

The farmers, who have yet to receive any relief, are facing threats from famine and contaminated water. Matthew has already caused at least 200 cases of cholera, which could mark the beginning of an outbreak like the one following 2010’s crippling earthquake that claimed 316,000 lives and left 1.5 million homeless.

The death toll from the storm is over 1,000 in the Caribbean, a number that will likely continue to rise as Haitians struggle to find food.

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How are you celebrating Oilfield Prayer Day?

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