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This 3,300 foot crack in the Mexican desert is nothing to worry about

By Amelia Urry

28 Aug 2014 8:30 PM

Original source:

That? Oh, it’s just a spontaneous rift in the surface of our planet. (Déjà vu.) No biggie, right?

That’s what officials in Sonora, where this 3,300-foot-long 25-foot-deep crack in the earth appeared last week, would have you believe. As one geologist told the Washington Post, it’s probably just a “topographic accident”:

… the fissure was likely caused by sucking out groundwater for irrigation to the point the surface collapsed.

“This is no cause for alarm,” Inocente Guadalupe Espinoza Maldonado said. “These are normal manifestations of the destabilization of the ground.”

To which David Manthos of SkyTruth responded:

I’m sorry, no. These are not normal manifestations of natural activity, this is the result of human activity run amok. Just because Cthulhu isn’t clambering out of the breach to wreak havoc on humankind DOES NOT MEAN we shouldn’t be alarmed by the fact we’ve sucked so much water out of the ground that the surface of the earth is collapsing.

Lest you think this is only a problem south of the border, consider the nearby Colorado River Basin. Both areas are subject to huge agricultural pressures and in the midst of one of the worst droughts in the region’s recorded history. The Colorado Basin turns out to be short 53 million acre-feet of freshwater, or twice the total capacity of Lake Mead (which is also not doing great). Three-quarters of that absent H2o are estimated to have been drawn from groundwater reserves, which take centuries to build back up. And when the groundwater goes, the ground starts swallowing huge swaths of itself instead.

Is it bad that part of me was kinda hoping for a Lovecraftian supermonster? I’ve seen Tremors. I know how to handle tentacled beasts of the Netherworld. But human nature? Beats me.

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Just what the Gulf of Mexico needs: Deepwater fracking slated to expand

Friday, Aug 29, 2014 12:19 PM PDT

It sounds like a bad idea because it probably is

Lindsay Abrams

Topics: offshore fracking, fracking, Oil and Gas, Gulf Oil Spill, Gulf of Mexico, President Obama, Climate Change, Sustainability News, News

Hey, fossil fuel industry — good news! The Gulf of Mexico’s font of oil has yet to be fully tapped. (Just kidding, they’re definitely aware of this already). Whereas production was once forecast to decline, it turns out there’s still plenty to pump from its Lower Tertiary Basin — a.k.a. “final frontier of oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico” — and we have a way of getting it: deepwater hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. fracking. Heard of it?

The high-stakes, unconventional drilling method is already at play in the Gulf, and the possibilities are only growing. Writing at DeSmogBlog, Steve Horn calls out the extreme underplayed news that of the more than 400,000 acres off the Texas coast sold by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for gas and oil development, “most” bidders were focused on the Lower Tertiary. Horn calculates that about 54 percent of the total acreage is located there — meaning the federal government’s more or less opened the doors for the Gulf to become frack central. Already, one industry exec is predicting that fracking activity there will increase by more then 10 percent this year.

To read the entire article go to:

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Solar Company Seeks Stiff U.S. Tariffs to Deter Chinese Spying

SolarWorld Americas Says Hackers in China Stole Documents


In the daunting battle against corporate online espionage worldwide, one major solar company wants to deploy a powerful and novel weapon: higher tariffs.

SolarWorld Americas, the largest manufacturer of solar panels in the United States, has asked the Commerce Department to investigate claims that Chinese military personnel broke into the company’s computers and stole documents important to its business and its long-running trade dispute with China.

The company’s request followed the Justice Department’s decision to prosecute five members of the People’s Liberation Army, accusing them in May of stealing online files from a group of American companies, most of which had engaged in trade disputes with China.

SolarWorld says the new prosecution underscores the sophisticated ways that Chinese companies are retaliating against trade obstacles, especially the use of cyberwarfare.

As a deterrent, the company is proposing that the administration should use tariffs to crack down on such retribution.

“We think it is critically important that the Commerce Department set a precedent here and take a strong stand that it will not tolerate cyberhacking of U.S. companies that file trade cases,” said Timothy C. Brightbill, a lawyer representing SolarWorld.

To read the entire article go to:

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Climate Change Will Ruin Hawaii, New Study Suggests

The Huffington Post  | By James Cave

Posted: 08/28/2014 6:25 pm EDT Updated: 08/28/2014 6:59 pm ED


Climate change has its sights on its next victim, and it's one of America's favorite vacation spots.

Hawaii is known for its near perfect weather, but a new report from the University of Hawaii's Sea Grant program states that islands in the Pacific might be unrecognizable in the coming years as climate change makes them hotter, arid, stormy and even disease-ridden.

According to "Climate Change Impacts In Hawaii: A Summary Of Climate Change And Its Impacts To Hawaii’s Ecosystems And Communities," which was paid for by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), the oceans, rainfall, ecosystems and immunity of people who live on islands in the Pacific are all at peril. But what’s more, tourism -- an industry responsible for most of the state’s annual revenue -- might all but vanish.

Amongst the doom and gloom, the study projects:

To read the enire article go to:

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Protestors Hold Candlelight Vigil For Hawaii’s Solar Industry

The Huffington Post  | By Carla Herreria

Posted: 08/28/2014 8:04 pm EDT Updated: 08/28/2014 8:59 pm EDT

As the sun set over downtown Honolulu on Monday, mourners gathered for an intimate candlelight vigil. The group -- concerned residents mingled with members of Hawaii's Sierra Club -- sang songs and passed around a "Get Well Soon" card as a single solar panel lay on a stretcher, "hooked up" to life support. Behind them stood the offices of the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), the largest utility supplier in the state.

The demonstrators were mourning solar power. Once heralded as a shining model for the rest of the country, Hawaii's solar industry has stalled because of HECO's strict regulations on installations, the protestors said.

"We have a solar panel on a stretcher ... to represent how the industry is doing," Sierra Club member Caitlin Pomerantz told local news outlet KITV. "We know that solar has been struggling."

To read the entire article go to:

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Chance of ‘megadrought’ in U.S. Southwest now 50%, study concludes


On Assignment: Focusing on the effects of California's persistent drought

Related Content Alarming images emerge from California drought

By Veronica Rocha

August 29, 2014, 11:31 a.m.

The chance of a "megadrought" gripping the Southwest for more than 30 years has increased to 50%, scientists say, which means bad news for California's already parched landscape.

The odds of a 10-year drought afflicting the southwestern U.S. have increased to 80%, according to a new study by Cornell University, the University of Arizona and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Whatever happens, California is likely to see prolonged drought and drier conditions, especially in the southern portion of the state, said Toby Ault, Cornell assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and lead author of the study, which will be published next month in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate.

The current drought, he said, is a preview of what will "happen in the future in climate change."

To read the entire article go to:

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Filed under: Water Comments Off

California’s drought: What losing 63 trillion gallons of water looks like

By Nick Kirkpatrick August 28

A new study says that California’s drought is so severe it’s causing the ground to rise. Angela Fritz of The Washington Post reported scientists estimate 63 trillion gallons of water have been lost in the past 18 months.

What happens when 63 trillion gallons of water disappear? “As it turns out, 63 trillion gallons of water is pretty heavy,” Fritz wrote. ” … That incredible water deficit weighs nearly 240 billion tons, and as it evaporated, the ground began to shift” — in California’s mountains, by as much as half-an-inch.

To read the entire article go to:

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Desperately Dry California Tries to Curb Private Drilling for Water


FRESNO, Calif. — The small prefab office of Arthur & Orum, a well-drilling outfit hidden in the almond trees and grapevines south of Fresno, has become a magnet for scores of California farmers in desperate need of water to sustain their crops. Looking at binders of dozens of orders for yet-to-be-drilled wells, Steve Arthur, a manager, said, “We’ve got more stacked up than we’ll do before the end of the year.”

California’s vicious, prolonged drought, which has radically curtailed most natural surface water supplies, is making farmers look deeper and deeper underground to slake their thirst. This means the drought is a short-term bonanza for firms like Arthur & Orum, which expects to gross as much as $3 million this year.

But in a drought as long and severe as the current one, over-reliance on groundwater means that land sinks, old wells go dry, and saltwater invades coastal aquifers. Aquifers are natural savings accounts, a place to go when the streams run dry. Exhaust them, and the $45 billion annual agricultural economy will take a severe hit, while small towns run dry.

Yet for a century, farmers believed that the law put control of groundwater in the hands of landowners, who could drill as many wells as deeply as they wanted, and court challenges were few.

That just changed. The California Legislature, in its closing hours on Friday, passed new and sweeping groundwater controls. The measures do not eliminate private ownership, but they do establish a framework for managing withdrawals through local agencies.

Change in groundwater level,


Los Angeles

Increased (11 percent of wells)

Decreased up to 10 feet (52 percent of wells)

Decreased more than 10 feet (37 percent of well

To read the entire article go to:

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Historic California groundwater regulations head to Gov. Jerry Brown

By Jeremy B. White

Published: Friday, Aug. 29, 2014 - 10:31 pm

California could soon become the last state in the West to regulate water pulled from beneath the earth, with the Legislature on Friday advancing an unprecedented groundwater-management strategy.

The Legislature passed the three-bill package after lengthy debate about whether state government should oversee pumping from the water table. Lawmakers argued over the long-term fate of California’s water supply as a severe drought puts water scarcity at the forefront of public consciousness.

“Every single member on this floor recognizes that we’ve been overdrafting our groundwater not just in the last year, not just since the drought started, but for decades,” said Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento. “Proponents know it, and opponents concede it. The question is not what will happen if we act, the question is what are the consequences if we fail to act?”

But critics from both parties said the legislation would upend more than a century of water law and create another layer of bureaucracy. They said the measures threatened to make a bad drought situation worse by restricting farmers and other property owners’ ability to pump water to help make up for sharp reductions in surface water.

To read the entie article go to:

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Salton Sea could benefit from CA water bond

By Chris Nichols4:30 p.m.Aug. 31, 2014

Talk with leaders from Imperial County and you’ll hear a clear message: Time is running out to save the Salton Sea, the accidental desert lake whose receding shores pose a growing hazard for the wildlife and people who live nearby.

This largest of inland lakes in California is expected to see even more rapid water loss by 2018 connected, in part, to water sales to the San Diego region.

The water loss threatens the biological diversity of the sea, which serves as a central stop for hundreds of bird species on the Pacific Flyway. Lower lake levels could also foul air quality for communities around the sea, as the wind whips more exposed playa, laden with pesticides from agricultural run-off.

But keep talking with those same Imperial officials and they’ll tell you there’s hope for the Salton Sea, a destination in the 1950s and 60s that buzzed with powerboat races, visits from the Rat Pack and a bounty of golf and fishing attractions.

To read the entire article go to:

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California drought: Why doesn’t California build big dams any more?

By Paul Rogers

Posted:   08/31/2014 03:48:54 PM PDT

How much money drought-stricken California should spend to build new dams was a big part of the debate over the bill that Gov. Jerry Brown signed last month to put a $7.5 billion water bond on the November ballot.

Republicans and Central Valley Democrats who pushed hardest for new reservoirs highlighted the fact that California built many of the world's most ambitious dam projects during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, but a large state- or federally-funded reservoir hasn't been built in 35 years.

But why did the era of big dams end, when California has built new roads, schools, universities, hospitals and freeways?

Experts say there are a confluence of factors, from environmental laws to funding to a lack of suitable sites. Now supporters of new reservoirs are trying to start a new dam-building era.

"We have lived off the investment and sweat of the World War II generation," said Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. "We have done nothing for the future generations but put them in a real bind."

To read the entire article go to:

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Revealed: The 243 times fracking contaminated drinking water in Pennslyvania

Friday, Aug 29, 2014 09:11 AM PDT

At long last, the state DEP went public with cases of private well contamination

Lindsay Abrams Follow

Topics: fracking, Pennsylvania, Drinking Water, Oil and Gas, drilling, Sustainability News, News

Two hundred and forty-three. That’s the number of cases of public drinking well contamination logged by Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection since the fracking boom began six years ago.

The list was released without fanfare (or even a statement from the DEP) late Thursday, the Associated Press reports, and documents issues that include “methane gas contamination, spills of wastewater and other pollutants and wells that went dry or were otherwise undrinkable” spanning 22 counties. You can see them all here.

Last April, it came out that the DEP isn’t in the practice of informing the public when fracking leaks contaminated private drinking water sources. That’s a problem, critics argued, because 3 million Pennsylvanians rely on private well water. The DEP’s secrecy made it so that, if someone reached a settlement with a drilling company over contamination, their neighbors would have no way of finding out about it. A brief filed in the state’s Superior Court called it a ”‘special law’ that violates the state’s equal protection principals for the sole benefit of the oil and gas industry” and “bears no rational basis to any legitimate public interest,” and accused it of being unconstitutional; speaking with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, one of the attorneys who filed the brief called it “unconscionable.”

To read the entire article go to:

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Widened Panama Canal may threaten West Coast port jobs

By Michael Nacht and Larry Henry

August 29, 2014 | Updated: August 31, 2014 10:34pm

After three months of negotiations, there is no agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association that represents port employers at 27 West Coast ports. The contract expired July 1, and the parties did reach a tentative agreement on health benefits Aug. 26. The immediate goal is to avoid serious disruption of trade from East Asia that could have deleterious economic effects throughout the West Coast. A longer-term concern, however, is whether a widened Panama Canal will harm the West Coast economy as more shippers shift to all-water routes through the canal to Gulf Coast and East Coast ports.

The Panamanian government began in 2007 to widen the canal in order to accommodate bigger, faster ships, thus doubling its cargo-moving capacity. Completion, scheduled for 2016, will change trade patterns.

Globalization of trade has steadily reduced supply-chain shipping costs. The extra capacity offered by the widened Panama Canal may continue this trend. That, in turn, could result in at least a 6 percent to 8 percent reduction in volume for the West Coast ports. Millions of dollars in lost revenue and the loss of thousands of jobs could follow.

In the past two decades, West Coast ports have benefited enormously from the vast export volume generated from East Asia, especially China, to the United States. To get an idea of the effect of this increased trade, in 2013, businesses providing the cargo handling and vessel services at the West Coast ports — railroads, terminal operators and stevedores, cargo consolidators and others — directly created almost 130,000 jobs (including those held by nearly 13,500 ILWU members). This in turn generated $35.2 billion in expenditures and indirect personal income. These operations produced directly or indirectly almost $10 billion in federal, state and local taxes.

To read the entire article go to:

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Crude oil rides Texas’ rails with little tracking

Posted on September 1, 2014 at 1:48 pm by in Crude oil, Eagle Ford, featured, General, Hydraulic fracturing

Nationwide, rail transit of crude oil faces intense scrutiny. As traffic surged, a series of accidents, including a spectacular derailment that killed dozens of people last summer in Canada, has led to outcry from fire marshals and assurances from rail industry officials. Federal officials have issued a safety warning and emergency orders.

But in Texas, home of the country’s most prolific production and most expansive refining capacity, crude oil rides the rails with little oversight, energy reporter Michael Brick writes.

To fulfill the minimum requirements of a federal emergency order, state public safety officials agreed to receive some information about potentially volatile oil arriving from the Bakken in North Dakota.

They do not don’t assess cargo starting in Texas, passing through from other places or moving toward Houston. They do not test its flammability. They do not, in any significant detail, track its quantities, movements or destinations.

To read the entire article go to:

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California High-Speed Rail No. 10: Palate Cleanser

"The decision on HSR is going to shape the future in ways we can’t predict, and a touch of modesty in the arguments would be welcome."

James Fallows Aug 31 2014, 7:12 PM ET

As a reminder, this is No. 10 in a series on the proposed north-south California High-Speed Rail system, which deserves national attention as the highest-stakes infrastructure project underway anywhere in America now. (Although someone from Philadelphia just wrote to say: Uncle! What we really need is HSR from the East Coast through to the Midwest. I know what he's talking about, but I'll leave that to someone else.) For previous installments see No. 1No. 2No. 3No. 4No. 5No. 6No. 7, No. 8, and No. 9.

The previous entry was very long and detailed—it was a reply by Dan Richard, the chairman of California's High-Speed Rail Authority, to an extensive set of criticisms. This one is short and thematic. It comes from a veteran of a Federal agency, and it concerns the larger question of how to think about projects that will take decades to unfold, and whose implications are by definition unknowable when the choice about whether to proceed, or not, is made. Let's turn it over to the former Federal administrator:

To read the entire article go to:

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