TIME Environment

California Drought Leads City to Cancel Fireworks

The football field where Cupertino residents typically gather to watch the display requires 100,000 gallons of water to prevent damage

California’s drought is putting a damper on one town’s Fourth of July festivities. The city of Cupertino in central California announced this week that its annual fireworks display had been canceled because the field where it’s held requires too much water.

According to the city, it takes 100,000 gallons of water to keep the Cupertino High School football field in good condition after the fireworks display.

In an effort to conserve water, the school’s district denied the city’s request to use the field for the 2015 festivities. Because the city couldn’t find an alternate site, officials had to cancel the fireworks.

The city’s spokesman told NBC News Bay Area that though people are upset about the cancellation, they generally understand.

“People are very disappointed,” Rick Kitson told NBC. “Who doesn’t love fireworks? But overall, I think they get it.”

The state of California is currently experiencing one of its most severe droughts. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of an emergency in January and in April he issued an executive order calling for a 25% reduction in urban water usage.

TIME Research

Babies Who Are Breast-Fed Are Better Protected Against Pollution, Study Finds

Human milk counters impact of airborne pollutants

In a newborn infant’s initial four months, exposure to pollutants like nitrogen dioxide and airborne particles can cause negative effects on motor and mental development, but a new study reported on in Science Daily says those effects are countered in babies who are breast-fed by their mothers.

Researchers in Spain began monitoring rural, pregnant women in 2006 and analyzed samples from 638 women and their infants at 15 months. They discovered that babies who are breast-fed did not suffer from the potentially harmful developmental impact of PM2.5 (pollution particle matter) and NO2 (nitrogen dioxide).

Read more at Science Daily.

TIME Environment

Winds and Choppy Seas Slow Cleanup of California Oil Spill

More than 9,000 gallons had been cleaned up as of Thursday

(GOLETA, Calif.)—Weather has slowed cleanup efforts at the site of an oil spill that fouled a California shoreline.

The National Weather Service says gusty winds are whipping up waves as high as 4 feet early Friday off Santa Barbara County. Several days of calm seas had helped crews.

A small watercraft advisory was issued overnight and Santa Barbara news station KEYT-TV says oil skimming vessels were brought in late Thursday because of bad weather.

Crews have yet to excavate the section of pipeline that broke Tuesday, spilling an estimated 105,000 gallons of crude. About 21,000 gallons is believed to have made it to the sea and split into slicks that stretched 9 miles along the coast.

As of Thursday, more than 9,000 gallons had been raked, skimmed and vacuumed up.

TIME India

Greenpeace India Employees to Work for Free Following Delhi’s NGO Crackdown

Samit Aich, executive director of Greenpeace India, gestures as he addresses the media during a news conference in New Delhi, India, May 21, 2015
Adnan Abidi—Reuters Samit Aich, executive director of Greenpeace India, gestures as he addresses the media during a news conference in New Delhi, India, May 21, 2015

"The government has made it impossible for us to operate, but our employees are willing to work without pay"

Weeks after Greenpeace India said that it might have to shut down owing to regulatory action to block its bank accounts, the environmental group’s employees have pledged to work for free to keep the organization going.

“The government has made it impossible for us to operate, but our employees are willing to work without pay for one month because they see that the larger commitment has always been to fight against injustice,” Greenpeace India head Samit Aich said on Thursday.

In a letter to Aich, more than 200 Greenpeace India employees said they would support the organization by continuing to “work for at least a month, without pay, starting June 1.”

Citing irregularities in the accounting of foreign aid, India’s Home Ministry took the action against the local arm of the international environmental group as part of a wider crackdown on nongovernmental organizations, Reuters reports.

Separate from the action against Greenpeace India, Indian officials have also placed the Ford Foundation on a security watch list, thus increasing scrutiny of its activities in the South Asian nation.

Among those who have spoken out against the Indian government’s moves targeting nongovernmental groups is the U.S. ambassador to India, Richard Verma, who in a speech in New Delhi earlier this month expressed concern about the regulatory steps against such organizations.

“I read with some concern the recent press reports on challenges faced by NGOs operating in India,” he said.

“Because a vibrant civil society is so important to both of our democratic traditions, I do worry about the potentially chilling effects of these regulatory steps focused on NGOs.”

TIME Environment

Biologists Eyeing Extent of Damage After California Oil Spill

It could be weeks before the beach near Santa Barbara is cleaned up

Two days after a ruptured oil pipeline spewed crude into the waters off of California — tainting 9 miles of ocean teeming with coastal creatures — environmentalists are scrambling to assess how mucked up the ecosystem is.

This much is clear: It could be weeks before the beach near Santa Barbara is cleaned up, and even years before the damage to the water and wildlife is realized, scientists say.

But there is some relief that this spill, at 105,000 gallons, is on a smaller scale when compared to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico or the previous 1969 spill off Santa Barbara

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Environment

Here’s What a Massive 5-Year Study of Ocean Life Reveals

tara ocean expedition plankton
Courtesy of Sacha Bollet/Fonds Tara The Tara ship at sea.

Scientists don't know how climate change may affect life in the ocean

In 2009, the research schooner Tara set sail on a three-year journey. The crew would be facing rough waters and the threat of pirates in the name of studying plankton—microscopic organisms that can serve as a proxy for the overall health of an ocean ecosystem. Now, five studies in the journal Science offer a new take on the state of the oceans, the largest ecosystem in the world, and one that’s under enormous strain.

“We provide the most complete description yet of the organisms together with their genetic repertoires,” said Chris Bowler, a scientific coordinator on the expedition, on a call with the media. “Thanks to the treasure in Tara‘s holds, life in the ocean is a little less murky than it was before.”

Plankton diversity was higher than anticipated. Differences in ocean temperature—as opposed to geography or some other environmental factor—seem to chiefly determine which kind of plankton survives, according to the study. Because plankton play an essential role in sustaining life on Earth by propping up the bottom of the food chain, rising temperatures could have grave implications for other sea life, in part because scientists don’t yet know how plankton overall will respond as ocean temperatures increase with global warming. In addition to their role as the primary food source for many fish and whales, plankton also provide half the oxygen produced on the planet each year through photosynthesis.

Viruses also play a role determining what species of ocean life survive in a given spot. Research identified more than 5,000 types of viruses in the upper ocean, only 39 of which had been known previously. Many of the viruses have spread around the ocean, meaning you’re likely to find a surprising diversity of viral life almost anywhere you look in the ocean.

“The most abundant and widespread viral populations in the oceans have yet to be characterized, but now we have an idea of what viruses are important targets for future investigations,” says Jennifer Brum, a researcher at the University of Arizona.

An editorial accompanying the issue draws further attention to climate change and its unknown impact on the ocean ecosystem. Oceans play an important role in protecting the ecosystem from global warming by absorbing the excess heat released due to greenhouse gas, according to the editorial. In the short term, oceans have yet to shown significant damage, but researchers fear that we may not know the true effects.

“Take a moment to thank the ocean for supplying half of your oxygen,” writes Science Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt in the editorial. “It is time to start valuing the ocean and stop using it as a dump for waste heat, CO2, sewage, pollutants, and other trash.”

Scientists once considered much of the vast oceans to be largely barren of life—seawater, and little less. The research from Tara underscores just how untrue that is—everywhere we look in the watery world, there is life of some kind. And the five studies released this week are just the beginning of what promises to be a trove of new research. Scientists on the expedition analyzed only 579 of 35,000 collected samples for this issue of Science.

TIME Environment

Thousands of Gallons of Oil Raked From California Coast After Spill

Up to 105,000 gallons may have leaked from a ruptured pipeline

(GOLETA, Calif.)—More than 7,700 gallons of oil has been raked, skimmed and vacuumed from a spill that stretched across 9 miles of California coast, just a fraction of the sticky, stinking goo that escaped from a broken pipeline, officials said.

Up to 105,000 gallons may have leaked from the ruptured pipeline Tuesday, and up to 21,000 gallons reached the sea just north of Santa Barbara, according to estimates. The environmental impact still is being assessed, but so far there is no evidence of widespread harm to birds and sea life.

The early toll on wildlife included two oil-covered pelicans, officials said. Biologists counted dead fish and crustaceans along sandy beaches and rocky shores.

The spill occurred along a long, rustic coast that forms the northern boundary of the Santa Barbara Channel, home to a rich array of sea life. Whales, dolphins, sea lions, seals, sea otters and birds such as pelicans live along the channel between the mainland and the Channel Islands, five of which are a national park surrounded by waters declared a national marine sanctuary.

Workers in protective suits have shoveled black sludge off beaches, and boats towed booms into place to corral two oil slicks. The cleanup effort continued through the night and additional crew members and boats came out early Thursday, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Jonathan McCormick said.

They could get help from expected light winds and calm seas, said Dr. Sean Anderson, an environmental scientist at California State University, Channel Islands.

“When the water’s choppy, the response gets complicated. But since the water’s nice and flat, the oil sticks together and it’s easier to spot and easier to pick up,” he said.

Regulators and workers with Plains All American Pipeline LP, which runs the pipeline, aim to begin excavating the pipe Thursday to get their first look at the breach.

The company’s chief executive visited the spill site Wednesday and apologized.

“We deeply, deeply regret that this incident has occurred at all,” Chairman and CEO Greg L. Armstrong said at a news conference. “We apologize for the damage that it’s done to the wildlife and to the environment.”

Crude was flowing through the pipe at 54,600 gallons an hour during the leak, the company said. Company officials didn’t say how long it leaked before it was discovered and shut down or discuss how fast the oil escaped.

Federal regulators from the Department of Transportation, which oversees oil pipeline safety, investigated the leak’s cause, the pipe’s condition and the potential violations.

The 24-inch pipe built in 1991 had no previous problems and was thoroughly inspected in 2012, according to the company. The pipe underwent similar tests about two weeks ago, though the results had not been analyzed yet.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the company accumulated 175 safety and maintenance infractions since 2006, according to federal records. The infractions involved pump failure, equipment malfunction, pipeline corrosion and operator error. The newspaper said a Plains Pipeline spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its regulatory record.

There was no estimate on the cost of the cleanup or how long it might take.

A combination of soiled beaches and the pungent stench of petroleum led officials to close popular campgrounds Refugio State Beach and El Capitan State Beach over the Memorial Day weekend.

Still, tourists pulled off the Pacific Coast Highway to eye the disaster from overlooking bluffs.

“It smells like what they use to pave the roads,” said Fan Yang, of Indianapolis, who was hoping to find cleaner beaches in Santa Barbara, about 20 miles away. “I’m sad for the birds — if they lose their habitat.”

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife closed fishing and shellfish harvesting for a mile east and west of Refugio beach and deployed booms to protect the nesting and foraging habitat of the snowy plover and the least tern, both endangered shore birds.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday night declared a state of emergency, a move that frees up additional state funding to help with the cleanup.

The coastline was the scene of a much larger spill in 1969 — the largest in U.S. waters at the time — that is credited with giving rise to the American environmental movement.

Environmental groups used the spill as a new opportunity to take a shot at fossil fuels and remind people of the area’s notoriety with oil spills.

“Big Oil comes with big risks — from drilling to delivery,” said Bob Deans, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Santa Barbara learned that lesson over 40 years ago when offshore drilling led to disaster.”

Large offshore rigs still dot the horizon off the coast, pumping crude to shore and small amounts of tar from natural seepage regularly show up on beaches.

TIME

The BP Oil Spill Killed a Lot of Dolphins

Lung and adrenal lesions were found on dead dolphins

The explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 had a deadly effect on at least one ocean dweller: bottlenose dolphins.

A new study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released Wednesday said lung and adrenal lesions found on dead bottlenose dolphins that were stranded along the Gulf coast from June 2010 through December 2012 are consistent with the effects of exposure to petroleum products after an oil spill.

The report supports earlier studies that suggested a link between the oil spill that gushed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf over the course of 87 days and mass dolphin deaths in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

BP recently settled claims with oil services provider Halliburton and contract driller Transocean related to the spill.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Environment

California Governor Declares State of Emergency After Santa Barbara Oil Spill

As many as 105,000 gallons of crude might have spilled

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Santa Barbara County on Wednesday as cleanup teams sought to limit the environmental impact from a ruptured underground pipeline that might have spilled as many as 105,000 gallons of crude oil.

More than 20,000 gallons are estimated to have spilled into the ocean, seeping through the ground into a culvert and flowing into the ocean near Refugio State Beach, the Los Angeles Times reports. Oil slicks across a combined nine miles have stretched along the coastline.

The owner of the pipeline that ruptured Tuesday afternoon is Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline, which last saw results for an inspection in 2012. The line, which can pump as many as 6.3 million gallons a day, averages a flow rate of some 50,400 gallons per hour.

“We’re sorry this accident has happened and we’re sorry for the inconvenience to the community,” said Darren Palmer, district manager for Plains All American, told reporters.

There’s no estimate yet on the harm to local natural life, but officials estimate it will take at least three days—likely many more—to clean up the spill before the damage can be assessed.

TIME Environment

Louisiana Black Bear Is No Longer Endangered

In this May 17, 2015 photo, a Louisiana Black Bear, sub-species of the black bear that is protected under the Endangered Species Act, is seen in a water oak tree in Marksville, La.
Gerald Herbert—AP In this May 17, 2015 photo, a Louisiana Black Bear, sub-species of the black bear that is protected under the Endangered Species Act, is seen in a water oak tree in Marksville, La.

The bear is the original inspiration for the "Teddy Bear"

The Louisiana black bear is set to be removed from the endangered species list, the U.S. Department of Interior announced.

The bear, which was the original inspiration for the “Teddy Bear,” has been the focus of conservation efforts for more than 20 years. On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced that because of that conservation push, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that the Louisiana black bear no longer be listed as endangered.

“Across Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, we have worked together with our partners to protect and restore habitat, reintroduce populations and reduce the threats to the bear,” Jewell said in a press release.

“Today’s recovery of the bear is yet another success story of the Endangered Species Act.”

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