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seattlepi.com: Health & Science News From the Associated Press





 



Trump pick to lead EPA has spotty state environmental record

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:31:57 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — When President-elect Donald Trump's choice to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency first took office as Oklahoma's attorney general, he disbanded the unit responsible for protecting the state's natural resources. Records also show that Pruitt, a Republican who faces a Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, failed to push a legal challenge initiated by his predecessor to protect Oklahoma's rivers from pollution caused by animal waste, after receiving tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from individuals connected to the poultry industry. In Oklahoma, he joined with other Republican attorneys general in opposing the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, which seeks to limit planet-warming carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. Like Trump, Pruitt has also publicly cast doubt on the extensive body of scientific evidence showing that the planet is warming and that man-made carbon emissions are to blame. Of 14 lawsuits in which Pruitt challenged federal environmental regulations, in all but one of those cases his co-litigants included companies whose executives had made campaign donations supporting him, according to an analysis by EDF Action, the political advocacy arm of the Environmental Defense Fund. Pruitt let expire a 2003 agreement between Arkansas and Oklahoma aimed at reducing pollution from poultry waste and approved a new deal that called for more water-quality testing while agreeing not to institute any new enforcement actions or judicial proceedings against the industry. Pruitt also has faced sharp criticism from environmentalists for failing to take any action to help curb a dramatic spike in earthquake activity that scientists have linked to the underground disposal of oil and gas wastewater.



Study finds global warming could steal postcard-perfect days

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:04:36 UT

Study finds global warming could steal postcard-perfect days Mild weather was defined as between 68 and 86 degrees (18 and 30 degrees Celsius) with low humidity and no more than a trace of rain. Climate scientists usually focus on extreme weather — record heat, tropical cyclones, droughts, floods — and how they could get worse as the world warms. The team used a middle ground scenario for global warming — not worst-case runaway carbon pollution and not dramatic cuts in emissions of heat-trapping gases — and ran different computer simulations to see what would happen. Fewer mild days will also harm agricultural production and allow disease carrying insects to thrive more in more places, said University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd. National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Gerald Meehl, who also studies extreme weather, said a decrease in mild weather may not quite have the economic and health costs but there are other factors such as tourism "or simple human enjoyment."



States argue in court for more say over endangered species

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:15 UT

DENVER (AP) — A battle over how to save endangered wolves in the Southwest moves to a federal appeals court Wednesday as judges hear arguments on whether states can block the federal government from reintroducing wildlife within their borders. The Interior Department is asking the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a preliminary injunction that bars the department from releasing more captive-bred Mexican gray wolves into the wild in New Mexico without that state's approval. New Mexico has multiple complaints about the Mexican gray wolf program, and in 2015 it refused to issue a permit to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — part of the Interior Department — to release more of the predators in the state. New Mexico state attorneys contend the Endangered Species Act and federal rules require the Fish and Wildlife Service to cooperate with the state and not release more wolves without state permission. Reintroducing wolves is always contentious because they sometimes attack domestic livestock as well as game animals prized by hunters.



California finishes safety review of wells after blowout

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 06:17:54 UT

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California natural gas storage facility where a blowout spewed methane for nearly four months has completed a safety review required to resume operations, though it might never return to full capacity, state officials said Tuesday. The state could sign off as soon as next month to allow use of the approved wells to store more gas, though the company would be restricted to about a third of the facility's storage capacity, the Department of Conservation said. Aliso Canyon is the largest natural gas storage site in the West and is considered critical to the Los Angeles area for home heating and to power gas-fired electricity plants during energy spikes.



Global warming could steal postcard-perfect weather days

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 06:11:45 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Global warming is going to steal away some of those postcard-perfect weather days in the future, according to a first-of-its-kind projection of nice weather. Mild weather was defined as between 68 and 86 degrees (18 and 30 degrees Celsius) with low humidity and no more than a trace of rain. Climate scientists usually focus on extreme weather — record heat, tropical cyclones, droughts, floods — and how they could get worse as the world warms. The team used a middle ground scenario for global warming — not worst-case runaway carbon pollution and not dramatic cuts in emissions of heat-trapping gases — and ran different computer simulations to see what would happen. Fewer mild days will also harm agricultural production and allow disease carrying insects to thrive more in more places, said University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd. National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Gerald Meehl, who also studies extreme weather, said a decrease in mild weather may not quite have the economic and health costs but there are other factors such as tourism "or simple human enjoyment."



Australia defends end of MH370 hunt; investigation continues

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 05:26:09 UT

SYDNEY (AP) — Australian officials defended their suspension of the fruitless deep-sea sonar search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, insisting on Wednesday that the enormous costs involved played no role in their decision to halt the nearly three-year hunt. Australia's Transport Minister Darren Chester also said that while the search had been called off on Tuesday, work behind the scenes would go on, with experts continuing to analyze data associated with the doomed aircraft's final hours and examining any future debris that washes ashore. Late last year, as ships with high-tech search equipment covered the last strips of the 120,000-square kilometer (46,000-square mile) search zone west of Australia, experts concluded they had been looking in the wrong place and should have been searching a smaller area immediately to the north. Officials are facing a no-win situation, the transport minister said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Call off the search, he said, and disappoint those who want resolution to the world's greatest aviation mystery. The new 25,000-square kilometer (9,700-square mile) area to the north was determined with the help of drift modeling by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which attempted to calculate where debris that has washed ashore on coastlines in the western Indian Ocean originated.