How the upper Mississippi goes from pristine to polluted

By Jennifer Bjorhus – Star Tribune – January 24, 2017
The Mississippi near Bemidji is the untainted river of our imagination. As it travels south of St. Cloud, however, the pollutants start pouring in, and by the time the historic waterway hits Minneapolis, the fish are often under consumption advisories and the water is sometimes unsafe for swimming. A comprehensive new study finds the majestic river under growing threats from changes in the landscape of central Minnesota and warns that growing levels of nitrates, primarily from fertilizer, threaten its safety for drinking. For full story, click here.

During Sandy, Wetlands Averted US $625-Million in Damages

By Jackie Snow – Hakai Magazine – November 16, 2016
In 2012, tropical cyclone Sandy made landfall in the United States’ northeastern coast, killing scores and causing extensive damage. The storm went on to become the second costliest cyclone in US history, after Hurricane Katrina. But as new research shows, it could have been much worse. Confirming their long-argued role as natural defenses, scientists calculated that coastal wetlands prevented as much as US $625-million in property damage during the storm. Overall, Sandy caused an estimated $50-billion in flood damages. Storm surge causes much of the damage during a tropical cyclone, but wetlands helped absorb some of the wave energy and rising water. For full article, click here.

The gulf oil spill literally caused wetlands to sink beneath the waves, scientists say

By Chelsea Harvey – The Washington Post – November 21, 2016
Six years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill devastated the shore of the Gulf of Mexico, scientists are still taking stock of the damage it caused. And increasingly, they’re reporting that widespread shoreline erosion and loss of wetlands — which can hurt important salt marsh ecosystems and leave coastal areas, and the city of New Orleans, more vulnerable to sea-level rise — was a major side-effect of the disaster. For full story, click here.

Pain of Sandy endures: Recovery from 2012 superstorm not possible in a few neighborhoods

By Ula Ilnytzky, Associated Press – Albany Times Union – October 28, 2016
For four years, people have worked hard and mostly successfully to erase the deep scars Superstorm Sandy left on the New York and New Jersey coastlines when it crashed ashore with deadly force Oct. 29, 2012. But recovery will never come to Oakwood Beach, among several places along the coast that have seen permanent changes wrought by the storm. The Staten Island neighborhood, improbably built on a salt marsh, is slowly being returned to nature after state officials concluded it would be foolish to rebuild in a place with so little protection from the ocean. For full story, click here.

The Deepwater Horizon spill may have caused ‘irreversible’ damage to Gulf Coast marshes  

By Chelsea Harvey – The Washington Post – September 27, 2016
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill has been called one of the worst environmental disasters in American history — and more than six years later, scientists are still investigating how much damage it actually caused. Now, a new study suggests the spill may have permanently marred one of the Gulf shore’s most important ecosystems.  For full story, click here.

Thousands of Homes Keep Flooding, Yet They Keep Being Rebuilt Again

By Katherine Bagley – Environment 360 – August 29, 2016
More than 2,100 properties across the U.S. enrolled in the National Flood Insurance Program have flooded and been rebuilt more than 10 times since 1978, according to a new analysis of insurance data by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). One home in Batchelor, Louisiana has flooded 40 times over the past four decades, receiving $428,379 in insurance payments. More than 30,000 properties in the program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have flooded multiple times over the years. Those homes, known as “severe repetitive loss properties,” make up just 0.6 percent of federal flood insurance policies. But they account for 10.6 percent of the program’s claims — totaling $5.5 billion in payments. For full story, click here.

Enforcing rules could hasten the Bay’s cleanup, reduce costs

By Timothy B. Wheeler – Bay Journal – April 17, 2016
As hundreds of millions of dollars get poured annually into the 33-year effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, with progress still lagging in many places, some suggest that state and federal authorities are neglecting an essential tool — one that might reduce the cost and hasten the recovery of the beleaguered estuary. “The most important thing is to hold people accountable when they don’t do what they said they were going to do,” contended Rena Steinzor, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and former president of the Center for Progressive Reform, a Washington, DC, think tank. Appearing on Maryland Public Television’s Chesapeake Bay Summit broadcast last year, Steinzor called for making polluters and governments alike answer for their failures to clean up. For full article, click here.

Keystone I Leak Raises More Doubts About Pipeline Safety

By Phil McKenna – Inside Climate News – April 6, 2016
An oil spill that surfaced in South Dakota over the weekend prompted Canadian pipeline company TransCanada to shut down its Keystone I pipeline, a predecessor to the controversial  Keystone XL project. TransCanada had still not confirmed the leak as of Tuesday, calling it a "potential incident." According to Chris Nelson, chairman of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, the leak was first reported by a passerby. TransCanada reported to the U.S. Coast Guard on Saturday that 187 gallons of oil had leaked, Nelson said. The line is expected to remain closed all week. For full story, click here.

Flood risk to persist in Mississippi River basin -NOAA outlook

By Julie Ingwersen – Planet Ark – March 16, 2016
Heavy winter rains have left the Missouri and Mississippi River basins, from Iowa to Louisiana, at an elevated risk of moderate flooding through June, U.S. government forecasters said on Thursday. The risk extends to eastern Texas and the southeastern Coastal Plain, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in issuing its spring outlook. For full story, go here.

Obama rescinds Atlantic coast drilling plan

By Timothy Cama – The Hill – March 15, 2016
President Obama is rescinding his proposal to open the Atlantic Coast to offshore drilling after encountering strong opposition. The Interior Department announced the decision Tuesday, reversing Obama’s previous proposal for 2017–2022 of organizing a single lease sale on the outer continental shelf in the area from Virginia to Georgia.For full story, click here.

Canada and U.S. to reduce phosphorus 40% to improve Lake Erie water

By Environmental Protection Agency – Ag Professional – February 23, 2016
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna announced that Canada and the U.S. have adopted targets to reduce phosphorus entering affected areas of Lake Erie by 40 percent. The targets announced will minimize the extent of low oxygen “dead zones” in the central basin of Lake Erie; maintain algae growth at a level consistent with healthy aquatic ecosystems; and maintain algae biomass at levels that do not produce toxins that pose a threat to human or ecosystem health. For full story, click here.

National Wildlife Federation to Sue Pipeline Safety Administration to Protect Communities, Wildlife from Oil Spill in the Great Lakes

By Jordan Lubetkin – The National Wildlife Federation – February 22, 2016
The National Wildlife Federation today officially sent a notice of intent to sue the federal agency largely responsible for overseeing oil pipeline safety. The notice asserts that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) had no authority to authorize the transport of oil through pipelines that run through the Straits of Mackinac and navigable waters in Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. PHMSA also incorrectly authorized the transport of oil through pipelines on land without assessing the impacts on the environment, fish, and wildlife, including the impacts on endangered and threatened species, such as the Piping Plover and Kirtland’s Warbler. For full article, click here.

EPA Again Postpones Enbridge Fine for 2010 Kalamazoo River Spill

By David Hasemyer – InsideClimate News – February 19, 2016
Negotiations between Enbridge Inc. and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been extended again over a fine that could exceed $100 million for violations under the Clean Water Act in the pipeline operator’s 2010 Kalamazoo River disaster. The spill of highly toxic tar sands oil fouled a 40-mile stretch of the river in Michigan. It was the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history and resulted in a massive cleanup that kept the river closed for nearly two years. The cleanup has cost the company more than $1.2 billion. In addition, Enbridge has already been assessed almost $83 million in penalties by other state and federal authorities. For full story, click here.

Levees among possible cause of more frequent flooding

By Jim Salter, Associated Press – Las Vegas Sun – January 4, 2016
The Mississippi River floods more often than it used to, and at higher levels. Richard Knaup thinks he knows why. The veteran emergency management director for southeast Missouri's Cape Girardeau County is fighting floods again, just as he did last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. "Prior to levee building, the river was a wild thing and it spread out between the river bluffs," Knaup said Monday. "Now we've tried to tame it. Mother Nature and Old Man River will fight back." The rains that caused this winter's flood, blamed already for 25 deaths and damage to hundreds of homes and businesses, ended a week ago, but the water was still rising Monday in southern Missouri and Illinois. For full story, click here.

Southern states brace for flooding as overflowing Midwest rivers recede

Reuters – January 1, 2016
Overflowing rivers were receding in Missouri and Illinois on Friday after flooding swamped communities and forced towns to evacuate, with forecasters warning that rain-swollen waterways flowing downstream could menace Southern states. At least 28 people have died in the U.S. Midwest since the weekend in rare winter floods, mostly when driving into flooded areas after storms dropped up to 12 inches (30 cm) of rain, officials said. Flooding in the Midwest usually comes in the spring as snowmelt swells rivers. Dozens died in U.S. storms that were part of a wild worldwide weather system over the Christmas holiday period which has also brought heavy floods and storms to Britain. For full story, click here.

Minnesota loons remain under close watch in their migration to Gulf of Mexico

By C. B. Bylaner – Star Tribune – October 29, 2015
Just what impact the Deepwater Horizon oil spill will have on the loon population is unknown. Minnesota’s loons have begun to migrate south, and as they do scientists and citizens are tracking migration routes and wintering locations with pinpoint precision. New satellite telemetry research has surprisingly shown that three Minnesota loons have spent much of the past year in the Atlantic Ocean near or north of Nova Scotia. In addition, some birds even tell wildlife biologists how deep and often they dive, which is up to 150 feet deep in the south end of Lake Michigan. For full story, click here.

Wildlife federation files suit over pipeline spills

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue – Deseret News – October 8, 2015
The National Wildlife Federation announced Thursday it is suing the federal government over its failure to ensure adequate regulatory oversight of the nation's oil pipelines. “We hope today’s action will be a catalyst for long-overdue protections that benefit people, communities and wildlife,” said Mike Shriberg, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. “The federal government needs to enforce the law to prevent oil pipeline disasters from fouling our water and threatening our communities and iconic places.” For full story, click here.

BP Settlement in Gulf Oil Spill Is Raised to $20.8 Billion

By Coral Davenport and John Schwartz – The New York Times – October 5, 2015
The Justice Department on Monday announced a final settlement with the oil giant BP of $20.8 billion for its role in the disastrous 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, raising the total from the initial $18.7 billion settlement announced in July. At either amount, it is the largest environmental settlement — and the largest civil settlement with any single entity — in the nation’s history. The United States attorney general, Loretta Lynch, called the filing of the final settlement “a major step forward in our effort to deliver justice to the gulf region in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy — the largest environmental disaster our nation has ever endured.” For full story, click here.

NWF to Sue DOT over Oil Pipeline Oversight Failures

By Jordan Lubetkin –  National Wildlife Federation – July 28, 2015
The National Wildlife Federation today filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S Department of Transportation for the agency’s failure for more than 20 years to protect people, fish, wildlife, and communities from oil pipelines in the nation’s inland waters, from the Great Lakes to the Yellowstone River. The legal action carries nationwide implications: Due to the agency’s decades-long oversight failures, every U.S. oil pipeline that intersects a navigable water is operating illegally. The National Wildlife Federation is asking the U.S. Department of Transportation to abide by the law, issue regulations for oil pipelines in water, and require every owner and operator of an oil pipeline in a navigable water to submit a safety response plan that needs to be approved.  For full article, click here.

Wildfires In Canada And Alaska Drive Thousands From Homes

By Nathan Rott - npr - July 11, 2015
"Extreme." "Unprecedented." "Historic." Those are just a few of the words being used to describe the start of this year's fire season in North America. The wildfires are centered in the northwest of the continent, but their consequences are far-reaching. Thick smoke has blanketed parts of Wisconsin and North Dakota. It's triggered air alerts in Minnesota and Montana and muddied skies as far south as Tennessee and Colorado. For full story, click here.

BP could get billions in tax breaks on oil spill settlement

By Jennifer Larino  – - The Times-Picayume – July 8, 2015
Last Thursday (July 2), states attorneys general in Louisiana and four other Gulf Coast states celebrated an $18.7 billion settlement with BP over claims from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. A report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group says the true value of the deal could be far lower after BP files its  Federal tax law prevents companies from deducting penalties paid for breaking the law from their corporate taxes. But damage payments -- such as money paid for coastal restoration -- can be treated as a business expense. For full story, click here.

LA: St. Bernard accepts about $9.3 million settlement with BP

By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch – Times-Picayune – July 7, 2015
St. Bernard Parish agreed Tuesday evening (July 7) to accept a $9.3 million settlement from BP for the parish's economic losses stemming from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Parish Council passed the resolution approving the $9,326,805.85 settlement after a private, closed-door meeting. It would be its portion of as much as $1 billion that BP is setting aside for more than 400 local governments. For full story, click here.

Major Midwest flood risk underestimated by as much as five feet, study finds

By Gerry Everding – – June 30,015
As floodwaters surge along major rivers in the midwestern United States, a new study from Washington University in St. Louis suggests federal agencies are underestimating historic 100-year flood levels on these rivers by as much as five feet, a miscalculation that has serious implications for future flood risks, flood insurance and business development in an expanding floodplain. For full story, click here.

FEMA to Review All Flood Damage Claims From Hurricane Sandy

By David W. Chen – The New York Times – March 12, 2015
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to review every flood insurance claim filed by homeowners affected by Hurricane Sandy, amid accusations that damage assessment reports were fraudulently altered to minimize claims. The agency’s administrator, W. Craig Fugate, also revealed in a letter to members of the New York and New Jersey congressional delegations that David Miller, who was in charge of FEMA’s embattled National Flood Insurance Program, has resigned and one of his top deputies has retired. For full story, click here.

BP Labors to Cast Doubt on Gulf Spill Study It Dislikes

By Bryan Gruley and Bradley Olson – Bloomberg Business – March 11, 2015
BP Plc has apologized again and again for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Lately the company has been sounding less remorseful. Take a look at “The Whole Story.” It’s a web page operated by the London-based company that regularly addresses what BP calls “misinformation” about the region’s recovery and legal issues surrounding the 130 million-gallon (500 million-liter) spill, the largest in U.S. history. For full story, click here.

Gulf of Mexico Turns Deadly for Dolphins

By Rachel Nuwer – The New York Times – March 2, 2015
Dolphins are dying in great numbers in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Since February 2010, 1,308 dead or dying marine mammals — mostly bottlenose dolphins, including juveniles or aborted fetuses — have washed ashore on beaches and wetlands from Texas to Florida, or have been discovered floating in the Gulf’s murky waters. In some months, the numbers of stranded dolphins in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have exceeded past averages by three and a half to four times. In Louisiana, the 2010 and 2011 figures were the highest ever recorded. A scientific explanation has so far proved elusive. “The Gulf is not a controlled laboratory where you can have a perfectly pathogen-free animal and expose it to one agent and measure the effect,” said Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson, director of the translational medicine and research program at the National Marine Mammal Foundation. For full story, click here.

Federal judge rejects BP bid to lower oil spill fine

By Jennifer Larino – Times-Picayune – February 19, 2015
A federal judge in New Orleans has rejected BP's effort to cap its fines from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill at $9.57 billion, nearly one-third lower than the penalty federal prosecutors are seeking. The court has not yet ruled how much the British oil giant will pay for the disaster. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ruled Thursday (Feb. 19) that BP could pay a maximum civil penalty of up to $4,300 for each barrel of oil spilled. The fines apply under the Clean Water Act, the federal law governing water pollution.The ruling means BP continues to face up to $13.7 billion in civil fines for the oil spill. For full story, click here.

BP oil spill altered soil microbes on gulf beach

By Geoffrey Mohan – Los Angeles Times – February 19, 2015
Microbes in beach sand apparently gobbled up a lot of oil washed ashore from the 2010 BP oil spill, but that assault altered the microbial population, leaving it less functionally diverse, according to a new study. Among the declines from the oil inundation was the ability to make nutrients such as nitrogen available to other life forms, according to Georgia Tech environmental microbiologist Konstantinidis Konstantinos, co-author of the study published online Tuesday in the ISME Journal.“One of the key groups that we saw disappearing, from the oil, was these nitrogen fixers," Konstantinos said. "That’s a concern because it supports the rest of the system.” For full story, click here.

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