Excavating the News

Reading the torrent of news this week feels like fishing in a firehose. It’s difficult to pick out any but the biggest stories from the stream when every hour brings a new exposé from the NYT or WaPo, but as Sen. Schatz of Hawaii puts it:

I want to do a better job keeping track of the science and environmental attacks  “issues” going on around us, so I’m going to start putting together a roundup of the main science-related news stories from the week, focusing on the ones having to do with the current political situation, and posting summaries here. I won’t pretend to be comprehensive, but I will put funny stories from the NY DEC newsletter at the end in case the rest of the stories are too depressing.

DOI reviews National Monuments 

To start with, 45 in April ordered a review of National Monuments that could open public lands to mining, logging, and drilling. Twenty-seven national monuments are being targeted for elimination, including the recently established Bear Ears National Monument in Utah. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke traveled to Bear Ears last week on a “listening tour” (taking a break from the listening part to scold a native reporter for not being nice). The public comment period for the review runs until May 26th (this coming Friday) for comments about Bear Ears and until July 10th for comments on all other monuments. Comments can be submitted through regulations.gov.

Public data removed

Websites at the White House and federal agencies are removing or making harder to find data about everything from climate change to animal welfare, OSHA fines, and ethics waivers: “The Trump administration seems determined to utilize a larger version of Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility to cover the entire administration,” per a former special counsel for ethics under Pres. Obama. EPA and DOI pages about climate change have disappeared, though the city government of Chicago revived the EPA site. Other agencies have stopped publicizing data that was formerly readily available, like the White House visitor logs and what companies have received fines for workplace safety violations.

Pruitt-greenlit pesticide poisons farmworkers

More than 50 farmworkers in California were exposed to the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos, with public health officials warning anyone exposed to seek immediate medical attention. Strong scientific analysis including an exhaustive report from the EPA has linked chlorpyrifos to health risks including developmental delays in children. In March, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt reversed the EPA’s position and denied a petition to ban the pesticide, contradicting the agency’s own findings.

Science cuts hurt states that voted for 45

A news piece from Nature points out how proposed cuts to science and research hurt local economies in red states, in areas like fisheries research in the Gulf, agricultural science improving ranching in Colorado, and a pet Obama project, the Manufacturing USA network for developing advanced manufacturing technologies. I mean, cuts are going to hurt everybody, but good effort to drive the point home I guess.

Science Special Issue on human migration

This week’s Science is a special issue on human migration, with pieces on the history of migration, the many issues facing immigrants and refugees, and the role of immigrant talent in scientific discoveries in America.

NY State action on climate change

On Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo announced a new Methane Reduction Plan, which will cut methane emissions from the state’s agricultural, oil and gas, and landfill industries. The announcement specifically called out federal rollbacks of climate actions as the impetus for the plan. The initiative calls for increased maintenance and testing for oil and gas infrastructure, reductions in organic waste, and methane collection at landfills. The efforts will be implemented by 2020, as part of the state’s GHG emissions reductions goal of 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.

DOE anti-wind power study criticized by GOP Sen. Grassley

In case anyone else kind of forgot about Rick Perry and the fact that he is now Energy Secretary…In April, Secretary of Energy Perry ordered a study to be completed within 60  days to determine whether government support for wind and other renewable energy threatens the reliability of the nation’s power grid. Specifically, the extent to which “continued regulatory burdens, as well as mandates and tax and subsidy policies, are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.” Sen. Grassley, whose state of Iowa has the second most wind energy capacity in the nation, sent Perry a letter questioning the study as hastily done, redundant, and biased with predetermined views about wind energy.

And now, as a chaser, the best of this week’s news from the DEC:

“This Turkey was Hunting Coyotes? – Franklin County”

“On May 1, the opening day of spring turkey season, ECO Jim Cranker was on foot patrol in the town of Brighton when he heard a single gunshot ring out. ECO Cranker observed a hunter with a shotgun at the edge of a field, approached the man, and asked to see his hunting license. The subject did not possess a current turkey permit, denied hunting turkeys, and said he had taken a shot at a coyote that was stalking a flock of wild turkeys in the field. Despite being afield with a shotgun at 8 a.m., prime turkey hunting time, the hunter staunchly maintained he was hunting coyotes. However, coyote hunting season closed the end of March, which means shooting at coyotes is now prohibited. The hunter was issued a ticket for hunting coyotes out of season.”

“Distressed Loon – Cattaraugus County”

“On May 2, ECO Nate Mead received a call stating that a Common Loon had been found on a road in the town of East Otto. While en route to the area, ECO Mead contacted a local wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. The rehabilitator advised that loons sometimes confuse wet roadways with bodies of water and may have landed on the road by accident, thinking it was a pond. ECO Mead arrived to find that the Loon appeared to be perfectly healthy. ECO Mead took a towel and placed it over the bird to calm it down so he could transport it. After waiting several minutes, ECO Mead was able to pick up the bird and place it in a box. The Loon was transported to a local pond a short distance away and, once in the water, took off paddling and dove under the water.”

“Don’t Forget the Plug – Kings County”

“On May 4, ECOs Chris Macropoulos, Waldemar Auguscinski, Spencer Noyes, and Lucas Palmateer were on boat patrol in Jamaica Bay when they observed the U.S. Coast Guard assisting a vessel taking on water. The ECOs deployed a high flow water pump while USCG towed the vessel in an attempt to keep it afloat. However, as they pumped water out of the vessel, it filled up again. The ECOs inspected the bilge and discovered that the drain plug was not installed. ECO Macropoulos was able to plug the hole with his finger until USCG supplied him with a wooden dowel to close the drain hole. USCG then towed the vessel to a nearby boat ramp, where the owner’s friend was waiting with a trailer to haul the vessel out.”

All DEC items are from the DEC Conservation Daily Digest Bulletin. May all of us distressed loons be able to tell the difference between the ponds and the wet roadways of life.

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