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[1THING] Blog: Archive for May, 2016

[ Pittsburgh Considers Banning Wild-Animal Acts ]

Clowns and animal-rights advocates crowded Pittsburgh’s City Council chambers this week, speaking their minds about a proposed ban on wild-animal acts in the city. The ordinance, based on a similar law in San Francisco, would prohibit performances involving wild or exotic animals.

Kristen Tullo, Pennsylvania state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said many people have fond memories of going to the circus as children to see lions, monkeys and elephants perform.

“But we now have a lot more information,” she said, “We’re much wiser and better informed that the animals being used are being denied everything that’s natural and important to them.”

So far, no vote on the proposed ordinance has been scheduled. Opponents of the ban have emphasized the bonds between trainers and their animals, as well as the educational value of the performances. However, Tullo pointed out that, for wild animals, even traveling can be stressful and abusive.

“Animals are caged and chained in boxcars and trailers, and they’re really forced to endure months of grueling travel,” she said, “and, of course, they’re bullied to perform these tricks.”

She said some trainers have been injured or killed by their animals, and that if an enraged animal breaks free, it can pose a very real threat to the public. A number of traveling circuses still feature wild-animal acts, but Tullo noted that public attitudes are changing and a growing number of communities are considering ending them.

“There are almost 60 U.S. municipalities that have passed legislation prohibiting either the use of bullhooks to train the animals or banned wild animals altogether,” she said.

Similar statewide laws have been introduced in New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and California.

The proposed ordinance is online at pittsburgh.legistar.com.

-Andrea Sears, Keystone State News Connection


[ Major Toxic Substances Control Bill Clears House ]

A bill to significantly strengthen the Toxic Substances Control Act should soon be law across the country.

The 1976 law made it almost impossible to evaluate the safety and control the use of the more than 80,000 chemicals sold in the United States.

In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency has adequately tested only about 200.

Eve Gartner, an attorney at Earthjustice, says the reforms that passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday will be a huge improvement.

“EPA now has much broader authority to require the testing of those chemicals, and then to actually regulate those chemicals if it concludes that they pose risks,” she states.

The bill passed the House with only 12 dissenting votes and is expected to get unanimous approval in the Senate. President Barack Obama has said he will sign it into law.

Until now, the rule making process to test a single chemical could take up to five years. Gartner points out that the EPA spent 10 years fighting to ban asbestos, only to be turned back by the courts.

“And after that, EPA essentially gave up and said if we can’t even ban asbestos, a known toxin, and if the courts aren’t going to give us deference that this chemical should be banned, we just can’t use this statute,” Gartner relates.

The reform bill, a compromise between House and Senate versions, requires the EPA to test 10 chemicals a year, expanding to 20 as protocols are established.

That a bill expanding the authority of the EPA to regulate chemicals passed with so little opposition in a sharply divided Congress may seem remarkable.

But Gartner notes that everyone, from consumers to the chemical industry itself, has a stake in making the bill law.

“We hear day in and day out of the dangers of BPA (Bisphonol A), the dangers of phthalates, the dangers of flame retardants, and those are real,” she points out. “The chemical industry wants EPA to have the power to say that a chemical is either safe or not safe.”

The bill also will require a safety review before new chemicals are allowed on the market.

-Andrea Sears, Keystone State News Connection


[ The Federal Coal Program, Then and Now ]

May 27, 2016

The Federal Coal Program, Then and Now (CO)



[ The Federal Coal Program, Then and Now ]

May 27, 2016

The Federal Coal Program, Then and Now (DC)



[ How climate change affects the monarch butterfly, and what we can do about it ]

An iconic American species is on the brink of extinction, but it’s not too late to reverse course.


[ Get Outdoors During Hiking Week ]

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has teamed with the Keystone Trails Association (KTA) to offer nearly 100 organized hikes and walks available throughout Pennsylvania during Hiking Week, a nine-day event happening from Saturday, May 28, 2016 through Sunday, June 05, 2016.  All of the scheduled hikes have leaders. Most hikes are on the two weekends of the event, but several weekday and evening hikes also are offered. Special hikes include night hikes; wildflower walks; hikes for people with disabilities; pet walks; geology walks and much more.  Most hikes will take place in state parks and state forests, with some hikes scheduled on the Appalachian Trail, in Allegheny National Forest, and in city and community parks.

View Hiking Week Events


[ Floating solar panels are a perfect fit for drought-stricken states. Here’s why. ]

This innovation is a win-win for dry and sunny states that need clean energy and ways to cope with severe droughts.


[ Lawsuit Seeks to Silence Fracking Opponents ]

The future of a lawsuit seeking damages from opponents of gas drilling near their homes and schools is in the hands of a judge.

The lawsuit, filed by gas leaseholders and a developer, seeks more than $500,000 from homeowners and environmentalists who are challenging a zoning ordinance that opens most of Mars Township to fracking. The leaseholders have said they’re being deprived of the right to sell what’s under their property. But Vic Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said the lawsuit is really meant to intimidate people exercising their rights.

“Under the First Amendment,” he said, “you simply cannot be sued or in any way punished for engaging in these time-honored political and legal activities.”

A motion to dismiss the leaseholders’ lawsuit was heard at the Butler County Courthouse late last week and the judge now is considering the arguments in the case.

Walczak called the leaseholders’ complaint a SLAPP suit, which stands for strategic lawsuit against public participation. He said developers commonly file SLAPP suits — not to win, but to harass those who oppose their plans.

“It has a tremendous chilling effect on people’s willingness to participate in the political process,” he said, “and so it’s a way of attacking your opposition and minimizing any kind of dissent.”

Drilling already has begun at a well pad within 1,000 feet of homes, and about half a mile from district schools.

Walczak said the homeowners’ concerns are well founded, as the recent explosion at a gas well in nearby Salem Township made very clear.

“If that same explosion had occurred at the Geyer well,” he said, “it would have incinerated the homes where these folks live and caused some serious problems at the school.”

A similar lawsuit was dismissed in October. The current suit is an amended version of that previous complaint.

-Andrea Sears, Keystone State News Connection


[ Map shows the wildest land linking protected areas of the U.S. ]


[ Why a safer, healthier world is at hand ]

As Congress gets ready to pass a historic chemical safety bill, EDF Executive Director Diane Regas reflects on the birth of her first grandchild, and on raising three boys while trying to rid the United States of dangerous toxins.