Welcome to the first edition of the Sustainability Reads of the Week in 2016. At the end of 2015 the focus (including our Reads) was on COP21 for the international climate change agreement. 2016 is off to a good start with the international community riding on the momentum from the conference’s achievements, but this week happens to bring quite a bit of environmental news from the local level that deserves attention:
A leak in a natural gas storage facility operated by Southern California Gas Company was discovered in October 2015. Over 1,600 complaints documenting health problems such as headaches and nosebleeds have been filed since, but local efforts to stop the leak have been insufficient and unsuccessful, prompting a state of emergency proclamation on January 6th, 2016. The proclamation from California’s governor authorizes state agencies to tackle the issue with a focus on stopping the leak; protecting public health and safety; ensuring accountability; and strengthening oversight. We hope the leak is contained soon and further prevention and containment procedures are put in place state-wide. For more information on this gas leak that is emitting methane at a rate of up to 110,000 pounds per hour, and problems associated with it, see the Grist article: California gas leak called the biggest disaster since BP.
This longform article covers the unsettling story of health problems caused by a chemical called PFOA in West Virginia and the inspiring story of the lawyer who took on DuPont to hold them accountable for its use and cover up. The case illustrates the potential health effects of the many unregulated chemicals in the U.S. and the big elephant-in-the-room flaw with environmental policy in the country. One of the most frustrating aspects is that an indirect, expensive, and drawn out process must take place in the judicial system for chemical pollution to be seriously taken up by the EPA. Nathaniel Rich at NY Times
Thousands of bottles of the stain remover,Varnish, litter the shores of Cornwall, England and leaking bottles threaten wildlife in the area. The bottles washed up from a shipping container that disappeared from a cargo ship in May and are quite a disturbing sight. Here is one pic from the On Earth article by Clara Chaisson: