National Park Service rescinds ban on plastic water bottles – a bad and dangerous policy for wildlife

Plastic pollution – such as shown here in the Grand Canyon prior to the plastic water ban – will likely now become a common scene again.

In what is clearly bowing to pressure from both our infamous, uh, illustrious national leader and lobbying (as with beaucoup dollars thrown at them or the federal agency that oversees it) by plastic bottle manufacturers, the National Park Service has announced it’s lifting the 6-year ban on the sale of plastic water bottles within national parks.

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Utility company’s bee hives and solar garden produces sweet results

Connexus Energy’s solar garden produces both renewable energy and honey!

As the prices drop for solar panels, solar has gained incredible popularity over the past few years. From home use to huge commercial arrays, solar has become a fixture in the American landscape for green energy.

Utility companies have jumped on the solar bandwagon. Solar is increasingly becoming a part of utility companies portfolio and strategic plan. Minnesota’s largest member-owned electric cooperative, Connexus Energy, has gone one further. It’s created a first-of-its-kind solar garden that not only produces energy but honey as well.

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FERC accused of failing to address pipelines’ impacts

South Texas faces the prospect of 3 of these offshore LNG terminals off its pristine, environmentally sensitive coast if FERC holds true to its history

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) – is (supposedly) an independent tasked with regulating the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil. According to its own website, it reviews proposals to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and interstate natural gas pipelines as well as licensing hydropower projects.

Among FERC’s responsibilities, it:

  • Ensures the safe operation and reliability of proposed and operating LNG terminals and
  • Oversees environmental matters related to natural gas and hydroelectricity projects and other matters

However, according to a news report, “the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has rejected only two pipelines over the last 30 years out of the hundreds proposed, according to an investigation that paints the regulatory body as particularly cozy with the industry it oversees.”

For anyone involved in managing statistics, the truth will out – numbers don’t lie.

“Between mid-2010 and 2016, large energy companies scheduled at least 93 meetings with FERC officials, compared with the 17 meetings scheduled with environmental and public-interest groups, according to emails and official calendars.”

Here in South Texas, we’re facing the possibility – more likely probability – of 3 offshore LNG terminals off the coast of Brownsville. FERC will be reviewing these applications & considering the public comments they’ve received before determining whether or not to approve these applications.

Approving them would spell disaster for pristine, environmentally sensitive ecosystems in the area and potentially put large numbers of people at risk, should there ever be a leak or explosion, which the industry is well-known for having.

But with such a dark, almost rubber stamping history to go by, it doesn’t seem like there’s much light at the end of this tunnel for the citizens of South Texas, or for the endangered species that call this area home.

Time will tell but we shouldn’t hold our breath, hoping that this self-proclaimed quasi judiciary agency will do the “right” thing. Do you suppose it would help to wish on a lucky star instead?

Online shopping is choking our landfills when we could recycle better

Last week’s news about Amazon purchasing Whole Foods has left consumers in a tizzy. On the one hand, it will make high quality food even more accessible. On the other hand, as is always the case, it presents new problems to be addressed.

One of these issues centers around the proliferation of shipping boxes. Americans love affair with online ordering has dramatically increased the amount of cardboard boxes making their way to our landfills.

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Roundup without Glyphosate? They have it, just not in the U.S.

Roundup and Monsanto have been taking some pretty hard hits from environmentalists, farmers, scientists and others because of the highly toxic main ingredient glyphosate. Even though the EPA, now being strong-armed by our current administration, never finalized its findings about the chemical’s toxicity, there’s plenty of evidence around the world that this is a seriously bad thing for the environment.

But there may be a small ray of hope out there.

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Bridging the Disconnect – Schoolkids Learn about Growing Food

Editor’s Note:  The following article was published in the March-April 2017 issue of AgMag magazine.

The Science Academy of South Texas has a secret – a garden where students learn about growing food

Growing up in the Rio Grande Valley used to mean being surrounded by citrus orchards and farmland. Today, residents are surrounded by strip malls, countless restaurants, pawn shops and automotive repair places, many reminiscent of junk yards.

“There’s a big disconnect between food producers and consumers,” said Brad Cowan, Texas A&M AgLife Extension Service‘s County Extension Agent – Agriculture, Hidalgo County.

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Compost – a Smart Way to Better Soil Health

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the December-January issue of AgMag magazine

Photo courtesy of normanack

Compost – a decaying mixture of organic matter that can include dead leaves, food waste, animal manure, even coffee grounds – is a solution to many soil-related problems.

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