Environment

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With a litany of alleged ethics controversies swirling at home, embattled Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt took the show on the road this week, meeting with farmers in a handful of Midwestern states to talk about his policy agenda.

While Thursday evening's meeting in Lincoln, Neb., was polite, the reception in other states has not been as welcoming, especially when it comes to conversations about his ethanol policies.

The Environmental Protection Agency intends to block an Obama-era proposal and effectively shield companies from scrutiny about how they prevent and respond to chemical disasters. At a hearing Thursday, agency officials got an earful from dozens of people who live and work near refineries and chemical facilities across the country.

McDonald's says it will start using paper straws instead of plastic at all its locations across the United Kingdom and Ireland. And it plans to test sustainable alternatives to plastic straws in some restaurants in the U.S. and elsewhere around the globe later this year.

The number of people graduating with nuclear engineering degrees has more than tripled since a low point in 2001, and many are passionate about their motivation.

"I'm here because I think I can save the world with nuclear power," Leslie Dewan told the crowd at a 2014 event as she pitched her company's design for a new kind of reactor.

The Fight Over Federal Land In The West

Jun 14, 2018

The federal government owns just under half of all the land in the West (check out the map and chart below for more). But a rollback is underway.

Earlier this year, the president reduced the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

Updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

Amid an unceasing series of revelations about alleged ethical misconduct, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is rapidly losing support with influential Republican lawmakers and conservatives who, until now, have strongly backed Pruitt and the pro-fossil fuel deregulatory agenda he's implemented.

Looking To History To Combat Wildfires

Jun 14, 2018

As at least half a dozen fires in Colorado force hundreds to evacuate, and have closed a national forest, some residents say they're shocked at how quickly the fire has spread. The speed of wildfires is actually something Colorado ecologists have been studying, and they say history may provide clues on how to slow it down.

Scientists have completed the most exhaustive assessment of changes in Antarctica's ice sheet to date. And they found that it's melting faster than they thought.

Ice losses totaling 3 trillion tonnes (or more than 3.3 trillion tons) since 1992 have caused global sea levels to rise by 7.6 mm, nearly one third of an inch, according to a study published in Nature on Wednesday.

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The San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado is closed to visitors on Tuesday because of a large wildfire and dry, warm conditions that raise the risk of further blazes. Forests are also closed in Arizona and New Mexico in areas that are suffering from a severe drought.

Evacuation orders are in effect, as Colorado Public Radio reports on the blaze known as the 416 Fire:

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In many parts of the developing world, tech entrepreneurs are trying to solve long-standing problems. We visit two of these places on this week's All Tech Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF ULRICH SCHNAUSS' "NOTHING HAPPENS IN JUNE")

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Now to Uganda's capital of Kampala. Like many African cities, gridlock prevails on the streets. Mass transit is inadequate. So boda bodas, or motorcycle taxis, are indispensable. They're also dangerous. NPR's Eyder Peralta looks at a company trying to change that.

Baobab trees — ancient, otherworldly behemoths with bulbous trunks that splinter into a constellation of spindly branches — are some of Africa's most iconic living things.

Until late last year, the Platland tree in South Africa, also known as Sunland, was their queen. It was the continent's biggest baobab, at 111 ft. around, 62 ft. high and more than 1,000 years old. It had a cavernous central hollow that hosted a fully functional cocktail bar with seating for 15 people.

There's more rain falling on some parts of the U.S. than there used to be, and many towns just aren't ready for the flooding that follows.

Ellicott City, Md., is one such community. Nestled in a valley west of Baltimore, the town was founded in 1772, and some Revolutionary War-era buildings still house businesses along the narrow main street in historic downtown. It also sits at the confluence of three streams.

Oil operations in Alaska are specially designed for freezing conditions. But as the climate changes, the state is warming twice as fast as the rest of the country. That poses a challenge for the oil industry, and a boon for Alaska businesses that are creating products to help it cope.

Brian Shumaker is one such entrepreneur who knows how tricky it can be to operate in the Arctic, where he once did some engineering work for oil companies.

In the 1960s, just about all of the beaches on Long Island Sound in Connecticut were off-limits to people of color. Then Ned Coll came along.

In his book, "Free the Beaches: The Story of Ned Coll and the Battle for America’s Most Exclusive Shoreline," historian Andrew Kahrl describes Coll’s creative protests to smash the color bar and open the beaches to all children wanting to cool off on hot days.

The human dilemma of climate change is front and center in Alaska.

The far north is warming much faster than the rest of the world, causing permafrost to melt and forcing coastal Alaskans to retreat from the sea. Yet, $9 out of every $10 in state coffers come from the North Slope production of petroleum, which accelerates climate disruption when it’s burned.

The most toxic town in America

Jun 9, 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency named Kotzebue, Alaska, the worst industrially polluted town in the United States earlier this year. The not-so-bragworthy distinction came from an annual EPA data set called the Toxics Release Inventory. 

No refuge for wildlife in some US wildlife refuges

Jun 9, 2018

A new report from the Center for Biological Diversity finds that chemical pesticides, totaling half a million pounds, are sprayed annually within some United States national wildlife refuges.

About 560 national wildlife refuges cover more than 150 million acres across the country, with some areas completely off-limits to humans and others open for hunting and fishing. But a number of national wildlife refuges also allow commercial agriculture, which exposes migrating birds and other wildlife in those refuges to yearly spraying of pesticides.

Downed power lines owned by utility giant Pacific Gas and Electric are being blamed for a dozen Northern California wildfires last fall. The findings by state officials could have a significant financial impact on PG&E.

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It was a close encounter in 2012 that made microbiologist John Jelesko take an interest in poison ivy.

Green Lake was gone in hours.

Lava from Kilauea volcano spilled across highways and into Hawaii's Green Lake — a major source of freshwater on Hawaii's Big Island — and evaporated all the water, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The flow created a huge plume of steam as it hit the lake Saturday on its way toward the ocean, according to Hawaii County Civil Defense agency.

Hurricanes are moving more slowly over both land and water, and that's bad news for communities in their path.

In the past 70 years, tropical cyclones around the world have slowed down 10 percent, and in some regions of the world, the change has been even more significant, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

That means storms are spending more time hanging out, battering buildings with wind and dropping more rain.

Around 80 sopping wet, black plastic bags lined the floor of an operating room in Thailand last week after they were pulled from the stomach of a whale found stranded on a beach.

A wide, slow-moving river of lava from Kilauea volcano has claimed hundreds of additional homes in the southeastern corner of Hawaii's Big Island, officials say, marking what could be the most destructive day of the now monthlong volcanic eruption.

Officials are still working to get an accurate count of damaged structures, but a flight by the U.S. Geological Survey shows blackened lava inundating a section of coastline that was once covered with lush forest and dotted by homes. The flow's forward edge is now pouring into the sea, filling the once-popular Kapoho Bay.

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