Scientists seek new ways to combat Florida’s growing ‘red tide’


Scientists seek new ways to combat Florida’s growing ‘red tide’

By Steve Gorman,    Reuters        August 16, 2018

Judge orders new federal review of Keystone XL pipeline – WBEN

Judge orders new federal review of Keystone XL pipeline

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered the U.S. State Department to conduct a more thorough review of the Keystone XL pipeline’s proposed pathway after Nebraska state regulators changed the route, raising the possibility of further delays to a project first proposed in 2008.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris of Montana said in a ruling Wednesday that the State Department must supplement its 2014 environmental impact study of the project to consider the new route. Morris declined to strike down the federal permit for the project, approved by President Donald Trump in March 2017.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission rejected pipeline developer TransCanada’s preferred route in November 2017, but approved a different pathway that stretches farther to the east. The “mainline alternative” route is five miles longer than the company’s preferred route, cuts through six different Nebraska counties and runs parallel to an existing TransCanada-owned pipeline for 89 miles.

State Department officials “have yet to analyze the mainline alternative route,” Morris wrote in his ruling. The State Department has “the obligation to analyze new information relevant to the environmental impacts of its decision.”

Last month, the State Department declared the pipeline would not have a major impact on Nebraska’s water, land or wildlife. The report said the company could mitigate any damage caused.

It’s not clear whether the additional review will delay the 1,184-mile project. TransCanada spokesman Matthew John said company officials are reviewing the judge’s decision.

Environmentalists, Native American tribes and a coalition of landowners have prevented the company from moving ahead with construction. In addition to the federal lawsuit in Montana that seeks to halt the project, opponents also have a lawsuit pending before the Nebraska Supreme Court. Oral arguments in the Nebraska case aren’t expected until October.

Critics of the project have raised concerns about spills that could contaminate groundwater and the property rights of affected landowners.

Pipeline opponents cheered the decision and said they were confident that the courts would find other violations of federal law raised in the lawsuit.

“We are pleased that Judge Morris has rejected all of the excuses raised by the Trump administration and TransCanada in attempting to justify the federal government’s failure to address TransCanada’s new route through Nebraska,” said Stephan Volker, an attorney for the environmental and Native American groups that filed the Montana lawsuit.

A State Department spokesman said the agency was still reviewing the judge’s order but declined to offer additional comments.

The pipeline would carry up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Canada through Montana and South Dakota to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect with the original Keystone pipeline that runs down to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

The State Department’s new report noted two major spills in South Dakota involving the original Keystone pipeline, which went into operation in 2010, but added that TransCanada has a lower overall spill rate than average in the oil pipeline industry.

Associated Press reporter Matthew Lee contributed from Washington.

Can Aquaculture Survive Without Forage Fish?

Civil Eats

Can Aquaculture Survive Without Forage Fish?

Humans eat huge amounts of farmed fish. Farmed fish eat huge amounts of smaller fish. A new study explores this unsustainable cycle, and offers a path forward.

By Meg Wilcox, Environment, Farming, Seafood    August 16, 2018


Aquaculture is booming. Today, worldwide, we consume more farmed fish than wild-caught species. Think about it: How often do shoppers buy the more expensive wild-caught salmon over the farm-raised, and how often do they even get that choice?

This global trend is taking a toll on the wild fish populations that are harvested to feed farmed fish. A new study in Nature Sustainability shows that, by 2037, aquaculture demands could outstrip supply of so-called forage fish, or fish like anchovies and menhaden, which are often deemed too small for humans to eat. Although they’re rarely considered by most consumers, these species do feed the fish we eat (and livestock—pigs and poultry are large consumers of fish-based feeds), making them a vital link in marine ecosystems.

Despite the study’s dire conclusion, there is hope, say the authors. Feed reforms could allow for aquaculture’s continued growth as a source of critical protein on a hungry planet, while sustaining the forage species.

“Aquaculture is now the primary user of forage fish,” says lead author Halley Froehlich, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “But we wanted to step back and look at other sectors in the food industry, like pigs and poultry, to get some perspective on how these fish are being used, and what are the actual tangible mitigating measures that could avoid surpassing supply.”

A school of menhaden. (Photo CC-licensed by Icewall42)

A school of menhaden. (Photo CC-licensed by Icewall42)

Froehlich’s research was motivated, she says, by the bad rap aquaculture gets in marine conservation circles when it comes to forage fish use. The aquaculture industry faces additional challenges to operating in a long-term sustainable way, including concerns about antibiotics use and pollution, but Froehlich said she hoped to spur conversations about the measures that could be taken to, at least, improve the sustainability of aquaculture feed. Call it “ocean optimism.”

A Big Market for Small Fish

Forage fish account for a whopping one-third of the seafood caught globally. These tiny wonders feed on plankton, the original source of nutrient-rich omega-3 fatty acids, bio-accumulating that nutrient and serving as a protein source for the vast marine food chain.

Today, humans eat only about 5 percent of the forage fish we catch, in products such as canned sardines, anchovies, or fish oil pills. That number is down from the 15 percent globally we ate in 2000, partially due to the rise of aquaculture, which has made popular seafood such as salmon and shrimp more affordable for more people.

The vast majority of forage fish gets ground into fishmeal and oil that are used to feed farmed seafood and land-based livestock. Aquaculture currently uses about 70 percent of the fish meal that’s produced globally. Up until the 2000s, however, the poultry and hog industries were the largest users of fish meal.

Aquaculture’s fast growth—from some 15 million tons produced in 1990 to 80 million in 2016—has caused the price of fish meal to rise, and poultry and hog producers have begun to substitute it with cheaper protein sources like soy. But they still use 25 percent of fish meal globally.

Economics are also driving the aquaculture industry to search for alternative feeds. “Ten years ago, when fish meal was inexpensive, it made up a large part of the diet. It was a perfect blend of the fishes’ nutrient needs. But now, you’re seeing diets that are blended from plant-based protein like soy, corn, canola, and pea proteins, and the percentage of fish meal is going down,” says Michael Rust, science advisor to NOAA’s Aquaculture Program, who was not involved in the study.

A land-based aquaculture pen. (Photo CC-licensed by Bytemarks)

A land-based aquaculture pen. (Photo CC-licensed by Bytemarks)

Wheat and soy are the largest ingredient in fish feed today, according to Froehlich. Other shifts are occurring as well. The trimmings, (e.g., heads, tails, guts), from fish landed for human consumption are becoming an increasingly larger proportion of the fish meal fed to farmed fish, says Rust, who is optimistic that the market can help find creative ways to keep aquaculture growing. “The bottom line is that there are solutions,” he says.

Around two-thirds of fish meal now includes trimmings, says Rust, who cites the Norwegian salmon industry, where the vast majority of the byproducts from the salmon go back into the fishmeal. “If you get to the point where your diet only contains 5 to 10 percent fish meal, that fish actually create all the fishmeal it needs for the next generation through trimmings,” he says.

Froehlich’s research findings suggest that less fish byproducts are actually going into fishmeal worldwide. “China is a big question mark,” she says, because data were not available for its use of byproducts in fish meal.

While Froehlich agrees that economics are driving down the use of forage fish in aquaculture feed, her model projects that, without rapid transition to more sustainable feed alternatives, the ecological limits of these small silvery fish could be surpassed in less than 20 years.

Moreover, factors such as climate change could impact wild-caught fish population dynamics in ways that no one can predict. And conservation-based catch limits for forage fish could be tightened to leave more prey in the water for larger species, leaving less for aquaculture. Then there’s the omega-3 consumer craze, and the ever-growing preference for healthier, fish-based diets, not to mention the 2 billion more people who are projected to live on the planet by mid-century.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty about the future,” says Froehlich. “Let’s capture that uncertainty, which our model tries to do, [and use it to help us] make better, conscious, adaptive decisions across different sectors.”

Modeling different scenarios, Froehlich says her research found that forage fish populations could survive longer if we stop feeding them to “the things that don’t necessarily require it, like carp,” and that applies to poultry and pigs as well.

Fishing for Alternatives

Feeding less fishmeal to carp and other fishes that are not carnivorous turns out to be the single best way to ensure the long-term sustainability of forage fish, according to Froelich’s research. Carp is the top farm-raised fish and is mostly cultivated in Southeast Asia. While carp feed typically contains a tiny fraction of fishmeal, the sheer volume of the fish that is produced makes it the single largest user of forage fish in the aquaculture industry.

Some companies are innovating alternative feeds for carp, spurred in part by the Future of Fish Feed (F3), a collaborative global effort among NGOs, researchers, and companies that holds worldwide competitions to innovate seafood-free feeds. Chinese company Guangdong Evergreen Feed Industry Co. won the first challenge last year, and earned $200,000 by becoming the first company to produce and sell 100,000 metric tons of seafood-free feed.

Such feeds can include ingredients like fly larvaealgae, and bacteria and yeasts. Single-celled bacteria and yeasts can also be easier for fish to digest than soy-based feeds, according to Michael Tlusty, an associate professor of Sustainability and Food Solutions at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and one of the challenge’s judges.

F3 is in the midst of a new challenge to spur production of an alternative oil, not made from fish, that is rich with omega-3 fatty acids, an essential ingredient in fishes’ diets. Oils will globally be the more limiting factor in developing alternative feeds, according to Tlusty. Some of these alternatives may involve genetic modification of yeasts or bacteria, which are also a cause for concern among some advocates and consumers who want to avoid GMO products and byproducts.

While innovative new feeds are starting to come on line, Tlusty says, “we can do these things in small batches. But how do you scale them up and out into an industry that doesn’t have a lot of money for expensive solutions?”

An aquaculture pen off the coast of Maine. (Photo by NOAA

An aquaculture pen off the coast of Maine. (Photo by NOAA

Beyond changing what carp eat, the second-best solution researchers found was to stop feeding fishmeal to piglets. Froehlich says, “it doesn’t look like there’s any big push in the pig or poultry sector to reduce fishmeal other than the cost factor.” But she thinks that feed companies, such as Cargill, could be a good leverage point for making this shift.

Another proposed solution is to eliminate farmed fish entirely, with some advocating for eating forage fish directly, and recent research estimating that 90 percent could be directly eaten by humans. That alone is not a viable solution, however, say the study’s authors. In addition to the significant hurdle of changing consumers’ fish-eating habits, the authors point out that much of the current use of forage fish is driven by policies and processes that favor reducing these fish to meal and oil.

Rust agrees, noting, “A lot of forage fish are frankly not very good to eat. Menhaden, which is the primary fishmeal stock we harvest in the U.S., is horrible. That would only get us so far and would eventually become limiting as well.”

While the solutions explored by the researchers begin to address one of the challenges that aquaculture faces, there are a number of long-standing concerns that policymakers and environmental groups continue to raise about the sustainability of the industry. In addition to the potential use of genetically modified yeast as a food source, aquaculture—if done poorly—can be highly reliant on antibiotics and generate significant pollution, leading at least one group to dub the practice “factory fish farming.”

The aquaculture industry will have to find solutions for these challenges as well, if it is to continue on its current growth trajectory, and serve as a sustainable food option on a finite planet with a fast-growing population.

“We’re getting better at it, but it’s still not perfect,” says Tlusty. “It’s still a relatively new food production system. With all the people we’re putting on the earth, however, we need a portfolio of options available. Aquaculture and alternative proteins for aquaculture are going to be important. It’s one of the myriad solutions we need to be working on.”

Top photo: A fish farm off the coast of Greece. (Photo CC-licensed by Artur Rydzewski)

‘I worked for $2.46 an hour’: Struggling farmer slams supermarkets over milk prices during drought

Yahoo News

‘I worked for $2.46 an hour’: Struggling farmer slams supermarkets over milk prices during drought

Tom Flanagan,Yahoo 7 News        August 15, 2018 

A drought-stricken dairy farmer has made an emotional plea to Australia’s leading supermarkets for a fairer rate for his produce as he struggles to make ends meet.

Father of three Shane Hickey took to Facebook on Tuesday to say he was earning just $2.64 an hour in the last month as Australia’s east suffers from one of the worst droughts of the last 100 years.

“As you can tell its really dry at the minute, like it’s super, super dry,” the northern NSW farmer began.

While grateful for the widespread support farmers have received, he singled out Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and IGA for “screwing the arse off” the farming community.

Farmer Shane Hickey took to Facebook to reveal the dire situation he and other farmers find themselves in. Source: Facebook/ Shane Hickey

“I worked for $2.46 an hour. Now something’s got to change. You can’t keep this s*** up. People can’t expect farmers to continually work for nothing,” he said.

“That’s basically slavery”.

He said as the leading supermarkets “just keep on selling milk and cheese and everything else”, he was unsure where their stock will come from after his production was down 50 per cent from this time last year.

ACCC report says supermarket prices not to blame

Mr Hickey’s claims were a pressing matter in the Senate on Tuesday, with United Australia Party Senator Brian Burston urging for the government to force supermarkets to increase the price of milk from as little as $1 per litre during the drought period.

Yet Liberal Senator James McGrath reminded Senator Burston of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s recent dairy inquiry report stating costs of dairy products in supermarkets “had no direct relationship with farmgate prices received by farmers”.

Despite supermarkets retailing milk as cheap as $1 per liter, the ACCC report revealed they weren’t to blame for farmers struggling to make money. Source: Getty

“The ACCC noted that if supermarkets were to increase the price of milk, processors would still not pay farmers any more than they have to in securing milk and that the farmgate prices received by farmers would be unlikely to increase,” he said.

Labor Senator Anthony Chrisholm and Greens Senator Janet Rice agreed that increasing the shelf price of dairy products was not the short-term answer to help farmers.

The ACCC’s report into the dairy industry was published in April and instead identified the relationship between farmers and the processor, and the processor and retailers for the “imbalance in bargaining power at each level of the dairy supply chain”.

Supermarkets boast about donations to farmers

Inline with the ACCC’s findings, supermarkets have highlighted what they are doing to support farmers during their hardship instead of raising the cost of dairy products.

A Coles spokesperson told Yahoo7 News that they are full supportive of the farmers over the current conditions and have identified certain areas they believe they can help.

“Coles last month announced the Coles Nurture Fund would provide $5 million in grants and interest-free loans for farmers who have a project which will help them to combat drought,” the spokesperson said.

The drought affecting 100 per cent of NSW and substantial parts of Queensland is one of the worst to hit Australia in the last 100 years. Source: Getty

“Coles is also raising money in stores across the country for the CWA’s drought relief efforts, to provide more immediate assistance, and Coles is matching every donation dollar-for-dollar.”

Heartfelt note left for farmers struggling through drought

‘It means so much’: Donated feed delivered to farmer who faced shooting 1200 sheep

Drought heartbreak: Woman forced to put down family’s beloved horse

The spokesperson said the company has raised over $1.8 million in just over two weeks, but did not address the company’s dairy pricing policy.

Woolworths donated 100 per cent of profits from fresh food sales to the drought-stricken farmers from Saturday.

The drive follows Woolworths’ initial $1.5 million donation to the Buy a Bale campaign in July.

“We know there are many Australia farmers doing it tough with the drought and that’s why we’ve been working closely with Rural Aid to ensure more support can be provided to those impacted,” a Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo!7 News.

The spokesperson reiterated the price a dairy farmer receives for milk is out of the supermarket’s control.

An Aldi Australia spokesperson said their efforts to help farmers are ongoing.

“ALDI is supporting drought affected farmers on a community level through food donations and fundraising from our stores,” the spokesperson said.

“We have also committed to a fundraising partnership on a national level and will share further details on this in due course.”

Not All Organic Milk Is the Same; Here Are the Best Dairies


Modern Farmer

Not All Organic Milk Is the Same; Here Are the Best Dairies

By Dan Nosowitz     August 15, 2018

Ivan/Getty Images

There has been much concern in recent years about the encroachment of factory farms onto organic territory; with the premium prices organic foods can bring, many larger farms have engaged in a race to the bottom of quality, trying to just barely squeak above the organic regulations to grab that label without adhering to the spirit of the law.

The Cornucopia Institute, a watchdog group that monitors ethical agriculture in the U.S., issues periodic scorecards for organic producers. This week, they released their dairy scorecard.

All of the producers on the scorecard are certified USDA organic, and Cornucopia isn’t necessarily saying that any of these farms are breaking the rules of the organic seal. Instead, they’re rewarding the companies that go above and beyond the organic rules, which many have argued are far too lax. (Some farmers have gone so far as to create an entirely new, alternative label, so disgusted are they with the shape of organic regulation today.)

The Cornucopia scorecard rewards operations that feed cows more grass than grain, those that provide larger amounts of pasture per animal, whether the farm is owned by the farmer, whether the farm only produces organic milk (rather than a mix of organic and conventional), whether the farm was certified by a tougher agency, and operations that only milk cows once per day, among other factors. (You can out the full criteria at the bottom of this report.)

Smaller farms tend to fare better than large ones; Aurora and Horizon, two of the largest organic dairy producers in the country, both scored a big fat 0, meaning they do the bare minimum to get certified and don’t go beyond the letter of the law at all. But plenty of larger farms are rated highly, including Maple Hill Creamery, Stonyfield Farms and OrganicValley, all of which distribute nationwide.

Organic is not all equal; certainly, the regulations for organic are tougher than for conventional, but sometimes you might be presented with multiple organic options. Why not choose the option that really tries to do the right thing?

Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.


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Brazil’s Leading Food Retailer Goes Cage-Free

What Is Causing Florida’s Algae Crisis? 5 Questions Answered

What Is Causing Florida’s Algae Crisis? 5 Questions Answered

By Karl Havens      August 12, 2018

Editor’s note: Two large-scale algae outbreaks in Florida are killing fish and threatening public health. Along the southwest coast, one of the longest-lasting red tide outbreaks in the state’s history is affecting more than 100 miles of beaches. Meanwhile, discharges of polluted fresh water from Lake Okeechobee and polluted local runoff water from the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee watersheds have caused blooms of blue-green algae in downstream estuaries on both coasts. Karl Havens, a professor at the University of Florida and director of the Florida Sea Grant Program, explains what’s driving this two-pronged disaster.

What’s the difference between red tide and blue-green algae?

Both are photosynthetic microscopic organisms that live in water. Blue-green algae are properly called cyanobacteria. Some species of cyanobacteria occur in the ocean, but blooms—extremely high levels that create green surface scums of algae—happen mainly in lakes and rivers, where salinity is low.

What causes these blooms?

Blooms occur where lakes, rivers or near-shore waters have high concentrations of nutrients—in particular, nitrogen and phosphorus. Some lakes and rivers have naturally high nutrient concentrations. However, in Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, man-made nutrient pollution from their watersheds is causing the blooms. Very high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus are washing into the water from agricultural lands, leaky septic systems and fertilizer runoff.

Red tides form offshore, and it is not clear whether or to what extent they have become more frequent. When ocean currents carry a red tide to the shore it can intensify, especially where there are abundant nutrients to fuel algae growth. This year, after heavy spring rains and because of discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee, river runoff in southwest Florida brought a large amount of nutrients into near-shore waters of the Gulf of Mexico, which fueled the large red tide.

Algae is clearly visible in this satellite image of southwestern Lake Okeechobee, taken July 15.NASA Earth Observatory


The public health advisories about red tide are related to respiratory irritation, which is a particular concern for people with asthma or other respiratory issues. But almost anyone, including me, who has walked a beach where there is a red tide will quickly experience watering eyes, a runny nose and a scratchy throat. The algae that cause the red tide release a toxic chemical into the water that is easily transported into the air where waves break on the shore.

Some people are allergic to cyanobacteria blooms and can have contact dermatitis (skin rash) on exposure. Several of my colleagues have developed rashes after submerging their hands to collect water samples. It is not advisable to purposely contact water with a cyanobacteria bloom. And if farm animals or pets drink water with an intense bloom, they can become seriously ill or die.

Above video: The blooms are causing widespread fish kills and threatening Florida’s tourism industry.

How can states prepare for these events?

The onset of algae blooms is unpredictable. We know high levels of nutrients allow a lake or shoreline to have blooms. We even can predict with some certainty that a bloom is likely in a particular summer—for example, if in the preceding spring heavy rainfall and runoff from the land delivered large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus into the water.

But we can’t predict exactly when a bloom will begin and end, because that depends on things we can’t project. Why did the cyanobacteria bloom start in Lake Okeechobee this summer? Perhaps because there were several successive hot sunny days with little cloud cover and little wind. For some lakes in Florida and many others across the nation, we have loaded the surrounding land with so much phosphorus and nitrogen from agricultural and urban runoff that all it takes is the right weather to trigger a bloom: A rainy spring and then a few perfect sunny days in summer.

We cannot control the weather, but we can control nutrient pollution, both by reducing it at its sources and by capturing and treating water running off of large land areas. Florida has many such projects under way as part of the greater Everglades restoration efforts, but they will take decades to complete.

Nutrient pollution sources include decaying organic material; fertilizers applied to crops, lawns and golf courses; manure from fields or feedlots; atmospheric deposition; groundwater discharge; and municipal wastewater discharge.USGSOne key aspect of rehabilitating polluted lakes, rivers and estuaries is knowing whether actions are having a positive effect. This requires long-term environmental monitoring programs, which unfortunately have been scaled back in Florida and many other states due to budget cuts.

Carefully designed monitoring could help us understand factors affecting the kind of blooms that occur and what triggers them to start and stop at particular times, and provide guidance on nutrient control strategies. We are not monitoring at that level now in Florida.

Is climate change influencing the size or frequency of these outbreaks?

Scientists have clearly shown that there is a positive and synergistic relationship between water temperature, nutrients and algal blooms. In a warmer future, with the same level of nutrient pollution, blooms will become harder if not impossible to control. This means that it is urgent to control nutrient inputs to lakes, rivers and estuaries now.

Unfortunately, today the federal government is relaxing environmental regulations in the name of fostering increased development and job creation. But conservation and economic growth are not incompatible. In Florida, a healthy economy depends strongly on a healthy environment, including clean surface waters without these harmful blooms.

Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.

America Burns From Climate Change While Trump Officials Attend Climate Denial Conference

Oil Change International

America Burns From Climate Change While Trump Officials Attend Climate Denial Conference

By Andy Rowell         August 13, 2018

The Ferguson Fire burns in the Sierra National Forest and Yosemite National Park on Aug. 10. Pacific Southwest Region 5 / CC BY 2.0

The disconnect could not be greater. As wildfires raged across the U.S. last week, inflamed by climate changeTrump officials attended the America First Energy Conference, where delegates heard age-old fossil fuelarguments that, amongst others, carbon dioxide makes the planet greener and could not be creating a climate crisis.

The conference comes after an unprecedented heat wave in the Northern hemisphere. Scientists are warning that this summer’s heatwave is caused by climate change, which in turn has caused unprecedented temperatures and wildfires in Canada, Greece, Sweden and the U.S. Indeed this summer’s heatwave was made more than twice as likely by climate change, according to a rapid assessment by scientists.

Some scientists are even warning that we are descending into “hothouse earth,” where a series of positive feedback mechanisms could trigger even more extreme warming.

A record number of Americans now believe that humans are causing climate change, too. The latest survey by the University of Michigan Muhlenberg College revealed that “a record 60% of Americans now think that global warming is happening and that humans are at least partially responsible for the rising temperatures.”

These high temperatures continue to cause massive wildfires with more than 100 major active blazes in the U.S. right now. Some 30,000 personnel are battling wildfires that have devastated more than 1.6 million acres (648,000 hectares) of land.

Meanwhile, the climate dinosaurs continue as if nothing is happening. They deny the science and evidence as the flames get ever closer.

The conference was organized by the leading climate denial think tank, Heartland Institute, which has been regurgitating the same climate denial old rubbish—what we now would now call “fake news”—for the last two decades. It has received significant funding from Exxon and the Koch brothers to do so.

But all their climate denial friends were there too, according to Reuters, including speakers from JunkScience, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, and the Center for Industrial Progress and officials from the U.S. Department of Interior and the White House.

The panels included sessions on “Carbon Taxes, Cap & Trade, and Other Bad Ideas,” “Fiduciary Malpractice: The Sustainable Investment Movement,” and “Why CO2 Emissions Are Not Creating a Climate Crisis.”

Another one of the ludicrous conspiracy theories peddled at the conference was “that the United Nations puts out fake science about climate change to control the global energy market.” Oh and they hate renewable energytoo, calling wind and solar energy “dumb.”

According to Reuters, the U.S. officials who attended included White House special assistant Brooke Rollins, Interior Department Assistant Secretary Joe Balash, and Jason Funes, an assistant in the office of external affairs at Interior. All “praised the administration’s moves to clear the way for oil industry activity.”

Tim Huelskamp, president and CEO of the Heartland Institute, closed the seminar by stating the person who had made the difference to the climate deniers was Donald Trump. “We have a president who has kept his promises,” he said. “It proves that one man can make a difference.” He called Trump “our last political chance at freedom.”

And in many ways he is right. Trump represents the last chance for the fossil fuel industry to wreck this planet. What they call freedom, we call wildfires. When they see freedom, we see sea level rise.

Huelskamp told Reuters, “The leftist claims about sea level rise are overblown, overstated or frankly just wrong.”

Ironically, the conference was held in New Orleans, which was once ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. As Reuters—not normally seen as left-wing conspiracy theorists—noted: “Evidence of sea level rise, however, is strewn across the state that hosted the conference.”

The panel speakers are so blinkered in their climate denial they do not notice what is happening right now. They may look, but they cannot see. On the speaker’s lectern was the strapline “freedom rising.” Maybe someone should have just written “sea level rising” instead.

A slimy environmental crisis roils Florida’s tight Senate race

    Washington Post
    A slimy environmental crisis roils Florida’s tight Senate Race
Bill Nelson, Rick Scott tangle over blame for the state’s toxic algae blooms.
Photo by Cristobal Herrera/EPA EFE/REX/Shutterstock (9760722E). Blue-Green Algae problem in South Florida. John Emery observes his canoe floating on an accumulation of blue-green algae at Prosperity Pointe, in the Caloosahatchee River’s mouth in Fort Myers, Florida, July 12, 2018.
An algae bloom has residents and government officials concerned, particularly after the 2016 algae bloom that impacted the environment and economies in the region.
In recent days, the U.S. Senate race in Florida has turned decidedly slimy.

Incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and his Republican challenger, Gov. Rick Scott, have taken turns blaming each other for the toxic blue-green algal blooms plaguing parts of the state, which have killed marine life, raised public health concerns and threatened the Sunshine State’s tourism industry. And even as they accuse each other of inaction, both the two-term governor and the three-term senator have scrambled to prove how dedicated they are to addressing the problem.

In a campaign season dominated by talk of immigration, trade tariffs, the Supreme Court and all things President Trump, the clash in Florida over an unfolding environmental disaster could prove a pivotal issue in one of the nation’s most closely watched Senate races this fall.

The state has wrestled with serious algal blooms before, including in 2016, when the toxic goop invaded waterways along Florida’s coast, forcing the governor to declare a state of emergency. Then, as now, the state’s largest freshwater body, Lake Okeechobee, was at risk of overflowing because of heavy rains. That led the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency charged with monitoring water levels, to open levees surrounding the lake and dump the water that had been polluted by runoff into rivers and estuaries that lead toward the ocean.

On Florida’s southeast coast, the result has been a gooey, smelly blue-green-brown algae that has closed businesses and sickened dozens of people. Along more than 100 miles of the southwest coast, meanwhile, a bout of red tide has killed thousands of sea animals, including dolphins, manatees and endangered sea turtles. Scientists are continuing to research the underlying causes.

The problem has become a focus in the contentious Senate contest as business owners have raised complaints and some families have been temporarily driven from their homes because of the foul smell.

The blame game hit the airwaves last week when Scott put out a television ad — titled “More waiting, more talk, more algae” — that criticized Nelson and the federal government for allowing discharges of tainted water from Lake Okeechobee that have led to ugly, smelly and potentially dangerous algal blooms in places including the state’s St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

“Washington politician Bill Nelson made a pledge 30 years ago to solve this problem,” Scott’s ad says. “But Nelson’s a talker, not a doer.” The ad concludes with Scott saying, “I don’t wait for Washington.”

Nelson hasn’t taken such criticism quietly. He has visited areas affected by the toxic gunk, which thrives when warm, nutrient-rich water combines with runoff from agricultural operations and other development, and he faults Scott for systematically dismantling the state’s capacity to head off environmental calamities during his eight years as governor.

Nelson also unveiled his own ad this week: “Florida’s algae bloom crisis is a man-made crisis, made by this man,” it says, as a picture of Scott flashes across the screen. “The water is murky, but the fact is clear. Rick Scott caused this problem.”

Frank Jackalone, director of the Sierra Club’s Florida chapter, said that although Scott is trying to shift the blame to Nelson, the governor is the one largely responsible for the crisis.

“The fact is, Rick Scott has had far more power to deal with these issues than Bill Nelson,” Jackalone said. “Bill Nelson has one vote in the U.S. Senate. Rick Scott is the governor of Florida and has had the power to enforce the Clean Water Act in the state. He could have enforced pollution regulations. Instead, he cut back funding, rolled back regulations, and eliminated a large part of his enforcement staff.”

During Scott’s tenure, budgets for environmental agencies have been sharply reduced. The budget of the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees water issues from Orlando to Key West, was cut. Many of the more than 400 workers who lost their jobs in the $700 million cut were scientists and engineers whose jobs were to monitor pollution levels and algal blooms. Scott also abolished the Department of Community Affairs, which oversaw development in the state.

Lauren Engel, communications director for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, noted that the blue-green algae is caused by pollution coming from Lake Okeechobee. Like Scott, she pointed to the fact that the Army Corps — a federal agency — is in charge of water released from the lake.

“Pollution buildup in Lake Okeechobee has been going on for decades,” Engel said Thursday, calling criticism that Scott’s environmental policies have allowed more pollution into the lake and made a bad situation worse “an unfair characterization.”

Blair Wickstrom, publisher of the Florida Sportsman, agreed that the problem stretches back at least a decade.

“It’s been going on since before Scott, but since he took office, there’s been a distinct rise in nutrients from Lake Okeechobee and an increase in algae blooms,” Wickstrom said. “This is not an act of God or not because we can’t handle the rain. It’s the lack of regulation at the state level.”

Researchers say they are hampered by a lack of information; Scott’s budget cuts have reduced the number of water-quality monitoring stations around the state as well as the frequency of water sampling. Scientists say the lack of data prevents them from figuring out what has caused these latest toxic algal blooms and providing the sort of early warning that could prompt officials to act sooner.

“It would be interesting to understand why this is happening, but we can’t do that with the data we have,” said Karl Havens, a University of Florida professor and director of Florida Sea Grant.

Last month, Scott declared a state of emergency for seven Florida counties, as he put it, “to help combat algal blooms caused by Lake Okeechobee water discharges from the Army Corps of Engineers.” He ordered the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to ramp up water-quality testing, set up a multimillion-dollar grant program aimed at helping pay for cleanups and directed state agencies to aid local businesses affected by the crisis.

For his part, Nelson has implored the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the potential health effects of the algal blooms. He also has proposed legislation seeking tax breaks for small businesses affected by the situation and to make more federal funding available to research the problem.

“The state relies heavily on tourism and outdoor recreation, the fishing industry, real estate and the availability of clean water, so toxic blooms will directly affect some of our most important economic and fiscal drivers,” said Florida TaxWatch President Dominic M. Calabro.

In Stuart, on the state’s east coast, Wickstrom closed his publication’s offices for two weeks in July because of the algal bloom. Employees complained of headaches, itchy eyes, nausea and other ailments.

“I was taking 10 Tums a day,” Wickstrom said. “I’m usually a zero-Tums guy.”

The bloom has somewhat dissipated this week, he said.

“It’s not so bad when it’s just green,” he said of the algae lurking outside his office on the St. Lucie River. “When the green turns to brown, that’s when the putrid smell gets to you.”

Lori Rozsa reported from Florida. She is a former staff writer for the Miami Herald and former bureau chief for People magazine. She is a frequent contributor to The Washington Post.

What If All the Worlds Ice Melted?


How would you adapt to a world without ice?

Follow What.If for more hypothetical scenarios.

What If All the World's Ice Melted?

How would you adapt to a world without ice?➡ Follow What.If for more hypothetical scenarios.

Posted by What.If on Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Florida Water Crisis

Rick Scott Is Not For Florida

August 7, 2018

The water is murky, but the truth is clear. Rick Scott is the man behind this man-made disaster.


The water is murky, but the truth is clear. Rick Scott is the man behind this man-made disaster.

Posted by Rick Scott Is Not For Florida on Tuesday, August 7, 2018