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2010 and Beyond!

Hello Greendistrict readers! Happy New Year to all!

It’s a good ten days into the new year and about time I return from extended holiday hiatus. I’m kicking off 2010 with a few adjustments to my blogging habits: nixing the daily Green Lines sustainability roundup, for starters. It’s just too time consuming to compile that stuff. Besides, truly compelling stories don’t appear everyday. Instead, I’m going to focus on writing more substantive blog posts and make the Green Lines roundup a weekly feature filled with the most noteworthy and new reporting of the previous seven days. To get started, here are a few stories that caught my eye:

CBS News reported on vulnerabilities in the nation’s food supply.

Finally someone wrote a story on the brewing battle over biodiesel made from trees – or lumber scraps, that is. The Washington Post had a piece today about complaints from the lumber industry that the congressionally induced boom in fuel made from “woody biomass” could put cabinet makers and other producers of “composite wood” products out of business.  The story, however, makes no mention of the growing environmental concerns. To learn why the federal Biomass Crop Assistance Program is a bad idea from a sustainability standpoint you have to go elsewhere.

The greening of the U.S. House of Representatives: “The House saved almost 75,000 pounds of waste from landfills and cut nearly 400,000 pounds of carbon emissions last year through a new program to make the chamber’s offices more energy efficient,” according to Roll Call.

Mountaintop removal mining is causing vast and permanent environmental destruction, exposing people to serious health consequences such as birth defects, and should be banned, according to a new study discussed in this story in The Guardian.

“A federal jury awarded more than $100 million to 10 workers who claimed they were injured in 2007 when a toxic substance was released at BP’s Texas City plant,” The New York Times reports. Company officials reportedly expressed outrage though it’s hard to say why they were surprised since federal investigators came to the same conclusion as the jury. The company spends more on its “Beyond Petroleum” ad campaign depicting itself as a “green corporation” than it will be shelling out to the injured workers, which seems another reason to take the executive exclamations with a grain of salt.

The White House “regulatory czar” is pushing to nix the E.P.A.’s plans for tougher rules on coal ash, according to this story in the Wall Street Journal.

Here’s a scary piece on India‘s water mafias.

Los Angeles Times has a travel piece on the “endangered paradise” of the  Maldives islands, which is expected to be underwater if the world continues to dither on global warming.

Book Report: I just finished reading “Bitter Chocolate, The Dark Side of The World’s Most Seductive Sweet” by Canadian journalist Carol Off. It’s a harrowing but fascinating and well-researched tale of human rights abuses in the cocoa fields where chocolate’s main ingredient is grown. But be warned: The stories of children working Ivory Coast in slave-like conditions  may dampen your appetite for chocolate, as it did mine – or at least for chocolate not stamped with a “fair trade” label.


Today’s Greenlines – Green(washed) Cuisine + Out with Lobbyists, In with Federal Regs

Georgetown "gifts" photo by M.V. Jantzen via the DCist

The DCist today takes on George Will’s climatological gaff and announces that Giant supermarkets will be giving away free reusable shopping bags come Jan. 1, when city law starts requiring retailers to charge 5 cents for each one of those old-school un-reusable bags.

The Washington Post blows the lid off falsely advertised “green” cuisine at Founding Farmers and discusses the fudge factor, so to speak, at other eateries that claim to serve sustainable fare.

Frozen Topics posts that the popular H Street Shuttle – which carries art, food and entertainment lovers between H Street NE and the Atlas District –  is shutting down due to a lack of funding.

In Maryland, environmental groups want the federal government to crack down on state environmental regulators, accusing them of going easy on water polluters.

On the “sustainability” front, the Urban Architect at Barry Farm (Re)Mixed has a sobering post about how her condo is “underwater” thanks to the real estate bust. Compounding the bad news, she also learned the city plans to one day redevelop her neighborhood and take her home by eminent domain, which means the government would “fairly” compensate her and her neighbors for their properties. The question she’d like answered is: “who decides what is ‘fair’?”

The Green Miles, AKA Miles Grant, was up early this morning to join Obama administration officials, pols and school kids at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington for the White House Clean Energy Economy Forum. He live-blogged from the event for the Daily Kos.

Sounds like a good idea – “A sweeping new White House policy aimed at ousting special interests from federal advisory panels might sweep registered lobbyists off some U.S. EPA advisory panels,” according to this story.

Speaking of the EPA, the agency is preparing new regulations that would require 600+ coal plants to clean up and possibly eliminate waste discharges into lakes, rivers and other waterbodies. Among the substances the EPA is concerned about is the nutrient selenium that can be harmful in too great a quantity.

Their loss, our gain? While victims of the horrendous 1984 industrial accident in Bhopal, India are still struggling to recover, force a cleanup and win reparations, the incident had a positive impact half a world away: it led to better regulation of industrial hazards in the United States, according to this story.