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Thursday, Jul 31st

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Big mammals vs. big oil: New pipeline puts humpback whales at risk

humpback whaleIn a deep fjord in British Columbia called the Douglas Channel, where the Kitimat River pours runs of Chinook salmon into the Pacific Ocean, fishermen see singing humpback whales fling themselves into the air.

These barnacled, 40-ton whales with long, ridged flippers were harpooned to the brink of extinction in the 1900s. Only through intense conservation efforts have they found safety in ancient migration routes. Mothers birth a single calf in tropical seas and fast for months as it nurses, before migrating thousands of miles up to the North Pacific. There, in enclaves like the Douglas Channel — a critical feeding ground — the whales nourish themselves on krill.

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10,000 gallons of oil spill onto L.A. streets

oil spill LAMore than 10,000 gallons of oil spilled from a burst pipeline in the West Glendale area of Los Angeles on Thursday, spewing crude over a half-mile area, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.

In some areas the oil was knee deep, fire department spokesman Jaime Moore said

A "handful" of businesses including a nightclub were affected. The leak from a 20-inch pipe on West San Fernando Road was reported just after 1 a.m. local time. Four people at a medical business were evaluated with respiratory complaints, and two people were transferred to a hospital, Moore said.

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Only a fraction of Ohio fracking wastes to undergo regulation

fracking wastesOhio annually processes thousands of tons of radioactive waste from hydraulic-fracturing, sending it through treatment facilities, injecting it into its old and unused gas wells and dumping it in landfills. Historically, the handling and disposal of that waste was barely regulated, with few requirements for how its potential contamination would be gauged, or how and where it could be transported and stored.

With the business of fracking waste only growing, legislators in 2013 had the chance to decide how best to monitor the state's vast amounts of toxic material, much of it being trucked into Ohio from neighboring states.

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Charges brought in Quebec railway disaster

Quebec railway disasterThree employees of the railway company involved in the runaway oil train disaster that killed 47 people last summer are due to appear in court Tuesday to face criminal negligence charges in the small Quebec town that was partially incinerated by exploding tanker cars.

The charges come about 10 months after more than 60 of the tankers carrying oil from North Dakota came loose in the middle of the night, sped downhill for nearly seven miles (11 kilometers) and derailed in the town of Lac-Megantic in eastern Quebec. At least five of the tankers exploded, leveling about 30 buildings, including a popular bar that was filled with revelers on July 6.

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Duke Energy begins coal-ash dredging in Dan River

dan river cleanupWith the clatter of heavy machinery, the cleanup of the ash-laden Dan River will begin in earnest this week.

The biggest ash deposit yet found in the Dan, following a Feb. 2 spill 25 miles upriver at Duke Energy's Dan River power plant, lies on the bottom just above Danville's water intake.

The ash covers an area about 300 yards long and 25 yards wide. It is up to 1 foot deep. Its removal from the river will be far harder than its release into it from a broken metal pipe.

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Western Antarctic ice sheet collapse has already begun, scientists warn

antarctic ice sheet The collapse of the western Antarctic ice sheet is inevitable and is already underway, scientists said on Monday.

The melt will cause up to four metres (13 feet) of additional sea-level rise over the coming centuries, devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world – from Bangladesh to New Jersey – that are already expected to be swamped by only a few feet of sea-level rise.

But the researchers said the sea-level rise – while unstoppable – was still several centuries off, potentially up to 1,000 years away.

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Texas Panhandle wildfire torches 75 homes, as drought conditions persist

aatexas wildfireA  devastating wildfire in a small Texas Panhandle community has consumed at least 75 homes and displaced 700 people.

The blaze, which began about 4 p.m. local time Sunday afternoon, continues to threaten 1,000 homes.

Officials have yet to determine the cause of the blaze, which has swept across1,500 acres and drawn firefighters from 26 counties as far as 165 miles away. The Texas A&M Forest Service has employed a spotter plane and air tankers to douse the blaze from the air.

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