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A crime justified by climate change? Activists caught in legal showdown

Climate change trialA jury in Washington state is hearing evidence on whether the threat of climate change is a justifiable defense for criminal acts, the first time such a defense has been allowed in an American court.

On Thursday, in a tiny municipal courtroom amid the strip malls and ranch houses of this suburban community north of Seattle, defense attorneys for five climate activists will call the final witnesses in their “Hail Mary pass” that has set up a historic legal showdown.


Another setback for Canadian pipelines

Canadian pipelineThe provincial government of British Columbia said it did not support efforts by pipeline company Kinder Morgan to expand a regional crude oil network.

Kinder Morgan petitioned the federal Canadian government to expand the existing Trans Mountain pipeline network to triple its capacity to around 890,000 barrels of oil per day. The provincial government in British Columbia said it wasn't confident the company had done enough to address spill potential from the system.


Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus will retire all elephants by May

Elephants to be retired by Ringling The Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus is accelerating its phaseout of elephant acts, announcing that it will retire all of its touring elephants by May.

Feld Entertainment, parent company of the touring circus, said all of its Asian elephants will move to its elephant conservation center in Florida. Eleven elephants that are currently made to tour the country and perform tricks for people will be retired, bringing the herd at the center to 42.


Fracking shakes the American west: ‘a millennium’s worth of earthquakes’

fracking shakes American westOklahomans don’t blink when they hear warnings about tornadoes, drought or ice-storms. Earthquakes, however, catch their attention.

Increasingly tied to tremors shaking the west, fracking for natural gas is creating alarm and division around western states that until recently enjoyed a boom in jobs and revenue.

In Oklahoma, seismologists have warned that significant temblors last week could signal a larger, more dangerous earthquake to come in a state where drilling is destabilizing the bedrock.


Oregon wildlife refuge occupation disrupts conservation efforts

Local environmentalists in Oregon disruptedThe armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in southeastern Oregon has interrupted important habitat restoration work that must be completed before spring migration — when hundreds of thousands of birds descend on the area’s vast wetlands, conservationists and bird-watchers say.

Bob Sallinger, conservation director of the Audubon Society of Portland, hopes the occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by a militia group concludes before the explosion of life in April, when some three hundred bird species arrive to nest and forage.


St. Louis anxious about EPA plan for barrier between fire, toxic waste

EPA to build barrier between fire and toxic waterThose living near a landfill complex in suburban St. Louis where an underground fire is burning near Cold War-era nuclear weapons waste say they remain afraid and frustrated despite a government pledge to build a barrier between the two.

In the past, tests have found radioactive materials in the complex that were previously unknown to regulators, raising fears that the extent of the contamination — in terms of severity and location — remains unclear. Maintaining that its data is sound, the EPA, which has regulatory oversight over the West Lake Landfill, announced on Dec. 31 that it is moving forward with a plan to build an isolation barrier between the fire and known waste, but many residents and environmentalists are worried that is too little too late.


TransCanada to sue US over Keystone XL decision

TransCanada to sue over KXLTransCanada said it filed legal action against the United States for the rejection of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, arguing it was protecting its investments.

Oil company TransCanada announced it filed plans to issue a claim under the North American Free Trade Agreement in response to a U.S. federal decision to deny its permit to build the cross-border section of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. A lawsuit was also filed in a federal court in Houston, arguing U.S. President Barack Obama overstepped his authority in his decision to deny construction of the pipeline.


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