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Drinking water systems imperiled by failing infrastructure

Drinking water in dangerDeep inside a 70-year-old water-treatment plant, drinking water for Iowa's capital city is cleansed of harmful nitrates that come from the state's famously rich farmland.

Without Des Moines Water Works, the central Iowa region of 500,000 people that it serves wouldn't have a thriving economy. But after decades of ceaseless service, the utility is confronting an array of problems: Water mains are cracking open hundreds of times every year. Rivers that provide its source water are increasingly polluted. And the city doesn't know how it will afford a $150 million treatment plant at a time when revenues are down and maintenance costs are up.

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The pope at White House: Climate change action can't wait

Pope Francis at White HouseJumping into the issues of the day, Pope Francis opened his visit to the United States with a strong call Wednesday for action to combat climate change, calling it a problem that "can no longer be left to a future generation." President Barack Obama, in turn, hailed the pontiff as a moral force who is "shaking us out of our complacency" with reminders to care for the poor and the planet.

The White House mustered all the pageantry it had to offer as the pope arrived at the White House before an adoring crowd of thousands and a nation that seemingly cannot get enough of the humble pontiff who is rejuvenating American Catholicism while giving heartburn to some of its conservatives.

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In clash with pope's climate call, U.S. Church leases drilling rights

Catholic church sells drilling rightsCasting the fight against climate change as an urgent moral duty, Pope Francis in June urged the world to phase out highly-polluting fossil fuels.

Yet in the heart of U.S. oil country several dioceses and other Catholic institutions are leasing out drilling rights to oil and gas companies to bolster their finances, Reuters has found.

And in one archdiocese -- Oklahoma City -- Church officials have signed three new oil and gas leases since Francis's missive on the environment, leasing documents show.

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California drought and impending El Niño raise fears of levee breaks

Levees at risk in CaliforniaCalifornia’s historic drought is in its fourth year and gloom-and-doom scenarios of its impact on everything from killing the state’s vegetation and triggering bug infestation to destroying farming jobs have been trickling in daily.

Now, there is another fear: The prolonged drought may have weakened California’s more than 13,000 miles of levees, which could result in floods and affect the quality of water for millions of Californians.

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Explosive wildfire threatens California mountain towns as blaze intensifies

Explosive wildfires in CaliforniaA mountain town is standing by to evacuate on Saturday and residents across a huge swath of northern California have been warned of “explosive fire conditions” as a fierce wildfire across more than 100 square miles suddenly intensified.

California governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for the counties experiencing the inferno, as it approaches the town of San Andreas, about 60 miles south-east of Sacramento in the Sierra Nevada region.

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Drilling boom means more harmful waste spills

more drillingAn Associated Press analysis of data from leading oil- and gas-producing states found more than 180 million gallons of wastewater spilled from 2009 to 2014 in incidents involving ruptured pipes, overflowing storage tanks and other mishaps or even deliberate dumping. There were some 21,651 individual spills. And these numbers are incomplete because many releases go unreported.

Though oil spills tend to get more attention, wastewater spills can be more damaging. And in seven of the 11 states the AP examined, the amount of wastewater released was at least twice that of oil discharged.

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Alberta lets Nexen reopen some Long Lake pipelines

Nexen pipelineAlberta's energy regulator will allow Nexen Energy, the Canadian subsidiary of China's CNOOC Ltd, to reopen some pipelines ordered closed following a major spill.

The Alberta Energy Regulator said late on Sunday that it would allow a restart of 40 of 95 pipelines closed at Nexen's Long Lake oil sands operations after reviewing maintenance and monitoring documentation.

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