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Wednesday
Oct312012

The European Commission Approves The UK’s Green Investment Bank For Full Lending Power

The United Kingdom Green Investment Bank is now open for business with full commercial lending power after receiving approval from the European Commission earlier this month.

Image courtesy of theprisma.co.uk.

Yesterday, United Kingdom Business Secretary Vince Cable announced to the House of Commons that the bank began full operations earlier this week – on Oct. 29, 2012 to be exact.

Cable explained that beginning the bank’s commercial operations was contingent on state aid approval from the European Commission, which on Oct. 17, 2012, gave approval relating to the bank’s remit, operating model, and initial government funding of £3 billion for the period until March 2015.

The bank is being funded to the extent that it will not need to borrow before 2015. After that, it will be given borrowing powers if its targets for reduction in the national debt are being met.

Under the terms of the state aid approval this month, the bank will be able to make commercial investments across the following green sectors: offshore wind, waste, non-domestic energy efficiency, biofuels for transport, biomass power, carbon capture and storage, marine energy, and renewable heat.

Giving a more specific picture of its plans, the bank says that its initial priority sectors until 2015 will be “offshore wind, commercial and industrial waste, energy from waste, non-domestic energy efficiency, and support for the Green Deal. Subject to state aid clearance, at least 80 percent of the funds committed by the bank over the spending review period will be invested in these priority sectors.”

The bank also says that up to 20 percent of its funds during this time “may be committed outside the priority sectors, including areas such as marine, and carbon capture and storage.” Investments in nuclear power may also be considered, with the bank reminding that “this is all subject to state aid approval.”

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Wednesday
Oct242012

Salmonella Inside Major Peanut Distributor Causing More Recalls For Big Brand Products

The ongoing international peanut product recalls resulting from Salmonella found in the Portales, New Mexico peanut processing plant of Sunland Inc. has now reached 240 products from brands including: American Choice, Archer Farms, Arrowhead Mills, Cadia, Dogsbutter, Earth Balance, Harry & David, heinen’s, Joseph’s, Valencia, Natural Value, Open Nature, Peanut Power, Serious Food, Sprout’s, Sun Harvest, Sunland Natural, Trader Joe’s, and Tropical Traditions.

Image courtesy of flutnut.com.

Retailers that have been affected include Starbucks, and others, including: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Walmart, Kroeger, Target, and Costco.

A wide number of people have reported becoming ill from the Salomella since the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention began tracking the outbreak late last month.

At the most recent count, the CDC says that 38 people have become ill with the outbreak strain Salmonella Bredeney across 20 states – Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

As of today, Oct.24, 2012, the CDC has broken down the demographics of the people who have gotten ill, finding the ages ranging from one to 79 years old, with 66 percent being children under 10 years old, and also 62 percent being male. So far 10 people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported so far.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration explains that Salmonella is “an organism can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems.”

“Healthy people infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis (an inflammation of the inside lining of the heart), and arthritis,” adds the FDA.

The FDA further explains that, “The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. However, in some cases, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient requires hospitalization. Older adults, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have severe illnesses from Salmonella infections.”

The outbreak was first discovered from testing conducted by the Washington State Department of Agriculture laboratory that isolated the Salmonella strain from an open jar of Trader Joe’s Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter (sku 97111) from a case-patient’s home.

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Friday
Oct052012

Towns Across America Receiving Legal Support Against Fracking From Oil & Gas Companies

If you don’t know what fracking is, it means it’s not happening anywhere near you, but it might! Fracking is a highly controversial and toxic process of extracting natural gas and oil deposits from mining sites that were inaccessible only a few decades ago.

Image from The Watchers: Watching The World Evolve And Transform.

Fracking, also called hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracking, is the process of forcing a mixture of freshwater and toxic chemicals under higher pressure into a well, enlarging the rock fracture and increasing the extraction rate of gas or oil.

Source Watch, a publication for The Center for Media and Democracy, explains that, “chemical additives many include hydrochloric acid (typically pumped before the job to clean up the formation), additional friction reducers, clay controls, weighting agents, and gel breakers.”

Source Watch adds that although no complete list exists of the chemicals used in the process, “information obtained from environmental clean-up sites demonstrates that known toxins are routinely being used, including hydrochloric acid, diesel fuel (which contains benzene, tuolene, and xylene) as well as formaldehyde, polyacrylimides, arsenic, and chromates.”

In June, the preservation group American Rivers reported that, “Injecting diesel underground is problematic because of the toxic chemicals it contains, especially the ‘BTEX’ compound. BTEX refers to benzene, tuolene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. These chemicals are linked to numerous adverse health effects including cancer, kidney and liver problems, and nervous system damage.”

“They are toxic at very low levels and are soluble in water, which is of particular concern when injecting them into the ground in proximity to underground sources of drinking water,” added American Rivers.

A few weeks ago, in an ongoing effort to address such problems, The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) announced the creation of its ‘Community Fracking Defense Project’ to provide legal and policy assistance to towns and local governments across the nation who are seeking to add controls or protections from fracking in their communities.

The new project will launch in five states – New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and North Carolina – with projects varying from state-to-state based on differences in fracking activities and regulatory protections.

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Tuesday
Sep252012

NYC Transforms Old Radio Tower and Ferry Site To Beautiful Recreation Park and Wetlands

Abandoned and overgrown for over two decades, land on Brooklyn’s Greenpoint commercial waterfront that was once home to the WNYC radio transmission tower and a ferry terminal has now been redeveloped into a beautiful recreational park and restored wetland.

This pedestrian bridge in WNYC Transmitter Park was built across an excavated ferry site and restored wetland to increase park access to visitors. Rendering courtesy of the NYC Economic Development Corp.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg just cut the ribbon opening WNYC Transmitter Park in a ceremony that also provided a backdrop of the East River and views of the Manhattan skyline for guests as they listened to speeches from the mayor and other dignitaries including Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and NYC Economic Development Corp. President Seth Pinsky.

In his opening speech to attendees, Bloomberg talked about the features of the new park, saying that it “includes a large open space lawn, a nautical-themed children’s play area, pedestrian paths, a restored wetland, and a waterfront esplanade (a long, open walk area next to the river).”

“By the end of this year, we’ll open the recreation pier, allowing visitors to walk out over the East River and see the park from the water. The pier will also provide even more incredible views of the Manhattan skyline, including One World Trade Center, the Chrysler Building, and the Empire State Building,” continued Bloomberg.

WNYC Transmitter Park map rendering courtesy of the NYC Economic Development Corp.

“And future plans include transforming the old transmitter station into a café and public comfort station, making the park an even more attractive destination,” added the mayor.

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Saturday
Sep152012

California's Wildlife Conservation Board Approves $24.1 Million For Statewide Preservation Projects

The Swainson’s hawk. Photo courtesy of prairiewildlife.net.

California’s Wildlife Conservation Board has approved about $21.4 million that will fund 22 projects designed to restore and preserve fish and wildlife habitats across the state.

The funds for all of the projects will come from the recent bond initiatives approved by voters to help preserve the state’s numerous natural resources, according to the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG).

Three of the most notable projects will involve land preservation agreements (technically called conservation easements) with the Conway Ranch in Yolo County, the Barboni Ranch in Marin County, the Kern River Corridor Endowment in Central Valley.

The tri-colored black bird. Photo courtesy of animal.discovery.com.

As part of the projects, the DFG has provided a grant of $7.8 million for a preservation agreement for about 6,224 acres of Conway Ranch land to protect habitats including wetlands, floodplains, and riverbanks. Preservation of these habitats has been designated as part of efforts to protect endangered species including: the Swainson’s hawk, tri-colored black bird, and giant garter snake.

As part of the Conway project, about 4,000 acres of land will have use restrictions placed on them, providing protections for aquatic and migratory birds, and allowing only “wildlife-friendly agricultural practices,” said the DFG, adding that all of the agreements will “allow for the continuation of agricultural uses, as long as those uses maintain the resource values” of the lands.

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