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The historic black community is fighting to block Arizona’s utility expansion plan.



This story was originally published guardians and reproduced here as part of climate table cooperation.

A handful of weary residents gathered at Randolph’s windowless church to reflect on the power plant’s latest attempts to expand its power plant, a polluting gas-fired power plant next door to a community that the state regulator has blocked on environmental and health grounds.

Randolph is a historic black community in central Arizona, surrounded by railroads and heavy hazardous industries, a dusty little place where residents are exposed to the poorest air quality in the state but deprived of basic amenities such as fire hydrants, garbage collection and healthcare.

The community celebrated a historic victory last year when the state regulator rejected a proposal from the utility Salt River Project (SRP) to more than double the capacity of its power plant, ruling that it would further harm Randolph’s residents and not be in the public interest.

It was a major victory for clean energy and environmental justice in Arizona, according to the Sierra Club, an environmental group that condemned the proposed expansion as “Textbook of ecological racism”.

But SRP has refused to take no for an answer, and residents fear the state regulator could reverse its decision.

“We won, they lost, but they don’t accept it and keep coming back. It’s undemocratic,” said Ron Jordan, 77, whose family has lived in Randolph since the 1930s. “They hang treats in front of us, but the community doesn’t want that, we already have too much pollution. It is not right”.

At a recent community meeting held at a modest church, SRP offered to fund a new community center, air quality monitoring, and $50,000 for landscaping and signage, among other projects, if residents drop their objection to the power plant expansion.

“We will not give up no matter what they offer,” said Guadalupe Felix, 45, whose family has lived in Randolph for three generations. “This plant is going to kill us, we’re already suffocating.”

The community says it won’t back down, but nationwide utilities have a track record of getting what they want, according to David Pomeranz, director Energy and the Policy Institute (EPI). “The refusal to take ‘no’ for an answer is incredibly common.”

Randolph is an unincorporated town in Pinal County, first settled in the 1920s and 30s by predominantly black families from Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas who came to pick cotton in the Gila River Valley. It was one of the few places where black families could buy property, and by the 1960s, the close-knit agricultural community, which also included Mexicans and Native Americans, boasted thriving shops, bars, churches, and gas stations.

The mechanization of the cotton industry reduced the community’s economy and population, after which the nearby town of Coolidge began to annex the land around Randolph and convert it into an industrial estate.

Today, only 150 or so residents live on an area the equivalent of seven football fields long and three wide, some in houses or on lots purchased by their ancestors. There is no shop, no bar, no gas station, no park, just a church with a single tall palm tree for shade.

The agricultural fields and desert plains where children rode bikes and chased joggers are long gone, and Randolph is now virtually surrounded by polluting infrastructure, including gas plants, pipelines, a hazardous waste dump, and a steel company that hired a contract to build Donald Trump’s border wall. .

The community is literally surrounded by cumulative and acute dangers.

Pinal County has some of the worst air pollution in Arizona, according to the American Lung Association and the Environmental Protection Agency. It is also bearing the brunt of the climate crisis, with farmers forced to leave fields fallow or sell them, many of which go to solar farms, due to ongoing drought and water shortages. In August 2021 A. pipeline explosion threw the residents of Randolph out of their beds, setting off a huge fireball that killed farm worker Luis Alvarez and his 14-year-old daughter Valeria.

Part of the problem is a gas-fired power plant that glows at night, hums like an airport, and emits toxins and greenhouse gases from a dozen tall chimneys. SRP purchased the plant in 2019 and two years later sought environmental approval from the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) for a nearly billion dollar 820 MW expansion.

The ACC is the government’s public utilities regulator responsible for approving SRP power plants and transmission lines, as well as rate hikes and new energy projects for private energy, water and telecommunications companies. Each state has a version of the ACC, most commonly referred to as the Public Service Commission (PUC).

As the community, the Sierra Club, and other organizations opposed plant expansion, SRP announced plans to help fund pavement, beautification projects, and a scholarship and training program, as well as an attempt to get Randolph recognized as a National Historic Site.

In April 2022, the ACC rejected the SRP expansion plan after it concluded that the power company had not considered viable clean energy alternatives such as solar and batteries before proceeding with the plant expansion, which would degrade air quality, especially for residents of Randolph who live in the neighborhood. . (The commission rejected the recommendation of the power plant and line siting committee to issue an environmental certificate.)

The SRP requested a new hearing, which the ACC denied. The utility then filed and lost a lawsuit in the Maricopa County Superior Court. ” [ACC] determined that the need for the proposed project was outweighed by its environmental impact. SRP has not proven that this decision was unlawful or unreasonable,” the court ruled in January 2023.

The SRP still took no for an answer and has since petitioned the state supreme court to hear the case and persuaded the ACC to resume discussion of the expansion.

“SRP is used to getting things done and moving forward on all fronts. The ACC has a huge impact on people’s lives, but the process is exhausting for communities, it never ends,” said Sandy Bahr, Grand Canyon chapter director of the Sierra Club. “It’s heartbreaking for the Randolph people who finally feel like their voices have been heard.”

“We will not give up, no matter what they offer,” said Guadalupe Félix, pictured with her husband Esteban Valencia.
Photographer: Caitlin O’Hara/The Guardian.

The ACC was created under the state constitution and, unlike the PUC in other states, is also responsible for railroad and pipeline safety, business combinations, and securities regulation. In most states, PUC commissioners are appointed by the governor, but in a quarter of the states, including Arizona, commissioners are directly elected by the voters.

“Utilities usually try to get a new solution from the PUC when they don’t like the original solution of a rate hike or a new gas plant. They will wait [for new commissioners] or try to bypass the commission altogether if they think the legislature will be friendlier to their cause,” EPI’s Pomerantz said.

last year, Indiana PUC, Public Utilities Regulatory Commission, has approved two new gas plants — three years after the energy company’s initial proposal was rejected due to a failure to adequately consider renewables. IN Virginia State Legislators Who Received Significant Donations from Dominion Energy, who also spends big money in Washingtonrecently tried to pass legislation to increase the company’s allowed rate of return, despite households struggling to pay their bills.

Utilities spend heavily on public policy, and in the 2020 election cycle, investor-owned energy companies gave nearly $12 million to powerful political organizations such as Republican and Democratic governors and attorneys general associations. according to EPI analysis. To get what they want from Congress, the electric industry spent $347 million for lobbying in Washington over the past three years, including $3.4 million from SRP affiliates, according to OpenSecrets.

Utilities have been known to send large sums to state campaigns with elected commissioners, including Georgia, LouisianaAnd Arizona.

In Arizona, the ACC is the main government body for dealing with the climate crisis. In 2006, he set an energy standard that required utilities to produce at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

ACC is one of a handful of partisan utility regulatorsand four of the current five members of the commission, including two new members elected in January, are Republicans. Kevin Thompsonwho worked for the largest gas company in the state for 17 years, and Nick Myers both are outspoken critics of the clean energy mandate.

Shortly after a higher court judge sided with the ACC’s original decision to block the station expansion, the reconstituted commission allowed SRP to reconsider its case and voted unanimously to resume negotiations with the power company.

The SRP has since provided the residents of Randolph with a list of possible community investments and concessions if the expansion is approved.

“This is a classic case of systemic racism, one of many communities across the country where companies with money and power will go to any extreme to get what they want,” said Constance Jackson, NAACP Pinal County chapter president. “It’s sad that the community has to go through this all over again because the decision has been made. This should not be back on the ACC agenda.”

J.P. Martin, spokesman for the ACC, said: “There is a radical misunderstanding that expanding the SRP in Coolidge is on the agenda. The legal department of the commission is interacting with the SRP legal team – this is all that is known at the moment. ”

A spokesman for the utility said: “SRP continues to believe that the ACC line placement committee, which heard all evidence, visited the plant and visited the Randolph community, was right when it approved the proposed expansion… Coolidge’s expansion project will have to comply with the air quality permit. , which limits the plant’s emissions to levels that protect human health and the environment. The project is also in line with our commitment to clean energy and grid transformation.

“SRP continues to seek a collaborative solution with the Randolph community that will pave the way forward, and we are committed to continuing to develop our relationships and partnerships with the community.”

In Randolph, the people are tired but not defeated. “I know it doesn’t look like it now, but Randolph was a great place to grow up. This is our history and we are the voices of our ancestors, so this place is priceless to me,” said 53-year-old Kyle Muldrow. Army veteran and fourth-generation resident. “AKC has made a decision, this needs to be ended.”


News Brief: US counts old growth forests, Canadian scientists march for higher wages, and condor dung reveals ancient history of birds | The science




US increased the number of old forests

Last year, President Joe Biden surprised forest scientists by ordering an Earth Day inventory of public holdings of mature and old-growth forests. This sparked a fight from the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to create a formal definition of what constitutes “mature” and “old growth” forests and apply those definitions to millions of hectares. Meeting the April 22 deadline last month, the agencies released their findings in a report noting that of the nearly 72 million hectares of forest they manage, 45% are mature and 18% are old-growth. Figures that exceed estimates published by non-federal researchers include 9 million hectares of pine-juniper forest (pictured here in Utah), a type of forest rarely previously classified as old-growth. The report’s findings are likely to spark a heated debate on how to manage old forests and make them resilient to climate change.


The chemist received house arrest

United States District Judge Last week, former Harvard University chemist Charles Lieber was sentenced. to 6 months house arrest and fined $50,000 for lying to federal agencies about his dealings with a Chinese university and failing to report payments from it. The ruling ended the most notorious case of about two dozen recent prosecutions of American academic scientists with research ties to China. In December 2021, Lieber’s connections with Wuhan University of Technology led to his conviction in court. Prosecutors have asked for a 90-day jail sentence and a $150,000 fine for 64-year-old Lieber, who has terminal blood cancer and left Harvard earlier this year. His lawyers requested that he not be sentenced to prison due to his poor health. The case was initiated by the Chinese government, aimed at curbing economic espionage by the US rival. The campaign was renamed last year to clarify that it applies to cancerous subjects from anywhere in the world. The government has a controversial reputation for harassing academics; several were acquitted or had their cases dismissed, while several were found guilty of offenses similar to Lieber’s and sentenced to prison.


unknown underwater

Scientists suspect they have described less than 10% of the marine species on Earth. To learn more about the ocean’s remaining inhabitants, researchers, businesses and philanthropists have teamed up to identify some 100,000 new sea creatures from an estimated 2 million as yet unidentified species over the next decade. V ocean census, launched last week, will combine DNA sequencing with machine learning to create a kind of cyber-taxonomy, classifying organisms collected on expeditions across the world’s seas. The results could help conservation and give scientists a better understanding of the role marine life plays in oxygen and food production, and in the carbon cycle. With financial support from the Nippon Foundation, Japan’s largest philanthropic organization, the British Institute of Marine Science and Conservation, called Nekton, will coordinate the collection of ships, divers, submarines and deep-sea robots. Ocean Census will make its data, along with 3D digital images of all new species, available to both researchers and the public. With the disappearance of corals, sharks and other marine species in recent decades, “we are in a race against time,” says project leader Alex Rogers, a marine biologist at the University of Oxford.


Welsh fossils highlight early life

This 462-million-year-old fossil represents a new species, a clam-like creature with long appendages.JOE BOTTING

In Wales, paleontologists have discovered a rich source of 462-million-year-old fossils that show a greater match than expected between animals that evolved in the Cambrian explosion 40 million years ago and the ancestors of modern species. The researchers thought these ancestors had replaced the Cambrian creatures, but the new site – a small quarry in a sheep field – shows a much more gradual transition, say Jo Botting and Lucy Muir of the Amgedfa Simru National Museum in Wales. Among the many fossils, the couple cataloged 170 marine species, including glass sponges, crustaceans called horseshoe shrimp, and six-legged arthropods that may have given rise to insects. Nearly all of the animals are tiny, many ranging from the size of a sesame seed to a pencil eraser, and their soft bodies are perfectly preserved, giving insight into what they ate and how they lived, the research team reports this week in Ecology of nature and evolution. The quarry, according to Julien Kimmig, a paleontologist at the Karlsruhe State Museum of Natural History, who was not involved in the work, “could certainly be as famous” as the famous Burgess Shale in Canada, a rich source of Cambrian fossils from 500 million years ago.


Indian classes got rid of Darwin

Scientists in India are protesting the decision to exclude discussion of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution from the textbooks used by millions of ninth and tenth graders. More than 4,000 people have signed a petition from the Society for Breakthrough Sciences to recover the material. The non-profit advocacy group for science reports that the National Council for Educational Research and Training, an autonomous government group that sets curricula for India’s 256 million primary and secondary school students, has dropped the theme as part of a “content rationalization” process. The removal “distorts the idea of ​​a comprehensive secondary education,” says evolutionary biologist Amitabh Joshi of the Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Science. Others fear it indicates a growing interest in pseudoscience among Indian officials and see it as unlikely that NCERT will back down.


EU trial defense fund blown up

The European Union was ill-prepared to increase funding for defense research report published last week own financial supervisory authority. Between 2017 and 2019, the EU spent around €90m on 18 projects under the Defense Research Preparatory Action, a fund designed to “pave the way” for the much larger €8bn European Defense Fund, which began operations in 2021 and will last until 2027. But the European Audit Chamber report says the previous pilot fund did not fully function as a “test bed” for the larger program as projects were shelved and made “limited progress”. The auditors also warned that the European Commission is too understaffed to cope with rising spending on defense research.


Condor feces reveal their history

Andean condor nests hold a messy archive of their diet going back thousands of years.JACK DIKING/NPL/MINDEN PICTURES

To find out how the Andean condor’s diet has changed over millennia of environmental change, researchers climbed a cliff in Argentina’s Patagonia region to collect samples of bird droppings from a donut-shaped mound. Based on radiocarbon dating and other clues, scientists have found that condors have nested on this slope for about 2,200 years. However, guano has shown that between about 300 and 1300 AD. Andean condors became scarce as ash from nearby volcanic eruptions covered the landscape and killed the animals whose carcasses they hunted. The scientists also learned that the careers of condors have changed over the years. Traces of llama DNA predominate in older layers of guano deposits, while introduced sheep and cattle are more visible in more recent layers. The researchers say the findings illustrate the value of studying long-term nesting sites for reconstructing a species’ ecological history.


Demand for Canadian PhDs on the rise

Thousands of scientists across Canada left work May 1 to protest against the low wages of graduate and doctoral students. At an event on Parliament Hill in Canada, Sarah Laframboise, Ph.D. in Biochemistry, University of Ottawa. A student and executive director of the grassroots organization Support Our Science cited a study that found 86% of graduate students were stressed and worried about their finances. The organization behind the one-day protest is asking the federal government to increase pay for graduate and postdoc students, who are funded by federal scholarships and fellowships. In August 2022, he sent an open letter to the government asking for more investment in the next generation of scientists. But there were no such changes in this year’s federal budget, released in March.

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Why does a cough continue after a cold?



Colds and other respiratory illnesses are never fun. After the sneezing, runny nose, and runny nose are gone, one symptom often remains: coughing. But why does a cough sometimes go away forever?

According to him, the main reason for a prolonged cough is associated with prolonged inflammation. Dr. Albert Rizzo (will open in a new tab), chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. This inflammation can have multiple sources, making it difficult to treat.

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Another problem with recycling: it regurgitates microplastics



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The plastics industry has long been involved in recycling, although it is well knownWhat it was a failure. Worldwide, only 9 percent of plastic waste is actually recycled. In the USA now the course 5 percent. Most of the plastic used ends up in landfills, incinerated or released into the environment.

Now the disturbing new study found that even when plastic ends up in a recycling center, it can still break into smaller pieces that pollute the air and water. This pilot study focused on one new facility where plastic is sorted, crushed and melted into pellets. Along the way, the plastic is washed several times, discarding microplastic particles – fragments less than 5 millimeters in size – into the wastewater of the plant.

Because there were multiple washes, the researchers were able to take water samples at four separate points on the production line. (They do not reveal the name of the facility operator who collaborated with their project.) This plan was actually in the process of installing filters that could trap particles larger than 50 microns (a micron is a millionth of a meter), so the team was able to calculate the concentration of microplastics in wet and filtered wastewater — essentially a before-and-after snapshot of how effective filtration is.

The amount of their microplastics was astronomical. They calculated that even with filtration included, the total discharge of the various washes could produce up to 75 billion particles per cubic meter of wastewater. Depending on the recycling facility, this liquid will eventually end up in city water systems or the environment. In other words, recyclers trying to solve the plastic crisis may actually be making things worse by accident. microplastic crisis that is covered every corner from V Wednesday with synthetic particles.

“It seems a bit backward that we’re recycling plastic to protect the environment, and then end up exacerbating another and potentially more dangerous problem,” says plastics scientist Erina Brown, who led the research at New York University. Strathclyde.

“This raises very serious concerns,” agrees Judith Enk, president of Beyond Plastics and former regional administrator for the US Environmental Protection Agency, who was not involved in the publication. “And I also think it points to the fact that plastics are fundamentally unstable.”

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