Environment

UN says CO2 pollution levels at annual record high

GENEVA (AP) — Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2013, the U.N. weather agency said.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the heat-trapping gas blamed for global warming was at global concentrations of 396 parts per million last year.

That is an increase of 2.9 ppm from the previous year, which the Geneva-based agency reported Tuesday was the biggest year-to-year change in three decades.

US to spend $328 million on conservation easements

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $328 million in funding Monday to protect and restore farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across the country.

The initiative, using money provided in the new five-year farm bill, will buy conservation easements from farmers to protect the environment, help wildlife populations and promote outdoor recreation, the USDA said in its announcement. The agency selected 380 projects nationwide covering 32,000 acres of prime farmland, 45,000 acres of grasslands and 52,000 acres of wetlands.

Top Peruvian foe of illegal logging slain

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peruvian authorities say an outspoken opponent of illegal logging and three other Ashaninka community leaders have been slain in a remote region bordering Brazil.

The activist, Edwin Chota, had received frequent death threats from illegal loggers he tried to expel from traditional Ashaninka lands for which his community was seeking title.

Ashaninka regional leader Reyder Quiltiquari said by phone Monday that Chota and the others were killed and dismembered a week ago while returning to their community, Saweto, on the Upper Tamaya river.

California homes lack water meters during drought

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Although California is locked in a third year of historic drought, many homeowners and businesses still don't have meters telling them just how much water they are using.

That's changing, but some say it's not fast enough. State law requires water meters by 2025, but the State Water Resources Control Board says dozens of water districts, many in the thirsty Central Valley, aren't totally metered.

After Toledo water scare, states ask EPA for help

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Algae that turned Lake Erie green and produced toxins that fouled the tap water for 400,000 people in the Toledo area are becoming a big headache for those who keep drinking water safe even far beyond the Great Lakes.

But with no federal standards on safe levels for drinking algae-tainted water and no guidelines for treating or testing it either, water quality engineers sometimes look for solutions the same way school kids do their homework.

Water shortages lead to 'tanker mafia' in India

NEW DELHI (AP) — Every summer, when Minoo Phakey's water runs out, she does what most people do in her middle-class neighborhood: She calls the mafia.

Within an hour, a man in a tanker arrives, carrying a load of dubious water drawn illegally from the city's groundwater. With India's capital gripped by its annual hot season water shortage, the city's so-called tanker mafia is doing a roaring trade. An estimated 2,000 illegal tankers ply New Delhi's roads every day, lifelines to millions whose taps have run dry, and symptoms of a much bigger problem — the city's desperately dysfunctional water system.

New plan avoids mud dumping in Barrier Reef Park

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — The government of Australia's Queensland state approved a plan Monday that will prevent 3 million cubic meters (106 million cubic feet) of seabed mud from being dumped in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The state-owned North Queensland Bulk Ports Corp., or NQBP, already has federal approval to dump dredged sediment in the marine park in order to expand the Abbot Point coal port near the town of Bowen, a decision that environmentalists say will endanger one of the world's most fragile ecosystems.

But Queensland Premier Campbell Newman announced Monday that his Cabinet ministers had approved a new disposal plan that would have the material reused on land.

Nicholas Eckhart photo

Costco agrees to $2.3M settlement with EPA over refrigerant leaks

Costco will pay $335,000 in civil penalties and spend nearly $2 million over the next three years to cut releases of ozone-depleting refrigerant chemicals at 274 stores nationwide, under a settlement of alleged Clean Air Act violations, the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday.

The head of EPA's enforcement office, Cynthia Giles, said the popular warehouse chain failed from 2004 to 2007 to repair leaks of the hydroflurocarbon refrigerant R-22, and did not keep repair records for its refrigerators during that time, as required under the law.

Gulf of Maine: 'Poster child' for global warming

FRIENDSHIP, Maine (AP) — Imagine Cape Cod without cod. Maine without lobster. The region's famous rocky beaches invisible, obscured by constant high waters.

It's already starting to happen. The culprit is the warming seas — and in particular the Gulf of Maine, whose waters are heating up faster than 99 percent of the world's oceans, scientists say.

Long-established species of commercial fish, like cod, herring and northern shrimp, are departing for colder waters. Black sea bass, blue crabs and new species of squid — all highly unusual for the Gulf — are turning up in fishermen's nets.

Preschools latest to push green movement

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Three-year-old Clara Centola seems unconcerned by the adults around her as she works at a mini-kitchen, deciding which cloth-toy fruits and vegetables to serve her imaginary guests. There are no plastic fast-food replicas to choose from at her Oklahoma City preschool, where the real food is vegan and gluten-free.

All the classroom papers are online here at The Green House. Countertops are wiped clean with natural oils and water. Any leftover food — all local or organic — is recycled or composted.

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