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Published: Thursday, March 08, 2018 @ 4:36 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 08, 2018 @ 4:35 PM
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — U.S. scientists studying the effects of uranium mining around the Grand Canyon say they are lacking information on whether the radioactive element is hurting plants, animals and a water source for more than 30 million people.
And they would not get to fully gather it if President Donald Trump's 2019 budget proposal is approved.
The U.S. Geological Survey is leading a 15-year study meant to determine whether a 1 million-acre area surrounding the national park needs protection from new uranium mining claims well into the future. Now, no one can stake claims until 2032, though a portion of that Obama-era ban is under review by the Trump administration.
The agency says it's received far less for its study than what's needed so far and would be left with nothing under Trump's plan, which eliminates the money in favor of other priorities.
"We love to provide information," Geological Survey hydrologist Fred Tillman said. "If you don't get the funding to do it, you simply can't do the studies."
Former President Barack Obama's administration implemented the ban in 2012 as uranium prices soared and a flurry of new mining claims came pouring in. It faced a backlash from Republicans, who touted improved mining techniques and lamented job loss in a remote area.
Without the study to document the effects of mining, some fear industry supporters would point to a lack of evidence of environmental harm to reopen the area to mining.
A federal appeals court recently upheld the ban, but the U.S. Forest Service is reviewing whether it's necessary on 360,000 acres it manages. It follows an order by Trump to identify regulations that stand in the way of energy production.
The ban provided an avenue for the Geological Survey to study uranium-bearing pipes, groundwater flow, windborne dust, and plants and animals near mines. Of particular concern for the Obama administration was the Colorado River, a lifeline for millions of people in seven Western states that runs nearly 300 miles (483 kilometers) through the Grand Canyon.
Those supporting the ban have pointed to the legacy of death and disease on the nearby Navajo Nation, the country's largest American Indian reservation, from Cold War-era uranium mining.
Without the science, the concern is "just opinion," said Jan Balsom, senior adviser to the Grand Canyon National Park superintendent.
"I'm not comfortable with that being the only source of information," she recently told reporters on a tour of the lower Colorado River basin.
The Geological Survey said its Environmental Health Mission funds the work, allocating $800,000 to $1.5 million a year to the studies between 2013 and 2017. That's about half the estimated need annually. Trump's 2019 budget proposal nixes all funding for the program.
The agency's associate director for environmental studies, Geoff Plumlee, said he's proud of the work done so far under budget constraints and will await word from Congress on what science will be produced.
Other federal agencies and universities work to fill the knowledge gaps and have contributed funding for the larger effort.
Northern Arizona is rich in high-grade uranium ore, and companies have staked hundreds of claims in the area. Even with the ban, federal agencies estimated a dozen uranium mines would open under claims that were grandfathered in.
The 15-year plan assumed two mines would open and close before the ban expires. But one mine is still trying to get permits and the Canyon Mine about 6 miles from the Grand Canyon's popular South Rim entrance won't open unless uranium prices rise significantly.
Energy Fuels Inc. owns both mines. Company president Mark Chalmers said the Canyon Mine will be mined responsibly and won't harm people or the environment. He said its footprint is small and the ore extracted could provide an annual supply of power for Arizona.
Published: Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 12:58 PM
SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. — One fourth grade student’s backpack was quite literally the cat’s meow.
Fourth grade teacher Carey Geipel started looking around her classroom after she heard meowing during a planning period March 16 only to discover a student brought a cat to school hidden in a backpack, according to a Facebook post.
“We listen to a purse, lunchbox... it must be a cell phone ringing,” she wrote. “Nope. It’s coming from the backpacks. I lift a jacket and a backpack MOVES. I unzip the backpack and a cat’s head POPS out!”
Geipel made a phone call home to the student’s mother, who came and picked up the cat.
“Hello, Student is safe but we have kind of a weird situation,” Geipel wrote, recounting the conversation. “Your student brought a cat to school, on the bus, in her backpack.”
Published: Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 5:58 PM
DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — A 12-year-old boy disappeared after getting on the wrong school bus on his way home from middle school in metro Atlanta.
Anthony Randolph III disappeared Wednesday after boarding the wrong bus at Redan Middle School in DeKlab County, police said.
Investigators said the boy got off the bus two miles away from his home.
He wasn’t supposed to be on that bus and school officials said they are working to figure out why the bus driver didn’t take him back to school.
“We need you home Anthony, fast, please,” the child’s father, Anthony Randolph Jr., said.
Randolph wiped away tears as he begged anyone with information on the disappearance of his son to come forward.
A search is underway as police continue investigating the boy’s disappearance.
Published: Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 4:58 PM
— For many years, motor vehicle emissions were the primary source of air pollution in urban areas. But with increased regulations and better engines, that has changed. While industry professionals and government leaders worked to address pollution from cars, little notice was given to the effects of other commonly used consumer products. Now, research shows that chemicals in soaps, perfumes, household cleaners, pesticides and paints have been recognized to pollute our air about as much as car emissions.
The research, recently published in the journal Science, found that many of the products we use daily in our homes contain compounds refined from petroleum.
"People use a lot more fuel than they do petroleum-based compounds in chemical products--about 15 times more by weight, according to the new assessment. Even so, lotions, paints and other products contribute about as much to air pollution as the transportation sector does," Dr. Brian McDonald, a researcher in the Chemical Sciences Division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who led the study, said in a press release.
"As transportation gets cleaner, those other sources become more and more important," McDonald added. "The stuff we use in our everyday lives can impact air pollution."
The new assessment focused on what are referred to as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These compounds can seep into the atmosphere, reacting to create particle or ozone matter, which are regulated in the U.S. and many other countries. They can cause a variety of health problems, including damage to the lungs.
Most people living in urban areas assume that car pollution is still the biggest problem, as it was for the past few decades. But according to the new NOAA report, that is no longer the notable threat. In fact, researchers concluded that the level of VOCs emitted by consumer and industrial products is "two or three times greater than estimated by current air pollution inventories, which also overestimate vehicular sources."
While the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 75 percent of fossil VOC emissions came from fuel-related sources, and just 25 percent from consumer and industrial products. The NOAA analysis puts the ratio around 50-50.
"Concentrations are often 10 times higher indoors than outdoors, and that's consistent with a scenario in which petroleum-based products used indoors provide a significant source to outdoor air in urban environments," McDonald said.
It may seem strange to some that common products, such as perfume and household cleaners, could have such a major impact on pollution. But the effects of common household items starts to make sense when we consider how they are used and stored.
"Gasoline is stored in closed, hopefully airtight, containers and the VOCs in gasoline are burned for energy," NOAA atmospheric scientist Dr Jessica Gilman, a co-author of the new paper, told The Independent.
"But volatile chemical products used in common solvents and personal care products are literally designed to evaporate. You wear perfume or use scented products so that you or your neighbor can enjoy the aroma. You don't do this with gasoline."
Experts are lauding the new study for pointing out sources of pollution that often get little attention.
"This research is a useful reminder that discussions of air pollution need to consider all sources of pollutants and that measures targeting cars only address part of the problem," Professor Anthony Frew, a respiratory medicine specialist at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, said.
But Frew also cautioned that the study doesn't mean regulating traffic emissions is unimportant.
"Traffic remains an important source of pollution and we still need to reduce the number of vehicle-miles driven per year by personal and commercial vehicles," he said.
Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 6:37 PM
Washington — National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster is resigning from the Trump administration and will be replaced by former U.S. ambassador John Bolton, according to a tweet Thursday afternoon from President Donald Trump.
>> Read more trending news/ Who is H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security advisor/