Conservation Update - February 2015

Majority of Congressional Republicans Question Climate Science
Over 56% of congressional Republicans currently question the science related to climate change, this includes Nebraskan senators Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse. Read more here:
Trees a Critical Solution for Mitigating Climate Change
In a new report, Oxford University researchers say two of our “best hopes” for offsetting climate change are planting trees where there were none before, and improving the soil by burying a layer of dense charcoal. These solutions are not necessarily cutting edge, and certainly don’t depend on innovative technologies. Forest management has had a role in humanity for a very long time, with British communities practicing “coppicing”, a tree cutting technique to keep forests full of younger trees, and Native American communities burning forest fires to support growth of desirable plants and to manage ecosystems. The report cautions that these “so called Negative Emissions Technologies, or NETs, should only be seen as a way to stave off the worst of climate change.” The researchers state that cutting emissions are another crucial tool to mitigate climate change. Read more here:
8 Million Tons of Plastic in our Oceans
Scientists are just now starting to get a hold on how much plastic makes its way into our oceans, with researchers using several different methodologies to come up with an accurate assessment. A new study conducted by engineer Jenna Jambeck measures what comes off the land by looking at trashflow and waste management data from 192 countries. She finds that “In 2010, there were 8 million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean globally. That's plastic bottles, candy wrappers, laundry baskets, synthetic rope, and syringes. According to Jambeck's calculations, that's like putting five bags of plastic trash on every foot of coastline in the world.” The Ocean Conservancy notes this plastic impacts over 600 marine species through entanglement and ingestion, and poses “a lot of questions about what that means for the food chain.” Read more here:
Obama Vetoes KXL Pipeline Approval Bill
Obama’s veto of the KXL pipeline bill marks the  first time the president has refused to sign legislation in his second term, and only the third veto of his presidency. Obama said: ‘The presidential power to veto legislation is one I take seriously. But I also take seriously my responsibility to the American people. And because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest – including our security, safety and environment – it has earned my veto.’ Read more here:
Victory in Republic River Dispute
Nebraska and Kansas each claimed victory in a long-running dispute over the Republican River, after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a recommendation Tuesday that Nebraska pay $5.5 million in damages to Kansas. The dispute stems from a contract signed by Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado in 1943 that allocates 49 percent of the river’s water to Nebraska, 40 percent to Kansas and 11 percent to Colorado. Kansas complained that Nebraska used more than its fair share of water from the river during the drought year of 2006, and had originally asked for $80 million in damages. Don Blankenau of Lincoln, a water law attorney, said the decision was a win-win for the two states. Kansas won a monetary award, but Nebraska avoided crippling financial penalties, irrigation restrictions and federal control of the river. Read more here:
Symbolic Battles of Keystone XL
“On both sides, Keystone XL has turned into a symbolic battle that connotes a larger struggle over political mobilization and, ultimately, political power.” For Congressional Republicans, it is an issue that they have used to rally the troops, confront the President, and now, to exercise their newfound authority as the majority party in both houses. For KXL opponents, it is about fears that the pipeline would lead to a big boost in carbon emissions and  worries about the effect its construction would have on environmentally sensitive areas such as the Nebraska Sandhills and Ogallala Aquifer. It is also about testing their ability to block a big energy project: environmental activists are looking towards Keystone XL as an important symbol  in the struggle to keep oil, gas and coal reserves buried in the ground. Read more here:
Tackling Food Waste 
One-third of all the food produced in the world is left uneaten -- at a cost of up to $400 billion a year in waste disposal and other government expenditures. Cutting food waste would lead to greater efficiency, more productivity and higher economic growth. “Reducing food waste is good for the economy and good for the climate. Less food waste means greater efficiency, more productivity, and direct savings for consumers. It also means more food available to feed the estimated 805 million that go to bed hungry each day” said Helen Mountford, global programme director for the New Climate Economy. Reducing food waste could help address climate change. Food waste is responsible for around 7% of all greenhouse gas emissions globally: 3.3bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2) a year.  Read more here:
Judge Puts Stop to TransCanada's Use of Eminent Domain 
“York County District Judge Mary Gilbride ordered a temporary injunction Thursday in order to stop pipeline builder TransCanada from using eminent domain to obtain land from property owners unwilling to sell easements to the company.”  The rulings mean the company can’t proceed with eminent domain until the Nebraska Supreme Court decides on lawsuits filed by pipeline opponents, a process expected to take at least two years. Read more here:
Nebraska's Panhandle Counties Oppose Fracking Waste Disposal Well 
Board members of Nebraska's Sioux County have voted unanimously to oppose a fracking waste water disposal well that has been proposed for their county.  “Terex Energy Corp. wants to truck the salty groundwater and fracking wastewater that results from oil searches and production in Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska to a ranch north of Mitchell, Nebraska, and inject the water under pressure into an old oil well on the ranch." The board members echoed concerns about water and wear and tear on roads that were cited by Scotts Bluff County Board members in a letter they sent to Nebraska's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Read more here: