Environment

Local air regulators are suing Southern California Gas Co. over the massive ongoing natural gas leak near the Los Angeles neighborhood of Porter Ranch, seeking millions of dollars in penalties.

The civil suit alleges that the company's negligence led to injuries and has created "an ongoing public nuisance."

Standing on the bank of the Passaic River where it meets the Newark Bay in New Jersey, Oswaldo Avad reels in a small bluefish and a piece of a grocery bag.

"One piece plastic and one fish," Avad says in broken English.

According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, children, pregnant women and women who might one day want to be pregnant should not eat any fish from most of the waters in New Jersey. It's safe for men to eat a small amount: about one catfish or one eel per year.

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San Diego is the largest city in the country to commit to using only renewable energy, a goal that political parties, environmentalists and business groups hope to meet over the next 20 years.

That's right. There is broad consensus to reach this environmentally ambitious plan.

"A thriving business environment is one in which the quality of life is high so that we can attract the best and brightest talent from around the nation [and] around the world," says Sean Karafin, with the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

2015's heat and drought in Montana forced many black bear families to forage far from their natural habitat. Quite a few of the wandering bears wound up being shot or hit by cars. And that means there were a lot of orphaned black bear cubs this year.

“We’ve been really, really busy with bears, all throughout the state this year,” says Brady Murphy, a game warden in Augusta, Montana. “We’ve handled a lot of different urban wildlife bear complaints.”

While wildlife in the West is often protected by authorities, the animals' presence is not always appreciated residents.

North Carolina is one of the country's largest poultry producers — and getting bigger. Large-scale chicken farms are spreading across the state. Government regulations have allowed these farms to get much closer to where people live. That's not just a nuisance. Neighbors say it's also a potential health hazard.

Craig Watts is an industrial chicken farmer in Fairmont, N.C. He contracts with Perdue and has raised birds for more than 20 years. Still, he says sometimes it's a struggle to meet the demands of the industry.

When Southern California Gas Company finally manages to seal a natural gas storage well that's been leaking for months, the company will have to shut the well down permanently, California regulators say.

And in the meantime, the company will have to minimize air pollution from the ongoing leak and fund an independent study on potential health impacts on the surrounding community.

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Editor's note: A version of this post first appeared in January 2015.

Many people will see the snow currently blanketing much of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard as a nuisance coating sidewalks and roads. Others are celebrating it as an excuse to spend the day swooshing down a hill.

As for me, I like to think of snow as food.

At $1.22 a gallon, a gas station on Columbus, Ohio's southwest side is drawing customers from all parts of the city. Stan Cartwright drove there from across town.

"I came for the gas price. I live on the East Side, and so, you know, I had to make a little bit of a commute, but it was worth it," he says.

The bargains aren't just in Columbus; drivers all around the state are saving money.

"Prices in Ohio tend to be very, very competitive," says GasBuddy.com petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan.

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On the surface, Flint, Mich., and Kabwe, Zambia, don't seem to have a lot in common.

They're half a world away from each other. One is a city of 99,000 in one of the richest countries in the world. The other is a city of 203,000 in a lower-middle-income country.

From the way we speak to the things we do, few things spark cliches like the threat of a winter storm. For days now, we've been talking about Jack Frost's plans. And as people hunker down, staples like bread, milk and toilet paper have been flying off store shelves.

Many of us are already sick of hearing about the white stuff — and we haven't even felt the wrath of Ol' Man Winter yet. (Side note: What did we ever do to this man to make him so vengeful?)

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Maybe El Niño isn't as bad as its reputation.

El Niño is an ocean-warming phenomenon in the Pacific that crops up every few years and alters world weather patterns. And the world is in the middle of a big El Niño that roughly began in May 2015 and will continue for at least several more months this year.

This El Niño has already been linked to a series of weather-related disasters: Massive flooding in Paraguay. Drought in Ethiopia. Another looming food crisis in Madagascar and Zimbabwe.

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As Iran prepares to pump even more oil into an already glutted market, that oversupply isn't just making gas cheaper for your car — it's also causing jet fuel prices to go down sharply. And that's now pushing airfares down, too.

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A 2014 report by the United Nations estimates that tens of millions of people in the world are currently enslaved. Most of them are in the developing world, where they work in mines, quarries or shrimp farms for no money and without hope of escape.

"Slavery is the complete control of one person by another, and violence is used to maintain that control in all forms of slavery," author Kevin Bales explains to Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "The adults in that situation know that if they attempt to leave, they may be killed."

It's not rare for a year to break record temperatures. But it's now happened two years in a row — and 2015 was "very, very clearly the warmest year by a long chalk," says Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

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Let's get an update on Volkswagen now, which is facing hundreds of lawsuits over its cheating on emissions standards. The Environmental Protection Agency is a suing, so are the company's investors.

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Lithium-ion batteries are extremely popular because they are lightweight and pack a lot of power.

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In Oklahoma, the economy runs on oil. The energy industry drives 1 in 5 jobs and is tied to almost every type of tax source. So falling oil prices have created a state budget crisis. Joe Wertz of State Impact Oklahoma sent this report.

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Arizona Tribes Wade Into The Water Business

Jan 18, 2016
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Separation of church and state? When it comes to fighting food waste, the U.S. government is looking to partner up with the faithful.

Copyright 2016 Wyoming Public Radio Network. To see more, visit Wyoming Public Radio Network.

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