Preventing future oil spills: Congress discusses need for environmental science

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced yesterday morning that exploratory oil drilling off Alaska and deep water drilling in the Guld of Mexico will be suspended due to safety concerns. The White House also said it has cancelled a drilling lease off the coast of Virginia. Fearing another spill like the current disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, officials cited a need for further environmental reviews and evaluations of nation-wide emergency response capabilities.

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The oil spill comes to Washington

Last month, Obama surprised conservationists when he added plans to expand off-shore drilling to his energy policy in an effort to sway votes in Congress. Then—just as both sides rose to debate the issue—the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded. This morning several democratic senators joined a Capitol Hill press conference.

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It’s raining ash! Hallejulah!

While stranded tourists and airline companies curse Iceland’s belching volcano, atmospheric scientists have found a ray of hope in the clouds of ash. In a press conference today, experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said migrating ash plumes are giving scientists a chance to test new atmospheric science models and ash-sampling technology.

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Establishment of the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)

ESA News and Views readers may be interested in the following announcement from the USDA (see http://www.csrees.usda.gov/business/reporting/stakeholder/an_stakeholder_afri.html for details.)

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Heinz Center Reports Highlight Environmental Trends, Call for Action on Better Data

The State of the Nation’s Ecosystems 2008 report, released by the Heinz Center, provides authoritative documentation of key environmental trends. A companion report calls for bold federal and state action to strengthen and integrate the nation’s environmental monitoring. The State of the Nation’s Ecosystems 2008 shows that the acreage burned every year by wildfires is increasing, non-native fish have invaded nearly every watershed in the lower 48 states, and chemical contaminants are found in virtually all streams and most groundwater wells, often at levels above those set to protect human health or wildlife. In contrast, ecosystems are increasing their storage of carbon, there are improvements in soil quality and crop yields have grown significantly, according to Robin O’Malley, Director of the Heinz Center’s Environmental Reporting program.

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