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In Minnesota, fight between mining and environment gets personal

Minnesota mining oppositionIt’s the kind of July day that Minnesotans fantasize about in the dead of winter. Puffball clouds float in a blue sky and daisies sprout under stately pines lining Spruce Road, the main artery of an old logging network deep in the Superior National Forest about 15 miles southeast of Ely.

Paul Schurke is bumping down a dirt road in a Dodge Ram pickup truck. He owns Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge with his wife, Susan, and is famous in these parts as the explorer who co-led the first dogsled expedition to the North Pole without re-supply in 1986.

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Nuclear waste site bid makes waves in Lake Huron

Nuclear waste site lake HuronIn nearly every way, this 2-acre clearing dotted with wild purple asters is the ideal place, relatively speaking, to dig a third of a mile into the earth, blast a space the size of a Walmart, load it with radioactive nuclear waste and then seal it. The power plant that produces most of that waste, after all, looms within walking distance. Legions of geologists and nuclear physicists insist it would be entombed safely in layers of rock that haven’t shifted in 50,000 millennia.

There’s just one big problem. The “future home of the planned deep geological repository project for low & intermediate level waste,” as the sign on the site announces, is about a mile from the shores of Lake Huron. And the prospect of burying something so toxic in such proximity to the vast and essential Great Lakes has sparked international outrage and is turning the matter into a wedge issue in Canada’s federal elections this fall.

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EPA knew of 'blowout' risk for tainted water at gold mine

gold mine wasteInternal documents released late Friday show managers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were aware of the potential for a catastrophic "blowout" at an abandoned mine that could release "large volumes" of wastewater laced with toxic heavy metals.

EPA released the documents following weeks of prodding from The Associated Press and other media organizations. EPA and contract workers accidentally unleashed 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater on Aug. 5 as they inspected the idled Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado.

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Fracking Fight Heats Up in Ohio

Students in Ohio fight frackingWith the oil and gas industry already reveling in a recent Ohio Supreme Court decision stripping local control on fracking and other extraction activities away from communities, the Secretary of State has now handed the industry another victory, opening the door for fracking infrastructure projects to spread even faster across Ohio.

In a decision issued August 13, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted blocked citizens from voting on Home Rule Charter initiatives which include provisions on fracking infrastructure development.

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Northwest wildfires rage unchecked

northwest firesU.S. crews battling wildfires raging unchecked across the Pacific Northwest contended with high winds late into Thursday, a day after three firefighters were killed and four others were injured in Washington state.

Authorities late Thursday ordered the immediate evacuation of the small community of Tonasket, nestled along the bank of the Okanogan River in north-central Washington, impacting about 1,000 people.

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Feeling the heat: Earth in July was hottest month on record

GLobal warming record July 2015Federal officials say July was Earth’s hottest month on record, smashing old marks.

July’s average temperature was 61.86 degrees Fahrenheit, beating the previous global mark set in 1998 and 2010 by about one-seventh of a degree. That’s a large margin for weather records.

Records go back to 1880, but nine of the 10 hottest months on record have happened since 2005.  The first seven months of 2015 are the hottest January-to-July span on record.

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California drought is up to 25 percent worse because of climate change

california droughtIf there were any doubts that global warming has exacerbated California’s four-year drought, a new study puts them to rest by quantifying the impact for the first time: Rising temperatures are worsening the drought by up to 25 percent.

While natural weather cycles are largely responsible for the historic drought, man-made emissions of greenhouse gases are intensifying the severity of the drought by raising air temperatures, according to a report by the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

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