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Court Orders Dakota Access Pipeline to Shut Down in Major Win for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

The decision, handed down by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg on Monday, is being seen as a major victory for the Native American tribes and environmentalist organizations.

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A U.S. federal court has ordered the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to immediately halt operations and evacuate all oil from the pipeline over concerns about its likely environmental impact and the potentially existential risk it poses to the land belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The decision, handed down by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg on Monday, is being seen as a major victory for the Native American tribes and environmentalist organizations who have waged a high-profile fight to prevent the major pipeline’s route from crossing through the Standing Rock Sioux’s main water supply.

The court order also comes on the heels of the cancellation of another major U.S. pipeline project on Sunday in a stunning rebuke of the Trump administration’s push to lift environmental regulations for the benefit of domestic fossil fuel extractors.

“It took four long years, but today justice has been served at Standing Rock,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribe attorney Jan Hasselman in a press release. “If the events of 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that health and justice must be prioritized early on in any decision-making process if we want to avoid a crisis later on.”

The ruling found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and willfully ignored the catastrophic consequences of a potential oil spill when it permitted Energy Transfer LP to construct and operate a section of the pipeline lying directly beneath Lake Oahe in South Dakota without even producing an adequate Environmental Impact Statement, reports Reuters.

“Given the seriousness of the Corps’ NEPA error, the impossibility of a simple fix, the fact that Dakota Access did assume much of its economic risk knowingly, and the potential harm each day the pipeline operates, the Court is forced to conclude that the flow of oil must cease,” the order said.

The court ordered Energy Transfer to begin winding down the 570,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) pipeline within 30 days, effectively sealing off the largest artery for the transportation of crude oil from the North Dakota Bakken shale basin to the Midwest and Gulf Coast.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith described the occasion as historic for his tribe and for the myriad supporters who have supported the anti-DAPL fight over the past several years.

“Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline,” Faith said. “This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning.”

Energy Transfer plans to continue fighting to avoid a shutdown through legal and administrative measures, and will appeal the decision as a last resort.

It will likely take about thirteen months to produce an Environmental Impact Statement, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. However, it remains unknown whether an EIS would actually be enough to save the pipeline, which has been operating for roughly three years.

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“The Court does not reach its decision with blithe disregard for the lives it will affect. It readily acknowledges that, even with the currently low demand for oil, shutting down the pipeline will cause significant disruption to DAPL, the North Dakota oil industry, and potentially other states,” Boasberg wrote in his order.

In the meantime, the Trump administration, conservative politicians, and oil industry groups have blamed activists and accused them of seeking to sabotage the U.S. economy.

 “I’m not quite sure what they’re cheering except for perhaps the loss of jobs all throughout America,” U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette told Fox Business Network.

“Shutting down the Dakota Access Pipeline would have devastating consequences to North Dakota and to America’s energy security. This terrible ruling should be promptly appealed,” said Trump ally and North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer.

However, environmentalists have unabashedly hailed the pipeline setbacks as victories in the fight to prevent the potentially disastrous consequences of the pipeline’s operations.

“Energy Transfer’s Dakota Access Pipeline and other environmentally reckless fossil fuel infrastructure projects will only make billionaires richer while the rest of us suffer,” said Greenpeace USA Climate Director Janet Redman in a statement. “Today’s ruling — arriving on the heels of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline victory — may be a calamity for oil and gas executives looking to profit from the disastrous climate crisis, but it’s a huge win for those of us committed to a liveable world.”

“The past 24 hours have sent a loud and clear message to fossil fuel corporations still committed to constructing dangerous pipelines — the future does not belong to you,” Redman added.

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Animals

Scientists Thrilled by Discovery of Rare, Mammoth 400-Year-Old Coral

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A massive 400-year-old hard coral discovered on the Great Barrier Reef has scientists expressing their sense of surprise and excitement.

Named Muga dambhi by the Manbarra people, the Indigenous group who have traditionally taken care of the land, the “exceptionally large” brown and cream-colored coral is located off the coast of Goolboodi or Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef.

It is believed that the coral was spawned some 421 to 438 years ago, meaning that its age predates the arrival of Captain James Cook and the advent of colonization in Australia, notes the Guardian.

The spectacular coral is about 35 feet wide and over 17 feet high, and is double the size of the nearest coral.

Scientists and members of the community participating in a marine science course discovered the specimen earlier this year.

While not the largest coral in the world, the huge find is of major significance to the local ecosystem, according to Adam Smith, an adjunct professor at James Cook University who wrote the field note on the find.

“It’s like a block of apartments,” Smith said. “It attracts other species. There’s other corals, there’s fish, there’s other animals around that use it for shelter or for feeding, so it’s pretty important for them.”

“It’s a bit like finding a giant redwood tree in the middle of a botanic gardens,” he added.

It is likely that the coral hasn’t been discovered for such a long time due to its location in a relatively remote and unvisited portion of a Marine National Park zone that enjoys a high degree of protection.

“Over the last 20 or 30 years, no one has noticed, or observed, or thought it newsworthy enough to share photos, or document, or do research on this giant coral,” Smith said.

The coral is in remarkable condition, with over 70 percent of its surface covered in live coral, coral rock and microalgae. No disease, bleaching or recently deceased coral has been recorded on the specimen.

“The cumulative impact of almost 100 bleaching events and up to 80 major cyclones over a period of four centuries, plus declining nearshore water quality contextualise the high resilience of this Porites coral,” the field note added.

The specific coral has been given the name Muga dhambi, meaning big coral, out of respect for the Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture of the Manbarra Traditional Owners.

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Environment

Greenland Ice Washed Away as Summit Sees Rain for First Time in Recorded History

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For the first time in recorded history, torrential downpours of rain have struck Greenland’s icy summit nearly two miles above sea level.

Greenland, an environmentally sensitive island, is typically known for its majestic ice sheet and snowy climate, but this is fast changing due to a massive melt taking place this summer.

However, the typical snowfall has been replaced in recent years not simply by a few showers, but by heavy rainfall. The torrential downpour last week was so huge, in fact, that it washed away a terrifying amount of ice across some 337,000 square miles of the ice shelf’s surface, reports Earther.

Temperatures at the ice shelf had simultaneously warmed to a significant degree, with the summit reaching 33 degrees Fahrenheit – within a degree above freezing and the third time that the shelf has surpassed freezing temperatures this decade.

The fact that rain is falling on ice rather than snow is also significant because it is melting ice across much of southern Greenland, which already saw huge melting events last month, while hastening rising sea levels that threaten to submerge whole coastal cities and communities.

To make matters worse, any new ice formed by the freezing rainwater will not last long. The ice shelf currently existing on Greenland was formed by the compression of snow over innumerable years, which shines bright white and reflects sunlight away rather than absorbing it, as ice from frozen rain does.

The huge scale of the melt and accompanying rainfall illustrate the growing peril of rapidly warming climate conditions across the globe.

“This event by itself does not have a huge impact, but it’s indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland,” wrote Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “Like the heat wave in the [U.S. Pacific] northwest, it’s something that’s hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change.”

“Greenland, like the rest of the world, is changing,” Scambos told the Washington Post. “We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland — and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years. And now rainfall: in an area where rain never fell.”

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Environment

South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash

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What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?

It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.

The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.

The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.

“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”

The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.

Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.

Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.

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