December 8, 2014

Flint Hills Refinery in North Pole, Alaska.

North Pole is suing a Koch-owned oil company 

North Pole, Alaska, is not the real North Pole, yet it embodies Christmas year-round. The town has given its streets names like Santa Claus Lane, Saint Nicholas Drive and Blitzen. It even hires thousands of “Santa’s helpers” to respond to the thousands of letters it receives each year. Last week, North Pole filed a lawsuit against two oil companies that it claims are responsible for polluting its groundwater and some of its private drinking water with a chemical called sulfolane. The lawsuit accuses Flint Hills Alaska Resources, which is owned by Koch industries, of neglecting a nearby oil refinery that leaked the chemical. Flint Hills denies responsibility for the leak, pointing instead to a series of previous owners going back to the 1980s.


Energy firms working with Republican attorneys general

The New York Times has revealed that Republican attorneys general in the United States have formed an “unprecedented, secretive alliance…with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda.” Email exchanges from October 2011 show that attorneys general in at least a dozen states are shutting down investigations, changing policies and agreeing to corporate-friendly settlement terms in exchange for record amounts of campaign money. The analysis, which includes thousands of emails and court documents and dozens of interviews, shows that corporate representatives and attorneys general are also coordinating a legal strategy to fight federal regulations. “Never before have attorneys general joined on this scale with corporate interests to challenge Washington and file lawsuits in federal court,” the report said.


Leaders unlikely to meet two-degree climate goal

The United Nations says the outlook for a meaningful global emissions target is dim. Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change told Reuters TV that it was unrealistic to expect a miracle solution at the climate summit in Paris next year. “We already know because we have a pretty good sense of what countries will be able to do in the short run, that the sum total of efforts (in Paris) will not be able to put us on the path for two degrees,” she said. Figueres said some kind of deal will likely be reached in Paris because China, the U.S. and E.U. have already agreed to set goals to limit emissions beyond 2020. She said the negotiations are not about a “miracle solution,” but believes instead that countries will reach their goals “over time.”


Report shows why women really leave the workforce

A new survey by the Harvard Business School shows that women choose to leave the workplace after having children because they are dissatisfied with their jobs, not because they want to focus on their families. The research found no connection between asking for maternal leave and the lack of women in senior positions. Instead, it found that only 41 per cent of women were satisfied with their opportunities for advancement. The study, which looked at 25,000 Harvard Business School graduates, says women chose to have children “as a last resort because they find themselves in unfulfilling roles with dim prospects for advancement.”


Friendly invasive species

A new book called Where Do Camels Belong – Why Invasive Species Aren’t All Bad shows invasive species may not be as a threatening as most people believe. While they often get a lot of negative attention in the media, researchers are showing that these unwelcomed plants and animals rarely threaten ecosystems. In fact, one scientist told the CBC that our efforts to eradicate them could be more damaging than the invader might have caused in the first place. “Nature…has moved species around throughout history, and while we’re doing it faster and more frequently than in the past, nature tends to be up to the challenge,” the CBC reported.

Corporate Knights’ associate editor Ashley Renders wrote last week about the City of Toronto’s attempt to make use of the almost 900,000 ash trees it expects to lose before 2017 to an invasive insect from Asia called the emerald ash borer. The city intends to install a sawmill in one of its wood lots to create lumber out of the infested wood, which is still useful for furniture and other wood products.

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