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Beer Made from Whales?, Peekaboo with Sharks, West Virginia: Time to Protect Your Water
Our top picks: today's environmental news and best #greenreads.

Tough questions: Folks in West Virginia—some 300,000 of them—are starting to get their drinking water back, five days after a chemical used to scrub coal leaked into the Elk River. Now investigators and journalists are looking into how the spill happened. For starters, why the blazes would anyone think it was a good idea to put a chemical storage facility upriver from the state's largest water treatment plant? Further, West Virginia law doesn’t require inspections of chemical storage facilities—and even more strangely, this disaster doesn't seem to have galvanized lawmakers to protect their water supply. (Get your act together, West Virginia—you’re starting to look like Jacqueline Bisset’s Golden Globes acceptance speech.) Huffington Post, New York Times

Drugs kill: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a plan last year designed to curb the use of antibiotics in livestock (see “FDA to Big Pharma: Cut Back on Antibiotics in Meat, Pretty Please”). Critics (including NRDC, which publishes OnEarth) argued that the FDA’s strategy doesn’t crack down nearly hard enough, pretty much leaving it up to drug companies whether they want to comply. Now, as an alternative, some economists are pushing for a “user fee” on antibiotics, which would make it costly for farmers to use the drugs on livestock that aren’t yet sick, as they’re doing now to promote animal growth. Washington Post

Life preservers, anyone?: In New York Harbor, a tide gauge that has been operating in some capacity since 1850—collecting data needed for the shipping industry—is also proving important to today's scientists studying sea-level rise. And it is rising, an average of eight inches worldwide from 1880 to 2009. That translates into higher tidal surges during storms and billions of dollars spent to fight erosion. Wait, it gets worse. Not only is the sea rising, but the rate at which it’s doing so is also accelerating. Oh, and just one more thing … the land you East Coasters are standing on? It’s sinking. New York Times

Macrofauna microbrew: Channeling its inner Mr. Burns, an Icelandic brewery has concocted a brew made out of ground-up whales. Seriously. Let’s just say, conservationists do not think this is a good idea. The Independent

Winds of change: A new report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration reveals that national carbon emissions rose by 2 percent last year—after five straight years of decline. Tsk tsk. It’s thought that surging natural gas prices brought on the rise because they led some electric utilities to shift back to coal. But maybe there’s a bright side? Perhaps this news will remind the country that it isn’t just going to coast to Obama's 2020 climate goals, and new regulations to curb carbon emissions from power plants are sorely needed. Slate

Catch of the day: Scientists haven’t laid their eyes on a smoothtooth blacktip shark in over 100 years. That is, until a research team took a tour of a Kuwaiti fish market in 2008 and discovered one lying upon a pile of pellet ice. A paper published last year explains how browsing the aisles of markets can lead to important discoveries. The scientists ended up finding 47 other specimens of smoothtooth blacktips, which provided data on how long the animals live, how many pups they pop out, and how they use their habitat—all important things to know if you want to save a species. Scientific American


Swearing in SCUBA gear: Speaking of sharks, check out this video of a few divers getting the great white encounter of a lifetime in Mexico’s Baja California. Note: “encounters of a lifetime” are not recommended for guests with weak hearts. Or bowels. Huffington Post


California More Than Doubles Solar Energy in 2013 Huffington Post

Hey, Wanna Borrow My Blow Torch? OnEarth

As “Blackfish” Soars, Will SeaWorld Sink? The Dodo

Tips: @OnEarthMag (tag it #greenreads)

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