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Thirsty Rivers, Whaling in the Office, the Keeling Curve Budget Crisis
Our top picks: today's environmental news and best #greenreads.

Dry river basin

When the funding runs out: Earlier this week, scientists warned that carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere had already topped the crucial 400 parts per million threshold for the year—two months earlier than it hit the same historically high measurement last year. Well, here’s some more bad news: the lab that takes those all-important measurements is about to run out of money. With government funding hard to come by and several grants expiring, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography may no longer be able to keep sampling atmospheric CO2, an absolutely crucial carbon pollution measurement that has been running for the past six decades under the auspices of Charles Keeling and his son, Ralph (who OnEarth profiled in its Winter 2013 issue). USA Today

Back in the saddle: For four years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP was put on double secret probation in the Gulf of Mexico. However, that came to an end last week when the Environmental Protection Agency lifted BP’s ban on doing business in the United States and returned its bidding privileges. The oil giant has wasted no time getting back in the game. The Interior Department announced that it sold $872 million worth of deep-water drilling leases for the Gulf this week, and BP snagged 24 of them. Washington Post

Oil as insecticide: Even if the EPA has forgiven BP, the wildlife of the Gulf have not. Insects in Louisiana’s wetlands are still dying to this day as a result of the oil spilled into the Gulf four years ago and the chemical dispersant used to break it up. Even areas not originally hit by the tide of oil are getting exposed now as submerged oil and chemicals are distributed through disturbed sediments and storm surges. BP’s response? Any oil that reached the shoreline was stripped of compounds that might damage wildlife. Yeah, OK. Tell it to the ants. The Times-Picayune

Stress test: The World Resources Institute recently conducted a study of the world’s most stressed water basins, and the United States made the list—twice. (U.S.A! U.S.A! Wait, what?) The Institute determined that the Colorado River and the Bravo Basin of the Rio Grande have at least 80 percent of their waters withdrawn each year for use in agriculture, industry, and domestic purposes such as bathing and drinking. (Good thing Will Ferrell’s on the case!) China led the list with five river basins under stress. Slate

Just a suggestion: The Natural Resources Defense Council (which publishes OnEarth) unveiled a proposal this week that could help the Environmental Protection Agency cut 470 million to 700 million tons of carbon pollution from power plants by the year 2020. And that’s nothing to sneeze at—we’re talking the equivalent of emissions from 95 million to 130 million automobiles. The report is an updated version of one that NRDC submitted in 2012, which provided a blueprint for EPA's own plan for reducing power plant pollution. New York Times

Key decisions: The president’s own advisers oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. Many top Democratic donors, including billionaire Tom Steyer, are dead-set against it. And even the President has poo-pooed claims that the pipe would create a ton of jobs. So what’s standing in the way of a big, red, rubber-stamped “NO?” Politics, writes Bloomberg’s Julianna Goldman. If the president nixes the pipeline now, it might jeopardize the Democrats’ control of the Senate come mid-term elections. Of course, if the president were to approve KXL, he’d be between a rock and a pissed-off base. Bloomberg


Whale worth a watch: If you’re familiar with the popular short-video smart phone app called Vine, then you probably already know about #whaling. If not, it’s basically a bunch of hilarious humans doing their best breach impression against a variety of backdrops. Well, our friends at NRDC (which, as we mentioned above, publishes OnEarth) made their own #whaling supercut, and well… It. Is. Epic. NRDC


Warily Leading Japan’s Nuclear Reawakening New York Times

Keystone Foes Take Aim at Maryland Natural Gas Project Bloomberg

Huge Water Pulse to Bring Colorado River Back From Dead New Scientist

Cleanup of Silicon Valley Superfund Site Takes Environmental Toll Center for Investigative Reporting

Tips: @OnEarthMag (tag it #greenreads)

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