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Out of Our League in the Arctic, a Win for Rail Safety, Bye-Bye, Blue-Footed Boobies?
Our top picks: today's environmental news and best #greenreads.

Preparing for the worst: According to a new report released by the National Research Council, we’re woefully unprepared for an oil spill in the Arctic. We know surprisingly little about ice conditions, weather patterns, and even the basic geography of the area—and lack the infrastructure needed to respond to disaster. The 183-page report covers threats from oil and gas leaks, marine shipping, and oil tanks on the ground, and is the product of a diverse committee of representatives from the oil industry, academia, federal agencies, and Arctic communities. Alaska Dispatch

Contents flammable: No word yet on what sparked an explosion at a natural gas processing plant on Wednesday that forced the evacuation of the nearby town of Opal, Wyoming, and shut down the local highway. The plant is owned by Williams Companies Inc. and serves as a major hub for the region’s natural gas, where five separate pipelines converge to process about 2 percent of the daily U.S. gas supply. The blast is the latest in a string of safety hazards for the rapidly growing industry, including a flaming pipeline in West Virginia at the beginning of the month and a tank explosion in Washington state in March. Reuters

Public shaming: An Oregon law requires railroad companies to disclose the location and volume of their oil shipments. This helps first responders know what they’re up against in the event of a derailment—which by the way, happens at an average rate of one rail car per day (see "Accident Waiting to Happen"). But an investigation by the Oregonian newspaper revealed that the state’s transportation officials decided not to share such information this year, on the basis that it might expose precious rail and oil industry secrets. After the media caught wind of the story and ripped them a new one, Oregon’s officials have graciously decided that full disclosure is a good idea after all. OnEarth

Congrats, Katharine!: Katharine Hayhoe is a climate scientist and devout Christian on a crusade to show people of faith the truth about climate change. Well, now Hayhoe can add another title to her business card: one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People. OnEarth also profiled her in 2012—like, way ahead of the media pack (see “True Believer”). And who wrote up her blurb in TIME? Captain Planet himself, Don Cheadle—whom you’ll remember as one of the celebs in our Years of Living Dangerously recaps, where he stars alongside Ms. Hayhoe. TIME

Disappearing boobies: Along with tortoises, iguanas, and finches, blue-footed boobies are icons of the Galapagos Islands. Not only do they have amazing sky-blue feet, their name makes them a cherished topic for middle school research papers. Unfortunately, the birds don’t seem to be breeding, and their population has dropped 50 percent in the last 20 years. One theory is that the boobies are responding to a decline in their primary food source: the oily, energy-dense sardine. But even if that is the case, we’re not any closer to helping the boobies—because we don’t yet know what’s happening to the sardines. New York Times

Bobbing for the Big Apple: A new study says the water surrounding New York City has risen by nearly two and a half feet since the mid-1800s. The research also predicts that the harbor is about 20 times more likely to flood these days than back then, with a flooding event happening once every four to five years. In the 1800s, the chances of water coming over the Lower Manhattan seawall were only once every 100 to 400 years. Gothamist

DAILY DISTRACTION

Bridge over troubled water: The frozen rivers are melting in New Brunswick, Canada, bringing ice floes, swiftly moving debris, and rising water levels this spring. Frankly, it’s pretty cool to watch. And when all of that nature comes rushing up against a low-lying bridge … well, steel and concrete don’t stand a chance. Huffington Post

OTHER HEADLINES

At a Rare Field Hearing, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson Calls Miami Beach Ground Zero for Sea Level Rise Miami Herald

You’re Already Eating Algae Slate

Canada Moves Ahead of U.S. in Phasing Out Older Tank Cars for Shipping Crude Oil McClatchy D.C.

Tips: @OnEarthMag (tag it #greenreads)

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