U.S. Supreme Court will review an Idaho couple’s four-year battle with the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency has blocked Chantell and Mike Sackett’s plans to build a new house on property that, the EPA says, contains environmentally sensitive wetlands. The couple’s case has been championed by conservatives and developers, and a decision in favor of the Sacketts could curtail the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act. The Washington Post
A Houston pipe manufacturer faces federal penalties that could total more than $1 million for alleged workplace safety violations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration accused Piping Technology and Products of 13 willful and 17 serious violations for exposing workers to the risk of amputations and other serious injuries due to a lack of safeguards on dangerous equipment. OSHA placed Piping Technology in the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. OSHA, Houston Chronicle
Cement maker will pay a $1.7 million fine to resolve alleged U.S. Clean Air Act violations. Essroc Cement also will spend $33 million on new pollution control technology at five Portland Cement plants, located in Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia and Puerto Rico. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has stepped up its emphasis on reducing cement plant air pollution, which includes sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that are major contributors to acid rain and smog. The Morning Call, EPA
France is launching an investigation of flawed breast implants. Between 300,000 and 400,000 women in 65 countries are believed to have had implants made by the French company PIP that contained an industrial gel. Concerns arose last month after French health authorities advised 30,000 women to have their PIP implants removed because of the increased risk of rupture. Officials have also said that cancer has been detected in 20 French women with the implants but insisted there is no proven link between the implants and the disease. The Telegraph
An advertising campaign to combat childhood obesity in Georgia is drawing fire from critics who say it stigmatizes overweight kids without helping families attack the problem. In one TV commercial, a child asks his mother, “Mom, why am I fat?” A spokeswoman for the nonprofit healthcare group running the campaign, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, explained: “We needed something that was more arresting and in your face than some of the flowery campaigns out there.” ABC News, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Media coverage of climate change continued to fall in 2011. It declined roughly 20 percent from 2010 levels and nearly 42 percent from 2009’s peak, according to an analysis of global media. The Daily Climate
A voice from the grave pleads for a Canadian asbestos ban. Anti-asbestos campaigners have issued an open letter to a Quebec cabinet minister, urging him to honor a dying woman’s final wish and take a stand against further provincial government subsidies for asbestos mining and export. The Tyee
U.S. coal mining deaths declined in 2011. The toll of 21 coal mine fatalities was the second-lowest since the federal government began keeping records more than a century ago. In 2010, 48 coal miners were killed, 29 of them in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch site in West Virginia.
Manufacturers of window blinds are coming under growing criticism for balking at doing more to prevent child strangulation deaths. Dozens of children have died in recent years after getting caught in window blind cords. The current safety standard proposed by an industry-dominated task force “poses too much risk to the safety of children,” said the head of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Chicago Tribune
Philadelphia and California top the latest “Judicial Hellholes” list. The annual rating by the pro-business American Tort Reform Association, whose members include major oil, tobacco, pharmaceutical and insurance companies, spotlights the court systems where it claims “lawsuit abuse” is most prevalent and defendants in civil cases are least likely to get a fair shake. West Virginia and South Florida finished in third and fourth place.
–Compiled by Stuart Silverstein