Monday

Report Says Coal-Fired Power Plants Creating a Public Health Crisis in India

Environmental group’s analysis says power plant emissions in India cause up to 120,000 premature deaths a year. The report from Geenpeace, produced by an ex-World Bank official, is billed as the first to study the health impact of India’s use of coal to fuel its rapid industrialization. The assessment said there is barely any regulation or inspection of the plants. With anti-pollution measures, the report said, “Hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved, and millions of asthma attacks, heart attacks, hospitalizations, lost workdays and associated costs to society could be avoided.” Separately, an Indian official said the government will increase coal imports to reduce a power shortage that is hampering economic growth. The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal

Environmental Protection Agency lacks plans to tighten lead poisoning rules despite calls for action. Public health advocates said children are exposed to lead particles in house dust and in yards at levels that can cause reduced intelligence, attention disorders and other problems. The EPA’s own scientific advisers have urged toughening current standards, set in 2001. “It’s outrageous we aren’t acting on what we know,” said Howard Mielke, a Tulane University soil contamination expert who served on an EPA lead advisory panel that provided recommendations more than two years ago. Any change in the EPA’s lead standard for house dust, which is under review, appears to be years away and would likely face business opposition. USA Today

Landmark California environmental law facing likely reforms. The 43-year-old California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, was signed by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan and considered a strong check on environmental degradation. But it gradually veered out of control as interests learned to exploit the law for non-environmental agendas. It became a tool of business rivals trying to block competition, neighborhood groups trying to thwart local projects and unions strong-arming developers for concessions. Meanwhile, project delays dragged on for years, with money wasted on consultants and lawyers. The Democratic state senator named to evaluate CEQA reforms, Jerry Hill, said, “We have to address these issues and not hide from them.” Los Angeles Times

Grocery chain becomes first to promise labeling for all products with genetically modified organisms. Whole Foods pledged that the labeling for items containing GMOs will be in place by 2018. A spokeswoman for the supermarket operator said organic foods will not have to carry the labels since they, by definition, do not contain genetically modified ingredients. The GMO issue has heated up in recent years, with health advocates pushing for mandatory labeling even though the federal government and many scientists say the ingredients are safe. Last year, California voters rejected an initiative that would have required GMO labels on some foods, a measure fiercely opposed by companies such as Monsanto and PepsiCo. The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times

Share of U.S. households with guns has declined over the last four decades, survey shows. Some of the most surprising drops have come in the South and the Western mountain states, where guns are deeply embedded in the culture. According to data from the General Social Survey, a poll taken every two years, the portion of households owning a gun has fallen from an average of 50 percent in the 1970s to 35 percent in the 2000s. New results show that the rate was 34 percent in 2012, up from 32 percent in 2010, but researchers said that change was not statistically significant. The long-term decline, studied by researchers for years but little known among the public, raises questions about the future politics of gun control. The New York Times

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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