Science and Environment

Hurricanes, oil spills, and the latest efforts to manage them.

Melissa Block speaks with Brian Stone, director of the Urban Climate Lab at Georgia Institute of Technology, about the public health effects of climate change.

A Dallas jury recently awarded nearly $3 million to a family who said they were poisoned by a natural gas drilling operation near their North Texas ranch. The verdict, reached on April 22, is being called a landmark by opponents of the drilling technique, called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking."

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And the U.S. may soon be a big exporter of natural gas. Some say that would boost America's economy and its strength on the world stage. But there are also worries that environmental risks presented by this new industry are not being taken seriously enough. NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN, BYLINE: Right now the U.S. doesn't export natural gas overseas but companies are eager to convert existing import terminals to export instead in places like Lusby, Maryland, where Sue and Dale Allison live.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. Some communities are unlucky recipients of air pollution that blows in from other states and today, those areas got good news by way of a Supreme Court ruling. It revives a major air pollution rule that was knocked down by a lower court. NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports it's another big victory for the Environmental Protection Agency.

 Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré
Restore Louisiana Now

Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré gets credit for restoring order in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And from that, he emerged as a national hero.

Since then, he’s retired and launched headlong into the fight against pollution, gathering the troops in a Green Army.


Jonathan Henderson of New Orleans-based Gulf Restoration Network is flying Louisiana's coast looking for oil. As usual, he's found some.

"I just noticed something out of the corner of my eye that looks like a sheen that had some form to it," he says. "We're going to go take a closer look and see if there's a rainbow sheen."

It's a target-rich environment for Henderson, because more than 54,000 wells were planted in and off this coast — part of the 300,000 wells in the state. They're connected by thousands of miles of pipelines, all vulnerable to leaks.

The Keystone XL pipeline remains a major point of contention within the Democratic Party, as green voters pull President Obama one direction and pro-energy senators and labor unions pull the other. It looks as though the "comment period" for the project will be extended, delaying a decision past the November elections.

Louisiana's coast is disappearing at the rate of about a football field an hour. Since the 1930s, the Gulf of Mexico has swallowed up an area the size of Delaware.

You can see the water encroaching in Delacroix in St. Bernard Parish, less than an hour southeast of New Orleans. Here, a narrow crescent of land known locally as the "end of the world" is where the road abruptly comes to a dead end; in the distance, you see the tops of now-submerged trees.

This story has been updated with a response from BP.

As the four-year anniversary of the BP oil spill approaches, a leading environmental group is warning that the event is far from over. Increased deaths of dolphins, sea turtles and other injured species are signs of continuing contamination.

Most experimental drugs fail before they make it through all the tests required to figure out if they actually work and if they're safe. But some drugs get fairly far down that road, at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, based on poorly conducted studies at the outset.

Medical researchers reviewing this sorry state of affairs say the drug-development process needs serious improvement.

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