3p Contributor: Jan Lee

Jan Lee Jan Lee splits her time residence between the rural lands of Idaho and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Her articles on business, eco-travel, history and culture have been published in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. Visit her blog at multiculturaljew.polestarpassages.com

Recent Articles

Detroit Water Shutoff Crisis: Public Water Brigade Grows

Jan Lee
| Thursday February 26th, 2015 | 2 Comments

Detroit_water_brigade_protestLast September, as Detroit residents were still in the midst of 80-degree summer weather, the city’s water department went to court. Its issue was the 27,000-some customers who were getting Detroit water but weren’t paying their bills.

As of March 2014, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) was missing about $175 million in water payments, almost $100,000 of that from residential customers who had lost their jobs or couldn’t afford the hefty water bill last summer. Residents were already paying an average of $64 per month water access. With an 8.7 percent increase in June, many unemployed residents and individuals on Social Security Income checks couldn’t afford water for cooking, washing and basic needs.

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Duke Energy Pleads Guilty to Charges Under Clean Water Act

Jan Lee
| Wednesday February 25th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Duke_Energy_Cape_Fear_GerryDincherFederal investigators have finally released the results of a year-long investigation into Duke Energy coal ash spills in North Carolina. Three U.S. attorney’s offices and the Department of Justice Environmental Crimes section, have filed charges against Duke Energy for dumping waste in a string of events that date back to at least 2010.

U.S. attorney’s offices for the western, eastern and middle districts of North Carolina each filed criminal bills of information last week in the district courts. The charges allege violations of the Clean Water Act that include unlawfully dumping coal ash and/or wastwater and failing to maintain onsite equipment at designated Duke Energy stations.

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Judge Declines Final Rule in Harvard Divestment Suit

Jan Lee
| Tuesday February 24th, 2015 | 1 Comment

Harvard_University_VirtualWolfLast Friday Harvard University’s legal team was in court to address what seems to have become iconic debate of our times: the financial support of the fossil fuel industry. Harvard Corporation, which oversees the university’s investment portfolio, was sued last year by seven students who maintain that Harvard “has a legal obligation — and, more  importantly, a moral duty —to stop profiting from human suffering and environmental destruction.” The group, which is representing itself, is succinct in its goal: “Our lawsuit simply asks Harvard to live up to its centuries-old promise to promote “the advancement of youth.”

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Mount Polley Mine: ‘Indigenous Law’ Will Now Be Enforced

Jan Lee
| Monday February 23rd, 2015 | 6 Comments

The negative effects of extractive industry operations on indigenous communities have been obvious for quite some time.

Studies show that the rights of Native communities are often at risk in such settings, especially when hydraulic fracturing and other crude oil-related developments are being operated on or near their lands.

What is often less reported however, are the dangers that Native peoples face from overlooked mechanical or structural failures where materials or waste compounds are stored in remote areas.


Images from NASA showcase the contaminated water that surged from the bright blue retention basin into nearby lakes when the mine collapsed.

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Crude Oil Spills Prompt New Questions About Safety

Jan Lee
| Friday February 20th, 2015 | 0 Comments


The derailments of two cargo trains earlier this week are prompting questions about safety precautions for North America’s rail systems. They’re also spurring debate about whether crude oil shipments have a place on the rails that pass through America’s small towns.

More than 60 people were evacuated from their homes in the small town of Montgomery, West Virginia, after a CSX train carrying crude to a refinery derailed and caught fire. One house was destroyed, and the town’s drinking water was contaminated by an oil spill.

Less than 48 hours earlier, another oil train traveling through eastern Canada burst into flames when it derailed in a forested area near Timmins, Ontario. The fire was still burning late this week.

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Shareholders to Chevron: Bar All Political Contributions

Jan Lee
| Tuesday February 17th, 2015 | 1 Comment

Chevron_refinery_protest_planet-aTimes they are a-changin’. The unprecedented win by progressive candidate Tom Butt in the 2014 Richmond, California mayoral elections signaled a new, more determined outlook in the city that holds Chevron’s largest oil refinery.

Environmental groups, accusing the oil company of soaking the 2014 city elections with some $3 million in funding, are calling for Chevron to stop committing its money to local, state and federal elections. And to drive home the point, Sierra Club, Green Century Funds, local politicians and activists are backing a shareholder resolution to prevent the corporation from making political contributions.

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Just the Facts: Sustainable Energy in America

Jan Lee
| Thursday February 12th, 2015 | 5 Comments

Sustainable_Energy_America_2015The size of this year’s update to the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook is a testament to just how strong the renewable energy market is these days. Published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) with underwriting from the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, the Factbook is 144 well-packed pages of data that attests the vibrancy of an energy sector that only two years ago could be summarized in something just bigger than a brochure.

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Your Poop: Now for Money and Science!

Jan Lee
| Wednesday February 11th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Lab_technician_poop_USN_SWeaverShort of cash these days? A new medical enterprise may have just the cure.

A nonprofit organization in Medford, Mass., is on the cusp of a medical frontier that (at least for now) promises a lucrative outcome for its donor base. And that, is in part, because it can be really hard to find that perfect donor.

OpenBiome, which was launched by Mark Smith and James Burgess in 2012, is in the business of curing clostridium difficile — a gastrointestinal disorder that has become increasingly more frequent in the last 20 years. It’s also become increasingly more difficult to cure, with at least 20 percent of the cases treated lapsing into recurrent symptoms.

The answer that OpenBiome, and researchers from institutions like the Mayo Clinic, have come up with may not seem your standard treatment regimen. But it works.

Each year, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. contract C. difficile, explains OpenBiome on its website. That’s because, “[In] a healthy gut community, C. difficile is out-competed by the hundreds of strains of bacteria that are normally present.” But with antibiotic therapy for, say, a tooth infection, that bacteria is often killed off. The result is an opportunistic environment where C. difficile can not only live — but really thrive.

“However, in hundreds of treatments in many independent institutions, fecal transplantation, which reconstitutes the healthy gut community, has been shown to cure over 90 percent of the most recalcitrant C. difficile cases,” says OpenBiome.

Yes, you read that right. Fecal microbiota transplantation, or FMT, is the magic potion that’s been shown to cure C. difficile, largely by replacing the much-needed friendly bacteria that has been killed off by routine antibiotics.

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Florida’s Expanding Sinkholes Won’t Deter Fracking

Jan Lee
| Monday February 9th, 2015 | 3 Comments

Florida_sinkhole_JohnSQuarterman_ABCYears ago, I had a part-time job working in the back office of a Florida engineering firm that handled foundation restoration claims. Its commercial success was not only evidence of Tampa’s burgeoning population, but also the growing number of sinkholes that were beginning to appear across West Florida’s “Sinkhole Alley” at the center of the state.

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“Frozen” Sequel? Let Kids Educate Disney About Climate Change

Jan Lee
| Friday February 6th, 2015 | 2 Comments


Maybe it’s just the approach that’s missing.

Just recently, the Obama administration reached out to Walt Disney Co. with a simple request — or so it probably seemed to Rear Adm. Robert Papp, the administration’s special representative for the Arctic and former commander of the U.S. Coast Guard.

As Papp recounted at an Arctic Frontiers Conference in Tromsø, Norway this January, his mission was to ask the 92-year-old company if the Obama administration could use Disney’s new blockbuster, “Frozen,” to teach kids about climate change.

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H&M CEO: Reducing Consumption Isn’t the Answer

Jan Lee
| Thursday February 5th, 2015 | 8 Comments

Bangladesh_H&M_clothing_retailerThe CEO of one of the world’s largest clothing retailers thinks that we will be heading the wrong way if we reduce consumption to ward off climate change.

Karl-Johan Persson, who runs the Swedish multinational Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), suggested in an interview with the Guardian that, “If we were to decrease 10 percent to 20 percent of everything we don’t need, the result on the social and economic side would be catastrophic…” Cutting back precipitously would increase worldwide unemployment and poverty, he argued. The challenge, said Persson, is “doing it in a way where you still can have economic growth and jobs creation, while finding the innovations that can limit the damage to the environment.”

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Minnesota Appeals Ruling Against Carbon Offset Provision

Jan Lee
| Tuesday February 3rd, 2015 | 1 Comment

Minnesota_steam_power_carbon_offset_Michael_HicksShould states be able to set their own parameters for how energy is purchased and produced within their borders?

That question is at the heart of a judicial appeal that was filed by the state of Minnesota recently, concerning the outcome of the state of North Dakota’s challenge to its Next Generation Energy Act (Energy Act).

Minnesota’s carbon offset provision

Last April, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota struck down a provision in Minnesota’s Energy Act requiring new power plants that purchase coal-generated power to demonstrate carbon offsets. The state law was designed to complement Minnesota’s clean energy goals.

The court ruled that the state law essentially conflicted with the commerce clause of the Constitution of the United States, which regulates interstate commerce.

“Over the years,” says the executive director of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Scott Strand, “the courts have interpreted (the powers of the commerce clause) as not only a grant of authority to Congress, but (as) taking away some of the authority of the states.”

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14 Outdoor Companies Pledge to Boost Women’s Leadership

Jan Lee
| Thursday January 29th, 2015 | 0 Comments

REI_OIWC_Womens_LeadershipThe Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition, along with REI and 13 other outdoor companies, have announced a new goal: boost and support women’s participation in key leadership roles.

The pledge to accelerate women’s leadership, which was developed by the OIWC, was unveiled by REI CEO Jerry Stritzke last week at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City. REI, along with other big-name signatories like Patagonia and The North Face, hope the pledge will “drive change across the industry.”

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Prison Reforms Offenders While Serving Gourmet Meals

Jan Lee
| Thursday January 29th, 2015 | 1 Comment

Cardiff_Prison_le_restaurant_jennydowning2A prison in Cardiff, Wales, offered an awkward challenge to the city’s 900 or so restaurants recently when its prisoner-staffed diner was named the best restaurant in the city.

The Clink Cymru restaurant, located in Wales’ capital and largest city, outpaced 3- and 4-star classic Cardiff venues like Jamie’s Italian, the Potted Pig and the Mint and Mustard for the top score as locals’ favorite eatery. Voters weighed in on TripAdvisor, and the results of the 395 votes were picked up by the South Wales Evening Post.

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Sustainability Ranking for Large Companies Announced at World Economic Forum

Jan Lee
| Wednesday January 28th, 2015 | 1 Comment

biogen_idec_sustainableFraming the perfectly sustainable company has always been a challenge, but never one that Toronto-based Corporate Knights has shied away from. The well-known media and financial products company released its eighth annual tally of the top 100 multi-billion-dollar companies this week. And there was no better place to announce the findings than the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland.

It’s a heady list of who’s-who from every corner of the industrialized world. The U.S., which was represented by 20 companies, took the lion’s share of kudos.

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