The Stream, January 20, 2021: Biden Intends to Cancel Keystone XL Pipeline


  • The cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline by President-elect Joe Biden could threaten U.S.-Canada relations.
  • An environmental group sues the federal government for water rights of a Kansas wildlife refuge.
  • Monsoon rains threaten aid and rescue efforts after a major earthquake hits parts of Indonesia.
  • A Virginia distillery and its owner were charged with over 100 counts of illegal discharge of industrial waste.

Testing wastewater could help track new variations of the Covid-19 virus in the United States before they are detected in clinics.

“It appears that we might be able to get an earlier signal in the wastewater if a new variant shows up compared to only relying on the sequencing of clinical samples. Just knowing that SARS-CoV-2 is present in a population is the first step in providing information to help control the spread of the virus, but knowing which variants are present provides additional but very useful information.” – Kara Nelson from the College of Engineering at the University of California-Berkeley. Researchers believe wastewater testing can help track new mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, Forbes reports. By testing sewage from the San Francisco Bay area, University of California-Berkeley researchers found the same virus genomes in wastewater as the genomes found in clinics in the same region. Additionally, the study discovered variants of Covid-19 previously unreported by local clinics. The new study adds to previous epidemiological research around wastewater testing.

In context: Enthusiasm But Obstacles in Using Sewage to Monitor Coronavirus


California Households Owe $1 Billion in Water-Bill Debt

Household water-bill debt in California has soared in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, worsening a water affordability crisis that has hit the state’s low-income residents and communities of color the hardest.

A survey by the state’s water regulator estimates that about 1.6 million households have a combined water debt of $1 billion, which is growing by about $100 million each month. The State Water Resources Control Board also found that 155,000 households are deep in debt, owing more than $1,000 to their water departments. Many of those deep-debt households are in poorer areas of southern and central Los Angeles County, the data showed.

In Case You Missed It:

Flint Residents Unimpressed by Snyder Charges Linked to Lead Poisoning – While Flint residents said they’re glad to see criminal charges after years of waiting, anger was the prevailing sentiment Thursday morning as they learned former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one-year in prison and/or a $1,000 fine.

H2O HotSpots: Rapidly Disappearing Tuni Glacier Raises Concerns for Bolivian Water Scarcity – The Tuni glacier, a formerly vast piece of ice that rises over the Bolivian capital of La Paz as a critical water source, is disappearing faster than predicted, reported Reuters earlier this month. The resulting melt will lead to further water shortages in the capital region, where water is already scarce.

Environmental Group Sues For Water Rights Of Kansas Wildlife Refuge

The environmental group Audubon of Kansas filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Interior and various federal and state officials for allegedly failing to protect senior water rights belonging to the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. The Associated Press reports that groundwater pumping by irrigators upstream in the Rattlesnake Creek basin has caused a water shortage on Quivira. The lawsuit, filed last Friday, seeks a ruling to ensure sufficient water supplies on the refuge.



Monsoon rains have slowed down aid efforts and search and rescue operations after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake in Indonesia that killed nearly 100 people and displaced almost 20,000. Al Jazeera reports that in one camp on the outskirts of South Tubo Village in Mamuju, heavy rains have made life difficult for nearly 50 villagers sleeping under a tarpaulin, where damp conditions make cooking and heating water nearly impossible. Rain is forecast to continue for the rest of the week.


Filibuster Distillery LLC and its owner Siddharth Dilawri were served a 115-count indictment by a grand jury in Virginia last week for illegally dumping industrial waste. The Associated Press reports the charges include over 100 counts of discharging industrial waste without a permit into state water, three counts of discharging industrial waste into a publicly owned waste treatment works and two counts of altering state water without a permit and making it detrimental to public health. The case marks the first criminal indictments related to environmental violations brought by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s office and the state Department of Environmental Quality.


On his first day in office, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, a project outgoing Republican President Donald Trump supported. Reuters reports the cancellation of the project would threaten Canadian jobs and U.S.-Canadian relations. Alberta, Canada’s main oil-producing province, threatened to seek damages as Ottawa made efforts to save the project. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has previously urged the president-elect not to halt construction. On Monday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney urged Trudeau to reach out to the Biden administration in the two days before he is inaugurated.

In context: Water and Climate Safety, Finance Security, Drive Keystone XL Conflict

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