Operations by gas consortium in Amazon reserve for vulnerable Indigenous peoples met with legal action
Three Peruvian judges are scheduled to meet on 1 April following a lawsuit filed to stop a gas consortium from operating in a reserve in the Amazon created for indigenous peoples living in “initial contact” and “voluntary isolation.”
There are already wells in the west of the reserve where gas has been produced for years, and last month the Energy Ministry approved the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the expansion of operations involving more wells, a pipeline extension and seismic tests further to the north, east and south.
photo by Brian Ralphs
The lawsuit was filed against the Energy Ministry and the company leading the consortium, Pluspetrol, in August 2013 by the Lima-based Institute for the Legal Defence of the Environment and Sustainable Development (IDLADS). It asks the judge to order, among other things, the Energy Ministry to rescind its approval of the expansion and to ban all oil and gas operations in the reserve:
We request that [the judge] orders the Ministry of Energy and Mines to exclude the Kugapakori-Nahua-Nanti and Others’ Reserve from any kind of promotion, exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons.
The lawsuit also asks the judge to order Pluspetrol to “refrain from exploring for or exploiting hydrocarbons” in the reserve, and to respond to observations in a technical report on the EIA by the Culture Ministry in July last year which stated that the new wells, pipeline and seismic tests could “devastate” or make “extinct” the reserve’s inhabitants and was subsequently rescinded.
IDLADS claims that operations in the reserve violate the Peruvian constitution, Peruvian law and international law, and the reserve’s inhabitants’ rights to a “healthy and balanced environment”, self-determination, life, health, “ethnic and cultural identity”, “biological and cultural integrity”, dignity, territory, property, ancestral possession and prior consultation.
Almost 75 percent of the gas concession, created in 2000 and called Lot 88, overlaps the reserve, which was established 10 years earlier. In 2003, the reserve was granted greater legal protection by a Supreme Decree “guaranteeing [its] territorial integrity”, banning “human settlements” different to those of the reserve’s inhabitants, banning the “granting of new rights involving the exploitation of natural resources”, and ensuring that “existing rights to exploit natural resources must be carried out with the maximum considerations to guarantee that the rights …more
SB 1381 is a cleaner version of Prop 37, say bill proponents
California’s gearing up for round two of the GMO labeling debate. This time though the battle will be duked out in the state legislature rather than in the public arena.
Photo courtesy Senator Evans' Office
On Friday, state Senator Noreen Evans, a Democrat from Santa Rosa, introduced a new bill to label GM foods sold in California. SB 1381 would require food sold in state grocery stores to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. The bill’s proponents say it is basically a cleaner, more streamlined version of Prop 37, the 2012 ballot initiative to label GMOs that was defeated at the polls.
Sponsored by a coalition of 17 environmental, consumer, food groups, and small businesses called Californians for GE Food Labeling, SB 1381 provides more protections for farmers and retailers, and places limits on potential litigation. The bill will most likely be assigned to the California senate health committee by mid-March.
“This legislation provides more clarity on who’s responsible for labeling or mislabeling,” says Rebecca Spector, West Coast director of the Center for Food Safety, the group that was lead author of the legislation. “The retailer is only responsible for labeling fresh produce at point of purchase. The bill also makes it clear that farmers are not liable unless they have intentionally misled retailers.” The Center, incidentally, had also co-authored Prop 37.
California voters rejected the ballot initiative in 2012 by a less than 3 percent margin. Spector says post-election polling showed that 21 percent of all California voters who voted against Prop. 37 reported they support labeling of GE foods but were confused about certain provisions of the initiative. Also certain provisions in Prop 37, such as banning any processed food from being labeled as natural, had alienated groups like the Natural Products Association, which should typically have been allies.
The new bill, Spector says, doesn’t include this provision. It also minimizes the risk of farmers, food manufacturers, and retailers being sued. “If a company is notified of a violation it will have a 60-day period to correct their labeling prior to a lawsuit moving forward, and there’s no fixed penalty,” Spector says.
Native primates mistake wires for vines, suffer horrific deaths, crippling injuries
As Costa Rica’s tropical sun beat fiercely in the small jungle clearing in the Nicoya peninsula, I held the swaddled baby monkey in my arms. Her black fur radiating heat, Felicia reached out a tiny human-like hand and gripped my extended index finger.
All Photos by David Lee Drotar
Nosara Wildlife Rescue’s mission of rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing native animals that have been injured or orphaned was an expensive operation and my sister, friend and I had been “invited” to visit and donate. There are two facilities that work cooperatively under the umbrella of Nosara Wildlife Rescue. The refuge receives injured animals and rehabilitates them, and the SIBU Sanctuary spans more acreage and provides longer-term care. We chose to visit the refuge.
“Do they feel emotions like we do?” our companion, Anne Narciso asked.
“Oh, absolutely they do,” organization founder Brenda Bombard assured us. “After an infant loses her mother, she cries for three or four days.” Felicia looked at me with huge, mournful black eyes that popped from a teacup-sized head. I suppressed a tear, but the story became only more heartbreaking.
Felicia is a howler monkey, one of four monkey species found in Costa Rica. Howler monkeys, which are named for their throaty howls that can be heard as far as three miles away, travel in social groups by swinging from treetop to treetop. They rarely set their feet on the ground. However, as the jungle canopy becomes increasingly fragmented by the roads, houses, and condos built to accommodate the influx of tourists and expats, the monkeys have begun using electrical lines as a convenient conduit for bridging gaps in the natural corridors.
In many areas the existing power lines and transformers are left unshielded. Draped as they often are, through the dense canopy of trees, the monkeys mistake the live wires for the vines that they usually use to travel between feeding grounds. The result is devastating.
Her graying tresses pulled back to avoid entanglement with curious animals’ paws, Bombard reached for a long fiberglass pole that had several extendable, interlocking sections. I anticipated what was coming next and my attention shifted between the demonstration and the little …more
Sochi leaves behind a legacy of illegal dumping, trashed wetlands, and amended environmental laws
No one wants to be a buzz kill when it comes to the Olympics. The snowboard half-pipe makes our jaws drop, the downhill skiers defy gravity at every turn, the ice dancers are oddly fascinating, and don’t get me started on the bobsled.
Photo courtesy Russian Presidential Press and Information Office
That being said, not everything about the Winter Olympics is inspired or inspiring, particularly this year. Ever since 2007, when Sochi received the nod of approval in from the International Olympic Committee to host the 2014 Games, environmentalists have warned of the inevitable ecological destruction that would follow. These warnings have gone largely unheard, and the destruction may actually be worse than anyone anticipated.
So, what has environmentalists so flustered?
To begin with, Sochi was a bad choice to host the Olympics. The nearby mountains slated for skiing are part of Sochi National Park, a specially protected area with the highest species diversity of any region in Russia, and home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Despite the unfortunate choice of location, environmental groups were hopeful that steps would be taken to minimize damage, and participated in monthly meetings aimed at improving environmental components of Olympic planning and construction processes. It quickly became apparent, however, that in the rush of construction efforts, their concerns and suggestions were not being implemented by Olympic organizers, and in 2010, WWF and Greenpeace withdrew from the Sochi environmental consultation process.
And the environmental wrongs have continued to pile up. Large illegal waste dumps have cropped up around the region, including within Sochi National Park. More than 3,000 hectares of forest have been logged, including regions with rare plant species. Red deer and wild boar habitat have been destroyed, and large mammal migration routes have been interrupted. Large swaths of previously protected wetlands now lay underneath the Olympic Village.
“The most long-lasting effect will be from the damage to the Mzymta River,” says Igor Chestin, CEO of World Wildlife Russia. “[The damage] was done mostly by construction of the combined railway and highway, but also when people were building on the banks. They were streamlining the riverbed, making it more like a ditch than a real wild river…thus not allowing the natural flooding and meandering of the river.” Before construction began, the Mzymta …more
Ivanpah installation a zone of death for tortoises, raptors
The world’s largest solar thermal power plant officially went online one week ago today, on February 13. At a ceremony in the Mojave Desert south of Las Vegas, with US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz presiding, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System formally joined California’s power grid.
Photo by Howard Ignatius
The cleantech trade press trumpeted the milestone in glowing terms only rewritten corporate press releases can offer. One article went so far as to call it the “Hoover Dam of Solar,” though whether that is a good or bad thing depends on your view of river impoundment. Reaction to the opening from other quarters was decidedly nuanced. When it was proposed in 2007, Ivanpah was first lauded as the future of clean energy. Now, the project is rarely covered in the press without the epithet “controversial” attached, aside from those glowing reports in the tech press.
Ivanpah’s three units each consist of a 459-foot power tower surrounded by more than 100,000 independently targetable mirrors, called “heliostats.” The heliostats focus the harsh Mojave sunlight on boilers atop the towers, where the concentrated solar radiation (a.k.a. “solar flux”) generates steam. The steam turns turbines, which generate electricity. The three units combined will generate up to 377 megawatts of power for Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison.
In a nation struggling to come to a sane climate policy, Ivanpah might seem like an unambiguously good project. If the nearly 4,000-acre solar plant had been sited somewhere else, that might have been closer to the truth. But located where it is, this week’s coverage of the opening ceremony wasn’t complete with the word “controversial.”
From the start, wildlife advocates opposed the Ivanpah plan. Its nearly 4,000 acres, perched on an alluvial fan a few miles from the Mojave National Preserve, was some of the best remaining habitat for the desert tortoise, which the federal government lists as a threatened species. Tortoise biologists hired by project backer BrightSource Energy surveyed the site and came back with an estimate of about three dozen tortoises on the site.
Many other biologists felt that estimate was off. The survey was done during a very dry year, and during droughts tortoises tend to …more
Federal investigation could break cozy relationship between NC regulators and Duke Energy
Good news about the environment is depressingly rare. Just see, for example, the recent coal pollution disasters in the South. In addition to the third largest coal ash spill in US history that happened in North Carolina earlier this month, on January 9 we witnessed the spill of a coal-washing agent into West Virginia's Elk River, and on February 11 a Patriot Coal facility released some 100,000 gallons of coal slurry into Kanawha Creek in West Virginia. Yet sometimes good news can shock you when you least expect it.
Photo by Waterkeeper Alliance/Rick Dove
Last Thursday, I was in the middle of an interview with Frank Holleman, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. This is the organization that has been suing Duke Energy for the past year to clean up its vulnerable coal ash sites. The law center’s effort sought to prevent the very disaster in which 82,000 tons of coal ash and more 24 million gallons of polluted waterspilled into the Dan River on February 2 at Duke Energy’s retired Dan River Steam Station in North Carolina.
I had planned on writing a somber piece for Earth Island Journal about efforts to prevent similar spills from happening again. Additional spills are all-but-inevitable given that there are 13 other sites where Duke’s coal ash is stored in liquid form in unlined lagoons, where only an earthen barrier separates the toxic waste from entering groundwater and waterways. These and many other sites currently leak toxic substances into groundwater every day. Bigger, media-attracting spills are not a matter of if, but when.
The interview took a dramatic turn when, in mid-sentence, Holleman paused and said, “Oh wow. I have to go. I just saw the breaking news that the US Attorney’s Office has subpoenaed the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources for documents leading up to the spill. This is big. I’ll call you right back once I’ve wrapped my head around this.”
We hung up and I sat there, stunned. Finally, it seems, federal officials are going to examine the all-too-cozy relationship between North …more
Secretary of State compares climate change to WMDs, but seems unwilling to push for stringent action on the home front
In Indonesia on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry boldly called for international action on climate change. He did not mince words when he called climate change “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”
Photo by Ralph Alswang
All of peer-reviewed science would say that Kerry’s language is accurate and hardly hyperbole. It is refreshing to see that some mainstream policy makers have elevated climate change to the same level of importance held by WMD’s. Perhaps the issue of climate change will get as much attention as have WMD’s in Syria and, under the previous administration, in Iraq.
However, given his hesitance to weigh in on the State Department’s anemic position on the Keystone XL pipeline, Kerry’s words come across as hollow. It is interesting that Kerry has rhetorically elevated the issue of climate change to be on par with WMDs, given that his State Department has not appreciated the implications of the pipeline from an environmental, diplomatic, and symbolic standpoint. The State Department’s recent report disappointed environmentalists due to the potential conflict of interest of those who worked on the report. The report also didn’t highlight the fact that the completed pipeline could add the equivalent emissions of 37.7 million automobiles or 51 new coal plants.
A troubling disconnect emerges: If climate change is a threat comparable to that posed by weapons of mass destruction, shouldn’t we put a halt to such a weapon on our own continent? Perhaps this inconsistency is not surprising given that both the current and preceding White House administrations have criticized weapons of mass destruction in the hands of others, but fail to provide leadership on landmines, white phosphorus, depleted uranium, cluster munitions, nuclear disarmament, and, of course, climate change. We are quite selective in what we label as a weapon of mass destruction.
While Kerry publicly calls for other countries to join the United States in taking a strong stance against climate change, he remains silent on the Keystone pipeline. He seems unwilling or unable to muster the bureaucratic resolve to take a stronger stance on climate change mitigation in the Western hemisphere. Kerry said to the crowd in Indonesia that South East Asia is “on the front lines of climate …more