BLM cites budget, staff constraints, anti-fracking activists say lawsuits forced agency decision
Advantage, anti-fracking activists. The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced that it is postponing all oil and gas lease sales in California for the rest of the federal year.
This means the bureau’s plan to auction drilling leases for another 1,300 acres of public lands in Fresno and Kern counties later this month is now on hold at least until October. Same with another planned auction of 2,000 acres in Colusa County.
Photo by Ryan Stavely
The move comes less than a month after a federal judge ruled that BLM had violated the law by leasing 2,500 acres of public land in Monterey County without evaluating the environmental risks of fracking. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit by Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) that claimed that BLM had not adequately reviewed the impact of fracking on local air quality, water supplies, and wildlife.
The ruling will likely have implications for a more recent lease sale of another 18,000 acres of prime public lands in central California last December, in areas that house established vineyards and several endangered species. Sierra Club and CBD have filed a lawsuit against this sale too.
Now our friends at BLM are citing budgetary restrictions and low staffing as the reason behind the move. But it seems pretty clear that their decision was, at least in part, prompted by the ruckus being raised by environmental groups and California lawmakers against opening up the Golden State for further drilling.
“BLM is an agency that doesn’t like to admit when it’s wrong. The sequester is just an excuse for them to do what they had to do,” says Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Because of the lawsuit they just lost, they know that they can’t legally hold additional lease sales in California without a full environmental review” He said that was why the agency was putting the process on hold here while still carrying out leasing auctions in other parts of the country despite …more
If We Could Fix Climate Change With a Flick of a Switch, Will It be More Palatable to Conservatives?
Geoengineering might get more conservatives to believe in global warming – and I’m not sure that’s a good thing
As the consequences of climate change become increasingly obvious (you know, floods, fires, and droughts), it’s becoming more and more difficult for conservatives to dismiss global warming out-of-hand. Yes, the folks at The Heartland Institute are still plugging along (thanks for sending me your recent book, fellows). But – outside the shrinking band of dead-enders – self-described conservatives are beginning to acknowledge that man-made climate change is real and will require action. A recent Gallup poll found that more than half of Republicans now acknowledge the existence of global warming, up from 39 percent in 2011.
Having long denied the problem exists and squandered precious time to mitigate it, some conservatives now say it’s too late to do anything about climate change. This is what a former Obama White House official has called “the sophisticated objection” to taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Or as Stephen Colbert explained the situation earlier this year in his signature style: “It’s high time we stop denying the problem and resign ourselves to each day getting worse.”
In short, decades of delay and geopolitical gridlock have become an excuse for inaction and fatalism.
That’s bad enough. It’s sort of like letting part of your house catch fire and then saying there’s no reason to call 911 because, hey, the neighbors aren’t calling the fire department, either. Might as well let ‘er burn.
But I have another worry. I’m concerned that, with global atmospheric CO2 concentrations having topped 400 ppm (the highest in at least 800,000 years), conservatives will begin to say we have no choice but to embrace atmospheric geoengineering: technologies that will manipulate the entire planet by either blocking some sunlight from hitting Earth and/or finding ways to modify plants or the oceans to suck up vast amounts of carbon dioxide.
Political support for divestment grows as more campuses and cities join the movement
Student groups at more than 60 colleges and universities across the country hosted events last Thursday, May 2, declaring “fossil freedom” as part of 350.org’s Fossil Freedom Day of Action. The “Day of Action” was meant to highlight the work students — often in partnership with alumni, faculty, and administrators — have done over the past six months to persuade their institutions to divest from fossil fuels.
Photo courtesy 350.org
The largest event took place at the steps of San Francisco City Hall, where I joined other students from around Bay Area in a rally with 350.org founder Bill McKibben and city supervisors who recently voted unanimously to push the city’s pension fund to divest $583 million from the fossil fuel industry. San Francisco was inspired to work towards divestment because of the student movement. Now they’re helping students push our colleges and universities to divest.
Fossil Free SFSU, San Francisco State University’s (SFSU) divestment campaign, hosted the Bay Area event. The group collaborated with 350.org and colleges and universities all over Northern California to create a student-led event dubbed “Divest the West To Lead the Rest!” Students carried signs depicting the various regions of the United States, with California color-coded in rainbow stripes.
"I think California has amazing potential. We have multiple universities and an extremely diverse population that can lead this movement. Fossil Freedom is for everyone!" said Alex Ansari of Fossil Free SFSU.
Having been part of the national movement to divest from fossil fuels since last year, most students wanted to close out the school year with a bang. “One! We are the movement! Two! We want divestment! Three! We will not let rest; we have the power!” chanted the crowd, that included students from the University of San Francisco, City College of San Francisco, University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University.
Student leaders across the region are "fighting to highlight the insanity that the institutions that invest so much in our future leaders are also investing in the destruction of that future. And that's why we've gathered here today,” said Deirdre Smith, the West Coast organizer for 350.org
The Fossil Free SFSU campaign is “made up of mostly soon-to-be graduates, …more
EPA study points to a combination of factors for decline in population, breaking away from singling out pesticides
Photo by Dennis Goedegebuure
The report, by the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, blamed a parasitic mite, viruses, bacteria, poor nutrition and genetics as well as pesticides for the rapid decline of honey bees since 2006.
Researchers said it was not clear whether a certain class of pesticides was a major cause of the colony collapse.
Environmental groups described the lapse as a missed opportunity to respond swiftly to a situation that has decimated the country's bee population.
The US government report, in contrast, found multiple causes for the collapse of the honeybees.
"The decline in honeybee health is a complex problem caused by a combination of stressors," EPA's acting administrator Bob Perciasepe said.
But the report singled out as the main culprit a parasitic mite known as Varroa destructor as "the single most detrimental pest of honeybees".
Researchers ranked pesticides at the bottom of the list of potential causes, saying there is no clear evidence pesticides were the leading cause of colony collapse.
"It is not clear, based on current research, whether pesticide exposure is a major factor associated with US honeybee health declines in general, or specifically affects production of honey or delivery of pollination services," the report said.
"It is clear, however, that in some instances honeybee colonies can be severely harmed by exposure to high doses of insecticides when these compounds are used on crops, or via drift onto flowers in areas adjacent to crops that are attractive to bees."
The report, based on a large conference of scientists last October, said more research was needed to determine the effects of pesticide exposure.
But campaigners said the report had missed an opportunity to build a case for action on a pesticide that has been associated with the collapse of the honeybees.
"We've got …more
Water treatment for these mines could cost as much as $67 billion per year
In the midst of declining fresh water supplies, an increasing number of hard rock mining companies are causing water pollution that will last for hundreds or thousands of years, says a new report published yesterday.
The report by the mining watchdog group Earthworks, reveals that an estimated 17 to 27 billion gallons of polluted water will be generated by 40 existing hardrock mines (e.g. gold, copper, uranium mines) in the US each year, every year, in perpetuity. It says water treatment for these mines will cost as much as $67 billion per year.
Perpetual management of mines is a rapidly escalating national dilemma as several new mining projects are being planned across the United States. Yet, the enormous and increasing water use at mines has gone almost unnoticed, says the report titled, “Polluting the Future: How Mining Companies are Contaminating Our Nation's Waters in Perpetuity.” The report, also reveals that four proposed mines could additionally pollute for perpetuity, another 16 billion gallons of water a year.
“The scale of the problem is enormous, and growing,” says Bonnie Gestring, Earthworks northwest organizer and author of the report. “Every year, mines will pollute enough water to fill 2 trillion water bottles — enough bottles to reach to the moon and back 54 times.”
The report uses analysis of government data to show, for the first time, the staggering amount of US water supplies that are perpetually polluted by mining. Gestring defines “in perpetuity” as water pollution that will continue for hundreds or thousands of years, or for which government agencies can’t predict a point at which water quality standards will be met without treatment.
“Agriculture, energy development, municipalities and fish and wildlife are already competing for increasingly scarce water resources,” says Gestring. “The difference is, when these mines ‘use’ water, they pollute it forever.”
The primary cause of this lasting pollution is acid mine drainage. Mining exposes sulfide-bearing ore that generates sulfuric acid and mixes with water. This outflow of acidic water, otherwise known as acid mine drainage, contaminates drinking water aquifers, lakes, and streams, agricultural lands, and prime fish …more
Environmentalists and local fishermen concerned that sea lice from farm will harm wild salmon and trout populations
Controversy surrounds plans for a huge offshore salmon farm near the Aran Islands — a set of three islands at the mouth of the Galway Bay, off Ireland's west coast.
The project's backers say the over 1,000-acre farm will bring jobs to coastal communities, while helping to meet demand for salmon in a sustainable manner. But critics claim it threatens wild fish populations.
The Irish Sea Fisheries Board, a government agency, is planning to develop the salmon farm near Inis Oírr, the smallest of three Gaelic-speaking islands that are famous for their unique limestone geology, rare wildflowers, and ancient archaeology.The farm is slated to produce 15,000 tons of organic-certified salmon per year, more than doubling Ireland's production of farmed salmon.
But a coalition of environmentalists, anglers, and tourism-dependent businesses is fighting the project. They say the farm will provide a breeding ground for parasitic sea lice that could threaten wild salmon populations.
Environmental groups says that sea lice from salmon farms are one of the most significant threats facing wild salmon populations in Europe. Parasite infestations in fish farms, where thousands of fish are stocked in small netted areas all year round, is known to significantly increase the number of lice in surrounding waters. According to a study published last year, sea lice are responsible for 39 percent of deaths among young salmon at sea.
In March, up to 2,000 people, including Icelandic conservationist Orri Vigfusson, a Goldman Environmental Prize recipient, marched in Galway city to protest the proposed fishery.
Even government agencies are at loggerheads over the project: While the fisheries board is proposing the project, Inland Fisheries Ireland — the country's authority for recreational fishing— is against the fish farm. It has published a fact sheet(PDF) which says that sea lice from salmon farms are a risk to wild salmon and sea trout, and that interbreeding between farm escapees and wild salmon threatens native stocks.
“The scale of the present proposal is of a very significant concern as it provides for a greater production tonnage of salmon at this one location than is currently …more
Prosecutors dismiss two-month old case against animal welfare activist a day after it makes headlines
Update, 12.37 p.m.: Just as I posted this report, and one day after the case made headlines, The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Draper city prosecutors have dismissed the case today.
Industrial Agriculture has found its first “ag-gag” target — 25-year-old Amy Meyer.
Meyer has been charged with a Class B misdemeanor for allegedly using her cell phone to film operations at a meat packing facility in Draper, Utah on February 8. If found guilty of “agricultural operation interference,” she faces up to six months in jail.
Meyer, an animal welfare advocate, says she went by the Dale T. Smith and Sons Meat Packing Co facility because she had heard reports that anyone standing on the public road nearby could witness the terrible way the workers there treated the livestock. She says she filmed the facility from the public sidewalk and didn’t trespass on the property. From her public statement:
“What I saw was upsetting, to say the least. Cows being led inside the building struggled to turn around once they smelled and heard the misery that awaited them inside. I saw piles of horns scattered around the property and flesh being spewed from a chute on the side of the building. I also witnessed what I believe to be a clear act of cruelty to animals – a live cow who appeared to be sick or injured being carried away from the building in a tractor, as though she were nothing more than rubble.
“At all times while I documented this cruelty, I remained on public property. I never once crossed the barbed wire fence that exists to demarcate private and public property. I told this to the police who were on the scene.
I am shocked and disappointed that I am being prosecuted by Draper City simply for standing on public property and documenting horrific animal abuse while those who perpetrated these acts are free to continue maiming and killing animals.
“It is my understanding that the Mayor of Draper co-owns this slaughterhouse.”
The slaughterhouse is indeed co-owned by Draper mayor Darrell H. Smith. …more