Terry Winckler's Blog Posts

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Terry Winckler's blog


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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.

ABOUT EARTHJUSTICE'S BLOG

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

Learn more about Earthjustice.

Terry Winckler is Earthjustice's Editor and resident wordsmith who edits and produces our blog, online monthly newsletter and quarterly print magazine. His appreciation for all that is wild began as a child when he would spend countless hours outdoors, gazing at fireflies on soft summer nights, or listening to his father's tales of the vast primeval forest in Canada's North Woods. Terry's heroes include saints, do-gooders, champions of the underdog, free spirits and nature lovers. In his free time, he enjoys engaging with his spouse and children, eating fistfuls of peppermint stick ice cream and spinning a good yarn.

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11 May 2010, 5:52 AM
Govt. agency collects billions from industry it is supposed to regulate
Photo: USGS

<Update: Congress does not have to approve the administration's proposal to split the Minerals Management Service, The New York Times reports.>

The Obama administration finally is taking action to address the too-cozy relationship between the oil industry and the federal government's main oil drilling oversight agency. Interior Sec. Ken Salazar plans to ask Congress to split up the Minerals Management Service to keep royalties collection separate from oversight, according to the Associated Press.

The MMS, which issues drilling permits to oil companies and must oversee their drilling operations, also collects some $13 billion in royalties from those same companies. Clearly a conflict of interest, says an administration official.

Since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill started two weeks ago, the MMS has been criticized for letting British Petroleum get away with drilling under risky conditions without an adequate plan to prevent or clean up after a blowout. Similar arguments are being levied in federal court by Earthjustice to keep MMS from letting Shell Oil drill this summer in fragile Arctic Ocean waters.

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10 May 2010, 3:34 PM
Congress to grill those responsible for Gulf of Mexico oil catastrophe
Oil execs will be at the Capitol building

Congress can only hope to have as much luck drilling into oil industry executives this week as those executives did in drilling the Gulf of Mexico on April 20. Starting tomorrow, three congressional hearings will start looking into the oil rig explosion that caused a massive, continuing oil spill.

A gusher of information about the oil spill might explain a lot about how the accident occurred and how the federal government was convinced by British Petroleum that the risk was "insignificant." The hearings may also help determine whether the Obama administration's oil/gas leasing program—including exploratory drilling this summer in the Arctic—now on hold can go forward.

Earthjustice will be blogging live tomorrow when the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds its hearing.

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10 May 2010, 9:07 AM
Legacy of offshore drilling washes ashore as BP struggles to cap blowout
Mississippi Delta marshes. Photo: NOAA

The oil unstoppably pouring out of the Gulf of Mexico's sea floor is now unstoppable as it pushes past efforts to keep it out of wetlands. Over the weekend, thick, tarry blobs rode the tide into wildlife refuge areas of the Mississippi delta. It took 12 days, but the invasion has arrived. <Update: A land/sea/air effort to keep oil out of Louisiana wetlands has been assembled today, The Miami Herald reports.>

<Updates: Oil damage to gulf coast wetlands and wildlife spawning areas could last generations, the Christian Science Monitor reports. "The Gulf appears to be bleeding," exclaims an observer as he flies over the spilled oil. See his 5-minute video report.>

Meanwhile, offshore, British Petroleum still can't find a way to staunch the leak which has put an estimated 3.5 millions of oil into Gulf waters since BP's well rig exploded April 20. After the containment dome attempt failed over the weekend, BP is hoping to plug the gusher with old tires, golf balls and who knows what else. It will be perhaps three months before a relief well is finished.

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07 May 2010, 1:57 PM
Offshore drilling still favored as monster oil slick stays offshore
Sen. Nelson (D-FL) with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in 2009.

The as-yet unrestrained Gulf oil spill has produced a gusher of political rhetoric along with its 200,000+ daily gallons of oil, but positive political action is just a trickle so far.

Aside from some hardly permanent pauses in President Obama's offshore oil program, and two state governors' change of heart, many politicians seem to be straddling a fence that stretches from here to November.

Take the U.S. Senate, for example, where climate change and energy legislation are stuck like tarballs, according to The New York Times<Update: The New York Times takes another look at what's going on in the Senate.> More than two weeks of dire oil spill headlines haven't yet moved swing voters to greener positions, says The Times. Not even senators from gulf coast states in the bullseye of that ominous, growing mass of oil offshore.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is flummoxed by his colleagues.

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07 May 2010, 10:25 AM
Agency let BP take major drilling risk without backup plan
Photo: MMS

As British Petroleum tries desperately to cap the oil gushing from its exploded drill rig in the Gulf of Mexico, information continues to leak out about the too-cozy relationship BP and the oil industry have with federal oversight agencies—especially the Minerals Management Service.

MMS regulates, and issues permits for, offshore oil drilling. It is supposed to make sure oil companies are prepared to handle spills, but as The Associated Press is reporting, a rule change two years ago by MMS let BP avoid filing a plan dealing with the kind of blowout/spill pouring into Gulf waters at a daily rate of 200,000+ gallons.

Former Earthjustice attorney Robert Wiygul, now an environmental lawyer in Mississippi, told AP:

The lack of a blowout scenario "is kind of an outrageous omission, because you're drilling in extremely deep waters, where by definition you're looking for very large reservoirs to justify the cost.

"If the MMS was allowing companies to drill in this ultra-deep situation without a blowout scenario, then it seems clear they weren't doing the job they were tasked with," he said.

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06 May 2010, 12:06 PM
Interior Dept. cites safety concerns raised by gulf oil spill
Sea gulls in surf at Virginia's Cape Henry. Photo: NOAA

<Update: AP reports that Interior Sec. Ken Salazar has halted the issuance of new offshore oil drilling leases nationwide until at least the end of the month. Here's how the New York Times sees Salazar's action playing out with reard to Shell Oil's plans to drill this summer in the Arctic.>

The Obama administration has been hinting for days that it might reverse course on its support for offshore oil drilling—and today it took the first real step in that direction. Shaken by the uncontrolled Gulf oil spill, the Interior Department has suspended plans for an oil and gas lease sale off the Virginia coastline.

Greenwire reports:

The move comes as the department seeks answers from investigations into the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig and the ongoing leak of hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil every day into the Gulf.

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06 May 2010, 10:38 AM
Alarmed by Gulf spill, they are determined to protect their home waters
The Chukchi Sea. Photo: Florian Schulz / visionsofthewild.com

All too aware of the oil spill disaster playing out in the Gulf, Native Alaskans are in court today, determined to keep the same thing from happening in Arctic waters they call home.

Timing is critical, as Shell Oil is poised to start drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas as early as July. Represented by Earthjustice, the 13 Native Alaskan and conservation groups are hoping to convince a federal court that the federal government illegally granted Shell a permit to drill.

There are strong similarities between what Shell plans in the Arctic and what British Petroleum did in the Gulf. Like the residents in four gulf coast states, Alaska Natives rely on ocean bounty. A blowout like the one that occurred in the Gulf would have catastrophic impacts on fishing, whaling, and hunting in their homeland.

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06 May 2010, 7:52 AM
Will someone please print this out and slip it under the President's door?
Columnist Thomas Friedman. Photo: Charles Haynes

Dear President,

It must be tough trying to keep up with all that's being written about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The words are gushing out faster than those 210,000 gallons of oil. Everyone seems to have an opinion, but like British Petroleum and the rest of the oil industry, no one seems to have a solution for fixing the leak or ending our nation's addiction to oil.

But, if you want some crystal clear advice on how to lead the nation out of this mess, there's one writer out there who really nailed it. So, here's our advice—read Thomas Friedman's column in the New York Times. His first words are these:

There is only one meaningful response to the horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and that is for America to stop messing around when it comes to designing its energy and environmental future. The only meaningful response to this man-made disaster is a man-made energy bill that would finally put in place an American clean-energy infrastructure that would set our country on a real, long-term path to ending our addiction to oil.

That's just a tease of what Tom has to say. He makes so much sense that national television news programs have been interviewing him today. Check it out, Mr. President. And while you are at it, you might want to check out what the Earthjustice president has to say about this issue.

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06 May 2010, 6:05 AM
BP's best chance to contain gushing oil leak is hours away
Containment chamber that will be used to contain oil discharge from the Deepwater Horizon spill. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

<Update: The Washington Post also is reporting on today's attempt to contain the spill.>

<Update: AP reports that the containment vessel has arrived at the scene of the spill.>

In just a few hours, a giant dome—even now being hauled by boat through oil-thick Gulf of Mexico waters—will be in position and ready to lower onto the gushing British Petroleum oil well leak. If it works, the well's 200,000+ gallons will be contained, enabling BP to siphon it into ships.

There is nothing sure about this. It's stricly experimental. Never been tried before. And BP officials are openly crossing their fingers. After failing for two weeks to even slow down the gusher, this is their best hope. If it fails, many more weeks of unrestrained oil flow will pour into gulf waters, adding to a vast, menacing area of oil bigger than Puerto Rico.

Anxious residents of four gulf coast states aren't counting on something miraculous from this dome procedure—they are too busy preparing for what's already spilled and headed their way. BP doesn't have a solution for oil churned by wind and waves into a frothy chocolately mousse that threatens to destroy livelihoods and wildlife linked to the sea.

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05 May 2010, 8:46 AM
Prime minister makes assurances, but so did BP before blowout
Area in red shows Canada's Beaufort Sea

Canada's prime minister made a big show this week of insisting his nation—which like the U.S. is allowing offshore oil drilling in the Beafort Sea this summer—would not "tolerate" such massive oil spills as the one now unleashing in the Gulf of Mexico.

How PM Stephen Harper can make such a guarantee is rather interesting, especially when one considers that Canada granted its drilling leases in the Beaufort to British Petroleum, the company responsible for the Gulf oil spill. He assures that drilling won't proceed "unless the environment is protected."

If Harper sticks to his statement, oil drilling in the Beaufort can't proceed, because there is no way to protect the fragile, ice-laden Arctic seas from oil spills—no matter how insistent he is that preventive measures will first be put in place.

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