Posts tagged: Wildlife and Places

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Wildlife and Places

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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.


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.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
13 May 2010, 8:31 AM
Spotlight on feds for being misled by earlier assurances

After passing blame for the Gulf oil spill during congressional hearings earlier this week, the head of British Petroleum is now accepting some—admitting that his company wasn't prepared to handle a spill that continues to pour 210,000 gallons of oil each day. <See the undersea video of leaking oil.>

The Wall Street Journal reports that BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward "in an interview with a small group of journalists Wednesday night, admitted the U.K.-based oil giant had not had the technology available to stop the leak, and said in hindsight it was 'probably true' that BP should have done more to prepare for an emergency of this kind."

Hayward's admission is in stark contrast to assurances BP made in convincing the federal Minerals Management Service to permit it to drill in mile-deep Gulf waters. Similar assurances by Shell Oil convinced MMS to permit Shell's exploratory offshore drilling this summer in the Arctic Ocean—something Earthjustice is working vigorously to prevent.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
12 May 2010, 3:37 PM
A short backpack in the valley of controversy
Photo: Nate Hill

This is the first installment in a summer-long series called the "Trail Report" that will celebrate the beauty of hiking and backpacking in the kinds of wild places Earthjustice is working to protect.

Near Yosemite National Park's western border lies Hetch Hetchy Valley. For nearly 90 years, the valley has been submerged by a reservoir that interrupts the mighty Tuolumne River, storing water that is sent to more than 2 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area (it also generates a modest amount of hydropower electricity). On maps, the reservoir resembles the bloated belly of a python that has just swallowed its prey.

The push to dam Hetch Hetchy originated in the early part of the 20th century and was stiffly opposed by the venerable John Muir. Despite his and others' protestations, often downright poetic in their construction, the Raker Act of 1913 authorized flooding of the valley, and O'Shaughnessy Dam was completed ten years later. The passing of time hasn't subdued the controversy surrounding Hetch Hetchy. I've included some thoughts from longtime environmental writer Tom Turner at the end of this piece.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
12 May 2010, 11:25 AM
Carelessness and industry self-regulation created the calamity
Rep. Henry Waxman

Today—three long weeks into an oil spill that threatens ecological and economic disaster in the Gulf of Mexico—federal officials probing the accident seemed both angry and incredulous at what they were being told, The New York Times reports.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said at his committee's hearing on the accident:

This catastrophe appears to have been caused by a calamitous series of equipment and operational failures. If the largest oil and oil service companies in the world had been more careful, 11 lives might have been saved and our coastlines protected.

<Update: Reporting from the hearing, The Wall Street Journal said today's revelations about failed testing and equipment failure has shaken committee Republicans who "are long-time allies of the oil industry." Addressing the failure of the all-important blowout preventer, The Journal went on to report:


After being told that blowout preventers aren't designed for all disaster situations, Rep. Joe Barton (R., Texas) said that "I would think that your blowout preventer, your technology, your casing, should be designed to handle" a catastrophic release of pressure. If my assumption is wrong, then we have to reassess the entire OCS (outer continental shelf) drilling program."


View Terry Winckler's blog posts
11 May 2010, 6:56 PM
Oil spill disaster in Gulf causes major swing in public opinion

<Update: Environmental groups are hopeful that public outrage over the Gulf oil spill strengthens a green movement towards more sustainable living.>

Public opinion is sharply reflecting three weeks of un-staunched oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Less than half of Americans now support offshore oil drilling—a huge drop from the days of "drill, baby, drill"—according to a new CBS poll.

Polling indicates a swing from 64 percent favorable to offshore drilling to only 46 percent now. Forty-one percent of those polled say the costs and risks of drilling are too great. Previously, only 28 percent held that position.

View Shirley Hao's blog posts
11 May 2010, 11:49 AM
Of "velcro" feathers and Pepto-Bismol (bonus: an amazing Right Whale tale)
Washing a bird at a Gulf wildlife care center. Photo: IBRRC

All along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, rescue and rehabilitation groups are working to search for and clean wildlife fouled by oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill, and to prepare for additional animals that may be rescued in the coming days, weeks, and months.

International Bird Rescue Research Center is working in conjunction with Tri-State Bird Rescue and other experts to operate care centers in several states, and has a very informative FAQ regarding birds and oil spills.

The FAQ answers (among others):

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
11 May 2010, 10:09 AM
32 of 40 senators received oil industry campaign money

<Update: The New York Times reported blow-by-blow from the Senate oil spill hearing as it came to a close.>

<Update: At today's hearing, BP President Lamar McKay blamed the well's blowout preventer as the culprit in the Gulf oil spill catastrophe, and described the failure as unusual. But, an Associated Press investigation shows that blowout preventers are notoriously unreliable.>

<Update: Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said today the Gulf oil spill disaster was unprecedented, telling CNN the spill "has the potential to be worse than anything we've seen.">

While the Big Three companies responsible for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill face scrutiny from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources and the Environment and Public Works committees, Reuters reports that "32 of 40 Democrats and Republicans who sit on the [ENR and EPW committees] have collected millions of dollars from BP or other oil and gas interests during election campaigns dating to 1990, public records show."

View Jared Saylor's blog posts
11 May 2010, 8:54 AM
Don't rush to judgment, they tell Senate panel

The three companies responsible for the spill in the Gulf of Mexico—British Petroleum, Transocean and Halliburton—appeared in the second panel of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. They'll also appear this afternoon before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, making it a long day under the congressional microscope for these companies.

Lamar McKay (President of BP America Inc.), Steve Newman (President and CEO of Transocean) and Tim Probert (President of Global Business Lines for Halliburton) stressed that more information is needed before a rush to judgment about the disastrous spill.

Newman said that "until we know what happened, we cannot determine the best route for the future." This comment supports the "time out" Earthjustice is asking President Obama to take on drilling offshore in the Arctic Ocean. There is still much scientific data needed to ensure a spill such as the one that happened in the Gulf doesn't happen again.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
11 May 2010, 8:36 AM
Also, DOI to announce plans to split Minerals Management Service

The first panel of witnesses were effusive in their answers as the majority of questions targeted Minerals Management Service representative Elmer Danenberger. Although Danenberger retired in January after 38 years at MMS, he faced strong questions from senators asking why MMS seemed so inept on the permit that resulted in the catastrophic Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Was it appropriate that MMS is both advocate and regulator of the oil and gas industry? Danenberger replied: "That concept might merit further attention."

Many senators seemed unhappy with the responses from the first panel, and made their disdain known. Sen. James E. Risch (R-ID) took the opportunity to toss a jibe at those organizing the first Earth Day, blaming them for stopping development of nuclear power and thus increasing our reliance on fossil fuels, but he did note that he was "less than satisfied" with the answers he recieved.

On a separate note, Interior Sec. Ken Salazar will announce today plans to split MMS into two parts, as reported by the Washington Post: one with oversight responsibilities for the oil indsutry and another that would provide drilling leases and collect federal royalties on the operations. The move could address what some senators questioned as MMS' relationship as both advocate and regulator.

View Jared Saylor's blog posts
11 May 2010, 7:59 AM
Witness defends embattled Minerals Management Service

The first two witnesses on the panel, Dr. F.E. Beck, associate professor at Texas A&M University and Mr. Danenberger, former chief of the offshore regulatory division at the Minerals Management Service (MMS), opened up the hearing as Sens. Bingaman and Murkowski asked mainly technical questions.

Danenberger spent much of his time promoting the great virtues of MMS, but of course, failed to mention that "MMS granted a categorical exclusion and failed to require a thorough environmental review before allowing BP to proceed with this exploration well," as Earthjustice legislative associate Jessica Ennis noted in a press statement on today's hearings.

Even as Congress is asking questions, MMS and President Obama's Department of Interior are moving full steam ahead with offshore drilling in America's Arctic Ocean with a drill rig similar to the one that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Senators continue to question the first panel of experts, and more than a few of them have suggested they're much more excited to grill the second panel of witnesses, which includes representatives from BP, Transocean Limited and Halliburton.

View Jared Saylor's blog posts
11 May 2010, 7:27 AM
Sens. Bingaman, Murkowski offer their thoughts on Gulf spill

Earthjustice is blogging live from congressional hearings starting today on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. This is the second report.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) offered brief remarks on today's hearing that were critical not only of the companies responsible for the spill but also of the regulators who failed to stop this catastrophe. He said today's hearing is the "first of many hearings" and noted that Interior Sec. Ken Salazar (who was originally scheduled to testify at the ENR committee last week) will be testifying next week before the ENR committee.

Bingaman also said that the goal of today's hearing is to gather "a thorough, factual record" of what happened before, during and after the spill. "It's not enough to chalk what happened to a view that accidents will happen," Bingaman added. "We'll likely discover there was a cascade of failures and technical and regulatory errors."

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the ranking minority member on the committee, recognized the tragic nature of this spill, but put her own "drill, baby, drill" spin on future oil drilling efforts, noting that "accidents remain a cold reality" of energy development. Surprisingly, she also said, "We need to steadily minimize production of oil in our energy mix," but then added that "under anyone's figures it's going to be a long time before we competely ween ourselves off our oil addiction."

The first panel is now offering opening statements, and the companies responsible for the spill will testify in the second panel. Bingaman is hoping to wrap up the hearing before lunch, so stay tuned for more updates.