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.

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.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
05 May 2010, 6:53 AM
One of three leaks capped, but no slowdown yet, and outlook is grim
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA)

<Update: There's only one cure for man-made oil spills, says New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman: man-made legislation that ends our dependence on oil.>

One of three leaks from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been capped, according to news reports, but there is no apparent slowdown in escaping oil, and that report came with a warning that the spill could increase exponentially if containment measures fail.

Oil is flooding from the sea floor at an estimated 210,000 gallons daily since an oil rig exploded two weeks ago at a British Petroleum offshore drilling site. Yesterday, after a meeting with BP executives, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) said they warned him that oil flow could grow to as much as 2 million gallons a day. BP is hoping to put an experimental dome over the leak, a mile below the ocean surface, this week.

Meanwhile, four coastal states were bracing to protect themselves against the main body of oil, amid predictions that it will start coming ashore within three days. <Update: Frantic efforts are being made to protect fragile coastal areas teeming with wildlife and directly in the path of the oil spill.>

<Update: Check out the Gulf Restoration Network website for local reports on the oil spill.>

View Terry Winckler's blog posts
04 May 2010, 4:37 PM
Support ebbs for offshore oil in climate change legislation
President Obama promises help against oil spill

<Update: Today, the Obama administration said it would not rule out a reversal of its position on expanded offshore drilling. The administration also is supporting a signficant increase in damage limits for oil spills.>

Like a snake coiling to strike—or as some have said, a hurricane in slow motion—the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has yet to unleash its full potential on the people and wildlife of four coastal states. But it has wrought severe political damage.

Ever since the disastrous potential of the gulf spill became clear, political leaders have been backpedaling from their insistence that offshore oil drilling be part of climate change legislation. Today, that exit door was getting crowded, and as The New York Times reported:

Now there is increasing pressure to scrap those provisions entirely in future negotiations and perhaps replace them with measures that reduce oil usage and lessen the chances for drilling accidents.

But, warned Paul Bledsoe, a climate aide during the Clinton administration, what the legislature ultimately does may well depend on what that menacing mass of oil offshore does:

View Tom Turner's blog posts
04 May 2010, 3:13 PM
Oil industry shill organization says gulf blowout not so bad
An offshore rig off the coast of California.

The New York Times carried a piece the other day headlined "Gulf Oil Spill Is Bad, but How Bad?" that quoted an official of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation thusly:

“The sky is not falling,” said Quenton R. Dokken, a marine biologist and the executive director of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, a conservation group in Corpus Christi, Tex. “We’ve certainly stepped in a hole and we’re going to have to work ourselves out of it, but it isn’t the end of the Gulf of Mexico.”

A "conservation group"? Someone at Pro Publica, in the absence of any further information from the Times, decided to dig a little. Here's a little of what they found.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
04 May 2010, 12:42 PM
In wake of gulf oil spill, Obama must protect Arctic seas from drilling

In just two months, Shell Oil could do in America's Arctic Ocean what British Petroleum has done in the Gulf of Mexico—drill an environmental time bomb without being able to defuse it or deal with the consequences of it going off.

In both cases, we're talking about exploratory offshore oil drilling under conditions so extreme that the risks are unreasonable and the consequences severe.

For gulf coast residents, the impact of BP's exploratory oil drilling explosion is tragic: 11 drill workers lost their lives, fishermen are losing their livelihoods, and the impacts are increasing daily. Two weeks later, the environmental consequences are building offshore in an oil mass the size of Puerto Rico. Growing daily by more than 200,000 gallons, the oil is killing sea birds and attacking the habitat of more than 400 animal species. It threatens four coastal states and could become—in the words of President Barack Obama—an unprecedented environmental and economic disaster.

We can't afford to witness another such disaster in the Arctic, where exploratory drilling has been greenlighted by the Obama administration and could begin as early as July 1.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
04 May 2010, 7:58 AM
Senate leaders show unease at offshore oil drilling compromise

Senators who thought they could pass a climate change bill by selling our offshore waters to oil drillers may be cringing over their poor timing, if not bad judgment, two weeks into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

As oil from the spill continues to flow unabated at 200,000+ gallons each day—creating a potentially "unprecedented" environmental catastrophe in President Obama's words—there are at least mutterings from Senate leaders over the spill's political impact:

"This terrible event will, undoubtedly, require us to re-examine how we extract our nation's offshore energy resources and will have to be taken into consideration with any legislation that proposes to open new areas to development," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Friday.

"The offshore drilling issue is being reconsidered by many at this point," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters yesterday.

 

View John McManus's blog posts
04 May 2010, 6:56 AM
Fishermen cleaned up Exxon Valdez-spill that had idled them
Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez spill. Photo: USGS

It's hard to know how similar the Gulf spill is to the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, but there is at least one parallel: fishermen idled by a mess threatening their livelihood.

In March of 1989 fishermen were readying themselves for the herring fishing season. This would be followed a few months later by the salmon fishing season in a normal year. After the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef and spilled it's 11 million gallons of crude oil, nothing was normal.

Many, if not virtually all, of the fishermen in Prince William Sound were immediately put to work fighting the spreading oil. The fishermen knew their local waters like only local fishermen typically do. A shift in wind or tide might influence the spread of oil in ways only local knowledge could predict. The fishermen also knew how to handle heavy gear. They commonly set and retrieve long, weighted nets full of fish using state of the art hydraulic winches and other gear. This experience put them in good stead when they were asked to set, tow and retrieve oil containment booms to corral the oil.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
03 May 2010, 9:14 PM
Chemical dispersants keep harm offshore—at a toxic cost

<Update: the public interest journalism group, ProPublica, is reporting that the chemical dispersants used in the Gulf oil spill are toxic and "could create a new set of environmental problems.">

<Update: Scientist says chemical dispersants can make the oil spill even worse.>

Scientists using oil dispersal chemicals seem to be playing a juggling match with onshore and offshore wildlife in the target zone of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

They are reporting some success in keeping oil away from shore-based wildlife and the extensive complex of wetlands in which they live. But by doing so, they are forcing the dispersed oil into other creatures' habitat—such as deep water seabeds. Is one harm less harmful than another? Here's how the Los Angeles Times reports it:

Scientists don't know much about the oil's ultimate effect in the deep water, but most agree that it will have a much larger biological effect if it reaches the coast, which is teeming with wildlife.

"You're transferring the pollution, if you will, but under the right circumstances it's probably favorable," said E. Eric Adams, who specializes in environmental fluid mechanics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

View Terry Winckler's blog posts
03 May 2010, 8:27 PM
Will Democratic president also reverse course on offshore drilling?

The latest casualty of the Gulf of Mexico offshore oil spill is... offshore oil drilling. At least in California. The state's Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenneger, today withdrew his own proposal to resume oil drilling off California. Swayed by images of the gulf spill, Schwarzenneger said:

"I see on TV the birds drenched in oil, the fisherman out of work, the massive oil spill and oil slick destroying our precious ecosystem. That will not happen here in California, and this is why I am withdrawing my support."

One can only hope that President Barack Obama sees the same images in the same light and reverses his support of renewed offshore drilling—especially in fragile areas like the Arctic Ocean, where Shell Oil is poised to sink exploratory wells as early as July 1... with Obama's blessing.

View Terry Winckler's blog posts
03 May 2010, 9:22 AM
Main body of oil a hovering threat to endangered tuna, turtles
Female loggerhead heading back to the Gulf of Mexico after laying her eggs. Photo: nps.gov

Although oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill has been washing onto gulf coast beaches since Thursday, the main body of oil—perhaps the size of Puerto Rico and growing by at least 200,000 gallons a day—remains a looming, ominous offshore threat. <Update: Check out this New York Times map graphic showing how the spill is spreading.>

Onshore, clean-up efforts are assembling in four states, preparing for the worst-case scenario of heavy oil invading wetlands and feeding/breeding/birthing areas for more than 400 animal species, including endangered and threatened turtles that come ashore at this time of year to lay eggs.<Update: If there is any good news out of the spill, it is this: a necropsy on 25 dead sea turtles shows no connection to the oil spill.>

But, offshore there is only speculation at this point about what damage is being done to wildlife. The oil is spread across waters where the endangered western Atlantic bluefin tuna breed at this time of year, releasing their eggs to float in the currents. Earthjustice has fought for years to protect both the tuna and sea turtles.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
02 May 2010, 7:42 AM
Today's catastrophe won't happen, BP assured government
Video of President Obama's remarks after the jump.

<Update: President Obama, on the scene in Louisiana today where oil from a massive offshore drill rig blowout is coming ashore, said "a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster" is occurring.>

<Update: Interior Sec. Ken Salazar said today that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill could be worse than the Exxon Valdez ship spill.>

For more than a year, British Petroleum downplayed any chance of a catastrophic oil spill occurring on the scale now threatening the shores and wetlands of four gulf coast states, The Associated Press and Gulf Restoration Network are revealing. As a result, the company had no plan in place to deal with what now is happening. AP reports:

BP's plan filed with the federal Minerals Management Service for the Deepwater Horizon well, dated February 2009, says repeatedly that it was "unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities."

BP's oil rig blew out April 20, and is pouring oil at an estimated 210,000 gallons—some say much more—per day into Gulf of Mexico waters. According to AP:

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