Posts tagged: Arctic

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice 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.

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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 Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
04 January 2013, 4:53 PM
Obama must halt dangerous, misguided operations in Arctic Ocean
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, AK, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island, Jan. 2, 2013. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.)

With one Arctic drill rig shipwrecked on an Alaskan island and the other reportedly under criminal investigation for possibly “operating with serious safety and pollution control problems,” oil giant Royal Dutch Shell is doing a pretty thorough job at proving the quest for oil in the pristine waters of America’s Arctic is just too dangerous, too dirty, and too damaging. The week’s events also prove once again that the U.S. Department of Interior should not have approved drilling in the most remote, dangerous place on the planet. It’s past time for the plug to be pulled on this operation.

The cone-shaped drill rig Kulluk sat in 30 to 40 feet of water along the rocky beach of Sitkalidak Island for the entire week and 18 crew members were evacuated by U.S Coast Guard helicopters. A cast of more than 500 salvage experts is working feverishly to stabilize and rescue the rig.  Further, after delays leaving the Arctic Ocean as winter closed in, Shell reported made its decision to move the rig, which does not have a propulsion system and requires towboats to haul it around, from the port of Dutch Harbor south of Alaska to avoid having to pay Alaska state taxes.

View Maria Beloborodova's blog posts
27 December 2012, 10:00 AM
Readers were most inspired by stories of the wild
Two of the first five calves born at Ft. Peck Indian reservation this year. (Bill Campbell)

Blog posts about Earth's magnificent places and creatures were the most popular themes for unEarthed readers in 2012. By far the most-read post concerned Arctic drilling, followed by reports of bison being restored and wolves losing protection. Not shown in our top 10 blog posts, below, are the delightful tales of curious critters painted in words by our own Shirley Hao. Posts written years ago by Shirley are still being discovered and read by thousands of people every year.

And, now, for your enjoyment, we present our most-read posts of 2012:

View Kari Birdseye's blog posts
20 December 2012, 4:56 PM
Salazar announces National Petroleum Reserve conservation measures
Caribou in the western Arctic, Alaska. (Florian Schulz / visionsofthewild.com)

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently announced a final plan for managing the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, a vast and wild area in northwestern Alaska that provides vital habitat for caribou, countless shorebirds, waterfowl, bears, wolves and wolverines, among others.

The plan is the first that covers the entire reserve, and it is a major step forward for protective management of the western Arctic.

Under provisions of the plan, key habitat areas such as these are protected:

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View Maria Beloborodova's blog posts
20 December 2012, 2:55 PM
Move depicts phtographer's quest for disappearing "insanely ridiculous" ice

Last month, a movie premiered with a graphic visual of climate change—enough to disconcert viewers across the country. Jeff Orlowski’s "Chasing Ice" depicts a photographer’s brave and relentless journey through the vast Arctic in the face of treacherous weather, technological failure and a bad leg injury. The photographer was documenting rapidly vanishing glaciers over years using time-lapse photography.

The visionary behind the documentary is James Balog who is known for over 25 years of internationally acclaimed nature photography work published by the National Geographic and other major magazines. He takes the viewer to some of the world’s glaciers, including Greenland, Alaska and Montana, where he tries to set up a photographic experiment that he named the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS).

The project, described as “Art Meets Science” on the film’s official website, aims to unite scientists and photographers in their efforts to educate the public about the effects of global warming.

View Kari Birdseye's blog posts
19 October 2012, 2:54 PM
Shell’s drill ship off the coast of treasured wilderness
The Arctic Refuge is one of the most splendid stretches of wilderness left in America.  (Florian Schulz / visionsofthewild.com)

Shell Oil has until the end of October to wrap up drilling operations in the Arctic.

This week, a great piece of photojournalism illustrates just how close their Kulluk drill rig is to the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which Earthjustice fought for years to protect.

The photo below, shot by Gary Braasch, demonstrates that the fragile ecosystem of America’s Arctic waters is not the only treasure that would be devastated by an oil spill:

Shell's <i>Kulluk</i> oil rig offshore Alaska's Arctic Wildlife Refuge. October 2012. (Gary Braasch / WorldViewOfGlobalWarming.org)

Shell's Kulluk oil rig offshore Alaska's Arctic Wildlife Refuge. October 2012.
(© Gary Braasch / WorldViewOfGlobalWarming.org)
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View Kari Birdseye's blog posts
27 September 2012, 1:44 PM
Drilling poses too many environmental risks, says Total CEO

The “Big Oil” companies are breaking ranks. The fourth largest oil company in the world told the Financial Times yesterday that drilling in the Arctic is too risky, a position held by the environmental community for the past seven years.

Total SA CEO Christophe de Margerie, said, “Oil on Greenland would be a disaster … A leak would do too much damage to the image of the company.” This is the man who runs one of the world's largest integrated oil companies, with operations in 130 countries. According to Hoover’s, Total “explores for, develops, and produces crude oil and natural gas; refines and markets oil; and trades and transports both crude and finished products.”

The outspoken Big Oil CEO isn’t the only leader expressing concern.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
15 September 2012, 8:39 PM
Your voice can help put the environment on the political agenda
Your voice is as important as your vote—there is a lot you can do. (Jason Langheine)

After the summer we have had, my mind is on climate change, what more Earthjustice can do about it, and what’s at stake in this election.

I experienced the effects of climate change this summer during a trip through Colorado. Heat, drought and fire set an almost apocalyptic tone for the trip. There was no snow on the peaks, stream flows were down, and smoke filled the air. Similar impacts afflicted 60 percent of our nation and spread over three continents; sea ice coverage in the Arctic was at a record low.

Earthjustice is working hard to slow and reverse these climate trends by bringing cases across the country to beat down coal, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and expand the market for renewable energy and efficiency. And with your support we are doing more every day: hiring more attorneys and bringing more cases in more places. We are grateful not only for your support which makes this possible, but also for your advocacy which helps get better rules adopted and enforced.

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View Kari Birdseye's blog posts
14 September 2012, 4:17 PM
Mass of sea ice forces drilling to halt, raises doubts about spill cleanup
Chukchi Sea, Alaska. (Florian Schulz / visionsofthewild.com)

Shell’s vice president of Alaska operations was quoted last Saturday as saying "Happy, happy, happy." Then the ice showed up.

Hours after Shell began drilling in the Artic, operations were forced to shut down to accommodate a drifting 30-mile by 12-mile hunk of sea ice, moving at a rate of a mile every 30 minutes. That’s what ice does in the Arctic—it is unpredictable, unforgiving and moves in with the high winds just in time to ruin a happy day.

A week ago, the Department of the Interior approved drilling in “non-oil-bearing zones” and Shell immediately began drilling its first exploration well in the Chukchi Sea, off the coast of Northern Alaska in the early morning hours of Sunday. The drilling lasted only a few hours before the company took a “precautionary” move and disconnected the drilling rig from the seafloor anchors and temporarily moved the vessel off the well site. One wonders what would happen if such an ice mass moved in while Shell was trying to respond to a major oil spill.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
27 July 2012, 1:18 AM
Plus: London smog, EPA’s petrified politics, grocery bill blues
Greenland's ice melt from July 8th (left image) to July 12 (right image). Photo courtesy of NASA

Greenland's record ice melt blows scientists’ beakers
The ice melt happening in Greenland right now is one for the record books, reports the UK Guardian. In fact, it’s so dramatic that even the scientists who have been staring at Greenland’s ice melt for decades were so surprised at just how fast the ice is melting that they thought they made a mistake in their data. They didn't. One group of researchers even had to rebuild their research camp after the snow and ice melted beneath their feet. Within a four-day period, the area of melting ice in Greenland increased from approximately 40 percent of the ice sheet surface to 97 percent. Typically, only about half of Greenland’s ice sheet melts during the summer. The unprecedented ice melt doesn’t bode well for those living near sea level, like, say, the almost four million Americans that live within just a few feet of high tide

London smog may send athletes sprinting for inhalers
As the Olympics in London heats up, the world’s best athletes are gearing up with top-notch running shoes, high-performance energy drinks...and their best inhalers, reports the UK Guardian. Health experts are warning that London’s forecast temperature of hot weather and easterly winds this week may result in a deadly combination that spikes smog pollution in the area, triggering breathing problems and scratchy throats. Also known as ground level ozone, smog is formed when sunlight reacts with oxygen and pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, which spews out of vehicle tailpipes and industry smokestacks. Though physicians often recommend that people reduce physical activity during really smoggy days, that’s not really an option for speedy, air-sucking Olympic athletes. Last fall, President Obama withdrew the EPA’s new smog standard, which would have tightened air toxics regulations and saved thousands of lives each year. Though the president cited economic concerns as the reason for his decision, it’s unclear whether he considered the economic impact of putting a smog-filled damper on the Olympics. As for the non-athletes attending the games this year who’d like to know when air pollution spikes, don’t worry. There’s an app for that.
 

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View Kari Birdseye's blog posts
18 July 2012, 4:16 PM
Shell’s latest Arctic blunder
Noble Discoverer being towed away from land on July 14. (Photo courtesy of Kristjan Laxfoss)

U.S. Coast Guard divers are now on the way to Dutch Harbor, Alaska to inspect the 571-foot drill rig Noble Discoverer, which is scheduled to drill three exploratory wells in the American Arctic waters of the Chukchi Sea as early as August. The locals say it ran aground in the harbor in broad daylight on Saturday and took pictures to prove it. Shell Oil Co. says otherwise; it “lost its moorings and came close to the coast.” We’ll have to wait and see what the Coast Guard has to say about reasons for the mistake.

The company that can’t keep a ship in safely anchored in a harbor (in four-foot seas!) has had a tough couple of weeks. First the company told the federal government it based its nearshore and shoreline oil spill cleanup equipment on the “assumption” that the company will be able to recover 90 percent of any oil spill in the water, which helped get approval of the spill plans. Later Shell took it back and said it only expected to “encounter” 90 percent of the oil spilled, whatever that means. Then Shell asked the Coast Guard to let the company back out of its commitment to have its oil spill containment barge, the “Arctic Challenger,” meet the 100-year storm-worthy standard and instead drop to the less-stringent 10-year storm standard. And just last week, Shell said whoops, it can’t meet the air pollution standards imposed by it Clean Air Act permit and asked the federal government to lower them …