Posts tagged: Arctic

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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 Shirley Hao's blog posts
14 May 2010, 5:05 PM
Photos worth more—much more—than a thousand words

The Arctic has invaded Seattle. And Berkeley. And Venice. (Venice, California, not the Italian city of gondolas.)

Fortunately, this is not to say that the next Ice Age has unexpectedly crept up on us while we were preoccupied with this whole climate change debacle. Rather, wildlife photographer Florian Schulz and his partner Emil Herrera-Schulz have succeeded in bringing the Arctic to us, in one stunning photograph after another:

Towards the end of June, caribou start to form larger herds on the coastal plains north of the Brooks Range. With warmer temperatures the tundra brings both lush green growth and hordes of mosquitoes. Arctic Refuge, Alaskan Arctic. Florian Schulz / visionsofthewild.com.

Towards the end of June, caribou start to form larger herds on the coastal plains north of the Brooks Range. With warmer temperatures the tundra brings both lush green growth and hordes of mosquitoes. Arctic Refuge, Alaskan Arctic. Florian Schulz / visionsofthewild.com.
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.

View Jared Saylor's blog posts
11 May 2010, 6:40 AM
Representatives from Halliburton, BP, Transocean to testify

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

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will be the first committee to hold a hearing looking into the causes and cleanups of one of the biggest environmental disasters in the last two decades. Just a few hours later, the witnesses in the ENR committee will walk down the hall to appear before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

It's a chilly spring day here in D.C., but we certainly expect some fireworks to come from these two hearings. Appearing before each committee are representatives from BP, Halliburton and Transocean Limited. I'll be blogging about the hearings as all the excitement occurs, so stay tuned throughout the morning for updates.

The witnesses for each hearing include:

Mr. Lamar McKay, President and Chairman, BP America, Inc.; Mr. Steven Newman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Transocean Limited; Mr. Tim Probert, President, Global Business Lines; Chief Health, Safety and Environmental Officer, Halliburton.

View Terry Winckler's blog posts
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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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
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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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
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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