Posts tagged: Obama administration

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Obama administration


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

View Florian Schulz's blog posts
10 May 2010, 2:04 PM
In wake of Gulf oil spill we must reexamine offshore drilling in the Arctic
A beluga whale surfaces in the Chukchi Sea. Photo: Florian Schulz, Visions of the Wild

Florian Schulz is a professional nature and wildlife photographer who is currently working with Earthjustice and Patagonia to present“Visions of the Arctic,” a stunning collection of photos showcasing the beauty of the Arctic and the threats the region faces from industrialization and climate change.

As I type this, having just returned from a two-week photography trip to the Arctic, my fingertips tingle, possibly from the lingering cold, or possibly from the trepidation that the tragedy of the Gulf oil spill will someday repeat itself in America's Arctic Ocean. Though President Obama has temporarily halted his plans to expand new offshore oil leasing until federal investigations into the cause of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion are completed, there are plans already underway to drill in America's Arctic Ocean as early as this summer.

Even worse, the government has signaled its approval for Shell Oil Company to begin its exploratory Arctic drilling without fully considering the impacts that an accident like the ongoing Gulf disaster would have on such a fragile ecosystem. What also has not been adequately considered is the increased difficulty of responding to such a disaster in the Arctic, which presents weather conditions incomparable to those found in the Gulf. During my treks through the Arctic wilderness, I encountered shifting ice sheets, bone-chilling temperatures, and areas of snow that were blowing so thick it traveled across the ground like a ghost of fog.

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
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.

View Terry Winckler's blog posts
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.

View Terry Winckler's blog posts
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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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
04 May 2010, 1:38 PM
Agency offers two plans: one good, one bad
Cleaning up after the TVA coal ash spill in Tennessee, December 2008. Photo: http://www.tva.gov

It's been a long time coming, but they're finally here: the EPA announced today plans to set the first ever federal safeguards for coal ash, one of America's most dangerous wastes. But what they really did was announce two plans: one good and one bad. The agency will accept public comment on both plans and then decide which to pursue.

The good plan classifies coal ash as hazardous waste, a move we've been pushing the EPA to make for some time. The agency also proposed, however, to classify coal ash as non-hazardous (the bad plan), a move that will not yield strong protections for communities and won't get at the problems associated with coal ash ponds and landfills.

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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
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.