A federal judge in Anchorage upheld oil spill plans for drilling in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas submitted by Shell Oil, despite a challenge issued by a coalition of conservation organizations. The coalition, represented by Earthjustice, had charged the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement of conducting a flawed approval process and disregarding the terms of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.
The Latest On: The Wild
The Bureau of Land Management has agreed to establish a publicly-accessible drilling permit tracking system and to reexamine its analysis of the air pollution resulting from 34 oil and gas projects under the jurisdiction of the Colorado River Valley Field Office. The agreement settles a 2011 lawsuit brought by Earthjustice calling for a more thorough examination of pollution from oil and gas drilling, which is one of the main sources of regional haze and ozone pollution in the Intermountain West.
Conservation and wildlife groups will defend the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to end a failed sea otter translocation policy that relocated otters to San Nicolas Island and established a “no-otter zone” off the coast of Southern California. The program, which failed to establish a viable population around the island, also resulted in the death of countless sea otters that attempted to swim back to their waters of origin.
Federal officials maintained critical protections for several pods of West Coast orcas when they denied a petition by San Joaquin Valley farmers to remove the whales from the endangered species list. The grower groups are fighting the listing because orca protections have resulted in environmental restrictions on Sacramento-San Joaquin delta water operations; Chinook salmon, which are harmed by pumping on the delta, are the orcas’ primary food source.
More than 400 individuals, environmental groups and state agencies have filed motions to intervene in the federal regulatory proceedings for the Constitution Pipeline, a proposed $683 million natural gas transmission pipeline running through northern Pennsylvania and central New York.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld vital protections for Steller sea lions when it ruled against representatives of the fishing industry and the State of Alaska, and affirmed that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is accurately assessing the health of the species. The NMFS had previously found that population declines among Steller sea lions were the result of nutritional stress inflicted by commercial fishing. These findings led the agency to use the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to enforce limits on large-scale fisheries in the Aleutians.
A study has been released with data that confirms that Lahaina County wastewater discharge negatively impacted nearshore water quality in Maui, Hawai’i. The study demonstrates that as much as 64 percent of treated wastewater injected into wells at the treatment facility has been discharged at Kahekili Beach, contributing to algal growth and harming the sensitive coral reef ecosystem.