'Another Nail in the Coffin': Obama Pauses New Coal Leasing on Public Lands
The Obama administration announced today new rules for how the federal government manages and leases coal reserves on public lands. The move adds significant momentum to the growing campaign by climate activists to stop new fossil fuel extraction on public lands and calls to “keep it in the ground.”
White House set to issue major new rule on coal mining on public lands: https://t.co/K16t8HHD11 https://t.co/DmgzvDeD2h— Wilderness Society (@Wilderness Society)1452862369.0
“The only safe place for coal in the 21st century is deep underground—these reforms will help keep more of it there,” 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben said. “And they'll set the precedent that must quickly be applied to oil and gas as well.”
Early reports suggest that the new regulations include a moratorium on new coal leases, or an increase in royalties paid by coal mining companies to the federal government.
“This announcement is another nail in the coffin for the coal industry, and a warning to all fossil fuel companies that the era of unrestrained development is coming to an end,” 350.org policy director Jason Kowalski said. “The fossil fuel industry already has five times more carbon than they can safely burn and keep global warming from running out of control. It’s high time the U.S. government got out of the business of climate destruction.”
Fresh off their victory against the Keystone XL pipeline, over the past few months activists have been organizing protests at government fossil fuel auctions across the country, forcing the Obama Administration to cancel auctions in Utah, Washington, DC, Montana and elsewhere. Activists say the president’s State of the Union address and these new regulations will add momentum to the effort and encourage future protests.
In #Climate Move, U.S. Says "No" to New Coal Mining Leases on Public Lands https://t.co/IRnd0IRgtL #TheFutureIsHere https://t.co/YJwMRW5YuF— Assaad Razzouk (@Assaad Razzouk)1452845105.0
“This new attention to fossil fuels on public lands can’t stop with coal,” said Kowalski. “Over the coming months, the president will come under increasing pressure to stop offshore drilling, get tougher on fracking, and end all new fossil fuel leases on our public lands. How well he keeps fossil fuels in the ground has quickly become the new test for climate leadership.”
The movement has picked up momentum in Congress and on the campaign trail, as well. Last November, Senators Sanders, Merkley, Warren, Boxer, Gillibrand and more backed a new “Keep It In the Ground” bill that would ban new coal, oil and gas development on public lands.
The "keep it in the ground" effort is based in the reality that half the fossil fuels under U.S. soil are on public lands, managed by the current president and their administration. The vast majority of these “public” fossil fuels have not yet been sold to the industry. A report from Ecoshift Consulting showed that ending the policy of selling oil gas and coal to the fossil fuel industry would keep 90 percent of these fossil fuels in the ground, forever—keeping 450 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Used for decades by indigenous communities and environmental justice advocates around the world, the “keep it in the ground” mantra gained steam over the last year as part of a wave of growing campaigns to take on the fossil fuel industry and a growing awareness that the world only has a limited carbon budget it can afford to spend and still keep global warming below 2°C, let alone the 1.5°C that many countries are now calling for. This “climate math” has formed the basis of campaigns like the fight against Keystone XL, which aimed to stop the development of the Canadian tar sands, and the growing fossil fuel divestment campaign.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.