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GOP Tax Bill Sneaks Plan to Drill Arctic Refuge
The pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) faces a looming threat from oil and gas drilling. The little known provision, proposed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, was quietly included in the House and Senate Republicans' compromise tax bill.
The bill “contains the single most important step I believe we can take to strengthen our energy security and create new wealth," Murkowski, who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Wednesday at the tax bill conference committee meeting.
“We fought long to authorize a program for energy development in Alaska's nonwilderness 1002 area," she said.
The “1002 area" is a 1.5-million-acre coastal plain that holds potentially large deposits of oil and gas but also contains crucial wildlife habitats. A new analysis by the Center for American Progress and Conservation Science Partners describes the coastal plain that Sen. Murkowski's rider would auction off for drilling as the “biological heart" of the Arctic Refuge that hosts one-third of all polar bear denning habitat in the U.S. and one-third of the migratory birds that come to the Arctic Refuge. It is also considered sacred to the indigenous Gwich'in people, who sustain themselves from the caribou that migrate there.
Opening up the area to petroleum exploration has been deferred since ANWR's establishment in 1980.
Drilling ANWR would help pay for the Republicans' sweeping corporate tax cut plan. Murkowski insisted that her rider would raise “more than $1 billion within 10 years and it will likely raise over $100 billion for the federal Treasury" over time.
Opponents of ANWR drilling are now racing against time since Republican leaders are hoping to get their tax bill signed by President Donald Trump by Christmas.
“It's an underrated aspect of this bill," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) told The Hill. “This has been a generations-long battle to preserve that refuge, and we're going to find out the fate of it next week, so if anyone is not yet mobilized, now's the time."
Environmental groups and Democrats have criticized the GOP for sneaking the "backdoor drilling provision" through the budget process.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a tax bill negotiator, told The Hill that the ANWR provision is “a completely unrelated, unpopular provision that should not be forced through this Congress under these procedures."
Critics also contend that with oil prices below $60 a barrel, it's not even certain that oil companies would want to open up one of Earth's most remote and harshest areas, nor would drilling raise enough revenue to offset the massive deficit forecasts created by the tax bill.
“It's wildly optimistic that because of what happens in the refuge, somehow that is going to offset part of the huge deficit that is being created by this legislation," Grijalva continued. “We don't need the oil. We're exporting millions of barrels per day in this country and I hope there is consideration given to that."
A recent survey from Yale University's Program on Climate Change Communication found that the majority of voters across the political spectrum oppose drilling in the refuge. Most Democrats (84 percent), Independents (64 percent), and Republicans (52 percent) oppose the policy.
“The majority of Americans oppose drilling in the Arctic Refuge, and the numbers don't add up," Lydia Weiss, The Wilderness Society's Government Relations Director, said in a statement. “This provision has no place in the budget, and drilling would not offset proposed tax cuts for the rich. Leaders in Congress must respect the will of the people and oppose a tax bill that would drill the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.