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Build Barriers to Protect Our Great Lakes From Invasion, Our Jobs Are At Stake

By Marc Yaggi and Sandy Bihn

Before President Trump took office, a barrier designed to protect American jobs from a growing foreign threat had been researched by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. A month after President Trump took office, while promising that his strongman tactics would protect American jobs above all else, he quietly delayed the project.

This barrier along the Des Plaines River, also known as Brandon Lock, in Illinois was part of a plan by the federal government to defend the Great Lakes—the world's largest inland fishery—from an Asian Carp invasion. With its ability to crowd-out and outcompete American fish populations, this non-native fish species threatens thousands of American fishing and tourism businesses, the job markets of entire communities and more than $40 billion a year in revenue. The Asian Carp threat is powerful enough to unite republican and democratic leaders against it, but Trump has gone soft, choosing this invasive species over American livelihoods.

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EPA Moves to Eliminate Essential Clean Water Act Protections

Continuing its march toward elimination of key Clean Water Act protections, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday issued a formal notice of withdrawal of the Obama administration's rule defining which waters can be protected against pollution and destruction under federal law.

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Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. with Enki, Iraq's Sumerian God of Water.

Iraq Water Protector Denied Visa Waiver to Attend U.S. Conference

By Anna Bachmann

The 16' tall puppet Enki, Iraq's Sumerian God of Water, was forced to stand in for Iraq's Upper Tigris Waterkeeper, Nabil Musa at the Waterkeeper Alliance conference in Utah last week.

Musa, who was born and currently lives in Northern Iraq also carries a British passport and has attended several Waterkeeper conferences in the past under a U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This program permits citizens of 38 countries (including the UK) to travel to the U.S. without a visa. Nabil was denied the visa waiver to attend the 2017 conference after the Department of Homeland Security changed the rules with the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.

This act states that nationals of VWP countries who have been present in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, at any time on or after March 1, 2011 will be denied the visa waiver. As a result Nabil, who works to protect rivers in Iraq, missed an important opportunity to connect with this vital network of water advocates from around the world.

Anna Bachmann is the founder of Waterkeepers Iraq.

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Groups Sue Trump for Rollback on Safeguards for Leading Source of Water Pollution

A coalition of environmental and public health advocates filed suit Wednesday to challenge a Trump administration rollback that could wipe out critical protections for cleaning up America's leading source of toxic water pollution: coal power plant waste.

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Photo credit: Environmental Law & Policy Center of the Midwest

Court Orders EPA to Close Loophole, Factory Farms Required to Report Toxic Pollution

The DC Circuit Court ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tuesday to close a loophole that has allowed hazardous substances released into the environment by concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to go unreported.

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Inspiring Music Video Celebrates World Water Day

The Atlanta-born, Appalachian-bred, New Orleans-seasoned soulful Folk/World troubadours Rising Appalachia released their latest music video today in honor of World Water Day.

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Energy

Another Coal Barge Sinks in the Sundarbans World Heritage Site

On Jan. 13, the MV Aichgati, a large bulk cargo vessel carrying 1,000 tons of coal, sank in the estuary of the Pashur River in the Sundarbans World Heritage Site. In addition to the large amount of coal, hundreds of gallons of fuel oil, batteries and other toxic contaminants may now be polluting the Sundarbans.

The is the fifth time a vessel has sunk in the Sundarbans over the past two years. In December 2014, an oil tanker capsized in the Chandpai Dolphin Sanctuary on the Shela River, spilling and spreading 350 m3 of fuel oil across at least 40 km of the waterway. Five months later in May 2015, a cargo vessel sank, polluting the Bhola River with 200 tons of potash. In October 2015, a barge transporting 570 tons of coal capsized near the Dhangmari Dolphin Sanctuary in the Pashur River. In March 2016, a cargo vessel transporting 1,245 tons of coal sank in the Shela River. The waterways flowing through the Sundarbans are home to the Dhangmari and Chandpai dolphin sanctuaries, created to protect the rare Irawaddy and Ganges dolphins.

"Five recent episodes of ships capsizing have created a cumulative impact that endangers the rare aquatic ecology of the Sundarbans," Donna Lisenby, clean and safe energy campaign manager for Waterkeeper Alliance, said. "The Rampal coal plant must be stopped before it further imperils the World Heritage Site."

The governments of India and Bangladesh are aggressively moving forward with the construction of the proposed Rampal coal-fired power plant which will dramatically increase the shipping of coal, coal ash and gypsum pollutants through the Sundarbans.

"If the Rampal coal plant is built, it will require hundreds more coal ships and barges to travel through the Sundarbans," Sharif Jamil, coordinator of Waterkeepers Bangladesh, said. "This is one of the many reasons why the World Heritage Centre (WHC) and International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) concluded that the proposed Rampal power plant poses a serious threat to the Sundarbans and should be canceled."

In addition to cancellation of Rampal, Waterkeeper Alliance and Waterkeeper Bangladesh supports the shipping recommendations made by the WHC and IUCN in the June 2016 Monitoring Mission Report:

Recommendation R5

Enforce the permanent closure of the Shela River to all vessel traffic, national and international, and apply speed limits and effective control measures for night and poor weather conditions for vessels navigating along the Pashur River.

Recommendation R6

Develop an effective action plan and emergency response facility in consultation with all relevant stakeholders to react to any future shipping incidents in a timely and coordinated manner, and consistent with the recommendations made in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) oil spill assessment report.

There was grossly inadequate emergency response that failed to remove of sunken vessels and their toxic cargo in a timely manner in all past five shipping disasters in the Sundarbans. Adherence to the WHC and IUCN recommendations is necessary to prevent more capsized ships from spewing additional pollution into one of the world's most important, water-dependent World Heritage Sites.

"All these shipping accidents show that the leaders of India and Bangladesh are not taking steps to protect the Sundarbans; rather, they are attempting to increase damage and destruction," Pashur River Waterkeeper Noor Alam said. "This accident again proves the carelessness of the government towards the protection of the Sundarbans and justifies the call to stop construction of Rampal on the banks of River Pashur."

Waterkeepers Bangladesh and Pashur River Waterkeeper will continue to monitor this latest shipping disaster to assess whether proper clean-up, mitigation and enforcement are completed by the government of Bangladesh.

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The True Cost of Industrial Meat Production

Waterkeeper Alliance and 13 North Carolina Riverkeeper organizations have launched a new video campaign that captures the struggle of community members living with the impacts of industrial farm pollution.

The True Cost of Industrial Meat Production raises awareness of environmental injustices being perpetrated against North Carolina's most vulnerable populations and features powerful, first-hand accounts of community members, esteemed scientific experts and local people on the ground. This campaign shows the devastating impacts to public health, quality of life and local waterways caused by industrial animal agriculture.

The campaign is comprised of nine short videos:

  • Wasting Away: Highlights the problem of industrial animal waste and how the pork industry is not being held accountable to dispose of it correctly.
  • Belly Up: How waste generated by industrial meat production is decimating North Carolina's waterways and in turn, killing its fish and ecosystems.
  • Birthright: Community members whose families have lived on their properties for generations talk about the heritage of their land and how it has been overtaken by industrial agriculture and animal waste.
  • Prisoners: Residents discuss how they have become prisoners in their own homes due to the impacts of pollution from industrial animal production, which make it nearly impossible for them to enjoy their property.
  • Mislabeled: How the pork industry deceives consumers with its marketing tactics and labeling of its products.
  • Bullied: Duplin County resident Elsie Herring talks about how she has been intimidated and threatened by the pork industry to remain silent about the injustices she and her family faces.
  • Silenced: The pork industry intimidates by bullying and seeking to silence the people most affected by the impacts of its pollution.
  • The Value of Land: The pork industry's refusal to dispose of its waste in a regulated and more sustainable manner has decimated people's property values, making them unable to move.

This video campaign also expands on the recent landmark report and GIS initiative by Waterkeeper Alliance, North Carolina Riverkeeper organizations and Environmental Working Group that shows the location and waste outputs of more than 6,500 swine, cattle and poultry operations throughout North Carolina.

Energy

RFK, Jr: 'This Historic Peaceful Protest Declares All Communities Deserve Clean Water'

To prevent one of the nation's most egregious environmental injustices, Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. joined the fight at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation Tuesday, speaking in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Since September, the people of Standing Rock have camped along the Missouri River in peaceful protest of the pipeline to protect their homeland, historic and sacred sites and the drinking water of millions of Americans.

"Today, we stand in solidarity with the people of Standing Rock and commend the Sioux Nation for taking on this courageous fight on behalf of our country, humanity and democracy," Kennedy said. "Across the nation, communities of color face environmental and public health threats most communities don't have to think about. This historic peaceful protest declares that all communities deserve clean water."

Kennedy denounced that the state of North Dakota has deployed its police power and advanced military power against peaceful citizens who dare to stand up against the thuggery of corporate interests.

Early proposals for the pipeline planned to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, North Dakota. After evaluating the plan and finding it was too close to Bismarck's well-water supply and homes in the community, the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers changed the route to go under Standing Rock Sioux Reservation's Lake Oahe—on the Missouri River.

Kennedy met with the Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II, toured the camps and held a press conference where he called on President Obama to halt construction immediately. He also called for a full Environmental Impact Statement to assess the cumulative impacts, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act for a project of this size.

Currently, president-elect Donald Trump is considering oil tycoon Harold Hamm for energy secretary and climate change denier Myron Ebell to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency transition. Trump plans to rollback President Obama's environmental and energy policies and deregulate production of oil, coal and natural gas.

"Donald Trump has millions invested directly in oil companies and stakeholders like Energy Transfer Partners, whose stock will rise significantly at the expense of Standing Rock's health and rights," Kennedy said. "It is not a question of if, but when. Oil pipelines leak and break and poison our waters."

Each year in the U.S., oil pipelines spill an average of 11 million gallons. The Dakota Access Pipeline breaking would dump crude oil into the Missouri River, poisoning the drinking water of the tribes and communities along the Missouri River Basin, potentially 18-million people.

Pipeline projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline require an Environmental Impact Review before government approval to begin construction is granted. However, Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, wants to avoid the review process by gaining permits meant for "low-risk" projects like power lines.

"By requiring the environmental analysis, we resolve to fully understand the options, implications and footprint before we can't go back," Kennedy added.

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