Below is a recap of this week’s news related to the ongoing Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. This week, we saw American Petroleum Institute significantly inflate the number of oil jobs created in 2011 while being complicit in holding 2.9 million transportation jobs hostage. Senate Democrats appear to have drawn a line in the sand on the Keystone XL rider that the House attached to its transportation bill extension, and Washington insiders agree that Keystone will go down again in the Senate. See below for more:
News & Developments:
- The oil industry significantly inflates job numbers in order to distract from record profits while helping hold 2.9 million jobs hostage. The irony is thick. CNNMoney found that American Petroleum Institute’s 150,000 job count “comes from the broadest possible estimate of oil jobs” and extends far beyond “direct hire” oil jobs. “It includes everyone from the roughneck in North Dakota drilling a new oil well, to a trucker driving equipment to that oil job site, to jobs created by the spending of those oil workers, such as a clerk at a Wal-Mart or a stripper serving the workers drawn to one of those North Dakota oil boomtowns.”
- Meanwhile, the oil industry has been complicit in holding 2.9 million transportation bill jobs hostage as it continuously lobbies for a Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and the profits that it represents.
- Senate Democrats draw the line with Keystone XL. Sen. Boxer, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Reid, and a majority of other Democratic senators on the conference committee have made it clear that Keystone XL and other environmental rollbacks have no place in the transportation bill. Senate Majority Leader Reid made it perfectly clear that he would not give in to or be held hostage to the tar sands pipeline when he said that he would “not help in any way” move Keystone XL across the finish line.
- House and Senate name transportation bill conferees; Washington insiders speculate that Keystone XL will fail again. Nearly 80 percent of National Journal’s Energy & Environment Insiders predicted that the Keystone XL rider will not be included in the transportation bill that comes out of conference.
- While Nebraska politicians move forward with the pipeline review, landowners’ concerns about the water supply fail to be addressed. While TransCanada’s proposed corridor avoids the Sandhills of southwest Holt County, it still crosses through northern Holt County. According to Inside Climate News and local landowners, the soil here “is often sandy and permeable and the water table is high—the same characteristics that make the Sandhills so vulnerable to the impact of an oil spill. In some parts of the new corridor, the groundwater lies so close to the surface that the pipeline would run through the aquifer instead of over it.”
- In August of 2011, Gov. Heineman said, “I am opposed to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline route because it is directly over the Ogallala Aquifer.”
- President Obama reiterates that the Keystone XL pipeline approval process is clear, and that Congress should not try to fast-track the project. In an interview with Rolling Stone, the president said, “I have adamantly objected to Congress trying to circumvent a process that was well-established not just under Democratic administrations, but also under Republican administrations.” Obama went on to stress the importance of dealing with climate change and said that he will “be very clear in voicing my belief that we're going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way.”
- Gas prices remain in the news, but more sources confirm that Keystone XL will not help to ease the pain at the pump. Steve Yetic in the Christian Science Monitor writes: “Markets are unpredictable, impacted by greed, speculation, fear, global events and economics—almost none of which Obama can easily impact, even if he tries to nudge actors to put curbs on speculation.” USA Today’s Wendy Koch echoes those sentiments about the global nature of the oil market, and notes that U.S. oil production is in fact up in recent years.
Quotes of the Week:
“I think Keystone is a program that we’re not going, that I am not going to help in any way I can” – Harry Reid
“I will build that pipeline if I have to myself.” – Mitt Romney
In Case You Missed It
Target: Tar Sands—In These Times story on the growing number of activists along the pipeline route who are coming together in opposition to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Abundant crude supply doesn't push gas prices down—Hearst Newspaper’s look into the oversupply of crude oil and the high price of domestic gasoline.
For more information, click here.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.