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Drilling and Mining Interests Pushed to Shrink Utah National Monuments, Documents Reveal
Even though Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke insisted "this is not about energy," environmentalists and public lands advocates have long suspected the Trump administration's cuts to national monuments were driven by its push for more drilling, mining and other development.
Now, internal Interior Department documents obtained by the New York Times show that gaining access to the oil, natural gas and uranium deposits in Bears Ears and coal reserves in Grand Staircase-Escalante were indeed key reasons behind President Trump's drastic cuts to the two monuments in Utah.
In March 2017, an aide to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked a senior Interior Department official to consider reduced boundaries for Bears Ears to remove land that contained oil and natural gas deposits. Hatch's office sent a map depicting a boundary change for the southeast portion of the Bears Ears monument to "resolve all known mineral conflicts," the email said, referring to oil and gas sites on the land that the state's public schools wanted to lease out to increase state funds.
As the Times reported, the map that Hatch's office provided—and notably sent about a month before Sec. Zinke publicly initiated his review of national monuments in April—was incorporated almost exactly into the much larger reductions President Trump would later announce.
In December, despite widespread public support to preserve protections for public lands, Trump announced he was gutting the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears to only 201,397 acres and the 1.87 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante to just 997,490 acres. The move was the largest elimination of protected areas in U.S. history.
The Interior Department documents also revealed concerns over gaining access to coal reserves in Grand Staircase-Escalante.
"The Kaiparowits plateau, located within the monument, contains one of the largest coal deposits in the United States," an Interior Department memo issued in the spring of 2017 stated. Nearly 11.36 billion tons are "technologically recoverable," it estimated.
Zinke has cited past presidential abuses of the Antiquities Act as the rationale behind his recommendations to Trump to shrink national monuments.
"No President should use the authority under the Antiquities Act to restrict public access, prevent hunting and fishing, burden private land, or eliminate traditional land uses, unless such action is needed to protect the object," Zinke said in August.
He has also insisted that resource extraction was not a reason behind the reductions.
"This is not about energy. There is no oil and gas assets. There is no mine within the Bears Ears monument before or after, so the argument that President Trump stole land is false, nefarious and a lie," Zinke told reporters in December.
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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.