By Steve Horn
President Obama announced Tuesday what amounts to a ban of offshore drilling in huge swaths of continental shelf in both the Alaskan Arctic Ocean and Atlantic Ocean, a decision which came after years of pushing by environmental groups.
Using authority derived from Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the White House banned drilling in a 115 acre area making up 98 percent of federally owned lands in the Alaskan Arctic and a 3.8 million acre stretch of the Atlantic extending from Norfolk, Virginia, to the Canadian border. By taking this route, rather than issuing an Executive Order, Obama made it legally difficult for Republican President-elect Donald Trump's administration to reverse this action.
Environmental groups and Democratic senators have praised the decision, while Republican congressional members and industry groups have denounced it.
"Today … the United States is taking historic steps to build a strong Arctic economy, preserve a healthy Arctic ecosystem and protect our fragile Arctic waters, including designating the bulk of our Arctic water and certain areas in the Atlantic Ocean as indefinitely off limits to future oil and gas leasing," the White House said in a statement, which also pointed to the "need to continue to move decisively away from fossil fuels," as guided by climate science.
JUST IN: Pres. Obama and Canadian PM Trudeau launch actions to protect Arctic and Atlantic Ocean from risks of offs… https://t.co/5z3deO0Yem— ABC News (@ABC News)1482267632.0
President-elect Donald Trump is a climate change denier who repeatedly promised on the campaign trail and during his post-election "Victory Tour" that he would "unleash" more hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") of oil and gas, and push for more "clean coal" production. Trump also supports increased offshore drilling.
Industry, Republicans React
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, came out strongly against the Obama administration's move.
"The only thing more shocking than this reckless, short-sighted, last-minute gift to the extreme environmental agenda is that President Obama had the nerve to claim he is doing Alaska a favor," she said in a press release, which featured the state's congressional delegation slamming Obama for making the decision.
"President Obama has once again treated the Arctic like a snow globe, ignoring the desires of the people who live, work and raise a family there. I cannot wait to work with the next administration to reverse this decision."
Murkowski, a climate change denier who said she did not vote for Trump and called for him to drop out of the race on Oct. 8, is a major recipient of oil and gas industry campaign money. She has taken $1,353,794 from the industry throughout her congressional career.
I cannot and will not support Donald Trump for president. He has forfeited the right to be our party’s nominee.— Lisa Murkowski (@Lisa Murkowski)1475950216.0
Murkowski and the Alaska delegation were not alone in their denouncement of the Obama maneuver, with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also bemoaning it on Twitter. Ryan has taken $1,223,182 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry during his congressional career.
Another area of enormous energy potential taken away from the American people unilaterally by this president. https://t.co/unzEMYTJSf— Paul Ryan (@Paul Ryan)1482266105.0
Industry groups such as the Consumer Energy Alliance, American Petroleum Institute (API), and Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) all scoffed at the Obama decision in press statements.
"We disagree with this last-minute political rhetoric coming from the Obama administration and contest this decision by the outgoing administration as disingenuous," said IPAA in a press release. "With exactly one month left in office, President Obama chose to succumb to environmental extremists demands to keep our nation's affordable and abundant energy supplies away from those who need it the most by keeping them in the ground."
However, Democratic Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have shown support for the current administration's move.
.@POTUS puts interests of Americans ahead of #BigOil by permanently banning offshore drilling in parts of the… https://t.co/pkYLz7Xr5q— Ed Markey (@Ed Markey)1482272824.0
Meanwhile, environmental groups praised the decision, but noted the likelihood that the incoming Trump administration will attempt to challenge it. In addition, groups pointed to the action's limits, as oil and gas drilling will continue in the Gulf of Mexico and exploration could proceed in large swaths of the Atlantic.
Trump Declares All-Out War on Environment With Fossil Fuel-Loving Cabinet https://t.co/8e6Q07pLbp @dotearth @tcktcktck— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1482115806.0
"This is an important move, but we're still looking forward to the day when all communities are protected from fossil fuel development," May Boeve, 350.org's executive director, said in a press release. "Everyone deserves the right to safe environment and the benefits of a clean energy economy. That includes those in the Gulf and other areas facing dangerous oil, gas, and coal expansion."
Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana's senior vice president for the U.S., also called for the Obama administration to lock in a ban of seismic airgun blasting in the southern portion of the U.S. Atlantic Ocean offshore continental shelf.
"As we celebrate this important step forward, we must not forget that a vast stretch of water from Delaware to Florida is still at risk from unnecessary seismic airgun blasting, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean's surface," Savitz said in a press release. "Seismic airguns create one of the loudest manmade sounds in the ocean, firing intense blasts of compressed air every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for weeks to months on end."
Sonic Sea: Sounding the Alarm on Ocean Noise https://t.co/QLD84ICuFP @TheScienceGuy @ScienceNewsOrg— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1463450437.0
"The government's own estimates state that seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic could injure as many as 138,000 marine mammals like dolphins and whales, while disturbing the vital activities of millions more," Savitz continued. "With offshore drilling off the table for the near future, permits for seismic airgun blasting should be denied."
One key question, of course, is what will take place next in U.S. federal courts after the almost certain challenge from the oil and gas industry. It is "unchartered waters," both literally and figuratively, according to one expert.
"It's never been done before," Patrick Parenteau, professor of environmental law at the University of Vermont, told The New York Times. "There is no case law on this. It's uncharted waters."
The industry, though, has pointed to a precedent of 12(a) protections being reversed. The New York Times reported that after President Bill Clinton used this legal action to "withdraw 300 million acres from oil and gas drilling from an area that had already been designated as a marine sanctuary, President George W. Bush reinstated about 50 million acres to fossil fuel leases."
Andrew Radford, API's senior policy advisor for offshore operations, told The Times that he sees the Bush precedent will be the one pursued by API, its industry allies, and the Trump administration to reverse Obama's move.
"Similar to how President Bush issued a memo in 2008 to add areas back in, we're hopeful that the Trump administration will take a look at this to reverse that decision and we look forward to working with them to make that happen," Radford said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A herdsman in the Chinese autonomous region of Inner Mongolia was diagnosed with the bubonic plague Sunday, The New York Times reported.
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By Matt Kasson, Brian Lovett and Carolee Bull
Home gardening is having a boom year across the U.S. Whether they're growing their own food in response to pandemic shortages or just looking for a diversion, numerous aspiring gardeners have constructed their first raised beds, and seeds are flying off suppliers' shelves. Now that gardens are largely planted, much of the work for the next several months revolves around keeping them healthy.
Start With Prevention<p>Just as preventive steps like maintaining a balanced diet help keep humans healthy, home growers can take many actions to help their gardens thrive.</p><p>One key step is assessing soil fertility – the ability of soil to sustain plant growth – which can vary widely depending on your location and soil type. Low soil fertility limits food production and predisposes plants to disease and pests. University extension <a href="https://soiltesting.wvu.edu/" target="_blank">soil testing labs</a> can help evaluate the quality of garden soil and identify nutrient deficiencies and acidic soils, often at no charge.</p>
Using weed barrier landscape cloth for planting rows and mulching between rows is an effective way to suppress weeds. Matt Kasson, CC BY-ND
Diagnosing Problems<p>Common plant pathogens include <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/viral/introduction/Pages/PlantViruses.aspx" target="_blank">viruses</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/prokaryote/intro/Pages/Bacteria.aspx" target="_blank">bacteria</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/nematode/intro/Pages/IntroNematodes.aspx" target="_blank">nematodes</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/oomycete/introduction/Pages/IntroOomycetes.aspx#:%7E:text=The%20oomycetes%2C%20also%20known%20as,foliar%20blights%20and%20downy%20mildews." target="_blank">oomycetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/fungalasco/intro/Pages/IntroFungi.aspx" target="_blank">fungi</a>. All of these microorganisms, especially at an early stage of infection, are too small to see. But when they proliferate, they cause changes in plants that we can recognize.</p><p>Unlike insects, which move around on six legs or on wings through the air, pathogens can move unseen and unchecked from leaf to leaf on the wind, through the soil or in droplets of water. Some microbes have even formed intimate relationships with insects and use them as vehicles to move from plant to plant, which makes these pathogens even more challenging to manage. Unfortunately, by the time some pathogens make their presence known, the damage is already done.</p><p>We recently conducted a <a href="https://twitter.com/kasson_wvu/status/1265989041725624323" target="_blank">Twitter poll</a> of gardeners nationwide to find out which culprits plagued their gardens. People named <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/aphids" target="_blank">aphids</a>, <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/squash-vine-borer" target="_blank">squash vine borers</a>, <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/squash-bug" target="_blank">squash bugs</a> and <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/flea-beetle" target="_blank">flea beetles</a> as the most problematic insect pests. Their most troublesome pathogens included <a href="https://extension.wvu.edu/lawn-gardening-pests/plant-disease/fruit-vegetable-diseases/powdery-mildew" target="_blank">powdery mildew</a>, <a href="https://plantpath.ifas.ufl.edu/rsol/Trainingmodules/BWTomato_Module.html" target="_blank">tomato bacterial wilt</a> and <a href="https://extension.wvu.edu/lawn-gardening-pests/plant-disease/fruit-vegetable-diseases/downy-mildew" target="_blank">cucurbit downy mildew</a>.</p><p>To manage such perennial challenges, the first step is to spend time closely looking at your plants. Do you notice any insects consistently hanging around, or molds colonizing leaves or other plant parts? How about symptoms such as blight, stunting, or leaves that are yellowing, browning or wilting?</p>
This white fungal growth is an early sign of powdery mildew on a leaf of susceptible summer squash. Matt Kasson, CC BY-ND
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By Emma Charlton
The effects of climate change may more far-reaching than you think.
Hotter temperatures have been linked to a rise in energy poverty, with more people struggling to meet their energy bills from their household income, according to a new study published on ScienceDirect by researchers from Italy's Ca' Foscari University.
Value of air conditioning imports in selected OECD countries. ScienceDirect
The ‘Golden Thread’<p>The <a href="https://www.endenergypoverty.org/reports" target="_blank">Global Commission to End Energy Poverty</a> calls access to energy the "golden thread" that weaves together economic growth, human development, and environmental sustainability. And one of the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/archive/sdg-07-affordable-and-clean-energy" target="_blank">United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals</a> is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.</p><p>Sustainability also has a large role to play in the future of energy and failing to embed green policies in COVID-19 stimulus packages and underinvesting in green infrastructure are current risks, according to the <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_COVID_19_Risks_Outlook_Special_Edition_Pages.pdf" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</p><p>In its vision for a 'Great Reset' – building a better world after the pandemic – the Forum and the IMF jointly backed the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/end-fossil-fuel-subsidies-economy-imf-georgieva-great-reset-climate/" target="_blank">transition to a green economy</a> and called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies.</p>
As if the surging cases of coronavirus weren't enough for Floridians to handle, now the state's Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed that a person in the Tampa area tested positive for a rare brain-eating amoeba, according to CBS News. The Florida DOH posted a warning to residents to remind them of the dangers of the rare single-celled amoeba that attacks brain tissue.
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The World Health Organization (WHO) is holding the line on its stance that the respiratory droplets of the coronavirus fall quickly to the floor and are not infectious. Now, a group of 239 scientists is challenging that assertion, arguing that the virus is lingering in the air of indoor environments, infecting people nearby, as The New York Times reported.
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Scores of people remained stranded in southern Japan on Sunday after heavy rain the day before caused deep flooding and mudslides that left at least 34 people confirmed or presumed dead.
Care Home Inundated<p>Altogether 16 residents at an elderly care home in Kuma Village are presumed dead after the facility was flooded by water and mud.</p><p>Fifty-one other residents have been rescued by boats and taken to hospitals for treatment, officials said.</p><p>Eighteen other people elsewhere have been confirmed dead, while more than a dozen others were still missing as of Sunday afternoon.</p><p>The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said many others were still waiting to be rescued from other inundated areas.</p><p>Hitoyoshi City was also badly affected by flooding, as rains in the prefecture exceeded 100 millimeters (4 inches) per hour at their height.</p>
More Rain Forecast<p>The disaster in the Kumamoto prefecture on Kyushu island is the worst natural catastrophe since Typhoon Hagibis in October last year, which cost the lives of 90 people.</p><p>Although residents in Kumamoto prefecture were advised to evacuate their homes following the downpours on Friday evening into Saturday, many people chose not to leave for fear of contracting the coronavirus.</p><p>Officials say, however, that measures are in place at shelters to prevent the transmission of the disease.</p><p>More rain is predicted in the region, and the Japan Meteorological Agency has warned of the danger of further mudslides.</p>
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