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Trump Moves to Open 90 Percent of Our Coastal Waters to Oil Drilling
President Trump has launched the most sweeping industrial assault in history on our oceans, marine life, coasts and all they support, proposing to expose nearly all U.S. waters to the risk of another BP oil spill–style disaster.
In a move that would put every American coastal community at risk, Trump proposed Thursday to hand over vast reaches of waters currently protected from drilling—in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans—to the oil and gas industry.
If Trump gets his way, iconic fishing grounds like George's Bank, treasured recreational waters like the Florida Straits, and critical marine-breeding areas like those off the California coast would be exposed to the dangers of blowouts, explosions, catastrophic spills, seismic blasting and other perils that come with these inherently hazardous industrial operations at sea. We could see drill rigs going up in federal waters off our coasts from Maine to Florida, from California to Alaska, and everywhere in between.
Trump's proposal comes on the heels of two moves that needlessly increase those dangers. Over the holidays, the Trump administration proposed weakening offshore drilling and production safeguards that grew directly from lessons learned from the BP disaster. And earlier in December, the administration killed an independent study needed to help modernize and strengthen responsible public oversight of oil and gas operations at sea. This three-front assault on our oceans and coasts is madness—and it's maddening.
We all remember the 2010 BP blowout that killed 11 workers, dumped more than 200 million gallons of toxic crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and threw scores of thousands of people out of work. Watching oil gush into pristine ocean waters for 87 days while the industry fumbled, unable to stop it. The ghastly pictures of pelicans, dolphins, turtles and other marine life dying and coated in oil that polluted more than 1,100 miles of coast. And the presidential commission that told us what went wrong and what we needed to do to prevent anything like it from happening again.
Trump wants us to forget all that and let the oil and gas industry have its way with our workers, waters and wildlife. Far from protecting us from the next BP-type disaster, he's increasing the odds of another one.
If Trump gets his way, we'll know less about the dangers of offshore drilling, we'll have fewer tools to reduce those risks, and we'll have more waters and coasts exposed to hazard and harm.
And for what?
The U.S. will produce more crude oil today—9.2 million barrels—than at any other time since the early 1970s. When you add natural gas liquids, which are refined much like crude oil, we're up to 12.9 million barrels a day, our highest level ever and up 90 percent over just the past decade.
To those who think oil is a national security commodity, we now export 6.2 million barrels of crude oil and refined petroleum products each day—up 343 percent since 2008. That's enough to meet a third of our daily demand, but the industry is shipping it overseas.
This isn't about national security or some speechwriter's pipe dreams of energy "dominance." It's about putting fossil fuel profits first—and putting the rest of us at risk. Its reckless. It's reprehensible. It's wrong.
There may be nothing more essential to the natural systems that support and sustain all life on earth than clean and healthy oceans. Oil and gas production at sea puts all that at risk of blowouts, explosions, disastrous spills and the sonic blasts used in exploration that can be dangerous, even lethal, to whales and other marine life. Burning oil and gas creates carbon pollution that drives climate change—warming our oceans, raising sea levels, and threatening our coastal communities. And much of that carbon pollution settles into our oceans, making our waters more acidic and wreaking havoc on shellfish, coral reefs and other foundational forms of life at sea.
Protecting the waters that sustain life on our planet begins with ending our reliance on fossil fuels as quickly as possible, by investing in energy efficiency so we do more with less waste; modernizing our transportation systems; and getting more clean power from the wind and sun.
As we shift away from the dirty fuels of the past toward cleaner, smarter ways to power our future, we must limit, not expand, the waters that are exposed to the hazards of offshore drilling. And we must do everything we can to reduce the risks of what is, by its nature, dangerous work, by strengthening commonsense safeguards, not weakening them.
Trump is trying to take us in exactly the wrong direction. This, though, is not a done deal—far from it. These are public waters; they belong to you and me, and we have a say in their care. It's time for all of us to join with the hundreds of state, local, and federal elected officials, tens of thousands of business leaders, and half a million fishing families who understand how much healthy oceans mean to us and want to protect these waters and all they support from the hazards and harm of offshore drilling.
Nobody voted for this reckless assault on our oceans. It's time we stood up to put a stop to it.
Rhea Suh is the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
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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.