A new report by a commission of health experts found 22,000 deaths in 2019 were caused by Trump's failed environmental policies alone.
The report was published this week by The Lancet, an esteemed medical journal whose "wade into the politics behind health policy is highly unusual," Bloomberg Green reported. But while the journal's editor Richard Horton has faced controversy before, the study was co-authored by 33 scientists, signaling "a changing time," Gretchen Goldman, a research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Bloomberg Green.
"If you told me four years ago that scientific journals would be speaking out against Trump, I wouldn't have believed you," Goldman told Bloomberg Green. "But since then, there has been quite a shift, reflecting both the severity of what Trump did as well as the changing willingness of the scientific community to engage in policy conversations."
During his administration, Trump rolled back 84 environmental regulations, the report notes as of July 2020 – rollbacks that ultimately "hastened global warming, and despoiled national monuments and lands sacred to Native people," the scientists wrote.
Loosened restrictions on fine particulate matter air pollution was probably the main cause of the thousands of deaths, according to the report, harming communities in midwestern and southern states, where coal mining, oil drilling and natural gas extraction are prevalent. Many of these same communities have also overwhelmingly supported Trump.
Trump's exploitation of these communities gripped white, low-income and middle-income people's anger over "their deteriorating life prospects," banking on racism and xenophobia to gather support for his policies, the report said. But the "disturbing truth" is that many of Trump's policies were not radically new trends in the country's economic, health and social-political history, the report finds.
The Trump administration's policies rather accelerated a "decades-long trend of lagging life expectancy," particularly among Black and Indigenous people, impacted by lax restrictions on air pollution which are linked to health issues like asthma and pneumonia among children, heart disease and lung cancer, the scientists wrote.
In addition to outlining Trump's environmental policy, the report includes lengthy sections on the COVID-19 pandemic, immigration and racial disparities in health care. "I really think one of the accomplishments of the report is its historical truth-telling," said Dr. Mary T Bassett, a commission member and director of Harvard University's FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, according to The Guardian.
The scientists in The Lancet report also recommend various policies the Biden administration could consider. They call for anti-racist frameworks that directly compensate communities who have long been disregarded in the country, and they call for the new administration to introduce measures that address the social and environmental inequalities that "exacerbate" health inequities.
So how quickly can we expect a new tide of equitable environmental policy in a new administration?
Americans should brace themselves because it may take a while, Kevin Minoli, who served as a lawyer at the U.S Environmental Protection Agency in the Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump administrations, told The New York Times.
"It's very possible, more possible than not, that some of the Trump rules will still be in effect for a couple of years," he added.
With an entirely new administration, environmental policies could be designed to protect the communities it has long disadvantaged. Early decisions by the Biden administration to cancel the construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and plans to restore protections over national monuments, like Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, are promising steps forward.
But reversing much of what has been done over the past four years is a big job. Going forward, the U.S. must do so with "humility, and ambition," said John Kerry, the new White House climate envoy, according to The New York Times. "We really don't have a minute to waste."
- Report Urges Biden to Reverse Trump's Environmental Rollbacks ... ›
- While We Focus on COVID-19, Trump's EPA Is Quietly Killing Us ... ›
- 12 Trump Attacks on the Environment Since the Election - EcoWatch ›
By Jessica Corbett
Five Democratic lawmakers on Friday encouraged President Joe Biden to order an immediate shutdown of the Dakota Access pipeline after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last week delivered a victory to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe by ruling that DAPL is operating illegally.
The three-judge panel upheld a lower court's ruling that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it granted an easement for DAPL to cross a federal reservoir along the Missouri River, less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
The court ordered a full environmental impact statement examining the threats posed by the oil pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, as the Democrats' letter to Biden notes, "rightfully fears an oil spill could disproportionately affect their drinking water, as well as hunting and fishing rights."
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith said in a statement that "we are pleased that the D.C. Circuit affirmed the necessity of a full environmental review, and we look forward to showing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers why this pipeline is too dangerous to operate."
Despite mandating the review, the panel did not order DAPL to stop operating. Jan Hasselman, the EarthJustice attorney representing Standing Rock, said after the ruling that "this pipeline is now operating illegally."
"The appeals court put the ball squarely in the court of the Biden administration to take action," Hasselman said. "And I mean shutting the pipeline down until this environmental review is completed."
Five lawmakers are now backing that call: Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) as well as Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Today, @SenJeffMerkley @SenWarren @RepRaulRuizMD @RepRaulGrijalva & I asked @POTUS to put people over polluters & s… https://t.co/hAHRd25RwA— Nanette D. Barragán (@Nanette D. Barragán)1612552725.0
The Democrats note that Biden has taken "bold early actions ... to prioritize climate action and environmental justice," including withdrawing permits for the Keystone XL pipeline.
In addition to urging him to "build on this promising start" by shutting down DAPL during the review, they detail some of the pipeline's history, including the "egregious environmental racism" in 2016, when "North Dakota law enforcement officials violently removed protestors from the path of DAPL, many of them from the nearby Standing Rock Sioux Tribe."
While former President Barack Obama—under whom Biden was vice president — denied DAPL permission to cross beneath Lake Oahe on unceded ancestral tribal lands, former President Donald Trump, the letter notes, "reversed course and granted the easement while ignoring the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe."
Hey @JoeBiden, the Dakota Access Pipeline continues to operate illegally endangering the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.… https://t.co/2RKBVACHl1— Joye Braun (@Joye Braun)1612478334.0
"As you consider how to proceed," the Democrats write, "we encourage you to meet with members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other impacted tribes to better understand how the DAPL affects their lands, treaty rights, and environmental priorities."
"By shutting down this illegal pipeline, you can continue to show your administration values the environment and the rights of Indigenous communities more than the profits of outdated fossil fuel industries," the letter adds. "This is a critical step towards righting the wrongs of the past and setting our nation on a path of environmental, climate, and social justice."
Hey @JoeBiden, we still #StandwithStandingRock. It's time to shut down DAPL and #BuildBackFossilFree. DAPL conti… https://t.co/lTsuqLjpws— Indigenous Environmental Network (@Indigenous Environmental Network)1612202160.0
As DeSmog noted Thursday, DAPL is facing more than just legal trouble: Westchester Fire Insurance Co. notified pipeline owner Energy Transfer in early January that it had lost a $250,000 "bond that Iowa, one of the four states it passes through, required the pipeline to maintain."
The 1,172-mile underground pipeline, which began operating in June 2017, transports 570,000 barrels of oil per day from the Bakken formation in North Dakota, through South Dakota and Iowa, to a terminal in Illinois.
Attorney Carolyn Raffensperger, director of the Science and Health Network, told DeSmog it could be tricky for Energy Transfer to replace the lost insurance coverage, especially given the court-ordered review.
"It will be difficult because the bond holder will require the pipeline to comply with all legal requirements," Raffensperger said. "If it is operating without a permit, any spill would be a big, big legal problem."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
- Appeals Court Agrees that DAPL River Crossing Is Illegal - EcoWatch ›
- Biden Refuses to Shut Down Dakota Access Pipeline, Despite Campaign Pledges on Tribal Relations and Climate ›
Throughout Texas, there are a number of solar power companies that can install solar panels on your roof to take advantage of the abundant sunlight. But which solar power provider should you choose? In this article, we'll provide a list of the best solar companies in the Lone Star State.
Our Picks for the Best Texas Solar Companies
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Sunpro Solar
- Longhorn Solar, Inc.
- Solartime USA
- Kosmos Solar
- Sunshine Renewable Solutions
- Alba Energy
- Circle L Solar
- South Texas Solar Systems
- Good Faith Energy
How We Chose the Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
There are a number of factors to keep in mind when comparing and contrasting different solar providers. These are some of the considerations we used to evaluate Texas solar energy companies.
Different solar companies may provide varying services. Always take the time to understand the full range of what's being offered in terms of solar panel consultation, design, installation, etc. Also consider add-ons, like EV charging stations, whenever applicable.
When meeting with a representative from one of Texas' solar power companies, we would always encourage you to ask what the installation process involves. What kind of customization can you expect? Will your solar provider use salaried installers, or outsourced contractors? These are all important questions to raise during the due diligence process.
Texas is a big place, and as you look for a good solar power provider, you want to ensure that their services are available where you live. If you live in Austin, it doesn't do you much good to have a solar company that's active only in Houston.
Pricing and Financing
Keep in mind that the initial cost of solar panel installation can be sizable. Some solar companies are certainly more affordable than others, and you can also ask about the flexible financing options that are available to you.
To guarantee that the renewable energy providers you select are reputable, and that they have both the integrity and the expertise needed, we would recommend assessing their status in the industry. The simplest way to do this is to check to see whether they are North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certified or belong to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or other industry groups.
Types of Panels
As you research different companies, it certainly doesn't hurt to get to know the specific products they offer. Inquire about their tech portfolio, and see if they are certified to install leading brands like Tesla or Panasonic.
Rebates and Tax Credits
There are a lot of opportunities to claim clean energy rebates or federal tax credits which can help with your initial solar purchase. Ask your solar provider for guidance navigating these different savings opportunities.
Going solar is a big investment, but a warranty can help you trust that your system will work for decades. A lot of solar providers provide warranties on their technology and workmanship for 25 years or more, but you'll definitely want to ask about this on the front end.
The 10 Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
With these criteria in mind, consider our picks for the 10 best solar energy companies in TX.
SunPower is a solar energy company that makes it easy to make an informed and totally customized decision about your solar power setup. SunPower has an online design studio where you can learn more about the different options available for your home, and even a form where you can get a free online estimate. Set up a virtual consultation to speak directly with a qualified solar installer from the comfort of your own home. It's no wonder SunPower is a top solar installation company in Texas. They make the entire process easy and expedient.
Sunpro Solar is another solar power company with a solid reputation across the country. Their services are widely available to Texas homeowners, and they make the switch to solar effortless. We recommend them for their outstanding customer service, for the ease of their consultation and design process, and for their assistance to homeowners looking to claim tax credits and other incentives.
Looking for a solar contractor with true Texas roots? Longhorn Solar is an award-winning company that's frequently touted as one of the best solar providers in the state. Their services are available in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, and since 2009 they have helped more than 2,000 Texans make the switch to energy efficiency with solar. We recommend them for their technical expertise, proven track record, and solar product selection.
Solartime USA is another company based in Texas. In fact, this family-owned business is located in Richardson, which is just outside of Dallas. They have ample expertise with customized solar energy solutions in residential settings, and their portfolio of online reviews attests to their first-rate customer service. We love this company for the simplicity of their process, and for all the guidance they offer customers seeking to go solar.
Next on our list is Kosmos Solar, another Texas-based solar company. They're based in the northern part of the state, and highly recommended for homeowners in the area. They supply free estimates, high-quality products, custom solar designs, and award-winning personal service. Plus, their website has a lot of great information that may help guide you while you determine whether going solar is right for you.
Sunshine Renewable Solutions is based out of Houston, and they've developed a sterling reputation for dependable service and high-quality products. They have a lot of helpful financing options, and can show you how you can make the switch to solar in a really cost-effective way. We also like that they give free estimates, so there's certainly no harm in learning more about this great local company.
"Powered by the Texas sun." That's the official tagline of Alba Energy, a solar energy provider that's based out of Katy, TX. They have lots of great information about solar panel systems and solar solutions, including solar calculators to help you tabulate your potential energy savings. Additionally, we recommend Alba Energy because all of their work is done by a trusted, in-house team of solar professionals. They maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and they have rave reviews from satisfied customers.
Circle L Solar has a praiseworthy mission of helping homeowners slash their energy costs while participating in the green energy revolution. This is another company that provides a lot of great information, including energy savings calculators. Also note that, in addition to solar panels, Circle L Solar also showcases a number of other assets that can help you make your home more energy efficient, including windows, weatherization services, LED lighting, and more.
You can tell by the name that South Texas Solar Systems focuses its service area on the southernmost part of the Lone Star State. Their products include a wide range of commercial and residential solar panels, as well as "off the grid" panels for homeowners who want to detach from public utilities altogether. Since 2007, this company has been a trusted solar energy provider in San Antonio and beyond.
Good Faith Energy is a certified installer of Tesla solar technology for homeowners throughout Texas. This company is really committed to ecological stewardship, and they have amassed a lot of goodwill thanks to their friendly customer service and the depth of their solar expertise. In addition to Tesla solar panels, they can also install EV charging stations and storage batteries.
What are Your Solar Financing Options in Texas?
We've mentioned already that going solar requires a significant investment on the front-end. It's worth emphasizing that some of the best solar companies provide a range of financing options, allowing you to choose whether you buy your system outright, lease it, or pay for it in monthly installments.
Also keep in mind that there are a lot of rebates and state and federal tax credits available to help offset starting costs. Find a Texas solar provider who can walk you through some of the different options.
How Much Does a Solar Energy System Cost in Texas?
How much is it going to cost you to make that initial investment into solar power? It varies by customer and by home, but the median cost of solar paneling may be somewhere in the ballpark of $13,000. Note that, when you take into account federal tax incentives, this number can fall by several thousand dollars.
And of course, once you go solar, your monthly utility bills are going to shrink dramatically… so while solar systems won't pay for themselves in the first month or even the first year, they will ultimately prove more than cost-effective.
Finding the Right Solar Energy Companies in TX
Texas is a great place to pursue solar energy companies, thanks to all the natural sunlight, and there are plenty of companies out there to help you make the transition. Do your homework, compare a few options, and seek the solar provider that's right for you. We hope this guide is a helpful jumping-off point as you try to get as much information as possible about the best solar companies in Texas.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
The company behind the controversial and long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline announced it would proceed with the project Tuesday, despite concerns about the climate impacts of the pipeline and the dangers of transporting construction crews during a pandemic.
Pipeline owner TC Energy Corp. also announced that Alberta's government had invested around $1.1 billion to cover most construction costs through the end of 2020, CBC News reported. The completed 1,210 mile pipeline will have the capacity to transport 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska, where it will connect to pipelines traveling to Gulf Coast refineries, TC Energy said. Construction along the pipeline route in Alberta, at the U.S. and Canadian border and in the states of Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska will begin immediately, CBC News reported.
"This is a shameful new low," Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign associate director Catherine Collentine said in a statement reported by The Hill. "By barreling forward with construction during a global pandemic, TC Energy is putting already vulnerable communities at even greater risk."
The pipeline has long faced opposition from environmentalists who say it promotes the use of especially dirty tar sands oil in a time of climate crisis, and indigenous and local communities who oppose its construction on their land.
Following nationwide protests, President Barack Obama blocked construction in 2015, but President Donald Trump reversed that decision when he took office. The Nebraska Supreme Court smoothed one regulatory hurdle when it approved an alternative route for the pipeline in 2019 despite the opposition of landowners and Native American tribes, but, according to CBC News, a hearing in another case against the pipeline will take place in Montana April 16.
The timing of TC Energy's announcement has spawned a new line of opposition, however — communities along the pipeline route who are concerned that construction crews could spread the new coronavirus.
Even before TC Energy's announcement, the group Bold Nebraska launched an online petition calling on the company to cancel all construction in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska while the outbreak lasts.
"Our rural communities are strained as it is for medical supplies and hospital beds amid a global pandemic. TC energy must put an end to any construction in our small towns as the pandemic grows across our country," the group's founder Jane Kleeb told NPR.
TC Energy, meanwhile, argued that it could keep workers and communities safe and keep building.
"During construction, we will continue to take guidance from all levels of government and health authorities to determine the most proactive and responsible actions in order to ensure the safety of our crews and community members during the current COVID-19 situation. Construction will advance only after every consideration for the health and safety of our people, their families and of those in the surrounding communities has been taken into account," TC Energy President and CEO Russ Girling said in a statement.
The Alberta government, which is backing the project both with an initial investment and a $4.2 billion loan, said the project would generate more than 1,400 direct and 5,400 indirect jobs and would bring in $30 billion to the governments of Alberta and Canada, according to CBC.
"We cannot wait for the end of the pandemic and the global recession to act. There are steps we must make now to build our future focused on jobs, the economy and pipelines," Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said, according to NPR.
But Kleeb argued to NPR that the project was not such a sure bet, noting that if a Democrat wins the 2020 U.S. presidential election, the pipeline may well be vetoed again.
Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada, also questioned the wisdom of Kenney's investment.
"He may want voters to believe that boom times are just around the corner, but even before COVID-19, global investors and central bankers were warning that the smart money is moving out of fossil fuels," he told CBC News.
- Native Groups Sue to Stop Keystone XL - EcoWatch ›
- Pipeline Projects Continue to Burden Landowners During the Pandemic - EcoWatch ›
- Pipeline Projects Continue to Burden Landowners During the Pandemic ›
- Native Americans' Pandemic Response Is Hindered by Inequities - EcoWatch ›
- Native Americans' Pandemic Response Is Hindered by Inequities ›
- Indigenous Women to Financial CEOs: Stop Abetting 'Climate-Wrecking' Tar Sands Industry - EcoWatch ›
- Biden Likely Plans to Cancel Keystone XL Pipeline on Day One - EcoWatch ›
Biden Refuses to Shut Down Dakota Access Pipeline, Despite Campaign Pledges on Tribal Relations and Climate
By Jessica Corbett
Indigenous leaders and climate campaigners on Friday blasted President Joe Biden's refusal to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline during a court-ordered environmental review, which critics framed as a betrayal of his campaign promises to improve tribal relations and transition the country to clean energy.
"Biden's inaction to protect our fragile ecosystems, natural resources, traditional medicines, and Indigenous rights is a clear sign that this administration is the exact opposite of the climate leadership narrative they promised to lead during his campaign," said Tasina Sapa Win Smith of the Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective.
Brooke Harper, campaign strategist for the environmental group 350.org, declared that "the Biden administration missed a huge opportunity today to take a step towards ensuring a livable future for everyone in this country."
"The Dakota Access Pipeline violates treaty rights and endangers land, water, and communities," Harper said. "The climate crisis is here; we can no longer afford to build polluting, dangerous fossil fuel pipelines and delay a just transition to 100% clean energy. In solidarity with Indigenous water protectors, we call on President Joe Biden to stop the Dakota Access pipeline, Line 3, and all new fossil fuel projects immediately. If Biden wants to be a climate leader on the world stage, he needs to start at home."
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, who ordered the environmental impact assessment last year, held a hearing Friday afternoon so the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could provide an update on whether the Biden administration planned to allow the pipeline known as DAPL to continue operating without a federal permit.
After Ben Schifman, an attorney for the government, shared that the Army Corps of Engineers would not shut down the pipeline at this time but "is essentially in a continuous process of evaluating," Boasberg granted the 10-day continuance. The DC-based judge is expected to decide whether he will order DAPL to shut down by April 19.
The pipeline carries oil from North Dakota, through South Dakota and Iowa, to Illinois. Although the project was denied permission to cross beneath Lake Oahe on unceded ancestral tribal lands by former President Barack Obama — under whom Biden was vice president — former President Donald Trump swiftly reversed course and allowed the project to proceed.
Indigenous water protectors and environmentalists have been fighting against the pipeline for years — opposition that's been met with forceful crackdowns by private security and law enforcement. Since it began operating in 2017, DAPL and the communities through which it runs have been plagued by repeated leaks.
The climate crisis is the greatest threat we face as a nation and a planet. Today I led a letter with… https://t.co/2PuYkQChxE— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Rep. Ilhan Omar)1618001676.0
"For hundreds of years, our people have faced unwelcome and deadly incursions upon our homelands," said Phyllis Young, Standing Rock organizer for the Lakota People's Law Project and former tribal liaison to the Oceti Sakowin protest camp. "Today's decision is disappointing and demonstrates a lack of understanding by Washington politicians for Indigenous sovereignty."
"We will do our very best to see this pipeline removed, our water protected, and our sacred lands healed," Young said. "We will replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. One bad decision can't change that. We're dedicated to providing a better future for the generations to come. We've been fighting for our lives for centuries, and we aren't going to stop now."
Chairman Mike Faith of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said Friday that "we are gravely concerned about the continued operation of this pipeline, which poses an unacceptable risk to our sovereign nation."
"In a meeting with members of Biden's staff earlier this year, we were told that this new administration wanted to 'get this right,'" Faith noted. "Unfortunately, today's update from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows it has chosen to ignore our pleas and stick to the wrong path."
Joye Braun, an Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) DAPL frontline organizer and citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Nation, said that "it is imperative that the Biden administration shut down DAPL now."
"The Army Corps of Engineers should not twist the rule of law to favor big oil interests and further spit on the nation-to-nation relationship between tribal nations and the U.S. government," Braun continued. "The Biden administration needs to do the right thing and stop this illegal pipeline."
"Why allow something illegal to continue?" Braun asked. "Set the example, honor the treaties, and show that the rule of law is greater than oil corporate interests. We will no longer accept being the sacrificial lamb for corporate raping of our Mother Earth and her water."
According to CNN, Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who has represented Standing Rock in its legal challenge against DAPL for several years, called the administration's inaction on Friday "a continuation of a terrible history."
"This pipeline is unsafe and operating in violation of federal law. Meanwhile, Energy Transfer is seeking to double capacity, which would make DAPL twice as dangerous," Hasselman added in a statement, referring to one of the pipeline's owners. "Yet the Biden administration's decision here is to do nothing."
"It's hard to see how we'll ever transition away from fossil fuels or show the rest of the world that we're serious about tackling climate change, if we are just going to shrug and look away when the fossil fuel industry brazenly ignores tribal concerns and tramples our federal environmental laws and safety regulations," the attorney said.
We are not backing down, @JoeBiden. We will #ShutdownDAPL. Respect us, or expect us.— Indigenous Environmental Network (@Indigenous Environmental Network)1617997041.0
"The Leaders Summit on Climate will underscore the urgency — and the economic benefits — of stronger climate action," said a White House statement about the event. "It will be a key milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow."
In a statement Friday, Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune noted that "Biden campaigned and was elected on the boldest climate platform ever. Minutes after being sworn in, Biden began taking real, meaningful climate action. Less than a week into office, the president issued a memorandum on strengthening tribal consultation."
"Yet, President Biden's actions today fail to live up to the climate and tribal commitments he made," Brune said, adding that the decision to not shut down DAPL doesn't align "with the bold action he has taken since taking office."
"The Dakota Access Pipeline is a dirty, dangerous, illegally constructed pipeline that has continued to threaten tribal sovereignty and our collective right to clean water and a healthy, sustainable climate," he said. "Continued and expanded reliance on crude oil is not compatible with the president's own climate commitments, including the ones we expect him to make in weeks' time at his climate summit."
"The climate crisis demands that President Biden and his administration seize every opportunity to confront it," he concluded. "Today's decision is deeply disappointing, and we expect the courts to rightfully put an end to the Dakota Access Pipeline, just as we expect the president's future actions to meet his rhetoric and commitments."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
- After Court Rules Dakota Access Pipeline Operating Illegally, Dems ... ›
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By Jessica Corbett
Water protectors were arrested Thursday after halting construction at a Minnesota worksite for Enbridge's Line 3 project by locking themselves together inside a pipe segment.
"After moving to Minnesota to attend college and study environmental science, I was excited to be in a place where people valued protecting the Earth and finding a viable future. What I found, however, was a state that had formed 'ambitious' climate goals yet endorsed one of the dirtiest fossil fuels, tar sands oil," water protector Abby Hornberger said in a statement. "I realized that Indigenous ways of knowing and practicing harmony with the environment are continuously ignored."
KFGO reports that Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch said two protesters who were taken into custody on Thursday now face charges of trespassing and obstructing.
Hornberger explained that "the Line 3 pipeline far outweighs all clean energy initiatives and progress being made in renewable energies. Line 3 will destroy Minnesota's essential clean water resources for future generations and will ultimately drive us into climate doom. Education and spreading awareness is no longer enough to create meaningful change for me."
"Enbridge's last-ditch effort to build fossil fuel infrastructure is killing people and the planet. I refuse to be complicit in settler colonialist practices, and feel that I have to put my body on the line to protect Indigenous communities' sovereignty and all of our futures," Hornberger added. "This is not just an issue relevant to some, it affects each of us on a deeper level that goes beyond our daily lives. It determines if we will have a livable future."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Water Protectors Lock Down Inside Line 3 Pipeline to #StopLine3 (Backus, MN) Thursday morn… https://t.co/NWH4lBcyJY— giniw collective (@giniw collective)1610645092.0
Indigenous and environmental activists have long opposed the Canadian company's efforts to replace an aging oil pipeline with a larger one running from Alberta, through North Dakota and Minnesota, to Wisconsin — noting Enbridge's track record on spills and that cultural maps indicate "numerous sacred and significant sites lie in the path of the Line 3 project."
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has come under fire from Indigenous and climate leaders in recent months as the state has approved key permits that Enbridge needs to complete the new Line 3, especially given the Democratic governor said publicly in February of 2019 that projects like this one "don't just need a building permit to go forward, they also need a social permit."
As some water protectors on Thursday protested inside a pipe segment a few miles from a man camp in Backus, "dozens more held space," according to the Giniw Collective. The group also pointed out that "Enbridge is working 24 hours per day at several worksites, as a pending injunction to halt work while tribally led lawsuits are heard has yet to be decided."
Water protector Andrew Lee said that he participated in the action against Line 3 on Thursday "to protect the treaties that my ancestors failed to uphold."
"I've learned over the course of this year that Tim Walz isn't going to protect us, the government of Minnesota isn't going to protect us, and the federal government isn't going to protect us," Lee continued. "I believe it is my duty, as a colonizer and as a person with the privilege, to do so, to put my body on the line to stop the Enbridge Corporation from building this pipeline."
"It breaks my heart and enrages me to see how these people are desecrating the Earth and the lengths they will go to leech every last dollar they can from its surface," they said. "But for as much as I'm here in anger and fear, I'm also here in love."
Thursday's action came after eight people were arrested on Saturday, when scores of water protectors and Anishinaabe jingle dress dancers gathered at the Mississippi River, then walked onto a Line 3 worksite. According to a statement from organizers:
After praying and sharing a healing jingle dance, water protectors went to Haypoint, Minnesota, where Enbridge is actively boring under Highway 169 on its way to the Willow and Mississippi Rivers.
Construction stopped as water protectors held space and documented irregularities in the pipe being put into the ground. Nearly 30 police squad cars from multiple counties and the Department of Natural Resources were onsite.
The statement, which confirmed the eight arrests, also said that "one arresting officer in a Cass County uniform without a badge refused to put on a face mask and grinned at the crowd as he held a zip-tied water protector. Enbridge's worksites and man camps have quickly become hotspots for Covid-19 in Aitkin County."
While critics of Line 3 and similar projects have long raised health and safety concerns — including about the well-documented connection between man camps and the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women — the pandemic, which has hit Indigenous communities hard, has further fueled opposition.
"We saw Minnesota's police officers protecting a Canadian tar sands pipeline being built by mostly out-of-state workers, for sale on foreign market," said Tara Houska, founder of Giniw Collective. "We need good-paying jobs up north that don't require us to destroy our environment. Where is the investment in the north land? Where is the upholding of treaty rights? Where is the Walz administration on this pandemic pipeline?"
We are here to protect the water. Hundreds of us today at the Rally for the Rivers and more every day. We will… https://t.co/ww5HOuF6ZI— MN350 (@MN350)1610219550.0
Activists are calling on President-elect Joe Biden to stand up for those "on the frontlines of fossil fuel racism and the climate crisis" by stopping Line 3. On Thursday, more than 75 Indigenous women leaders wrote to the next president, urging him to block Line 3 and two other projects that "pose grave threats to Indigenous rights, cultural survival, sacred water and land, the global climate, and the public health crises within our communities, which have been greatly exacerbated by Covid-19."
As Houska, Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe and a signatory to the letter, put it: "The Biden administration can uphold their climate justice claims by acting to stop Line 3, stop Keystone XL, and stop Dakota Access Pipeline, now."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
- Indigenous-Led Water Protectors Take Direct Action Against ... ›
- Indigenous and Climate Leaders Outraged Over Minnesota Permits ... ›
- Line 3: Stopping the Next Big Climate Threat Crossing the U.S.-Canada Border - EcoWatch ›
By Jake Johnson
Grassroots environmental groups that have been demanding a Cabinet dedicated to pursuing an ambitious climate agenda applauded President-elect Joe Biden's reported decision to nominate former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to lead the Energy Department and Natural Resources Defense Council head Gina McCarthy to serve as national climate adviser.
"These selections are a major victory for the broad and diverse movement pushing Joe Biden to keep top contenders with dangerous fossil fuel ties out of his Cabinet and administration," Collin Rees, senior campaigner at Oil Change U.S., said in a statement shortly after news of the picks broke Tuesday evening.
"Gina McCarthy is a proven climate advocate with the experience to hit the ground running and coordinate an all-of-government response to the climate crisis," said Rees. "Jennifer Granholm is an experienced leader with a strong record of support for renewable energy and opposition to the disastrous Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines."
Biden's selections came on the heels of reports that the president-elect was considering returning industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to his old post, a move environmentalists warned would spell disaster for the hopes of a transformative climate agenda. As Common Dreams reported late last month, dozens of environmental groups mobilized in an effort to dissuade Biden from picking Moniz — or anyone else with ties to the fossil fuel industry.
"Shout out to all the grassroots groups who opposed his nomination and opened up the space for more ambitious policy," tweeted Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media.
Celebrating Biden's picks as highly encouraging, Henn pointed to a 2016 event at which Granholm was asked whether she sided "with the Standing Rock Sioux in opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline."
"Yes, I do," Granholm said. "We ought to be doing everything we possibly can to keep fossil fuel energy in the ground and developing the renewable side."
If confirmed as energy secretary, said Henn, Granholm's "first order of business should be shutting down DAPL, KXL, Line 3, Line 5, and other dangerous fossil fuel projects."
Climate activists also praised Biden's reported plan to nominate McCarthy, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, as White House climate coordinator, a position that does not require Senate confirmation. Biden has not yet decided on his nominee for EPA chief.
"Congrats to Gina McCarthy, who has been a great partner and ally to the Sunrise Movement," said Evan Weber, Sunrise's political director. "She has listened and worked alongside us to push for Joe Biden to be bolder and braver. We'll have to continue to push — that's what movements do — but good to know we'll have an ear."
Natalie Mebane, associate director of policy at 350.org, said in a statement late Tuesday that the president-elect's picks are "positive steps," describing Granholm and McCarthy as "two powerhouse leaders who will stick to a bold and ambitious climate agenda."
"We look forward to working with both McCarthy and Granholm to reverse course on four years of climate destruction and meet the scale of the climate crisis," said Mebane.
Rees of Oil Change U.S. added that "Joe Biden's entire government must be dedicated to mobilizing for an end to the fossil fuel era, and these announcements are a step in the right direction."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Andrew Rosenberg
The first 24 hours of the administration of President Joe Biden were filled not only with ceremony, but also with real action. Executive orders and other directives were quickly signed. More actions have followed. All consequential. Many provide a basis for not just undoing actions of the previous administration, but also making real advances in public policy to protect public health, safety, and the environment.
These first executive orders address huge challenges — the pandemic, climate change, racial justice, and economic uncertainty. Among these actions, President Biden also issued a critically important order on "Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis," which includes some provisions that have received much less attention than they warrant. They go to the heart of much of UCS' work and advocacy.
Section 1 of the order is clear and inspiring:
"Policy. Our Nation has an abiding commitment to empower our workers and communities; promote and protect our public health and the environment; and conserve our national treasures and monuments, places that secure our national memory. Where the Federal Government has failed to meet that commitment in the past, it must advance environmental justice. In carrying out this charge, the Federal Government must be guided by the best science and be protected by processes that ensure the integrity of Federal decision-making. It is, therefore, the policy of my Administration to listen to the science; to improve public health and protect our environment; to ensure access to clean air and water; to limit exposure to dangerous chemicals and pesticides; to hold polluters accountable, including those who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities; to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to bolster resilience to the impacts of climate change; to restore and expand our national treasures and monuments; and to prioritize both environmental justice and the creation of the well-paying union jobs necessary to deliver on these goals." (emphasis added)
Music to my ears. Listening to the science is not just about the pandemic, it is about serving the needs of the public. For protecting public health and safety in our communities. For worker safety. For protections for all with justice and equity, particularly communities of color and low-income communities that have long suffered much of the burden of pollution and environmental harms. These are exactly the changes that UCS has been advocating for and will pay enormous dividends in improving public health and safety, with specific attention to ensuring those benefits are for all communities.
As ordered by our president, all agencies and departments in the Executive Branch must immediately review and address actions taken between January 20, 2017 and January 20,2021 that conflict with these policy goals. And suspend, revise, or rescind those found to be in conflict with the new president's policy goals as soon as possible.
For example, these actions will include, but are not limited to:
- Reversing the climate- and health-harming rollback of methane emissions standards.
- Redoing the fuel economy and emissions standards for cars and light trucks that were gutted under the last administration, while also moving forward with ambitious standards that will dramatically reduce emissions and increase transportation electrification in the future.
- Reconsidering rollbacks of energy efficiency standards.
- Undoing attacks on mercury and air toxics standards for coal plants.
- Reconsidering changes to the way costs and benefits are calculated.
- Revoking the rule that limits the science that the EPA can use in rulemaking.
- Reestablishing the interagency working group on the "social cost of greenhouse gas emissions to determine the social benefits of limiting global warming as critical input to evaluating regulatory proposals, and requiring an interim SCC, SCN and SCM within 30 days which will be used until final values are published.
- Erasing the shortcutting of environmental reviews of federal projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Within 30 days agencies must submit a full list of actions from the last four years that will be considered for review and revision or cancellation within the next year.
(Measured) Excitement at UCS
I danced around the room with my dogs at the push toward restoring NEPA analyses. Doing a thorough NEPA analysis, which the shortcuts held back, means that agencies must seek public input more extensive than just notice and public comment during the rulemaking process. And critically it means that alternatives to a proposed action must be considered and vetted with the public, with the full analysis available to anyone who wants to understand the ramifications of a particular policy action. That includes, now with the new order, considering the impacts of climate change and on environmental justice. We need these analyses and public discussion — they are a key part of decisionmaking in our constitutional democracy.
I am definitely not the only one at UCS who gets excited by these wonky, technical pronouncements.
My colleague Jonna Hamilton raised a glass to toast the drive to more ambitious fuel economy and emissions standards, saying it's time to ensure that the auto companies make the next generation of vehicles that consumers want to drive. Strong standards will help the transition to electric vehicles, which reduce emissions, no matter where they are charged.
Rachel Cleetus breathed a sigh of relief that the government will be restoring the use of the social cost of carbon (and the social cost of methane and the social cost of nitrous oxide) for regulatory purposes. And that the Council on Environmental Quality will be updating its guidance on the consideration of greenhouse gases for NEPA analyses. With 2020 ending the hottest decade on record globally, and bringing a record-breaking 22 extreme weather and climate related disasters in the US that killed at least 262 people and each cost more than a billion dollars, it's high time we took the costs of climate change seriously!
And Gretchen Goldman, swinging her young sons in the air in joy, was thrilled to see that revoking the limits on science was named as a top priority of the Biden administration! The so-called Transparency Rule would do widespread damage to the EPA's ability to use the best available science on everything from air pollution standards to pesticide regulation. Finding a way to get rid of this harmful rule will allow the EPA to fully carry out its mission of protecting public health and the environment.
This order does a lot more to revoke bad policies. It also calls on the Secretary of the Interior to review the national monuments with a view to restoring them to 2017 boundaries. It declares the environmental review of oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge inadequate, placing a moratorium on leasing. It revokes the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline because it is inconsistent with the economic and climate goals of the new administration. And part of those stated goals as laid out in the policy section of the order includes respecting the voices of the Indigenous communities whose lands, livelihoods, and culture were given short shrift in the permitting process to date.
Another Less Noticed, Even Wonkier, Remarkable Day One Action
Another Presidential Directive of critical importance to the mission and work of UCS is titled "Modernizing Regulatory Review." It calls for the Office of Management and Budget, through its Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), to re-focus the role and content of reviews of regulations proposed by federal agencies.
The new process OIRA is tasked with designing and implementing in consultation with agencies across the government will:
- Reflect new developments in science.
- Fully account for benefits of regulations that are difficult to quantify.
- Take into account the distributional consequences of regulations to ensure they appropriately benefit, and not inappropriately burden, disadvantaged, vulnerable or marginalized communities.
- Find ways for OIRA to work more proactively and effectively with agencies to obtain the benefits to the public that come with regulatory initiatives.
- Improve efficiency, transparency, and inclusiveness in the interagency review process.
For example, consider the review of the previous administration's rules that would limit the science that the EPA can use as the basis for implementing public health protections. That rule requires that the underlying data of any study be publicly available to be fully considered by the agency. That would necessarily exclude studies that rely on confidential health information in most cases, or give those studies lower credence, not on the basis of their scientific merit, but because of an artificial barrier labeled as "transparency" concerns. OIRA has reviewed both the proposed and final rules and deemed them not economically significant, despite the fact that they affect all of the work that EPA does. Under an improved review process, the rule would have never moved through the process because it will in fact overburden, yet again, vulnerable communities.
Though OIRA's work is often behind the scenes and rarely fully acknowledged, the agency plays a critical role in either advancing or hindering the regulatory process. In order for the Biden administration to meet its goals on climate, the pandemic, racial justice, and economic recovery, that process has to become better and more effective. OIRA involvement must add real value to the benefit of the public. It is heartening and remarkable that this directive is a Day One action of the new administration.
Toward Real Action
By no means do the first executive orders accomplish the huge tasks before this administration. But it is an extraordinarily good start.
Now these orders need to turn into real actions from top to bottom in the federal government and in partnership with state and tribal governments as well as internationally. None of the challenges we face will be solved without action at all levels.
Our excitement at UCS is tempered by the enormous amount of work that needs to turn this promising vision into a reality. We will make our voices heard to hold the administration and Congress to account. Please join us in doing so.
Andrew Rosenberg is the director of the UCS Center for Science and Democracy.
Reposted with permission from Union of Concerned Scientists.
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Biden has chosen Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond as a senior advisor and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, The New York Times reported Tuesday. As part of his role, Richmond will reportedly serve as a liaison between climate activists and business interests, according to POLITICO. However, The Daily Poster noted that Richmond has received $341,000 in fossil fuel money during his 10 years in Congress.
"[T]oday feels like a betrayal, because one of President-elect Biden's very first hires for his new administration has taken more donations from the fossil fuel industry during his congressional career than nearly any other Democrat, cozied up to Big Oil and Gas, and stayed silent and ignored meeting with organizations in his own community while they suffered from toxic pollution and sea-level rise," Sunrise Movement Executive Director Varshini Prakash said in a statement reported by Common Dreams. "That's a mistake, and it's an affront to young people who made President-elect Biden's victory possible."
The Sunrise Movement made contact with 3.5 million young voters in swing states, and now wants to leverage its get-out-the-vote efforts to hold Biden accountable to his promise to act on the climate crisis, The Guardian reported Monday. Biden has called climate an "existential threat" and promised a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while transitioning to renewable energy. Since winning the election, Biden has also made climate change a priority on his transition website.
However, Richmond's appointment concerned activists who are worried it signals that fossil fuel interests will have an outsized say in Biden's administration.
"If Joe Biden continues making corporate-friendly appointments to his White House, he will risk quickly fracturing the hard-earned goodwill his team built with progressives to defeat Donald Trump," Justice Democrats executive director Alexandra Rojas said in a statement, Bloomberg News reported.
Richmond, who represents much of New Orleans, has received the fifth highest amount of money from the oil and gas industry of all House Democrats, according to The Daily Poster. That includes $40,000 from ExxonMobil and $10,000 each from Chevron, Phillips 66 and Valero Energy.
Richmond has also broken with the Democratic Party to support increased fossil fuel exports and oppose pollution restrictions on fracking. Further, he voted in favor of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, The Hill reported.
Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) defended Richmond's actions, arguing that he had been trying to preserve jobs for his constituents.
"That's the tragedy that Americans up to now have been faced with, that it's either fossil fuel jobs or bad-paying jobs. His district has been dependent on fossil fuels," McEachin told The Hill.
However, New Orleans and Louisiana have also disproportionately suffered from the impacts of the fossil fuel industry. Richmond represents seven of the 10 U.S. census tracts with the worst air pollution, The Daily Poster reported. And hurricanes like Katrina have become more extreme because of climate change.
In response to activist criticism, the Biden-Harris transition team reaffirmed its commitment to climate action.
"The incoming White House staff members are committed to building an administration that will tackle the climate crisis and fight for environmental justice," an official told The Hill.
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Montana U.S. District Judge Brian Morris affirmed that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot use a blanket water-crossing permit to approve new oil and gas pipelines without considering their impacts on endangered species.
"The court rightly ruled that the Trump administration can't continue to ignore the catastrophic effects of fossil fuel pipelines like Keystone XL," Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) senior attorney Jared Margolis said in a press release. "Constructing pipelines through rivers, streams and wetlands without analyzing the impacts on imperiled species is unconscionable. We'll continue to fight to protect vulnerable species, our waters and the climate from this kind of reckless development."
“The court rightly ruled that the Trump administration can’t continue to ignore the catastrophic effects of fossil… https://t.co/c8Ih1Fn0qs— Center for Bio Div (@Center for Bio Div)1589242886.0
At stake is a permit called Nationwide Permit 12, which the Army Corps uses to fast-track approvals for construction across waterways, The Associated Press explained.
Morris ruled in April that the Army Corps did not consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service as to how these crossings would impact endangered species when it renewed the permit in 2017, Reuters reported.
Morris' April ruling was in response to a lawsuit brought by environmental groups focusing on the approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline specifically. However, the ruling blocked the use of Nationwide Permit 12 for all projects, CBD explained.
Utility groups and the government asked Morris to alter his ruling, arguing that it interfered with thousands of construction projects, according to The Associated Press. In response, Morris said that the permit could be used for electrical lines or pipeline repairs, but not the construction of new oil and gas pipelines.
"To allow the Corps to continue to authorize new oil and gas pipeline construction could seriously injure protected species and critical habitat," Morris wrote, according to The Associated Press.
The ruling does not actually block construction work on Keystone XL or other pipelines, but it is another setback for the long-delayed project, since it now cannot build across streams without further environmental review.
The Keystone XL pipeline would carry around 830,000 barrels of oil a day along 1,200 miles from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to Nebraska, where it would connect with pipelines traveling to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. It was first blocked by President Barack Obama over fears it would contribute to the climate crisis, but President Donald Trump resuscitated it in 2017.
Pipeline owner TC Energy said it would "promptly" appeal the ruling, according to Reuters.
Other members of the fossil fuel industry also plan to appeal.
"Arbitrarily singling out certain new projects only prolongs the highly disruptive nature of this order," Amy Conway of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America told The Associated Press.
But environmental advocates thought the law was on Morris' side.
"Our courts have shown time and time again that the law matters," Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) attorney Cecilia Segal said in the CBD Press release. "Today's ruling makes clear that climate-busting pipelines like Keystone XL cannot be built until the federal government does its job and properly analyzes these projects' devastating effects on their surrounding communities and wildlife. If that analysis is based on science and facts, pipelines like Keystone XL will never see the light of day because they remain, and always will be, a dire threat to our water, wildlife and climate."
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The election results, reported by several outlets including The Associated Press, pave the way for a dramatic shift in U.S. policy on the climate crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. While Trump repeatedly denied the reality of climate change and downplayed the severity of COVID-19, both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris emphasized tackling the two crises with a science-based approach during their victory speeches Saturday.
"Americans have called on us to marshal the forces of decency and the forces of fairness. To marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope in the great battles of our time," Biden said during his speech in Wilmington, Delaware Saturday. "The battle to control the virus, the battle to build prosperity, the battle to secure your family's health care, the battle to achieve racial justice and root out systemic racism in this country, and the battle to save our planet by getting the climate under control."
In his speech, Biden promised to hit the ground running on controlling the pandemic, which has killed more than 237,000 U.S. residents and infected nearly 10 million, according to The Associated Press. He said he would name a group of public health experts Monday to be ready to guide his administration's coronavirus response once he takes office Jan. 20.
On Monday, Biden named the 13-member Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board. It will be co-chaired by former Bush Sr. and Clinton Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. David Kessler, former Obama Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and Yale public health expert Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith.
Other notable members include surgeon and writer Dr. Atul Gawande and former Trump administration whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright. Bright was reassigned from his position at the Health and Human Services Department after he objected to Trump's pushing of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVId-19.
"The inclusion of Bright, who said that he was met with skepticism by Trump administration officials when he raised concerns in the early throes of the pandemic about critical supplies shortages, is a clear signal of the contrasted direction that Biden intends to take his administration when it comes to dealing with the pandemic," CNN's Sarah Mucha pointed out.
Even before a winner was declared in the election, Biden reaffirmed his commitment to rejoining the Paris climate agreement on the first day of his presidency. His win means the Trump-initiated U.S. departure, which went into effect Tuesday, will be short lived.
For anyone who doesn't know, @CFigueres Christiana Figueres is a key architect of the Paris climate accords, which… https://t.co/g6IfvsYMWE— Bill McKibben (@Bill McKibben)1604784420.0
Biden's climate plan includes a $2 trillion dollar investment in greening infrastructure and achieving a zero-carbon energy sector by 2035, The Washington Post reported further. However, this will be difficult to pass if Republicans maintain control of the Senate, something which will be decided by two run-off elections in Georgia in January. If the Senate stays in Republican hands, Biden will have to rely more on executive actions to fulfill his climate agenda. He has promised to reverse the Trump administration rollback of 100 Obama-era environmental and public health regulations. He can limit oil and gas drilling on public lands, restore federal vehicle emissions standards and stop fossil fuel pipelines such as the controversial Keystone XL from being built, among other measures.
"Joe Biden ran on climate. How great is this?" Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency head and current Natural Resources Defense Council leader Gina McCarthy told The Washington Post. "It'll be time for the White House to finally get back to leading the charge against the central environmental crisis of our time."
There is evidence that Biden really does have a climate mandate from voters: 74 percent of Biden voters said that the climate crisis was a very important factor in their choice, according to Morning Consult.
Climate was also a key issue for the young voters who turned out for Biden by a large margin and may have played a deciding role in battleground states, as InsideClimate News reported.
"I fundamentally believe this is the first climate election, as far as climate playing a huge role during the election even with everything else going on," Climate Power 2020 Executive Director Lori Lodes told E&E News. "There's not going to be another election in U.S. history, another presidential election, where climate does not play as big or bigger of a role. This is only the beginning."
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By Andrea Germanos
A group of Indigenous women and their allies on Monday urged the heads of major global financial institutions to stop propping up the tar sands industry and sever all ties with the sector's "climate-wrecking pipelines, as well as the massively destructive extraction projects that feed them."
The demand to the CEOs comes in an open letter signed by more than 40 Indigenous leaders including Rebecca Adamson, Cherokee and founder of First Nations and First Peoples Worldwide; Tara Houska, Couchiching First Nation and founder of the Giniw Collective; and Winona LaDuke, White Earth Nation and executive director of Honor the Earth.
Supporting the call is a diverse group of over 150 organizations such as Another Gulf Is Possible Collaborative, Global Exchange, and Indigenous Environmental Network.
"It's time to move on. The most destructive and expensive oil in the world needs to stay in the ground," LaDuke said in a statement.
Beyond the tar sands sector's "grave threats to Indigenous rights, cultural survival, local waterways and environments, the global climate, and public health," the open letter says continued financing and insuring of tar sands projects just makes bad economic sense, noting that "no subsector has had a worse financial prognosis than tar sands oil."
⚡ BREAKING ⚡ Indigenous women leaders sent an open letter to 70 major financial institutions calling on them to res… https://t.co/tYtnEomm9L— WECAN, International (@WECAN, International)1603113477.0
"The current economic crisis has sent oil and gas prices, and particularly tar sands oil, plunging," the letter notes.
"Tar sands is one of the most carbon-intensive, expensive extraction processes in the industry, and these pipelines are likely to be stranded assets soon after they are built," the women wrote, referring to a scenario in which fossil fuels will have to stay in the ground.
The letter zeroes in on three specific pipelines as pivotal to future tar sands extraction — TC Energy's Keystone XL pipeline, Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline, and the Canadian government-owned Trans Mountain pipeline — each of which has faced sustained opposition. The economic impact of such opposition can't be denied, with the letter pointing to the "$25 billion in mining assets lost due to operations being tied up or shut down by community protests" in 2018.
What's more, the Indigenous leaders wrote, the "risk portfolio for extractive and land-based companies show[s] that 73% of company risk and delays are non-technical. Non-technical means community protests and boycotts that result in operational delays or shutdowns."
Should the CEOs fail to heed the demands laid out in the letter, further delays ought to be expected. "We will continue to resist the remaining proposed projects and hold the financial backers of these companies accountable," the letter states.
While the ecological harm of tar sands extraction and infrastructure has been repeatedly noted by fossil fuel critics, the letter points to new threats brought by the coronavirus crisis. The signatories point to the multiple work sites in Alberta that have seen outbreaks of COVID-19 as extremely bad news for Indigenous communities who "are uniquely vulnerable to the virus' spread due to historically underfunded healthcare programs and significant health disparities."
In addition, an influx of project workers and so-called "man camps" brings particularly acute harm to Indigenous women:
Indigenous women in these rural areas are in peril. There is growing evidence that the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) is directly linked to fossil fuel production. Workers relocate to construction sites to build pipelines, creating temporary housing communities known as "man camps" near the pipeline route, which is oftentimes on or next to tribal nation lands. Studies, reports, and Congressional hearings have found that man camps lead to increased rates of sexual violence and sexual trafficking.
"We need a just transition to renewable, sustainable energy, not expansion of fossil fuel extraction," the signatories declare. "We demand respect for our rights and sovereignty as Indigenous Peoples so that we can control our own lands, futures, and job opportunities."
The letter lays out a way forward for the financial institutions.
"Rather than exploit the tar sands sector for its last drops of profit in the face of climate crisis and disregard the health and safety of communities along pipeline routes, your company can accelerate a just transition for Indigenous nations, communities, and workers that depend on the industry for their livelihoods by publicly ruling out involvement in these tar sands projects and redirecting your insurance underwriting to communities and renewable, clean energy," the women wrote.
According to Joye Braun, Cheyenne River Sioux, organizer with Indigenous Environmental Network, the tar sands industry has been "nothing more than evil incarnate."
"We must put a stop to them," said Braun. "We must stand and say enough is enough. Join us in saving our future. Join us putting the proverbial nail in the coffin of these dying, unneeded industries."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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This is a sharp about-face for the U.S. government, after the Obama-administration cited environmental concerns and the threat to the spawning ground of the region's prized sockeye salmon when it put the brakes on the project in 2012, and again when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressed concerns about the salmon in 2014.
This new move represents the latest salvo in the Trump administration's thorough and systematic dismantling of environmental efforts and regulations from the previous administration. When it comes to the Pebble Mine, as The Washington Post reported, a final environmental analysis issued Friday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found that the mine — which targets a deposit of gold, copper and other minerals worth up to $500 billion — "would not be expected to have a measurable effect on fish numbers" in the Bristol Bay watershed, which supports the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery.
Opponents of Pebble Mine criticized the review process as rushed, flawed, and favorable to the mine developer, as the Anchorage Daily News reported.
In a joint statement, Alannah Hurley with United Tribes of Bristol Bay, Norm Van Vactor with Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., Ralph Andersen with Bristol Bay Native Association and Katherine Carscallen with Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay said the final review "completely fails to adequately assess the impacts of Pebble on Bristol Bay's waters, salmon, and people," according to the Anchorage Daily News.
The mine will be located in two watersheds that feed fish-spawning rivers. Opponents say traces of heavy metals and other contaminants left from the mining operation pose risks if they leach into groundwater or if dams holding back the tailings fail in an earthquake, as The New York Times reported.
Opposition to the mine has been widespread, both in the region and statewide, for nearly two decades, with concerns about environmental damage and the potential harm to the area's salmon, which are the main traditional subsistence food for many of the Native Alaskans in the region and the crux of both sport-fishing and commercial fishing in the area, according to The New York Times.
The open-pit mine calls for a large dammed area to trap the tailings from mining operations that would be toxic to the fish. It also calls for the 80 new miles of road to carry the concentrated tailings away to Cook Inlet. Additionally, the mining company wants to build a 165-mile natural gas pipeline for a generating plant to power the operation.
According to the Corps, the operations would permanently destroy more than 2,200 acres of wetlands and waters, and 105 miles of streams. The EPA indicated earlier this year that it would not block the project at this point, as The Washington Post reported.
Opponents have argued that the environmental impact statement was not rigorous enough, as they highlighted hazardous risks, including the potential for a tailings dam failure that could contaminate waterways used by spawning fish and harm the Bristol Bay fishery, which employs about 15,000 people. They also note that Alaska is the most seismically active state in the nation, and critics said the Corps had not taken sufficient account of the risk of earthquakes or volcanic activity, and that its analysis of the dam designs was inadequate, particularly since a few of the dams would be hundreds of feet high, as The New York Times reported.
Taryn Kiekow Heimer, who leads the the Natural Resources Defense Council's effort to stop the project, told The Washington Post that the administration's push to greenlight a massive project that is opposed by neighboring Indigenous communities amounts to environmental injustice.
"It's especially embarrassing for the government and appalling given the current social context we are in," she said of the accelerated approval process. "It's just another example of the entrenched and systemic racism that this government is showing to people of color and indigenous people in particular."
The Pebble Mine, like logging in Alaska' Tongass forest, the Keystone XL pipeline, and the Dakota Access pipeline, is a gift to industry that the Trump administration has tried to fast track. All those projects could be reversed if a Democratic administration takes office in January, according to The Washington Post.
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