By Jessica Corbett
"As a nation we face three converging crises: the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession; the climate emergency; and extreme inequality."
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The Trump administration will shelve its plans to expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic following a recent court decision blocking drilling off the Alaskan coast, Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt said Thursday.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Ann Scarborough Bull and Milton Love
Offshore oil and gas drilling has been a contentious issue in California for 50 years, ever since a rig ruptured and spilled 80,000 to 100,000 barrels of crude oil off Santa Barbara in 1969. Today it's spurring a new debate: whether to completely dismantle 27 oil and gas platforms scattered along the southern California coast as they end their working lives, or convert the underwater sections into permanent artificial reefs for marine life.
A marine biologist surveys fishes living at Platform A, Santa Barbara Channel, Calif.
Desmond Ho, CC BY-ND
Platform Holly in California's Santa Barbara Channel is one of the rigs scheduled for near-term decommissioning.
State Lands Commission via AP
Officials announced changes to the Well Control Rule on the Louisiana coast, not far from where the 2010 oil rig explosion killed 11 workers and poured around 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, The Washington Post reported.
- Seismic airgun blasting ›
- Deepwater Horizon ›
- Deepwater Horizon Anniversary: Trump Administration Ignores ... ›
By Jon Queally
Defenders of ocean habitats celebrated Friday after a federal court upheld a lower court ruling defending the right of the U.S. executive branch to set aside marine areas as national monuments.
Citing the authority found under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to establish marine national monuments, the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia sided against a lawsuit brought by large fishing industry interests that challenged President Barack Obama's designation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, which encompasses 4,913 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean off the nation's northeast coast, as a protected area.
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- Nearly All National Parks Are Suffering From Air Pollution - EcoWatch ›
- Green Groups Sue to Save Atlantic's Only National Monument - EcoWatch ›
- Global Warming Threatens Maine Puffin Colony ›
By Julia Conley
Sen. Elizabeth Warren expanded her vision for combating the climate crisis on Tuesday with the release of her Blue New Deal — a new component of the Green New Deal focusing on protecting and restoring the world's oceans after decades of pollution and industry-caused warming.
Underwater Mudslides Are the Biggest Threat to Offshore Drilling, and Energy Companies Aren’t Ready for Them
By Ian MacDonald
Like generals planning for the last war, oil company managers and government inspectors tend to believe that because they survived the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, they are ready for all contingencies. Today they are expanding drilling into deeper and deeper waters, and the Trump administration is opening more offshore areas to production.
In fact, however, the worst-case scenario for an oil spill catastrophe is not losing control of a single well, as occurred in the BP disaster. Much more damage would be done if one or more of the thousand or so production platforms that now blanket the Gulf of Mexico were destroyed without warning by a deep-sea mudslide.
By Pete Stauffer
For those of us who love the coast, the negative impacts of offshore oil drilling are obvious. Offshore drilling has a proven track record of polluting the ocean, damaging coastal economies and threatening a way of life enjoyed by millions of people. Yet, the oil and gas industry—and the elected officials who prioritize them over the public interest—would like you to believe that offshore drilling is somehow a safe and necessary practice.
By John R. Platt and Tara Lohan
Let's be honest, 2019 was a rough year for the planet. Despite some environmental victories along the way, we saw the extinction crisis deepen, efforts to curtail climate change blocked at almost every turn, and the oceans continue to warm. We also heard new revelations about ways that plastics and chemicals harm our bodies, saw the political realm become even more polarized, and experienced yet another round of record-breaking temperatures.
1. The Poster Child of the Extinction Crisis<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjQ4NDQ5NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNjkyMTI1Mn0.Hg4h4TvduITsOlry7kUZ1ThmXOUwNkYy_W9qF0PEWoA/img.jpg?width=980" id="f9f22" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d1fdeb3094743dc117ca37f437baebc6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Tom Jefferson / NOAA Fisheries West Coast<p>We expect to see a wide range of endangered species in the news this coming year, but few will face threats so urgently as the vaquita porpoise (<em>Phocoena sinus</em>).</p><p><span></span>As we've written here before, <a href="https://therevelator.org/saving-vaquita-new-promises-threats/" target="_blank">the vaquita is in perilous territory</a>, with a population of as few as 10 now remaining. The good news is that scientists recently observed adult vaquitas with two newborn calves, so they're still finding each other and breeding. The bad news is that Mexico has failed in its promises to keep fishermen and illegal gillnets off the water, so the pressures on this species continue to rise.</p><p>We anticipate that 2020 will show whether human beings will let this species go extinct in full view of the world or step up to save it.</p>
2. The Supreme Court<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjQ4NDQ5NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMTI2NjM3OX0.7YiKhoT7mUFRR-eaQDuk5Ex6Gstf1qTA0ngqwY9UI8c/img.jpg?width=980" id="c880c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8f3693f29675138f3a231276b052d806" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Mark Fisher / CC BY-SA 2.0<p>The lasting impact of the Trump administration may soon be felt in the courts, especially in the Supreme Court, where Brett Kavanaugh has made clear his devotion to the "less is more" principles of government espoused by the Federalist Society.</p><p><span></span>If the Society and Kavanaugh get their way, the federal government could lose much of its ability to allow agencies like the EPA to regulate…well, anything. As Ian Millhiser wrote recently in <a href="https://www.vox.com/2019/11/26/20981758/brett-kavanaughs-terrify-democrats-supreme-court-gundy-paul" target="_blank"><em>Vox</em></a>:</p><blockquote><em>"It's impossible to exaggerate the importance of this issue. Countless federal laws, from the Clean Air Act to the Affordable Care Act, lay out a broad federal policy and delegate to an agency the power to implement the details of that policy. Under Kavanaugh's approach, many of these laws are unconstitutional, as are numerous existing regulations governing polluters, health providers, and employers."</em></blockquote><p>The conservative wing of the Supreme Court currently holds the majority, and that's not likely to change anytime soon (<a href="https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/zmj9bw/mitch-mcconnell-is-about-to-steamroll-democrats-with-another-30-conservative-judges-before-the-end-of-the-year" target="_blank">thanks, Mitch McConnell</a>), so we expect this issue to rear its ugly head sooner rather than later, and well beyond the next presidential election.</p>
3. Climate Change: Peak or Panic?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjQ4NDQ4Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzODc2ODcyMX0.A6ZESFo_Iec4agzMiqExonTfALLfYT8UCYmgfiX2oT0/img.jpg?width=980" id="c6d51" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="99d2cfa7c0e5c73ec8cf440d49e5dcae" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Greta Thunberg at a climate change rally in Denver, Colorado, 2019. Anthony Quintano / CC BY 2.0<p>Will we experience a true climate tipping point this year? If so, which way will it tip?</p><p>On the one hand, people are clamoring more and more loudly for climate action, with activists like Greta Thunberg leading the charge.</p><p>On the other hand, the most recent UN climate change conference (COP25) was…a bit of a disappointing failure, thanks in no small part to the fact that <a href="https://heated.world/p/the-corporate-takeover-of-cop25?token=eyJ1c2VyX2lkIjo2OTQzNzgsInBvc3RfaWQiOjE5NDgzNCwiXyI6IlhialBOIiwiaWF0IjoxNTc2MTA1NDg5LCJleHAiOjE1NzYxMDkwODksImlzcyI6InB1Yi0yNDczIiwic3ViIjoicG9zdC1yZWFjdGlvbiJ9.ApMI4Uj7KLtN04V95wSCqGAV7kg9-AA-h52ym8KGEK4" target="_blank">the fossil fuel industry <em>sponsored </em>much of the event</a>.</p><p>Still, we're going to see a lot of new data and science come out this year, and we may find out if the efforts we've already started making have paid off yet. One noteworthy example: The coal industry is in the process of dying a slow death, so even though total worldwide emissions are up, coal emissions are headed down.</p><p>What does that mean? According to the experts, this could be the year greenhouse gas emissions peak or flatline — or they could start climbing even more. It's up to us.</p>
4. Drinking Water<p>After the federal government dropped the ball in 2019, we expect to see another push this year for meaningful action to limit the harm caused by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — the suite of toxic "forever chemicals" that stubbornly don't break down in the environment or our bodies.</p><p>PFAS are found in thousands of consumer and industrial products, including nonstick pans, waterproof clothing, stain-resistant furniture, food wrappers, personal care goods and firefighting foam. They've been linked to cancer, liver damage and reproductive and immune-system problems. Millions of Americans are believed to be drinking water contaminated with PFAS, including the residents of <a href="https://www.militarytimes.com/2019/07/14/heres-an-updated-map-of-military-sites-where-dod-found-cancer-causing-chemicals-in-the-drinking-water/" target="_blank">175 military installations</a>, and the dangerous chemicals have been found in soil and food, too.</p><p>After federal agencies did nothing substantial on the issue, it looked like there might be congressional action. But language that would have required the EPA to set a drinking-water standard for PFAS and for the federal government to aid in cleaning polluted areas was <a href="https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2019/12/10/pfas-trump-defense-authorization-bill/4383945002/" target="_blank">dropped from the National Defense Authorization Act</a> in December. Democrats have vowed to take up the issue again this year, and advocates want to see a federal standard strict enough to protect public health. We expect vigorous discussions and more than a few worries along the way.</p>
5. Ocean Action<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjQ4NDQ4NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NDEwNzA4Nn0.ABl1YZH8dEik-BmIMhl9p95hmmcmnOkdxtNv-NegNZ0/img.jpg?width=980" id="171db" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b25f8b2403df236507cce6cfbd8dbdcb" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Ocean Biology Processing Group at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / public domain<p>In 2019 we got serving after serving of bad news about how climate change is warming waters, driving <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/marine-and-polar/201912/marine-life-fisheries-increasingly-threatened-ocean-loses-oxygen-iucn-report" target="_blank">oxygen loss</a> and increasing <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/25/755859707/earths-oceans-are-getting-hotter-and-higher-and-it-s-accelerating" target="_blank">sea level rise</a> in the ocean — threatening <a href="https://ipbes.net/news/ipbes-global-assessment-preview" target="_blank">biodiversity</a>, fisheries and coastal communities.</p><p>This year we could see some steps toward solutions.</p><p>Drawing on language from the much-discussed Green New Deal for equitable environmental action, ocean advocates in 2019 <a href="https://grist.org/article/the-big-blue-gap-in-the-green-new-deal/" target="_blank">called for a Blue New Deal</a> — a comprehensive plan for protecting our oceans and coastal communities. Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren picked up the gauntlet before the year closed out, <a href="https://elizabethwarren.com/plans/blue-new-deal?source=soc-WB-ew-tw-rollout-20191210" target="_blank">releasing her own</a> Blue New Deal that would expand marine protected areas, end offshore drilling, build more offshore renewable energy, reform flood insurance, boost fisheries and invest in regenerative ocean farming.</p><p>Expect to hear more about action on ocean protection this year, not just in the U.S. but internationally. After years of talks, the United Nations is set to finalize a <a href="https://www.un.org/press/en/2019/sea2118.doc.htm" target="_blank">global ocean treaty</a> in 2020, although there's a fear it will <a href="https://www.greenpeace.org/international/press-release/24024/global-ocean-treaty-negotiations-at-the-un-greenpeace-response/" target="_blank">fall far short</a> of what's needed to thwart the biodiversity crisis.</p>
6. Public Lands<p>Many of the country's most remote and wild public lands face big threats this year, continuing the trend we've seen since the last presidential election. Two will remain particularly noteworthy.</p><p>One, the Forest Service is expected to finalize a <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/10/24/772939221/trump-wants-to-exempt-tongass-national-forest-from-roadless-rule" target="_blank">Trump administration proposal</a> to lift the Roadless Area Conservation Rule for Alaska's <a href="https://therevelator.org/road-ruin-wild-places/" target="_blank">Tongass National Forest</a>. The rewrite, due this summer, could open millions of acres of old-growth forest and salmon spawning habitat to timber, mining and other development.</p><p>Two, the decades-long <a href="https://www.eenews.net/energywire/stories/1061708927" target="_blank">battle over drilling</a> continues in the <a href="https://therevelator.org/trump-drilling-alaska-arctic-refuge/" target="_blank">wildlife-rich and culturally important</a> Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A rider in a 2017 tax bill passed by the Republican-led Congress greenlighted two oil and gas lease sales in the refuge's coastal plain. The Trump administration is likely to hold those in 2020. It's unclear yet how interested oil companies will be, but a move to begin drilling in the refuge is staunchly opposed by Indigenous communities, environmental groups and the <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/americans-oppose-drilling-arctic-national-wildlife-refuge-2019/" target="_blank">majority of U.S. voters</a>.</p>
7. Plastic Pollution<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjQ4NDQ4My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzUxMzc5M30.6r5_LPksr6WwHTp3wqVMsS2CpeLzJQvWWzykBGHBR-g/img.jpg?width=980" id="5c8b4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f5184089b6ac12309a674e2e15b30be8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
John Platt / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0<p>With pending legislation that aims to cut plastic waste 75 percent by 2030, California will take another run this year at passing a first-of-its-kind (in the United States) effort to hold companies that make plastic products <a href="https://therevelator.org/california-plastic-legislation/" target="_blank">accountable for their waste</a>. The bill stalled last year, but proponents will renew efforts in 2020.</p><p>They face stiff opposition from plastic and fossil fuel companies that are busy turning cheap fracked gas into more plastics. Petrochemical companies are planning a massive buildout of infrastructure in the <a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/what-could-happen-if-a-9.4-billion-chemical-plant-comes-to-cancer-alley" target="_blank">Gulf coast</a> and the <a href="https://www.ehn.org/petrochemical-industry-ohio-river-2641494525.html" target="_blank">Ohio River Valley</a> to facilitate the production of more plastics, both at home and <a href="https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2019/10/02/shale-gas-off-ramp-pa-s-fracking-boom-produces-a-glut-of-ethane-thats-helping-fuel-plastics-production-overseas/" target="_blank">abroad</a>.</p><p><span></span>We expect to see continued efforts to inform consumers about their buying choices, but in the next year the fight against plastic pollution will be much less about straw bans and more about fighting the root causes and stopping it at the source.</p>
8. The 2020 Election<p>The upcoming presidential election will dominate the conversation in the coming months, but let's make sure to pay attention to every other race out there on the federal, state and local level. All these elections will add up — and collectively they could determine the future of just about every environmental issue listed above.</p><p>In other words: Stay tuned.</p>
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'This Is a Big Deal': Warren Vows to Ban New Leases for Fossil Fuel Drilling Offshore and on Public Lands
By Jessica Corbett
Environmental activists and advocacy groups praised Sen. Elizabeth Warren Monday after she promised that if she is elected president in 2020, she will ban new fossil fuel extraction leases for federally controlled lands and waters.
By Jeff Turrentine
To celebrate the 50th birthday of one of America's most important environmental laws, President Trump has decided to make a mockery out of it.
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