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Shell Asks EPA for Permission to Violate the Clean Air Act in Arctic

Shell Asks EPA for Permission to Violate the Clean Air Act in Arctic

Earthjustice

Shell's Noble Discoverer drill ship. Photo by Veda Webb, Unalaska.

In a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent on July 19, a coalition of conservation organizations asked the agency to uphold the requirements of the Clean Air Act and refuse Shell Oil’s request for a waiver that would allow the company to exceed air pollution limits in the Arctic.

Shell previously said it could meet permit limits for its drilling operations in the Arctic. Now, with its drillship poised to begin drilling, Shell suddenly admitted that it cannot comply. At the eleventh hour, Shell asked EPA for a “compliance order” that would allow the oil giant to violate the Clean Air Act. The conservation groups said that Shell’s request for a compliance order would allow Shell to skirt the law and go back on its promises.

This request is the latest of a litany of last-minute problems that call into question Shell’s readiness and the government’s oversight.

In addition to seeking permission to violate the terms of its air permit, Shell has said that it will not recover most spilled oil, but only “encounter” it. It argued with the Coast Guard about building its response barge strong enough to withstand Arctic storms. And last week, it lost control of its drillship in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

Following is a statement from Alaska Wilderness League, Center For Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, Greenpeace, League Of Conservation Voters, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Ocean Conservation Research, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Pacific Environment, Resisting Environmental Destruction On Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society and World Wildlife Fund:

“Shell wants to break the law and violate the Clean Air Act in order to begin drilling in America’s Arctic Ocean this summer. No company should be allowed to do this—especially not in the Arctic, one of the most sensitive and important undeveloped places we have left on our planet.

“This is just one more broken promise from Shell, one more reason why the company can’t be trusted to drill in the Arctic.

“Not only has Shell admitted that it cannot meet its current permit limits, it has proposed revisions that would also violate the Clean Air Act. EPA should turn down Shell’s request for special treatment.

“In this country, we have clean air and clean water because we established safeguards to protect our health, welfare and environment. A corporate giant like Shell should not be granted an exception to these requirements simply because it wants to use equipment that does not comply.

“Shell Oil is clearly not ready to begin drilling for Arctic oil this summer. We call upon EPA to revoke Shell’s existing air permit and proceed carefully to determine whether a new or modified permit can be issued that meets the requirements of the Clean Air Act before allowing Shell to drill.”

Read the letter by clicking here.

Visit EcoWatch's CLEAN AIR ACT page for more related news on this topic.

 

 

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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