A federal district judge ruled Friday that the Bureau of Land Management violated the law when it made 80 billion tons of coal available for leasing and opened up more than 8 million acres for oil and gas development in the Powder River Basin without first assessing the environmental risks or considering any alternatives.
"Managing in the public interest in today's carbon-constrained world requires taking into account the consequences of burning the federal fossil fuels we choose to take out of the ground," said Sharon Buccino, senior director of the lands division of NRDC's Nature program.
NRDC sued the BLM in 2016, after the agency approved plans to lease all of the Powder River Basin's coal—enough to keep the country's current coal plants burning for another 100 years—as well as allow millions of acres of public lands to be drilled for oil and gas.
The court agreed that the BLM was in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act when it refused to consider alternatives that would reduce the amount of coal available. The BLM also skipped analyzing the inevitable effects of combusting vast amounts of fossil fuels: greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. NEPA requires agencies to do both.
"BLM could not stick its head in the sand," Buccino said.
Although the courts are still deciding on the next appropriate actions, Friday's decision was a big win for both NRDC and the fight against climate change.
Public Lands Under Siege: Trump Administration Moves to Hasten Drilling, Weaken Public Input… https://t.co/L6BJHbLaL4— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1517593663.0
Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court for Northern California ruled Thursday that Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) decision to suspend core provisions of the 2016 Methane and Waste Prevention Rule was "untethered to evidence."
Orrick ruled that the plaintiffs—California, New Mexico and environmental groups—have shown "irreparable injury caused by the waste of publicly owned natural gas, increased air pollution and associated health impacts, and exacerbated climate impacts."
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra celebrated the news in a tweet:
#DonaldTrump threatened the health of our families & our environment with his attempt to suspend a rule that protec… https://t.co/R2gRvGZiap— Xavier Becerra (@Xavier Becerra)1519400644.0
Judge Orrick, an Obama-appointee, also blasted the BLM's decision to postpone the methane waste rule in that it failed to point to any factual support underlying its concerns, and also rebuked Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's refusal to consider public comments related to the rule.
The Obama-era regulation was finalized in November 2016 and went into effect in January 2017. The rule limits methane pollution from oil and gas operations on public lands. Not only is methane is a potent greenhouse gas that's 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, accidental leaks and intentional venting and flaring costs more than $330 million each year.
The Wilderness Society noted that the Trump administration has now tried and failed its four attempts to stop implementation of the "commonsense" rule. The group listed the three other times as follows:
1. Jan. 16: Wyoming District Court denies industry trade groups and several states request for preliminary injunction, to prevent the rule from going into effect.
2. May 10: The effort to kill the methane rule via Congressional Review Act fails with bipartisan support, 51 to 49.
3. Oct. 4: California court overturns the Interior Department's decision to unilaterally suspend many of the most important protections of the methane waste rule without providing any opportunity for public comment.
"The continued attempts to repeal the rule are baseless, and we should instead be focused on implementing the rule we've got as this decision makes clear," said Chase Huntley, the organization's energy and climate program director.
According to E&E News, "Orrick issued a preliminary injunction requiring BLM to fully enforce the regulation. The agency just released a broader proposal for a permanent rollback of most of the rule's provisions, but that plan won't be finalized until April, at the earliest."
New NASA Study Solves Climate Mystery, Confirms Methane Spike Tied to Oil and Gas https://t.co/dGVGRws5Ce @NASA… https://t.co/QSewyGaNNy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1516140314.0
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
The Trump administration's $1 billion budget request for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) seeks $66.7 million for the Wild Horse and Burro Management program and a continued push to eliminate annual appropriations bill riders that prohibit the sale or killing of the federally protected animals.
Congress has yet to act on the administration's 2018 budget request, which also requested lifting the appropriations riders.
"The 2019 budget continues to propose the elimination of appropriations language restricting BLM's use of all of the management options authorized in the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act," the Interior Department's plan states, in reference to the 1971 law that calls for the "protection, management and control" of the animals on public land.
"This change will provide BLM with the full suite of tools to manage the unsustainable growth of wild horse and burro herds."
For more than a decade, Congress has used appropriations bill riders to prohibit the BLM from spending taxpayer money on "the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros in the care of [BLM] or its contractors or for the sale of wild horses and burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products."
The BLM uses helicopters to round up thousands of wild horses and burros from public lands each year. About 45,000 captured animals are held in government corrals and pastures, costing taxpayers $50 million annually. Another 67,000 wild horses and burros roam around on federal land.
The bureau asserted last year that a high number of "excess wild horses and burros causes habitat damage that forces animals to leave public lands and travel onto private property or even highways in search of food and water" and requested that Congress remove some restrictions on the sale and disposition of "excess" animals.
The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) condemned the president's latest budget proposal. The horse advocacy group worries that the animals in holding and those considered "excess" on the range would be killed en masse if Congress were to grant the BLM's budget request.
"The Trump administration continues to defy the will of the American people by proposing the slaughter of America's iconic wild horses and burros," said Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign.
The Interior Dept. again asks congress to lift long-standing #wildhorse slaughter ban in FY 2019 Appropriations. https://t.co/O1Ig6Amuvz— AWHC (@AWHC)1518534104.0
A poll cited by the AWHC showed that 80 percent of Americans—including 86 percent of Trump voters and 77 percent of Clinton voters—oppose the slaughter and mass killing of wild horses and burros.
"The administration's decision to prioritize slaughter over humane management alternatives recommended by the National Academy of Sciences is irresponsible, reckless and politically unacceptable," Roy said.
A 2013 National Academy of Sciences review of the BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Management program found that a birth control vaccine was among the most safe, effective and economical ways to humanely reduce horse reproductive rates on the range.
But according to the AWHC, the BLM "has refused to use this method in more than a token manner, opting instead for costly and cruel helicopter roundups."
Wild Horses Under Siege on Public Lands https://t.co/5NSBGDDwBd @greenpeaceusa @Sierra_Magazine— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1488841225.0
by Jessica Corbett
Despite protests from conservationists, local tribe leaders, Democratic lawmakers and even the United Nations' expert on Indigenous rights, at 6 a.m. on Friday the Trump administration will allow citizens and companies to start staking claims on sections of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah so the new stakeholders can conduct hard rock mining on the formerly protected lands.
"It is outrageous to witness the dismantling of the Bears Ears national monument, in what constitutes a serious attack on Indigenous peoples' rights in the United States," said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples.
Tauli-Corpuz noted that the previous administration's decision to create the monument "protected thousands of sacred sites which are central to the preservation of regional Native culture." He warned that Trump's decision to reduce Bears Ears by about 85 percent "exposes thousands of acres of sacred lands and archaeological sites to the threats of desecration, contamination and permanent destruction."
Critics have turned to social media to denounce the "modern land run."
"Diminishing the size of the monument puts hundreds of archeological and cultural sites at risk, and threatens our… https://t.co/dB0j1HNxsI— Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition (@Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition)1517321389.0
RT to #SaveGrandStaircase & #StandWithBearsEars! Proclamations dismantling #MonumentsForAll allow for more mining &… https://t.co/JAdjqLl7xK— Monuments For All (@Monuments For All)1516730547.0
In response to the attacks on public lands and a proposal from Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah) that purports to give management control of the remaining land to Indigenous leaders—who said the measure "is tribal in name only"—a group of Democratic senators has introduced a bill to fight back against Trump and Republicans in Congress:
We’re introducing the #ANTIQUITIESActOf2018 today to protect our #MonumentsForAll from the Trump administration’s u… https://t.co/yuTRVHKdrV— Tom Udall (@Tom Udall)1517340647.0
Pres Trump’s move to eliminate 2M acres of protections for #BearsEars & Grand-Staircase Escalante is largest attack… https://t.co/Se3noZUDlM— Martin Heinrich (@Martin Heinrich)1517428355.0
In spite of widespread opposition, the Trump administration's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to move forward with allowing stakeholders to claim plots of land on Friday, and has determined the process will be governed by the General Mining Law of 1872, which covers mining for metals such as copper, gold, silver and uranium (but not coal and petroleum).
"The process for staking a claim remains much as it did during the Gold Rush," Reuters reported:
A prospector hammers four poles into the ground corresponding to the four points of a parcel that can be as big as 20 acres, and attaches a written description of the claim onto one of them. A prospector then has 30 days to record the claim at the local BLM office ...
The costs of claiming are low: a $212 filing fee, and an annual maintenance fee of $150. Unlike laws governing petroleum extraction, there are no environmental guidelines specific to hard rock mining, and no requirement to pay a royalty. The claims provide prospectors mineral rights but not ownership of the land.
Lauren Pagel, the policy director of the nonprofit Earthworks, criticized the law as outdated, telling Reuters, "It's really the last law still on the books from that Manifest Destiny era encouraging a resources free-for-all."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
The suit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Reno, the Associated Press reported. It claims that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws by approving the removal of nearly 10,000 mustangs over 10 years in a 4,900-square-mile expanse of federal rangeland near the Nevada-Utah border.
Michael Harris, director of the group's Wildlife Law Program in Colorado, said the roundups could occur without public notice or comment and without site-specific analysis of each individual gather.
The "roundup decision is unprecedented in size and scope," the suit states, and would allow BLM to "continually roundup, remove, drug and castrate wild horses for 10 years after the initial roundup."
Friends of Animals President Priscilla Feral told the AP that castration puts male horses at risk of hemorrhaging and infection, and those that survive the process "will be robbed of their natural behaviors, putting them at a disadvantage on the range in terms of survival."
"This is the definition of animal cruelty," Feral added. "These are wild animals, not domesticated dogs and cats."
Slaughter of 90,000 Wild Horses Could Proceed Despite 80% Objection From American Public https://t.co/OXR9irDWrB @foe_us @Sierra_Magazine— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1511045108.0
BLM District Manager Jill Silvey authorized the gathers in December.
"Native vegetative communities in parts of the complexes have already crossed critical ecological thresholds that could prevent or significantly slow their recovery," she said at the time. "This resource degradation and potential for irreversible ecological damage will continue without immediate action to remove excess wild horses and to bring the wild horse population back to (appropriate management levels.)"
But the group contends that the roundups are based on outdated population targets adopted in management plans that have not been updated for more than a decade.
Wild Horses Under Siege on Public Lands https://t.co/5NSBGDDwBd @greenpeaceusa @Sierra_Magazine— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1488841225.0
In a win Wednesday for oil and gas-patch communities and taxpayers, a procedural vote failed in the Senate, preventing a Congressional Review Act resolution from nullifying the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Methane Waste Rule. The vote to proceed to debate on the resolution failed, 49–51. This rule is a common sense standard to limit wasteful methane pollution from oil and gas operations on public lands.
The Congressional Review Act is a controversial and anti-democratic tactic that anti-environmental extremists in Congress attempted to use to push this pro-polluter agenda item forward.
"Just when we thought all hope was lost, common sense prevailed today in the United States Congress," Jessica Ennis, Earthjustice senior legislative representative, said.
"By preserving this win-win rule that protects public health and saves taxpayers money at the same time, Congress is managing to slowly rebuild its credibility as an institution that can serve as a check against powerful corporate interests."
Each year, oil and gas companies leak or deliberately vent millions of tons of methane, a potent climate pollutant, into the atmosphere during oil and gas operations. Methane pollution from these operations not only speeds-up global warming, but is often accompanied by toxic air pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde and ethylbenzene, threatening the health of residents who live nearby.
To address this problem, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently finalized a waste prevention rule, which reduces methane pollution and enjoys wide public support; in a poll out earlier this year, 81 percent of Western voters surveyed said they supported leaving the BLM methane rule in place.
Fifty-one senators voted in accordance with their constituents wishes. Among those Westerners who support the methane pollution safeguard is Bob Arrington, a native born Coloradoan whose first job out of the University of Colorado was designing air pollution control equipment for industrial, chemical and power plants. Now living in Battlement Mesa, he puts his years of expertise to use—working to protect himself and his community from methane and other air pollution from nearby oil and gas operations.
"We are surrounded in all directions by Bureau of Land Management land and the oil and gas activities on those lands have direct consequences on our air quality," said Arrington.
"They're saying they can't, but it absolutely can be done better and with cost recoveries."
The BLM rule requires oil and gas companies to reduce venting, flaring and leaks from industry operations on public lands. Without the rule in place, taxpayers could lose out on $800 million in royalties over the next decade because of venting and flaring natural gas alone, according to a Western Values Project Report.
The documents, including a "BLM Priority Work" list accompanying talking points memo, were drafted by BLM administrators and have been reviewed by Trump transition team members, but have not yet been circulated to staff.
While wind and solar development earn small mentions, the documents emphasize main goals of making more federal lands available for energy development and streamlining leases and permits for oil, gas, coal and hardrock mining projects.
The draft priority work list under the "Making America Safe through Energy Independence" includes:
- Make additional lands available for "all of the above" energy development
- Address backlog of Applications for Permit to Drill (APDs) and Expressions of Interest (EOIs)
- Streamline Federal coal leasing and permitting, and address backlog
- Streamline oil and gas leasing and permitting
- Streamline rights-of-way processing for pipelines, transmission lines and solar/wind projects
- Streamline leasing and permitting for hardrock mining
The priority list was "assembled by the team at the BLM to clearly lay out our continued commitment to ensure opportunities for commercial, recreation and conservation activities on BLM-managed lands," Megan Crandall, an agency spokeswoman, told E&E News in an email.
"No one voted to pollute our public lands, air or drinking water in the last election, yet the Trump administration is doing the bidding of powerful polluters as nearly its first order of business," Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine said after Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke ordered the lifting a moratorium on federal coal leasing. A coalition of groups, including Earthjustice, are suing the Trump administration over the order, which opens tens of thousands of acres of public lands to the coal industry.
For a deeper dive:
This week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which operates more than 200 million acres of public land, made a statement by changing the banner image on their website from a vast mountain range to a massive coal seam in Wyoming—staking an obvious claim in the Trump administration's campaign to bring coal and other industry jobs back to the U.S.
The change comes just days after the president granted his entire salary since being in office, about $78,000, to the National Park Service, which is under the same umbrella as the BLM, both managed by the Department of the Interior. The Sierra Club was quick to point out that this sum was minuscule compared to the budget cuts Trump has proposed on the Interior, which will amount to a 12 percent slash in funding, or about $2 billion overall.
"If Donald Trump is actually interested in helping our parks, he should stop trying to slash their budgets to historically low levels," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. "This publicity stunt is a sad consolation prize as Trump tries to stifle America's best idea."
The BLM manages streams and rivers, hiking trails, oil and gas fields, and coal mines. The shift from green mountains to dingy coal on their website might signify, therefore, that the little funding they have left will go to the latter. BLM spokesperson Jeff Krauss said, however, that the new image is simply part of an IT redesign, which allows for rotating photos of the many public lands BLM manages.
The hype surrounding the switch comes as no surprise, as the BLM has been a political target for decades. Under President George W. Bush, the organization received backlash from environmental groups for approving the expansion of oil drilling on public lands. More recently, the organization has been slammed by Standing Rock activists for similar moves on the Dakota Access Pipeline.
In February, the Trump administration completed the largest lease sale of oil drilling rights in years—128 parcels, mostly in Wyoming, for $129.3 million. So it seems, whether it's coal or mountains, that the BLM is just following government orders.
The U.S. holds more than 600 million acres of stunning public lands in trust for the American public. These beloved places, ranging from the granite spires of the Black Hills National Forest to the mystical Mojave National Preserve, are home to diverse native wildlife, inspire wonder in people from around the world who visit them and provide clean air, clean water and unsurpassed recreation opportunities to our communities.
Despite the irreplaceable value these places hold, in recent years, a concerted effort has been driven forward by certain senators and U.S. representatives to seize, dismantle, destroy and privatize our public lands. These lawmakers are backed by fossil fuel corporations and other extractive industries that already squeeze massive profits out of America's public lands and only want more.
In order to realize this goal, every year these corporations push millions of dollars toward federal lawmakers to motivate them to introduce and pass legislation that would have the effect of either fully privatizing public lands or opening them up to unfettered extraction and development.
The Center for Biological Diversity issued a report that analyzed 132 bills that were introduced in the past three congressional sessions, between 2011 and 2016, and identified the lawmakers who authored and cosponsored the greatest number of these bills. The list of "Public Lands Enemies" that emerged includes nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives and six U.S. senators from eight western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
These 15 Public Lands Enemies are:
In bending to private industry interest, these lawmakers actively spurn the majority of American voters, including in their states, who polls have shown want to see public hands left in public lands and preserved for future generations.
With the West already losing to development one football field's worth of natural areas every two and a half minutes, these shared lands are more important than ever. At the start of the 115th Congress, we want to bring attention to these Public Lands Enemies and their plans to seize and privatize public lands. Everyone who cares about our national forests, wildlife refuges, deserts, national parks, national monuments, wild rivers, wilderness and areas of historic, scientific and cultural significance needs to be watching these elected officials vigilantly and opposing their actions every step of the way.
Drilling has taken place on federal lands for years, with more than 100,000 wells in existence. In 2015, the Interior Dept. issued new standards aimed at making the process safer, including stricter and higher design standards for wells and waste fluid storage facilities to mitigate risks to air, water and wildlife. Companies would also be required to publicly disclose chemicals used in fracking.
Scientists Link #Fracking to Explosion That Severely Injured Texas Family: EcoWatch https://t.co/jRigmTiYjc #environment— EcoInternet (@EcoInternet)1489181842.0
However, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl blocked the Obama rule in June after accepting the argument from energy companies and several states that federal regulators lack congressional authority to set rules for fracking.
The Obama administration appealed the decision to the 10th Circuit, but the rule could be killed for good. The Trump administration said in court filings Wednesday it is withdrawing from the lawsuit.
Justice Dept. lawyers representing Interior and the Bureau of Land Management asked the court to "continue the oral argument and hold these appeals in abeyance pending a new rulemaking" on the issue.
"As part of this process, the Department has begun reviewing the 2015 Final Rule (and all guidance issued pursuant thereto) for consistency with the policies and priorities of the new Administration," the motion reads. "This initial review has revealed that the 2015 Final Rule does not reflect those policies and priorities."
Neal Kirby of the Independent Petroleum Association of America praised the withdrawal of the rule, calling it "unnecessary, duplicative and would further drive away independent producers from federal lands."
"Every energy-producing area has different needs and requirements, which is why the states are far more effective at regulating hydraulic fracturing than the federal government," he said.
Many environmental advocates felt that the 2015 rule was already too lenient, but the Trump administration's latest action could be even more worrisome to fracking opponents.
New Fracking Rules on Public Lands ‘A Giveaway to Oil and Gas Industry,’ Advocates Say via @EcoWatch: http://t.co/IjEKb9vxY6— Food & Water Watch (@Food & Water Watch)1426874604.0
"This disturbing decision highlights Trump's desire to leave our beautiful public lands utterly unprotected from oil industry exploitation," said Michael Saul, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Backing away from these modest rules is doubly dangerous given the administration's reckless plans to ramp up fracking and drilling on public lands across America."
Other environmental organizations spoke out against the announcement.
"Today's news demonstrates the degree to which Secretary Zinke and the Trump administration are in the pocket of the oil and gas industry," said Earthjustice attorney Mike Freeman.
Earthworks policy director Lauren Page said: "By moving to overturn these common-sense protections, the Trump administration is positioning itself against the disclosure of toxic chemicals, protecting clean water and preserving our public land."
Groundwater contamination is one of the biggest concerns about unconventional oil and natural gas production. While the industry maintains the safety of the process, in December the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its highly anticipated final report identifying cases of impacts on drinking water at each stage in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle.
"With [Wednesday's] decision, Trump is making it clear that he thinks we need more fracking operations contaminating our drinking water, causing earthquakes and polluting our environment, not less," Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign director Lena Moffitt said. "The Sierra Club will continue to defend this rule, ensuring that our publicly-owned lands remain protected from fracking and Donald Trump."
President Trump has plans to open up federal lands for more energy development. As a candidate, Trump campaigned on a promise to "unleash America's $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves."
Big Oil Cheers as Trump Plans to Open National Parks for Drilling https://t.co/25OEh4PTFx @HuffPostGreen @greenpeaceusa— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1484269516.0
He accused President Obama of "denying millions of Americans access to the energy wealth sitting under our feet" by restricting leasing and banning new coal extraction.
Incidentally, the actions of the current administration go against the sentiments of the majority of Americans, who are opposed to fracking and drilling of public lands, according to a new Gallup poll.
The poll, released on Tuesday, determined that 53 percent of Americans oppose fracking as a means of increasing the production of natural gas and oil in the U.S. Only 46 percent support for opening up federal lands for oil exploration, compared to 65 percent who favored it in 2014.
"Americans Tilt Toward Protecting Environment, Alternative Fuels"Gallup
The Gallup poll found that 72 percent of Americans support spending more government money on energy alternatives such as solar and wind power. About two-thirds of Americans favor more strongly enforcing federal environmental regulations and setting higher emissions standards for business and energy.
Public opposition to fracking has grown in recent years, as counties and cities across the country are passing resolutions and ordinances to ban the practice.
Even states are getting behind the action. The Maryland House of Delegates passed a milestone bill earlier this month that would ban fracking statewide.
Fracking opponents are now urging the Maryland Senate to pass the same legislation. On Thursday morning, a group of protesters‚ including including faith leaders and western Maryland residents, barred the entrance to the State House in a peaceful act of civil disobedience. Thirteen were arrested.
[email protected] of @foodandwater one of 13 #DontFrackMD activists arrested calling on @MDSenate to pass fracking ban.… https://t.co/3Dqt4S8W3n— Thomas Meyer (@Thomas Meyer)1489675157.0
"As stewards of God's creation, United Methodists are opposed to hydraulic fracturing because of the serious consequences for the environment, including damage to water and geological stability," said Rev. Julie Wilson, chair for the Board of Church and Society for the Baltimore Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church. "We support a ban on fracking."
Garrett County in western Maryland is likely to be the first area targeted if fracking is allowed. The demonstrators say that fracking would threaten the area's local economy, which relies heavily on tourism and agriculture.
The first few folks calling on the @MDSenate to #banfracking as they were removed by police from the State House en… https://t.co/NwKNFlvKOn— Rianna Eckel (@Rianna Eckel)1489678004.0
"Western Maryland would be targeted first by fracking, and western Marylanders overwhelmingly know that we can never allow it to take place," said Ann Bristow, Garrett County resident and member of Gov. O'Malley's Marcellus shale advisory commission.
"The more we learn about fracking, the more we know we need a ban. Our water, health and climate are far more important than short term gain for the natural gas industry. Once free of worrying about fracking in Maryland, we can all turn our attention to a renewable and sustainable future."
Cleanup efforts are underway after a failed Chevron Corporation pipeline released about 4,800 gallons of oil into an intermittent stream on public land in northwestern Colorado and killed some wildlife.
The breach happened on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and was first detected on March 5 by a Chevron consultant. The pipeline was shut down after discovery of the leak and the oil is now trapped in a berm and siphon dam in a dry ravine, according to the Associated Press.
As it happens, the leak occurred around the same time that the conservation group Center for Western Priorities found that Chevron was behind 31 reported spills in Colorado last year, ranking the energy corporation as the fourth highest oil and gas spiller in the state.
2016 Colorado Oil and Gas Toxic Release TrackerCenter for Western Priorities
Chevron spokeswoman Erika Conner said that while there are no public health concerns after the March 5 incident, some animals have died. Two mallard ducks covered in oil were found at the spill site and were transferred to Colorado Parks and Wildlife on March 5 but died the day after. Two other small birds and several mice have also been found dead by cleanup crews.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been notified," Conner told The Daily Sentinel. "We regret the impact the release has had on the affected animals and are working diligently to avoid any additional impacts to wildlife."
Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Todd Hartman told the AP that the failed section of pipeline is being analyzed to determine a cause.
The spill involved a 6-inch-diameter oil gathering pipeline, BLM spokesman David Boyd told The Daily Sentinel.
In its recent report, the Center for Western Priorities calculated available data from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and determined there were 509 reported spills in 2016—that's more than one a day in Colorado.
There have already been 220 'significant' pipeline spills already this year. https://t.co/8f5iciNgkc via @EcoWatch— NRDC (@NRDC)1478964421.0
The number of spills in 2016 are less than the 615 reported spills and incidents in 2015, reflecting the decrease in drilling activity. However, the group expects spills to increase as the state ramps up oil and gas production.
"As drilling and production increase in Colorado—which is expected as the price of oil and gas may increase in the coming years—we also expect to see spills increase," the report said. "Monitoring these incidents help to inform Coloradans about the impacts of oil and gas development within the state."
In response to the report, Chevron said in a statement that it "aggressively manages the risk of spills through a rigorous ongoing asset integrity program wherever we operate."
"For example, Chevron has undertaken a comprehensive, multi-year, multi-million-dollar project to streamline and upgrade facilities and systems at our largest Colorado asset in Rangely," the company continued. "The program will continue through 2018. To date, approximately 11 miles of pipes have been removed from service."
According to the Associated Press, oil and gas companies from Texas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Colorado and Oklahoma forked over $1.7 million for the right to explore parts of Wayne National Forest for drilling operations. Lessees still need to obtain a permit before any drilling can start.
The online auction took place on Dec. 13 with the minimum acceptable bid for as little as $2 per acre. The
Columbus Dispatch reported that offers made by the 22 registered bidders ranged from the $2 minimum to a high of $5,806.12 per acre.
Opponents of the federal auction, cited concerns over public health impacts and effects on air and water quality, and submitted more than 17,000 comments to the BLM during its 30-day comment period.
Rise of Fracking Wastewater Injections in Ohio Sparks Fears of Earthquakes, Water Contamination https://t.co/hXGv3uIIRe @DontFrackNY @ukycc— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1457485341.0
"Public lands are for the people, not for the benefit of Big Oil and Gas," Lena Moffitt, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, said in a statement last month. "Drilling for oil and gas means more fracking, and fracking means poisoning our air and water, and threatening the health of our communities and our environment. At a time when clean energy like solar and wind is proving to be safest, healthiest and most cost-effective way to power our country, it's high time we recognized that we need to leave dirty fuels like coal, oil and gas in the ground."
The BLM reportedly received 100 "valid" complaints but they were all denied by the agency on Monday and the auction moved forward.
Nathan Johnson, an Ohio Environmental Council attorney who helped file a protest on behalf of conservation groups, told the Dispatch that the BLM failed to address new information about the size of well pads and pipelines that come with large-scale fracking projects.
"Once they've made the decision to lease, that's the ballgame for them," he said.
Feds to Auction Off Ohio's Only National Forest to #Fracking https://t.co/ursmUIzujN @MarkRuffalo @joshfoxfilm @FrackAction @NoFrackOhio— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478104592.0
The protest letter also states that the BLM did not adequately address the potential impacts from the oil and gas leasing on threatened or endangered species, including the Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, fanshell, pink mucket pearly mussel, sheepnose mussel and snuffbox mussel.
"The government's plan is remarkably shortsighted in its failure to consider the full extent of fracking and wastewater disposal that could occur throughout the forest," Wendy Park, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said. "Water quality and wildlife will suffer regardless of where these activities occur."
Just this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its widely anticipated final report on fracking confirming that the controversial drilling process does impact drinking water. The report is a stunning reversal of its misleading draft assessment that stated fracking has not led to "widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources."
Final @EPA Study Confirms #Fracking Contaminates Drinking Water https://t.co/8J118OT1Nw @MarkRuffalo @joshfoxfilm @Earthworks @FrackAction— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1481660493.0
In addition to allowing fracking on public lands, Ohio lawmakers passed House Bill 554 last week, which will freeze renewable energy mandates for another two years if Gov. John Kasich signs the bill. More than 25,000 clean energy jobs are at risk.
A two-year freeze was enacted when
Gov. Kasich signed SB 310 on June 13, 2014. HB 554 now seeks to extend that freeze, making renewable energy targets voluntary for utilities. Ohio is the only state in the nation that has frozen its renewable energy mandates.