Trump Admin Finalizes 'Atrocious' Plans to Allow Drilling and Mining on Gutted National Monuments
The move completes a process begun in 2017 when the administration announced the largest rollback of land protection in U,S. history: It shrank Utah's Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and its Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by nearly half. Now, the Interior Department is releasing a land-use blueprint that would allow oil, gas and coal companies to lease land for drilling and mining on around 861,974 acres that were once part of Grand Staircase-Escalante, The New York Times reported.
"These plans are atrocious, and entirely predictable," Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Senior Director for Lands Sharon Buccino said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch. "They are the latest in a series of insults to these magnificent lands by the Trump administration that began when Trump illegally dismantled Bears Ears and Grand Staircase at the behest of corporate interests two years ago."
@BLMNational https://t.co/6danmQpYnD— NRDC 🌎 (@NRDC 🌎)1581022671.0
Conservation and Native American groups are especially outraged by the administration's action because they are in the midst of suing to block the the shrinking of the monuments in the first place, The Guardian explained. The shrunken monuments include land sacred to Native American tribes and important sites for paleontological research, as well as unique, relatively undisturbed ecosystems. The groups think the courts will rule the administration's actions illegal under the Antiquities Act.
"It's the height of arrogance for Trump to rush through final decisions on what's left of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante while we're fighting his illegal evisceration of these national monuments in court," Center for Biological Diversity Public Lands Director Randi Spivak in a statement reported by The Guardian. "Trump is eroding vital protections for these spectacular landscapes. We won't rest until all of these public lands are safeguarded for future generations."
The administration, meanwhile, presented its actions as a boon to the Utah economy against the overreach of past administrations. Former President Bill Clinton designated Grand Staircase-Escalante as a national monument in 1996, while Barack Obama created the Bears Ears National Monument in 2016.
"The approved plans keep the commitment of this Administration to the families and communities of Utah that know and love this land the best and will care for these resources for many generations to come," Interior's Acting Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond said in the government announcement. "These cooperatively developed and locally driven plans restore a prosperous future to communities too often dismissed and punished by unilateral decisions of those that would not listen to the voices of Utahns."
However, so far the decision has not generated a lot of interest from industry.
"There has been almost no interest in mining and drilling on the lands excluded from Grand Staircase," Interior spokeswoman Kimberly Finch told The New York Times.
The decline of coal also means there has not been much interest expressed in a reserve of the fossil fuel found on the now-unprotected lands, according to The Guardian.
However, if this changes, the decision to shrink the monuments wouldn't just contribute to the climate crisis. It would also make it harder to study it."As a result of its physical isolation and areas of minimal human impact, as well as its enormous ecological diversity, it provides mankind with rare opportunities for unique comparative climate change studies," Grand Staircase Escalante Partners Executive Director Sarah Bauman told The Guardian of the monument.
"Without protections, these opportunities will be lost and with them our ability to build essential knowledge and resources for mitigating climate change."
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A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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More long-finned pilot whales were found stranded today on beaches in Tasmania, Australia. About 500 whales have become stranded, including at least 380 that have died, the AP reported. It is the largest mass stranding in Australia's recorded history.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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