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in the news FEW GOOD RULES IN SIGHT FOR FRACKING Coral Reef Protected BioGems Visionary Award In December, the first-ever BioGems Visionary Award will be presented by NRDC to National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen. Nicklen’s renowned images of Arctic wildlife convey the stunning bio­diversity of imperiled polar ecosystems and have helped generate global awareness about their uncertain future. The award acknowledges the unique role Nicklen has played in inspiring our Members and activists to continue fighting for our planet’s last wild places and its threatened wildlife. Nicklen will receive the award at an event showcasing his work in New York City on December 4. Wild Patagonia Safe for Now One of the two companies behind HidroAysén — the plan for five huge dams on Patagonia’s Baker and Pascua Rivers — has announced it is sus­ pending all work on the project indefinitely. For five years, NRDC Members have been asking the Chilean government to cancel the destructive hydroelectric scheme, which would flood thou­ sands of acres of habitat, destroy ancient forests and threaten endangered wildlife. Even though the announcement is good news for our campaign, there is no guarantee that work on HidroAysén will not resume at a later date. We continue to call on Chile’s president to cancel the project. 2 B Natural gas well, Wyoming. ig oil and gas companies remain in the grip of fracking fever, scrambling to secure drilling rights on private and public land across the country, including hundreds of thousands of acres of national forest. NRDC is campaigning hard against the industry onslaught, pressing for strong federal regulations that would protect the public and our environment from the devastating impacts of this risky type of drilling, which is already suspected of contaminating the groundwater of communities in Pennsylvania and Wyoming. “Federal agencies are struggling to play catch-up while the energy companies charge full steam ahead,” says Briana Mordick, an NRDC geologist who once worked in the oil and gas industry. “Right now, much of the regulation out there is outdated and inadequate.” In fracking (short for “hydraulic fracturing”), massive amounts of water and industrial chemicals are pumped underground at extreme pressure to break apart rock and release oil and gas. Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is charged with safeguarding the nation’s drinking water, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which over-sees drilling on hundreds of millions of acres of federal land, recently proposed fracking standards. “It’s a start,” says Mordick. “In the case of EPA, it’s a more promising start; the BLM standards don’t go nearly far enough to address many of the risks posed by fracking.” Mordick notes, for example, that the BLM rules would still allow industry to use open pits to store toxic waste, a particularly hazardous practice. Meanwhile, BLM continues to lease our public lands to fracking companies at fire-sale prices, auctioning them off for an average of just $47 per acre in some parts of the country, according to a recent Washington Post investi­gation. Even national forests that have seen little drilling activity in the past — such as the George Washington National Forest in Virginia, home to the headwaters of the Potomac and James Rivers — are being targeted by oil and gas companies. “It’s a Wild West mentality out there now,” says Mordick. “We’re pressuring both BLM and EPA to step up and be sheriff.” Paul Nicklen © Paul Nicklen; gas well © Linda F. Baker/Upper Green River Alliance Mexican President Felipe Calderón has rejected plans for a massive resort complex called Cabo Cortés that could have devas­tated Baja’s Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, home to the only living coral reef in Mexico’s Gulf of California. The announce­ ment followed a multiyear campaign by NRDC and other groups to block the mega-tourism scheme, which would have imperiled the reef’s abundant marine life and threatened nearby communities that depend on ecotourism for their livelihood. While the announcement is a victory for our campaign, Cabo Pulmo still lacks permanent protection from other unsustainable proposals. We are now calling on the Mexican government to work with local residents to safeguard the sanctuary for good.

Nature's Voice Fall 2012

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