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FOR THE 1.4 MILLION MEMBERS AND ONLINE ACTIVISTS OF THE NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL

Coyote in deep snow © Tom & Pat Leeson

in this issue

• Showdown Looms Over Pebble Mine • Countdown to World Decision on Polar Bears • President Will Be Tested on Climate Change • NRDC Sues to Protect Whales from Sonar

Winter 2013

in the news

Countdown to World Decision on Polar Bears

Thumbs-Down for Sea Blasts The California Coastal Commission has voted down a proposal by Pacific Gas & Electric to blast air cannons in the ocean to help determine earthquake risk near its Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which was built in a fault zone. The acoustic pulses would have occurred every 12 to 20 seconds, day and night, for almost two weeks in the first year alone, at 230 to 250 decibels at the source. How loud is that? Imagine a jet taking off in your living room and multiply that by 100,000. The resulting blasts would have threatened the entire pop­ulation of Morro Bay harbor porpoises and harmed endangered blue, fin and humpback whales. NRDC experts argued to the commission that key questions about the plant’s earthquake safety could be addressed in other ways that didn’t involve an assault on ocean life.

Whales Get More Protection The Mexican government has granted unprecedented protection to 199,040 acres of federal land surrounding Baja’s Laguna San Ignacio, the last untouched birthing ground for California gray whales. Since 2000, when we stopped Mitsubishi from building a massive saltworks on the shores of the lagoon, NRDC and our partners have fought to permanently protect its 800-mile-long coastline from industrial development. To date, we have safeguarded nearly 500,000 acres of land and promoted sustainable economic development in local communities.

Hundreds of bears are killed each year for global trade.

O

ur all-out campaign to stop the global trafficking of polar bear hides and other body parts got a huge

boost recently when the Obama Admini­stration

announced its support of a ban on the practice. The move came after the White House felt mounting public pressure, including more than 100,000 messages from NRDC Members and online activists. “Winning official U.S. support is a crucial step toward ending the hunting of polar bears for profit,” says Andrew Wetzler, codirector of NRDC’s Land and Wildlife Program. Wetzler and his team have been working for months to line up international support for a proposal that would outlaw the buying and selling of polar bear parts on the global market under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Canada is the only country in the world that still allows polar bears to be hunted for sport and inter­national sale, even as wildlife experts warn that the Canadian Arctic likely provides the best remaining habitat for the species to survive in the face of global warming. Canada continues to kill its polar bears at an unsustain­able rate, satisfying the global demand

Russia has joined the United States in backing the trade ban,

This Valentine’s Day, show your loved ones

for the next full meeting of CITES member nations. “Now we’re focused on getting the European Union on board,”

how much you care

says Wetzler. “The number of polar bear skins sold at auction

by sending a special

has more than tripled since 2007. We can’t afford to wait

gift from NRDC’s

three more years until CITES meets again.”

Green Gifts Collection.

www.nrdcgreengifts.org 2

and a delegation from NRDC will travel to Thailand in March

Tell the EU to support the ban. Go to: www.polarbearsos.org

Whale tail © Jim Peckarsky; polar bear skins © Paul Shoul

for the bears’ skin, teeth and claws.

Showdown Looms Over Pebble Mine

“With this one bold stroke, President Obama can prevent the destruction of a treasured American landscape and secure a lasting environ­mental legacy for his administration,” says NRDC Trustee Robert Redford, who is mobilizing the public through a new online video and appearing in a Washington Post print ad that urges the president to act. The Beltway battle lines are now drawn, with the corporate giants behind the Pebble Mine — Anglo American, Rio Tinto and Northern Dynasty Minerals — gearing up a lobbying and public relations campaign aimed at pressuring the White House, spreading disinformation on Capitol Hill and pillorying the EPA for daring to question their proposed mine. “The mining companies have spent more than $100 million on

this project already,” says Redford. “They’re not going to let EPA kill it without a mon­umental fight.” Much of that fight will take place on economic grounds. Inside the Beltway, the mining companies are touting the economic benefits of what would be the largest open-pit mine in North America, which they claim would create some 1,000 permanent jobs. That argument is roundly rejected by an over­whelming 80 percent of Bristol Bay’s residents — including its Native peoples and commercial fishermen — who stand to lose

the greatest wild salmon fishery on the planet, which already provides 14,000 permanent and part-time jobs and generates $480 million in annual revenue. “All too often,” says Redford, “the voices of such local citizens are drowned out in Washington by big-money special interests. We can’t — and won’t — let that happen here. Americans every­where need to raise our voices and speak out in support of the people of Bristol Bay right now. We may be their last, best hope.” Watch Robert Redford’s new video and take action at: www.stoppebble.org

Grizzly bear © Accent Alaska; Bristol Bay © Robert Glenn Ketchum

A

decisive battle over the controversial Pebble Mine will play out in Washington, D.C., in the months ahead as the Environmental Protection Agency prepares its final report on a project that could turn Alaska’s legendary Bristol Bay wilderness into an industrial wasteland. The EPA’s draft findings have already confirmed that the gargantuan openpit gold and copper mine — along with its estimated 10 billion tons of mining waste — would spell disaster for the region’s legendary salmon runs, its abundant wildlife and the Alaskan Native communities that have The mine would devastate the thrived there for world’s greatest wild salmon runs. thousands of years. Now, with a final report imminent, NRDC is launching a high-profile campaign that calls on President Obama to direct the EPA to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to stop the mine.

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Campaign Update

Second Term Will Test President’s Commitment to TACK NRDC Calls on White House to Rein In Carbon Polluters, Reject Tar Sands Pipeline and Arctic Drilling

Sandy destruction © Rex Features 2012; power plant © Dennis MacDonald/age fotostock/Getty Images; mine © Garth Lenz; oil rig © Gary Braasch; polar bears © Steven J. Kazlowski ; dolphins © Doug Perrine/Seapics.com;

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hat does $270 million buy these days? Not much, at least when it comes to American elections. That’s how much Big Oil, Big Coal and the rest of the fossil fuel industry spent last year trying to get their chosen candidates elected in November — all in a con­ certed attempt to put the nation’s energy policy squarely in the hands of those who question the reality of climate change. What they got instead was a rude awakening. In race after race, voters rejected candidates whose only answer to America’s energy needs was “drill, baby, drill.” Whether in the presidential campaign — in which energy policy took center stage — or in key Senate races across the country, the winning candidates were those who vowed to rein in fossil fuel polluters and move the country toward a clean energy future. The entire issue of climate change was thrown into stunning and tragic relief just prior to the election, when the East Coast was struck by Hurricane Sandy. As residents in New York, New Jersey and other hard-hit areas struggled to recover from the type of catastrophic storm that climate experts predict will only become more frequent with global warming, the region’s governors and mayors were grappling with the reality that their states are at the mercy of rising seas. “Hurricane Sandy raised the stakes for voters on Election Day,” says NRDC President Frances Beinecke. “And in state after state they responded with a very clear message: They’re tired of bogus debates about climate change and foot-dragging on clean energy. They want action.”

The day after the election, NRDC called on President Obama to confront the urgent threat of global warming by cracking down on carbon polluters and rejecting massive new dirty fuel projects. “We can no longer allow power plants to spew unlimited amounts of the carbon pollution that is driving climate change,” says Beinecke. “And we can’t afford climate-wrecking projects like the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.” NRDC has applauded President Obama for taking crucial steps in the right direction during his first term. He issued groundbreaking standards that will double the fuel

Program. “It’s time for the admini­stration to go after existing power plants, which are the singlebiggest source of our nation’s carbon pollution.” America’s aging fleet of mostly coal-fired power plants emits twice as much carbon pollution as all the cars on the road. Not only do we have the technology to slash those emissions, but the admini­stration doesn’t have to wait for Congress to act. The Supreme Court has already ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to set these new carbon-busting standards. Even if the White House presses ahead with these bold measures, their benefits will be diminished if it gives a green light to proposed dirty fuel projects like the Keystone XL pipeline,

Above: Shell’s oil rig just 10 miles off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge last October. Right: Family of polar bears in the Arctic Refuge.

economy of the average car and proposed limits on carbon pollution from new power plants — decisions that came after vigorous campaigns by NRDC and other advocacy groups. “But we all know what needs to be done next,” says Dan Lashof, director of NRDC’s Climate and Clean Air

which would carry almost a million barrels a day of corrosive tar sands oil 2,000 miles from heavily polluting tar sands fields in Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. “The Keystone XL would help detonate one of the biggest carbon bombs on the planet,” says Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of NRDC’s International Program. According to

KLING Climate Change

afford climate-wrecking projects “Welikecan’t the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. ”

Main photo: The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy along the coast of New Jersey. Right: Tar sands mining operation, Alberta, Canada. Left: Pollution from coal-fired power plant, Michigan.

the EPA, the pipeline would increase global warming pollution by the equivalent of several coal-fired power plants operating simultaneously. After a massive public outcry generated by NRDC Members and other concerned citizens, President Obama put the brakes on the project early last year and promised a thorough and independent environ­mental review by his State Department. “We’re going to hold the president to that,” says Casey-Lefkowitz. “We’re confident that an unvarn­ished report will make clear that a massively risky pipeline, driving demand for the dirtiest oil on the planet, is not in our national interest and must be rejected by the president.” Another dirty fuel project that stands in direct contradiction to the president’s vision of a clean energy future is Royal Dutch Shell’s plan for oil drilling in Alaska’s Polar Bear Seas. No environ­ ment on Earth has suffered more than the Arctic from human-caused global warming: Last September, Arctic sea ice dropped to the lowest level ever recorded. Still, the Interior Department gave Royal Dutch Shell tentative

approval to begin exploratory drilling last summer off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where a spill could prove catastrophic. In the end, the oil giant’s own ineptitude stopped it from ever sinking a well. Among numerous mishaps, Shell’s drill ship almost ran aground, and the company’s vaunted safety equipment, which it claims could contain an oil

Atlantic spotted dolphins and other species could be harmed by oil and gas exploration.

spill in rough seas, was damaged during a routine test — in calm waters, no less. “Shell’s fiasco last summer proved what we’ve known all along: It’s not safe to drill in the Arctic,” says Chuck Clusen, director of NRDC’s Alaska Project. “Yet the company says it will be back to try

again next summer, and the Obama Administration appears ready to go along.” NRDC and Earthjustice are pressing ahead with lawsuits in federal court aimed at keeping Shell out of the Polar Bear Seas. On a related front, NRDC is gearing up for a battle over the administration’s plans to open the entire Eastern Seaboard — from New Jersey to Florida — to high-intensity seismic explor­ation for oil and gas. “Each of these oil and gas development schemes will impede progress toward the kind of sustainable energy future the president says he wants,” says Beinecke. “And we know he’ll be under enormous pressure from the fossil fuel lobby to sign off on them. That’s why NRDC and our Members will have to back up the president when he leads and hold his feet to the fire when he lags . . . at every critical decision point over the next four years.” Tell President Obama to lead on climate at: www.stoptar.org 5

Humpback whale © Mike Parry/mindenpictures.com

T

NRDC Sues to Protect Whales from deadly Sonar

housands of marine mammals, including a significant

for ensuring that the Navy obeys our nation’s environmental

number of endangered whale species, will be at dire

laws and protects threatened and endangered marine

risk if the Navy is allowed to deploy a lethal type of

mammals. “There are commonsense measures the Navy

high-intensity sonar across a majority of the world’s oceans.

can take to protect whales without compro­mising military

NRDC has hauled the Navy into federal court to block

readiness — the courts have agreed with that before,”

the assault. Low-frequency

says Zak Smith, attorney with

active sonar (LFA) is known

NRDC’s Marine Mammal

to injure and potentially kill

Protection Project, noting the

marine mammals. It unleashes

landmark legal victories we

an onslaught of noise that is

won in both 2003 and 2008 to

100 times louder than the level

rein in the Navy’s use of LFA

that disturbs gray whales more

sonar. “The Navy’s needless

than 300 miles away. At

assault on whales cannot

close proximity, it can cause

go unchallenged.”

permanent hearing loss, organ failure and death.

Humpback whale.

On a related front, the Navy is planning con­struction of a

Even though the Navy acknowledges these outsize risks,

500-square-mile undersea warfare training range off the

it’s still charging ahead with a plan to deploy LFA across

coast of Jacksonville, Florida, which is adjacent to the only

a staggering 70 to 75 percent of the world’s oceans. More

known calving ground for endangered North Atlantic right

shocking, the plan has been approved by the National

whales, a potentially significant blow to the meager

Marine Fisheries Service — the very agency responsible

population of 300 to 400 whales estimated to remain.

New Forecast for U.S. Solar Energy Development: Sunny

I

Tortoise © ZSSD/mindenpictures.com

t’s good news for our nation’s push toward sustainable energy: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has authorized an unprecedented plan to create 17 solar energy zones covering nearly 280,000 acres of public land in the Southwest. “This is an historic milestone for the development of clean, renewable solar energy in the United States,” says Bobby McEnaney, deputy director of NRDC’s Western Renewable Energy Project.

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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which authored the plan, had originally proposed opening up a staggering 80 million acres to solar development across six Southwestern states. So why is the reduction of acreage a good thing? “Developing our renewable resources is vital to breaking our dependence on dirty sources of energy,” McEnaney says. “But we have to remember that when we talk about generating significant amounts of energy from the sun, part of that equation is large, utility-scale projects, and they have to be sited responsibly.” McEnaney and his NRDC colleagues worked alongside other environ­mental groups to develop criteria that

would identify sites best suited for solar development. Then they submitted their recommendations to BLM and helped shape the creation of the new solar Desert tortoise, California. program. “The bureau originally took a scatter­shot approach,” says McEnaney. “They were, quite literally, all over the map.” During the four-year process, NRDC helped BLM focus on sites that have the best commercial potential while still protecting wildlife and fragile desert ecosystems. “Based on current Department of Energy projections,” McEnaney notes, “17 solar energy zones on 280,000 acres is enough land to produce the clean energy we’ll need for the foreseeable future.”

olves in Wyoming are fighting for their lives in

Greater Yellowstone region. In light of Wyoming’s reckless wolf

the wake of a disastrous decision by the Interior

management plan, it was alarming that Secretary Salazar

Department to remove them from the endangered

would turn over their management to state officials who have

species list. Starting last fall, Wyoming declared open season

made little secret of their hostility toward the animals.

on wolves, allowing the animals to be shot

“Wyoming’s so-called plan to protect

on sight across some 85 percent of the

wolves is little more than an excuse to kill

state and permitting regulated hunts in

them,” says Dr. Sylvia Fallon, Director of

wolf habitat close to Yellowstone National

NRDC’s Wildlife Conservation Project.

Park. NRDC immed­iately joined in a lawsuit

Under the new plan, wolves in most of

with Earthjustice and other groups to end

the state can be gunned down from

the killing by restoring federal protections

Wolves are now under attack all across the Northern Rockies. A staggering 545

Across most of Wyoming, wolves can now be gunned down from helicopters and killed in their dens.

“These policies take the state back­ward toward the days of wolf extermination,” says Fallon. “NRDC will stay in court until

wolves were killed during the 2011–12 hunting season in Idaho

the Interior Department does its job of requiring Wyoming to

and Montana. That makes a healthy wolf population in

come up with a credible plan to protect its wolf population.”

Wyoming all the more critical to the future of wolves in the

Take action at: www.callofftheguns.org

SWiTCHBOARD

The following entry first appeared online at: www.switchboard.nrdc.org

When Fracking Comes to Town, Residents Have a New Ally

values. Yet they feel they have nowhere to turn for help.

Posted by: Frances Beinecke, President

Enter NRDC. We recently created the Community Fracking Defense Project to help give towns and local governments the legal and policy tools they need to protect them­ selves from fracking. Right now, people have almost no defense against the oil and gas companies that sweep into their neighborhoods. Residents live with towering drill rigs and toxic waste impound­ments the size of several football fields in their backyards or next door. When the air starts to smell of noxious chemicals or an impoundment leaks or the vibration from compressors begins to shake their houses, they often have little recourse. State and federal safeguards are too weak, and enforcement is grossly inadequate.

I recently traveled to western Pennsylvania to talk with people living on the front lines of natural gas development. I met one man who brought a jug of water from his kitchen tap that was the color of rust. Another man’s water smelled so awful you couldn’t imagine doing your dishes in it, never mind drinking it. Yet another presented a gallon of water from his home, took out a match and lit it on fire. In part because of inadequate attention from regulators, we don’t know exactly what contami­nated these water supplies, but each of these men believes that drilling or fracking is the source of the problem. And all the families I spoke with in Butler and Fayette Counties feel that natural gas development is threatening their water, their air, their health and their property All of the environmental projects and victories described in Nature’s Voice are made possible through the generous support of Members like you. If you like what you read, you are invited to make a special contribution at www.nrdc.org/joingive

Wolf © Erwin & Peggy Bauer/Wildstock

helicopters and even killed in their dens.

for the wolves.

Our new defense project is launching in five states: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio,

Illinois and North Carolina. NRDC does not possess the vast resources necessary to represent thousands of individual families. Instead, our legal experts will advocate for entire communities by reasserting their right to protect themselves. This past fall, NRDC filed a friend of the court brief in Pennsylvania in support of towns that are fighting for their right to restrict fracking or exclude it from their communities — a right that the state of Pennsylvania has tried to take away from them. The outcome of such cases will reverberate nationally. Our goal is clear: Every community should be able to decide its own future.

Editor: Stephen Mills Writers: Jason Best, Claire Morgenstern Managing Editor: Liz Linke Designer: Dalton Design Director of Membership: Linda Lopez

Natural Resources Defense Council 40 W. 20th St., New York, NY 10011 www.nrdc.org/naturesvoice • 212-727-4500 email: naturesvoice@nrdc.org

Protest signs © J.B.Pribanic

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Wolves Being Shot on Sight in Wyoming

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Your Support of NRDC Made a World of Difference in 2012

Cabo Pulmo school of fish © Octavio Aburto; CA underwater © Mark Conlin/SeaPics.com; Lolo National Forest © Nelson Kenter; woodland caribou © Erwin & Peggy Bauer; whale © Tui De Roy/mindenpictures.com;

Here are just a few of the environmental victories your Membership support made possible: We helped win new clean car standards that will double the fuel economy of the average vehicle on the road.

We fought for and won new, lifesaving standards that will reduce mercury, lead and other toxic pollutants emitted by coal-burning power plants.

We helped save the only living coral reef in Mexico’s Gulf of California from plans for a massive resort complex.

We helped defeat ExxonMobil’s plan to turn a pristine stretch of the Rocky Mountains into an industrial transportation corridor.

We won a major courtroom victory that will limit the widespread overuse of antibiotics in livestock.

We prevailed on President Obama to reject a crucial permit for the destructive Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

We led the successful drive to create a chain of underwater parks off the coast of California — one of the most ambitious ocean protection efforts in history.

We helped generate international pressure on Iceland, where the hunt for endangered fin whales was called off.

Thanks for making a world of difference! You can help us win even more victories in 2013 by using the enclosed envelope to make a special, tax-deductible gift. View an inspiring video of our victories at www.nrdc.org/victories

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Announcing the NRDC Legacy Challenge

Photo: © Tim Fitzharris

Let us know you’re including NRDC in your estate plans and a member of our Board of Trustees will contribute up to $10,000 to help save wildlife and wildlands! You’ll be protecting our natural heritage right now and for generations to come. If NRDC already has a place in your plans, please let us know so that we can take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

www.nrdc.org/legacygift

To take the Legacy Challenge or learn more about it, please contact: Michelle Mulia-Howell, Director of Gift Planning at 212-727-4421 or legacygifts@nrdc.org


Nature's Voice Winter 2013