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SUMMER 2019

’ NATURE SVOICE For the 3 million Members and online activists of the Natural Resources Defense Council

IN THIS ISSUE

Walrus on an Arctic ice floe

Court Upholds Offshore Drilling Ban Administration Releases Flimsy Review of Mine Trees to Toilet Paper: Canada’s Great Boreal Is Being Wiped Out Trump Bypasses Courts, Tries to Revive KXL

NRDC works to safeguard the earth—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.


Victory

WIN FOR ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Siding with NRDC, a federal court has found that the Trump administration illegally rolled back an energy efficiency rule for central air conditioners at the request of a single manufacturer. Finalized in 2017, the rule closed a glaring loophole that allowed manufacturers to dodge energy-saving standards. The U.S. Department of Energy’s rollback—called “arbitrary and capricious” by the court—would have come at the expense of consumers, the environment, manufacturers of more energy-efficient equipment and yes, the rule of law.

Victory

SAVING THE WESTERN ARCTIC

NRDC and our allies have come to the defense of the Western Arctic by suing the Trump administration for approving large-scale oil and gas exploration by ConocoPhillips Alaska in the so-called National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska. The area is the primary calving ground for many caribou as well as home to wolves, bears and millions of migrating birds each year. Moreover, members of the Native village of Nuiqsut have long relied on this sensitive landscape, making Conoco’s ill-advised exploration a potential environmental and humanitarian disaster.

Victory

BUMBLEBEE RETURNS TO COURT

In March 2017, after filing two lawsuits, NRDC won long-overdue endangered species protections for the rusty patched bumblebee. On the heels of those victories, NRDC has now sued the Interior Department for failing to follow through and designate critical habitat for the imperiled pollinator, as required by law. There’s no time to waste; the native bee’s population has plummeted in recent decades due to habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change. The Endangered Species Act works, saving more than 99 percent of listed species from extinction— but only when it’s followed.

C OV E R A RT I C L E

COURT UPHOLDS OFFSHORE DRILLING BAN

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n a dramatic blow to President Trump’s anti-environment agenda, a federal court has blocked him from reversing President Obama’s historic decision to permanently ban offshore drilling across vast swaths of the U.S. Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. The court sided with NRDC and our allies, ruling that Trump had exceeded his constitutional authority when he tried to shred the ban and unleash fossil fuel development in waters that include critical polar bear habitat in the Arctic and 31 deepwater canyons in the Atlantic. “For an administration rushing to expose nearly all our coasts to the dangers of oil and gas leasing, this court decision is a bright-red stop sign,” says NRDC senior attorney Niel Lawrence. Indeed, the ruling comes at a crucial moment in the fight to rein in Trump’s drill-at-all-costs agenda, which would saddle us with more climate-wrecking pollution for decades to come. As his administration

prepares to release its five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf, “this court decision tells the administration in no uncertain terms that it has no business trying to include protected areas in its energy plans,” says Lawrence. NRDC’s courtroom victory stands to reverberate as well in our battle to stop Trump from stripping protections from national monuments—such as Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah— to open them to commercial exploitation. The president has flouted the law in trying to unilaterally revoke the national monument designations of his predecessor. “The court has made it clear that the law does not grant the president the authority to reverse these kinds of permanent protections for our natural resources and wildlife,” says Lawrence. “If the administration attempts to appeal this ruling, we’ll continue to fight in court to hold Trump to account for his all-out assault on the rule of law.”

WALRUS © ISTOCK; BRISTOL BAY © RYAN PETERSON

G O O D N EWS

S P E C I A L R E P O RT

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Administration Releases Flimsy Review of Mine The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released its slapdash environmental review of the proposed Pebble Mine—the first step in green-lighting the massive, open-pit gold and copper operation that threatens Alaska’s Bristol Bay, home to the world’s most prolific wild salmon runs. NRDC senior advocate Taryn Kiekow Heimer calls the review “woefully insufficient.” Not only did the Army Corps complete the review at a breakneck pace, but it ignored blatant risks to the environment, the local economy and traditional ways of life. Backed by Canadian company Northern Dynasty Minerals, the mine could produce up to 10 billion tons of toxic waste and

store it forever behind precarious dams on seismically active land. Inevitable pollution in the region’s waterways would tank Bristol Bay’s economic engine—its renowned salmon runs—which generate $1.5 billion in annual revenue and sustain 14,000 jobs. The project has been widely condemned by fishermen, Indigenous tribes, sportsmen, businesses and conser­vationists. The EPA concluded in 2014 that the mine posed a “catas­trophic risk” and blocked it—only to resurrect it under the Trump administration. “The Army Corps is ignoring every red flag,” Kiekow Heimer says, “but we’ll keep fighting until this disastrous idea is buried for good.”


CA M PA I G N U P DAT E

TREES TO TOILET PAPER: CANADA’S GREAT BOREAL IS BEING WIPED OUT

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Canada’s boreal forest is being leveled at an alarming and unsustainable rate: a million acres a year. breed, from whooping cranes to the great gray owl, along with a majority of North American songbirds. They join year-round residents that include Canada lynx, moose, pine marten and the iconic boreal woodland caribou, a distinct subspecies of reindeer, not to mention more than 600 communities of Indigenous peoples who have relied on the forest’s bounty for millennia. The Canadian boreal is majestic, timeless and irreplaceable—and it is, quite literally, being flushed down the toilet. Canada’s boreal forest is being leveled at an alarming and unsustainable rate: a million acres a year is logged, the equivalent of seven NHL hockey rinks per minute. The oil, gas and mining industries

From left: The Broadback Valley in the traditional territory of the Cree Nation of Waswanipi of northern Quebec; caribou

have all added to the destruction, but the greatest threat is the one posed by logging, driven in large part by rapacious demand in the United States, the destination for more than three-quarters of all boreal wood products. The wood ends up as lumber, packaging and, perhaps most alarmingly, throwaway tissue products like paper towels and toilet paper. In fact, U.S.-based consumer-goods conglomerates like Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark and Georgia-Pacific use boreal softwood pulp for all

of their flagship household tissue products. Even though recycled content and alternative fibers such as bamboo and wheat straw are readily available, these multibillion-dollar companies instead adhere largely to decades-old formulas that rely on virgin pulp, despite their substantial research and development budgets that could be invested to develop more forest-friendly products. “Shockingly, no major household brand of toilet paper, or of facial tissue or paper towels, for that

matter, contains any recycled content—zero, none,” says Shelley Vinyard, boreal corporate campaign manager at NRDC and coauthor of the recent report The Issue With Tissue: How Americans Are Flushing Forests Down the Toilet. Charting the destructive impacts of clearcut logging on Canada’s boreal, its Indigenous peoples and its wildlife— and calling out the big American consumer-goods manufacturers for their outsize role in this ecological crisis-in-the-making—the report is the opening salvo in NRDC’s campaign to dramatically disrupt what Vinyard calls the “tree-to-toilet pipeline.” The paper’s publication was quickly followed by a call to action targeting Procter & Gamble, maker of Charmin, the top-selling brand of toilet paper in the United States. More than 80,000 NRDC Members and online activists swiftly flooded P&G’s CEO, David Taylor, with demands that the company stop making throwaway products sourced entirely from virgin trees. NRDC is also working with [Continued on next page.]

BOREAL FOREST © GREENPEACE; CARIBOU © ISTOCK

t’s been called the Amazon of the North and the earth’s green crown. Just below the Arctic Circle, the largest intact old-growth forest on the planet rings the globe, spanning Alaska, Russia, China, Scandinavia and Canada. The latter country’s share of this magnificent and primeval wilderness—the boreal forest—is vast, stretching across a staggering one billion acres from Newfoundland and Labrador all the way to the Yukon Territory. The boreal is a dense mix of towering spruce and fir trees interspersed with aspen and birch, scattered with lush peat bogs and verdant wetlands. More than three billion birds migrate there to


[Continued from previous page.] Indigenous communities to pressure the Canadian federal and provincial governments to recognize their rights to protect their native forestlands from unsustainable logging. We’re also empowering consumers to make more educated choices. NRDC’s report includes a handy, consumer-friendly report card that clearly ranks major brands of toilet paper, paper towels and facial tissue based on the sustain­ability of their production and their impacts on the Canadian boreal and

other forests. Such popular household brands as P&G’s Charmin, Puffs, and Bounty; KimberlyClark’s Cottonelle, Kleenex, and Viva; and GeorgiaPacific’s Quilted Northern and Brawny all get dismal grades for their use of zero recycled content. But the good news for conscientious consumers is that environmentally responsible alter­natives are already on the market, such as those sold under the Seventh Generation, Natural Value, Who Gives a Crap? and Green Forest brands. “Companies like Procter & Gamble live and die by consumer demand, and they’re fiercely protective of the image of their name brands,” says Vinyard. “If P&G, for example, sees that more and more consumers can’t be charmed by cuddly cartoon bears into buying toilet paper that’s sourced almost exclusively from old-growth trees, that’s a powerful moti­vator for the company to innovate more sustainable products.” “To be sure, the impacts of clearcut logging in Canada’s boreal forest are felt most acutely by its Indigenous com­mu­nities and by its threatened wildlife such as the boreal caribou,” says Jennifer Skene, coauthor of the recent report. Skene notes

A clearcut area of Waswanipi Cree land in Quebec

that scientists estimate the caribou will face declines of more than 30 percent in the next 15 years if the current rate of forest destruction continues. “But the fact is, everyone on earth benefits from a stronger, healthier intact boreal forest.” Worldwide, boreal forests store more carbon per hectare than any other forest biome, making them the most carbon-dense forest ecosystems on the planet—and one of the best natural defenses against climate change. Every year, the Canadian boreal region alone removes an amount of car­bon dioxide from the atmosphere equivalent to the annual emissions of 24 million passenger vehicles. “Maintaining the Canadian boreal forest is vital to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change,” says Anthony Swift, director of NRDC’s Canada Project. NRDC was the first organization in the United

States to jump into the fight against another critical threat to the forest’s survival: the brutal extraction of tar sands oil, which levels the forest and transforms the denuded earth into an industrial hellscape of strip mines and toxic tailings pits. Less than 10 years ago, the oil industry was bullishly predicting it was on track to almost triple production of tar sands oil by 2030, its expansion plans predicated on building a network of massive pipelines and other infrastructure to carry its tar sands crude to refineries and ports in the United States. Those plans have been dealt a substantial blow by NRDC and our allies, who have successfully fought to stop three-quarters of the dozen tar sands pipelines the industry proposed, and we continue to fight one of the largest proposed pipelines, Keystone XL. As za result, the tar sands industry has been able

to move forward with only about one-third of the projects it had originally planned. Which is tougher: the fight to stop the reckless expansion of the tar sands industry or the campaign to pressure companies like Procter & Gamble to change the way they do business? It may be too soon to tell, but NRDC is among the few groups with the expertise and decades-long experience to take on both kinds of challenges. For the sake of Canada’s boreal forest—its Indigenous peoples, its wildlife and its climatesaving role on our planet—change can’t come soon enough. As Mandy Gull, deputy grand chief of the Cree Nation, says: “As Indigenous peoples in the boreal forest, we live on the food from our land. The forest is our supermarket, with aisles of berries and meats and fish. My hope is that, once people know that their choice of tissue will determine whether food will be there for us tomorrow, they will help protect our homelands by switching to recycled and responsibly sourced products.” For the report, including a buyer’s guide to tissue products, go to: nrdc.org/tissues. TAKE ACTION

nrdc.org/saveboreal

CLEARCUT © JENNIFER SKENE

“Shockingly, no major household brand of toilet paper contains any recycled content—zero, none.”


N R D C VO I C E S

In naming veteran lobbyist David Bernhardt as his new Interior secretary, President Trump didn’t so much “drain the swamp” as elevate one of its big­gest gators to a position of extraordinary power. The newest member of Trump’s cabinet is so thoroughly entangled with the industries his department oversees that he has been known to carry a card in his wallet to remind him of all his conflicts of interest. Indeed, an independent analysis revealed Bernhardt to be the member of Trump’s cab­inet with the most conflicts of in­­terest relative to his job re­­spon­sibilities. During two decades of spin­ning through the

revolving door be­­tween the pub­ lic and private sec­tors, Bern­hardt amassed a rogues’ gallery of lobbying clients, some of the country’s most destructive polluters. No surprise, then, that Bern­ hardt’s tenure at the Interior De­­part­ment, where he served as deputy to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (before Zinke was forced to resign for his own spate of ethical lapses), has already been a bonanza for Bernhardt’s former clients, particularly those in the oil and gas in­­dus­tries. Under Bern­hardt’s watch, the In­­terior De­­part­­ment has launched one of the biggest-ever giveaways of public land for drilling—some

17 million acres so far. It plans to open more, possibly including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and has sought to open virtually all U.S. coastal waters to offshore drilling. Just recently, Bernhardt over­­saw the plan to drop vital protec­tions for the endangered sage grouse from roughly nine million acres of habitat across the West, part of his much broader war on endangered species protections that is making it easier for fossil fuel companies to exploit critical habitat. For his efforts to roll back protections for sage grouse habitat, Bernhardt received a personal thankyou letter from the Independent Petroleum Asso­ciation of America, a former client. Unlike his predecessor Zinke, who infamously rode a horse to his first day of work, Bernhardt is more low-key, which may make him more of a threat. “Bernhardt is a walking conflict of interest, and he knows how to get things done in Washington,” says Bobby McEnaney of NRDC’s Western Renewable Energy Project. “But we’re challenging him at every turn—rallying public opposition to his pro-polluter agenda and hold­ing him accountable in court to the laws that safeguard our natural heritage for all future generations.”

Trump Bypasses Courts, Tries to Revive KXL Joshua Axelrod, Canada Project, International Program

Once again showing his disdain for the rule of law, President Trump has launched another attempt to green-light the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline despite a court order blocking its construction. Last August, the court ruled in NRDC’s favor, saying that Trump’s State Department had failed to analyze a proposed new route through Nebraska when it granted a cross-border permit for the pipeline. A few months later, the court invalidated other parts of the department’s­environmental review, citing failures to adequately address climate change, oil spills and impacts to cultural resources. The court ordered a halt to all construction, and an appeals court upheld that decision.

In March, Trump tried to bypass the courts by issuing a presidential memorandum purporting to revoke the existing cross-border permit and reissue it directly. He followed that in April with an executive order that puts in place a closedto-the-public, fast-track process for cross-border infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. Will Trump’s end run around the courts work? No. Acting like a dictator is not typically viewed as honoring the bounds placed on presidential power by the U.S. Constitution. The president cannot unilaterally invalidate court orders such as the injunction barring construction­of Keystone XL. Ironically, Trump’s attempt to speed up the pipeline has turned a complex reg-

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ulatory battle into a legal labyrinth that will produce even more litigation and new delays. One telling fact: the State Department says it is continuing with the environmental review that Trump is trying to circumvent. This disclosure doesn’t suggest there’s much faith in the legality of Trump’s new permit. Time’s a-ticking for TransCanada and the tar sands industry. The reality of climate change is hastening the end of our reliance on fossil fuels, and projects like Keystone XL have no place in a world trying to wean itself from an unhealthy addiction to oil. Meanwhile, American democracy has no place for the actions of a president who believes he can step over the courts when he doesn’t like the decisions they render.

JOSHUA AXELROD © REBECCA GREENFIELD FOR NRDC; PALM LEAVES © DAVID CLODE; AFRICAN LION © YVA MOMATIUK AND JOHN EASTCOTT/MINDEN PICTURES

Trump’s New Interior Secretary Has Deep Ties to Dirty Industries

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Nature's Voice Summer 2019  

Nature's Voice Summer 2019  

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