Page 1

FALL 2017

’ NATURE SVOICE For the 2.4 million Members and online activists of the Natural Resources Defense Council

IN THIS ISSUE

The Pebble Mine poses potentially catastrophic risks to the Bristol Bay watershed.

EPA Reverses Course on Pebble Mine Trump Unleashes Seismic Testing in the Atlantic NRDC Fights for Clean Water From Source to Tap Trump Launches Attack on National Monuments

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


Victory

COURT SLAPS PRUITT DOWN On the eve of Independence Day, our independent judiciary blocked the first of Scott Pruitt’s attempted rollbacks of vital environmental safeguards. The Environmental Protection Agency chief had yanked protections against leaks of methane and other dangerous air pollution from oil and gas operations. NRDC and our allies immediately took Pruitt to court and, less than a month later, won a ruling that declared the EPA’s action illegal, as well as “arbitrary and capricious.” Our independent courts are insisting on the rule of law, potentially slamming the brakes on the Trump Administration’s pro-polluter agenda.

Victory

EPA REVERSES ON MERCURY In response to an NRDC lawsuit, the EPA has reinstated a rule that will protect Americans from the more than five tons of mercury pollution discharged each year from dental offices across the nation. Mercury can disrupt brain development and function as well as harm the nervous system, and it is especially harmful to pregnant women, babies and young children — even at tiny levels of exposure. The EPA withdrew the proposed rule in January after President Trump took office, prompting NRDC to sue. Rather than defend its illegal decision in court, the EPA reissued the rule. Case closed.

Victory

GOVERNORS UNITE ON CLIMATE President Trump may have broken our climate promise to the world, but he can’t stop us from keeping it. Just hours after he abandoned the Paris Accord, the governors of New York, California and Washington stepped up to form the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan group committed to meeting our nation’s Paris goals. It now includes 13 states plus Puerto Rico, representing nearly a third of all Americans. In addition, 211 mayors representing 54 million Americans have committed to upholding the global agreement. A recent study shows that the United States can stay on track to meet our climate targets in the short to medium term if enough states adopt ambitious climate and clean energy policies.

C OV E R A RT I C L E

Pebble Mine Would Put America Last I n a shocking about-face, the Environmental Protection Agency under President Trump has agreed to drop proposed restrictions that would have effectively banned construction of the Pebble Mine in Alaska. The move paves the way for Northern Dynasty Minerals — the Canadian company behind the mine — to seek permits for building the massive copperand-gold mine at the pristine headwaters of Bristol Bay, where it would imperil the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon. The company had sued to block the EPA restrictions, which were advanced during the Obama Administration, and then reached a friendly out-of-court settlement with the EPA after Trump took office. Just weeks after the EPA reversal, fishermen in Bristol Bay were reporting near-record levels for this year’s salmon

run, a testament to the strength of the $1.5 billion sustainable fishery that supports 14,000 local jobs and is central to the culture of Native peoples in southwestern Alaska. This American natural treasure is under threat from the colossal open-pit Pebble Mine, which would plunge as deep as the Grand Canyon and generate 10 billion tons of contaminated mining waste. Indeed, a three-year study published in 2014, commissioned by the EPA and twice peer reviewed, said the mine posed potentially “catastrophic” risks to the Bristol Bay watershed. “In keeping with the Trump Administration’s pro-polluter, pro-extraction agenda, the EPA has utterly abandoned sound science and the people

of Bristol Bay,” says Taryn Kiekow Heimer of NRDC’s Land and Wildlife program. More than 80 percent of local residents oppose the Pebble Mine, and NRDC has partnered with a diverse coalition of grassroots organizations for more than six years to stop it. That campaign succeeded in pressuring international mining giants Rio Tinto, Anglo American and Mitsubishi to walk away from the mine, leaving financially strapped Northern Dynasty scrambling to find new corporate partners to invest in the multibillion-dollar project. “We’ll keep fighting on all fronts,” says Heimer. “Our message is simple: No Pebble Mine. Not now, not ever.” DONATE

nrdc.org/stoppebble

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

The environmental campaigns and victories featured in Nature’s Voice are all made possible through your generous support. You can help NRDC defend the environment by making a special contribution. NRDC.ORG/GIVE

Trump Unleashes Seismic Testing in the Atlantic The Trump Administration has proposed that energy companies be allowed to carry out large-scale seismic exploration for oil and gas off the Atlantic coast, posing grave risks to endangered whales and other marine mammals. If the permits are approved, six survey ships would crisscross tens of thousands of miles of ocean from southern New Jersey to central Florida, setting off powerful seismic blasts every ten seconds. The explosions, which can be heard up to 2,500 miles away, would pound the water 24 hours a day for months on end.

Seismic testing can deafen whales and other marine wildlife and can disrupt vital behaviors such as feeding and breeding. The North Atlantic right whale, one of the most endangered species on earth, migrates and calves in these waters, which are also home to fin whales and humpbacks. “The administration is giving oil and gas companies a license to assault marine wildlife,” says Michael Jasny, director of NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project. “We’ll see them Endangered North Atlantic right whales in federal court if that’s what it takes to stop this.” In the meantime, tens of thousands of NRDC Members protested the proposal during the public comment period.

LAKE CLARK, BRISTOL BAY WATERSHED © ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM; WHALES © FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION COMMISSION

G O O D N EWS


CA M PA I G N U P DAT E

NRDC Fights for Clean Drinking Water From Source to Tap T

The truth is, America is facing a nationwide drinking water crisis that goes well beyond lead contamination in Flint. by water systems reporting violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2015. And that was before President Trump took office. If aging water infrastructure and lax enforcement of the law were already threatening the public’s right to safe drinking water, the Trump Administration’s

sweeping attack on our clean water protections — arguably the most wide-ranging assault of its kind in modern history — could upend that right entirely. Since helping to write the Clean Water Act nearly a half century ago, NRDC has fought in and out of court to make sure our government delivers on its promise of clean water for all Americans. Today, that means countering the egregious threats posed by the Trump Administration and championing the safety of our drinking water from source to tap like never before.

Despite affirming the importance of preserving “crystal-clear water” soon after his election, President Trump didn’t wait long to kick off a process for repealing the Clean Water Rule. Enacted under the Obama Administration with strong NRDC support, the rule protects streams, wetlands and other upstream sources of drinking water for no fewer than 117 million Americans. Trump’s move was hailed by corporate polluters who have long sought to weaken and rescind the country’s bedrock clean water protections, and Trump’s pro-industry pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, promised to go “full speed ahead” to undo the Clean Water Rule. But Pruitt may not find that so easy. Polls show the rule enjoys overwhelming public support, and NRDC has vowed to fight the Trump Administration’s attempt to overturn it every step of the way, including in federal court if necessary. “There’s no way we’re going to let this administration put at risk the sources of drinking water for one out of every three Americans without giving them the fight of their lives,” says Jon Devine, a senior attorney with NRDC’s Water program. As evidenced by NRDC’s Threats on Tap, the United States was already falling far short of delivering safe drinking water for all before Trump’s election. In 2015, some 27 million Americans were served by drinking water systems with potentially serious health-based violations of the law, such as contamination with toxic industrial chemicals, dangerous bacteria or heavy metals. Yet overall, repercussions for violations were virtually nonexistent. Only 1 in 10 violations was subject to any kind of formal enforcement action, and even fewer — just 3.3 percent — faced financial penalties.

The draconian budget cuts President Trump wants to impose on the EPA are poised to make this already-woeful situation dramatically worse. Trump has proposed slashing more than $600 million from clean water programs at the EPA, in addition to imposing crippling cuts on the agency’s civil and criminal enforcement budget, leaving our “environmental police” virtually penniless to do their job of holding polluters accountable. What’s more, Trump would eliminate programs to restore the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound as well as zero out the federal program designed to help oftenstruggling water systems in rural communities deliver clean drinking water. NRDC is mounting an aggressive campaign on Capitol Hill aimed at building pressure on key lawmakers to oppose Trump’s dangerous cuts.

President Trump’s budget would zero out funding for restoring the Chesapeake Bay and other treasured waterways.

“As the crisis in Flint made abundantly clear, we need to be strengthening our clean water protections, not gutting them,” says Angela Guyadeen, deputy director of NRDC’s Safe Water Initiative. Indeed, the stunning fact that Flint recorded no violations of federal law for lead contamination of drinking water in the run-up [Continued on next page.]

SUNRISE © JON BILOUS/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO; SIGN © BILL PUGLIANO/GETTY IMAGES

urning on the kitchen faucet and getting clean water. Most of us take this simple act for granted. Ever since Congress passed the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, followed two years later by the Safe Drinking Water Act, countless Americans have come of age without ever having to think twice about access to clean, healthy, safe drinking water. Then came the crisis in Flint, Michigan. In an outrageous betrayal of the public trust, tens of thousands of residents learned not only that the water coming out of their faucets was contaminated with dangerous levels of toxic lead, but that the government officials responsible for protecting the safety of their water supply had failed them on every level. Now, a bombshell NRDC report confirms that the residents of Flint are by no means alone. “The truth is, America is facing a nationwide drinking water crisis that goes well beyond lead contamination in Flint,” says Erik Olson, director of NRDC’s Health program and coauthor of the recent report Threats on Tap, which found that roughly a quarter of the U.S. population — a staggering 77 million Americans — was served


For more information about drinking water contamination, including frequently asked questions about the safety of public water supplies, visit nrdc.org/drinkingwater.

DONATE

nrdc.org/defendwater

Trump Launches Attack on National Monuments

Drilling would threaten some of America’s last polar bears.

Trump Looks to Lift Obama’s Drilling Ban President Trump is attempting to reverse an historic, permanent drilling ban in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans put in place by President Obama. NRDC, along with Earthjustice and other allies, has filed suit to stop the illegal rollback, which would open more than 120 million acres of sensitive ocean habitat to industrial oil development while locking us in to decades of additional climatewrecking pollution.

NRDC in Court to Ban Dangerous Pesticide The Trump Administration, evading a federal court order, has refused to ban a dangerous pesticide linked to learning disabilities in children. NRDC is going back to court to make sure the EPA gets rid of the toxic chemical chlorpyrifos — sprayed on apples, oranges, broccoli, almonds and other food crops — once and for all. NRDC has been building legal pressure on the agency for nearly a decade to get rid of this widely used pesticide. Research shows that children exposed to low levels of chlorpyrifos

The federal government itself concluded there was a 75 percent chance of a major oil spill from oil production in the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea, home to some of our nation’s last polar bears. Drilling in the Atlantic would threaten fishing and tourism as well as whales and treasured beaches up and down the coast. Taking on such immense risks simply to extend the use of climate-polluting fossil fuels can benefit only fossil fuel companies. The president and his cabinet of billionaires may be keen to sell off our oceans to their industry cronies, but they are still beholden to the law — and that law does not authorize a president to undo the permanent protection of offshore waters. NRDC will make sure that our federal courts have the final say.

early in life have a greater risk of learning disabilities and behavioral problems, including reduced IQ, delays in motor development and ADHD. The damage appears to be lifelong and irreversible. The EPA’s own research has shown that chlorpyrifos residues on fruits and vegetables leads to exposures in children up to 140 times higher than the EPA’s safety limit. “Parents should be able to feed their children fruits and vegetables without having to worry about dangerous chemicals,” says Mae Wu, an NRDC senior attorney. “We’re asking the courts to step in to make sure the Trump EPA protects our kids, not chemical corporations.”

Making good on his vow to champion the fossil fuel and mining industries, President Trump has ordered his Interior Department to conduct a sweeping review of national monuments created over the past two decades. The move marks the first step in an unprecedented attempt to strip monuments of their federal protections and open them up to industrial exploitation. The targeted monuments stretch from Northeast Canyons and Seamounts — the first marine monument in the Atlantic — to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the Pacific and include dozens of America’s most spectacular landscapes in between, such as Grand Staircase–Escalante in southern Utah, Arizona’s Grand Canyon–Parashant and Giant Sequoia in California. One monument was targeted for downsizing right off the bat: Bears Ears, which Trump’s order specifically singled out for an “expedited review.” Designated by President Obama, Bears Ears encompasses more than a million acres of dramatic redrock wilderness in southeastern Utah and is sacred to many Native American tribes who fought hard for its national monument status. NRDC is mobilizing Members in opposition to Trump’s attacks on Bears Ears and other treasured wildlands while preparing to challenge the administration’s assault in court. “President Trump doesn’t have the legal authority to abolish monument protections,” says NRDC President Rhea Suh. “We’ll fight any attempt to do so — in the court of public opinion and in our courts of law.”

Giant Sequoia is one of the national monuments under review.

POLAR BEARS © SEPP FRIEDHUBER/ISTOCK; PLANE © ISTOCK; TREES © ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

[Continued from previous page.] to the crisis, despite the fact that the city’s water contained excessive amounts of lead, shows that the system for ensuring safe drinking water for Americans is already pocked with failures and oversights — and that’s without Trump’s disastrous budget cuts. Representing Flint citizens who refused to be silenced when authorities dismissed their concerns, NRDC helped win a court settlement that requires Michigan to spend nearly $100 million to address the water crisis in Flint, including replacing the city’s underground pipes made from lead and galvanized steel. NRDC is fighting alongside residents in other communities as well, particularly in areas such as East Chicago, Indiana, which, like Flint, has already suffered a legacy of environmental degradation at the hands of industrial polluters. “So often what you hear in these communities is ‘This is America — no one should have to fight this hard for something as basic as clean drinking water,’ ” says Guyadeen. “And you know what? They’re absolutely right.”


As Trump Retreats, China and India Strengthen Climate Resolve Within days of President Trump’s reckless withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, two major players stepped up to take the baton. China and India, which together account for about one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, vowed to uphold their Paris commitments and are even on track to exceed

those goals. NRDC has been working in both countries for years to help advance a clean energy revolution. India has installed more than 12 gigawatts (GW) of total solar power capacity — the equivalent of 4.5 Hoover Dams — with 9 GW in just the past two years and a national goal of reaching

enough energy to power 358 million Indian homes by 2030. As for China, it now leads the world in wind and solar 100 GW by 2022. The rapid power, a dramatic shift toward growth in both solar and wind cleaner energy that NRDC has energy has prompted several helped drive over the past 20 Indian states to scrap plans for years. China plans to invest new coal-fired power plants more than $360 billion in clean and to cancel various coal energy in just the next three mining projects. “India’s climate years, dwarfing U.S. investment. goals are ambitious, and the “President Trump vowed to put government is aggressively ‘America first,’ but he’s actually moving toward achieving putting America last,” says them,” says Anjali Jaiswal, Barbara Finamore, NRDC’s Asia director. “Still, that won’t halt American progress.” For example, the state of California has a history of partnering directly with China on climate — a relationship catalyzed by NRDC nearly 10 years ago. On a recent visit to Beijing, Governor Jerry Brown signed A waterfront solar array in Shanghai, China agreements to expand cooperation NRDC’s India program director. between China and California NRDC is working with partners on developing clean energy on game-changing solutions, technologies. NRDC will be including financing tools to working to ensure these fund climate-saving projects, promises bring tangible results. citywide air pollution programs President Trump may have and efforts to advance greener turned his back on the future air conditioners and buildings. of our planet, but the rest of New building efficiency the world is taking its Paris standards that NRDC helped commitments more seriously win in key states could save than ever.

Americans Are All In for Climate Action By Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, Chief Program Officer

In the weeks since President Trump announced that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, the overwhelmingly negative reaction has underscored just how out of touch he is with public opinion. Mayors, county officials, governors, major companies and millions of Americans from sea to shining sea have pledged to stay “all in” when it comes to reaching our nation’s goals under the agreement. Trump cannot stop the progress being made by city and state leaders, who are spurring clean energy innovation and creating good-paying jobs while protecting our families and communities from pollution.

More than 1,200 leaders of cities, states, universities and businesses including Apple, Microsoft and Nike have committed to accelerating the shift to clean and renewable energy. Trump mistakenly claims that climate action would be costly for America. The truth is that climate inaction is what will run up a price tag we can’t afford — in lives and ecosystems damaged and lost. Climate change is already doing real harm across the United States and around the world. Sixteen of the 17 hottest years we’ve ever tracked have occurred in this new century. We’re seeing an uptick in extreme weather right outside our windows, from devastating drought to widespread flooding to

T O P R AT E D B Y C H A R I T Y N AV I G AT O R . O R G N AT U R A L R E S O U R C E S D E F E N S E C O U N C I L 40 WEST 20TH STREET, NEW YORK, NY 10011 WWW.NRDC.ORG/NATURESVOICE NATURESVOICE@NRDC.ORG | 212.727.4500

EDITOR IN CHIEF STEPHEN MILLS, MANAGING EDITOR LIZ LINKE WRITERS JASON BEST, SHANTI MENON DIRECTOR OF MEMBERSHIP GINA TRUJILLO

CREATE A LASTING LEGACY

Your bequest will help NRDC defend our natural heritage for decades to come. LEARN MORE AT NRDC.ORG/FUTURE

raging wildfires. The science is clear: globally, we must shift away from the fossil fuels that are driving climate change and toward cleaner, smarter ways to power our future. The survival of millions of people is at stake. Seventy percent of Americans want to stay in the Paris Accord. That includes majorities of us in every state and half of Trump’s own voters. More than 1,000 of the world’s top companies support the agreement. And it’s no wonder, given the new reality in our energy markets: two-thirds of all the new electric generating capacity added in this country over the past two years is powered by the wind and sun. The Trump Administration may try to move us backward, but we are in the middle of a clean energy revolution that no single person or group can stop. That’s how we’ll keep the promise of Paris alive.

SHANGHAI © ISTOCK; LEAVES © ISTOCK; CASEY-LEFKOWITZ © REBECCA GREENFIELD/NRDC; WOLF © TIM FITZHARRIS

N R D C VO I C E S

Nature's Voice Fall 2017  

All of the environmental projects and victories described in Nature’s Voice are made possible through the generous support of Members like y...