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Painted Bunting © D. Robert & Lorri Franz

in this issue

• Battle Over Pebble Mine Moves to the Boardroom • Shell Sues NRDC Over Arctic Drilling • Wolves Could Be Next Victims of Tar Sands • Desolation Canyon Threatened by Gas Wells


in the news


New Limits on Pollution For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed national limits on dangerous carbon pollution from new power plants. Carbon pollution imposes staggering health costs, making heat waves more severe and worsening smog, which triggers more asthma attacks and damages children’s lungs. The new safeguards follow a years-long campaign led by NRDC, including legal challenges that yielded two Supreme Court rulings that it is EPA’s job to curb carbon pollution. Just a few years ago, 150 new coal plants were on the drawing board. Most of them have since been shelved in favor of cleaner alternatives. EPA’s latest action sends a clear signal that plans for new conventional coal plants have become obsolete.

Wind Energy Gets Big Boost NRDC and other clean-energy advocates cheered the Obama Administration after it announced plans to speed up the development of wind energy resources off the mid-Atlantic coast. The move by the Interior Department to approve “wind energy areas” from New Jersey to Virginia creates a coordinated siting and approval process that steers offshore wind projects away from environmentally sensitive areas. It promises to give new impetus to the harnessing of wind power as a clean, domestic source of energy and to produce thousands of jobs in the process.


n an extraordinary maneuver aimed at speeding its assault on the Polar Bear Seas, Royal Dutch Shell has filed suit against NRDC and a dozen other environ­mental groups

that challenged government permits issued to the company for exploratory drilling in the Arctic this summer. Shell fired the legal salvo after releasing a new and voluminous oil spill response plan but before NRDC experts had time to analyze it, much less challenge it. “Shell is preemptively suing because they fear we might take more legal action to protect Arctic ecosystems from the possibility of a catastrophic oil spill,” said NRDC senior attorney Niel Lawrence. “It’s an abuse of the legal system that tells you just how far Shell is willing to go to start drilling this summer.” NRDC has asked a federal court to throw out the company’s case. A series of lawsuits already filed by NRDC, Earthjustice and other groups could stop Shell’s drill ships before they begin operating. As we go to press, those ships are on their way to the Arctic Ocean, where Shell plans to drill in both the Chukchi Sea, home to more than half of America’s polar bears, and


the Beaufort Sea, off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. According to the government’s own estimates, there is a very real danger of at least one major oil spill if Shell proceeds with oil production in the Arctic. Even worse, the oil industry has no proven method for cleaning up oil in these icy waters. Says Lawrence, “We will not let Shell’s latest legal tactics stop us from defending the Polar Bear Seas against Big Oil’s onslaught.” Take action at:

Walrus © Steve Kazlowski/

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Battle Over Mine Moves to the Boardroom


trans-Atlantic campaign mounted by NRDC

of mining waste at the headwaters of some of the

and our Alaskan allies put new pressure on

greatest wild salmon runs in the world, imperiling

Anglo American and Rio Tinto, the global

not only an unspoiled wilderness but the communities

giants behind the proposed Pebble Mine, when they

that depend on it for survival.

convened in London in April

The annual meetings showed

for their annual shareholder

two companies increasingly on

meetings. Capping weeks of

the defensive, with cracks in

public mobilization against

their unified front beginning

the toxic mega-mine, we

to show. While Anglo

delivered 400,000 more

American’s board chairman

petitions of protest to

attempted to dismiss the

company officials and took

intensifying opposition, Rio

out eye-catching ads in both

Tinto’s chief executive, Tom

The New York Times and the

Albanese, made news by

Financial Times of London.

announcing publicly for the

The full-page ads demanded

first time that he does not

that the two mining

support the current plan for

companies “Take No for an

an open-pit mine because of

Answer,” spotlighting their broken promises and refusal

Our ad reached more than one million people on both sides of the Atlantic.

concerns about its environ­ mental risks. “An open-pit

to respect the will of the Native peoples, fishermen

mine is not the way to go . . . in my opinion,” said

and other residents of Bristol Bay, Alaska, who are

Albanese. Mitsubishi Corporation, a former backer of

overwhelmingly opposed to construction of the

the proposed mine, withdrew from the project last year.

massive gold and copper mine.

Said NRDC’s Reynolds, “We need to keep the

A delegation of leaders from Bristol Bay traveled to

pressure on until the remaining companies deliver on

London for the shareholder meetings, where they and

their promise to respect local communities, who’ve

NRDC senior attorney Joel Reynolds urged Anglo

said — loud and clear, time and again — that they

American and Rio Tinto to abandon a project that

don’t want this mine.” To date, our Stop the Pebble

threatens environmental and financial disaster. At two

Mine campaign has generated more than one million

miles wide and 2,000 feet deep, the proposed Pebble

petitions, making it one of the biggest environmental

Mine would generate an estimated 10 billion tons

protests in history.


Campaign Update

Slaughtering wolves is a despera

WOLVES POISED TO BECOME NEXT VICTIMS OF ALBERTA’S As Toll on Wildlife Keeps Rising, Political Battle Rages On Over Keystone XL Pipeline


he assault on Alberta’s boreal

will send a clear signal to industry that it’s

“Wolves are not the problem,” says Susan

wilderness continues as oil

full speed ahead for tar sands extraction.

Casey-Lefkowitz, director of NRDC’s

companies flock to the province

to mine its dirty tar sands in a race that is taking a devastating toll on the region’s wildlife. The province’s popu­ lation of woodland caribou is suffering especially heavy losses, with half of the local herds either in decline or at immediate risk of disappearing. In response, Canada’s chief environ­mental ministry has proposed a drastic and controversial solution: system­atically

Timber wolf © Dave Welling; Alberta landscape, Syncrude mine and Peace Athabasca Delta © Garth Lenz; woodland caribou and wolf and pup © Erwin & Peggy Bauer

poisoning and killing the wolves that


Environment Canada, the federal ministry charged with devising a recovery plan for the caribou, concedes that habitat loss is the number one factor in the animal’s decline. But instead of taking direct aim at the primary culprits — global oil companies that are ruthlessly exploiting Alberta’s tar sands — the ministry has put wolves in the crosshairs instead. Claiming that it wants

prey on the caribou.

for thousands of years. Slaughtering wolves is a desperate and tragic attempt to avoid tackling the real threat: the rampant industrial­ization of Alberta’s boreal wilder­ness.” In a study published last year, a team of researchers led by Dr. Samuel K. Wasser of the University of Washington’s Conservation Biology examined

woodland caribou roaming

the scat from

Alberta’s boreal are in

more than 300 caribou and 100

dire trouble. The large,

wolves in western Alberta. The

undisturbed tracts of

results were striking. Wasser’s

old-growth forest in

team confirmed not only that

which the animals thrive

caribou make up just 10 percent

— as well as the province’s

of the wolves’ diet, but also that the

bogs, peatlands and open

closer caribou were to oil exploration

meadows — are fast disappearing, break­neck develop­ment of the

coexisted with the woodland caribou

Center for

There is no doubt that the

owing in no small part to the

International Program. “They have

Above: Wolves and their pups could be shot or poisoned. Above right: Peace Athabasca Delta.

and development activities, the higher their levels of stress hormones and the poorer their nutrition.

region’s tar sands. Four tons of boreal

to protect the remaining caribou

wilderness are destroyed for every barrel

from predation, the government is

The destruction of the boreal forest

of tar sands oil that is strip-mined, and

proposing the extermination of thou­

and the devastating toll it is taking on

demand is growing. If the Obama

sands of wolves, according to a report

Alberta’s wildlife — including not only

Administration succumbs to industry

released by the National Wildlife

caribou but the millions of migratory

pressure and approves construction of

Federation. The methods for killing

birds that nest there — are just two

the massive Keystone XL pipeline,

would include shooting wolves from

of the environmental ills caused by

which could carry almost a million

helicopters and luring them to eat bait

the boom in tar sands oil extraction.

barrels a day of volatile diluted bitumen

laced with strychnine, which causes

Massive amounts of water and energy

from Alberta to refineries in Texas, it

an excruciatingly painful death.

are required to transform tar-sands

ate and tragic attempt to avoid tackling the real threat of rampant industrialization.


Above: Syncrude’s tar sands operation in Alberta. Left: The Clearwater River flows into the Athabasca, in the heart of the Alberta tar sands region. Left: Thousands of wolves could be killed under Canada’s new plan.

bitumen into crude oil, a process that

On the eve of the vote, NRDC and

the pipeline from central Oklahoma

spews three times more global warming

our allies deluged senators with more

to the Gulf Coast. Advocates for

pollution than does the production

than 800,000 messages of protest

Keystone XL have argued that the

of conventional oil. Transporting the

in a 24-hour period, demonstrating

pipeline would create jobs and lower

volatile, highly corrosive bitumen is

the breadth and depth of nationwide

gas prices, but a recent report by

dangerous as well, a fact underscored

opposition to the pipeline.

Cornell University’s Global Labor

by several recent spills involving

Institute concludes that a significant

tar sands pipelines (including

number of American jobs could actually

a million-gallon spill into

be lost, due to the likelihood of major

Michigan’s Kalamazoo River)

spills and the damage they would cause.

and the national outcry

The first Keystone pipeline operated

over the proposed Keystone

by TransCanada spilled 35 times in

XL pipeline.

the United States and Canada in just its first year of operation.

NRDC has waged an intense

“As for the price of gas, just look at the

battle against the pipeline,

record,” says Casey-Lefkowitz. “Over

which was originally slated to cross Nebraska’s Ogallala aquifer, a key source of water

Woodland caribou numbers are declining from industrialization.

the past decade our nation has increased oil imports from Canada by 50 percent, and during that same time, gas prices

for millions of Americans. The

“Keystone XL isn’t dead, though — not

Obama Administration rejected a

by a long shot,” says Casey-Lefkowitz.

permit for the pipeline in January,

TransCanada, the Canadian energy

after which Senate Republicans tried

giant behind the pipeline, is revising

— and failed — to override the admini­

its proposal, and under intense political

stration by attaching an amendment

pressure, President Obama recently

from it — except the oil industry.”

to the trans­portation bill that would

announced he would expedite approval

have forced approval of the project.

for construction of the southern leg of

Take action to save wolves at

have tripled. When you look at what a raw deal Keystone XL is for Americans and for the environment, it’s hard to find anyone who stands to benefit




Right whales, courtesy of Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission/NOAA

magine dynamite going off near your home every 10 seconds, a near-ceaseless barrage of nerve-racking explosions as your children try to do their homework, as your family sits down to dinner, as you try to sleep. Now imagine that this relentless assault lasts for days on end. It sounds like torture, but this sonic onslaught is exactly what countless whales and other marine mammals will endure if the Obama Administration goes through with its plan to open the majority of the Atlantic seaboard to high-intensity seismic exploration for oil and gas. To prospect for oil and gas, the industry tows arrays of high-volume airguns behind ships, firing explosive impulses of compressed air every 10 to 12 seconds, 24 hours a day, for weeks and months at a time. It would be the first time in 30 years that the government has permitted this biologically destructive activity in the Atlantic, and Big Oil is already champing at the bit, applying to conduct seismic surveys from southern New Jersey all the way to Florida. NRDC is challenging the plan and mobilizing our Members and online activists to speak out against it. “You can’t overstate how important sound is for marine mammals,” says Michael Jasny, NRDC senior policy analyst. “They rely on it to communicate, to feed and to find mates. We know that even at great distances, this kind of excruciatingly loud noise can cause whales

to abandon their habitat and to stop eating. And at close range it can cause hearing loss, organ damage and even death.”

North Atlantic right whale with calf.

By the Obama Administration’s own estimates, seismic exploration off the Atlantic coast over the next eight years would physically injure up to 138,500 marine mammals, including endangered fin, humpback and — most alarmingly — North Atlantic right whales, which are highly endangered. Hunted to the brink of extinction generations ago, North Atlantic right whales continue to struggle, with only a few hundred clinging to survival. Under the administration’s plan, a substantial portion of the whale’s migratory route would be subject to seismic exploration. The administration also estimates that the constant pounding of industry airguns would disrupt marine mammal feeding, mating and other vital behavior more than 13 million times. “The impacts of oil and gas exploration could be devastating for whales,” says Jasny. “And that exploration is just a prelude to drilling, which we know from the disaster in the Gulf poses even more dire risks.”

Vast Roadless Wilderness in Utah Imperiled by New Gas Wells

Desolation Canyon © Carr Clifton/Minden Pictures



t’s one of the largest swaths of unprotected wildlands in the lower 48 states: more than 200,000 acres of windswept plateaus and rugged, highdesert canyons in eastern Utah, including the proposed Desolation Canyon wilderness. Nature has taken eons to carve this geological wonderland, but it could all be despoiled in the relative blink of an eye if a massive new drilling project, authorized by the Obama Administration, is allowed to proceed.

be turned into an industrial wasteland,” said Sharon Buccino, director of NRDC’s Land and Wildlife program.

“The Environmental Protection Agency gave Gasco’s proposal its worst possible rating.” In addition to destroying thousands of acres of pristine wildlands while marring Green River, Desolation Canyon. the landscape with drill rigs and new roads, the project would add significantly to the “It makes no sense,” says Buccino. “Natural already hazardous levels of air pollution gas prices are at near-record lows; there plaguing rural Utah. are more than a thousand drilling permits Colorado-based Gasco Energy wants to going unused in Utah alone. The last thing Amazingly, some in the Obama Administration drill 1,300 new gas wells in the area, Utah needs, environmentally or economically, are pushing for more aggressive drilling including more than 200 wells within the is more drilling in wildlands that support within the proposed wilderness area than proposed Desolation Canyon wilderness and its gateway areas. “It’s distressing that even Gasco originally wanted. The Bureau a $4 billion tourism industry. If the Interior Department remains committed to this Interior Secretary Salazar, who has been a of Land Management has put forward a kind of reckless development, this is a fight plan that would increase the amount of strong advocate of conserving America’s great outdoors, would let Desolation Canyon wilderness sacrificed to drilling by 32 percent. we’re prepared to take to court.”



federal court has ruled that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must take action to address the widespread overuse of antibiotics by the livestock industry, a practice that has been linked to the rise of drugresistant bacteria that can infect people and cause Seventy percent of antibiotics used in potentially fatal illness. The ruling the U.S. are given to healthy livestock. marks a major victory for NRDC and a coalition of other advocacy groups, which brought suit against the FDA after the agency stonewalled on the issue for decades, helping to fuel a growing public health crisis. Infections from drug-resistant bacteria are estimated to cost Americans a staggering $26 billion per year, not to mention the toll they take on our health and our lives. More shocking is where some of these so-called superbugs are increasingly turning up: in the meat on our dinner tables. Indeed, thousands of pounds of superbug-tainted meat have been recalled after consumers became sick; the third-largest meat recall in U.S. history occurred only last summer. Public health advocates have long warned of the dangerous correlation between the livestock industry’s profligate use of antibiotics and the

SWiTCHBOARD Posted by: Zak Smith, attorney, Marine Mammal Protection Project

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that it is undecided about whether it will propose tougher protections for polar bears at the next meeting of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). Polar bears need our help more than ever; now’s not the time for our government to be “undecided.” Two years ago, the Obama Administration led the charge at CITES, urging a worldwide ban on the comm­ ercial trade in polar bear parts, including skins, teeth, claws and skulls. That proposal fell short because the European Union failed to back it. But the polar bear’s plight has only grown more dire over the last two years, as evidenced by 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

For more than 30 years, the FDA has known about these risks, yet the agency, bowing to pressure from agribusiness and Big Pharma, has done almost nothing to stop it, claiming that the livestock industry can effectively police itself. The agribusiness lobby, meanwhile, has been relentless in its use of scare tactics, saying that food prices will rise if antibiotic use is regulated — an assertion in direct contrast to what has happened in other countries, such as Denmark, where antibiotic use has already been restricted. The court ruling will now require the FDA to act on its own safety findings and withdraw approval for most non-therapeutic uses of penicillin and tetracyclines in animal feed, unless the industry can prove in public hearings that those drug uses are safe. “This is a big step forward toward preserving the effectiveness of these lifesaving antibiotics,” says NRDC attorney Avinash Kar. “It’s time for the FDA to start protecting the American people instead of powerful special interests.”

The following entry first appeared online at:

record prices paid for their skins, the unsustainable numbers killed in Canada (the only country that still allows the hunting of polar bears for international trade) and the stress on polar bear popu­ lations in the face of melting Arctic sea ice. We should be doing everything in our power to bolster these populations and improve their odds of survival until we can stabilize the global climate. The best scientific estimates show worldwide polar bear numbers plummeting by two-thirds over the next 40 years. Out of the five countries where they are currently found, they will probably cease to exist in the wild in four: Greenland, Norway, Russia and the United States. Fortunately, we can strengthen their populations by ending the international trade in polar bear parts, which is driving unsustainable trophy hunting in Canada and poaching in Russia.

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

While the Fish and Wildlife Service still asserts that the polar bear merits greater protection under CITES, it has not yet decided whether it will once again spearhead the campaign to make that protection a reality. At this critical juncture in the story of polar bear survival on our planet, the Obama Administration should be leading the way, building a winning coalition of nations to guarantee passage, at long last, of a ban on the international trade in polar bear parts. Make your voice heard at:

Polar bear © Steve Kazlowski/


rise of superbugs, pointing to the fact that roughly 70 percent of antibiotics used in the United States are given to healthy livestock. Mixed into the feed or water of cattle, chickens and other animals, these drugs are given not to fight disease but to counter the effects of unhygienic living conditions and to foster rapid growth. In fact, the doses are too low to be therapeutic, which is a critical reason why some harmful bacteria survive and eventually become drug-resistant, causing human infections that can be serious and even lethal.

NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL 40 W. 20th St., New York, NY 10011 • 212-727-4500 email: 7

Create Your Own Lasting Legacy

Š Charles Gurche

You can create your own lasting legacy when you include NRDC in your estate plans. A gift through your will, trust, retirement or life insurance plan will help preserve our magnificent natural heritage and protect the planet for generations to come. For information on how to include NRDC in your estate plans or to let us know you’ve already done so, please contact Michelle Quinones, Senior Gift Planning Specialist, at 212-727-4552 or email her at

Nature's Voice June July 2012  

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

Nature's Voice June July 2012  

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