FOR THE 1.3 MILLION MEMBERS AND ONLINE ACTIVISTS OF THE NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL
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
SHELL SUES NRDC, OTHER GROUPS OVER ARCTIC DRILLING
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: www.stopshell.org
Walrus © Steve Kazlowski/AlaskaStock.com
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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.
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
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.
TAR SANDS DEVELOPMENT
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
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 www.stoptar.org
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
OIL EXPLORATION PLAN THREATENS ATLANTIC WHALES
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.”
NRDC SCORES MAJOR COURT WIN TO LIMIT ANTIBIOTIC USE IN LIVESTOCK
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 www.nrdc.org/joingive
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: www.switchboard.nrdc.org
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: www.polarbearsos.org
Polar bear © Steve Kazlowski/lefteyepro.com
NO TIME TO BE ON THE FENCE FOR POLAR BEAR PROTECTION
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.
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All of the environmental projects and victories described in Nature’s Voice are made possible through the generous support of Members like y...