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

Gray wolf © Art Wolfe

in this issue

• British Company Quits Pebble Mine • Redford and Other Activists Demand Clean Power • President’s Climate Plan Embraces NRDC Vision • New Report: Keystone XL Fails the Climate Test

Fall 2013


in the news

Join the Fight: Demand Clean Power Now!

Good News for Belugas In a crucial victory for the last beluga whales of Cook Inlet, Alaska, a federal judge has ruled in NRDC’s favor, saying that the Obama Administration violated the law by allowing Apache Alaska Corporation to use seismic airguns to survey the inlet for oil and gas. The blasts from the submerged airguns, which would sound 12 hours a day, can easily deafen or kill marine life and are especially dangerous to a population of whales that has plummeted from 1,300 to 312 in recent years. These same whales are threatened by the proposed Pebble Mine, which would put a port for oceangoing ships in the heart of their habitat.

Patagonia Undammed Plans to build a massive hydroelectric dam complex in Chile were dealt another major blow when leading presidential candidate Michelle Bachelet said the project “should not go on.” It’s a key victory for NRDC and our local partners, who have been fighting the HidroAysén project for six years. The dams would destroy two of Patagonia’s wildest rivers and flood thousands of acres of pristine forest critical to endangered wildlife. Bachelet has now joined the majority of candidates and Chileans in opposing the project and favoring a move toward more sustainable and energy-efficient alternatives. As political support for the dam continues to dwindle, we will continue waging what has become the longest environmental battle in Chilean history.

Robert Redford, Carole King, Van Jones and others are speaking out against fossil fuels.

W

ith the world at a critical juncture in the fight to slow global warming, NRDC has launched a new activism website that aims to help

end our own nation’s dependence on dirty fossil fuels. DemandCleanPower.org is countering Big Oil’s propaganda machine by streaming video messages from a range of cultural luminaries, such as Robert Redford, Julia LouisDreyfus, Van Jones and Carole King, while making it easy for people to make their own voices heard against energy devel­opment that endangers our planet. “Our Members know that NRDC is on the front lines when it comes to fighting for a clean energy future, whether it’s campaigning to stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline or preventing Shell from drilling in the Arctic or defending communities from an onslaught of fracking,” says Frances Beinecke, NRDC’s president. “Demand Clean Power is allowing us to build a juggernaut of broader public support as well.” The new website is focusing its first wave of popular activism against the climate-wrecking Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, pen (see Campaign Update on next page). But as Van Jones and others remind us, such planet-saving actions by our leaders are likely only if millions of Americans stand up

Hassle-free holiday gifts that help save wildlife. What could be better? www.nrdcgreengifts.org 2

and demand them.

Patagonia © Bridget Besaw/ILCP

which President Obama could quash with a stroke of his


n a stunning turn of events that has brought new

without destroying the world-class salmon runs that

hope to Alaska’s Bristol Bay, British mining giant

are the economic, cultural and ecological linchpin

Anglo American — the lead company behind

of the region. But an in-depth study last year by the

the controversial Pebble Mine — has announced that

EPA found that the Pebble Mine posed “catastrophic”

it is abandoning the project. The surprise decision

risks to Bristol Bay. More than 600,000 Americans

dealt a heavy blow to the proposed gold and copper

then called on the agency to use its power under the

operation, which

Clean Water Act

would produce some

to stop the mine.

10 billion tons of

Meanwhile, Anglo

contam­inated waste

American was

and threaten the

deluged by nearly a

greatest wild salmon

million messages of

runs on the planet.

protest from NRDC

“Anglo American

Members and was

finally realized that

dogged by our full-

the Pebble Mine

page anti-Pebble

is a financial and

newspaper ads that

environ­mental

ran during its annual

disaster waiting to happen,” says Joel Reynolds, who

shareholder meetings At stake: the river systems above Bristol Bay support the greatest wild salmon runs on the planet.

has led NRDC’s Stop Pebble campaign since 2010. The company’s wake-up call came after it spent $541 million trying to develop the mine. It faced intense opposition from a united front of local residents, Native groups and commercial fishermen as well as worldwide protest stoked by an NRDC action campaign led by Robert Redford. “Four years ago, the idea of Anglo American’s throwing in the towel was unthinkable,” notes Taryn Kiekow, who has coordinated NRDC’s efforts with local and national partners. “People power has made the difference.”

in London. The most recent of those

ads called on the company’s new CEO, Mark Cutifani, to break with his predecessors and avert disaster by pulling the plug on Pebble. Now he has done just that. Does Anglo’s exit mean the Pebble Mine is dead? “Definitely not,” says Reynolds. Northern Dynasty Minerals, now the sole owner of the project, is already looking for a new partner to help fund the mine. NRDC will be focused on making sure that other companies — including Rio Tinto, which owns a big stake of Northern Dynasty — aren’t tempted to make the same bad bet that Anglo American made. Above all, we will be ramping up public pressure on EPA

For years, Anglo American claimed it could gouge a

to permanently protect Bristol Bay by banning large-

vast and toxic open pit out of the Bristol Bay watershed

scale mining in this American Eden.

Headwaters of Bristol Bay © Robert Glenn Ketchum

I

Anglo American Quits Pebble Mine!

3


Campaign Update

Big Oil’s Dirty Secret: Keystone XL Is Vital to Its Tar Sand New NRDC report shows tar sands pipeline fails Obama’s climate test, will worsen global warming

I

n June, President Obama drew

children will be suffering from the

develop these tar sands

a clear line in the sand for the

climate chaos produced by this pipeline.”

no matter what, so all

proposed Keystone XL tar sands

pipeline, vowing to reject the 2,000mile behemoth if it would “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” So, does the gargantuan pipeline, which would snake from Alberta’s tar sands fields through the American heartland to refineries on the Gulf Coast, fail that test? “No question, it fails,” says Susan CaseyLefkowitz, director of NRDC’s

Great Bear rainforest and Spirit Bear © Ian McAllister; tar sands © Jiri Rezac; owl © Gerry Ellis/Minden Pictures; train wreck © Associated Press

International Program.

4

Given the pipeline’s clear and far-reaching impacts on our climate, the president’s declaration would appear to doom the project — but not so fast. “Big Oil is now engaged in the bluff of a lifetime,” Casey-Lefkowitz says. “And the

this global warming pollution is going to happen whether or not the Keystone XL gets built,’” says Casey-Lefkowitz.

president’s own State Department has

There’s only one problem with that

been buying it.” Charged with evaluating

logic: It’s not true. “There aren’t any

the project because it would cross the

viable alternatives for moving all that

U.S. border with Canada, the State

tar sands oil out of Canada,” says NRDC

Department offered its initial assess­ment

attorney Anthony Swift, who has been working to expose these

A new and detailed analysis of the

claims in the national media.

project by NRDC reveals that the

“The entire tar sands enter­

Keystone XL would add a staggering

prise is hanging on the

amount of carbon pollution to our skies

Keystone XL. If we can

— up to 1.2 billion metric tons more

stop that, we can head off

than if it carried conventional crude.

the climate-wrecking

In addition, the pipeline, which would

impacts.” Indeed,

course with some 830,000 barrels of

industry insiders

heavy tar sands crude per day, would

and analysts have

dramatically boost the development

conceded as much.

of this dirty fuel. Indeed, the Keystone XL is the linchpin of Big Oil’s plans

Tar sands mining operation, Alberta, Canada. Inset: Boreal owl, imperiled by development.

In a report released in June, the financial

to more than triple heavy tar sands

in March. Incredibly, the depart­ment

powerhouse Goldman Sachs concluded

production over the next 20 years.

concluded that Keystone XL would not

that nixing Keystone XL would result

Prod­uction of tar sands oil requires

signif­icantly increase carbon pollution.

in the cancellation or deferment of

more energy than the produc­t ion

How is that possible? Officials argued

numerous tar sands expansion projects:

of any other fossil fuel on earth,

that if the pipeline weren’t built, the

“[W]e believe risk would grow that

generating three times the carbon

same amount of tar sands oil would find

Canadian heavy oil/oil sands supply

pollution of conventional crude, for

its way out of Canada anyway — via

would remain trapped in the province

example. “The expected life span of the

other pipelines, for example, or by rail.

of Alberta,” the firm’s report states.

Keystone XL is 50 years,” says Casey-

“Basically the State Department is saying,

Canada’s own RBC Bank has reached a

Lefkowitz. “That means our grand­

‘Look, the oil industry is going to

similar conclusion, saying that rejection


grandchildren will be suffering from the “Our climate chaos produced by this pipeline. ”

Sands Agenda

Fort McMurray

Manitoba

Saskatchewan

Alberta Edmonton

Hardisty

C A N A D A

Calgary

Ontario Regina

Missouri River

Winnipeg

North Dakoda

Montana

Bismarck

r Yellowstone Rive

Minnesota Superior Wisconsin

Pierre

Wyoming

Saint PaulM is

South Dakoda

Iowa

Nebraska

Lincoln

Colorado

Canada’s Spirit Bear Coast, where the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline would terminate.

sippi River sis

Spirit Bear.

Chicago

Illinois

Steele City

Kansas

Topeka

Oklahoma City

St. Louis

Missouri

Cushing

of the pipeline would lead to a $9

But in a potentially lethal setback for

billion drop in tar sands investment

the project, the British Columbia

over the next seven years, putting the

government has announced its formal

brakes on as much as one-third of the

opposition to the pipeline, speaking

industry’s growth plans. As one pro-

for the more than 60 percent of British

oil analyst put it in the press: “The

Columbians who say they are against

cheapest way to get from point A to

it. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil has been

point B is a pipeline. That is why

quietly developing a scheme to pump

As for shipping tar sands oil by rail,

Keystone has got to go ahead.”

corrosive tar sands crude east, around

“independent sources from Goldman

Keystone Pipeline Proposed Keystone XL Pipeline

Texas Austin

Louisana Port Arthur

Houston

Burlington, Vermont, passing resolutions condemning the plan.

folly of that argument,” says NRDC’s

vigorously pursuing other

Swift. “The estimates of how much

means of transporting

crude the oil industry could realistically

Canadian tar sands oil from

ship to the Gulf Coast by rail have been

the interior of Alberta to

wildly inflated,” he says. Not only that,

one of the coasts — but

but the extreme danger of hauling oil

it’s confronting stringent

by rail was made tragically apparent

opposition at every turn. Gateway pipe­line could be

Arkansas

Tar Sands Region

Sachs to Reuters have demonstrated the

To be sure, Big Oil is

The proposed Northern

Oklahoma

in July, when a train carrying crude A train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

called the Keystone XL of the north:

the Great Lakes and through an old

It would carry some 500,000 barrels

1950s-era pipeline across New England

of tar sands crude a day across the

to Portland, Maine. But as word of the

Canadian Rockies and through the

oil giant’s plan has leaked out, opposition

spectacular temperate rainforest of

has surged, with local citizens protesting

British Columbia’s Spirit Bear Coast.

the scheme and the city council of

derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, leveling the downtown area and killing 47 residents. Says Swift: “The runaway expansion of the tar sands oil fields in Canada isn’t inevitable: We can stop it if we stop Keystone XL.” Take action at: www.stoptar.org 5


President’s Climate Plan Embraces NRDC Vision

D

the largest single source of global

each year, a staggering 40 percent

warming pollution in the United

of the country’s total.

espite years of scientific

America’s coal-fired and other power

consensus about the dire

plants, which account for some 2.4

threat of climate change,

billion metric tons of CO2 pollution

States has gone almost entirely

NRDC has long been at the forefront

unchecked — until now. In June,

of the fight to rein in those emissions,

President Obama announced a

putting forth a detailed plan last

sweeping plan to tackle climate

year that would cut carbon pollution

change, which includes, for the first time ever, reducing carbon emissions at the nation’s existing

from existing power plants by 26 Pollution from a coal-fired power plant.

power plants. “This is a watershed moment,” says Dan Lashof, director of NRDC’s Climate and Clean Air Program. “It’s heartening to see the administration enthusi­as­tically Smoke stacks © Skyscan/Corbis

embrace the sort of reductions in carbon pollution that we’ve been advocating.”

percent over seven years, even as it would create some 210,000

jobs and reduce the average American’s electric bill. Many insiders expect that plan to figure prominently in the Environmental Protection Agency’s own strategy as it carries out the president’s climate agenda. “We’re pleased that the Obama Administration has committed to bold

Although pollutants such as arsenic, lead and mercury have

action,” says Lashof. “But there’s still much more work to

long been regulated, never before have federal limits been

be done, and we have to be vigilant that industry doesn’t

imposed on the massive amounts of carbon spewing from

derail the process.”

NRDC Wins New Protections for Marine Mammals in the Gulf

T

hanks to a landmark agreement, whales and

noise at that level can

other marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico

cause harm, yet that’s

will finally receive protection from the devastating

what whales and

impact of seismic airguns, which the oil and gas industry

dolphins in the Gulf

uses for offshore exploration. The milestone protections

are routinely having

are the result of a settlement reached with the Obama

to suffer through.”

Administration and industry in a federal lawsuit brought

Whale © Brandon Cole

by NRDC and our allies.

6

Bryde's whale.

The toll of this industrial onslaught has been even more acute in the wake of BP’s catastrophic oil spill in

For years the oil and gas industry has deployed airguns

2010. Many of the Gulf’s marine mammal species, from

in the Gulf with virtually no restriction, subjecting

bottle­nose dolphins to endangered Bryde’s whales, are

threatened and endangered marine mammal species to a

still struggling to recover. The new protections will

relentless assault of explosive noise that is destroying their

immediately ban airgun blasting from biologically critical

ability to feed, mate and nurse their young — in short, to

areas, such as important feeding and calving grounds,

survive. “Throughout the northern Gulf, recent studies

and will require industry to better monitor for marine

show that noise from airguns alone averages nearly 120

mammal activity and to explore more environ­mentally

decibels throughout the year,” says Michael Jasny, director

sensitive alternatives to airguns, even as the Obama

of NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project. “The

Administration undertakes a compre­hensive review

government says that just a single second of exposure to

of seismic exploration in the Gulf.


hard to advocate for science-based recovery plans for dozens of species under the act.

oceans and empty nets.”

remarkable number have rebounded, thanks to fisheries protections championed by NRDC. “The United States has emerged as a global leader in rebuilding overfished stocks, showing the world that it can be done,” says Brad Sewell, an NRDC senior attorney. It’s an environmental success story more than 15 years in the making. For centuries, thriving fish stocks from the shores of New England to the Pacific Northwest anchored robust ocean eco­systems and supported generations of fisher­men. But by the early 1990s, many of the nation’s most storied fish stocks had been all but exhausted. In response, Congress passed the Sustainable Fisheries Act in 1996, and NRDC has worked

SWiTCHBOARD One Place Left Alone

Posted by: Frances Beinecke, President, NRDC

We had already been rafting for several hours when we saw the wolf. I had expected to see wildlife during our trip through Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but the scene unfolding before us was a special treat. It started with the grizzly bear and her two cubs rooting around along the shore. They soon grew tired of the grass and lumbered into the water not far from our raft, letting the current carry them a few hundred feet. As we watched them climb out, we noticed half a dozen caribou grazing on the opposite shore, their tawny coats just beginning to shed their winter thickness. Right beside them stood the wolf. I wondered what his next move would be — lunging at the caribou or running from the grizzlies. Instead, he sauntered slowly through the hot sunshine, lay down in the grass, licked his paws and watched us float 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

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

I have seen many wild animals in my years of hiking and camping, but never had I seen so many so close. Then again, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge isn’t like most landscapes. It is a place of untamed abundance, from thundering caribou herds to towering mountain ranges to free-flowing rivers. But when we flew out of the refuge in a bush plane, we quickly realized just how close the oil industry is. Only 10 minutes into our flight, we could see the pipelines, road­­ ways, airstrips and drill pads of the massive oil fields connected to Prudhoe Bay. The oil giants have all this infra­ structure next to the refuge; they can’t wait to cross the threshold. But just because drilling in the refuge might be convenient for the richest companies on earth doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice one of our last wild places. For the entire length of my career, millions of citizens have stood strong Editor: Stephen Mills Writers: Jason Best, Shanti Menon Managing Editor: Liz Linke Designer: Dalton Design

Early fall in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

in defense of the Arctic Refuge when Big Oil clamored to invade it. Countless champions have devoted themselves to the task, from forester Robert Marshall to Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas to NRDC Trustee Robert Redford. NRDC has been a leader in this effort, and we will continue the fight until the refuge is secure for future generations. They may never visit this spectacular place, and indeed, it doesn’t matter if they do. This isn’t a refuge to see; it is a refuge to keep. To save for wildlife, for stillness and for the very idea that humans can leave something alone.

ANWR © Jim D. Barr/Alaska Stock

T

“In a couple of words: It’s working,” says Sewell. A recent NRDC investigation looked at 44 stocks that were previously overfished; 64 percent have returned to healthy levels or have made significant progress toward Black sea bass. rebuilding, ranging from summer flounder and black sea bass off the Mid-Atlantic coast to Georges Bank haddock in New England to Pacific Ocean perch. Yet despite this astounding success, antiregulatory zealots in Congress continue their attack on these historic protections, even though a fully recovered, sustainable fishing industry in the United States promises an estimated $31 billion in economic benefits and 500,000 new jobs. Says Sewell, “We can’t afford to go back to the days of depleted

alk about an amazing turnaround: Where once many of the nation’s legendarily abundant fish stocks had been over­fished to the point of collapse, today a

Sea bass: Don Demaria/SeaPics

Once in Crisis, U.S. Fish Stocks Make Dramatic Recovery

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

Director of Membership: Linda Lopez

7


New Threat to Southeastern Forests: Burning Trees for Energy

I

n their relentless quest for fuel, giant energy companies are now clear-cutting southern forests, grinding up whole trees into wood chips and pellets and burning them to produce

electricity. Adding insult to injury, they’re billing this environmental disaster as “clean and renewable” energy. “Burning trees for energy is worse than burning coal,” says Debbie Hammel, head of NRDC’s Our Forests Aren’t Fuel campaign. “It not only increases global warming pollution but also destroys irreplaceable native forests.” Until recently, burning plant material — called biomass — to produce electricity was considered a renewable form of energy, but the idea was to use treetops and branches. Biomass energy was never meant to consume whole trees, much less entire forests. Burning trees for electricity is a widespread practice in Europe. Wood shipments from the American South have been skyrocketing to feed European power plants, led by the South’s largest wood-pellet manu­ facturer, Enviva. That region is now the world’s largest exporter of wood pellets, with exports from southern ports growing 70 percent in the past year alone. Black bear cub.

The demand for pellets continues to grow in Europe and

Power and Britain’s Drax Group — are the primary players in the push to burn southeastern forests for electricity. Dominion and Drax buy millions of tons of wood from our southern forests, and Enviva supplies them both. Drax now plans to

8

“Southern forests are already under stress from industrial logging for wood and paper,” says Hammel. “The additional pressure from the energy industry could be more than these ecosystems can bear.”

consume 7 million tons of wood annually; that’s equivalent

New mapping data from NRDC and the Dogwood Alliance

to burning a forest four times the size of Rhode Island. And

show that less than one percent of the forest in the sourcing

several major U.S. utilities are ramping up their plans for the

area for Enviva’s flagship Ahoskie, North Carolina, pellet mill is

large-scale burning of trees. Dominion recently announced

protected from destructive logging practices. This puts native

it would convert three of its Virginia power plants from coal

wetland forests, already in decline, right in Enviva’s crosshairs

to wood fuel. The growing demand for energy from trees could

as it seeks to ramp up pellet production. NRDC and other

prove disastrous for forests in the Southeast. The Wall Street

groups are calling on Dominion, Drax and Enviva to stop using

Journal recently exposed Enviva’s practice of clear-cutting in

whole trees and to pursue true renewables like solar, wind,

sensitive wetland forests. Alarmingly, the company plans to

geothermal and agricultural waste.

double its production of wood pellets in the coming years.

Make your voice heard at: www.nrdc.org/saveforests

Bear cub © Bill Lea

domestically. Two electric utilities — Virginia-based Dominion


Create Your Own Lasting Legacy

Photo: Š Joseph Van Os

You can create a lasting environmental legacy by including NRDC in your estate plans. A gift through your will, trust, retirement plan or life insurance plan will help preserve our magnificent natural heritage 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, Lead Specialist, Gift Planning, at 212-727-4552 or email her at legacygifts@nrdc.org www.nrdc.org/legacygift


Nature's Voice Fall 2013