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Bobcat © Konrad Wothe/Minden Pictures

in this issue

• Arkansas Spill Points Up Pipeline Risk • Pebble Mine Campaign Goes to London • Robert Redford on Energy • Blue Whales Imperiled by Ships

Summer 2013

in the news

Pebble Mine Campaign Heads to London

Free Speech Defended

Big Win for Wilderness Nearly two million acres of wilderness-quality lands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming will be protected from oil shale development, thanks to a vigorous campaign by NRDC and our Members. At issue was a Bush-era plan that would have been a boon for Big Oil while increasing production of one of the dirtiest fossil fuels. Instead, new regu­lations announced by the Obama Interior Department essentially reverse course and include added protections for sensitive wildlife habitat. “Our Members deserve tremendous credit here,” says Bobby McEnaney, deputy director of the NRDC’s Western Renewable Energy Project. “Their advocacy helped push this issue to the top of Interior’s agenda.”



ur relentless campaign to stop the Pebble Mine estab­ lished something of a landmark this spring: Opposition to the gargantuan open-pit mine, which would devastate

Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed and its legendary runs of wild salmon, has now outlasted the CEOs of two of the international mining giants behind the project. As investors in both companies — Rio Tinto and Anglo American — gathered in London in April for their annual shareholders’ meetings, NRDC Western Director Joel Reynolds was on hand as he has been for the past three years, joining repre­sentatives from Alaskan Native communities, Bristol Bay fishermen and other allies. “The outcry against this mine just keeps getting stronger,” says Reynolds, who handdelivered more than 200,000 petitions from NRDC Members and online activists to the companies’ new CEOs, calling on them to change course and abandon the environmentally and financially disastrous project, a message that was reiterated by a full-page ad in the Financial Times of London, sponsored by NRDC and our allies. More than 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents oppose the Pebble

Whaling to Resume

Mine, and just how much they stand to lose was brought into

In flagrant violation of international law, Iceland has announced that it will resume the slaughter and trade of fin whales this summer after a two-year hiatus, saying it plans to kill up to 184 of the endangered animals. The move comes despite worldwide outrage over the country’s refusal to abide by international whaling laws and the pressure of diplo­matic sanctions that were imposed on Iceland by the Obama Administration in 2011. NRDC believes the administra­tion can — and must — do more. Our Members and online activists are pressing for economic sanctions against Icelandic whaling companies.

communities around the world already devastated by mining

vivid focus at the shareholders’ meetings, where residents of rose to express their outrage over poisoned rivers, rampant pollution and mining-related illnesses. “How can you say you are listening when you are not?” one woman from Colombia lamented in frustration. “Their stories are tragic,” says Reynolds. “And they’re further proof that we can’t entrust an American wilderness as magnificent and un­spoiled as Bristol Bay — and the communities and wildlife that depend on it — to the mining industry.”

Green River, Wyoming © Tim Fitzharris; bear and salmon © Wet Waders/

Residents of Sanford, New York, who are opposed to the spread of dangerous fracking in their community can once again make their voices heard at town meetings, thanks to the legal advocacy of NRDC. Last fall, the Sanford town board took the extreme measure of barring citizens from any discussion of the drilling practice during the public portion of meetings, after the board itself passed a number of pro-fracking resolutions. Faced with the threat of a First Amendment lawsuit from NRDC on behalf of outraged residents, the board rescinded its unconstitutional gag order in April. The case was brought by NRDC’s new Community Fracking Defense Project, which was launched in several states last fall.

Major Spill Points Up Pipeline Risk


s the battle over the proposed Keystone XL

branded it with one of the agency’s worst ratings.

pipeline rages on, the extreme threat posed

“Among the errors and omissions in the State

by pumping hundreds of thou­sands of barrels

Department review is the mind-boggling assertion

a day of corrosive tar sands through America’s heartland

that this massive new pipeline would not drive

is no longer a matter of conjecture for one small

significantly more produc­t ion of tar sands oil and

town in Arkansas. More than 200,000 gallons of

thus increase global warming pollution,” says Swift.

heavy tar sands

Producing tar sands

crude spilled in

crude is so energy-

Mayflower, a suburb

intensive that it

north of Little Rock,

generates three times

after the Pegasus

as much global warm­

pipeline operated

ing pollution as the

by Exxon­Mobil

production of conven­

ruptured in March,

tional crude. That is


especially alarming

backyards into toxic

given that the level

black swamps and

of heat-trapping

forcing residents

carbon dioxide in

to evacuate.

our atmosphere

The Keystone XL An ExxonMobil pipeline spilled 200,000 gallons in Arkansas.


far larger than Pegasus, snaking 2,000 miles from

barrier of 400 parts per million for the first time in at

Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and carrying more

least three million years. At this rate humanity could

than 800,000 barrels of toxic tar sands oil a day.

reach 450 ppm in just 20 years, at which point, most

“Pipelines operating at temperatures above 100

climate scientists agree, there will be catastrophic and

degrees have been found to spill up to 23 times more

irreversible consequences. “If we want to make the

often than conventional pipelines due to external

climate better we have to stop making it worse,” says

corrosion,” says Anthony Swift, an attorney with

NRDC President Frances Beinecke. “We can’t afford

NRDC’s International Program. “Keystone XL

more climate-wrecking projects like this one.”

would be one of those pipelines.”

NRDC continues to be at the forefront of the fight

Because the Keystone XL would cross the border

against the Keystone XL. In April, our Members and

between the United States and Canada, the State

online activists were part of a nationwide protest that

Department is charged with evaluating its risk and

flooded the State Depart­ment with one million

determ­ining whether it would serve the national

messages challenging its woefully inadequate review

interest. Yet the department’s most recent assessment

of the pipeline. President Obama is expected to make

has received the equivalent of a failing grade from

a final decision about the Keystone XL by this fall.

the Environmental Protection Agency, which

Take action at:

Oil spill © EPA

pipeline would be

recently broke the


AN INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT REDFORD ABOUT OUR ENERGY FUTURE to double our renew­ables in the next few years. The president talks about an “all of the above” energy policy. But what about an “all of the above” climate change policy? I think we need to be doing everything we can to get away from dirty energy. The most important thing is, we can’t let fossil fuel companies take us backward. In addition to his singular achievements

Q: Speaking of taking us backward, what are your thoughts on the has become, without question, America’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline? best-known and most widely respected A: When I saw raw tar sands oil coursing environmentalist. A Trustee of NRDC through people’s yards in Arkansas, for nearly 40 years, he has led the fight it made me sick. What will happen against drilling on public lands, alerted to other farms, families and wildlands across our country if we support millions to the dangers of climate change and championed clean energy permits for pipelines like the Keystone XL? How many red flags do we need technologies — like those showcased before we realize that the solution is in NRDC’s Santa Monica office, which to stop tar sands expansion and say no bears his name. We caught up with to tar sands pipelines? I think we’ve Redford just before the release of his seen enough. Look, if we’re going to latest film, The Company You Keep. fight climate change, we have to be able to say no to dirty energy projects. Q: You have been a critic of America’s Our friends around the world are short­sighted energy policy for a looking to us for climate leader­ship, long time. Do you think we’ve been and it starts with drawing the line at doing any better in recent years? tar sands expansion. We’ve got better A: I think we’re at the beginning of an energy choices. energy transition in America. We’ve Q: In his first term, President learned the hard way what dirty fuels Obama pushed through a deal can do to our environment, to our with the Big Three carmakers that health and to those special places we nearly doubled mileage standards. love. But we’ve also learned what’s How did he accomplish that, and possible with clean power and energy efficiency. That’s where we’re generating why does it matter? new jobs. We’re seeing that all across A: I mean, let’s be frank: The U.S. the country: at wind turbine manufact­ auto industry almost drove itself off a urers in Ohio, hybrid car factories cliff with its gas-guzzler business plan. in Michigan, biofuel companies in President Obama saved that industry California. So I think America is once from itself. That’s the way I see it. They gave him a lot of leverage, and again moving in the right direction toward a clean energy future. But I just he used it to help push through probably think we need to move faster. We need the biggest increase in fuel efficiency

Robert Redford © Lisa Whiteman; Wind farm, Wyoming © Dave Showalter; Tar sands © Eamon MacMahon/Greenpeace; seals © Lisa & Mike Husar/; fracking © Sharon Wilson

over a lifetime in film, Robert



standards we’ve seen in decades. Under that agreement, new cars and light trucks will have to average nearly 55 miles per gallon by 2025. That’s almost twice the mileage required today, which is probably the single biggest step the U.S. has ever taken to cut the carbon pollution that causes climate change. Well, now the auto industry is more competitive. Car companies are pushing the high-tech enve­lope to make vehicles that go much farther on a gallon of gas. And I think some of these are the most exciting cars we’ve seen from the U.S. auto­makers in decades. And the efficiency is finally getting the attention of American consumers. Q: What can President Obama do in his second term to make more progress? A: He’s got to go after industrial carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. These plants are the biggest source of carbon pollution and probably the biggest cause of global warm­ing. And the EPA has already proposed rules to limit carbon from new power plants. But now I think we’ve got to make sure Congress doesn’t kill those standards. And after that, I think President Obama needs to go after carbon pollution from existing power plants. NRDC has put forth a plan to take aging, dirty coal plants off-line and make up for the energy they produce through efficiency

CATCH REDFORD ONLINE: A Call to Action Against Dirty Energy Robert Redford will appear in a new series of NRDC activism videos — part of our Demand Clean Power campaign that is growing the national movement against the fossil fuels that threaten our environment, our families and our future. The three videos will take aim at tar sands oil, Arctic drilling and fracking.

View the first video and take action at:

and clean power. So we know it’s going to create jobs, it’s going to save us money, but more important, it’s going to protect our climate. In both his inaugural address and the State of the Union, the president said clearly that he would fight carbon pollution. He said we owed that to future generations. Well, I couldn’t agree more. I just hope the president has the courage of his convictions because the fossil fuel industry and its puppets in Congress are probably going to fight back hard. That’s why we’ve got to show our support for what President Obama is trying to do. Q: Natural gas is seen by some as a bridge fuel, something cleaner than coal and oil that can be used to take their place until wind, solar and other renewables are further along. Does that view complicate the fracking debate? A: Well, the fact that natural gas has some benefits over coal and oil — it doesn’t justify using any means necessary to get it. People need to understand that fracking involves injecting toxic, cancer-causing chemicals directly into the earth. And also bringing lots of heavily polluted wastewater back up with the gas. That puts our drinkingwater supplies at risk. It threatens the

on the keystone xl ...

“Tar sands oil is exactly the kind of dirty energy we can no longer afford.”

health of our families. I know it’s hard to believe, but oil and gas companies don’t even have to tell the public what chemicals they’re pumping into the ground. They don’t want us to know what we’re being exposed to. It may be good for oil and gas company profits, but it’s not good for our families or our future. The Obama Admin­istration should be taking steps at the national level to protect us from fracking. Q: What do you hope for or expect to see in America’s energy future? A: I think this next moment in history — the next 50 to 100 years — will be an exciting time. I think that young people today will see America make the transition from a fossil fuel–based economy to a clean-energy economy. At least I hope for that. Wind, sun, geothermal, wave and tidal energy: These things will be powering most people’s lives in 50 years and creating whole new industries and millions of jobs in the process. So I think our future is bright, but as usual, we’re going to have to fight to get there.

on drilling in the arctic ... “Oil companies may have big bucks, but you and I have what politicians fear most: a voice and a vote.”

On Fracking ...

“Should oil and gas companies have the right to barge into your community and start drilling near schools and homes?”



Feds Threaten an End to Wolf Protections

n the latest and most farreaching threat to wolf

federal protection is essential if

Gray wolf and pup.

wolves are truly going to make a comeback.”

recovery in America, the

Obama Administration has

In an unprecedented move in 2011,

announced plans to strip wolves

anti-wolf lawmakers in Congress

of their endangered species

succeeded in passing legislation to

protection across most of the

remove federal protections from

Lower 48 states. NRDC is

wolves in Idaho and Montana; a year

mobilizing tens of thou­sands of

later, the Obama Admini­stration

Gray wolf and pup ©

Members and online activists to

dropped Wyoming’s wolves from

protest the move during a 90-day

the Endangered Species List as well. Since then, more

period of public comment, and our wildlife experts are

than 1,000 of the animals in those three states have been

challeng­ing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the plan.

killed, many gunned down in state-sponsored hunts.

“This politically motivated policy would throw national wolf

“We don’t need to look further than radio-collared wolves’

recovery into reverse,” says Matt Skoglund, a wildlife advocate in NRDC’s Montana office. “Wolves are just beginning to return to places where they historically roamed, such as the Pacific Northwest, and lone wolves have crossed into California, the southern Rockies and even the Northeast. They are far from recovery. Ongoing

being shot just outside of Yellowstone National Park to see what can happen when wolves are stripped of their federal protections,” Skoglund says. NRDC is prepared to take the Fish and Wildlife Service to federal court, if necessary, to block this latest attack on wolf recovery.

Take action at:

Polar Bears Win in Court, Lose in World Forum



laska’s polar bears will remain protected under federal law, thanks to NRDC and other polar bear defenders who successfully beat back a court challenge to a 2008 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the bears as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. That listing was a landmark: the first time the government took action to protect a species based solely on the threat it faced from global warming. The protection included an immediate ban on the import of polar bear trophies into the United States. Trophy hunters and their allies sued to have the protections overturned, but in March the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals roundly rejected their claims.

fall to propose the

That victory was tempered the very same week, however, when 178 nations, meeting in Thailand under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, failed to pass a ban on the global trade in polar bear skins and other body parts. More than 100,000 petitions from NRDC Members helped persuade the Obama Administration last

“We’re not giving up this fight to defend the world’s last

ban, which also gained the strong support of Russia, another polar bear range state. But Canada, the only country that allows its polar bears to be

Members of the Russian delegation helped lead the fight for stronger polar bear protections at CITES.

hunted for sport, vigorously campaigned against the ban. In addition, the pro-polar-bear forces were let down by the European Union, whose 27 nations abstained from the final vote because they could not reach internal agreement. 20,000 polar bears,” says Zak Smith, NRDC attorney and co-leader of our Polar Bear SOS campaign. “We’ll be working country by country to ban the import of polar bear body parts — just as they’re banned in the U.S. — and to shut down Canada’s shameful trade.”

Blue Whales Imperiled by Ship Strikes off California Coast

“What compounds the tragedy is that a simple, common-

SWiTCHBOARD Posted by: Barbara Finamore, NRDC senior attorney and Asia director

I was trying to clean the coal dust from the windows of my dingy Beijing apartment one day in March 1992 when the phone rang with astonishing news. Nearly onethird of the delegates to the National People’s Congress (NPC) had just abstain­ ed or voted against the construction of the massive Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydropower project. I simply could not believe my ears. China’s rubber-stamp legislature had never displayed such a level of opposition in its entire history, let alone on environmental grounds.

The following entry first appeared online at:

concerned the delegates in 1992. Yet the government’s failure to heed these concerns and tackle them head-on at the beginning of the project may make it impossible to solve them now.

It was only in 2011, five years after the dam was completed, that the State Council, China’s top government body, finally acknowledged that the project has resulted in “urgent” environmental and geological problems that must be addressed. Many of these problems, including the increased risks of earthquakes, landslides, droughts and social upheaval, are the same ones that

China is in the midst of a nationwide environ­mental crisis, and recently, hundreds of deputies to the NPC once again rose up to protest. In a vote to approve the slate of members for the new environmental protection and resources conservation committee, nearly a third of the delegates either voted in opposition or abstained. The votes came as Beijing was once again shrouded in heavy smog and Shanghai was knee-deep in a scandal of its own with more than 16,000 dead pigs in rivers in and near the city. In his first speech as China’s new premier, Li Keqiang, spoke of putting environmental protection ahead of economic growth and even encouraged both media and the public to hold him accountable in tackling China’s worsening environ­mental issues, which have become the number-one cause of public protests. Premier Li emphasized

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Coal-fired power plant in Shenyang, China.

the importance of transparency. Increased transparency and access to data are essential to enable the public to play a constructive role in tackling pollution. A well-informed public can also provide vital support to Li as he seeks to punish polluters and reform the powerful stateowned enterprises that have long blocked strong environmental policies in China. It remains to be seen how well China’s new leaders will deliver on their promises. But a lot has changed in the 20 years since NPC delegates first expressed environmental concerns, only to have them swept under the rug. Today, China’s environmental problems are simply too big to hide.

China © Associated Press

Will China’s New Leaders Clean Up the Environment?

Take action at:

blue whale © Mike Johnson/


sense solution exists, if only the U.S. Navy would sign off easuring 100 feet long and weighing almost 200 on it,” says Taryn Kiekow, an attorney with NRDC’s Marine tons, the blue whale is extraordinary, believed to Mammal Protection Project. If the Navy opened the waters be the largest animal ever to have existed on around its Point Mugu Naval Air Station to com­mercial traffic earth. But the unparalleled size of these gentle giants is no during the whales’ seasonal migration, heavy ships match for the enormous oil tankers, cargo could avoid the whales’ feeding ground. ships and cruise liners that ply the waters The Coast Guard has acknow­ledged off the coast of Southern California. the need to move the shipping lanes. During the warm summer and fall But so far the Navy has refused, months, more than 2,000 blue even though it has routinely allowed whales are drawn to those same oil tankers and cargo ships to pass waters, where they feast on through these same waters on an abundant seasonal blooms of krill. informal basis. NRDC is working with the Today, their ancient feeding ground is Blue whale. Great Whale Conservancy and other organiza­ crisscrossed by some of the busiest tions to pressure the Navy to end its intransigence, shipping lanes on the planet, serving the ports of and tens of thousands of our Members and online activists Los Angeles and Long Beach. Tragically, blue whales are have already called on it to act to protect these exceptional sometimes rammed and killed by oncoming ships or cut to animals, of which a mere 10,000 survive worldwide. pieces by their huge propellers.

Natural Resources Defense Council 40 W. 20th St., New York, NY 10011 • 212-727-4500 email: 7

Alaska’s Polar Bear Seas: Free from Big Oil’s Rigs — for Now


t was one blunder after another last year as Shell Oil

Arctic drilling plans through 2014 and canceled a

attempted to drill in the Arctic. After years of

multimillion-dollar contract with the owner of a drill rig

planning and billions invested, the operation itself was

the company was planning to use there.

a public relations nightmare that culminated in the grounding of an enormous, 260-foot drill rig in December. Yet despite Shell’s bungling, the company is hardly giving up on its Arctic ambitions, even as its fiasco appears to be giving other oil giants second thoughts about venturing into some of the most treacherous waters on the planet.


For its part, Shell remains insistent that it can — and will — eventually drill in the Polar Bear Seas, where a major oil spill could devastate critical polar bear habitat. “Shell is teaming up with Gazprom to drill offshore in the Russian Arctic, and the company is working to extend the long-term contract for one of its Alaskan drill rigs,” says NRDC senior attorney Niel Lawrence. “It’s clear that

“If someone asked me to invest money in Arctic

Shell is going to make a run at the Alaskan Arctic again

exploration and development, I wouldn’t give a kopek,”

— unless we can persuade the Obama Administration to

one top executive at Lukoil, Russia’s largest private oil

slam the door shut.” NRDC is fighting in federal court to

company, recently told the Financial Times. Norway’s

quash Shell’s plans. Meanwhile, our Members and online

Statoil has postponed plans to drill in the Arctic until at

activists have deluged the new interior secretary, Sally

least 2015, and French producer Total SA has declared it

Jewell, with more than 100,000 petitions, calling on her to

will not seek to drill in Arctic waters at all. Meanwhile,

break with her predecessor by closing the Polar Bear

ConocoPhillips publicly announced the suspension of its

Seas to Big Oil.

Announcing the NRDC Legacy Challenge

Photo: © Flip Nicklin/

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Nature's Voice Summer 2013  

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 Summer 2013  

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