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Bearded seal © Steven J. Kazlowski

in this issue

• Shell Targets Prime Polar Bear Habitat • NRDC Turns up the Heat on Pebble Mine • Fracking Threatens Parks, Forests, Water • Silence Will Settle on Yellowstone

Winter 2014

in the news

NRDC Turns up Heat on Mega-Mine

EU Takes Aim at Airguns

Wolves, Death and Taxes The Obama Administration has announced it will proceed with an investigation of the Wildlife Services agency, which kills some 100,000 native carnivores — including wolves, bobcats, bears and foxes — every year. Wildlife Services, part of the Department of Agriculture (USDA), has wiped out more than 2 million of these animals — 50,000 of them accidentally — since 2000 at the behest of big ranchers and agribusiness. Victims include endangered species and pets. The agency regularly refuses to use nonlethal methods, instead spending millions of taxpayer dollars every year for poison, traps and aerial gunning. Our Members and online activists sent 87,000 messages to the USDA, demanding a full investigation and an end to the sanctioned slaughter.

No Sale, No Problem Good news came this month for our natural heritage in Utah when the Bureau of Land Management announced it was canceling a proposal — tenaciously opposed by NRDC and our allies — to auction off oil and gas rights to thousands of acres in the stunning San Rafael Swell wilderness. Known for its rock art sites and rugged landscapes that resemble the surface of Mars, the Swell is a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts. The cancellation will protect this national treasure against industrialization by the oil and gas industry as well as support Utah’s important outdoor recreation economy. 2


Nushagak River, near site of proposed mine.

his month, we’re launching a new campaign to focus public pressure on Northern Dynasty Minerals — the last company committed to building the Pebble Mine, which threatens to destroy the untamed wilderness and worldclass salmon runs above Alaska’s Bristol Bay. In December, just three months after the Anglo American corporation quit the project, mining giant Rio Tinto stunned investors by announcing that it was considering divestment from the Pebble Mine. Both companies have faced relentless public opposition, including one million messages generated by NRDC Members and online activists. “Rio Tinto’s announce­ ment is a big step toward aban­doning this reckless project, and we applaud the company for taking it,” says Joel Reynolds, who heads up NRDC’s campaign, “but we’ll keep watchdogging Rio Tinto until it finishes what it started and actually exits the project.” In the meantime, NRDC Trustee Robert Redford will spearhead our campaign targeting Canada’s Northern Dynasty Minerals, which is now leading the charge to build the Pebble Mine. Despite the departure of its major partner, Anglo American, Northern Dynasty has said it will still proceed with the $6 billion mega-mine — seeking permits on its own, if need be, and finding another multinational corporate backer. It has also made clear it could apply for those permits in the first quarter of this year. “Apparently, Northern Dynasty hasn’t gotten the message that we don’t want an American natural treasure turned into an industrial wasteland,” says Redford. The gargantuan, open-pit gold and copper mine would produce some 10 billion tons of contaminated waste, and it directly threatens one of the continent’s most spectacular ecosystems and a $1.5 billion economy built on wild sockeye salmon. It is opposed by a united front of local residents, Native groups and fishermen.

Take action at:

Nushagak River © Patrick Clayton/

In a landmark development for whales, the European Parliament has voted in favor of a law that would require environ­mental impact assessments before companies begin hazardous offshore oil and gas exploration. These surveys often make use of high-powered under­ water airguns, firing blasts every 12 seconds for months on end. Just one of the blasts can harm whales and other marine mammals for miles around, and at close range they can be deadly. If passed by the European Council, the law would set a regional mandate for finding less harmful alternatives.

Shell Targets Prime Polar Bear Habitat “Shell’s oil-spill response plans for the Arctic have

premier polar bear habitat is again facing

always read like a fairy tale; they utterly fail to take

imminent danger: Oil giant Shell has

into account the extreme conditions,” says Lawrence.

announced new plans to drill in Alaska’s Chukchi

“The nearest Coast Guard base to Shell’s Arctic

Sea — home to more than half the nation’s polar

operations is 1,000 miles away. Fundamentally nothing

bears — and the

has changed: The

company is teaming

Arctic remains just

up on the project

as unsafe for drilling

with one of the key

now as it was in 2012,

culprits behind

and it’s not going to

2010’s cata­strophic

get any safer.”

Deepwater Horizon

Also unchanged:

oil spill. Scientists

NRDC’s resolve to

say a major oil

keep Shell out of the

spill in the Arctic

Polar Bear Seas —

Ocean could be

the Chukchi as well

an unprecedented environmental

The Chukchi is home to more than half of America’s polar bears.

disaster, one made that much worse by the harsh

as the Beaufort, which borders the

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We continue to

weather, heavy seas and massive ice floes of the Arctic.

fight in federal court against the lease sales that

“You’d think Shell would have learned its lesson by

and we’re fully prepared to challenge the oil giant

opened the door to potential drilling in the region,

now,” says Niel Lawrence, legal director of NRDC’s

and the Obama Administration on new legal fronts

Arctic protection campaign. Indeed, the oil giant’s

if their plans violate our laws and endanger our

last foray into the area, in 2012, was an unmitigated

environment. Shell will need permits to pollute the

failure, a series of embar­rassing blunders and

Arctic air, discharge wastewater into the Arctic Ocean

harrowing close calls that included the malfunction

and harass and harm marine mammals during drilling.

of critical safety equipment, pollution resulting in

So far, the administration seems all too willing to

$1.1 million in fines, a near miss with a 30-mile-

accommodate the company’s Arctic ambitions. “The

long iceberg, and the grounding of a 260-foot drill

American public needs to understand that there is

rig. Yet the company appears unbowed, determined

no proven method — none whatsoever — for cleaning

to return to the Chukchi and drill as early as this

up a major oil spill in Arctic waters,” says Lawrence.

summer. Alarmingly, Shell plans to lease its drill rig from Transocean, the company whose Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in 2010, spewing millions of barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

“And it’s not just one company we have to worry about. If Shell proceeds with drilling in the Chukchi, you can bet that the rest of Big Oil will want to follow.” Take action at:

Polar bears © Steven J. Kazlowski/


fter being spared in 2013, America’s


Campaign Update

Fracking Unleashed: New Drilling Boom Imperils America’s Glacier National Park © Tim Fitzharris; gas well © Linda F. Baker/Upper Green River Alliance; bobcat © Konrad Wothe/Minden Pictures; White River National Forest © Laurence Parent; fracking flare © Robert Donnan; George Washington National Forest © Charles Gurche

NRDC Calls for Fracking Moratorium to Protect Public Lands and Drinking Water for Millions



drilling rights. Those rules not only t’s a shocking figure: Some 15.3 million Americans — more than allow fracking next to national parks the population of Ohio, Pennsylvania and inside national forests, but also or Illinois — now live within a single permit it alongside drinking water mile of a fracking well. That’s according supplies for tens of millions of Americans. “With each successive round of revisions, to a recent analysis by The Wall Street the BLM rules have gotten weaker Journal, which charted the explosive and weaker,” says Amy Mall, a senior growth of this dangerous form of energy extraction over the past decade. policy analyst at NRDC. “You can see This surprisingly large number reflects the fingerprints of the oil and gas industry all over this process.” Indeed, the enormous extent of the fracking the latest rules fail to address even boom unleashed on Americans by the oil and gas industry — but it tells only some of the most dangerous industry practices. They do not, for example, part of the story. From coast to coast, set a minimum distance between fracking fracking is taking a devastating toll on local residents, with once-idyllic commu­ operations and homes or schools, nor nities turned into industrial zones where 10-story drill rigs operate day and night and seemingly endless convoys of diesel trucks thunder down local roads. Yet even amid mounting reports of contaminated water supplies Colorado’s White River National Forest — and and rising air pollution, wildlife like bobcats — would suffer from the Obama Administration proposed fracking. has failed to curb the environ­mental and health threats posed do they bar oil and gas companies by fracking, in which massive amounts from storing millions of gallons of of water and sand mixed with hazardous contaminated wastewater in open-air chemicals are pumped into the earth pits prone to overflow or rupture. to break apart rock and release oil and “The administration is basically rolling gas deposits. out the welcome mat to the oil and gas A flagrant example of the administration’s industry,” says Sharon Buccino, director laissez-faire approach: The Bureau of of NRDC’s Land and Wildlife Program. Land Management (BLM) recently “No region of the country will escape. proposed new rules to regulate fracking The George Washington National on our public lands and millions of Forest in Virginia — that’s the source acres of private property for which of drinking water for all of Washington, D.C. The White River National the federal government controls the

Forest in Colorado — it’s the largest source of freshwater for the upper Colorado River, which provides drinking water to 30 million people downstream. Ohio’s Wayne National Forest — drinking water for four entire counties. Los Padres National Forest in California. The list goes on and on.” Not even our national parks are immune to the ravages of nearby fracking. Newly drilled wells in Montana are already visible from Glacier National Park, and the “front door” to Glacier has been proposed for major indus­trialization, according to the National Parks Conservation Asso­ciation. In Wyoming, oil and gas development near Grand Teton National Park is fragmenting the habitat that pronghorn and other species need outside the park for migration. Meanwhile, the fracking boom in North Dakota has been linked to spikes in air pollution in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and flares from gas rigs are despoiling what was once one of the darkest night skies in the national park system. “We must hold President Obama accountable here,” says NRDC President Frances Beinecke. “He made a promise last year in his State of the Union address to develop America’s natural gas resources ‘without putting the health

Last Wild Places

is basically rolling out the “The administration welcome mat to the oil and gas industry. ”

Above: The front door to Glacier National Park has been proposed for industrialization. Inset left: The California condor’s habitat could face fracking. Right: Natural gas well against the Wind River Range, Wyoming.

and safety of our citizens at risk.’ Instead, his administration has caved to the oil and gas lobby. That’s why we are now calling on the president to impose an immediate fracking mora­ torium on all federal lands — one that will last until he keeps his promise to protect us from the excesses of the oil and gas industry. With one stroke of his pen, he can safe­ guard our natural heritage, protect our drinking water and shield commu­nities from California to Virginia that sit near oil and gas reserves.” BLM’s oversight extends to lands across the country that most Americans think of as private: some 57 million acres — an area the size of Georgia — of so-called splitestate property, where residents may own the ground on which their house sits but the federal government owns the drilling rights to the oil and gas below. For these homeowners, the government has the right to greenlight fracking operations literally in their own backyards.

NRDC has been at the forefront of the fight to protect communities from the ravages of fracking and to turn the tide on the oil and gas industry’s relentless “frack attack.” We fought for — and won — a moratorium on fracking in New York State, advocated

George Washington National Forest, a source of drinking water for all of Washington, D.C. Inset: Fracking flare.

for moratoriums in California and Illinois, and championed strict controls on fracking where it’s already happening. We’ve also launched a Community

Fracking Defense Project, which is empowering local residents in five states with the legal know-how they need to ban or restrict fracking in their cities and towns if they so choose. Meanwhile, nearly 100,000 NRDC Members and online activists have already joined us in calling on President Obama to close our treasured public lands to fracking and to move America as rapidly as possible beyond all fossil fuels, toward a future powered by 100 percent clean energy. Beinecke notes that a fracking mora­torium would echo beyond our public lands. “It would send a message that if energy companies can’t drill without endan­gering the water in our tap, the air we breathe, the health of our families and the wild places we love, then they shouldn’t be fracking. Period.” Tell the president to impose a moratorium at: 5

At Long Last, Silence Will Settle on Yellowstone


fter nearly two decades of

growing snowmobile traffic and

intense legal battles and

weakened regulations posed a

numerous setbacks, our fight

serious environmental threat to the

to reduce the impact of snowmobiles

park’s habitat and wildlife. Hundreds

on Yellowstone National Park has

of the vehicles were lining up at

reached a heartening conclusion.

entrance stations and polluting the

In October, the National Park Service

air with exhaust, making it unhealthy

announced it is setting strong

for visitors to breathe the air and

standards for snow­mobiles and

even forcing park rangers to start

snowcoaches that will cut their noise and slash their air pollution

wearing respirators. A ban on snow­ Snowmobiles will be quieter, less polluting.

by upwards of 70 percent. “Silence is golden,” says Chuck Clusen, director of NRDC’s National Parks Project. “One of the best places to experience the quiet symphony of nature is Yellowstone in deep winter. Bison © Tom & Pat Leeson

The National Park Service decision will go a long way toward quieting the distracting roar of snow machines.”

mobiles in the form of a three-year phase-out — advocated by NRDC

and by hundreds of thou­sands of messages from our Members — was instituted in 2001 but was soon reversed by the Bush Administration. Undeterred, we continued the fight against a rise in snowmobile use and in favor of stringent controls. In the wake of this latest victory NRDC will continue

The practice of allowing snowmobiles on unplowed roads

to push for a safer and more serene Yellowstone both for

in Yellowstone started in the 1960s, and by the early 1990s

human visitors and for the park’s storied wildlife.

U.S. Inaction Imperils Whales


round the world, the global fishing industry is

As part of a broader

taking a disastrous toll on whales, dolphins and

campaign to raise

other marine mammal species: More than

public awareness

650,000 animals are killed or critically injured each year

and pressure the

after becoming tangled or trapped in enormous nets and

Obama Admini­

other industrial fishing gear, according to scientific estimates.

stration to take

Such horrendous casualties prompted Congress to include

action, NRDC

a provision in the landmark Marine Mammal Protection

is releasing an

Act of 1972 requiring all imported seafood to be accompanied

in-depth report that details how enforcement of U.S. laws

by proof that it was caught in accordance with U.S.

could help shield a range of imperiled species worldwide,

standards for protecting marine mammal species. The

from whales in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean to

only problem? That provision has never been enforced.

sea lions in New Zealand to dolphins in the Indian Ocean.

“I think most Americans would be shocked to know that Whale and diver © Alberto Dario Romeo

the majority of imported seafood — whether it’s sea bass in a five-star restaurant or lowly fish sticks — violates federal law, and that the government has been doing nothing to stop it,” says Zak Smith, an attorney with NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project. 6

Diver frees a sperm whale from a drift net.

“It’s unacceptable that this law is on the books but has been left to gather dust,” says Smith. “We’re calling on the National Marine Fisheries Service to enforce the seafood import law and save the lives of countless marine mammals around the world.” Make your voice heard at:

new front in the battle against tar sands oil has

enforcing the state’s

opened up in southeast Chicago. Oil giant BP has

pollution laws and

been dumping moun­tains of petroleum coke, or

putting a moratorium

petcoke — a coal-like waste product from oil and tar sands

on bringing still more

refining — at a storage terminal owned by the Koch brothers

petcoke into Chicago.

on the banks of the Calumet River. With BP planning to ramp up the processing of tar sands at its nearby refinery in Whiting, Indiana, a staggering 6,000 tons of petcoke will soon be headed toward Chicago’s Southeast Side every single day.

“We must not allow Big Oil and the Koch brothers to treat A mountain of petcoke in southeast Chicago.

Chicago’s South­east

Already, nearby neighborhoods are being coated by airborne

Side as their private dumping ground,” says Henry Henderson,

coke dust from the uncovered terminal. Families only a few

NRDC’s Midwest director. “And unless we want to see more

hundred yards away are being forced to shut their windows

cities in America blighted like this, we also need to stop

and stay indoors to protect their homes and lungs from

tar sands projects like the Keystone XL pipeline. These

the powdery black dust, which is laden with heavy metals.

toxic mounds are just another reminder that we have to get

NRDC has been mobilizing our Members and online activists

America off of oil. This is what happens when you scrape

in Illinois, calling on Governor Pat Quinn to intervene by

the bottom of the barrel.”

SWiTCHBOARD Bees Can’t Wait Posted by: Jennifer Sass, senior scientist

In an ad running in The New York Times and six other major news outlets, NRDC has joined with a coalition of partners to call on the U.S. Environ­ mental Protection Agency (EPA) to impose a moratorium on a handful of harmful pesticides that are contrib­ uting to the severe decline of bees in our country. On December 1 the European Union adopted such a ban for two years, based on the over­whelming evidence that several neonicotinoid pesticides — “neonics” — are either directly or indirectly harming bees. But the EPA is stalling, saying it will instead review these pesticides in a process that will take five years or more. Our nation’s bees are in a tailspin, and victims include commercial honeybees, wild bumblebees, and other native species. This isn’t just a bee problem 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

Petcoke © Associated Press


Out of Canada, Tar Sands Waste Is Now Chicago’s Problem

The following entry first appeared online at:

— it’s our problem too because we rely on the pollination services of our buzzing invertebrate friends to grow food and make flowers bloom. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Honey Report, honey production is down, as it has been almost every year since the neonicotinoid pesticides were approved. The decline of bee colonies almost certainly has numerous causes. But science is bringing pesticides and bee deaths closer together. It is now evident that even low field-realistic levels of neonics — a class of pesticide purposely designed to soak into the whole plant and make it poisonous to insects — are compromising the immunity of bees, leaving them unable to fend off viruses and other deadly pathogens that stress and eventually kill colonies. It is a deadly one-two punch. The bees are immune-compromised from the pesticides and then fall prey to mites and viruses that kill them. Editor: Stephen Mills Writers: Jason Best, Sky Reid-Mills Managing Editor: Liz Linke Designer: Dalton Design

Our ad ran in seven national newspapers.

Research has shown that even low levels of these dangerous pesticides impair bees’ ability to learn, to find their way back to the hive, to collect food and to produce new queens. Such abnormal behavior can hinder the ability of the colony to survive winter. The evidence is clear: It’s time for a moratorium on the pervasive use of these pesticides. Bees can’t wait five more years. They are dying now. The EPA has the power and responsibility to protect our pollinators. They should do so immediately. Natural Resources Defense Council 40 W. 20th St., New York, NY 10011 • 212-727-4500 email:

Director of Membership: Linda Lopez


Your support of NRDC made a world of difference to our environment in 2013

Bison © Art Wolfe; belugas © Suzi Eszterhas/Minden Pictures; musk oxen © Steven J. Kazlowski/; Pascua Falls, Patagonia © Bridget Besaw

Here are a few of the environmental victories your Membership support made possible:


We went to court and made sure that polar bears will keep their protection under the Endangered Species Act.

We came to the legal defense of local citizens in New York, whose voices were squelched after they opposed the spread of fracking in their community.

We devised an innovative approach to cutting global warming pollution that became the model for President Obama’s bold plan to tackle the climate crisis.

We brought world­ wide pressure on the British mining giant Anglo-American, which announced it was withdrawing from the Pebble Mine project that threatens the Bristol Bay wilderness.

We helped win a land­ mark agreement that will let Yellowstone’s wild buffalo roam outside the national park, in 75,000 acres of their historic winter range.

We helped save 11 million acres of important wildlife habitat in the Western Arctic Reserve from oil development.

We won a court ruling that the government violated the law when it allowed an oil company to endanger the last 312 beluga whales in Alaska’s Cook Inlet.

We scored a victory in Chile when the president-elect announced her opposition to a hydroelectric dam project that would destroy two of Patagonia’s wildest rivers.

Thanks for making a world of difference! View an inspiring video of our victories, narrated by Kyra Sedgwick, at

Photo © Susanne Weissenberger/White Mountain Photography

Take the NRDC Legacy Challenge Let us know you’re including NRDC in your estate plans and a member of our Board of Trustees will contribute up to $10,000 to help save wildlife and wildlands! You’ll be protecting our natural heritage right now and for generations to come. If NRDC already has a place in your plans, please let us know so that we can take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

To take the Legacy Challenge or learn more about it, please contact: Michelle Mulia-Howell Director of Gift Planning at 212-727-4421 or

Nature's Voice Winter 2014