Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

The North Atlantic Right Whale – so named by whalers of days bygone – is the most critically endangered species on the planet with less than 350 left alive. Man hunted this spectacular animal into the brink of extinction and even though it is protected by the Endangered Species Act, is still in serious trouble. One problem that has been a serious problem for years is they are often surprised and badly injured or killed by large commercial shipping going too fast in the waters they prefer. Marine biologists and NOAA have been trying to get a speed limit of 10 knots imposed on these waters. Since 1989 there have been at least 19 known deaths that are believed to have been caused by large ships. I know 19 doesn’t sound like a large number but when there are so few of these animals left and then taking into consideration the time required for them to reach maturity and able to breed.

An attempt to protect them by making all large ships slow down a little in their areas has languished for over a year partially because the office of the Vice President questions the conclusions of the governments own scientists. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif released documents yesterday that questioned why White House officials have raised baseless objections over the data gathered by government scientists who have been studying this problem for years. “I question why White House economic advisers are apparently conducting their own research on right whales and why the vice president’s staff is challenging the conclusions of the government’s scientific experts,” Waxman wrote. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the White House interference in a wide range of areas from regulating toxic chemicals to climate change and protecting endangered species.

Well it has been nearly a full year since the Environmental Protection Agency was ordered by the Supreme Court to determine whether greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles should be regulated. EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson (a Bush appointee) is apparently following the Bush administrations stance that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, and has opposed mandatory limits even in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.

Tuesday in front of the Senate Appropriations environment subcommittee Johnson was grilled by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif who repeatedly asked him [Johnson] “Is anyone working on this at the present time, Mr. Johnson?” she asked. “How many members of your staff are currently working on this?” “I don’t know the answer to that,” Johnson replied. She then remarked that it was strange that the EPA chief “can’t give me a number (of people engaged) on something that is a Supreme Court finding.”

Myself I feel it is only par for the course for an administration that is dedicated to raping and pillaging the country as a whole. They have no concern for anything or anyone except their friends in big industry. I don’t know how long it will take to dig our way out of the tremendous hole they have dug for us the country.

??? You remember that last week the Congress once again passed an energy bill giving tax incentives for wind, solar and other renewable fuels. Well right on cue the big oil lackeys in the Senate are howling bloody murder over the loss of tax incentives to the big oil companies. Last year they passed a almost identical bill that was threatened by veto and the Senate caved right in. Of course it doesn’t take much caving in when big oil has donated so much to some Senators. Plus we have their [big oil] best buddy in the White House. It’s not like he really cares about what is good for the country or its citizens. I knew right away how deeply he felt for the citizens in the country when he was so fast in getting to the gulf coast after Katrina. It’s not like he didn’t fly over it after he finished his vacation at the ranch. Probably even had the pilot tip the wingtip over a little in Air Force One so he could see the destruction a little better.

??? Anyhow about the energy bill. It is funded the same way – pay as you go – and that payment is the dropping of 17 billion dollars in tax credits for big oil. New investments in clean, non-fossil-fuel energy sources – need help until they become competitive with older, dirtier energy sources. It’s not like the oil companies need these tax breaks. They are rolling in money, posting the largest corporate earnings ever. The five biggest producers only made 145 billion in profits last year. If those arguments are not enough, we offer the Senate some words from the decider himself [President Bush]. In a 2005 address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Mr. Bush spoke forcefully of the need for an energy strategy that looked to the long term and emphasized conservation and renewable fuels. Of the oil and gas industry, he said pointedly: ?I will tell you with $55 oil we don?t need incentives to the oil and gas companies to explore. There are plenty of incentives. What we need is to put a strategy in place that will help this country over time become less dependent.? Even the most dim witted Senator should be able to see that a country that uses 20% of the worlds oil but only has 3% of its reserves can not drill its way to energy independence.

My question would be – If that was true at $55 a barrel, why is not it even more valid and urgent at $100 a barrel?

??? With the price of oil above $100 a barrel, Congress is again taking action to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and support the domestic production of renewable energy. The House of Representatives passed legislation this week that would repeal some $18 billion in tax breaks for big energy companies. “The American taxpayer should not be subsidizing oil and gas companies during times of record profits and record prices at the pump,” Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said last week when he introduced the energy tax package.

??? The legislation includes tax credits to promote renewable energy production. Renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, ethanol, and biofuels will be promoted by these tax credits. The legislation would also give consumers a $4,000 tax credit for buying plug-in hybrid vehicles, extend the tax credits for installing certain energy-efficient appliances and increases tax breaks for gas stations that install pumps for dispensing alternative fuels.

You may remember that I wrote on a very similar bill introduced and passed by the House of Representatives that met strong opposition from the Senate. Perhaps there are more Senators on the “Big Oil” payroll than in the House. The House once again has the right idea, that is best for the country, but look for the Senate to fight it tooth and nail. And even if it does pass the Senate it may be met by a Presidential veto as the White House stance was opposed to it before so I doubt he has changed his mind and decided to do what is best for the country instead of what is best for him and his “friends” in the oil industry.

It has been nearly nineteen years since the disaster of the Exxon Valdez running aground and dumping eleven million gallons of crude oil into the then pristine, Prince William Sound. The spill covered twelve hundred miles of coastline with the crude oil. Oil that stuck to everything, killing off untold thousands of marine animals and birds. The damages inflicted then still have not fully recovered.

Cordova itself, 45 miles from Bligh Reef [what the Valdez hit], was not directly touched by the slick. But its economy and citizens were devastated by the loss of so many jobs. The town depended heavily upon commercial fishing that was ruined by the insidious crude. Salmon have started to rebound, but the numbers of Harlequin ducks and sea otters are still well below pre-spill levels.

To the casual observer, the sound?s stunning beauty has been restored, but an estimated 85 tons of crude linger, according to a federal study released last year. At the Prince William Sound Science Center jars of oil-stained rocks and sand that are sill being dug up can be examined.

Amidst this backdrop Exxon is fighting tooth and nail to get out of paying punitive damages to the local citizens. In 1994, an Anchorage jury awarded victims $5 billion in punitive damages. That amount has since been cut in half by other courts on appeals by Exxon Mobil. Now it is going in front of the U.S. Supreme Court which will hear why Exxon feels it should not have to pay the damages at all. Almost 33,000 plaintiffs – including commercial fishermen, Alaska Natives, landowners, businesses and local governments – could see the $2.5 billion judgment taken away by the high court. It is not like they can not afford to pay. They just posted the largest annual profit by a U.S. company ever – 40.6 billion dollars. Lets wait and see how the court handles this. Hopefully they will do the right thing and not bow to corporate demands.

??? Terrible news for the wolves in Greater Yellowstone and the Northern Rockies. This past Thursday the Bush/Cheney Administration stripped these amazing animals of vital federal protections, officially opening the door to the shooting, trapping, and killing of up to 1,200 wolves.

??? That is approximately 80% of all the wolves in that region. That is outrageous. They are supposed to be federally protected animals and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted them under authority of the Bush Administration. This is a potentially devastating blow to the wolves in that area. There could be as few as 300 left in the wild. The herds of deer and elk – they are trying to protect – are made stronger by the wolves that follow the herds – killing the weak, sick and injured.

??? Idaho officials want to use aerial gunning to kill wolves in their state. Wyoming agencies have left the door open to the use of traps and poison to eliminate wolves. And officials in both states – and Montana – have proposed wolf hunts.

??? As I wrote last month, federal officials already made it easier to kill wolves while they were still protected under the Endangered Species Act. Now they’re taking the final step, and eliminating these federal protections altogether. You can help with their legal defense by visiting Save Americas Wolves and making a donation.

??? You can also call or write your congress man or woman and tell them to get on board with the PAW Act. Right now they are trying to let it die in committee. The only way the wolves will be saved is if you and I make an outcry for them. It is the squeaky wheel that greased first.

??? Despite the outcry of thousands of environmentalists the? Bush/Cheney Administration auctioned off key habitat for endangered polar bears to Big Oil. Mothers and cubs are coming out of their dens to compromised habitat. The influx of men and machines entering an already fragile eco system will wreck havoc upon it. While the climate warms up taking its toll on polar bear habitat, federal officials are selling off the very places these great white bearsdepend on for hunting, denning and survival.

??? Polar bears in America will likely be extinct according to government scientists in 50 years. Yet federal
officials have once again delayed action to protect these struggling animals as
“threatened” under the
Endangered Species Act. Instead of acting to protect these magnificent animals they instead auctioned off millions of acres of vital habitat in Alaska‘s Chukchi Sea to Shell and other Big Oil companies. And once again he has included drilling in the ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) in his proposed budget.

??? Increased drilling in these critical habitats could devastate America’s polar bears. But Exxon, Mobil, Shell and other Big Oil companies continue to use their billions in profits to press for harmful drilling in the places polar bears need to survive – and continue our dependence on the fuels that spur rising temperatures that are causing the bears’ demise. Shell bid more than $105 billion for a single tract of drilling acreage in the Chukchi Sea. So as you can see these beautiful bears are quickly becoming between a “rock and a hard place”

??? I’ll try to keep up better than I have in the past few days and let you know when the vote to include ANWR in the budget comes around so you can call your representatives in Congress.

??? Here is something I did not know and all of us who are environmental activists should. The large cargo ships that carry all of the imports and exports to and from our country for the most part are huge polluters. They burn diesel oil that is closer to asphalt and is 1800 times dirtier than the fuel burned in U.S. trucks. The Bush administration is claiming to have made headway in talks with other nations to reduce the dangerous emissions coming from these giant diesel-burning ships that pollute U.S. ports.

??? During hearings by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Dr. John Miller, an emergency room physician from San Pedro, California said, “International standards for pollution from ship engines, written mostly by the shipping industry, are so lax as to be meaningless.” The panel is considering legislation to sharply curb emissions from the largest cargo carriers, most of which are foreign flagged. Bush officials want to pursue a new global standard instead of tougher standards for ships entering our waters, according to the associate director at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They say that if we make our own regulations and not use worldwide standards then we risk having shipping prices going up because there will be fewer ships that meet the new qualifications therefor fewer available ships to carry cargo to and from our ports.

??? Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said EPA should act quickly, regardless of the international action. “I just don’t get it,” Boxer said. “Our people are suffering because foreign flags are coming in and they’re filthy and they’re polluting. And we are sitting back saying we can’t do anything until we get this international agreement.”

??? The Bush administration and EPA are being pressured by Congress and environmentalists to enact new regulations and not wait on the U.N. International Maritime Organization to reach an anti-pollution agreement. The EPA intends to issue its new rules in 2009 after the global group comes to a decision about the pollution regulations. They [U.N. International Maritime Organization] are meeting again in April and last met last week. Ms Boxer (Committee Chairwoman) countered that talks have been going on since 2003 and asked, “How long does Jonah have to wait?”, a reference to, Jonah Ramirez, a 12 year old sixth grader from San Bernardino, Calif., who told the hearing of his battles with asthma. “If these particles that I breathe every day are safe, then why do I depend on daily medication and the fast relief of my inhaler to do something that everyone has the right to do: Breathe,” Jonah Ramirez asked the panel.

??? I know our economy depends upon shipping, both into and out of our ports but surely we can do something about emissions coming from these huge ships. I for one think that we are such a prized market that ship owners will do what it takes to keep returning to our lucrative markets. It might cause some short time problems but in the long run it will be better for us, especially those who live close to these large ports. Or even those who happen to live along the shore where these ships travel on there way to the ports. Plus- and this is something I just thought of- It may have an added benefits to U.S. business if the price of cheap imports from China go up.

??? Even though it’s his last year in office, President Bush’s administration plans to go ahead with its ill-conceived exploitation of public lands in Utah. They want to open up public land that has never been mined, farmed or had roads built into it for developers. Thankfully we have a bill that was introduced into Congress that would ban them from doing this. America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act would protect more than 9.5 million acres of wilderness-quality lands in Utah. They seem still to believe, against all contrary evidence, that resource extraction is the best economic use of our public lands, and that their highest recreational purpose is as an arena for the depredations of dirt bikes and other off-road vehicles. I know there is a lot of fun and recreation with motorized vehicles but at the same time we need to save some of our pristine land. This land would take centuries to recover if ever from depredations of this sort.

??? One area of this bill, protects the greater Zion-Mojave region, which is currently threatened by proposed legislation that fails to protect wild lands in the region and authorizes the sale of up to 40 square miles of public lands in southwestern Utah to development projects. This is our land and we should have a say in whether it is sold and I for one do not wish to see any of our wild lands sold to anyone at all much less developers who are only in it for the money. And I feel that is where the votes will come from, lawmakers that take hush money from these developers and their lobbyists. The wild lands in Utah contain remote twisting canyons, mesas topped with groves of juniper and pinyon pine, rivers, and stark mountain peaks. The wilds of Utah hold much to behold. there are areas where you feel as if no one has set foot there in hundreds of years there are areas so vast that the stone and sky seem to intermingle.

??? If you are like me and a lover of the land, who feels like we cannot own the land but only care for it for the next generations to follow. Then you should keep an eye on H.R. 1919: America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act of 2007 this was inroduced by?Rep. Maurice Hinchey [D-NY] or S. 1170: America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act of 2007 introduced by?Sen. Richard Durbin [D-IL]. Please contact your representatives in Congress or the Senate to encourage them to co-sponser or vote yes to the bill.

??? Once again the EPA is in the news as Rep. Henry Waxman, (D-Calif) of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee subpoenaed documents reviewed by the agency’s administrator before he blocked a California tailpipe emissions law. There have been indications that the EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson overruled EPA staff who recommended granting the waiver.

??? What California wants to do and along with twelve other states – Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington – was to require automakers to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 30 percent in new cars and light trucks by 2016. This would bring the fuel economy standards up to 36.8 mpg four years earlier four years earlier than the new federal law which would result in a nationwide average of 35 mpg by 2020. The governors of four other states -Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Utah – said they also planned to adopt Californias newer tougher rules.

??? According to congressional investigators there are EPA internal documents that said California had a compelling need for the waiver, and that EPA was likely to lose in court if sued over denying it. But once again our executive branch seems to be in the pockets of big business. They have also lost a suit in federal court because they were ignoring the law when they imposed less stringent requirements on power plants to reduce mercury pollution. A three-judge panel – U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia – unanimously struck down a mercury-control plan imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency three years ago. It established an emissions trading process in which some plants could avoid installing the best mercury control technology available by buying pollution credits. such trading of pollution credits would have created hot spots of mercury contamination around power plants across the country. Power plants are one of the biggest sources of of mercury, which finds its way into the food supply, particularly fish. Mercury damages developing brains of fetuses and very young children.

??? The court decision was the latest in a string of judicial losses for the Bush administration’s environmental policies. You may remember that I mentioned them losing a battle for not regulating greenhouse gases. Courts have also rejected administration attempts to overhaul federal forest policies and streamline fuel economy standards for small trucks. The policy as established under the Clinton Administration required utilities to capture more than 90 percent of mercury releases. The standard as set by the Bush administrations approach was to capture 70 percent of mercury emissions. “This three-judge panel has done the world a favor and helped save lives,” said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. Connecticut was one of the states that participated in the lawsuit. EPA spokesman Jonathan Shradar said, “This rule is still our policy until we evaluate how to move forward.”

??? It sounds to me as if they are going to drag their feet as long as possible allowing pollution to go on as long as possible so as to generate more profits for the big businesses that seem to have our Environmental Protection Agency in their pockets. Hopefully an administration change will return the EPA back to the role of protecting the citizens and not big business.