NRDC is running ads in Politico that highlight just a few (of the many) reasons why the Pebble Partnership should abandon its plan to build a gargantuan gold and copper mine at the headwaters of the world's greatest wild salmon... Read More >
Need Another Reason to Stop the Pebble Mine? Check Out Today's Ad in...
NRDC is running ads in Politico that highlight just a few (of the many) reasons why the Pebble Partnership should abandon its plan to build a gargantuan gold and copper mine at the headwaters of the world's greatest wild salmon fishery. Not only does the Pebble Mine face intense local and state-wide opposition, but the reputational, regulatory and environmental risks of the mine are staggering (EPA concluded that a tailings dam failure would be "catastrophic").
Here's another reason: the economic risks. And not just to the $1.5 billion annual commercial fishery that supports 14,000 jobs. The Pebble Mine is simply a bad investment:
All the major investors in Pebble Mine have fled the project: Mitsubishi left in 2011, Anglo American left in 2013, and Rio Tinto left in 2014.
It's time for Northern Dynasty Minerals - now the only "partner" remaining in the Pebble Partnership -to leave too. Click here to send your message. And stay tuned for our final ad, which runs next week...
NRDC is running a series of ads in Politico highlighting several reasons why the Pebble Partnership should quit its disastrous plans to build a giant gold and copper mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay's famous salmon runs, which are... Read More >
Another Day, Another Politico Ad, Another Reason for the Pebble Partnership...
NRDC is running a series of ads in Politico highlighting several reasons why the Pebble Partnership should quit its disastrous plans to build a giant gold and copper mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay's famous salmon runs, which are the lifeblood of the region.
Today's ad highlights the concerns raised by the Environmental Protection Agency:
In January 2014, the EPA issued its much-awaited final Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment - an extensive scientific assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed undertaken to determine the potential impacts of large-scale mining on salmon and other fish populations, wildlife, development, and Alaska Native communities in the region. EPA's rigorous, peer reviewed scientific study concluded that "mining of the scale contemplated at the Pebble deposit would result in significant and unacceptable adverse effects to important fishery areas in the [Bristol Bay] watershed." EPA found that the Pebble Mine would have "significant" impacts on fish populations and streams surrounding the mine site. Even without any accidents or failures (impossible for any large-scale mine), Pebble Mine would destroy up to 94 miles of streams and 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds, and lakes - key habitat for a variety of fish species including tens of millions of sockeye salmon and the vast Southwest Alaskan ecosystem that these fisheries support. And a tailings dam failure releasing toxic mine waste would have "catastrophic" effects on the ecosystem and region.
Based on this information, EPA issued a proposed determination under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to restrict the use of certain waters in the Bristol Bay watershed for disposal of dredged or fill material associated with developing the Pebble Mine.
Although the Pebble Partnership fought back and filed three lawsuits against EPA, the writing is on the wall. It's time for them to walk away from Bristol Bay. Click here and tell the Pebble Partnership to call it quits. And stay tuned for tomorrow's ad...
Last year, NRDC filed a petition with EPA asking the agency to review the use of glyphosate (commonly known as Roundup) in light of its devastating effects on monarch butterflies and to impose restrictions on its use. After a year... Read More >
EPA denies NRDC petition to save monarch butterflies
Last year, NRDC filed a petition with EPA asking the agency to review the use of glyphosate (commonly known as Roundup) in light of its devastating effects on monarch butterflies and to impose restrictions on its use. After a year of inaction, we took EPA to court and the agency agreed to respond by this summer. Today, EPA responded by denying our petition to protect monarch butterflies.
EPA states that "(t)he agency at this time has not determined that glyphosate causes unreasonable adverse effects to the monarch butterfly." Really? This statement is frankly shocking given there is broad scientific consensus that the dramatic decline in monarch butterflies is due to the loss of milkweed - a native wildflower that the monarch caterpillars depend on as their only food source - as a result of the overuse of glyphosate in connection with crops that have been genetically engineered to resist the herbicide.
The use of glyphosate has skyrocketed since the EPA last approved it over 20 years ago. As a result, milkweed has been largely eliminated from the agricultural Midwest and, without sufficient amounts of milkweed, the monarch population has suffered catastrophic declines. In the last 15 years their population has dropped more than 90% from a high of a billion in the late 1990s to a mere 56.5 million this year--the second lowest count on record.
Rather than acknowledging this fact and speeding up their review of glyphosate, the EPA points to other actions it is taking to help monarchs and other pollinators as part of the White House Pollinator Task Force. Along these lines, EPA is announcing that they will release a document entitled "Risk Management Approach to Identifying Options for Protecting the Monarch Butterfly" in which the agency will solicit feedback on options for reducing the impacts of herbicides on the monarch butterfly. While this suggests that EPA recognizes the role that herbicides are playing in the decline of monarch butterflies, it is not enough for them to solicit feedback and proceed at their regular slow pace in reviewing glyphosate. Given the dire condition that the monarch population is in, and the scientific consensus that glyphosate is destroying monarch habitat, more immediate and meaningful action is needed.
Ironically, EPA states, "if at any time EPA determines there are urgent human health risks and/or environmental risks from pesticide exposures that require prompt attention, the agency will take appropriate regulatory action." Just a couple of months ago the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen - a finding that came out just weeks before EPA approved the expanded use of another glyphosate pesticide combination, Enlist Duo - a decision that we are challenging in court. If a loss of over 90% of monarch butterflies in North America and a finding that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen aren't enough to require prompt attention, I don't know what is!
Unfortunately, EPA's decision to deny our petition is representative of the agency's own denial that pesticides are a big part of the problem facing our pollinators. While the White House Pollinator Task Force committed to providing additional habitat for monarchs and other pollinators, the EPA has largely refused to address the role that pesticides play in pollinator decline. We will be evaluating our own options and following the EPA's actions closely as they solicit feedback on their "options" for protecting monarch butterflies. However the answer is already clear: EPA must use its authority to require significant reductions in the use of toxic herbicides that are destroying the monarch population.
NRDC is running a series of ads in Politico giving the Pebble Partnership plenty of reasons to walk away from their reckless scheme in Bristol Bay. Yesterday's ad focused on the local opposition to Pebble Mine. Today's ad focuses on... Read More >
Pebble Mine Ad in Politico: Another Reason to Walk Away from Bristol Bay
NRDC is running a series of ads in Politico giving the Pebble Partnership plenty of reasons to walk away from their reckless scheme in Bristol Bay. Yesterday's ad focused on the local opposition to Pebble Mine. Today's ad focuses on the state-wide opposition:
In November 2014, Alaska voters overwhelmingly passed - with 65 percent of the vote (or more) in every precinct across the state - an initiative called "Bristol Bay Forever". The initiative protects the Bristol Bay watershed from large-scale sulfide mining - like the proposed Pebble Mine - that would harm wild salmon. It requires an affirmative finding (in the form of a duly enacted law) from the Alaska legislature that mining would not be harmful to wild salmon within the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve. Because of the relentless support of Bob Gillam, the Renewable Resources Foundation and other local voices, the initiative was a huge success and the lopsided outcome reflects broad opposition to the Pebble project across the state.
Before it withdrew from the Pebble Partnership and quit the Pebble Mine, Anglo American CEO Cynthia Carroll said "We will not go where communities are against us."
The communities of Bristol Bay are against the Pebble Mine.
The people of Alaska are against the Pebble Mine.
Click here to tell the Pebble Partnership to walk away from Bristol Bay. And stay tuned for yet another reason in our ad tomorrow...
I didn't expect the Pebble Mine would outlast Bobby Andrew. He was a fighter who never seemed to get tired. Over 70 years old, and he was always willing to make the trip - whatever the trip, wherever it took... Read More >
Saying Goodbye to Bobby Andrew, Defender of Bristol Bay
I didn't expect the Pebble Mine would outlast Bobby Andrew. He was a fighter who never seemed to get tired. Over 70 years old, and he was always willing to make the trip - whatever the trip, wherever it took him -- to talk, to testify, to tell the terrible story of the uniquely reckless scheme by international mining giants to poison the communities and wild salmon fisheries of Alaska's Bristol Bay with a gigantic copper and gold mine.
When he talked, people listened, because there was no denying his personal stake, his authenticity, his legitimacy in representing the people of Bristol Bay. He was a Yupik elder and a member of the Ekwok Tribe, longtime spokesperson for Nunamta Aulukestai, a life-time subsistence and commercial fisherman, born in Alegnagik, near Dillingham -- and he looked the part. The determined and immovable opposition of Alaska Natives to the Pebble Mine was reflected in his face - serious, resolute, even angry - and he was repeatedly featured in full page ads around the world as the face of the regional coalition against the Pebble Mine.
But Bobby Andrew didn't just look the part. He could talk chapter and verse about all aspects of the project or its impacts, and he wasn't afraid to have that conversation with anyone - a state official in Alaska, a federal regulator at the Environmental Protection Agency, a member of Congress on the Hill, or the CEO of a multi-billion dollar international corporation. And when he spoke, he did so not in anger but with conviction, a gentle firmness, and an easy smile that disarmed rather than threatened. Even his opponents couldn't help but like and respect him, because he was the genuine voice of Bristol Bay, unquestionably prepared to fight to the bitter end if necessary to oppose a colossal injustice.
I didn't know him well; I met him for the first time in the fall of 2009 at a meeting in King Salmon. But during the years since, I had the privilege of joining forces with him in Los Angeles, in Washington, D.C., and in London. Each April, along with a small group of regional and coalition leaders (including Nunamta, BBNC, Earthworks, and BBRSDA), we went to London to meet with the CEOs of the Pebble mining giants based there (and their management teams) and then testify at the companies' annual shareholder meetings. We did our best to have some fun along the way - on a couple of restaurant outings, for example, using the London Financial Times ad featuring Bobby's image to secure a free bottle of wine for the visiting Alaskan celebrity, travelling half-way around the world to defend his home.
But it was generally unpleasant work, because the low income communities victimized by the massive projects of the world's major mining companies are consistently secondary among the priorities that determine whether a project does or does not proceed - and if it does, how its impacts are managed. It's a very long way to travel from Alaska, even for someone with the most personal stake in the subject matter, only to feel marginalized by the process, managed like a troublesome outsider, immersed in corporate condescension.
Bobby was undeterred, refusing to be worn down, refusing to be ignored, until ultimately the mining giants decided that he and his coalition colleagues weren't going away. In fact, through his consistent presence, the mining executives grew to respect him -- even like him -- with his easy smile and soft voice; then, remarkably, they began to listen to what he had to say. Eventually, for a host of reasons, these executives decided that maybe the opposition wasn't all wrong about the Pebble Mine - understanding over time that the social license they had hoped to achieve from the communities of Bristol Bay might never be forthcoming, that the broad-based opposition of Alaskans (and their growing list of allies) would only continue to intensify. Ultimately, each of the major Pebble corporate partners concluded that -- maybe -- they could get a better return on their investment someplace else -- someplace where the likes of Bobby Andrew wouldn't be fighting them.
By April 2014, all of the major mining companies had abandoned the Pebble Mine, leaving the small Canadian company Northern Dynasty Minerals to carry on alone as the once formidable Pebble Partnership - with too little funding and no realistic chance of developing the project. The fight isn't over, of course, because there always seems to be enough money to hire lawyers and lobbyists, paid to make it appear that their client still has a pulse. But no one can dispute that the venture is only a shadow of its former self, and Bobby Andrew is one of the important reasons why.
The Pebble Mine is, after all is said and done, the best example of the worst the world has to offer - a reckless scheme by international miners to enrich themselves by impoverishing the people, the children, and the communities of Bristol Bay. While the mining giants and their distant shareholders get the profit, Alaska gets the toxic waste -- forever.
Thanks to Bobby Andrew and the extraordinary coalition of diverse interests for (or with) whom he spoke so effectively, that scheme is on life support today. But terrible ideas like the Pebble Mine are hard to kill definitively, and, though Bobby has been gone for 40 days, his legacy remains in the steadfast and relentless commitment of his coalition partners, both in the region and elsewhere, to carry on the fight for as long as it takes.
There are many reasons to quit the Pebble Mine. Through ads running this week and next in Politico, NRDC is giving the Pebble Partnership a handful. Today's ad is the first in a series of five ads, and it focuses... Read More >
Pebble Mine: Check out NRDC's ad in Politico
There are many reasons to quit the Pebble Mine. Through ads running this week and next in Politico, NRDC is giving the Pebble Partnership a handful. Today's ad is the first in a series of five ads, and it focuses on the overwhelming local opposition to Pebble Mine -- a giant gold and copper mine proposed at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska.
Bristol Bay is home to tens of millions of wild salmon, which return every year to spawn and create another generation of wild salmon. Bears, wolves, seals, and whales thrive on the salmon -- and so do people. Bristol Bay's wild salmon support a $1.5 billion annual commercial fishery that employs 14,000 full and part-time workers. Salmon are also the lifeblood of native communities that have relied on subsistence fishing and hunting for thousands of years.
All of this is threatened by the proposed Pebble Mine. Rightly so, there is overwhelming local opposition to the mine. Polls show that 85 percent of commercial fishermen in Bristol Bay, 81 percent of the Bristol Bay Native Corporation's native shareholders, and 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents oppose Pebble Mine.
Please join them and tell Northern Dynasty Minerals -- now the sole "partner" left in the Pebble Partnership after all the other mining companies fled -- to call it quits. Visit StopPebble.org to tell Northern Dynasty Minerals that it's time to walk away from Bristol Bay. And stay tuned for our ad tomorrow...
In a show of resounding bipartisan support for elephant protection, California's ivory ban bill - AB 96 - passed the Assembly last week in a vote of 53-12. And, just a few days later, the Los Angeles Times voiced its... Read More >
Ivory Ban Bill Passes California Assembly!
In a show of resounding bipartisan support for elephant protection, California's ivory ban bill - AB 96 - passed the Assembly last week in a vote of 53-12. And, just a few days later, the Los Angeles Times voiced its support for the bill.
As I've blogged before, AB 96, which was introduced by California State Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and California State Senator Ricardo Lara, will crack down on California's ivory market and, in turn, the demand for ivory that is fueling poaching by fixing California's broken ivory law. The current law allows the purchase and sale of ivory imported prior to 1977, which has created a parallel illegal market and made the law nearly impossible to enforce.
AB 96 fixes this by eliminating the pre-1977 loophole in California's ivory law and banning the sale, offer for sale, possession with intent to sell, and importation with intent to sell of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn. It also increases penalties for those trafficking in ivory and rhino horn to up to $50,000 or an amount equal to two times the value of the wildlife involved in the violation, whichever is greater and/or one year in prison.
(C) Elly Pepper
The bill contains a few reasonable exceptions for antique musical instruments that have proper documentation showing they're old, such as pianos and violin bows. And it exempts antique objects comprised of less than 5% ivory, as the vast majority of the illegal ivory trade involves objects made entirely or almost entirely of ivory. Scientific and educational institutions will continue to be able to buy and sell ivory with certain restrictions under the bill. And owners of ivory objects will retain the right to bequeath them to their heirs.
While the bill's passage is a huge victory for elephants, the bipartisan support for AB 96 is no surprise. Indeed, folks on both sides of the aisle strongly support an ivory ban in California, including almost 90% of self-identified conservative republicans, according to recent polling.
Next stop: the Senate, which will hopefully pass the bill in late August/early September and add California to the handful of states, including New York and New Jersey, committed to saving elephants from extinction.
Today a federal judge in Alaska issued an order that will prolong last ditch litigation filed by the Pebble Limited Partnership against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Although the order dismissed portions of Pebble's complaint, the court also allowed parts... Read More >
Pebble Mine Lawsuit Moves Forward, Delays EPA Protection of Bristol Bay
Today a federal judge in Alaska issued an order that will prolong last ditch litigation filed by the Pebble Limited Partnership against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Although the order dismissed portions of Pebble's complaint, the court also allowed parts of the case to move forward to trial on the merits.
Nothing in the court's opinion suggests that Pebble is likely to prevail -- ultimately. And nothing in the opinion changes the fact that the proposed Pebble Mine would threaten the world's greatest wild salmon fishery in Bristol Bay, which supports a $1.5 billion annual commercial fishery, 14,000 jobs, and a subsistence way of life that has flourished for millennia.
This opinion is not about whether EPA's Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment - which found that Pebble Mine would have significant and even catastrophic effects on the region - is scientifically sound. It is. It was based on three years of data review, two rounds of peer review by 12 independent scientists, numerous public hearings and comment, and extensive scientific analysis and revision.
Nor is the opinion about whether EPA has the legal authority to restrict a mine like Pebble. It does. Under the Clean Water Act, EPA may, at any time, veto a project like the proposed Pebble Mine that would have "unacceptable adverse impacts" on the environment. Congress enacted that authority decades ago, the D.C. Court of Appeals recently affirmed it, and Alaskans in overwhelming numbers have asked EPA to exercise it.
This opinion is about procedure, not substance - that is, whether Pebble will be allowed to prove the allegations in its complaint that EPA violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) in its review of the Pebble Mine. While it's unfortunate that the judge didn't dismiss the case outright - Pebble will now have judicial license to prolong the litigation through discovery and other litigation activities - it is undeniable that EPA's burden of proof on its motion to dismiss is extremely high. At this stage, the judge was required to accept as "true" the factual allegations made by Pebble on the face of its complaint. Once those allegations must be supported by actual evidence, EPA will unquestionably prevail.
Simply stated, the remaining question in the litigation is whether EPA violated the FACA by establishing and working with mining opponents in a way that, in effect, acted as advisory committees within the meaning of the Act. EPA did not, but while the case moves forward, EPA cannot issue permanent restrictions to protect Bristol Bay from the specter of the Pebble Mine.
Click here to tell Northern Dynasty Minerals - now the sole owner of Pebble - what you think of its legal stall tactics. Tell them it's time to walk away from Bristol Bay.
(Photo credit: Robert Glenn Ketchum)
As one of the world's best job perks, I get the opportunity to visit Yellowstone National Park and its surrounding areas every year. Living and working in Washington DC, I sometimes forget how much of my daily view is taken... Read More >
Your moment of Zen - Yellowstone edition (a photo essay)
As one of the world's best job perks, I get the opportunity to visit Yellowstone National Park and its surrounding areas every year. Living and working in Washington DC, I sometimes forget how much of my daily view is taken up by concrete, until its not....
And the wildlife has always cooperated on these trips. Each year I have been able to see grizzly bears, wolves and much more, but every visit provides some kind of new experience and this year was no exception. Below are some highlights:
I've seen plenty of grizzly bears on previous trips, but I'd never seen them doing this.
(Photo credit Joel Reynolds)
We got to watch a gray wolf feeding on a bison carcass. (Photo credit Divya Singh)
It's not every day you get to crawl into (and then out of) a wolf den. (Not currently in use!) (Photo credit Divya Singh)
And while I'm partial to the wolves and the bears, it's not just the large carnivores that inspire and delight. (Photo credit Divya Singh)
(Photo credit Divya Singh)
Finally, I have hiked high up above Yellowstone's Slough creek before, but I still gasped when I got to this amazing view.
There is just nothing that can replicate the crisp clear air and wide open space that can be found in the Northern Rocky region. It helps wipe those concrete slates clean and reminds me that one of the important reasons that I work to keep wildlife protected in the west is because they, like us, depend on places like this.
This blog was co-drafted with Michael Yamoah On June 6th, 2015, NRDC will join dozens of our allies for the Tar Sands Resistance March in the twin cities of Minnesota. Citizens from across the Midwest will stand together to... Read More >
Marching to keep tar sands oil out of our communities
This blog was co-drafted with Michael Yamoah
On June 6th, 2015, NRDC will join dozens of our allies for the Tar Sands Resistance March in the twin cities of Minnesota. Citizens from across the Midwest will stand together to protect water, climate and our communities from the threat of dirty tar sands. The march in St. Paul is part of a growing movement across America to resist an incoming tar sands invasion in the United States. While tar sands already flows from Canada to the United States, there are proposals to greatly expand imports to the U.S. in the Midwest, and on the coasts, through an extensive network of pipelines, rail infrastructure and tankers. The potential impacts could prove catastrophic for communities across the country.
The Tar Sands Resistance March is critically important especially as this region is already ground zero for receiving the lion's share of existing tar sands oil. The march will also offer an opportunity to highlight some of the reasons why the Midwest region is vital to halting the flow of dirty oil into the U.S:
- The Midwest is a primary import zone for dirty oil from Canada. Refineries in the Midwest get virtually all of their imported oil via pipeline from Canada. The diluted bitumen transported from Canada that arrives in U.S. refineries is more corrosive than conventional crude oils and may lead to increased risk of accidents.These refineries also pose a significant risk to the climate. Refining tar sands oil emits higher levels of greenhouse gases, as such more Imports of tar sands will add to U.S. emissions.
- Various efforts are being made to expand tar sands pipelines in the Midwest to be able to process more tar sands from Canada. Enbridge, the Canadian pipeline company responsible, is using illegal schemes to double the capacity of its Alberta Clipper tar sands (aka line 67), with no public notice and also by bypassing Presidential permit process. This illegal expansion would put Alberta Clipper on par with the Keystone XL pipeline and significantly increase the amount of toxic, highly polluting tar sands crude being moved into the U.S. We must stop this from happening.
- Tar sands spills are also of major concern. In 2010, more than 800,000 gallons of tar sands was spilled into the Kalamazoo River, causing hundreds of residents to be hospitalized from adverse health effects, including cardiovascular, dermal, gastrointestinal, neurological, ocular, renal, and respiratory. Cleanup efforts are still ongoing.
- Petroleum coke, a by-product of tar sands which has resemblances of coal and shares many of coal's physical qualities, including a similar chemical composition, has been linked to a number of other health problems, including developmental and cardiovascular impacts. This is threatening communities like Chicago and Detroit. In Chicago's southeast side, massive piles of petroleum coke are found near homes, leading to black dust clouds entering the surrounding air and exposing vulnerable residents to an array of health impacts.
Increasing the amount of toxic tar sands crude flowing into this region is not in keeping with a much needed transition to clean energy. Rejecting tar sands means fighting for clean water, clean energy, and a safer climate. There is simply no place for dirty oil in America's future.