Posts Tagged ‘offshore drilling’
This week, just days after BP finally capped the hemorrhaging well in the Gulf, President Obama issued an Executive Order delivering a first-ever National Ocean Policy (NOP). Instead of 20 different agencies administering more than 140 unique laws, often with conflicting purposes, in a piecemeal fashion, we will now have a guiding vision for all federal agencies with a mandate for protection and restoration of our coasts, oceans, islands and Great Lakes.
While the new policy can’t prevent a blow-out like the Deepwater Horizon it can prepare us much better to address such accidents, before they occur. The NOP is the result of a yearlong public process that considered input from many stakeholders including commercial fisherman, conservationists, scientists, the recreational community, business owners and thousands of citizens. In San Francisco, over 500 people packed the hearing to weigh in on the question of how to best manage our shared ocean resources.
Posted by Carrie Thompson, Associate Director of Trust for Mutual Understanding and a long-term supporter of Pacific Environment.
Since the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig of April 20th, we have all been watching in horror as the disaster and its gravity slowly unfold. An industrial accident that brings the loss of eleven lives is heartbreaking in and of itself. That followed by the realization two days later that an untold amount of oil was spewing from a broken pipe is almost too much to bear. And even though I now live over 1500 miles away, the tragedy strikes a deeply personal note, as I grew up on the Gulf Coast. I have a hard time thinking about the spill without crying.
I have a complicated relationship with oil. Growing up in Houston, both of my parents, in one way or another, worked for oil companies. But if we are being honest, we all have a complicated relationship with oil since we live in a country where we expect to be able to walk into a room, flip a switch, and have light. We depend on oil for our transportation, our system of distribution, for our modern conveniences, for every aspect of modern life—we are all dependent on oil, and while the ever present threat of climate change looms for our future, the oil spill in the Gulf reminds us of the immediate danger of this dependence. (more…)
As the world watches the urgency of oil spill response operations in the Gulf of Mexico, Pacific Environment and SF Estuary Partnership hosted a local forum last week that brought this national tragedy a bit closer to home here in the Bay Area. The forum, “Oil Spills in San Francisco Bay: Preparing a Better Response,” for the first time brought together stakeholders of the Bay area community including natural resource managers, local and state agencies, environmental groups, fishing groups and the public to discuss the lessons learned from two recent oil spills in the Bay – the Cosco Busan in 2007 and the smaller Dubai Star spill in 2009 – and how to better prevent and respond in the future.
Among the speakers were Pacific Environment’s very own Jackie Dragon, Marine Sanctuaries Program Director; Mike Lynes, Conservation Director, Golden Gate Audubon Society; Scott Schaefer, Deputy Director for the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR); Zeke Grader, Executive Director for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Associations; and Captain Gugg and Lt. Cmdr. Gus Bannan of the U.S. Coast Guard. (more…)
When I saw this article in today’s New York Times I couldn’t help but think I was reading a translated article from a Russian newspaper – but, in 2015. And, why not? Nearly all of the corrupt policies described within the U.S. government in this article are already common practice in Russia, especially on Sakhalin Island, Kamchatka, the Russian Far North, and elsewhere.
Here’s just a sample of the checklist of items:
- Suppression of scientific evidence about the danger of proposed projects? Check.
- Ignoring harmful effects on endangered species? Check.
- Cozy relations between permit-granting organizations and the oil industry? Check.
- Foreign companies blatantly disregarding safety regulations? Check
I couldn’t sleep last Saturday night. It was my second night in Anchorage, having arrived the day before to help lead an exchange that brought Evenk people from Russia’s Republic of Sakha-Yakutia and environmentalists from the island of Sakhalin to Anchorage and Barrow to discuss indigenous rights vis a vis oil and gas development.
But all I could think about was Kyrgyzstan, the country that I called home for the year before I came to Pacific Environment last fall. The country had been embroiled in political turmoil since earlier in the week, when soldiers opened fire on a group of protesters that eventually stormed the government’s headquarters. That evening, the mobs tore up much of the city; searching for loot or just looking to smash things. Photos showed bodies lying on streets that I had crossed every day. The supermarket next to my apartment had been looted and burned, and two professors from my university were dead. In the following days I discovered that all of my friends were safe, but the images followed me north.
What bothered me the most on that Saturday night wasn’t so much the actual violence, but rather the coverage of the events in the American media, which focused entirely on the revolution’s potential implications for an American airbase located in the capital. One lead-in to a CNN story illustrated this perfectly. “It’s hard to spell, and hard to pronounce,” announced the smirking journalist as video of Kyrgyz riot police played in the background, “so why should YOU care about political upheaval in Kyrgyzstan? We’ll tell you, after the break.” The implication, of course, was that if it doesn’t directly affect us, we really shouldn’t care about people being shot in the street. But to me those people being beaten in the place with the funny name were potentially my friends, people who are like family to me.
The 40th anniversary of Earth Day provides a great opportunity to look back at the progress of the environmental movement – and how we are doing meeting the growing environmental challenges of the day.
As luck would have it, I am spending the 40th anniversary of Earth Day in Moscow. Since I have spent a significant amount of time the last 20 years working with grassroots environmental groups throughout Siberia and the Russian Far East, reflecting from Moscow seems somehow appropriate.
What have we learned in the last 40 years? First, the environment is about people. To protect the environment, we have to work with people. We have found that building an effective, widespread environmental movement is critical to our success. The environmental movement has been criticized for not reaching out broadly enough. Time and again, we have proven that the environmental movement is not narrow. The environmental movement is not limited to scientists and bird-watchers. The environmental movement is made up of poor people, rich people, everyday people, people from labor unions, journalists, teachers, kids, parents, and many more. (more…)
While working with communities is core to Pacific Environment, we also need to build from those efforts and strengthen our support of critical environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act and Endangered Species Act — both of which are currently under threat.
The EPA, which enforces the Clean Air Act (CAA), is under attack from special interests and their representatives in Congress. Special interests are advocating removal of the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the CAA, which they won in the Supreme Court in 2007. Currently, there are two bills in Congress that would slow or kill the EPA’s new regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Two West Virginia Democrats, Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Nick Rahall, have co-authored a bill that would freeze the agency’s move for at least two years and “protect clean coal state economies.” Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska introduced a bill that would undo the EPA’s ruling that greenhouse gas emissions pose public harm. The state of Texas is also challenging the EPA’s attempts to regulate greenhouse gases claiming that the agency’s finding that “gases blamed for global warming threaten public health” is “based on flawed science and would harm the state’s economy.”
Posted by Rachel James
In continuation of our circumpolar work focusing on the impacts of the petroleum industry to the Alaska’s Arctic people and wildlife, I traveled with George Edwardson, president of the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, to Norway, to work with fishermen and to connect with Norwegian media on Arctic issues.
Hosted by the World Wildlife Fund, Norway, we participated in a conference attended by fishermen and local advocates in Svolvaer, Lofoten, which is located in northern Norway above the Arctic Circle in the Barents Sea. The fishermen are concerned about impacts of seismic testing in their fishing grounds.
While in Oslo, we met with many members of the media, including the indigenous Saami media, to raise the issue of the presence of the Norwegian StatoilHydro’s newly purchased leases in Alaska’s high Arctic Sea, the Chukchi. This area is critical to Inupiat subsistence communities and is critical habitat for bowhead whales, polar bears, ice seals, and walrus. StatoiHydro does not allow petroleum activity in areas of the Barents Sea that are ice-covered due to lack of oil spill clean up technology. However, in February they purchased leases in the Chukchi, which is covered in ice over 9 months of the year.
The Norwegian National media had a great interest in the issue. The Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) covered the issue and ran several stories. This included a top story on their main evening news, focusing on Norwegian double standards regarding petroleum activity in high Arctic waters.
Posted by Sarah Kagan.
While Congress debated hotly contested energy packages, the Department of Interior was exposed for rampant corruption, drug use and sexual misconduct in a report issued last week. With such high gas prices, Americans deserve real solutions to our energy security problems and honest, trustworthy agencies to implement them. Until the Department of Interior cleans house and reevaluates their entire culture of corruption, Congress should not authorize new drilling plans for the agency to implement.
The Minerals Management Service—the hotbed of the scandal—is in charge of managing our offshore drilling programs. This means that those entrusted with deciding how to use American’s resources were getting drunk at Shell-sponsored golf games or were literally in bed with oil company reps. Our government was cheating on America with Big Oil. Now that they’ve been caught, will things change?
Currently, Big Oil and their government friends are trying to jam through energy packages in Congress that will continue special treatment of oil interests and increase oil companies’ profits—at the expense of the average American citizen and special ecological areas that deserve protection. Senator Bill Nelson from Florida said it best: “The rest of the United States government doesn’t need to jump in bed with” the oil industry. Instead, we need to find real solutions to the current energy crisis.
We already know we can’t drill our way to energy security—even oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens admitted that. A recent national energy poll indicates that 83% of Americans support a plan to end our addiction to oil through investments in clean energy—some 20% more than those who support increased offshore drilling. Furthermore, the costs of drilling outweigh the benefits. According to the Department of Energy, offshore drilling will bring no relief at the pump. So for no economic advantage, Americans are being asked to increase our dependence on polluting and finite fossil fuels and put coastal communities, wildlife and ecosystems at great risk.
We’ve already seen the MMS recklessly sell off over 70 million acres of America’s rapidly changing Arctic waters to Shell and other oil companies—despite clear evidence that doing so will increase global warming, push polar bears closer to extinction and threaten the subsistence lifestyles of Alaska Native communities. Even the MMS’s own Environmental Impact Statement on the Chukchi Sea estimates there is a 40% chance of one or more spills spewing more than 42,000 gallons of oil into Arctic waters. What’s more, the environmental conditions in this icy region preclude even cursory clean-up efforts, and no reliable method exists for cleaning up oil in broken sea ice. Proposals to expand oil and gas exploration pose unacceptable risks to a system that is already badly stressed by global warming. They will also perpetuate our addiction to fossil fuels while further worsening the impact of climate change.
Instead, we need energy plans that will actually make a difference. A serious national commitment to renewable energy will put our economy back on the path to prosperity by bringing energy costs under control, creating over 820,000 new jobs, and making us more energy independent. The honest answer to our oil problem is to use less of it, and that means better fuel economy and a shift toward renewable energy. Instead of the failed policies of the past, it’s time to break our addiction to fossil fuels by shifting our priorities—and our policies—toward clean energy sources like wind and solar power and efficiency measures.
We shouldn’t have to watch MMS’s walk of shame. Congress needs to take a stand. They plan to hold hearings in response to this report; they should also stop any new drilling plans. Its time for government to break-up with Big Oil and push forward real energy solutions that actually help Americans and increase our energy security.