Friday, December 16, 2016
The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council approved its updated Comprehensive Plan to restore Gulf Coast ecosystems "and their natural resource dependent economies" it was announced today in a press release. Kara Lankford, Interim Director of Ocean Conservancy’s Gulf Restoration Program, said in a statement: "Ocean Conservancy is pleased to see the Gulf Ecosystem Restoration Council renew their commitment in this updated plan to using the best available science when selecting projects to restore the Gulf. This road map for comprehensive restoration of the Gulf ecosystem is a critical foundation piece to ensure a science-based, holistic approach." The Council, in its report, says that "Gulf restoration funding is distributed among a number of entities and programs, each with its own set of guidelines and decision processes." As anyone trying to untangle red tape knows, what matters is who gets paid and when. The Clean Water Act penalties resulting from the spring 2010 BP/Deepwater Horizon oil disaster are allocated as follows: - 35% allocated for ecosystem restoration, economic development, and tourism promotion, distributed to all five affected Gulf states (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas); - 30% for what are called "Council-administered restoration activities"; 30% to the states based on impact (i.e. Louisiana was hit the hardest as it was closest to the April 20, 2010 spill); -2.5% for research administered by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); and 2.5% administered by the U.S. Treasury for Gulf research programs. Read about the Comprehensive Plan here. Photo: Wikimedia Commons images; by Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Stumberg, from www.defense.gov/photoessays/photoessayss.aspx?id=1667
Saturday, December 10, 2016
This article was originally published on Examiner.com, (from May 13, 2016)
This week 14 Nobel Prize winners and scientists released an open letter urging the Nobel Foundation to divest its $420 million endowment from fossil fuels. Right now Divest Nobel activists are creatively protesting outside the prestigious Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm to make sure the message to divest is heard. After all, Chemist Alfred Nobel said in his will:
"Nobel prizes should be awarded to those who “shall have conferred the greatest benefit to [hu]mankind.”In a prepared statement emailed today, a spokesperson for 350.org, the climate change activists, said: "The world is watching. Amplify the call to divest the Nobel Foundation right now: Tweet @NobelPrize or comment on their Facebook page. World-changing physicists, chemists, journalists, lawyers and authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report all argue that Nobel "should not profit from the destruction of our planet’s climate," according to the statement. Three fifity.org points out the irony that the Nobel Foundation, which was established to celebrate those benefitting humankind, should be partly funding its activities from companies doing harm - from BP to Shell to Lukoil. Laureates who are being conferred the great prize echo the sentiment in their letter: “As laureates and scientists embracing Alfred Nobel’s final words, it is our expectation that the Nobel Foundation also act in the interest of humankind which includes caring for the health of the planet which we all rely upon.” You can add your own voice to the voices of the 14 Laureates and the Divest Nobel crew in Stockholm by tweeting here. Photo: By Strakhov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Friday, December 9, 2016
NEW ORLEANS, LA – The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council has released an update to its 2013 Comprehensive Plan, the council shared in an emailed statement yesterday, Dec. 8. The update provides additional "strategic guidance" for the council to follow as they make decisions on restoration funding projects in the Gulf of Mexico. The group will meet to vote on the Comprehensive Plan Update and hear from restoration partners including representatives from the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund. The meeting will be next Friday, December 16, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Celestin Ballroom Section E (3rd Floor), 601 Loyola Avenue in NOLA from 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. The public is invited to attend. For additional information, and to register for this meeting please click here. Onsite registration will be available on the day of the meeting from 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. This meeting is also available via live webinar and may be posted on www.RestoreTheGulf.gov. You can register for the webinar here (link is external). The Comprehensive Plan Update is intended to improve council decisions by reinforcing the council’s goals and objectives, setting forth an initial 10-year funding strategy, and establishing the council’s vision for Gulf restoration, among other goals. The Council has updated its Initial Comprehensive Plan to include recent developments in Gulf restoration such as the resolution of civil claims against BP for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. With the recent announcement that President-Elect Trump's proposed EPA Administrator will be Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, citizens of the Gulf have reason for concern: a ramp up, not winding down, of deepwater drilling means more risk for spills such as occurred in April, 2010.
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Environmental groups nationwide, from Natural Resources Defense Council to Friends of the Earth, have sent out press releases today warning that Donald Trump's proposed EPA chief, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is anti-climate science and bad for the environment. The nomination will be reviewed during hearings held by the Environment and Public Works Committee, before moving to the Senate for a vote. The National Audubon Society says they are "deeply concerned" and this climate denier "has no place leading the Environmental Protection Agency." The Trump transition team announced the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as a candidate for administrator of the agency today, prompting The National Audubon Society's response from its president and CEO, David Yarnold: “Scott Pruitt’s nomination as the anti-EPA Administrator causes us deep concern. The Environmental Protection Agency's work has always been based on science, but Pruitt is a climate change denier who has worked to dismantle well-grounded protections for clean air and clean water. "Those protections have benefited birds and kids for decades and the next administration’s EPA needs to base its work on scientific consensus, something Pruitt hasn't shown a willingness to do. We urge the Senate to hold an EPA administrator to those basic standards." A cursory check of Pruitt's background reveals that the staunch Republican, a former Oklahoma state senator, is not only anti-climate science, but against gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act. Friends of the Earth said in its press release today that the appointee is a "big polluter" who sued the EPA "multiple times to stop them from protecting air and water." He also, FOE point out, has deep ties to the oil and gas industry. Natural gas mogul Harold Hamm was the chair of his latest re-election campaign, while in an official role Pruitt has delivered letters to the EPA that were drafted for him by the oil and gas industry, say Friends of the Earth.influenced by a Leonardo DiCaprio documentary on climate change, and she held a widely publicized meet-and-greet with Al Gore at Trump Tower recently. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons Images: Scott Pruitt speaking at CPAC 2016 in National Harbor, Maryland. Mar 5, 2016, by Gage Skidmore.
Thursday, December 1, 2016
The Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division today, Dec. 1, announced that Carnival Corporation’s Princess Cruise Lines will plead guilty to dumping oil-contaminated waste into the sea and covering it up. In a press release issued today, Friends of the Earth shared the news that illegal discharges have been occurring by the Caribbean Princess since 2005, which will result in seven felony charges and a $40 million penalty. This is the largest fine in the history of criminal cases involving deliberate vessel pollution. Friends of the Earth gave Princess Cruises a C grade overall, with an F for transparency, in its 2016 Cruise Ship Report Card. John Kaltenstein, senior policy analyst for Friends of the Earth, issued the following response: "Princess Cruise Lines’ offense is all too reminiscent of cases in the 1990s when the cruise industry was exposed by the US federal government for dumping oily waste and bypassing their treatment systems to save money. Deliberate pollution is completely unacceptable and we continue to call on the cruise industry to be transparent and clean up its act. The entire industry needs to be investigated, and the ships violating the law should be banned from U.S. waters for at least one year. This egregious case of wrongdoing shows just how critically we need federal agency and congressional oversight of cruise industry pollution practices. Princess’s behavior also shows that we cannot take this polluting industry’s claims of environmental responsibility at face value even when they install the most current pollution control technologies, as systems can be avoided or deactivated so that untreated waste flows right into the sea. The discharge of oil into our oceans is extremely harmful to marine life and can have long-lasting environmental and economic repercussions. The corporate culture that gave rise to these deceptive and illegal acts ought to be scrutinized, both within Princess and at the other cruise line brands comprising the Carnival group. For years Friends of the Earth has been saying that this sector is not as green as it claims to be. Today’s announcement of Princess’s guilty plea is proof that talk is cheap and that the cruise ship industry still has a long way to go until its practices match its rhetoric." To view the results of the 2016 and past years’ Cruise Ship Report Card grading pollution and transparency, visit http://www.foe.org/cruise-report-card
Saturday, November 19, 2016
Five-year plan keeps crucial bird habitat safe from new oil and gas leases. Yesterday, Nov. 18, National Audubon Society issued a press release announcing that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will remove the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans from offshore leasing for the next five years, through 2022. This move protects areas with critical wildlife habitat. That Atlantic waters would not be in the lease plan is not a surprise, Audubon says on its website: "The Obama administration announced in March of this year that it would not pursue leases there after an outcry from environmental and business groups and, more surprisingly, the Pentagon, which claimed that oil rigs would impede offshore training exercises critical to protecting the East Coast." But until this most recent announcement, three leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, and 10 sales in the Gulf, were still under consideration. It is those three Arctic sites that have been pulled from the latest lease plan. "Hitting the pause button on offshore drilling in the Arctic is exactly the right thing to do,” said David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society. “Offshore drilling is a dirty and dangerous business, and removing the Arctic Ocean from the offshore leasing plan gives everyone time to think hard about how well water and oil mix. The Obama administration understands that the productivity of our oceans is jeopardized when we drill in the wrong places. We should be thinking first about protecting ocean life and quickly moving to cleaner sources of energy." According to the National Audubon Society, there are 10 "globally-significant Important Bird Areas" that support millions of birds in the Arctic Ocean and along its shoreline in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. The Chukchi and Beaufort seas also tout polar bears, walruses, four species of ice seals, and several species of whales. “The Arctic Ocean contains vital ecological areas that are critical for the survival of many birds and wildlife species,” said Nils Warnock, Executive Director for Audubon Alaska. “This prudent five-year program prevents new leasing in this crucial habitat at a time of unprecedented ecological change in the Arctic.” Audubon stresses that offshore from Barrow, the farthest north community in the US, lies a a hot spot of biodiversity. The seafloor drops dramatically and creates an underwater canyon there. When the cold Arctic current encounters this barrier, it rises to create a fertile upwelling of foods consumed by many types of larger marine animals, such as bowhead and beluga whales. Then in the shallower waters of Harrison Bay, millions of birds congregate to tap rich aquatic foods. The Colville River is Alaska’s largest Arctic river, and the nutrient supply from the Colville combines with water from Harrison Bay. The sheltered waters support diverse bird species of concern, from Artic terns to Yellow-billed loons, from Surf scoters to King eiders. The Proposed Final Program now goes to Congress for a 60-day period, before BOEM registers the final Record of Decision. Donald J. Trump takes office January 20, and the Republicans will control both the House and the Senate. There is grave concern in environmental quarters about what the president-elect and his administration will or won't do concerning wildlife protection and climate change. Theoretically or practically, any actions Obama has taken could be reversed under President Trump. FOR MORE INFORMATION: The Vital Arctic Ocean Areas Storymap highlights ecologically important areas, told through articles written by Arctic field biologists and researchers. The National Audubon Society saves birds and their habitats throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. PHOTO: An Arctic tern; Wikimedia Commons Image, Andreas Weith, Aug. 3, 2015: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:AWeith
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Today, Nov. 15, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) approved a nearly $370 million investment in 24 new Gulf Coast restoration projects. The sum includes $245 million dedicated specifically to five Louisiana coastal restoration projects, and $100 million to be set aside for engineering and designing what they say are "two key restoration projects" in the state, the Mid-Barataria and Mid-Breton Sediment Diversions. Louisiana bore the brunt of the 2010 BP oil spill and Corexit damage, with the environmental catastrophe occurring off its shores; and even now, nearly six years later, is experiencing eco-system and wildlife degradation in the marshes and environs. "NFWF will ultimately dedicate $2.5 billion from BP’s criminal fines towards restoring the habitats of the Gulf Coast that were impacted by the spill," NFWF said in a statement. Restore the Mississippi River Delta – which includes Environmental Defense Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement: “Today’s announcement signals progress on two vitally important coastal restoration projects in Louisiana. The Mid-Barataria and Mid-Breton Sediment Diversions are key to reversing Louisiana’s land loss trend, by mimicking the natural land-building processes of the Mississippi River and carrying water and sediment into degraded wetlands to build new land. “Diversions are a critical component of a comprehensive restoration and protection strategy for Louisiana. They can help revive Louisiana’s coastal wetlands – part of America’s largest delta – to a productive, functioning state, which provides important ecological and economic opportunities and benefits for people and wildlife. “As the state of Louisiana engages in the 2017 Coastal Master Plan process, we must ensure the plan covers a suite of coastal restoration and protection projects, including these keystone diversions." Pres. and CEO of the NFWF, Collin O’Mara, said in his statement: “Several of these projects are critical efforts to restore more natural water flows in degraded areas. Today’s announcement includes $100 million for the engineering and design of two key projects in Louisiana that will mimic natural river processes by allowing fresh water and sediment to reach rapidly-eroding wetlands. Similarly, the construction of two freshwater siphons in Texas’ Salt Bayou watershed will help recreate natural flows to 18,000 acres of wetlands damaged by saltwater intrusion. “There are three main streams of Gulf restoration funding and we appreciate NFWF’s efforts to create synergies with projects from other sources. For example, today’s announcement of $16 million to benefit sea turtles and marine mammals will amplify ongoing efforts to reduce sea turtle by-catch and monitor their nesting success. “Finally, this money will secure key ecosystems on the Alabama and Mississippi coasts, enlarging protected habitats in rapidly developing coastal areas. All of these efforts will improve the health and resiliency of the Gulf and benefit people and wildlife.”
Thursday, November 3, 2016
Special Envoy for Climate Change at the U.S Department of State Dr. Jonathan Pershing and Director for Energy and Climate Change for the National Security Council John Morton previewed the upcoming COP 22 Climate Conference for reporters this morning. The call began at 10:30 a.m. ET and included an opportunity for questions from reporters from Bloomberg, The New York Times, NPR, and Wall Street Journal, among others. Of the questions, a notable theme emerged: would the progress made following the Paris Agreement be for naught should Donald J. Trump become President? The conference kicks off in Marrakech, Morocco Nov. 7 and lasts through the 18th. Representatives and heads of state from all over the world will attend. Simultaneously, the 12th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 12) will be held there. Morton introduced the call to cheer work being done on the part of the Obama Administration. "We’re coming into this year’s COP with a tremendous amount of positive momentum. Reaching the Paris Agreement in December of last year was clearly a watershed moment for the international community and one that was appropriately reported in that way," adding that by all measures, 2016 has been a "truly historic year for international climate action." Morton said in the last two months alone there has been a "rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement" which has occurred, he claimed, "much, much faster, years faster, than most people expected. And with that entry into force, that puts us on a much accelerated path toward implementation of the goals that we laid out in Paris a year ago." On October 5 of this year, as noted on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change website, "the threshold for entry into force of the Paris Agreement was achieved." The Paris Agreement will enter into force tomorrow, November 4. Thus, this will be the very first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement. However, as the reporters' line of questioning today reveals, Americans and in turn the world, have much to fear should Hillary Clinton not win the Oval Office. Donald J. Trump does not believe climate change is real. Or if he does, he's hiding it behind the kind of inane and vitriolic nonsense that would be shameful in a fifth grade science class. Climate change is not a "hoax", as Trump alleges, and this conference is key. Pershing and Morton today expressed the importance of adaptive technologies and procedures, for example, which can help communities deal with the effects of flood, drought, and sea level rise on the heels of the warmest year on record. Morton said, "In many cases the focus is on adapting, but at the same time local and state governments have a lot to do and are doing a lot already on the mitigation side – [be they] policies, plans, codes, or zoning requirements," for example. These are often heavily as focused on mitigation as they are on adaptation "and we will have some adaptation-related announcements about this during COP." Pershing said three takeaways of the conference should be: 1. "To make the world aware we [meaning Americans and the global community, one assumes] are continuing to prioritize this issue"; 2 "To work to develop rules and guidelnes to put more flesh on the framework developed in Paris"; and 3 To work on implementing and putting into action what was drawn out in Paris, manfiesting from "both the US and a variety of people around the world" as there is an accelerated move toward emissions reductions. here. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons: By Wolf Gang - On global warming, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48067856.
Monday, October 24, 2016
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
In a conference call today from Washington, D.C., the Our Ocean conference, to be hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry, was previewed for reporters. The September 15 to 16 event, according to its website, has been designed to "catalyze actions" to protect the ocean from human-induced threats -- including unsustainable and illegal fishing, marine pollution, and climate-related impacts -- and "to empower a new generation to lead the way toward a healthy and sustainable ocean." Some of the speakers at the event will include Ministers of Fisheries and Foreign Affairs and other heads of state from around the world as well as actor-cum-environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio and other environmentalists, and industry big wigs. Speaking at 12 ET were Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine Novelli and Special Envoy for Climate Change Dr. Jonathan Pershing. After speaking, they took a handful of calls from reporters from AP and other news agencies as well as me. The takeaways: - Firstly, on the website, Sectretary of State John Kerry says, “We have to keep the momentum going so that we can come together and protect our ocean. Why? Because our ocean is absolutely essential for life itself – not just the food, but the oxygen and weather cycles of the planet all depend on the ocean.” - Secondly, the event organizers expect to effect real change following this, the third annual Our Ocean conference. Novelli pointed out that last year, the result was $4 billion in "ocean conservation activity" and this "ended up with marine protected areas, which are like national parks in the ocean." Novelli intimated that more marine protected areas could result from this conference. - Seventy-one percent of Earth's surface is made up of our ocean, which is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, i.e. acidification, as well as overfishing and other ills. - During the conference there will be an announcement on the website regarding banning of plastic bags in some countries. When AP science writer Seth Borenstein asked which countries, and if that included the US, Novelli paused and then encouraged the reporter to check the website during the conference. - In response to this reporter's inquiry about how a new Administration, i.e. one that does not support the reality of climate change, could affect work the organizers are doing, Novelli was quick to assert that the conference will continue for at least three more years. "What's so exciting is that because this (the problems in the ocean) has now been elevated and so many countries are involved, the EU has announced they will host the next conference in 2017 for our ocean; but, what is not known and will be announced, [though we aren't announcing yet which} countries and which years, is we know this will continue and we are very, very excited about that.” - And in response to this reporter's query about the Paris Agreement being non-binding and how that could impact their results at the conference, Pershing said in part, "The meetings were meant to be the start of a process, not the end. I've been talking to people and they are now implementing [aspects of the Agreement.] He said that the ramifications are "not just a legal exercise, but a political exercise" and affect the countries at a very deep level. There's been a sharp decline in some alternative energy source prices, he said, and a move toward renewables. "In the the last eight years since we've been in office, the price of solar is down by a factor of 10" and wind and geothermal, too are compeitive, he said. "This shows we won't reverse course."
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Today, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council published an update of its Comprehensive Plan, worth billions, to restore the gulf post-BP oil spill. It augments the original comprehensive plan approved two years earlier. One of the highlights of the report was that the Council is affirming its commitment to incorporate the best available science, which they note "will evolve over time" and with "changing conditions." One example of a science-based funding priority is developing "science tools to support freshwater inflow restoration" and prioritizing future conservation. Further, the Council is committed to studying the Lower Mississippi River to "support more holistic river management." The plan's reaffirmation of the Council's commitment to science-based and other funding priorities is consistent with Congressional decreeNational Wildlife Federation, said of the update: “For wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico, the Deepwater Horizon disaster is not over. More than six years after the well was capped, dolphins are still dying, corals are still damaged, and sea turtles are still struggling to nest. The comprehensive plan as updated would help ensure billions of dollars are spent well on restoring the Gulf. We’re pleased with many elements of the draft—particularly the emphasis on coordination at all levels and the support for efforts at a scale that will deliver cumulative benefits to the Gulf of Mexico. And Kara Lankford, interim director for Ocean Conservancy’s Gulf Restoration Program, said in a written statement: " “The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council is headed in the right direction, and we think this updated plan represents progress. This plan update wasn’t due until 2018, so the Council is ahead of schedule. The Council has a huge task ahead to help restore the environment of the Gulf region. Commendably, they have committed to restoring the Gulf ecosystem by working in a more holistic fashion, rather than state by state, or agency by agency. Dolphins and many other Gulf wildlife swim across state lines, and that is why it is necessary for Council members to work together to restore the Gulf ecosystem as a whole. Likewise, we’re pleased to see the Council include a renewed commitment to updating and improving how science will be utilized in its project selection processes.” The Council will also hold a number of public and Tribal meetings across the Gulf to hear from the public and Tribes regarding this update. The locations, dates, and times for the public meetings can be found at RestoretheGulf.gov. Caption: By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region - Oil arrives on Bon Secour (La.) Uploaded by AlbertHerring, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29827305