Saturday, November 19, 2016

Obama Administration Closes Arctic and Atlantic Coasts to New Offshore Drilling

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:

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

$370 Million Win for Gulf Restoration Announced Today

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.”
PHOTO: The Brown Pelican, the Louisiana State Bird. Via Wikimedia Commons Images: By Terry Foote [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Upcoming climate conference COP22 previewed by State Department today

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.
READ the transcript of today's call here. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons: By Wolf Gang - On global warming, Public Domain,