By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, and Michael Conathan, Director of Ocean Policy, Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Shell Oil's Noble Discoverer drill ship
Early this morning, House Republican appropriators unveiled their version of the 2012 spending bill for the Department of Interior (DOI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and related agencies. Rather than focus on just spending provisions and monetary details, appropriators added a handful of nasty policy riders that would advance Republicans’ Big Oil agenda and reward corporate polluters at the expense of public health and our lands and waters.
One of the worst of these riders is Section 432, which would keep companies interested drilling off the coast of Alaska from needing to get Clean Air Act permits. Also, the bill would transfer air permitting authority from EPA to DOI, which “in essence eliminates the Environmental Appeals Board from being able to review permits (and prevents legal challenges),” according to Earthjustice. This rider is designed to fast-track oil drilling in Alaska’s frigid and fragile Chukchi Sea, which Shell Oil has been pursuing for years.
Alaska native communities have been most successful in protecting their homes from Shell’s drilling operations by challenging EPA’s issuance of Clean Air Act permits. This provision would remove that safety net for their survival.
Other bad policy riders snuck into the bill include “light bulb ban” language and denial of climate rules: Read more
Interior Streamlines Clean Energy Empowerment For Tribal Lands |
Highlighting Secretary Ken Salazar’s commitment to clean energy development, the Department of Interior has announced new rules intended to accelerate the construction of wind and solar energy projects on Native American lands. Old regulations for the 56 millions acres held by Interior in trust for Native American tribes required a review for every lease, no matter the size, by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Under the proposed rules, the bureau will have a 30-day time limit on residential leases, and a 60-day limit on solar and business leases, with some activities only requiring tribal review.
Coast Guard Official To Lead Policing Of Offshore Drilling |
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar named a Coast Guard official who played a key role in the response to the BP oil spill as director of the newly launched Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). Rear Adm. James A. Watson IV will take over the agency that handles permitting, enforcement of environmental and safety rules, and other tasks, and he replaces Michael Bromwich, the former director who oversaw the restructuring of the agency after last year’s Gulf Coast oil spill. Watson worked as the federal on-scene coordinator during the BP oil disaster. “The safe and responsible production of oil and gas from our nation’s oceans is vital to our energy security,” Watson said. According to the Hill, Salazar previously had said the BSEE director needed to manage the intense politics that come with regulating oil drilling.
By Tom Kenworthy, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress.
A little more than a week ago, a grand experiment long in the making began unfolding on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State: the removal of two large dams on the Elwha River and one of the most important river restoration efforts ever undertaken. Dave Reynolds of the National Park Service explained the beginning of the process at Glines Canyon dam, while jackhammers and construction crews work behind him:
I think this is a historic day for the National Park Service and for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the start of this three-year process here at Glines Canyon dam and, in a few days, at Elwha Dam. Of course preparations have been ongoing all summer, but this is a great day to really get removal started and the beginning of this process. It’s a new beginning for the Elwha River.
Watch it (video courtesy of Peninsula Daily News):
Appropriately enough, much of the media coverage – including an ambitious multi-media report by the Seattle Times – focused on how the removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams will restore epic salmon runs that were destroyed nearly a century ago and heal a 70-mile river ecosystem stretching from the ocean to the mountains of Olympic National Park.
But almost lost in the coverage was another important story: that restoration of rivers and landscapes scarred by old commercial enterprises can be an economic boon as well. At the Elwha River, a National Park Service study of the dam removal project found that 1,150–1,240 jobs will be generated by dam removal and river restoration, while even more jobs will be generated from increased tourism to Clallam County, Washington.
Restoration, especially in the western U.S., is a serious job creator. As the Center for American Progress’ recent report entitled “The Jobs Case for Conservation,” concluded in regard to restoration:
Thousands of long- and short-term jobs can be created through restoration and reforestation of public lands. Various government and independent analyses have found that every $1 million invested in restoration activities such as river and road restoration, hazardous fuels reduction, and tree planting creates between 13 and 30 direct, indirect, and induced jobs, many in the private sector.
And so it will be on the Elwha River project. In its 2005 environmental and economic analysis of the proposal to remove both dams, the National Park Service projected that total benefits over the 100 years following removal would be about $355 million, almost twice the cost of actually removing the structures. Most of the benefit would come from increased fishing, recreation and tourism opportunities.
At the same time as excavators began breaking down the concrete of the two Elwha River dams, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the completion of technical studies on another possible Pacific Northwest dam removal project: a plan to tear out four dams on the Klamath River near the border of California and Oregon. That project would create some 450 jobs annually from both dam removals and improvements to fisheries and water quality.
This is just one example of the tremendous opportunity we have to get Oregonians back to work across the state restoring the health of our watersheds, fisheries and forests and better position Oregon for long-term prosperity.
The global companies with the sharpest focus on climate change have rewarded their investors with double the average return of the world’s corporate titans. That’s the startling message from the Carbon Disclosure Project, which released its annual Global 500 report on Wednesday.
On behalf of over 550 investment companies, managing $71 trillion of assets between them, the CDP challenged the 500 biggest companies in the world by market capitalisation to reveal detailed information about their carbon footprints and the action they are taking to tackle and adapt to global warming: 404 (81%) responded.
The CDP then compared the total financial returns between January 2005 and May 2011 of the companies identified as “carbon performance leaders” against the average of all 500. The former generated a return of 86%, the latter 43%.
By Climate Guest Blogger on Aug 14, 2011 at 9:03 am
by Tom Kenworthy and Kate Gordon
In late March, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar traveled to Cheyenne, Wyo., to announce that his department would soon sell leases to 752 million tons of coal from public holdings in the Powder River Basin, and was proceeding on future sales of an additional 1.6 billion tons.
Salazar called coal “a critical component of America’s comprehensive energy portfolio, as well as Wyoming’s economy” and said “it’s important that we continue to encourage safe production of this important resource.” Salazar made no mention of the potential for some of that coal being sold and shipped to Asia. He may have been the only person in Wyoming that day with an interest in energy who wasn’t thinking about coal exports.
Just before Salazar’s visit to Wyoming, the two giant companies that mine about half of the state’s annual coal production, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, announced deals that could lead to a big jump in the now relatively small business of sending Western U.S. coal to hungry markets in China, Japan, India and other Asian nations. In mid-June, newspapers in the Pacific Northwest reported that two Oregon ports on the Columbia River are also being considered as sites for exporting coal to Asia.
All of that has prompted an escalating battle in the Pacific Northwest over what could be the first U.S. coal export terminals on the West Coast. And, combined with Salazar’s boosterism, it has raised questions about whether the United States is backsliding on the fight against global climate change.
China may be a world leader in developing clean, renewable energy, but it still has a huge appetite for coal and is expected to build 773,000 megawatts of coal-fired electricity between 2007 and 2030. Even with the third largest coal reserves in the world, China is stepping up imports.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) has jumped in with a letter to the acting director of the Interior Department’s inspector general’s office, claiming falsely that Monnett’s research was “the foundation” for the government’s decision in 2008 to list the bear as a threatened species because of global warming. In reality, Monnett’s paper is only a minor but evocative element of the large body of research pointing to the fossil-fueled extinction of the polar bear.