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Natural Resources Defense Council

www.nrdc.org/
New York, NY, United States

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a New York City-based, non-profit international environmental advocacy group, with offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Beijing. Founded in 1970, NRDC today has 1.4 million members and online activities nationwide and a staff of more than 400 lawyers, scientists and other policy experts.The charity monitoring group Charity Navigator gave the Natural Resources Defense Council four out of four stars overall and three out of four stars for its financial practices. Wikipedia.

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News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: marketersmedia.com

— According to a recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, nearly 77 million Americans received their drinking water from systems violating federal protections in 2015, and more than one-third of them relied on systems that did not comply with standards put in place to protect health. Every public water supplier in the United States is legally required to uphold a certain level of water quality, but violations remain widespread, according to the report. In addition, some water systems are contaminated by substances not yet regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. “It is ongoing, published information such as this report from the Natural Resources Defense Council that explains why fewer than 50 percent of the U.S. population are confident in their tap water, according to an Associated Press poll,” said Allen Baler, Partner at 4Patriots LLC, a Nashville, Tenn.-based company that provides a variety of products that help people become more self-reliant and independent. “With the preponderance of news stories about contaminants showing up in the water supplies of city after city in the U.S., I can’t imagine anything more important than protecting ourselves and our families from the contaminants in our tap water. We owe it to ourselves to take charge of the situation and make sure the water we’re drinking in our homes is safe.” One way to safeguard against contaminated water is with the Alexapure Pro tabletop water purifier, which is capable of transforming contaminated water from virtually any source into clean, safe, delicious water. An advanced engineered, two-stage filter removes up to 99.99 percent of contaminants, including heavy metals such as lead, as well as arsenic, pharmaceuticals – even E. coli and polio. Drinking contaminated water, regardless of the source, can cause serious illness and even death. With a 2.3 gallon-per-hour flow rate, the Alexapure Pro purifies water about three times faster than many of its competitors. Users will be able to access up to 5,000 gallons of fresh, clean water from it before the filter needs to be replaced. Priced at $197, that comes out to approximately 4 cents per gallon. Bottled water, usually originating from unknown sources, costs considerably more. No gas, electricity or water pressure is needed to operate the Alexapure Pro. It removes contaminants using only gravity, producing the most essential item to have now and during an emergency: clean, crystal-clear water. In addition to complimentary shipping, those who purchase the Alexapure Pro water filtration system also receive a credit card-sized steel survival tool featuring 11 different functions, as well as a hardcopy book, “The Water Survival Guide.” They are also able to acquire the Alexapure Go Bottle (priced at $47), which features the same advanced engineering of the Alexapure Pro and which can filter 300 gallons of water, can be stored in a backpack or bug-out bag, and is ideal for camping, hiking, biking or any other outdoor activities. Also available from Water4Patriots is the Survival Spring ($24.95), a nine-inch long, two-ounce straw made of BPA-free, food-grade materials that can filter up to 300 gallons of water and can easily be carried anywhere. Water4Patriots provides products that help people eliminate contaminants from their drinking water, including the Alexapure Pro tabletop water purifier, the Alexapure Pro Go Bottle and the Survival Spring straw. Each product purifies contaminated water from virtually any source into clean, safe, delicious water. For more information, please visit http://www.4patriots.com


News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: www.fooddive.com

Scientists and packaging companies have been working for years to develop technology that indicates spoilage in food and beverage products. Several years ago, researchers at the University of Rhode Island came up with heat-sensing UPC codes that would change color when a fresh product became too warm, indicating contamination. In 2014, Chinese researchers developed corn kernel-sized tags that could attach to packaging and change color when spoilage was present. These efforts, along with others, have yet to reach commercial viability since special sensors can be difficult to replicate in mass quantities, and at a cost that’s agreeable to manufacturers. For now, food and beverage companies rely on various “best by” and “sell by” claims to indicate product freshness. But these claims have proven to be a headache for consumers who have a hard time figuring out what many of them mean. What does a “better if used by” date indicate? Does a “sell by” date point out when a product will spoil? In fact, these dates indicate product quality rather than product safety; federal law only requires that baby food contain a spoilage date. In the absence of clear instructions, many consumers simply throw out food that’s nearing or has reached its on-pack date. This creates vast amounts of food waste, according to organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council, which estimates that people throw out a billion pounds of food each year due to label confusion. Developing clearer labels, organizations estimate, could reduce food waste in the U.S. by as much as 8%. Regulators and industry groups are working towards this goal. In December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Food Safety and Inspection Service recommended that manufacturers only use a “best if used by” label on meat, dairy and other fresh food packaging. The Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, meanwhile, recommend two labels: “BEST If Used By" to signify product quality and "USE by" to indicate the safety of perishable products. Each year, 1 in 6 Americans gets sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of these illnesses, likely caused by eating spoiled food, could be prevented with packaging that alerts the consumer.


News Article | May 11, 2017
Site: www.sej.org

"Problems continue to mount for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. To high unemployment, a lagging economy and billions in public debt, add unsafe drinking water to the island's list of woes. A new study by the Natural Resources Defense Council says nearly all of the tap water available on the island violates federal safety standards. The report says many municipal waters systems in Puerto Rico aren't tested regularly. Among those that are tested, the NRDC says it found the nation's highest rate of drinking water violations. More than 2.4 million people in the U.S. territory draw their water from systems which contain harmful bacteria or other contaminants. And almost none of the municipal water systems on the island test for lead contamination. The environmental group is calling on federal, commonwealth and local authorities to make a major investment in the island's water infrastructure and to upgrade testing for contaminants. Puerto Rico's Aqueduct and Sewer Authority is one of the many public agencies on the island struggling to provide services. It holds some $5 billion of the commonwealth's $73 billion public debt."


Problems continue to mount for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. To high unemployment, a lagging economy and billions in public debt, add unsafe drinking water to the island's list of woes. A new study by the Natural Resources Defense Council says nearly all of the tap water available on the island violates federal safety standards. The report says many municipal waters systems in Puerto Rico aren't tested regularly. Among those that are tested, the NRDC says it found the nation's highest rate of drinking water violations. More than 2.4 million people in the U.S. territory draw their water from systems which contain harmful bacteria or other contaminants. And almost none of the municipal water systems on the island test for lead contamination. The environmental group is calling on federal, commonwealth and local authorities to make a major investment in the island's water infrastructure and to upgrade testing for contaminants. Puerto Rico's Aqueduct and Sewer Authority is one of the many public agencies on the island struggling to provide services. It holds some $5 billion of the commonwealth's $73 billion public debt. Next week in San Juan, a federal judge will begin overseeing a hearing to restructure that debt under a special law passed by Congress. As part of the proceedings, similar to bankruptcy, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain will decide how Puerto Rico's assets will be distributed among its various classes of bondholders. A fiscal oversight board set up by Congress has approved a spending plan submitted by Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello that imposes severe spending cuts. As part of that plan, the island last week announced its closing 179 public schools, a move expected to save more than $7 million. Rossello's administration also wants to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the University of Puerto Rico, a proposal that's been met by protests, faculty resignations and a student strike.


News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: www.greentechmedia.com

Closing a nuclear power plant is like wading through wet concrete: The hard part is yet to come. That hard part is coming fast to New York, where the state’s political leadership committed to ramping up to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 while shutting down the clean baseload power of the Indian Point nuclear plant by 2021. To meet several environmental regulations while providing for the necessary energy and capacity to serve the nation's most populous city will require some energy acrobatics. Adding 450 megawatts of energy storage could lower costs and carbon emissions compared to other options, while meeting grid requirements, a new study shows. "Storage can really be a viable option in these very tailored needs that are difficult to meet with other conventional resources," said author Ed Burgess, senior manager at Strategen Consulting. A different plan produced by environmental groups opposed to the nuclear plant argues that massive amounts of energy efficiency, combined with the required renewables expansion, can fill the gap. With the clock ticking, the state will have to decide which emerging grid technology deserves its favor, if it wants to avoid building a bunch of new gas peaking capacity. When Indian Point shuts down early in 2021, per the deal struck by Governor Andrew Cuomo, it will eliminate 2,060 megawatts of capacity, or roughly 14 percent of the local capacity required by the grid operator. Energy efficiency and distributed generation already underway will keep load growth flat over the next few years, but the state still has to fill the hole. Cuomo has big plans for 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind, but that's not expected until 2030 at the earliest. In the nearer term, New York can count on a few new combined cycle natural-gas generators, and possibly a 1,000-megawatt high-voltage transmission line to bring power from Hydro Quebec. There is risk in banking too heavily on massive infrastructure projects to bring clean energy down from the north in a timely manner -- they can be delayed for any number of reasons. Gas generation is a more surefire bet in the short term, but it flies in the face of the governor's promise of "no net increase of emissions due to closure," although his reference to measuring this "at the regional level" might allow some wiggle room. Compounding the challenge, the New York metro area has run afoul of federal ozone pollution standards, and old peaking power plants play a significant role in that. New NOx requirements could shutter 1,775 megawatts of old peaking capacity in the 2023 timeframe, according to the Strategen report, which was prepared for the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium. "If those units are affected, that represents a pretty large amount of capacity that's local in New York City, and that would raise additional issues in that early 2020s timeframe," Burgess said. If that happens, even the addition of the new gas plants and the Quebec hydro line will leave a 1,000-megawatt shortfall. It's hard to build that much new peaking capacity in a dense urban region, especially one that's on notice for air quality concerns. And the region already faces gas pipeline constraints in winter months, when gas is also used for heating. Such a shortfall, without other action, would drive capacity costs up to the maximum clearing price, saddling ratepayers with $262 million in annual costs, the analysis finds. The report proposes filling the gap with a combination of 2,400 megawatts of wind generation, 1,125 megawatts of solar, energy efficiency, and, crucially, a backstop of 450 megawatts energy storage. Wind and solar can fill in for the lost energy production on an annual basis, but they alone don't fulfill the capacity requirement, which would otherwise force the construction of new gas plants. Storage isn't cheap, but it is cheaper than the high capacity costs New Yorkers would face without an adequate replacement, and the cost comes down further if you factor in ancillary services and distribution savings the systems could provide. It would be surprising to see a battery consortium publish a study that didn't find storage as a key solution to the problem at hand. That said, the Strategen document comprehensively lays out the ways this technology could meet a wish list of needs for New York, including: The authors suggest setting a competitive procurement target of 450 megawatts for the New York metropolitan area by 2020. They also propose integrating storage into existing programs, like demand response and local government procurements. Statewide, New York could add a supplemental Clean Peak Standard, which calls for a certain amount of clean power delivered during peak hours. That would tweak the existing renewable portfolio standard to increase demand for dispatchable renewables, which almost exclusively requires storage assets to deliver. The storage vision isn't the only option. Riverkeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council, two environmental groups that led the charge to close Indian Point, released their own study in February. This report envisions replacing Indian Point with new renewable generation and a whole lot of assumed energy efficiency. It models energy efficiency deployments -- assumed but not required by the state's clean energy standard -- that reach the equivalent of 91 percent of Indian Point electrical output by 2030. The nice thing about assuming large amounts of energy efficiency is that it reduces the predicted need for new capacity additions. Even then, in the cases where the nuclear plant retires and energy efficiency matches the hopes of the clean energy standard, the state would need nearly 4,000 megawatts of new gas capacity by 2030. That model, though, "builds to maintain resource adequacy, not to address local needs." Strategen's takes a hard look at the real-world needs of the New York City metropolitan area, uncovering local concerns such as the ozone non-attainment and its implications for existing peakers. Storage makes fleeting appearances in the Riverkeeper plan -- if you dig through the appendices you'll see some scenarios call for pretty substantial deployments, but not until 2028, seven years after Indian Point closes. Instead, that modeling puts stock in aggressive energy-efficiency programs, which the authors acknowledge aren't quite ready for primetime. "Critically, such a policy framework is not currently in place in New York for attaining the levels of energy efficiency contemplated in five of the six scenarios considered in this analysis," conclude the authors. "The levels of energy efficiency assumed in the CES order have no binding mechanisms" other than utility implementation plans that only require a fraction of the savings assumed by the CES order. New York has pioneered electricity grid reform that would achieve distributed resource and efficiency improvements through a competitive, market-based system, but evidently even that unfinished vision is not enough to achieve the highest efficiency improvements modeled in the study. "Relying on market-based initiatives and third-party developers to animate markets for energy efficiency, as has been the NY Commission’s stated preference, is unlikely to result in these high efficiency levels on its own," the Riverkeeper study notes. Grid-scale energy storage is still relatively new on the scene, and a 450-megawatt procurement would be ambitious by today's standards. Storage, though, has proven that it can follow through quickly when needed. That may count in its favor as New York figures out what comes after Indian Point.


News Article | May 12, 2017
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

The Environmental Protection Agency has reached a legal settlement with a Canadian company hoping to build a massive gold, copper and molybdenum mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, clearing the way for the firm to apply for federal permits. The settlement reached late Thursday between the EPA and the Pebble Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., could revive a controversial project that was effectively scuttled under the Obama administration. And it underscores how President Trump’s commitment to support mining extends far beyond coal, to gold, copper and other minerals. While the move does not grant immediate approval to the Pebble Mine project, which will have to undergo a federal environmental review and also clear state hurdles before any construction takes place, it reverses the agency’s 2014 determination that a large-scale mine in the area be barred because it would imperil the region’s valuable sockeye salmon fishery. In a statement, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said that the agreement “will not guarantee or prejudge a particular outcome, but will provide Pebble a fair process for their permit application and help steer EPA away from costly and time-consuming litigation.” “We are committed to due process and the rule of law, and regulations that are ‘regular’,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.  “We understand how much the community cares about this issue, with passionate advocates on all sides … We are committed to listening to all voices as this process unfolds.” A coalition of fishing operators, native Alaskans, environmentalists and local businesses have fought the mine proposal for more than a decade, ever since Northern Dynasty Minerals began exploring for minerals in 2004. While this area in southwestern Alaska contains a reservoir of gold worth an estimated $120 billion, its pockmarked lakes and tributaries feed into the headwaters of Bristol Bay, home to a fishery that generates $500 million a year. In 2014 the EPA invoked a rarely used clause of the Clean Water Act, 404(c), to issue a proposed determination that the company could not apply to the Army Corps of Engineers for any permits because a massive mine could have “significant” and potentially “catastrophic” impacts on the region. Alannah Hurley, executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, said in an interview that opponents of the mine “are outraged that this is happening.” “If there’s damage to the watershed and the fisheries, then it would be devastating to our identity as indigenous people,” Hurley said, adding that tribes and other local residents “invited” the EPA to intervene on the issue. “For the company to paint it as federal intervention is completely misleading. The people of Bristol Bay basically cried out to EPA to help us.” [How Trump is unwinding Obama’s legacy, step by step] The company has sued EPA on three different fronts, arguing that the agency violated the Clean Water Act, colluded with outside groups to reach its determination and violated the Freedom of Information Act. The suit concerning the outside groups, filed under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, was the one settled Thursday in federal court in Alaska. Under the terms of the agreement, EPA will begin the process of withdrawing its proposed determination, which will be subject to public notice and comment. It will not take the next step in the process until 48 months from the settlement or until the Army Corps of Engineers issues its final environmental impact statement, whichever comes first. Northern Dynasty Minerals, which has never filed federal permit applications for Pebble Mine, would have to do so within 30 months. “From the outset of this unfortunate saga, we’ve asked for nothing more than fairness and due process under the law — the right to propose a development plan for Pebble and have it assessed against the robust environmental regulations and rigorous permitting requirements enforced in Alaska and the United States,” the company’s chief executive, Ron Thiessen, said in a statement early Friday. “Today’s settlement gives us precisely that, the same treatment every developer and investor in a stable, first world country should expect.” The firm’s stock price has already been bolstered by Trump’s election victory. After falling to as low as 25 cents a share at one point last year, the price soared after the November election, jumping 25 percent overnight and reaching as high as $3.18 earlier this year. The company has touted the likely benefits of having a new, friendlier administration in office. A series of investor presentations by Thiessen included a PowerPoint slide titled “Trump Election Victory — A Return to Normal.” While many congressional Republicans, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and House Science  Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) oppose what they’ve described as EPA’s “preemptive” veto of the project, public opinion in Alaska on the mining proposal remains split. Last fall a ballot measure passed with more than 65 percent that would require the state legislature to pass a measure approving any large-scale mine in the Bristol Bay region, and they would have to determine that such an operation would not imperil the area’s sockeye salmon fishery. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, has said that constructing Pebble Mine “presents formidable challenges” given the valuable fishery and the rural village life that depends on it. “Based on the information available to me now, I do not support the Pebble Mine,” reads a statement from his 2014 campaign site. Taryn Kiekow Heimer, a senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview that “the opposition in Alaska has grown stronger” since EPA blocked the mine’s construction. But in Washington, the political climate has shifted. Administration officials are reopening the question of whether to construct Pebble Mine, and may even reconsider the Interior and Agriculture Departments’ move in December denying another company’s request to renew a lease on the southwest border of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. In one of the last big mining decisions of the Obama era, the two departments rejected Twin Metals Minnesota’s lease renewal bid, and set in motion a formal review to examine whether all mining activities in 234,000 acres abutting the wilderness should be barred for the next 20 years. Twin Metals Minnesota is a subsidiary of Antofagasta Mining PLC. Minnesota Reps. Rick Nolan (D) and Tom Emmer (R) met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on April 26 to discuss whether to reverse that decision, according to individuals who asked for anonymity to discuss a private conversation. Bob McFarlin, Twin Metals Minnesota’s government affairs adviser, said in an email that the firm has met with lawmakers and top federal officials “in both the previous and current administrations to express our concerns” about the decision to deny the company’s lease application. “I am optimistic that we will be able to work with the new administration to allow this initiative to move forward,” Nolan said in a statement Thursday. “Having met with all the involved agencies and parties, I know renewing these leases is the sensible and correct thing to do.” And Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, said in a statement that his industry stands to “benefit most from the administration’s willingness to lift the regulatory burden that has impaired our ability to compete in the energy market.” That will ease restrictions on “access and development of much needed domestic minerals and metals,” Quinn added, which “are needed  for everything from infrastructure and manufacturing to cutting edge technologies.” Watchdog finds no wrongdoing in EPA’s moves to block controversial Alaskan gold mine Trump, reversing Obama, will push to expand drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic


News Article | May 9, 2017
Site: www.intrafish.com

US District Judge Amit Mehta made a decision Monday allowing the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers (ABSC) to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit filed by the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and several US seafood firms despite the plaintiffs opposing ABSC's joining. The NFI and the companies filed a lawsuit against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other federal regulators alleging federal agencies violated several laws in rushing to pass a new seafood traceability rule before US President Donald Trump took office. The claims of ABSC President Kale Garcia were submitted as reasons why the crabber association should intervene. Garcia claims that the traceability rule would benefit ABSC members. “If plaintiffs succeed in vacating the [the rule], the financial benefits to ABSC’s members in excluding illegally caught Russian crab from the US market will be lost, and ABSC’s members will continue to face unfair competition and attendant economic losses from imports of illegally harvested crab," said Garcia, according to court documents. Plaintiffs allege the measure would allegedly increase processing costs from a low of $520 million (€489.6 million) per year to a high of more than $1 billion (€941.1 million) per year. Although Oceana, the Natural Resources Defense Council,and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a motion to join the lawsuit, the judge denied their motion. For more seafood news and updates, follow us on Facebook and Twitter or sign up for our daily newsletter.


News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: www.fooddive.com

Scientists and packaging companies have been working for years to develop technology that indicates spoilage in food and beverage products. Several years ago, researchers at the University of Rhode Island came up with heat-sensing UPC codes that would change color when a fresh product became too warm, indicating contamination. In 2014, Chinese researchers developed corn kernel-sized tags that could attach to packaging and change color when spoilage was present. These efforts, along with others, have yet to reach commercial viability since special sensors can be difficult to replicate in mass quantities, and at a cost that’s agreeable to manufacturers. For now, food and beverage companies rely on various “best by” and “sell by” claims to indicate product freshness. But these claims have proven to be a headache for consumers who have a hard time figuring out what many of them mean. What does a “better if used by” date indicate? Does a “sell by” date point out when a product will spoil? In fact, these dates indicate product quality rather than product safety; federal law only requires that baby food contain a spoilage date. In the absence of clear instructions, many consumers simply throw out food that’s nearing or has reached its on-pack date. This creates vast amounts of food waste, according to organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council, which estimates that people throw out a billion pounds of food each year due to label confusion. Developing clearer labels, organizations estimate, could reduce food waste in the U.S. by as much as 8%. Regulators and industry groups are working towards this goal. In December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Food Safety and Inspection Service recommended that manufacturers only use a “best if used by” label on meat, dairy and other fresh food packaging. The Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, meanwhile, recommend two labels: “BEST If Used By" to signify product quality and "USE by" to indicate the safety of perishable products. Each year, 1 in 6 Americans gets sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of these illnesses, likely caused by eating spoiled food, could be prevented with packaging that alerts the consumer.


News Article | May 12, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

Further legal battles and protesters “standing in front of bulldozers” could be in store in Alaska, after the Trump administration on Friday settled a lawsuit over the proposed development of a massive gold and copper mine at the headwaters of one of the state’s main salmon fisheries. The Environmental Protection Agency settled the long-running case with the Pebble Ltd Partnership, allowing the Canadian-owned company to seek a federal permit to build its mine near Bristol Bay. Bristol Bay produces nearly half of the world’s wild sockeye salmon catch, with the commercial fisheries supporting about 14,000 full and part-time workers. Conservation groups and many locals, including tribal members, believe the project will cause significant harm to the environment. The bay is considered a vital resource by the indigenous people who have lived in the region for more than 4,000 years. Two native communities beside the bay – the Yup’ik and Dena’ina – are among the last indigenous people in the world to rely upon salmon for food and social structure. The Pebble mine is forecast to create about 1,000 jobs. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said on Friday it would also create 10bn tons of waste that could contaminate the headwaters of Bristol Bay. “Bristol Bay is too important – economically, environmentally, and culturally – to be sacrificed for the sake of a mine,” said Taryn Kiekow Heimer, senior policy analyst at NRDC. “The Trump administration’s willingness to set aside that proposed determination is a disaster. Instead of making America great, it risks America’s greatest wild salmon runs.” Norman Van Vactor, with the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, said on Thursday the next challenges to the project could include additional legal fights and “standing in front of bulldozers”. Northern Dynasty has called the Pebble deposit “one of the greatest stores of mineral wealth ever discovered” – containing copper, gold, molybdenum and silver. It has been looking for a partner since 2013, when a subsidiary of UK-based Anglo American announced it was withdrawing from the project. The dispute dates back to 2014, following the release of an EPA study that concluded large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed posed significant risk to salmon and could adversely affect Alaskan Native Americans. The study provided the basis for the EPA to invoke a rarely used process under the federal Clean Water Act that mine supporters feared could result in the project’s veto before the permitting process. The company accused the EPA of being in cahoots with mine opponents with a goal of blocking the project. The EPA, in court documents, characterized Pebble’s claims as an effort to undermine its plan to protect parts of the Bristol Bay region from development. A review by the EPA inspector general found no evidence the agency acted improperly. It also concluded that the agency did not predetermine the study’s outcome. The two sides had been exploring ways to resolve the case since August, when Barack Obama was still in office. The mine has been hotly debated for years. Environmental activists like the actor Robert Redford have opposed it and multinational jewelers have said they will not use minerals mined from it. While the EPA proposed restrictions on development, they were never finalized. A judge ordered the agency to stop work while the lawsuit was pending. Officials for Pebble have argued that the EPA overreached and expressed hope that the company will get a fairer shake with the Trump administration than it believes it got under Obama. On Friday Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s controversial appointment to lead the EPA, said: “We understand how much the community cares about this issue, with passionate advocates on all sides. The agreement will not guarantee or prejudge a particular outcome, but will provide Pebble a fair process for their permit application and help steer EPA away from costly and time-consuming litigation.” Northern Dynasty Minerals, the owner of Pebble, welcomed the deal. “Not only are we no longer facing extraordinary development restrictions at Pebble, we will also be assured a fair and predictable permitting review of our proposed development plan,” chief executive Ron Thiessen said. Tom Collier, chief executive of Pebble, said the latest iteration of the mine would be smaller than previously envisioned, along with “a number of new initiatives to ensure our project is more responsive to the priorities and concerns of Alaskans”. “We know the Pebble project must not only protect the world-class fisheries of Bristol Bay,” he said, “it must also benefit the people of the region and the state in a meaningful way. It is our intent to demonstrate how we will meet those goals in the period ahead.”


News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: www.npr.org

In a rare victory for environmentalists under President Trump, the Senate rejected efforts to roll back an Obama-era rule limiting methane emissions from energy production sites on federal land. The vote over the greenhouse gas was close — 49-51 — with Republican Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins coming down against the resolution, which would have repealed the Bureau of Land Management's Methane Waste and Prevention Rule. In a statement, McCain said he voted against the repeal because the effort made use of a legislative tool called the Congressional Review Act, which would have blocked similar regulations in the future. "While I am concerned that the BLM rule may be onerous, passage of the resolution would have prevented the federal government, under any administration, from issuing a rule that is 'similar,' according to the plain reading of the Congressional Review Act," the Arizona senator said. Graham previously told The Hill that he thought deploying the Congressional Review Act would be "too blunt an instrument in this case." The methane measure passed the House, 221-191, in February. Rhea Suh, the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the Senate resolution an effort to "put polluters first and the rest of us at risk." The fact that it failed, she said in a statement, shows "a majority of the Republican-controlled Senate at last has come to its collective senses." The Western Energy Alliance, a major oil and gas industry group, has described the methane regulation as an overreach of executive authority in a matter that is better left to the states and the Environmental Protection Agency. The alliance vowed to continue pursuing legal action and working with the Department of the Interior to review and rescind the rule, a process initiated by the Trump administration but could take years. The White House is also taking aim at a slew of other Obama-era environmental regulations. The greenhouse gas rule is intended to curb a practice called flaring, during which energy producers burn off natural gas that they can't process or sell. That process releases methane into the atmosphere. NPR's Nathan Rott explained the rationale behind the regulation: As Rott reported, oil and gas producers argue that the regulation is redundant and unnecessary because there are state laws that address the practice and because they say it's in their business interest not to burn off their own gas. But critics say the notion of industry adequately limiting emissions without regulations doesn't bear out. They say it doesn't always make immediate economic sense for energy producers to swap out old, leaky equipment with newer, more environmentally friendly models, even if the lost gas costs them money.

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