News Article | May 17, 2017
A predicted shortage of gas for electricity generation in Australia from 2018 will not eventuate, and the recent surge in domestic prices will not be mitigated by opening up new coal seam gas fields, according to a new report. In March, the Australian Energy Market Operator (Aemo) predicted that without national reform, Australia would face gas shortages, which would drive power outages, in 2018 and 2019. “If we do nothing, we’re going to see shortfalls in gas, we’re going to see shortfalls in electricity,” Aemo’s chief operating officer, Mike Cleary, told the ABC at the time. Despite being described by some as “major”, the actual shortfall of electricity from the gas shortage amounted to the equivalent of less than 24 hours over a 13-year period, according to the new report by Tim Forcey and Dylan McConnell at Melbourne University’s Australian-German climate and energy college. In any case, less than two weeks after Aemo predicted the shortfall, it published an updated forecast of how much electricity would be needed in the period. It downgraded the previous forecast and completely wiped out the predicted shortage. The Melbourne University report, which was commissioned by the Wilderness Society and Lock the Gate, also noted that later in March Shell announced it was proceeding with its “Project Ruby” that involved 161 gas wells in Queensland, and also would have closed the shortage, if it were real. “A lot of people right up to the prime minister got excited, more excited than they should have because Aemo’s gap has already disappeared,” Forcey said. “Just 11 days after Aemo called ‘shortfall’, Aemo then reduced their demand forecasts. That gap everyone got excited about is already gone. It was a short-lived shortfall.” The report acknowledged that while there was no shortage, there was a “gas price crisis”. Wholesale prices have gone up 300% since 2009, driven by several factors including the overconstruction of gas export capacity with contractual export overcommitments, opaque gas market behaviour, and the high costs of coal seam gas. While the federal minister for the environment and energy, Josh Frydenberg, blamed high prices on state-based policies limiting coal seam gas developments, the report says increasing CSG will not drive down prices. “New gas sources are expensive to produce, and in any case, in the sellers’ market that now prevails, domestic wholesale gas prices are linked to international benchmarks,” the report says. It estimates that after transport costs are included, the wholesale cost of gas from new CSG projects is likely to be as high as $9.25 per GJ – higher than the current price of about $9. The report notes that wind and solar could produce cheaper electricity than gas, and if combined with storage, would protect electricity prices from the high gas price. The report concludes: “Gas has often been characterised as a ‘transition fuel’, on the pathway to a zero-emissions power system. The falling costs of renewable energy and storage technologies, the increasing gas cost, and climate change objective suggest this transition is no longer necessary, and indeed a detour.” The Wilderness Society’s national director, Lyndon Schneiders, said Australia needed to embrace renewable energy rather than push expensive and environmentally destructive coal seam gas. “Aemo and the Turnbull government have used this confected crisis to push gas expansion, backing such environmentally destructive gas schemes as Santos’s Narrabri coal seam gas scheme, which threaten NSW’s last great inland forest, the Pilliga, the surrounding productive Narrabri farmland and the Great Artesian basin, inland Australia’s essential water source,” he said.
News Article | April 17, 2017
The state of New Mexico has sold 4 million acres of state trust lands to private interests and extractive industries, some of which endanger the health, environment, and economy of local communities, according to a report released this week by The Wilderness Society. These sell-offs account for nearly thirty-percent of the state’s original land holdings—a dangerous precedent behind recent efforts in Congress and the New Mexico state legislature to take over national public lands. The report, “New Mexico lands and outdoor opportunities lost to the highest bidder,” is a forewarning that public lands like national forests, monuments and parks could be sold, like state trust lands, to a narrow group of private interests for profit under state control. Once sold, public access is often blocked for outdoor activities like camping, hiking, hunting and fishing. “A small group of elected officials continue to advocate for state seizure of our shared public lands, but what our research shows is that states like New Mexico have a history of locking the public out and putting short term profits above the long term economic engines our lands have proven they can be,” said Michael Casaus, New Mexico State Director for The Wilderness Society. “Communities from Taos to Las Cruces have seen the benefit of protected public lands for their local economies. If the State of New Mexico were left to manage these same lands it is highly likely that Our Wild would be sold to the highest bidder.” In New Mexico, 12 pieces of legislation have been introduced since 2013 with the ultimate goal of confiscating national forests, refuges, parks and other shared lands that rightly belong to all Americans. While those who are trying to seize our public lands claim they have no intention of selling off these treasured assets, if history is any indicator, state-managed lands are often sold to ranchers, mining companies and oil and gas interests. “Let’s be clear: the strings are being pulled by a narrow group of special interests and don’t reflect the values that people in the West and across this country place on our shared heritage, our public lands,” said Casaus. “Some politicians parade the argument that the state could manage public lands better than the federal government, but the report proves that this is illogical and unworkable, in addition to being unconstitutional.” On the contrary, New Mexican taxpayers face unreasonable economic burdens—the potential for higher taxes, budget cuts in state departments like education and restricted recreational freedoms if public lands are managed by the state. The report details the robust economic engine driven by the outdoor recreation industry in New Mexico, including: The report provides several examples of state land sales that benefited the pockets of private interests including extractive corporations like Molycorp Inc., Chino Copper Company, and Yates Petroleum Company, among others . These companies often leave behind environmental footprints. “Congressmen Steve Pearce, Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, extreme state legislators and others continue to search for ways to undermine federal land management which could mean ‘no trespassing’ and ‘for sale’ signs in some of New Mexico’s favorite wild places,” said Casaus. “Once these lands leave state or public hands we lose them forever. While some places are appropriate for development, we need to ensure short-sighted state leaders keep their hands off our public lands.”
News Article | May 8, 2017
The U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan resolution designating May 20 "Kids to Parks Day." [Co-sponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Rob Portman (R-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI).] Mayors from more than 350 cities and towns – including Chicago (IL), Boston (MA), Philadelphia (PA), Orlando (FL), Dallas (TX), San Diego (CA), Atlanta (GA), Tucson (AZ), Chattanooga (TN), Portland (OR), Vineland (NJ), Denver (CO), and Youngstown (OH) have signed resolutions of support and are planning Kids to Parks Day events on May 20th. Visit www.kidstoparks.org for a complete list of park events by state and downloadable tips and activity guides to help children, families and teachers plan park adventures. Those who pledge to participate will also have a chance to win a camping package from The North Face, including a tent, 4 sleeping bags and a duffel bag. National Park Trust's Kids to Parks Day has the support of the National Park Service and America's State Parks. Other NPT collaborators include: the National League of Cities' Institute for Youth, Education, and Families; American Academy of Pediatrics; National Recreation and Park Association; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; National Geographic Kids; American Hiking Society; Children & Nature Network; National Wildlife Federation; Sierra Club; Outdoors Alliance for Kids; National Environmental Education Foundation; American Recreation Coalition; National Parks Conservation Association; The Wilderness Society; Girl Scouts Nation's Capital; and Outdoor Families Magazine. Kids to Parks Day is the signature event of NPT's popular Buddy Bison® School Program which teaches environmental education. Through its woolly mascot Buddy Bison, NPT encourages children to "Explore outdoors, the parks are yours!" More than 60 elementary and middle Title I schools in 15 states and Washington, D.C. participate in the Buddy Bison School Program, which provides classroom resources and fully funded park trips that enhance and expand school curricula. In 2012, NPT launched the Kids to Parks Day National School Contest. This year, NPT awarded park grants to 70 Title I schools in 28 states and Washington, D.C. benefiting nearly 4,000 children, grades pre-K through 12. The grants will help students put their ideas into action and visit, learn, steward and play in their local, state and national parks and public lands this month. Share your park experience on Facebook and Instagram: @nationalparktrust #kidstoparks #buddybison To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/7th-annual--kids-to-parks-day-saturday-may-20-2017-300452853.html
News Article | April 26, 2017
America's environmental agencies have made an about-face since Donald Trump became president—and not just policy-wise. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an Interior Department agency that manages 247.3 million acres of public lands, used to have a spectacular Flickr page. And by that, I mean it was the go-to destination for exquisite photos of our country's wildest vistas. But in a blog post today, The Wilderness Society (full disclosure: I worked there between 2013 and 2014), a national conservation nonprofit, noticed something strange. As of March this year, the BLM was no longer posting images of rivers, forests, deserts, and mountains. Instead, its Flickr page now exclusively shares portraits of oil wells, mining pits, and construction—the kind of development that stands to devastate the very places the agency exists to protect. "The Bureau of Land Management's Flickr page, long a repository of gorgeous parks and public lands photos, appears to have a new focus: coal, oil and other fossil fuels," wrote The Wilderness Society. This is no doubt a result of our new administration's pro-fossil fuel energy strategy. Trump has been a vocal proponent of coal, despite market indications that coal will soon bottom out. From 2015 to 2016, he received $820,922 in campaign funding from fossil fuel interests (still, his political opponent, Hillary Clinton, received slightly more). On a Cabinet level, Trump's appointees are similarly positioned. Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is notoriously corrupted by energy corporations. And Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose purview includes the BLM, has previously advocated for more drilling on public lands. Since Trump's inauguration, public lands have been caught in the GOP's crosshairs. Republicans in Congress have removed important land protections and limited public involvement in environmental decision-making processes. In an executive order this week, Trump threatened to undo certain national monument designations—an act that would be catastrophic not only for America's wildlands, but for rural communities as well. "They've set a high standard for public input, and the clock is ticking now," Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) said in a statement. "I'm concerned that Republican rhetoric on our public lands is being taken for fact and that Secretary Zinke is being set up for failure here." Hopefully, the state of the BLM's Flickr page isn't a harbinger of what's to come.
News Article | November 16, 2016
Today the Department of Interior canceled the largest remaining block of contested leases in the sacred Badger-Two Medicine area of Montana. Today’s news comes after a decades-long struggle between the Blackfeet Nation and the government to cancel several oil and gas leases that the Wilderness Society believes were issued illegally. “The Secretary’s actions recognize this special area for what it is – too wild to drill,” said Peter Aengst, Northern Rockies regional director for The Wilderness Society. “We are happy to see the Blackfeet Nation’s longstanding request finally being honored.” The 130,000-acre Badger-Two Medicine, which sits in Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front and on the doorstep of Glacier National Park, is central to the Blackfeet Tribe's cultural identity. It is known as a place of prayer, fasts and vision quests—a holy place. The grasslands, forests and rugged terrain also provide necessary habitat for wildlife like grizzly bears, elk, wolverines and many other species. In 1981, the Department of Interior, under the Reagan Administration, began issuing leases in Badger-Two Medicine without full environmental review or consulting the Blackfeet people, in what The Wilderness Society views as a direct violation of National Environmental Policy Act regulations. Because the leases were improperly issued and violate key environmental laws, the Department of the Interior had the legal authority under the Federal Policy Land Management Act and moral obligation to the Blackfeet Nation to cancel remaining federal oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine. For these reasons, in April 2016, Secretary Jewell cancelled the Badger Two Medicine leases held by Louisiana based Solenex who had proposed drilling in the area and sued the government for delay. Today’s action applies the largest remaining leaseholder in the Badger Two Medicine, Devon Energy of Oklahoma. “This area represents the cultural heart of The Blackfeet Nation which should continue to beat strongly for years to come,” said Aengst. “The leases never belonged here in the first place. All oil and gas drilling on public lands must be held to a higher standard and subject to proper environmental review.”
News Article | February 28, 2017
An obscure law, known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA), could set environmental protections back decades. This scorched-earth tool is unrivaled in its ability to quash new federal regulations, and prevent similar ones from being created in their stead. Now, emboldened by the Trump administration, Republicans in Congress are invoking it to lay waste to public lands. The CRA has rarely been used, but two fossil fuel regulations have already been wiped clean from the slate—a financial transparency rule for oil, gas, and mineral extractors, and a rule that protected streams from mining waste runoff. Some environmentalists worry that we haven't seen the end of it. "Republicans see it as a tool to win, and win quickly. It's the 'nuclear option' as far as these things are concerned," Matt Keller, senior director of conservation at The Wilderness Society, told me. The law was among a suite of bills written by former Representative Newt Gingrich that formed the Contract with America Advancement Act. Signed by President Clinton, it legally manifested Republicans' desire to shrink executive power and limit government influence over individual states. So its resurgent popularity among Republicans today, who are openly hostile to what they've called "unconstitutional" federal oversight, was foreseeable, but no less concerning. Under the CRA, Congress has 60 legislative or session days to disapprove of a new rule made by an agency or president. If Congress adjourns before that time period has expired, the CRA mechanism resets, and the next Congress is given a fresh start to submit its own joint resolution of disapproval. The rough cutoff for rules currently subject to the CRA is May 30, 2016. More than 100 Obama-era rules are up for deliberation. Once a resolution is passed by both chambers of Congress, it becomes the president's responsibility to either sign or veto. CRA resolutions can be approved with just a simple majority, and aren't subject to filibuster. President Trump, who repealed the Securities and Exchange Commission's fossil fuel transparency rule this month, said at the time: "This is one of many that we've signed, and we have many more left. And we're bringing back jobs big league, we're bringing them back at the plant level; we've bringing them back at the mine level. The energy jobs are coming back." What makes the CRA even more nerve-wracking than executive orders or a repeal is that it prevents rules that are "substantially the same" from being introduced as replacement measures. Still, the exact definition of this caveat is vague enough to make some legal experts to wonder how lawmakers will interpret it. "It's never been defined, and it's never been litigated. An agency could promulgate a new rule in the same space, but presumably this would be challenged, and a court could decide what 'substantially the same' means," Kate Konschnik, director of Harvard Law School's Environmental Policy Initiative, told me. Since the CRA was enacted in 1996, it's been used just a hundred times or so. Only once, until recently, had it ever succeeded in overturning a rule. Under President George W. Bush in 2001, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ergonomics regulation from the Clinton administration was effectively rolled back. After it was removed, the agency never attempted to issue another rule to regulate in the same space. So far, the Department of the Interior (DOI), which oversees the National Park Service (NPS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), has been one of Congress' primary targets. These agencies are responsible for safeguarding public lands—some 500 million acres, or a fifth of all land in the United States—along with the natural resources that lie beneath them. Two important public lands bills hang in the balance, and will be revisited once Congress is back from its recess. One of them requires oil and gas companies who drill on public lands to reuse wasted methane, and return the royalties to taxpayers. The other, called "Planning 2.0," is a measure that would give Americans greater voice and authority in deciding how public lands are used. The Methane Waste and Prevention Rule was finalized last November with broad public support. Approximately 80 percent of registered voters in western states wanted drilling companies to reduce methane emissions on public lands, according to a 2016 poll by Colorado College's State of the Rockies Project. Nearly $330 million worth of natural gas is wasted each year due to venting or leaks from drilling operations. "Republicans are trying to use an archaic and blunt weapon to undo a measure that is preventing the waste of hundreds of millions of dollars of natural gas every year," Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), who has opposed Republicans' use of the CRA to undo the methane rule, told me. "The BLM rule is a common–sense measure to stop waste that was recommended by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, and that President Obama's experts spent two years developing with industry, stakeholders, and folks in my state. But Republicans want to use an obscure law to erase all of that work, and all of these protections." Meanwhile, the BLM's Planning 2.0 rule is also expected to be rolled back next month. As Motherboard previously reported, the regulation took years in the making, and because of that, was supported by Republican and Democratic constituents alike. Its opposers have given no logical reason to strike down the rule, other than to weaken federal influence over states. Last year, however, Republicans in Congress received a total of $25,456,544 in campaign funding from oil and gas interests, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Fossil fuel giants like ExxonMobil, Shell, and Chevron spend millions each year in lobbying efforts. At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing this month, Jack Gerard, resident and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute—largest trade association for the oil and gas industry—was invited to testify against the methane rule about its alleged harm to local jobs. "It takes a while to go through the public process—the Methane Waste and Prevention Rule process was started 2011. Some people don't have the patience, but that's how you do things right and set up future generations. The idea that we should be wiping these things out with little debate is where we see the real harm," said Josh Mantell, an energy policy expert at The Wilderness Society. The fate of public lands protections is uncertain in almost every way. Here at Motherboard, we've extensively covered the various avenues Republicans are using to dismantle rules that not only protect the environment and wildlife, but human health as well. With Scott Pruitt leading the Environmental Protection Agency, and Ryan Zinke expected to be confirmed as Interior Secretary, Congress is well-positioned to make lasting changes to policies as we know them. "As we've seen in a lot of spaces, there's a lot of energy and a lot of desire to fight," Mantell said of public lands rules currently under threat. "This isn't the way that most Americans see things going. There's some fright but there's an understanding that now we need to fight."
News Article | January 19, 2017
In the midst of highly publicized steps to dismantle insurance coverage for 32 million people and defund women’s healthcare facilities, Republican lawmakers have quietly laid the foundation to give away Americans’ birthright: 640m acres of national land. In a single line of changes to the rules for the House of Representatives, Republicans have overwritten the value of federal lands, easing the path to disposing of federal property even if doing so loses money for the government and provides no demonstrable compensation to American citizens. At stake are areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Forests and Federal Wildlife Refuges, which contribute to an estimated $646bn each year in economic stimulus from recreation on public lands and 6.1m jobs. Transferring these lands to the states, critics fear, could decimate those numbers by eliminating mixed-use requirements, limiting public access and turning over large portions for energy or property development. In addition to economic stimulus from outdoor activities, federal land creates revenue through oil and gas production, logging and other industrial uses. According to the BLM, in 2016, it made $2bn in royalty revenue from federal leases. The Outdoor Industry Association estimates federal tax revenue from the recreation economy at almost $40bn. Ignoring those figures, the new language for the House budget, authored by Utah Republican representative Rob Bishop, who has a history of fighting to transfer public land to the states, says that federal land is effectively worthless. Transferring public land to “state, local government or tribal entity shall not be considered as providing new budget authority, decreasing revenues, increasing mandatory spending or increasing outlays.” Essentially, the revised budget rules deny that federal land has any value at all, allowing the new Congress to sidestep requirements that a bill giving away a piece of federal land does not decrease federal revenue or contribute to the federal debt. Republican eagerness to cede federal land to local governments for possible sale, mining or development is already moving states to act. Western states, where most federal land is concentrated, are already introducing legislation that pave the way for land transfers. In Wyoming, for example, the 2017 senate has introduced a joint resolution that would amend the state constitution to dictate how public land given to the state by the federal government after 2019 is managed. It has little public support, but Wyoming Senate President Eli Bebout said that he thought the state should be preemptively thinking about what it would do with federal land. The Congressional devaluation of national property is the most far-reaching legislative change in a recent push to transfer federal lands to the states. Because of the Republican majority in Congress, bills proposing land transfers could now swiftly diminish Forest Service and BLM lands across the country. “We didn’t see it coming. I think it was sneaky and underhanded. It exemplifies an effort to not play by the rules,” said Alan Rowsome, senior director of government relations at The Wilderness Society. “This is the worst Congress for public lands ever.” Rowsome said he’s not exactly sure how the rule will be used, but he thinks the first places to come under attack might include areas adjacent to the majestic Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Those areas hold uranium and copper, respectively. Rowsome said he’s worried that sensitive tracts of public land, like the oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, could soon be up for sale. Some 60% percent of Alaska is made up of national land, and the state’s representatives have tried to pass laws claiming parts of it for state use as recently as 2015. “It’s an amazing ecosystem and worthy of protection, and it’s very likely that House Republican majority will open that up for drilling,” Rowsome said. This latest effort comes on the heels of a bill adopted in 2016 that directs the Department of Agriculture to transfer 2m acres of eligible Forest Service lands to each state. Giving away national land has been part of the Republican Party platform since the mid-80s, after Reagan declared himself a Sagebrush Rebel, but it’s regained steam in the past few years as 20 states have introduced some form of legislation suggesting that federal property be given to local governments. In 2015, Bishop and fellow Utah representative Chris Stewart formed the Federal Land Action Group, a congressional team with the specific intent to come up with a framework for transferring public land. “Washington bureaucrats don’t listen to people,” Bishop said in a statement. “Local governments do.” But Rowsome argues that’s a populist message without any popular support, pushed by a small faction of legislators with support from industries like mining and energy. Despite the Republican message that Washington has overstepped in designating national parks and monuments, a 2016 study found that 95% of the American public believes that National Parks are worth protecting and 80% said they’d be willing to pay higher taxes to do so. “Western Republicans that are perpetuating the idea are very well funded by the oil and gas industry during their campaign,” Rowsome said. “It’s special interests wielding power for an agenda that will advance their goal. Nearly 90% of BLM lands are already open, but they can’t stop trying to get more.” A 2016 Colorado College survey of seven western states found that 60% of voters rejected both the sale of public lands to states and giving states control without sale. In 2012, Arizona voters struck down two pieces of legislation that would have turned over federal land to the state, including one that claimed the Grand Canyon as state land. Opponents fear that local governments, especially in states with small budgets, won’t be able to invest in management and will sell off land to make money. Last summer, the Forest Service was spending $240m a week to suppress wildfires, and the Department of Interior estimates the cost of deferred maintenance, like updating roads, at around $11bn. In December, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead said that transferring public land to his state was legally and financially impractical. He cited firefighting costs on public land as something that the state budget wouldn’t have room for. Historically, when federal lands have been transferred to states, they have become less accessible. Idaho sold off almost 100,000 acres of its public land between 2000 and 2009. In Colorado, access has been limited the public can only use 20% of state trust land for hunting and fishing. John Gale, conservation director for the advocacy group Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, said that he’s worried about access for sportsmen. He believes that there’s a further danger in segmenting ecosystems through state-by-state development. “70% of the headwaters of our streams and rivers in the West are on public lands,” he said. “Rivers and migratory corridors don’t follow state boundaries.” The incoming administration hasn’t been clear about where it falls on transfers. Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke, tapped to be the next Secretary of the Interior, voted for the rules package, but in the past he’s been against land transfers. President-elect Donald Trump has spoken out against reallocating federal land, but he’s also met with prominent pro-land transfer groups. Nevertheless, bills proposing land transfer will now have an easy route to passage, as they won’t need to be backed by any financial justification. The entire rules package passed on party lines, but it runs counter to legislation that passed both the House and Senate in November, the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016. Signed into law in December, the legislation requires the Department of Commerce to count the over half a trillion dollars from the outdoor recreation economy in the country’s GDP for the first time. “It’s not just natural resources that are on the auction block, but jobs,” said Gale. “For a party that prides itself on being fiscally conservative ... they’re talking out of both sides of their mouth.”
News Article | November 16, 2016
The Interior Department on Wednesday announced a settlement with Devon Energy for the cancellation of leases in Montana for oil and gas drilling on lands considered sacred by the Blackfeet Tribe. “This is the right action to take on behalf of current and future generations,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said on the department’s Web site. She said it would protect the region’s “rich cultural and natural resources and recognizes the irreparable impacts that oil and gas development would have on them.” The settlement comes as the Obama administration seeks to wrap up outstanding issues and as Native Americans in nearby North Dakota are protesting to block the construction of an oil pipeline just north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The exploration leases in Montana covered parts of the Badger-Two Medicine area of the Lewis and Clark National Forest in northwest Montana, an expanse that covers a 130,000 acres surrounded by Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Blackfeet Indian reservation. “There aren’t many places like this left in the lower 48,” said Michael Jamison, a senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, noting that the area is home to grizzly bears, elk, wolves and an array of other wildlife. “It is a tremendously important ecosystem.” The area also is home to the creation story of the Blackfeet, said Chase Huntley, senior director of energy and climate at The Wilderness Society. Huntley said many of the leases were sold for less than $1 an acre and he alleged there was “no effort to reach out to the tribe.” [What you need to know about the Dakota Access pipeline protests] Under the terms of the cancellation, Devon is entitled to a refund for all bids and other payments totaling $206,058. Half of that amount will come from a Treasury Department account that receives royalties from onshore oil and gas development and half will come from the state of Montana, which also receives royalty payments. Because the land was never developed and the area remains undisturbed, Devon does not need to pay for any reclamation. Harry Barnes, chairman of the Blackfeet Nation Tribal Business Council, said in an interview that area has been long been a sacred spot for the tribe. “A lot of our creation stories emanate from this area. It’s a significant area, it always has been for thousands of years,” Barnes said. “While we’re not opposed to oil and gas exploration, we are opposed to oil and gas exploration in that area.” He called Wednesday’s settlement a “victory for not only the Blackfeet people, but for all of America. It’s such a beautiful area. It’s Mother Earth, and it needs to be enjoyed by everybody.” [Showdown over North Dakota pipeline provides lesson in powre and perils of protest] In March, Jewell announced the cancellation of a lease held by Solonex. Solonex, a Louisiana company, sued for permission to drill on land tied to the leases, which date back to 1982. The department said the lease was improperly issued in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historical Preservation Act. The Interior Department under President Reagan issued 47 oil and gas drilling leases in Badger-Two Medicine. Later, nearly two thirds of the original leaseholders, including BP and Occidental Petroleum, took advantage of tax incentives established by Congress in exchange for relinquishing the leases in the area. By early this year, only 17 remained. Devon Energy owned 15 of the remaining leases. Devon, based in Oklahoma City, has more than doubled its oil production since 2011. It is also a major natural gas producer. “There are special places in this world where we just shouldn’t drill, and the Badger-Two Medicine is one of those places,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), said in a statement adding that Wednesday’s settlement ensures the area “will remain pristine for both the Tribe and the folks who love to hunt, hike, and fish near Glacier Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.” Leaders of the Blackfeet Tribe – including chairman Barnes and Blackfeet Chief Earl Old Person – are scheduled to attend a screening on Thursday of a film about the controversy over the leases. U.S. to pay 17 Indian tribes $492 million to settle long-standing disputes How Google is helping to crack down on illegal fishing — from space For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here and follow us on Twitter here.
Ingerson A.,The Wilderness Society
Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change | Year: 2011
Within national greenhouse gas inventories, many countries now use widely-accepted methodologies to track carbon that continues to be stored in wood products and landfills after its removal from the forest. Beyond simply tracking post-harvest wood carbon, expansion of this pool has further been suggested as a potential climate change mitigation strategy. This paper summarizes data on the fate of carbon through the wood processing chain and on greenhouse gas emissions generated by processing, transport, use and disposal of wood. As a result of wood waste and decomposition, the carbon stored long-term in harvested wood products may be a small proportion of that originally stored in the standing trees-across the United States approximately 1% may remain in products in-use and 13% in landfills at 100 years post-harvest. Related processing and transport emissions may in some cases approach the amount of CO2e stored in long-lived solid wood products. Policies that promote wood product carbon storage as a climate mitigation strategy must assess full life-cycle impacts, address accounting uncertainties, and balance multiple public values derived from forests. © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
News Article | January 22, 2016
The Obama administration took a step Friday toward plugging thousands of small methane leaks from oil and gas operations around the country, saying the escaping gas is contributing to climate change. The Interior Department announced proposed regulations that would require energy companies to reduce methane leaks in order to drill anywhere on land owned by the government or Native American tribes. The proposals would affect more than 100,000 oil wells that supply about 10 percent of the nation’s natural gas. A combination of accidental leaks and deliberate venting or flaring of methane gas from public and Native American lands released about 375 billion cubic feet of methane into the atmosphere between 2009 and 2014, according to government estimates. The leaks waste a valuable resource — the lost methane could have supplied energy for 5.1 million U.S. homes for a year — while also putting more heat-trapping greenhouse gases in to the atmosphere, U.S. officials say. “I think most people would agree that we should be using our nation’s natural gas to power our economy – not wasting it by venting and flaring it into the atmosphere,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in announcing the proposal. “We need to modernize decades-old standards to reflect existing technologies so that we can cut down on harmful methane emissions.” [Leaks contribute to a Delaware-sized methane plume over New Mexico] The proposed regulations — which are opposed by the oil and gas industry — are the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at lowering U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases, which scientists say are contributing to a dangerous warming of the planet. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce similar curbs for other oil and gas operations as part of an administration-wide effort to reduce U.S. emissions of methane gas by at least 40 percent by the year 2025, compared to 2012 levels. Methane, the main component in natural gas, is about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping the sun’s heat in the lower atmosphere, according to EPA estimates. But methane also dissipates relatively quickly —in a few decades, compared to centuries for carbon dioxide. Scientists say rapidly cutting methane pollution can buy the world’s nations more time to tackle the bigger challenge of reducing carbon emissions. The Interior Department rules, if finalized, would impose new limits on venting and flaring — or burning off — of excess natural gas, a common practice in the oil and gas industry that prevents the buildup of pressure on wellheads. The proposals also sets standards for equipment by used energy companies and requires more frequent inspections to check for leaks, in the first significant update of the Interior Department’s regulations on methane in three decades. Administration officials estimate that the regulations would prevent the loss about at least $115 million worth of methane a year, more than offsetting the equipment costs. “The gas saved would be enough to supply every household in the cities of Dallas and Denver combined, every year,” said Neil Kornze, director of the Bureau of Land Management, the agency that oversees the bulk of government-owned lands in Western states. Industry officials criticized the proposals as burdensome and unnecessary, saying energy companies already are adopting voluntary measures to prevent the loss of valuable methane. “Another duplicative rule at a time when methane emissions are already falling — and on top of an onslaught of other new BLM and EPA regulations — could drive more energy production off federal lands,” said Erik Milito, director of upstream and industry operations for the American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade association for oil and gas companies. “That means less federal revenue, fewer jobs, higher costs for consumers, and less energy security.” But environmentalists and watchdog groups praised the proposal as a boon for taxpayers and the environment. “For too long, oil and gas companies have been allowed to waste billions of cubic feet in natural gas and avoid paying hundreds of millions in royalties,” said Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a fiscal watchdog group. Josh Mantell, carbon management campaign manager for The Wilderness Society, applauded the proposed rule as a significant step in controlling greenhouse gas emissions. “These guidelines would have the added benefit of reducing pollution that causes disease and emissions that contribute to climate change,” Mantell said. It’s official: 2015 ‘smashed’ 2014’s global temperature record. It wasn’t even close Why clean energy is now expanding even when fossil fuels are cheap Why we’ve been hugely underestimating the overfishing of the oceans For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here, and follow us on Twitter here.