Category Archives: Water

Arizona Slammed for Permitting Uranium Mine That Imperils Grand Canyon Tribe’s Water

“Uranium contamination in a system like this is forever and while the mining company can walk away, the Havasupai tribe can’t. This is, and always has been, their home.”

By Brett Wilkins  Published 4-29-2022 by Common Dreams

Havasupai activists protest against uranium mining in the Grand Canyon. (Photo: Jake Hoyungawa/Grand Canyon Trust)

Indigenous and environmental activists on Friday condemned an Arizona agency’s approval of a key permit for a uranium mine near the Grand Canyon that opponents say threatens the land, water, wildlife—and Native Americans’ ancestral obligation to safeguard a place they’ve called home for centuries.

The Arizona Republic reports the state’s Department of Environmental Quality on Thursday issued an aquifer protection plan permit for Canada-based Energy Fuels Resources’ Pinyon Plain Mine, located about 10 miles south of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim in Kaibab National Forest.

Conservationists and tribes have long opposed the mine, which has been in various stages of planning and preparation since 1984 but from which no uranium has yet been extracted. The Havasupai people, some of whom live in a nearby canyon, say the project imperils their sole source of drinking water.

“Mining uranium in the Grand Canyon watershed threatens the enduring legacy of this landscape and jeopardizes the entire water supply of the Havasupai people,” Michè Lozano, Arizona program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), said in a statement, warning of the “incredible threats that uranium mining poses to the limited underground sources that feed the canyon’s creeks and waterways.”

According to NPCA:

The mine… has a history of flooding as it depletes shallow groundwater aquifers that express at South Rim springs. It also threatens to permanently contaminate deep aquifers that feed Havasu Creek and other springs. The approval comes despite calls by the Havasupai Tribe and conservation groups to close the Pinyon Plain Mine given its risks to water and tribal cultural resources…

In late 2016 mineshaft drilling pierced shallow aquifers, causing water pumped from the mine to spike from 151,000 gallons in 2015 to 1.4 million gallons in 2016. In the years since then, inflow has ranged from 8.8 million gallons in 2017 to 10.76 million gallons in 2019; most recently, the mine took on 8,261,406 gallons of groundwater in 2021.

Since 2016, dissolved uranium in that water has consistently exceeded federal toxicity limits by more than 300% and arsenic levels by more than 2,800%.

“Neither regulators nor the uranium industry can ensure that mining won’t permanently damage the Grand Canyon’s precious aquifers and springs,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “This permit strenuously ignores science showing the potential for deep aquifer pollution, and in a region still plagued by seven decades of uranium industry pollution, risking more, as this permit does, is dangerous.”

Asserting that “uranium mines do not belong among the complex groundwater systems that surround the Grand Canyon,” Amber Reimondo, energy director for the Grand Canyon Trust, said that “uranium contamination in a system like this is forever and while the mining company can walk away, the Havasupai tribe can’t. This is, and always has been, their home.”

Havasupai tribal leaders have long argued against uranium mining on lands from which their ancestors were ethnically cleansed to make way for white tourists before being pressed into dehumanizing railroad labor.

One of the staunchest Havasupai mining opponents, the late Tribal Chairman Rex Tilousi, believed that his people “were given a responsibility to protect and preserve this land and water for those yet to come.”

“The ancient rock writing in our canyon tells us to protect this place,” Tilousi said at a 2018 prayer gathering. “The canyon doesn’t belong to us. We belong to the canyon, to the Earth, to the water. It created us and gave us life. We are fighting for our lives and for those who are yet to come.”

Carletta Tilousi, Rex’s niece and a member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, spoke against uranium mining at an Earth Day rally in Phoenix last week.

“Native Americans, we have struggled so far and so long, and we don’t need it anymore,” she said. “We want to make sure our future generations have clean air, clean water, and a happy life. That’s all we ask for.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
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Shareholders Target Wall Street Banks With ‘Groundbreaking’ Climate Resolutions

“Investors are saying we can’t conduct business in a world that is on fire, that has heatwaves and insufficient water. And I do think companies are beginning to understand that it’s in their interest to take action.”

By Brett Wilkins  Published 4-26-2022 by Common Dreams

Protest outside the Bank of America shareholder meeting on April 25, 2022. Photo: drew hudson #1u/Twitter

A significant percentage of shareholders at three of the biggest U.S. banks voted Tuesday to endorse first-of-their-kind resolutions urging the companies to stop supporting new fossil fuel development amid a worsening climate emergency.

Shareholders at Citi, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo voted 12.8%, 11%, and 11%, respectively, to support climate resolutions filed by the Sierra Club Foundation and other members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. According to the Sierra Club, any resolution that receives at least 5% of the vote can be refiled the following year, and those that get 10% or more are “considered difficult for a company to ignore.” Continue reading

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Biden Takes ‘Critical First Step’ to Fix Landmark Environmental Law Gutted by Trump

“The Biden administration cannot stop here,” said one advocate, calling on the White House “to ensure we tap NEPA’s full potential to address the unprecedented environmental challenges we face now.”

By Jessica Corbett  Published 4-19-2022 by Common Dreams

While welcoming the White House’s move Tuesday to repair some of the damage that the Trump administration did to a federal law known as “the Magna Carta of environmental legislation,” green groups also urged President Joe Biden to go even further.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) finalized its “phase 1” rule for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), reaffirming that federal agencies reviewing infrastructure projects such as highways and pipelines must consider all relevant environmental impacts, including those that are climate-related. Continue reading

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‘Unscientific and Unlawful’: Biden EPA Will Not Regulate Rocket Fuel Chemical in Water

“The Trump EPA gave perchlorate a pass; it was a bad decision then, and it’s a bad decision now,” said one environmental advocate.

By Julia Conley.  Published 4-1-2022 by Common Dreams

Public health advocates said Thursday that they plan to resume litigation against the Environmental Protection Agency after the Biden administration announced it would uphold former President Donald Trump’s decision to not regulate drinking water levels of a chemical used to make rocket fuel and explosives.

Former President Barack Obama’s administration proposed limits for perchlorate after finding in 2011 that drinking water for 16 million people may have unsafe levels of the contaminant, which poses a risk to the development of children and fetuses. Continue reading

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In World-Historic First, Microplastics Detected in Human Blood

“We’ve choked this planet with plastic, from the highest mountains to the deepest oceans—and we’ve no idea at all about costs for public health,” said a British lawmaker.

By Kenny Stancil.  Pubished 3-24-2022 by Common Dreams

Microplastics from the Patapsco River are pictured at the laboratory of Dr. Lance Yonkos in the Department of Environmental Science & Technology at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., on Feb. 6, 2015. Photo: Chesapeake Bay Program/flickr/CC

A team of toxicologists found microplastics in nearly 80% of the healthy adult blood samples it analyzed, marking the first time that tiny polymer fragments—measuring less than 5mm in size—have been detected in human blood, The Guardian reported Thursday.

Using techniques that allowed them to detect particles as small as 0.0007mm, the scientists, whose research was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environment International, examined blood samples provided by 22 anonymous donors in good health and discovered microplastics in 17 of them. Continue reading

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‘Disastrous News’: Widespread Bleaching of Great Barrier Reef Underway

“This is a sure sign that climate change caused by burning coal, oil, and gas is threatening the very existence of our reef,” said one campaigner.

By Andrea Germanos.  Published 3-18-2022 by Common Dreams

Bleached branching coral at Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef. Photo: J. Roff/Wikimedia Commons/CC

An assessment of the Great Barrier Reef’s health released Friday reveals widespread bleaching of the world’s largest coral organism, sparking fresh demands for the Australian government to ditch fossil fuels and finally commit to protecting both the UNESCO site and planetary health.

“While not yet officially declared a mass bleaching event, this is still disastrous news for our reef, the marine life, and communities that rely on its health,” said Dr. Lissa Schindler, Great Barrier Reef campaign manager with the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).

The March 18 update from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority suggests a fourth major bleaching event since 2016 is underway and points to warmer than average sea surface temperatures—0.5−2°C above average throughout the park, with some areas ranging 2−4°C above average.

“Bleaching has been detected across the marine park—it is widespread but variable, across multiple regions, ranging in impact from minor to severe,” the assessment states.

“Most observations of bleaching have been of paling or fluorescing,” the update continues, “but several locations have whole colonies bleached white”—a status “consistent with the patterns of heat stress experienced on the reef this summer.”

Of particular note, say reef defenders, is that the widespread bleaching comes during a La Niña year, which can help cool waters.

“This is a sure sign that climate change caused by burning coal, oil, and gas is threatening the very existence of our reef,” declared Greenpeace Australia Pacific climate impacts campaigner Martin Zavan.

According to bleaching expert Prof. Terry Hughes, “Corals on the Great Barrier Reef are not supposed to bleach in cooler La Niña summers. 2022 is a first, thanks to anthropogenic heating.”

Hughes also pointed to the marine park authority’s aerial surveys that “reveal (so far) a footprint of mass bleaching similar to 2017, when the central 500km region was hardest hit.”

“How many more maps will it take to trigger real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions?” he asked.

The right-wing government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison has faced sustained criticism from climate campaigners for doubling down on fossil fuel projects amid the planetary emergency. The prime minister also drew sharp criticism last year after launching a successful lobbying effort to keep the reef off a list of World Heritage Sites considered “in danger.” Reporting earlier this month that the Australian government pushed for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to soften its assessment of the reef being “in crisis” sparked additional criticism.

In a lengthy Twitter thread Friday, Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter debunked Morrison’s claims of having protected the reef and pointed to the government’s multiple climate failures.

“Preserving the reef would require clear and meaningful climate action, like a meaningful net-zero plan and a moratorium on new coal, oil, and gas projects,” said Ritter. “Instead, Australia was recently ranked last out of 170 nations for climate action.”

Ritter also noted that last year his group “delivered legal notice directly to Scott Morrison [and] advised he is in breach of his World Heritage Treaty obligations to protect the reef.”

“So, it’s time to cut the crap,” he added. “We know the reef is in danger, but we also know how to protect it.”

Addressing the prime minister, Ritter said, “Do your job to safeguard Australians and our magnificent natural heritage, by speeding up our transition to clean energy and urgently phasing out fossil fuels.”

The update was released just days before UNESCO’s reef monitoring mission begins.

AMCS’s Schindler said that the mission delegates must “witness the severity and widespread nature of this devastating event and while out there the Morrison government should explain to the mission why they continue to approve and cut red tape for fossil fuel projects.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 
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175 Nations to Agree on ‘Historic’ Plastic Pollution Treaty

The treaty will be “an insurance policy for this generation and future ones, so they may live with plastic and not be doomed by it,” said one official.

By Julia Conley.  Published 3-2-2022 by Common Dreams

Plastic bottles and other garbage washed up on a beach in the county of cork, Ireland. Photo: Science Photo Library/CC

The vast majority of the world’s countries agreed Wednesday to forge a legally-binding global treaty restricting plastic pollution, in a move one official said demonstrated “multilateral cooperation at its best.”

Negotiators representing 175 nations met over the past week in Nairobi, Kenya to discuss a joint proposal originally presented by Rwandan and Peruvian representatives. Continue reading

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‘Wake-Up Call’: NOAA Predicts One-Foot Sea-Level Rise by 2050

“This decade we’re in right now is one of the most consequential decades for our climate future,” said one scientist.

By Kenny Stancil.  Published 2-15-2022 by Common Dreams

Residents were evacuated from a flooded neighborhood in, Helmetta, a borough in Middlesex County, New Jersey after Tropical Storm Henri. Screenshot: My Central Jersey

Ocean levels along the U.S. coastline are projected to rise by an average of 10 to 12 inches over the next three decades, worsening the threat of flooding in dozens of highly populated cities, according to a new report released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other federal agencies.

The additional foot of sea-level rise that millions in the U.S. are predicted to face by mid-century is equivalent to the amount experienced in the previous hundred years—a manifestation of the climate crisis that scientists attribute to unmitigated greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution driven primarily by the burning of fossil fuels. Continue reading

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13 Youth File ‘Vital’ Constitutional Climate Lawsuit Against Virginia

“We are tired of our fears being ignored, and the courts are a way to make sure our voices are heard by the government that represents us.”

By Jessica Corbett  Published 2-9-2022 by Common Dreams

Chesterfield Power Station, a Dominion Resources’ coal fired power plant located in central Virginia. Photo: Edbrown05/Wikimedia Commons/CC

Virginia residents ages 10 to 19 filed a constitutional lawsuit against the commonwealth on Wednesday over the government’s fossil fuel policies that contribute to the climate emergency.

The 13 young plaintiffs, represented by Our Children’s Trust, are asking the court to declare that the state government’s historic and ongoing permitting of fossil fuel projects that pollute the planet violates their constitutional and public trust rights. Continue reading

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‘Major Victory for Indigenous Peoples’ as Ecuadorian Court Rejects Drilling in Protected Area

“It is also a reminder for oil companies and investors that expanding oil extraction in Ecuador’s Amazon is a risk and full of potential legal liabilities,” said Amazon Watch’s climate and energy director.

By Jessica Corbett.  Published 2-2-2022 by Common Dreams

Amazon Watch climate and energy director Kevin Koenig said Wednesday that “plans are underway to drill 600+ wells in the Ishpingo, Tambococha Tiputini fields, known as Block 43.” (Photo: CONFENIAE)

The advocacy group Amazon Watch celebrated Wednesday after Ecuador’s top court struck down parts of a 2019 decree that would have allowed oil drilling in an area that is protected for isolated Indigenous peoples.

Amazon Watch climate and energy director Kevin Koenig called the Constitutional Court of Ecuador’s decision “a major victory for Indigenous peoples and an important step in protecting some of the most environmentally fragile and culturally sensitive places in the Amazon.” Continue reading

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