Tag Archives: Climate Change

‘Huge Legal Win’: Court Stops Police From Blockading Line 3 Protester Camp

One attorney described the blockade as “an outrageous abuse of law enforcement authority serving the interests of the Enbridge corporation against its environmental opponents.”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-23-2021

On July 23, 2021, a Minnesota court ordered Hubbard County police officers to stop obstructing a driveway that leads to a Line 3 pipeline protest camp. (Photo: Giniw Collective)

In a development progressives called a “huge legal win in the fight against Line 3,” a Minnesota court on Friday ordered police in Hubbard County to stop impeding access to the Giniw Collective’s camp, where anti-pipeline activists have been organizing opposition to Enbridge’s multibillion-dollar tar sands project.

The ruling comes less than a week after Tara Houska, an Indigenous rights attorney and founder of the Giniw Collective, and Winona LaDuke, an environmental justice advocate and co-founder of Honor the Earth, filed for a temporary restraining order against Hubbard County, Sheriff Cory Aukes, and the local land commissioner in northern Minnesota. Continue reading

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Leaving Parts of Trump’s Pro-Polluter Legacy Intact, Biden Gets C- on Environmental Report Card

Biden’s “limited achievements must be put in context of what both science and justice require to avoid the worst impacts of the climate and extinction crises,” said the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund.

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-20-2021

Photo: Eric Haynes/CC

Expressing alarm over President Joe Biden’s support for a number of pipeline projects and his failure to reverse the vast majority of environmental regulatory rollbacks introduced by his predecessor, the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund on Tuesday gave the president a grade of C-minus and said he “needs improvement” on its Environmental Report Card.

Six months into his presidency, Biden has fully met five out of 25 “concrete and achievable environmental promises” he made on the campaign trail, and has only reversed three of former President Donald Trump’s rollbacks.

CBD Action Fund noted in the report card (pdf) that the president signed an “unprecedented” 17 executive orders on his first day in office in January, including three that fulfilled “Day One” promises he had made: “formally beginning the reentry process to the Paris climate agreement, permanently rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline, and directing all federal agencies to elevate addressing environmental justice to protect frontline communities.”

The group emphasized, however, that during Biden’s first six months in office the U.S. has experienced an unprecedented drought” and “record-shattering heatwaves” which climate scientists have long warned about.

“Thus, even as his administration is evaluated at the six-month mark, its limited achievements must be put in context of what both science and justice require to avoid the worst impacts of the climate and extinction crises,” the report card reads.

“President Biden got off to a strong start right when he took office, but his environmental agenda appears to be stalling out,” said Brett Hartl, chief political strategist at the CBD Action Fund. “He has to light a fire under his Cabinet and the federal agencies to complete his campaign promises without foot-dragging, because the climate and extinction crises are getting more urgent every day.”

Overall, the group credited Biden with fulfilling five campaign promises so far, including holding a global climate summit in his first 100 days in office and reinstating federal flood-protection standards that assess climate change risks.

The administration has taken steps to fulfill 13 other campaign pledges, including:
  • Ending financing for overseas coal projects;
  • Installing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations; and
  • Requiring that disadvantaged communities receive 40% of benefits from climate spending.

“For other campaign promises, the Biden administration has yet to initiate efforts to achieve them,” the report card says. “For example, Biden spoke numerous times during the campaign about addressing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. He proposed a $20 billion conservation fund to address deforestation. However, this initiative was not part of his fiscal year 2022 budget proposal, and it is unclear what other steps the administration will take to address deforestation.”

CBD Action Fund identified just three Trump-era environmental rollbacks that Biden has reversed, including the so-called “secret science” rule restricting data the EPA can use to enact regulations; eliminating the use of the “social cost of carbon” in environmental reviews; and curtailing categories of industrial polluters subjected to greenhouse gas regulations.

Biden was also credited with taking steps to restore protections to the Tongass National Forest and the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments, and with announcing recently that officials will “begin the process of undoing additional Trump-era rollbacks,” the report reads.

“The timeline and scope of these efforts is unclear,” said the CBD Action Fund. “For example, the Department of the Interior announced in June that it would ‘revisit’ the Trump-era rollback of the regulations guiding consultations under the Endangered Species Act.”

“But the department signaled that it would only reverse one of over 20 changes made by the previous administration to the regulations—specifically restoring the earlier definition of ‘indirect effects’—and stated that this effort would not even begin until December 2021 at the earliest,” the group continued.

In addition to more than two dozen Trump-era rollbacks the administration has taken no action to reverse, the group expressed indignation at Biden’s decision to support some of Trump’s attacks on the environment.

The president has declined to block the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota or shut down operation of the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as approving nearly 2,500 new drilling permits on public lands and waters—”roughly the same amount that the Trump administration approved during its first entire year in office,” the report card reads.

“Biden’s bold vision during the campaign won’t be met if his administration leaves large chunks of Trump’s pro-polluter legacy intact,” said Hartl.

Biden has also supported Trump’s weakened protections from pesticides for endangered species, an increased limit for Atrazine pollution in waterways, and the expanded use of antibiotics on citrus crops.

“If President Biden does not act boldly, right now, the impacts of climate change will be severe enough to make large swaths of our planet nearly uninhabitable,” CBD Action Fund said.

After a promising start, the group added, “complacency and inertia could stymy further progress on his climate and environmental goals. Without a continued and sustained effort in the next 12 to 18 months, any potential environmental legacy could easily be erased.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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Seven Water Protectors Protesting Line 3 Pipeline Arrested at the Shell River

“These women represent many others who stand in solidarity with the protection of water across Anishinaabe treaty lands.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-19-2021

Water protectors faced off with police at Shell River in Hubbard County, Minnesota on July 19, 2021.(Photo credit: Sarah LittleRedfeather)

At least seven water protectors from the Indigenous-led movement to stop Enbridge’s Line 3 were arrested on Monday while protesting at the Shell River in Minnesota, which the partially completed tar sands pipeline is set to cross in five places.

“Today women and other water protectors from across multiple communities in Minnesota sat together at the Shell River, near Park Rapids, Minnesota, in peaceful prayer to oppose the construction of Line 3,” the group Honor the Earth said on Instagram. “These women represent many others who stand in solidarity with the protection of water across Anishinaabe treaty lands.” Continue reading

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Oregon’s Growing Bootleg Fire is One of 70 Now Raging in US West, Where Another Heatwave Looms

“We are living through a climate catastrophe,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman. “We have to redesign our economy to respond to the current crisis and to ensure it doesn’t get much, much worse.”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-17-2021

The Bootleg Fire – July 10,2021. Photo: Zach Urness/Twitter

Bolstering the case for meaningful action to address the climate emergency, the out-of-control Bootleg Fire that began on July 6 in southern Oregon has scorched more than 280,000 acres and is only 22% contained. It is the nation’s largest wildfire so far this year, and one of 70 large blazes currently torching the U.S. West, which is bracing for yet another heatwave.

To put Bootleg’s destructiveness into perspective, the fire—one of 10 burning in Oregon alone—has spread over 25,000 acres per day on average, or more than 1,000 acres every hour. According to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller, “That’s an area larger than the area of Central Park each hour, or a rate of a football field burned every five seconds” for 11 days. Continue reading

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Water Protectors Against Line 3 Sue Over Police Blockade of Indigenous Camp

“The Hubbard County Sheriff has attempted to illegally construct a de facto open-air prison to trap Indigenous environmental protectors and allies on their own property.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-16-2021

Since June 28, 2021, police in Minnesota have blockaded a driveway to an Indigenous camp of water protectors protesting the Line 3 pipeline. (Photo: Giniw Collective)

Water protectors fighting against Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline in Minnesota filed suit Friday to stop a police blockade of a camp they use for Indigenous-led organizing, decolonization, and treaty rights trainings as well as religious activities.

The plaintiffs, including Indigenous leaders Tara Houska and Winona LaDuke, are taking legal action in response to the Hubbard County Sheriff Office’s ongoing blockade of the private property, which police unexpectedly began late last month. The complaint names the county, Sheriff Corwin “Cory” Aukes, and Mark Lohmeier, the local land commissioner, as defendants. Continue reading

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In ‘Critical Step’ for Climate, Biden to Restore Protections for Tongass National Forest

“The Tongass is not only one of the few truly wild places left on the planet, it is vital to our path forward as we deal with climate change,” said the Alaska-based group SalmonState.

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-15-2021

Hikers walk through the Tongass National Forest in southeastern Alaska. (Photo: U.S. Forest Service/Flickr/cc)

Conservation and climate action groups on Thursday applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s announcement of far-reaching new protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest as well as a restoration of a key rule that former President Donald Trump rescinded three months before leaving office in a bid to open millions of acres to industrial logging.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the administration would put back in place the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, also known as the Roadless Rule, which Trump exempted Alaska from in a move that outraged Indigenous communities in the region as well as environmental advocates. Continue reading

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‘Biggest Story in the World Right Now’: Humanity Has Flipped Amazon From Carbon Sink to Source

The findings, said one expert, “show that the uncertain future is happening now.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-14-2021

Fire in the Amazon. Photo: Luísa Mota/flickr/CC

Following years of warnings and mounting fears among scientists, “terrifying” research revealed Wednesday that climate change and deforestation have turned parts of the Amazon basin, a crucial “sink,” into a source of planet-heating carbon dioxide.

Though recent research has elevated concerns about the Amazon putting more CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than it absorbs, the new findings, published in the journal Nature, were presented as a “first” by scientists and climate reporters. Continue reading

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‘Subsidizing the Climate and Ecological Crisis’: Biden Approving Fossil Fuel Permits Faster Than Trump or Obama

AP’s findings run counter to the president’s campaign vow to end oil and gas extraction on public lands.

Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-13-2021

Photo: Sunrise Movement/Facebook

Flying in the face of the White House’s reference to the climate crisis as an “existential threat” and President Joe Biden’s campaign pledge, his administration has so far approved fossil fuel drilling permits on public and tribal lands at a faster rate than his two immediate predecessors, a new Associated Press analysis has found.

“We’re not only subsidizing the climate and ecological crisis,” climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted in response to the new reporting, “we’re speeding it up.” Continue reading

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‘This Is a Scandal’: Documents Reveal Obama’s EPA Approved Toxic Chemicals for Fracking in 2011

“We still don’t know the full extent of toxic chemicals that companies are using in their fracking operations. Why is the EPA allowing them to poison our communities without consequence?”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-12-2021

A fracking rig behind a housing development Photo: WildEarth Guardians/flickr/CC

Between 2012 and 2020, fossil fuel corporations injected potentially carcinogenic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or chemicals that can degrade into PFAS, into the ground while fracking for oil and gas, after former President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency approved their use despite agency scientists’ concerns about toxicity.

The EPA’s approval in 2011 of three new compounds for use in oil and gas drilling or fracking that can eventually break down into PFAS, also called “forever chemicals,” was not publicized until Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) obtained internal records from the agency through a Freedom of Information Act request, the New York Times reported Monday after reviewing the files.

According to PSR’s new reportFracking with “Forever Chemicals, oil and gas companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron, and others engaged in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have since 2012 pumped toxic chemicals that can form PFAS into more than 1,200 wells in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming.

While the Times noted that the newly released documents constitute some of the earliest evidence of the possible presence of PFAS in fracking fluids, PSR’s report warns that “the lack of full disclosure of chemicals used in oil and gas operations raises the potential that PFAS could have been used even more extensively than records indicate, both geographically and in other stages of the oil and gas extraction process, such as drilling, that precede the underground injections known as fracking.”

“It’s very disturbing to see the extent to which critical information about these chemicals is shielded from public view,” Barbara Gottlieb, PSR’s Environment & Health Program director, said Monday in a press release. “The lack of transparency about fracking chemicals puts human health at risk.”

As the Times reported:

In a consent order issued for the three chemicals on Oct. 26, 2011, EPA scientists pointed to preliminary evidence that, under some conditions, the chemicals could “degrade in the environment” into substances akin to PFOA, a kind of PFAS chemical, and could “persist in the environment” and “be toxic to people, wild mammals, and birds.” The EPA scientists recommended additional testing. Those tests were not mandatory and there is no indication that they were carried out.

“The EPA identified serious health risks associated with chemicals proposed for use in oil and gas extraction, and yet allowed those chemicals to be used commercially with very lax regulation,” Dusty Horwitt, a researcher at PSR, told the newspaper.

In a statement released Monday, Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, called the PSR report “alarming,” and said it “confirms what hundreds of scientific studies and thousands of pages of data have already shown over the last decade: fracking is inherently hazardous to the health and safety of people and communities in proximity to it, and it should be banned entirely.”

As PSR notes, PFAS—highly potent toxins that accumulate in the body and persist in the environment—pose a threat to human and environmental well-being. Negative health effects linked to PFAS include low infant birth weights, disruptions of the immune and reproductive systems, and cancer.

“The potential that these chemicals are being used in oil and gas operations should prompt regulators to take swift action to investigate the extent of this use, pathways of exposure, and whether people are being harmed,” said Linda Birnbaum, board-certified Ph.D. toxicologist and former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Hauter added that “this says nothing of the dreadful impact fossil fuel extraction and burning is having on our runaway climate crisis. Fracking threatens every person on the planet, directly or indirectly.”

According to the Times:

In a 2016 report, the EPA identified more than 1,600 chemicals used in drilling and fracking, or found in fracking wastewater, including close to 200 that were deemed carcinogens or toxic to human health. The same EPA report warned that fracking fluid could escape from drill sites into the groundwater and that leaks could spring from underground wells that store millions of gallons of wastewater.

Communities near drilling sites have long complained of contaminated water and health problems that they say are related. The lack of disclosure on what sort of chemicals are present has hindered diagnoses or treatment. Various peer-reviewed studies have found evidence of illnesses and other health effects among people living near oil and gas sites, a disproportionate burden of which fall on people of color and other underserved or marginalized communities.

“The Obama-Biden administration approved the use of toxic PFAS chemicals for fracking a decade ago,” said Hauter, “and all these years later, President Joe Biden’s practices haven’t seemed to change a bit.”

“The Biden administration has claimed to be concerned about PFAS contamination throughout the country,” Hauter said. “Biden himself pledged during the campaign to halt new fracking on federal lands. Meanwhile, this administration is approving new fracking permits at a pace similar to Trump, with no letup in sight.”

Earlier this month, whistleblowers at the EPA accused the Biden administration of continuing the “war on science,” with managers at the agency allegedly modifying reports about the risks posed by chemicals and retaliating against employees who report the misconduct.

As Common Dreams reported, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a formal complaint on behalf of four scientists with the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General, demanding an investigation into reports that high-level employees routinely delete crucial information from chemical risk assessments or change the documents’ conclusions to give the impression that the chemicals in question are safer.

Calling Monday’s revelations about the Obama administration’s decision to greenlight the use of PFAS in fracking “a scandal that should lead every nightly news program,” Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org and director of Fossil Free Media, noted that “we still don’t know the full extent of toxic chemicals that companies are using in their fracking operations.”

“Why is the EPA allowing them to poison our communities without conscience?” he asked.

Hauter called on Biden “to immediately make good on his promise to halt new fracking on federal lands,” adding that “his administration must take urgent action to contain the use of PFAS chemicals and their deadly spread into our water and our communities.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
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‘Wake Up Call’: Rapidly Thawing Permafrost Threatens Trans-Alaska Pipeline

“The implications of this speak to the pipeline’s integrity and the effect climate change is having on pipeline safety in general.”

By Common Dreams. Published 7-11-2021

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline going north. Photo: olekinderhook, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Alaska’s thawing permafrost is undermining the supports that hold up an elevated section of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, putting in danger the structural integrity of one of the world’s largest oil pipelines.

In a worst-case scenario, a rupture of the pipeline would result in an oil spill in a delicate and remote landscape where it would be extremely difficult to clean up. Continue reading

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