Ryan Zinke, a now former Congressman from Montana, has just been confirmed to lead the Department of Interior. He has a lifetime record of voting against the environment 96% of the time. His confirmation jeopardizes the future of our public lands, and the people, wildlife, and economies that depend on them.
Zinke’s answers to questions during the confirmation process provide insight into how he envisions the Department of Interior will manage millions of acres of federal lands and the natural resources under and on our wild places. When asked if humans have contributed to climate change, he questioned whether we are the driving force. When asked about protecting public lands, he refused to commit to keeping dirty fuels in the ground. He even said that the recent designation of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, lands that are sacred to five Native American tribes with ancestral and spiritual ties to these lands, was one of the “pending problems we need to address quickly.”
Our public lands allow us to experience the majesty of the great outdoors, learn about our country’s history, and honor those whose cultural history dates back millennia. It’s now become imperative that we step up and fight so that future generations can enjoy these places, too.
Opponents of tar sands got some good news this week.
Oil and gas company Statoil announced Thursday that it was shelving its Corner tar sands project in Alberta.
The Norwegian firm’s decision to postpone the project “for a minimum of three years” is due to economic costs of labor and materials, according to a press statement from the company.
“Market access issues also play a role—including limited pipeline access which weighs on prices for Alberta oil, squeezing margins and making it difficult for sustainable financial returns,” part of the statement reads.
A similar announcement was made earlier this year by French energy firm Total, which said it was shelving its Joslyn tar sands mine in Alberta because of escalating costs. In addition, Shell announced in February that it was stopping work on its Pierre River mine in the Alberta tar sands.
…time to abandon the tattered argument that major pipelines like Keystone XL would not enable substantial tar sands expansion and associated carbon emissions. Industry doesn’t believe it – and neither should policy makers.
If we build Keystone XL, we’ll see many of the tar sands projects that are being cancelled and postponed become viable once again. At a time when decisive action on climate change is urgently needed, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would make the problem of carbon pollution worse – enabling the production of some of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels.
Also on Thursday, tar sands critics in the city of Burnaby, British Columbia scored at least a temporary victory in their fight to stop energy giant Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion—a project facing strong opposition.
Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) said that at this time it could not force the city to allow the company to conduct its surveys and studies for the work in the conservation area, which would violate the city’s bylaws.
CBC Newsreported that “Kinder Morgan wants to bore a hole under [Burnaby] mountain as part of a proposal to nearly triple the capacity of the existing pipeline, but the city has vowed to block the project however it can.”
In its statement, the NEB writes “that the motion filed by Trans Mountain raises a constitutional question as to whether City of Burnaby bylaws are inapplicable to the company as it exercises its powers under the National Energy Board Act and whether the city should be prevented from enforcing those bylaws.”
It is now up to the company to provide formal notice to the attorneys general of Canada and the provinces if it wants to continue, and the issue would then return to the NEB.
Environmental group ForestEthics has said that among the tar sands pipeline’s problems is that it could “increase tanker traffic in the region from about 80 a year to over 400 tankers a year.”
Mayor of Burnaby and pipeline foe Derek Corrigan said at a rally this month that “that is the scariest concept for us as a city and as a province that you can imagine. When you think about the potential catastrophe that could occur as a result of one of those tankers being damaged in our inlet—the destruction that that would cause to the reputation of this city…the people that surround that inlet…[and] to the wildlife—and never mind the tourism.”
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The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s proposed water drill, pump and pipe scheme will devastate our people, plants, and animals in rural Eastern Nevada. That’s what a government approval of a Right-of-Way permit for a pipeline would do, according to a study of this unsustainable groundwater mining project.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) just announced its preference for an alternative in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which would approve a $15.7 billion proposal of the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) for its 300-mile pipeline. The BLM did not study cheaper and more reliable water supply alternatives.
We just managed to eke out a small victory for the environment when the President didn’t give the OK for the Keystone XL Pipeline project. Now, when one would hope things wouldn’t get any worse, it should be no surprise … it has.
To make up for the fact that rapid tar sands oil mining is threatening caribou herds by destroying vast swaths of forest habitat in Alberta, the Canadian government has called for killing thousands of wolves.
If Alberta Canada’s tar sands oil fields are fully developed, an area of boreal rainforest the size of Florida will be eviscerated, leaving in its wake giant ponds of toxic wastewater.
It’s obvious why this would pose a massive threat to all wildlife species who reside there, including birds, wolves, woodland caribou and the iconic spirit bear. But instead of preserving the habitat caribou need for their survival, the Canadian government’s answer is to blaze ahead with tar sands oil extraction, and kill thousands of wolves who would naturally prey on the caribou. A paper released this week by the National Wildlife Federation reports that The Ministry of the Environment’s plan calls for aerial shooting, and poisoning with bait laced with strychnine — a particularly painful type of poison.
This plan to kill wolves is a misguided, cruel response that does nothing to alleviate the greater problem: tar sands oil extraction is a huge threat to wildlife, local communities, and all of our futures.
But despite the clear negative consequences, the Canadian government continues working to rapidly expand tar sands production and sales, including promoting the Keystone XL Pipeline to export tar sands oil all over the world.
Understandably, this has begun to earn Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and many in the country’s government, a negative reputation to which they are becoming increasingly sensitive.
The Ministry of the Environment has not yet begun this planned wolf kill. With enough public pressure, we can get them to abandon the plan, and build the case for Canada to stop their devastating race to expand tar sands oil development.