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August 25 2012


Keystone XL Pipeline To Take Center Stage At Republican National Convention

Over the next few days, Republican lawmakers, Party officials, delegates, and supporters will gather in Tampa, Florida for the Republican National Convention. During their weeklong convention, we can expect to hear a lot of debunked talking points, particularly about the need to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.

For more than a year, Republican lawmakers in the U.S. have been pushing for approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, while completely ignoring the environmental risks that would come along with the plan to pipe dangerous DilBit from the Alberta tar sands south to the Gulf Coast.

In addition to ignoring the risks, Republicans have vastly overstated the alleged “benefits” of the pipeline, which they claim would create thousands of jobs, lower energy prices, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. That last claim is ironic, as the pipeline would carry foreign fuel from Canada, already the largest exporter of fuel to the U.S. Americans certainly love Canada as a neighbor, but it's still technically a foreign country and its ultimate goal is to reach foreign markets in Asia and elsewhere, not the United States.

Bold Nebraska has compiled a list of the possible topic areas to be discusses regarding the pipeline, as well as the truth about the consequences of the pipeline. Here are some of the talking points they are expecting, as well as the fact-based counter arguments:

Many Republicans and Keystone XL pipeline supporters like to say that the Keystone XL pipeline will lower gas prices. The following sorts of statements may be thrown around at the Republican convention, even though pipeline supporters have been quieter on the subject since gas prices have been lower all summer and have only started to rise again because of a recent pipeline spill in Wisconsin and refinery fire in California.

Reports have shown that not only will the Keystone XL pipeline do nothing to ease the price of gas, but it could actually raise the cost for consumers in parts of the country. The reasons for that being Keystone XL is likely to both decrease the amount of gasoline produced in U.S. refineries for domestic markets and increase the cost of producing it, according to a report from NRDC, Oil Change International and Forest Ethics Advocacy.

U.S. Senator Richard Lugar from Indiana has said that Keystone XL will result in “hundreds of thousands” of new jobs, created indirectly by the Keystone XL pipeline project. Senator Lugar’s “estimate is based in part on Perryman’s 2010 study for TransCanada, according to the senator’s spokesman, Andy Fisher.”

An independent analysis by Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute finds that these claims are completely false. Most jobs that are created by Keystone XL, according to the Cornell study, will be “temporary and non-local.” The Cornell report concludes that the pipeline “will not be a major source of US jobs, nor will it play any substantial role at all in putting Americans back to work.”

Republicans claim to be have the utmost concern and concerned about landowner rights, so much so that the issue was included in the GOP party platform of 2008 following the Supreme Court’s Kelo v. City of New London decision with which they disagreed…

In the GOP’s rabid support for construction of the Keystone XL tarsands pipeline, some members seem to have disregarded their fundamental support for property rights and opposition to eminent domain—a position that they made clear following the Supreme Court’s decision in.
Among others, Senators Cornyn (R-TX), Crapo (R-ID), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Hatch (R-UT), and Rubio (R-FL) all publically opposed the Kelo decision and now publically support the Keystone XL pipeline—despite the fact that eminent domain would be used to claim private property in seven states.

Keep in mind that the discussion of the Keystone XL Pipeline will be taking place in a city located on the Gulf of Mexico, an area still reeling from the effects of the 2010 BP oil geyser. To make things worse, TransCanada recently won a permit for the first leg of their pipeline that would cross several waterways in and around Galveston, Texas that feed directly into the Gulf of Mexico. TransCanada has already begun that construction.

Reports over the last year have shown that the pipeline will feature dangerously inadequate supervision, and that small leaks are almost impossible to detect. (A small leak can still cause massive oil spills and contaminate water supplies.) The Gulf of Mexico cannot afford another oil disaster.

The 2008 RNC convention brought us “Drill Baby Drill,” and it looks like that battle cry will reverberate through the state of Florida again this week.

Do Republicans understand the irony of advocating for foreign interests - Canada's - on a project that will raise prices for Americans, inevitably spill and contaminate our lands and waterways, and further threaten the global climate?

March 09 2012


King of the Dung Hill

In a three-and-a-half-year study, researchers found a unique community of dung beetles on each of four livestock farms within a small radius in Florida.

March 06 2012


January 25 2012


December 20 2011


October 25 2011


A Photographic Call to Action

The International League of Conservation Photographers has 102 members around the world addressing issues from poaching to global warming to deforestation.
Reposted by02mydafsoup-01 02mydafsoup-01

June 06 2011


Oil Drilling Off Cuba Raises Specter of What-If

The prospect of a blowout in Cuban waters may give the Obama administration an incentive to open the way for emergency assistance from the United States.

April 29 2011


State Of Florida To Fast Track Environmental Destruction

Environmental groups in the state of Florida are working overtime this week in an attempt to stop a bill from passing the Florida Legislature that would give corporations the green light to destroy the environment. The bill, HB-991, would make it easier for corporations to obtain permits for things like mining, manufacturing, and razing an entire ecosystem for companies doing business in Florida. Audubon of Florida, 1000 Friends of Florida, the Sierra Club, the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy and the National Parks Conservation Association have joined forces this week, urging people to make phone calls to their representatives in an effort to stop the bill.

What makes that bill so dangerous is that it shifts environmental burdens from corporations to citizens. If passed by the Republican-controlled Florida legislature, the bill would no longer require a company to prove that their activities would not harm the environment or nearby residents. Instead, residents who say that companies are polluting or otherwise destroying the environment will have to prove to the state that these things are happening. <!--break-->
The Florida Sierra Club lays out the major provisions of the bill:

The bill limits local regulation of mining, affirms that groundwater can be contaminated by landfills, allows increased development in wetlands, reduces regulation of beach armoring projects, and excuses owners of underground tanks from protecting groundwater from leaking fuel, while greatly diminishing the rights of citizens to challenge environmentally harmful projects.

The bill stacks the deck against citizens who challenge permits, even if harmed by the permitted activity. Current law requires the applicant and the agency to defend the issuance of permits and is very specific in the order of presentation of evidence and arguments in hearings. The bill shifts the complete burden on those persons challenging permits and therefore reduces the rights of citizens to protect themselves.

They go on to list more ramifications:

- Deprive citizens of due process when they try to challenge permits that will hurt the environment

- Shift the burden of proof to citizens in challenges rather than leaving it with the applicant who currently has the burden of showing they are in compliance with all permit requirements

- Preempt localities from regulating the environmental impact of mining activity (one of the most disruptive land uses imaginable)

- Exempt phosphate mines from the development of regional impact process.

- Reduce the information agencies are allowed to request when processing permit applications

- Put into statute that groundwater can be contaminated down to the base of the aquifer all the way out to the property line

House Republicans and business groups are selling the bill as a “job creator” – a tactic that is playing out well in a state that has lost over a million jobs in the last few years. However, their cries of “job creation” are clearly just a smokescreen, as Florida’s Republican governor Rick Scott recently turned down $2.4 billion in federal stimulus money to build high speed rail from Tampa to Orlando, a project that was projected to create 20,000 permanent jobs, in addition to thousands more construction jobs that would have been needed for the project. If job creation was the real agenda, this project would have been greenlighted in a heartbeat.

So what is the real motivation behind the push to remove environmental protections? To understand the answer to that, you have to look at the man who sponsored HB-991 – Republican Jimmy Patronis from Panama City. Patronis rode into office in 2008 on a wave of corporate cash. The maximum allowance for campaign contributions at the time was a paltry $500 per donor, but that didn’t stop Patronis from pulling in more than $125,000 from corporate interests.

Among Patronis’s top donors are those who stand to gain the most from the passage of HB-991, including Koch Industries' subsidiary Georgia Pacific, Florida Phosphate (a mining company), the Florida Association of General Contractors, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Patronis also pulled in the maximum $500 allowance from material manufacturing companies, crop production companies, pharmaceutical companies, steel manufacturers, and various other contracting companies.

All of these industries that helped put Patronis in office stand to make huge gains under the proposed laws. A debate on the bill is scheduled for April 29th, and you can bet that these corporate interests will be standing by, waiting to write more checks for their favorite Florida congressman.

March 24 2011


Remember That Oil in the Gulf of Mexico? It's Still There

As we approach the one year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the subsequent oil disaster that followed, residents on the Gulf Coast are still finding their beaches covered in oil.

Residents of Perdido Key, Florida were recently treated to a few thousand pounds of “tar mats” washing ashore, which prompted BP to quickly send out clean up crews during a busy spring break season for local resorts. Residents and beachgoers did their best to overlook the dark spots on their vacations, and were laying out and playing in the water just a few feet away from the oncoming oil. The Perdido removal has so far been the only instance where BP has removed a large tar mat.

Elsewhere in Florida, four other tar mats have popped up between Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach, with cleanup efforts in those areas remaining slow. County officials are growing increasingly impatient with BP, forcing County Administrator Charles Oliver to send a letter to BP requesting immediate assistance. BP had announced, and the beaches accepted, that they would be scaling back their cleanup operations in Florida in February, since the only oil coming on shore was in the form of small tar balls.
Louisiana and Alabama have not been unscathed either, as both areas are still experiencing tar balls washing up on a daily basis. Louisiana could be in for an even harder hit, as Coast Guard officials have reported a large oil sheen stretching about 100 miles hovering dangerously close to Louisiana. Over the weekend, officials in Grand Isle confirmed that tar balls and actual oil had begun washing up on their beaches. From Lauren Kelly on Alternet on the true scope of the disaster:

Louisiana Bayoukeepers' Mike Roberts reiterated to [Rocky] Kistner of NRDC that the group saw what "looked like a huge amount of oil" in the waters off Louisiana. "They could smell it from the airplane and I could smell it from the boat. This wasn't just Mississippi River mud," he said.

However, government officials and business interests were quick to point out that this oil sheen might not be from BP’s oil, which would absolve them from responsibility in the cleanup, but also poses the more serious question of whether or not there is another oil well leaking in the Gulf of Mexico.

For residents along the Gulf Coast, the continuing presence of oil and tar balls is a constant reminder of how dangerous offshore drilling can be. But for most Americans, with the story no longer dominating the headline news, or even getting a mention, the consequences are now out of sight and out of mind. And if you listen close enough, you can probably still hear Sarah Palin shouting “Drill baby, drill!”

February 10 2011


Yet Another Route to Cellulosic Ethanol

Ineos will gasify plant waste and then use bacteria that eat the resulting carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The gas they don't eat will be burned for electricity.

January 19 2011


South Headed South On Environmental Issues

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) recently released their list of the top 10 most endangered environmental areas in the nation, and the results do not bode well for the South. Nine out of the top ten areas in the nation facing severe environmental disaster are located in the Southern United States (assuming you count Tennessee and Virginia as “south.”)

Many of the areas are coastal or other forms of wetlands, and leading the list is Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Still plagued with tar balls washing up from the Deepwater Horizon / BP oil disaster last year, the SELC warns that things along the Alabama coast could become much worse in the future. In addition to the current oil coming ashore, the waters in the Gulf of Mexico are littered with oil rigs, many of which are in dire condition and could cause another catastrophic blowout dwarfing the Deepwater Horizon. <!--break-->

Georgia managed to make it on the SELC’s list twice, with both their cypress forests and the Oconee River being threatened by deforestation and the overusage of water by coal-burning power plants, respectively. North Carolina was featured three times on the list, as both mountain ranges and wetland habitats being threatened by new highway construction projects.

Statistics show that the South is steadily growing at a faster pace than most of the country. In addition, the South (if viewed as an independent entity) is the 7th biggest carbon emitter in the world. But the threats being posed by new development and energy generation are just the tip of the iceberg. Decisions like this are handed down from the top, and without change at the top, we can’t hope to save these areas.
A great example is my home state of Florida. While not mentioned on this year’s list, if things go as planned by new Republican Governor Rick Scott, you can bet that Florida will dominate the 2012 SELC list.

Within hours of being sworn into office, Governor Scott got to work dismantling the Department of Environmental Protection in Florida and decided to merge the department with the Department of Growth Management and the Department of Transportation into a single unit called the Department of Growth Leadership. What this means is that government agencies will no longer have to bicker with one another over projects that could harm the environment. If the former Department of Transportation wants to build a highway through the Everglades, they now only have to persuade members of their own department – not a separate agency focused solely on environmental protection.

To make matters worse, Scott has appointed an “environmental lawyer” to head up the agency. Herschel Vinyard will now have the final say in Florida’s environmental issues, a depressing thought considering that this acclaimed “environmental lawyer” was actually a corporate lawyer who fought the state on environmental issues on behalf of his business clients.

All in all, things do not look that great for the South. As the area continues to grow and the environment is constantly put on the back burner to make room for new power plants and roads, we’re left with little recourse. In this Mecca of red states being led by corporate-appointed politicians, there is little place to turn for hope.

August 18 2010


August 13 2010


The Miracle That Wasn't: Everglades Restoration

Religious undertones seem relevant to the debate over purity that's been a big part of the Everglades restoration debate for decades.

July 02 2010


The Oil's Reach: A Risk Assessment

The likelihood that the oil from the spill in the Gulf of Mexico will reach shorelines along the Eastern Seaboard remains remote, according to projections issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

June 15 2010


June 10 2010


A Stimulus Package with No Jobs?

Is it possible to botch spending stimulus dollars on renewable energy projects? Florida and the federal Department of Energy have found a way, according to the Energy Department's inspector general.

June 06 2010


Can the Rescued Pelicans Stay Clean?

Some wildlife experts conservation experts wonder whether cleaning the oil-soaked pelicans will work in the long run.

June 03 2010


May 26 2010


A Fisheries Disaster: It's Official

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke declared the Gulf of Mexico a national fisheries disaster area this week, citing the havoc wrought on the region's multibillion-dollar fishing industry by the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

May 24 2010


A Last-Gasp Airlift for Oily Birds

In an unusual and no doubt bewildering migration, a handful of birds oiled by the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico have been transported by military aircraft from coastal Louisiana to Florida and released at coastal wildlife refuges there.
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