Rolling Stone Quotes Center, Blows Open Gulf Oil Scandal
They didn't put our picture on the cover, but Rolling Stone Magazine featured the Center for Biological Diversity prominently in this month's mammoth exposé on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Titled "The Spill, The Scandal and the President: The inside story of how Obama failed to crack down on the corruption of the Bush years - and let the world's most dangerous oil company get away with murder," Tim Dickinson's story explains how the deeply corrupt Minerals Management Service was allowed to keep ignoring and violating environmental laws through both the Bush and early Obama years.
A few excerpts:
"[Interior Secretary] Salazar did little to tamp down on the lawlessness at MMS...And instead of putting the brakes on new offshore drilling, Salazar immediately throttled it up to record levels. Even though he had scrapped the Bush plan, Salazar put 53 million offshore acres up for lease in the Gulf in his first year alone - an all-time high. The aggressive leasing came as no surprise, given Salazar's track record. "This guy has a long, long history of promoting offshore oil drilling - that's his thing," says Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "He's got a highly specific soft spot for offshore oil drilling." As a senator, Salazar not only steered passage of the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which opened 8 million acres in the Gulf to drilling, he even criticized President Bush for not forcing oil companies to develop existing leases faster."
"A top-to-bottom restructuring of MMS didn't require anything more than Ken Salazar's will: The agency only exists by order of the Interior secretary…Even though Salazar knew that the environmental risks of offshore drilling had been covered up under Bush, he failed to order new assessments. "They could have said, 'We cannot conclude there won't be significant impacts from drilling until we redo those reviews,' " says Brendan Cummings, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity. "But the oil industry would have cried foul. And what we've seen with Salazar is that when the oil industry squeaks, he retreats."
Read the full story in Rolling Stone and check out the latest on the Center's Gulf Disaster Web site.
Interior Department Lifts Ban on Dangerous Shallow Water Drilling in Gulf
As oil continues to gush from BP's Deepwater Horizon catastrophe into the Gulf of Mexico, the Interior Department this week said it's going to allow offshore drilling in shallow waters -- less than 500 feet -- to resume. This comes despite Interior's lack of answers about its pledge, made April 30, to conduct a full safety review before allowing more drilling. It also comes amid news that another shallow-water well in the Gulf -- also approved without full environmental review -- is leaking, possibly since 2004.
In fact, despite Interior Department's cavalier attitude, shallow-water drilling is very dangerous. It has a worse blowout record than deepwater drilling and is closer to our shores. The Center has been among the loudest national voices calling for a full moratorium on more offshore drilling, no matter the depth.
Read more on Interior allowing shallow-water drilling in our press release, listen on NPR's Marketplace, and learn about the latest oil spill in TIME. Then take action with the Center to end new, dangerous offshore drilling now.
8 Million Acres Saved for Mexican Spotted Owl
Affirming the legal arguments of the Center for Biological Diversity, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has shot down an industry effort to eliminate more than 8.6 million acres of protective "critical habitat" for the endangered Mexican spotted owl. The court ruling late last week rejected an attempt by industry groups to scrap the habitat designation.
Started by owl surveyors and photographers, the Center has been fighting to protect the spotted owl since petitioning to protect it under the Endangered Species Act in 1989. At that point, old-growth logging, development and cattle grazing had whittled the owls' population down to about 2,000.
"Today's ruling is the latest in a long string of legal victories defending the owl and its habitat," said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director with the Center. "This victory is good news because it upholds protections for the owl and the ecosystems that it depends on."
Read more in the Arizona Daily Star.
2,000 Acres Protected for Mississippi Gopher Frog
In response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to protect nearly 2,000 acres for the endangered Mississippi gopher frog. Known from just three sites in Mississippi, the gopher frog is threatened by plans to build an entire town -- ironically called "Tradition" -- next to one of the only ponds where the frog still breeds. This spring, the Center and the Gulf Restoration Network filed a notice of intent to sue if more isn't done to save the frog from the tradition of habitat destruction.
Last week's habitat proposal is a great step forward -- but, says Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Center: "If the gopher frog is to survive, this critical habitat should be expanded to cover a larger area around the frog's main breeding pond. The frog is in need of all the protection it can get from massive urban sprawl that's threatening its last habitats."
Get more from Mississippi's Hattiesburg American.
Seven Penguin Species to Win Protection
Seven penguin species will get federal protection as part of a settlement in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network. The African, Humboldt, yellow-eyed, white-flippered, Fjordland crested, erect-crested and a population of southern rockhopper penguins are primarily threatened by global warming and overfishing. The terms of the settlement require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to finalize the penguins' addition to the protected endangered species list.
"Penguins are poster children for the devastating effects of climate change," said Center attorney Catherine Kilduff. "The Endangered Species Act provides a springboard for protecting penguins and our planet."
The Center is now gearing up to sue the Interior Department for denying Endangered Species Act protections to two more penguin species: the emperor and the northern rockhopper. Read more in USA Today.
Alaska Attacks Beluga Whales, Center Jumps in to Save Them
Proving that Sarah Palin is not the only wildlife-hating, tax-dollar wasting, legally dubious politician in Alaska, the current governor has sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to strip federal protections from the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale. The white whale was placed on the endangered list in 2008 due to a legal petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies. Though the species has declined by 50 percent and is still threatened by industrial development, pollution, gillnets, ship collisions, sonar devices, global warming, underwater seismic blasting, oil and gas development, and sewage discharge, Palin's successor argues, you betcha, that ol' whale is doing just fine.
So how's the state paying for this new legal fight? From a $1 million war chest of public money created to push belugas and polar bears off the endangered species list. The Center has already intervened in the state's polar bear case and will soon jump in to save the beluga as well.
"Instead of wasting taxpayers' money on frivolous lawsuits, the state should start cleaning up Cook Inlet," said Rebecca Noblin, the Center's Alaska director. Read more in the Anchorage Daily News and watch Noblin on KTVA.
Court Upholds Closure of Open-air Stink Factory
Thanks to the Center for Biological Diversity and a group of active citizens, residents in the rural California town of Hinkley -- made famous by the movie Erin Brockovich -- won't have to put up with an open-air sewage sludge compost facility. A California state court of appeals this week upheld a decision to halt the project after opposition by the Center and a community group called HelpHinkley.org. The court found the project's initial environmental review fell short, especially in considering measures to counter air pollution.
"This legal victory gives the county a second chance to protect the environment and the health and welfare of Hinkley residents by requiring this facility to use today's technology, rather than the last century's," said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center's Climate Law Institute.
The Center and HelpHinkley.org were represented in the case by the Golden Gate University Environmental Law and Justice Clinic and the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment.
Read more in our press release.
Rare Seabird Soars Toward Safety
Responding to a petition by Center for Biological Diversity, this Tuesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the western gull-billed tern may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. The stout, black-capped seabird -- down to just 200 breeding pairs in the United States and only 600 to 800 pairs globally -- is unique among terns in that in addition to diving for fish, it also snags insects from the air and alights on land to catch crabs and lizards.
In recent years, the tern has been hit hard by pollution, falling water levels, intentional killings to prevent aircraft collisions, habitat loss and climate change. Yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently proposed destroying gull-billed tern eggs on the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, an area where the bird preys on the eggs and chicks of other endangered birds, the western snowy plover and California least tern. The agency called off that plan after the Center petitioned to protect the gull-billed tern.
The Center remains devoted to protecting all endangered birds, including the California least tern and the western snowy plover, which we've been helping since the 1990s. But the western gull-billed tern needs our help too. Says Center biologist Tierra Curry, "The solution to saving the plover and the tern is to provide more and better habitat, not to sacrifice an equally endangered species."
Get details from our press release and learn more about the western gull-billed tern.
Pombo Loses Again; Endangered Species, Bambi Sigh in Relief
Congress's single greatest opponent of endangered species protection -- and one of the greatest offshore oil drilling proponents -- was Rep. Richard Pombo of California. The San Jose Mercury-News rightfully said he "held a special place in the hearts of America's environmental movement somewhere next to Capt. Joseph Hazelwood of the Exxon Valdez and the hunter who shot Bambi's mother."
Before being unelected in 2006 amid financial scandals and ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Pombo declared -- and lost -- a decade-long war on the Endangered Species Act. He tried to make a comeback this year, but just this week lost in the Republican primary to Jeff Denham.
Since he'll now have extra time on his hands, the Center is taking up a collection to send Pombo down to the Gulf of Mexico to clean up the mess he helped create. Let us know if you're interested.
Final Push -- Help Us Reach Gulf Disaster Fund Goal
Thanks to the tremendous outpouring of donations from our supporters, we're just $6,929 shy of reaching our match goal of $75,000 for the Gulf Disaster Fund to force BP to clean up its toxic mess, protect wildlife and ecosystems jeopardized by the gushing oil, and prevent further oil catastrophes. The Gulf crisis has major ramifications for the rest of the country, from drilling planned in the frozen Arctic to the opening of new drilling areas off the Atlantic coast and eastern Gulf of Mexico. The Center for Biological Diversity's staff have been working 24/7 since the BP explosion, and we can't stop now.
Please click here to make a generous gift to the Gulf Disaster Fund, and your gift will go twice as far when we reach our goal of $75,000. If you've already given or aren't able to right now, please forward this to 10 of your friends.
RACE4EARTH -- A New Way to Help the Center
When it comes to saving the planet and protecting endangered species, time isn't on our side. Every second counts. As a result, now more than ever, environmentally conscious runners, cyclists, and triathletes are seeking ways to leverage their passion for sport to help save our planet from man-made destruction and preserve it for future generations. The Center for Biological Diversity has created RACE4EARTH for endurance athletes who want to harness their passion for physical challenges with their love for nature to protect imperiled plants, animals, and their critical habitat by raising awareness and money for the Center's important work.
To kick off the exciting new project, on September 12 in Madison, Wisconsin, Center board member Scott Power will "RACE4EARTH" to help raise $25,000 for endangered species protection by attempting to finish Ironman Wisconsin, a 140.6-mile endurance triathlon.
Learn more about how you get involved with RACE4EARTH, check out Scott Power's blog about training for the Ironman, and click here to help support his effort.
Photo credits: Mexican spotted owl (c) Robin Silver; oil spill courtesy USGS; Gulf offshore platform courtesy Flickr/Chad Teer; Mexican spotted owls (c) Robin Silver; Mississippi gopher frog by Glen Johnson, USFWS; African penguins (c) Peter and Barbara Barham; beluga whale by Robyn Angliss, NMML; Hinkley rally courtesy HelpHinkley.org; western gull-billed tern with chick (c) Kathy Molina; Richard Pombo courtesy NewsDotCom; Deepwater Horizon explosion courtesy U.S. Coastguard; logo courtesy RACE4EARTH.
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