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For Immediate Release, February 12, 2013

Contact: Kierán Suckling, (520) 275-5960

Center for Biological Diversity Statement on President Obama's State of the Union Address

WASHINGTON— Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, released the following statement on President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight.

“We’re pleased that President Obama is finally taking the climate crisis seriously. Every day of delay is a day closer to climate catastrophe. We need bold, strong leadership that pushes through immediate policies that will result in significant reductions in carbon pollution.

“It’s important that the president acknowledged the urgency of the climate crisis. Help cannot come fast enough. Last year saw record hot temperatures, epic drought, terrible storms, massive wildfires, dangerous heat waves and increasing threats to people and plants and animals around the globe.

“Climate change won’t be solved on rhetoric alone. We look forward to seeing the Obama administration’s plan to cut greenhouse pollution without waiting for Congress but we do know this: It must include use of existing laws like the Clean Air Act to cut carbon pollution, a significant shift toward sustainable energy  and rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in the Arctic.

“The president cannot achieve science-based greenhouse pollution reductions while simultaneously promoting policies that do the exact opposite, like speeding oil and gas permits and promoting dangerous fracking that will poison our air and water.

“Unfortunately, President Obama failed to mention some of most important environmental issues facing the country, including threats faced by endangered species. Scientists tell us plants and animals are going extinct at up to 1,000 times the typical rate – just as pressure is mounting to mine, pave, log and pollute some of our most pristine wild places. This year, as the Endangered Species Act turns 40, it’s more important than ever that we do everything we can to save species, protect the fragile places they live and the air and water that they, and we, rely on.”

Earlier this week, the Center for Biological Diversity recommended five executive actions that the Obama administration should take to address climate change:

1. Set a national carbon pollution cap: The president should direct the Environmental Protection Agency to set a national pollution cap for greenhouse gases. The Clean Air Act already requires the EPA to set a cap for widespread and damaging "criteria pollutants." The agency has done so for six pollutants, including carbon monoxide and lead. Between 1980 and 2010, emissions of these six pollutants fell by 63 percent while the gross domestic product grew by 128 percent. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide emissions, which were unregulated, went up by 21 percent, contributing to climate change and ocean acidification. The president should also order the EPA to immediately regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution, and from airplanes, the fastest-growing transportation source of greenhouse gases.

2. Ban fracking and end fossil fuel development on public lands: The president should direct the Department of the Interior to stop leasing out millions of acres of publicly owned lands for extreme and polluting forms of fossil fuel development.  Fracking, a particularly dangerous extraction practice, poisons our air and water and releases large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. As a first step, the president should direct the Interior department to prohibit fracking on federal lands. Ending all fossil fuel development on public lands will allow these precious areas to be used for wildlife habitat and recreation in a warming world.

3. Don’t approve the Keystone XL pipeline: The Keystone XL pipeline would transport up to 35 million gallons of oil a day from Canada's tar sands — one of the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive energy sources in the world — to the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, has called the Keystone pipeline "game over" for the climate. The Keystone pipeline cannot go forward without State Department approval, and the president should stop the project permanently.

4. Protect the Arctic from offshore drilling: The president should prohibit offshore fossil fuel development in the Arctic’s delicate ecosystem. As melting sea ice hits record lows, oil companies have rushed to exploit the Arctic’s fossil fuel spoils. We should not invest in a new carbon-intensive fossil fuel infrastructure at the top of the world, where cleaning up spilled oil would be impossible and where multiple accidents this year demonstrated that the oil industry cannot operate safely. An oil spill in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas would devastate one of the most pristine ecosystems on the planet, killing polar bears, ice seals and other imperiled wildlife.   

5. Join the world in seeking a fair and ambitious climate treaty: It’s time for President Obama to fulfill his campaign promise to seek a successful global climate treaty. In 1992 the first President Bush signed, and the Senate ratified, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in which America agreed to take action to avoid dangerous climate change. Yet the U.S. negotiating team refuses to agree to the cuts necessary to avert climate disruption. The president should direct his State Department negotiating team to commit our country to fair, ambitious and binding greenhouse gas reductions.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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