Gulf Disaster Growing: Pressure Mounting on BP, Regulators
The Center for Biological Diversity has been going nonstop since our update on the Gulf Disaster last week -- every hour, there's more coming out about BP's lack of adequate safety and spill-mitigation measures, more failures to stop the gushing oil, the oil industry's widespread influence over regulatory agencies, and continued approvals of Gulf drilling projects after the spill (see below). Through our extensive, well-researched efforts, hundreds of newspaper, radio, and television stories are out now discussing the dangers of offshore oil drilling, its impacts on coastal communities and their endangered wildlife and plants, and the urgent need to reassess how and where offshore drilling is permitted.
The Center's team of expert researchers, lawyers, and scientists couldn't be doing this critical, urgent work without your outpouring of support and energy -- thank you.
But the BP spill won't stop tomorrow. Clean-up in the Gulf of Mexico will take years, and more drilling is slated to happen from the Gulf to the Arctic. The Center will be following every development closely and putting the pressure on the Obama administration and Secretary Salazar to stop all future offshore drilling.
Join us in taking action and read our collection of oil-spill media stories.
Check out the Center's Gulf Disaster Web site every day for the latest news on the spill, press releases from the Center, a slideshow of impacted species, and updated answers to the most important spill-related questions. There's also a map of the oil spill and critical habitat for the imperiled Gulf sturgeon and piping plover.
Feds Approve 27 Drilling Projects in Gulf After BP Spill
Even as the BP spill gushes millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the agency tasked with overseeing offshore drilling is continuing to exempt dangerous new drilling operations from environmental review. Since the BP oil-rig explosion on April 20, an investigation has revealed that the U.S. Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service has approved 27 new offshore drilling plans as of May 7 -- 26 of those under the same environmental-review exemption used to approve the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon project. In fact, two of the exempted approvals went to BP, based on the same false assertions about oil-rig safety and an inconceivably alleged improbability of environmental damage.
This is more bad news about the Mineral Management Service, but unfortunately it gets worse. Last week, the MMS became embroiled in controversy when it was revealed that it had exempted BP's offshore drilling plan from environmental review, and that it exempts hundreds of dangerous offshore oil-drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico every year, by using a loophole in the National Environmental Policy Act meant only to apply to non-damaging activities like building an outhouse or creating a hiking trail.
In response to the review-exemption scandal, last Thursday Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that he had banned approval of new offshore oil-drilling permits -- but the next day, Interior acknowledged that environmental exemptions and drilling plans have not been halted. Salazar is still allowing those flawed drilling approvals to proceed, only halting the issuance of a last technical check-off that doesn't involve any environmental review.
Get more from ABC News and see Center for Biological Diversity Executive Director Kierán Suckling talk about it on Democracy Now!
Feds Forced to Protect Habitat for Endangered Abalone
The National Marine Fisheries Service is now required, due to a settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity, to protect "critical habitat" for the endangered black abalone, a shellfish threatened by disease and global warming. Once common in Southern California tide pools, the species has declined by a shocking 99 percent since the 1970s -- first overwhelmed by overfishing, now plagued by climate change, ocean acidification, poaching, and a disease called withering syndrome that has virtually eliminated the abalone from the Southern California mainland and many areas of the Channel Islands.
After a Center petition, the black abalone gained a place on the endangered species list in 2009 but didn't receive the habitat safeguards that must accompany federal protection. "Black abalone is on the cusp of extinction and could be California's first marine species lost to global warming," said Center attorney Catherine Kilduff. "Habitat protections can provide a basis for recovery of the black abalone, which is a crucial constituent of California's kelp bed ecosystems."
Get more from KPBS.
San Diego Butterfly on Path to Protection
After a legal settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity, last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that one of Southern California's rarest insects, the Hermes copper butterfly, warrants consideration as an endangered species. Although the Center petitioned to give the butterfly Endangered Species Act protection in 2004 -- after a previous petition in 1991 -- the Service refused to even consider protecting the butterfly, a move later proven by Center-obtained documents to have resulted from the Bush administration overruling agency scientists. There's really no scientific doubt that the species needs immediate protection: In 2003, 19 of the remaining Hermes copper populations were destroyed by fires that burned about 39 percent of the species' habitat -- and fires aren't the only danger. "Sprawl, wildfires, and climate change are a triple threat for this beautiful butterfly," said the Center's Jonathan Evans.
Our Hermes copper settlement is one of 50 recent successes in overturning politically motivated endangered species decisions made by the Bush administration. A decision on whether protection is warranted for the butterfly is due next spring.
Check out our press release and learn more about the Hermes copper.
Climate Proposal Calamitous for Climate -- Take Action
In the midst of what appears to be the worst offshore oil disaster in U.S. history, yesterday Senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman proposed a climate bill that won't solve the problems of global warming -- and that continues pandering to the fossil-fuel industry, including expanded offshore oil drilling. The proposal reflects months of back-room dealings between the senators, major polluters, and other D.C. insiders, and would provide just a fraction of the greenhouse-gas reductions that would get our atmospheric CO2 to below 350 ppm, the only level scientists say would keep us under the climate-catastrophe tipping point. The proposal would also ban successful Clean Air Act programs from reducing greenhouse pollution, thwart state and local efforts to tackle warming, spur increased oil and gas drilling -- including offshore drilling -- subsidize dangerous and costly nuclear energy, and incentivize the destruction of forests for biomass energy production.
"The Kerry-Lieberman proposal is not the answer because it asks the wrong questions," said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "A successful climate bill must build upon, and not roll back, our existing foundation of environmental protections, and it must achieve the greenhouse pollution reductions necessary to avert dangerous climate disruption."
Get more from Reuters, listen to a clip of Center Senior Counsel Bill Snape talking about the proposal on NPR's Morning Edition, and take action now by urging your senators to support a real climate bill that protects our environment -- not the oil industry and other polluters.
Lawsuit Launched to Stop Ocelot, Jaguar Killings
To defend the endangered ocelot and jaguar from government traps, snares, and poisons, last month the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue Wildlife Services (the predator-control branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A 1999 Fish and Wildlife "biological opinion" -- an Endangered Species Act document delineating the extent of harm that government activities may inflict upon jaguars -- allows the killing of one jaguar as long as Wildlife Services tries to avoid that death by sticking to rules meant to minimize the risk. But the biological opinion is woefully out of date, and the rules only cover a tiny portion of habitat where jaguars may roam. Jaguars in other areas are completely vulnerable to federal predator killing on behalf of the livestock industry. And Wildlife Services may continue its lethal work in the area of southern Arizona where, last year, the jaguar Macho B was killed through a bungled snaring effort -- and where other jaguars may be expected to return.
Meanwhile, endangered ocelots haven't even received the benefit of consultation between Wildlife Services and Fish and Wildlife regarding traps, snares, and poisons in Arizona -- leaving ocelots unprotected despite their Endangered Species Act status. This month, an ocelot was run over by a vehicle near Globe, Arizona, and last year one was photographed further south in the state -- the first animals of this secretive species to be confirmed in Arizona since 1964.
Check out our press release and learn more about jaguars and ocelots.
Thousands Rally for Okinawa Dugong, Ecosystem -- Take Action
On April 25, in a stunning display of solidarity and perseverance, more than 90,000 citizens of Okinawa, Japan protested the relocation of a U.S. military base on their tiny island. At the same time in Washington, D.C., members of the Network for Okinawa -- of which the Center for Biological Diversity is a member -- rallied in front of the Japanese embassy in support of the Okinawa protest. Meanwhile, the Network for Okinawa and the Tokyo-based Japan-U.S. Citizens for Okinawa Network sponsored a full-page Washington Post ad aimed at reaching a larger U.S. audience. Two days earlier, the Center sent U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama a letter -- signed by more than 500 environmental, peace, justice, and religious organizations -- demanding the immediate closure of the base and the cancellation of plans to relocate it to Henoko Bay, Okinawa. On May 16, 30,000 Okinawans will create a human chain around the Futenma base's 11.5-kilometer circumference in yet another remarkable demonstration against the base relocation.
Despite these highly visible demonstrations against the relocation -- and a campaign promise to get the base out of Okinawa -- Prime Minister Hatoyama, under heavy U.S. pressure, has recently reiterated that the base will be relocated to Henoko Bay: habitat for more than 1,000 species of fish; almost 400 types of coral; three species of turtle; and the beloved Okinawa dugong, a rare relative of the manatee. As Center Conservation Director Peter Galvin explains, "Destroying the environmental and social well-being of an area, even in the name of 'national or global security,' is itself like actively waging warfare against nature and human communities."
Get details on the protest in The New York Times, read this Chalmers Johnson op-ed, see our Washington Post ad, and take action against military activity in dugong habitat.
Suit Filed to Curb Particulate Air Pollution
The Center for Biological Diversity has filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for missing numerous deadlines to limit particulate pollution in five western states. The EPA violated the Clean Air Act by failing to determine whether 13 areas in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, and Nevada are complying with air-pollution standards -- as well as failing to hold all those states accountable for carrying out plans to meet those standards -- required under the Clean Air Act. Our suit seeks a court order requiring the EPA to correct these violations for the sake of human health and clean air.
Particulate matter, or PM-10, is air pollution made up of tiny particles -- about 10 times smaller than the width of a human hair -- that can travel deep into the lungs and cause deadly respiratory illnesses. This pollution also damages ecosystems and obscures scenic views, including at national parks and wilderness areas.
Get details in our press release and learn more about our work to uphold the Clean Air Act.
Biodiversity Briefing: The Arctic at Risk
The Center for Biological Diversity focused this season's quarterly Biodiversity Briefing on our work to protect the Arctic ecosystem, already endangered by climate change and now the planned site for more risky oil and gas drilling. Executive Director Kierán Suckling opened the conference call with an outline of our extensive polar bear work, from our petition and lawsuits that earned it Endangered Species Act protection to our litigation to retain and strengthen that protection to our suit that recently won the bear an unprecedented "critical habitat" proposal of 120 million acres. Center attorney and Alaska Director Rebecca Noblin gave listeners a summary of recent Arctic victories -- including protections for Cook Inlet belugas and North Pacific right whales -- as well as an update on warming-threatened species we're still working for, like the Pacific walrus and ribbon seal.
The Center is currently working to save all Arctic species -- and the very waters and lands they need to live -- from oil and gas drilling slated to be started in July by Shell Oil despite the enormous threat drilling poses to the ecosystem. Besides challenging that drilling at all levels and suing to save Arctic mammals from oil-industry harassment, last week we filed a notice of intent to sue the Obama administration for placing the Arctic at risk of an oil spill -- which could be even more catastrophic than the disaster now unfolding in the Gulf.
Listen to the briefing and learn about our campaigns against oil and gas drilling and the Arctic meltdown. For information on how you can join the Center's Leadership Circle and be invited to participate in Biodiversity Briefings live when they happen, email Development Director Jennifer Shepherd or call her at (520) 396-1135.
Center Wins #1 Spot in Green Choice Campaign
Thanks to the glowing praise of hundreds of Center for Biological Diversity fans, we came in at the top of the list of 262 environmental charities reviewed in this year's Green Choice Campaign -- a project by charity-reviewing Web site GreatNonprofits to identify the nation's top-rated green groups based on online reviews from supporters like you. "The Center for Biological Diversity is about integrity and doing the right thing," wrote one reviewer; said another, "I find that the Center for Biological Diversity does more for the health of Life on Earth (including homo sapiens) than any other environmental/ecological organization I have run across in 43 years of activism." On GreatNonprofits' site, our work to save species has been credited with everything from steering college students toward majors to curing the blues to helping people sleep better at night. We've been called "lean and mean," "environmental heroes to the Nth degree," and "hands down the best bang for your environmental buck."
Read and keep singing our praises at GreatNonprofits.org; you can learn more about the Green Choice Campaign from Earth911.com.
Photo credits: Deepwater Horizon explosion courtesy U.S. Coast Guard; boat in oil by Daniel Beltra, Greenpeace; Gulf offshore oil platform courtesy Flickr/Chad Teer; black abalone by Glenn Allen, NOAA; Hermes copper butterfly (c) Douglas Aguillard; smokestacks courtesy NASA; ocelot by Tom Smylie, USFWS; dugong (c) Suehiro Nitta; particle pollution by Laurel Hagen; polar bear (c) Center for Biological Diversity; blackbird courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Malene Thyssen.
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