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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 760, Feb. 5, 2015

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EPA: Keystone XL Means "Significant Increase" in Climate Pollution

Alberta tar sands facilityHere's a no-brainer: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said this week that the development of tar sands oil that would be carried by the Keystone XL pipeline "represents a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions" -- the pollution equivalent of fumes spewing from 5.7 million passenger vehicles over the next 50 years.

Extraction and refinement of tar sands oil produces twice as much greenhouse gas per barrel as conventional oil. In June 2013 President Obama warned of the dangers of climate change and said Keystone would only be in the national interest if it "does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution."

"The ball's in President Obama's court," said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity. "He said he wouldn't approve this disastrous pipeline if it significantly exacerbates the problem of carbon pollution. It's time for him to keep his word."

Get more from Bloomberg Business.

Rare Sierra Nevada Fox Seen in Yosemite for First Time in a Century

Sierra Nevada red foxFor the first time in nearly 100 years, a Sierra Nevada red fox -- one of the rarest mammals in the country, with fewer than 50 remaining -- has been sighted in Yosemite National Park. The backcountry sightings occurred in December and early January. The Yosemite fox is thought to be part of a population around Sonora Pass, one of two Sierra Nevada red fox populations left in California.

In April 2011 the Center petitioned for this fox's protection under the Endangered Species Act. "Despite 31 years of protection as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act, the Sierra Nevada red fox remains critically endangered and in imminent danger of extinction," our petition said.

When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to protect the fox, we filed a notice of intent to sue in 2013 -- and the same year, we reached a legal agreement requiring the Service to make a decision on protecting the fox by 2015.

Read more in USA TODAY.

Oil Industry Dumping Toxic Wastewater Into Scores of California Aquifers

Fracking flavored waterCalifornia regulators allowed the oil industry to drill hundreds of wastewater disposal wells into aquifers with water suitable for drinking or irrigation, newly released documents show. Now the Center is calling on the EPA to immediately shut down these operations -- which are illegal -- to protect California's water during an unprecedented drought.

Last summer the state's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources issued emergency shutdown orders for multiple injection wells in Kern County after they were found to be dumping wastewater into aquifers containing drinkable water.

But documents show that the agency has allowed hundreds of other injection wells to dump oil wastewater into protected aquifers around the state, from Monterey County and sites near San Luis Obispo to Kern and Los Angeles counties. Oil industry wastewater is an extremely salty fluid that typically contains a wide range of contaminants. It can also contain fracking chemicals.

"California's drinking water aquifers shouldn't be garbage dumps for the oil industry," said the Center's Kassie Siegel. "Both common sense and federal law require the EPA to shut down every illegal wastewater well immediately."

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Join the Apache Resistance Against Arizona Copper Mine -- Take Action

Apache Leap, Ariz.On Saturday morning the San Carlos Apache tribe will lead an all-nations spiritual gathering at Oak Flat campground, a sacred site in the Tonto National Forest in central Arizona. The event is the culmination of a two-day, 46-mile march to protest mining giant Rio Tinto's plans to develop a massive copper mine that would leave a depression in the ground the size of the Winslow meteor crater, drain the aquifer and destroy important streams, springs and habitat.

Oak Flat, home to wildlife ranging from bears to bobcats to ocelots, was formally withdrawn from mining by presidential order 50 years ago, but Congress recently approved a land swap allowing Rio Tinto to obtain private control of the land and evade environmental laws.

The gathering is open to the public; Center staffers and activists will attend. Learn more about the event -- and whether you can make it or not, take action to tell Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to oppose this project.

Protection Sought for California's Tricolored Blackbird

Tricolored blackbirdOn Tuesday the Center petitioned to protect the tricolored blackbird -- which once formed massive nesting colonies in California's Central Valley -- as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. When we first submitted an emergency petition in 2004 to place the species on both the federal and California endangered species lists, the feds declined.

Fortunately, after another Center petition last year, the bird did earn California protection.

But that's not enough: Surveys show that tricoloreds have declined by 87 percent over the past nine decades. These birds form the largest breeding colonies of any North American land bird, with a single colony often consisting of tens of thousands of birds -- a defense again predation.

But only 145,000 birds total were counted in 2014, in contrast to one 1930s biologist's report of a flock of more than a million in the Sacramento Valley alone. These birds are threatened by destruction of wetlands and native grasslands, shooting, pesticides, and nest destruction when they build their homes on agricultural land.

Read more in the Central Valley Business Times.

King of Fears: Tell Budweiser to Stop Demonizing Wolves

Wolf pupDid you see Budweiser's Super Bowl commercial with a sweet puppy being terrorized by a big bad wolf? It isn't the first time wolves have been demonized, but for the sake of beer sales -- that's a new low.

And wolf lovers aren't taking it standing down. More than 20,000 people have already signed a Center petition calling on Budweiser to pull the ad. The corporate office has been flooded with calls, and our petition -- and the commercial's controversy itself -- are all over social media. The kind of wolf portrayal Budweiser is using feeds ignorant hysteria over these beautiful predators and contributes to keeping them from full recovery.

We need to keep the pressure on. Take a moment to sign our petition and, importantly, send it through your network of contacts. Tell Budweiser wolves deserve better.

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Suit Challenges Massive New California Crude-by-rail Terminal

Bakken oil tankersThe Center and allies, represented by Earthjustice, have sued to stop a major crude-by-rail operation in California. The newly opened Bakersfield Crude Terminal is slated to receive two 100-car unit trains a day of dangerously explosive crude oil from the Bakken shale formation, as well as highly toxic tar sands.

The terminal's operation -- permitted mostly in secret -- could mean a 1,000 percent increase in the amount of crude brought into California by rail each year.

The San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District -- the entity we're suing -- permitted the project in a piecemeal fashion, allowing one of the largest crude oil projects in California to begin operation without environmental review.

"It's outrageous that regulators shrugged off the risks of a rail terminal that receives massive trains full of toxic, dangerously explosive crude oil," said the Center's Vera Pardee.

Read more in this report from Reuters.

Support Grows for Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument -- Take Action

California condorA proposal to create a Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument is gaining steam. This week Arizona congressional representatives Raúl Grijalva, Ann Kirkpatrick and Ruben Gallego called on President Obama to permanently protect the lands north and south of the Grand Canyon.

The 1.7-million-acre area is home to old-growth ponderosa pine forests, some 3,000 ancient archaeological sites, vast networks of seeps and springs, California condors, mountain lions and a host of other wildlife -- including some found nowhere else in the world. Unfortunately it's also threatened by uranium mining and logging.

The Center is part of the Grand Canyon Watershed Coalition, which is urging the president to forever protect this incredible landscape. Read more about the congressional letter and then sign this petition to create a Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument.

Wild & Weird: Punxsutawnians Ate Phil's Ancestors

GroundhogGroundhog Day was Monday; in case you missed it, at approximately 7:45 a.m. EST, Punxsutawney Phil -- that chubby rodent weatherman -- saw his shadow. According to a tradition that traces its roots back to Germany, where hedgehogs divined the weather, there will be six more weeks of winter.

But in the late 1800s and early 1900s, groundhogs in Punxsutawney, Pa., were cherished more ... gastronomically than meteorologically. The town's annual groundhog hunt and banquet -- where as many as 41 groundhogs might be killed, marinated and served up as "woodchuck steak" to politicians and notables from as far away as Philadelphia -- was better attended than the day of weather prophecy.

There was even a jaunty song:

We had a pie all made of rye
And Groundhog was the meat,
We have enough, and plenty, too,
And more than we can eat.

Read more at History.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Alberta tar sands facility courtesy Flickr/Pete Williamson; Sierra Nevada red fox courtesy USDA; fracked water courtesy Flickr/greensefa; wolves by John Pitcher; Apache Leap, Ariz. courtesy Flickr/Brent Bristol; tricolored blackbird courtesy Flickr/Alan Vernon; wolf pup courtesy California Wolf Center; elephant courtesy Flickr/Matt Rudge; Bakken oil tankers courtesy Flickr/Randen Peterson; California condor courtesy Flickr/M.K. Campbell; groundhog courtesy Flickr/Matt MacGillivray.

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