Climate Capsule: Drills, Spills, & Restoration Bills

This week’s stories:

  1. Highlight of the Week: One Year Later, What’s Working, and Who’s Not
  2. Quote: Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R-NJ), former EPA administrator
  3. Economic Story of the Week: NYC Studies Cost of Cutting 80 Percent GHGs
  4. Editorial of the Week: Amid oil spills, melting ice and radiation, signs of hope on Earth Day
  5. Spilled Toxins, Worth Crying Over
  6. Report Card Day for Midwest Energy
  7. 50 Stories in 50 States
  8. Protecting a Vanishing Ecosystem
  9. Happening this Week

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Highlight of the Week

One Year Later, What’s working, and Who’s Not

It’s difficult to believe that a whole year has passed since the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. While so much has happened – and yet so little in Congress – in the last year, it’s clear that the story of recovery in the Gulf is far from over.

Crews scrape oil out of marshes, via NWF

After introducing over 150 bills to improve offshore drilling safety, holding 60 hearings on fault and damage payment Congress has still yet to adopt any oil spill legislation.  House Natural Resources Committee chairman Doc Hastings marked the anniversary with a call to speed drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

But the President’s Oil Spill Commission and Congressmen and women including Steve Scalise (R-LA), Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Kathy Castor (D-Fla), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) are recommending that Congress should direct 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines from the disaster to support implementation of Gulf-wide coastal restoration.

At a news conference with Scalise and conservation leaders, National Wildlife Federation President and CEO Larry Schweiger said, “One year into the Gulf oil disaster, the oil is still here, the promises are forgotten, and Congress still hasn’t done its job. The only fair and right solution is for those fines to go to the Gulf region to help the people and communities hurt by the disaster.”

The National Wildlife Federation is already working with a number of organizations through grants and volunteer projects to help rebuild habitat on the Gulf Coast. With a spotlight shining on the region again this spring, now is the time for continued action to restore the Gulf. From planting native marsh grasses to restoring dunes to enhancing bird habitat, volunteers are making a difference in coastal Louisiana.

More on this: Reuters, CNN, Associated Press, PBS, Press-Register

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Christine Todd Whitman

“Too often the debate about climate breaks down over cost, with many Americans rightfully concerned about what limiting pollution would do to our economy. There will be costs to our economic security from climate change—and significant ones at that—if we do nothing but continue with business as usual.”

-Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R-NJ), former EPA administrator.

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Economic Story of the Week

NYC Studies Cost of Cutting 80 Percent GHGs

NYC encourages alternative commuting, via Spencer T. on Flickr

Mayor Bloomberg is rolling out 132 new initiatives as part of PlaNYC to improve air and water quality and curb greenhouse gas emissions in New York City. The NYC government will undertake a study to determine the feasibility and cost of cutting greenhouse gas output by 80 percent by 2050.

Emissions are already 13 percent below 2007 levels due in part to improvements in transit systems, tree plantings as part of the Million Trees NYC project, encouraging bike commuting, and adding hundreds of acres of new open space and parks. The city also plans to create an “energy efficiency finance corporation” to fund building retrofits by using $37.5 million in federal stimulus spending.

These and other NYC initiatives to incorporate climate change projections into management programs are forward thinking in light of the newly released American Security Project reports, which analyze and project possible economic losses due to unmitigated climate change on a state-by-state basis. The “Pay Now, Pay Later” reports present the costly negative impacts that will affect communities, public health, national security, and the economy.

More on this story: Associated Press, ClimateWire, SustainableBusiness, Energy Matters

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Editorial of the Week

Amid oil spills, melting ice and radiation, signs of hope on Earth Day

(Miami Herald)

It takes careful peering through the fumes to discern the bright spots, yet they’re there: cleaner air, better gas mileage, new regulations against mercury pollution, more people trying to green up their lifestyles and more….The most interesting development of last year is the extraordinary event in the Gulf. The public paid attention and the media paid attention for weeks and months. But what is Congress doing? Mesmerized, the nation watched 200 million gallons of black gold gush out and smear priceless wetlands. (More…)

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Spilled Toxins, Worth Crying Over

On the one-year anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster, another energy industry spill contaminated streams and threatened water supplies in Pennsylvania.

A failure at a natural gas well owned by the Chesapeake Energy Corp., one of Pennsylvania’s biggest shale gas producers, spewed chemical-laced water into a nearby stream until workers stemmed the tide two days later. The well was plugged using a mixture of plastic, ground-up tires, and heavy mud, reminiscent of BP’s effort to seal its own gusher last year.

This accident, which caused the evacuation of local families, is sparking vociferous debate over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and confirms concerns over the safety of drilling. The company has not yet determined the cause of the blowout and has suspended fracking on its wells in Pennsylvania as drilling techniques and possible water supply contamination are investigated.

More on this story: Reuters

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Report Card Day for Midwest Energy

According to a new report released by the National Wildlife Federation, the Midwest has all the tools to be a leader in the clean energy economy, but will need to step up its efforts to compete effectively in the new energy economy.

Unfinished Business: What the Midwest Needs to do to Lead in the Clean Energy Economy” issues letter grades throughout the region, evaluating regional progress or shortfalls in meeting clean energy goals established by a bipartisan group of Midwestern governors and stakeholders in 2007 and 2009 to turn around the economic prospects of the region.

“The Midwest has seen some important successes—but overall is not reaching its potential to lead in the clean energy economy,” said Zoe Lipman, senior manager of transportation solutions at the National Wildlife Federation. “This report affirms that the Midwest has the natural resources, human capital, and sophisticated manufacturing base to lead in the clean energy economy. Our message to public officials: We have a roadmap. Let’s use it.”

The report finds that clean energy policies are already benefiting parts of the Midwest, creating thousands of jobs and generating revenue for cash-strapped cities. But the region needs to move much faster to become a leader in clean energy manufacturing and use.

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50 Stories in 50 States

In honor of Earth Day the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched a blog series of 50 stories for 50 consecutive weekdays that will explore how a quickly changing climate is impacting America’s fish and wildlife.

The series’ inaugural example features the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina. Once a nesting ground for loggerhead sea turtles, American oystercatchers, Wilson’s Plovers and terns, the sea has risen more than one foot in 100 years on one side while human population and urban development encroach on the other.

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Protecting a Vanishing Ecosystem

Prairie Potholes of the American Midwest, via USFWS Flickr

The National Wildlife Federation is suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a bid to protect America’s vanishing grasslands. The EPA is ignoring laws designed to protect the fragile ecosystem from harmful and unnecessary agricultural production.

The Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) created by Congress and implemented by the EPA requires a certain amount of transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain renewable fuel, such as corn ethanol. In crafting the RFS, Congress clearly recognizes the need to protect America’s grasslands by limiting biofuel feedstock production and harvesting to agricultural lands. In other words, natural ecosystems, like grasslands, are not supposed to be converted for agricultural uses. However, the EPA is flaunting this important provision by adopting an “aggregate compliance approach”, which allows protected ecosystems to be destroyed for biofuels production.

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Happening this Week

Congress is in recess until May 1.

Wednesday, April 27

Briefing Developing Sustainable Biomass Supplies: A Step toward Energy, Economic, and Environmental Security, Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) 2:00 – 3:30 p.m., 1302 Longworth House Office Building

Back to top For more global warming news on Wildlife Promise click here.