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Claire Thompson's Posts


Here’s the anti-Keystone ad one NBC station doesn’t want you to see

NextGen Climate Action, the group founded by billionaire climate-action booster Tom Steyer, had submitted the ad to run on D.C.-area NBC affiliate WRC-TV during Obama’s Tuesday appearance on The Tonight Show, with the aim of reaching the influential inside-the-Beltway crowd. But at the last minute Tuesday evening, the station informed NextGen that the ad wouldn’t run after all, because it violated guidelines as “an attack of a personal nature.”


NRA attacks “shadowy network” of enviros and zoos fighting to ban lead bullets

In search of the truth.
In search of the truth.

You might think the NRA would be busy enough fighting its current battles, fending off crazy ideas like expanded background checks for gun sales. But no. The group is now picking a whole new fight, this one against activists who want to ban lead bullets.

Studies have shown that as many as 20 million birds, including endangered California condors, die each year from lead poisoning after ingesting bullet fragments. Ammunition is likely the greatest unregulated source of lead released into the environment, according to a statement [PDF] from scientific experts in lead and environmental health. Some states, notably California, are now weighing regulations to outlaw the use of lead in bullets.

The NRA isn't going to stand by and let that happen. The group has launched a campaign called Hunt for Truth to fight back against “the assault on traditional lead ammunition” by targeting the groups and individuals -- mostly scientists, nonprofits, and government agencies -- behind this unconscionable attack on American values.


Offshore fracking in California: What could go wrong?

Exciting new update in the chronicles of America’s domestic oil-and-gas boom: Not only is offshore fracking a thing, but it’s been happening off the coast of California for a good 15 years now, in the same sensitive marine environments where new oil leases have been banned since a disastrous 1969 spill.

Drillin' U.S.A.
Drillin' U.S.A.

If that’s news to you, you’re not alone -- the California Coastal Commission was unaware, until recently, that the seafloor was being fracked. Because these drilling operations happen more than three miles off the coast, they’re under federal jurisdiction, but the state has the power to reject federal permits if water quality is endangered.

The Associated Press has the story:

Federal regulators thus far have exempted the chemical fluids used in offshore fracking from the nation's clean water laws, allowing companies to release fracking fluid into the sea without filing a separate environmental impact report or statement looking at the possible effects. That exemption was affirmed this year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to the internal emails reviewed by the AP. …

The EPA and the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement or BSEE, conduct some routine inspections during fracking projects, but any spills or leaks are largely left to the oil companies to report.

Although new drilling leases in the Santa Barbara Channel’s undersea oil fields are banned, drilling rights at 23 existing platforms were grandfathered in. Offshore fracking -- pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals into the sea floor -- can stimulate these old wells into production again.


The first rule of fracking is: Don’t talk about fracking


The Hallowich children were just 7 and 10 years old when their family received a $750,000 settlement to relocate away from their home in Mount Pleasant, Penn., which was next door to a shale-gas drilling site. By the time they’re grown up, they may not remember much about what it was like to live there -- the burning eyes, sore throats, headaches, and earaches they experienced thanks to contaminated air and water. And maybe it’s better if they don’t remember, since they’re prohibited from talking about the experience for the rest of their lives.

The terms of Stephanie and Chris Hallowich’s settlement with Range Resources included, like most such settlements do, a non-disclosure agreement preventing them from discussing their case or gas drilling and fracking in general. But the agreement’s extension to their children is unprecedented; one assistant law professor at the University of Pittsburgh called it “over-the-top.”


Sally Jewell doesn’t want any climate deniers at Interior

Sally Jewell.
BLM Oregon
Sally Jewell.

Obama has staffed his second-term team with a couple of kickass women ready to take the lead on climate action. Two days after EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy called bullshit on the notion that environmental regulations kill jobs, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, in an address to her employees, made clear that she won’t tolerate any debunked theories, either. “I hope there are no climate change deniers in the Department of Interior,” she said.

E&E News reports:

If there are any [deniers], she invited them to visit public lands managed by the agency — be it the melting permafrost in Alaska or shrinking snowpacks in the Sierra Mountains — as proof. “If you don’t believe in it, come out into the resources,” she said.

Interior will be following through on President Obama’s climate change plan, including achieving 20 gigawatts of renewable power on public lands by 2020, she said.

“You and I can actually do something about it,” she said several times. “That’s a privilege, and I would argue it’s a moral imperative.”

Moreover, the former head of REI said the federal government is able to take action on climate change on a scale “orders of magnitude” larger than any individual business, even one as huge as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Right-wingers flipped out over Jewell’s comments about employees who might not be conversant in basic scientific facts.


EPA chief: Stop saying environmental regs kill jobs

Gina McCarthy being sworn in
Gina McCarthy takes the oath of office, with Carol Browner and Bob Perciasepe.

Tuesday, in her first speech as EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy got real with a crowd at Harvard Law School, the AP reports:

"Can we stop talking about environmental regulations killing jobs? Please, at least for today,” said McCarthy, referring to one of the favorite talking points of Republicans and industry groups.

"Let's talk about this as an opportunity of a lifetime, because there are too many lifetimes at stake," she said of efforts to address global warming.

The GOP has resorted to calling pretty much every Obama plan, especially those related to the climate, “job-killing.” McCarthy hammered home the emptiness of that claim. The Hill relays what she said:


Want to win over young voters? Get serious about climate action volunteer at Radiohead showWe millennials may not have our shit together when it comes to our own individual futures (and whose fault is that, exactly?), but we’re pretty sharp when it comes to the future of humankind. Two-thirds of us accept the reality of human-caused climate change, according to a poll [PDF] conducted by a bipartisan pair of political strategy groups for the League of Conservation Voters.

Even some of those who reject the “human-caused” part apparently think we might as well do something about it anyway: A whopping 80 percent of voters ages 18-34 support Obama’s recently announced plan for climate action -- including 56 percent of the young voters who say they aren’t fans of the president in general.

Our preference for reality comes at a political cost to those still living in a parallel universe. The poll found that 73 percent of the youngs say they’re less likely to vote for a legislator who opposes the president’s plan. Fifty-two percent of self-identified young Republicans said the same thing. (They’re a dwindling group, anyway -- only 23 percent of Americans under 35 call themselves Republican).

Climate deniers, to our eyes, basically resemble the village idiots. Seventy-three percent of poll respondents chose the words “ignorant,” “out of touch,” or simply “crazy” to describe deniers. (“Independent,” “commonsense,” and “thoughtful” were the other options.) Two-thirds of independent young voters say they’d be less likely to vote for a denier.


Palm oil: Bad for workers as well as orangutans

Palm oil has stirred concern among treehuggers and animal lovers for years now. Following its explosion in popularity as a trans-fat-free alternative, we started finding out about the dark side of its production -- namely, the destruction of Southeast Asian rainforest, habitat to lovable orangutans. Ecological outrage conflicted with our fondness for favorite snack foods, like Girl Scout cookies, challenging our morals as conscious consumers.

Open burning in a newly cleared rainforest at Duta Palma's PT Ledo Lestari palm oil plantation.
David Gilbert/Rainforest Action Network
Open burning in newly cleared rainforest at Duta Palma's PT Ledo Lestari palm oil plantation.

But while the environmental sins of the palm oil industry have been well documented, its human-rights abuses have been overlooked -- until now. Bloomberg Businessweek reports on the findings of a nine-month investigation:

Among the estimated 3.7 million workers in the industry are thousands of child laborers and workers who face dangerous and abusive conditions. Debt bondage is common, and traffickers who prey on victims face few, if any, sanctions from business or government officials.


Alaska’s latest climate worries: Massive wildfires and gushing glaciers

The Mendenhall Glacier's sudden surges of icy water threaten people and property in nearby Juneau.
Random Michelle
The Mendenhall Glacier's sudden surges of icy water threaten people and property in nearby Juneau.

Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. Alaska, by the looks of it, is on track for a double apocalypse.

The home of Sarah “global warming my gluteus maximus” Palin faces a daunting confluence of climate-related challenges, from rising seas to gushing glaciers to massive wildfires. Even Mayor Stubbs (who we’d expect to be cool about this kind of thing) won’t answer questions about the state’s fate.

Raging blazes in Arizona and Colorado have dominated wildfire news in recent years, but the biggest fires of the past decade burned in Alaska, which is warming twice as fast as the lower 48 states. There, flames have swallowed more than a half-million acres at a time (that’s 781 square miles) of boreal forest, the landscape of spruce and fir trees dominant below the Arctic Circle. And a new study says that this fiery phase is here to stay. From the L.A. Times:

A warming climate could promote so much wildfire in the boreal zone that the forests may convert to deciduous woodlands of aspen and birch, researchers said.

“In the last few decades we have seen this extreme combination of high severity and high frequency” wildfire in the study area of interior Alaska’s Yukon Flats, said University of Illinois plant biology Prof. Feng Sheng Hu. …

Accelerated wildfire could also unlock vast amounts of forest carbon, contributing to greenhouse gases. “The more important implication there is [that] you’re probably going to release a substantial fraction of the carbon that has been stored in the soil,” Hu said.

In contrast, Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier, outside Juneau, threatens to wreak chilly destruction, reports The New York Times:

Read more: Climate & Energy


Think you can’t afford an EV? Think again

You could be as happy as this guy.
Tom Raftery
You could be as happy as this guy.

It’s easy to see the electric car as a symbol of the kind of offbeat elitism often associated with eco-conscious living -- the rich man’s veggie oil-powered VW bus, if you will. But that could change as the industry starts going Model T on EVs, making them more affordable for the masses. Automakers are now offering an array of discount leases and perks that, when combined with government tax incentives, make EV ownership accessible for a much broader segment of the population.

Owning an electric vehicle automatically slashes drivers’ fuel costs by as much as 80 percent. But it’s the up-front cash that presents a barrier to most prospective buyers, not to mention the lack of widespread charging infrastructure. Of course, growing ranks of EV drivers would spur the construction of more charging stations and attract still more electric converts. But with so few choices on the market, none of them wildly affordable, it’s hard to get that cycle started.

Until now. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Bronson Beisel, 46, says he was looking last fall for an alternative to driving his gas-guzzling Ford Expedition sport utility around suburban Atlanta, when he saw a discounted lease offer for an all-electric Nissan Leaf. With $1,000 down, Mr. Beisel says he got a two-year lease for total out-of-pocket payments of $7,009, a deal that reflects a $7,500 federal tax credit.

As a resident of Georgia, Mr. Beisel is also eligible for a $5,000 subsidy from the state government. Now, he says, his out-of-pocket costs for 24 months in the Leaf are just over $2,000. Factor in the $200 a month he reckons he isn't paying for gasoline to fill up his hulking SUV, and Mr. Beisel says "suddenly the car puts $2,000 in my pocket."