The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

Alaska’s Bristol Bay mine project: Ground zero for the next big environmental fight? | The Washington Post

A dispute over a proposed copper and gold mine near Alaska’s Bristol Bay may be one of the most important environmental decisions of President Obama’s second term — yet few are even aware that the fight is happening.

At issue is a proposed mining operation in a remote area that is home to several Alaskan native tribes and nearly half of the world’s sockeye salmon. Six tribes have asked the Environmental Protection Agency to invoke its powers under the Clean Water Act to block the mine on the grounds that it would harm the region’s waterways, fish and wildlife.

The two mining firms behind the project, Northern Dynasty and Anglo American, have struck back with a major lobbying and public-relations campaign aimed at derailing any EPA intervention.

The Bristol Bay dispute has been largely overshadowed by the high-profile battle over the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, which has prompted strong opposition from environmental groups and which requires approval from the State Department to proceed.

Environmentalists argue that the Bristol Bay project poses a serious threat to the area’s delicate ecosystem and to the local fishing industry. Fishing businesses and tribal leaders, who have often quarreled, have banded together to oppose it.

“If we don’t protect this, we’ll have nothing to fight over in the future,” said Peter Andrew Jr., a board member of the Bristol Bay Native Corp. “This is the last place on Earth like this.”

The Bristol Bay project would rank as the largest mine in North America if constructed and could eventually produce 80 billion pounds of copper, 107 million ounces of gold and 5.6 billion pounds of molybdenum.

In an early environmental assessment, the EPA estimates the mine would probably cause the loss of between 54 and 89 miles of streams and between four and seven square miles of wetlands. Any accidents, the assessment continued, could result “in immediate, severe impacts on salmon and detrimental, long-term impacts on salmon habitat.”

On Friday, the EPA extended the time for public comments on the impact of the project until June 30. [++]

Democratic Senators Want a Stop to Arctic Drilling

Washington — A group of Democratic senators is calling for the Interior Department to halt future Alaska offshore drilling leases, saying the president hasn’t made the case that drilling in the environmentally sensitive region is safe.

“Challenges with infrastructure and spill response are unprecedented in the Arctic’s remote, undeveloped region,” the senators wrote Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Senators signing the letter this week were Richard Durbin of Illinois, Barbara Boxer of California, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. They questioned the oil spill response capabilities in the Arctic and said there needs to be a better scientific monitoring plan. They also want more areas off limits.

The senators urged the Interior Department to remove Arctic offshore drilling from its 2012-2017 leasing program. An Interior Department spokesman had no response to the letter on Wednesday.

The Obama administration’s proposed offshore oil leasing program includes a pair of potential sales in the Alaska Arctic. That would be a 2016 sale in the Chukchi Sea and a 2017 sale in the Beaufort Sea.

“We are committed to moving forward with leasing offshore Alaska, and scheduling those sales later in the program allows for further development of scientific information on the oil and gas resource potential in these areas and further study of potential impacts to the environment,” Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes said when the plan was announced in July.

When you go to the mountains, you go to the mountains. When it’s the desert, it’s the desert. When it’s the ocean, though, we generally say that we’re going “to the beach.” Land is our element, not the waters of our world, and that is an unmistakable advantage for any oil company that wants to drill in pristine waters. Take Shell Oil. Recently, the company’s drill ship, the fabulously named Noble Discoverer, went adrift and almost grounded in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. That should be considered an omen for a distinctly star-crossed venture to come. Unfortunately, few of us are paying the slightest attention. Subhankar Banerjee, Shell Game in the Arctic | TomDispatch (via nickturse)

(via nickturse)

Lost in the hubbub of the 2008 right-wing debate about whether Obama was a socialist, a fascist, or something worse, was the fact that Sarah Palin, as governor of Alaska, ruled over the only socialist state in the United States. The State of Alaska owns the major means of production – the Alaskan oil pipeline – and uses the surplus generated from that pipeline to grant, unconditionally, a basic income to all Alaskan citizens. It is called the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend and as governor, Palin not only happily presided over this economic arrangement, she voted to increase the basic income payout. thecurrentmoment

Arctic open for exploitation: Obama administration grants Shell approval to drill

Less than a year and a half after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico,  the Obama administration has bucked warnings from environmentalists to  grant preliminary approval to oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell, to drill off  the Arctic coast. Exploratory drilling will occur just north of the  western edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in the  Beaufort Sea, home to bowhead and beluga whales, seals, walruses, polar  bears, and a wide-variety of migrating birds.
“This is a disaster  waiting to happen,” Holly Harris, an attorney with the environmental  group Earthjustice, said in a press release.
Environmentalists and  indigenous peoples living in the area have long fought drilling in the  US Arctic arguing that extreme conditions make drilling especially  precarious and an oil spill would be near-impossible to clean-up  adequately. But, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and  Enforcement (BOEMRE) granted permission, pending Shell’s completion of  an oil spill response plan.
Admiral Robert Papp, top officer with  the US Coast Guard, admitted last month that if a spill occurred in this  area, the Coast Guard lacks the infrastructure and equipment needed to  deal with a spill.
“If this were to happen off the North Slope of Alaska, we’d have nothing,” said Papp, as reported by Platts. “We’re starting from ground zero today.”
However,  Shell has stated that it has ‘the best oil-spill response plan anywhere  in the world’, and that it is ready for any problem. The company has  already invested more than $3.5 billion to drill in the Arctic ocean.  The drill sites in the Beaufort Sea will take place 20 miles off shore  in 160 feet deep water, which Shell says would allow divers access to  the wells if need be. In the midst of its victory in the Arctic, Shell  is expected to pay $1 billion to clean up decades of oil pollution in  Nigeria, where a new UN report found that the company did not live up to  its own, or the Nigerian government’s, standards. Shell admitted last  week to spilling 11 million gallons of oil in Nigeria in 2008.

Arctic open for exploitation: Obama administration grants Shell approval to drill

Less than a year and a half after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration has bucked warnings from environmentalists to grant preliminary approval to oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell, to drill off the Arctic coast. Exploratory drilling will occur just north of the western edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in the Beaufort Sea, home to bowhead and beluga whales, seals, walruses, polar bears, and a wide-variety of migrating birds.

“This is a disaster waiting to happen,” Holly Harris, an attorney with the environmental group Earthjustice, said in a press release.

Environmentalists and indigenous peoples living in the area have long fought drilling in the US Arctic arguing that extreme conditions make drilling especially precarious and an oil spill would be near-impossible to clean-up adequately. But, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) granted permission, pending Shell’s completion of an oil spill response plan.

Admiral Robert Papp, top officer with the US Coast Guard, admitted last month that if a spill occurred in this area, the Coast Guard lacks the infrastructure and equipment needed to deal with a spill.

“If this were to happen off the North Slope of Alaska, we’d have nothing,” said Papp, as reported by Platts. “We’re starting from ground zero today.”

However, Shell has stated that it has ‘the best oil-spill response plan anywhere in the world’, and that it is ready for any problem. The company has already invested more than $3.5 billion to drill in the Arctic ocean. The drill sites in the Beaufort Sea will take place 20 miles off shore in 160 feet deep water, which Shell says would allow divers access to the wells if need be. In the midst of its victory in the Arctic, Shell is expected to pay $1 billion to clean up decades of oil pollution in Nigeria, where a new UN report found that the company did not live up to its own, or the Nigerian government’s, standards. Shell admitted last week to spilling 11 million gallons of oil in Nigeria in 2008.