Ecuador ‘allows US military planes to use Galapagos island airfield’

Bartholomea Island, Galapagos Islands, EcuadorImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe Galapagos Islands are a Unesco World Heritage site

Ecuador has agreed to allow US military planes to operate from an airport on the Galapagos Islands, reports say.

US aircraft will be able to use San Cristobal airport, Ecuador’s defence minister Oswaldo Jarrin has been quoted as saying.

They will “fight drug trafficking” under a deal with Ecuador’s government, Mr Jarrin said.

The reported deal has prompted concerns over the potential impact on the environment and Ecuador’s sovereignty.

The aircraft involved include a Boeing 777 and a Lockheed P-3 Orion, Latin American TV network Telesur reports.

The Galapagos Islands, 563 miles (906km) west of continental Ecuador, are a Unesco World Heritage site renowned worldwide for their unique array of plants and wildlife.

San Cristobal island, Galapagos Islands, EcuadorImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionA pelican spreads its wings on San Cristobal island

Tourists across the globe travel there to see its biodiversity, which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Legislators in Ecuador’s parliament have called on Mr Jarrin and environment minister Marcelo Mata to explain the scope of co-operation with the US in the islands.

They have asked them to elaborate on proposals to extend the runway at San Cristobal airport, daily El Universo reports.

Lawmaker Marcela Cevallos said the plan would be alarming for conservationists, it reported.

Media captionNew giant tortoise species discovered on Galapagos Islands

Opposition congressman Carlos Viteri said the agreement with the US was “unacceptable” and should be prohibited if “it intends to cede an inch of Ecuadorian territory”.

Under Article 5 of Ecuador’s constitution, the country is “a territory of peace” and the “establishment of foreign military bases or foreign facilities for military purposes shall not be allowed”.

Ecuador’s former president Rafael Correa also reacted angrily, tweeting (in Spanish) that the island was “not an aircraft carrier” for the Americans.

Mr Jarrin assured critics that “there will be no permanence of anyone” on the island.

He said any modifications to the airfield would be paid for by the US, Telesur reported.

“Galapagos is for Ecuador our aircraft carrier, it is our natural carrier, because it assures us permanence, replenishment, interception facilities and it is 1,000 kilometres from our coasts,” he said.

The BBC has contacted the US Department of Defense for comment.

San Cristobal island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

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On Iran: US considering range of options including military

Source: Before tanker attack, Iran fired at U.S. drone

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Source: Before tanker attack, Iran fired at U.S. drone 02:39

Washington (CNN)Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that the United States is “considering a full range of options” regarding rising tensions with Iran, including military options, but emphasized that President Donald Trump has said that he does not want to go to war.

“The United States is considering a full range of options. We have briefed the President a couple of times, we’ll continue to keep him updated. We are confident that we can take a set of actions that can restore deterrence which is our mission set,” Pompeo said in an interview on CBS “Face the Nation.”
When asked if a military response was included in that set of actions, Pompeo responded, “Of course.”
“The President will consider everything we need to do to make sure, right? But what’s the President said? We don’t want Iran to get a nuclear weapon,” Pompeo added. “President Trump has said very clearly, he doesn’t want to go to war.”
Pompeo’s comments come as tensions are rising in the waterways of the Middle East, where two tankers — one carrying oil and the other transporting chemicals — were attacked near the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route that has been the focal point of regional tensions for decades. Roughly 30% of the world’s sea-borne crude oil passes through the strategic choke point, making it a flashpoint for political and economic friction.
Iran has categorically denied the attacks.
The United States has blamed Iran for the attack on the tankers in the Gulf of Oman, releasing video footage that it claims shows an Iranian patrol boat removing an unexploded mine from one of the vessels’ hulls.
The explosions, which sparked a fire on at least one of the two ships, are still under investigation. Pompeo blamed Iran for the incident, citing intelligence assessments, the weapons used, the level of expertise required and the similarity to other recent attacks. On Fox News Sunday, Pompeo reiterated that is is “unmistakable” that Iran carried out the attacks with a “clear intent to deny transit through the straight.”
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said Sunday — before Pompeo’s interviews aired — that the United States may have carried out “acts of sabotage” against two oil tankers in the Sea of Oman to blame them on Iran and pressure Tehran.
Larijani mocked remarks by Pompeo, who urged Iran to “meet diplomacy with diplomacy.”
“Is it diplomacy to start a face-off with a revolutionary nation with acts of economic terrorism, [economic sanctions] which they themselves call the toughest ever?” Larijani said. “Is it diplomacy, Mr. Pompeo, to renege on one’s promises in the nuclear agreement?”
British Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood said Sunday that “tensions” in Iran “are a concern for us all,” in an interview with Sky News’ Sophy Ridge.
Ellwood said that while he understands Iran’s frustrations over the nuclear deal, “that does not give license to start attacking ships.” In a statement Friday, Britain’s Foreign Office said it was “almost certain” that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were behind the attacks.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has also blamed Iran for the attacks on the ships, calling on the international community to take a “firm stand towards an exponential regime that supports terrorism and spreads killing and destruction.”
When pressed Sunday on legal authorization to strike Iran, Pompeo said that the administration “always” has the authorization to “defend American interests.”
In the US Constitution, Article I grants Congress the power to declare war, while the President derives the power to direct the military from Article II, which names the President commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In the lead up to the Iraq War, the effort to pass an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Congress became a point of contention, and once again became an issue during the US military campaign against ISIS.
Ultimately, Congress never took a full vote on an ISIS war authorization.
“It was them that did it,” Trump said on Fox and Friends on Friday, referring to Iran.
“We will see what happens. We are being very tough on sanctions … We’re going to see how to stop (it),” Trump said, before claiming that because of his policies “they are pulling back from everywhere.”
Pompeo also said Sunday on Fox that “President Trump has done everything he can to avoid war — we don’t want a war,” adding, “We’ve done what we can to deter this. The Iranians should understand very clearly that we will continue to take actions that deter Iran from engaging in this kind of behavior.”
Iran will release “significant” information on Monday regarding the scaling back of its commitments to the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), according to Iran’s semi-official news agency, Tasnim on Sunday.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/16/politics/mike-pompeo-iran-military-options/index.html

Iran will get the blame, but the Gulf of Oman truth is likely a lot murkier

(CNN)As the plumes rise from a brazen attack in the Gulf of Oman, oil brokers and diplomats are panicking about another lurch toward confrontation In the Middle East.

What happened is fairly clear — two tankers were struck as they sailed through this busy and strategic shipping lane — but why it happened and who did it is a lot less easy to explain, not least because it doesn’t appear to benefit any of the protagonists in the region.
The Japanese owned Kokuka Corageous tanker briefly caught fire when it was twice attacked with “some kind of shell,” its owner said. One of its 21-strong Filipino crew was injured.
The crew of the Bermuda-based Front Altair all escaped unharmed when it too was hit by a blast. The Fifth Fleet’s USS Bainbridge was nearby and responded to a distress call received at 6.12 am local time and then another 48 minutes later. It picked up 21 sailors from the Kokuka and is getting a wider view of the scene from a P8 Navy surveillance aircraft.
A tanker ablaze in the Gulf of Oman, in an unverified image supplied by an Iranian news agency.

With the rescue operation over, questions have turned to why anyone would do this. That’s not as not as straightforward to answer as it looks.
Inevitably, similarities have been drawn between Thursday’s attacks and events a month ago, when four ships were targeted near the Emirati port of Furajah. For that, officials in Washington and beyond pointed the finger at Iran.
But Thursday’s incident is significantly more blatant. Yet the same officials will doubtless blame Tehran again. If and when that happens, we should remember US National Security Advisor John Bolton promised to present evidence to the UN Security Council backing up those previous claims, but has yet to do so.

Who stands to gain?

The Russians like to ask: “Who did it benefit?” when the unexpected strikes, and this question is useful now.
Iran doesn’t appear to have a lot to gain. Say what you like about Tehran’s malicious intent, these incidents heighten the global drumbeat for greater isolation and boosts those who seek to apply military pressure on Iran. Its economy is in a bad condition. Before President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the JCPOA (colloquially known as the Iran nuclear deal), Tehran was at its peak of regional influence. With diminished economic resources, its potency is likely to wane.
The incidents also came in the middle of a visit to Tehran by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, apparently trying to mediate over the nuclear deal (although Tokyo says he’s not an envoy for Washington). The apparent attacks eclipsed the Abe visit, an unexpected bit of outreach to Iran by someone Trump calls a friend.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shake hands after a joint press conference in Tehran.

You could make a case for Iranian hardliners staging such an attack to derail peace efforts. But Iran’s hardliners — particularly the Revolutionary Guard — are normally a little smarter than to bomb international shipping lanes during a crucial diplomatic meeting. Iran’s chief moderate, Foreign Minister Javid Zarif, was right to point out that “suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.” When one party is so easily blamed, it is likely blameless, or unfathomably stupid.
What else? Reuters has reported that Tehran has been scaling up its remaining petrochemical exports ahead of tightening sanctions. Could it be looking to boost the price of oil? Maybe. But at the same time, the shipping of that same oil is going to be disrupted, so they would likely lose out all the same. It is hard to imagine an Iranian hardliner smart enough to pull this sort of apparent attack off, without also realizing they would get immediately collared.
So what about the conspiracy theory, that Saudi Arabia also seeks confrontation and higher oil prices, and would therefore permit such an attack to further its own agenda? An equally obvious explanation, it’s tough sell, too. And were such a plot uncovered, the damage to Saudi Arabia’s already beleaguered reputation in the Beltway could be terminal.
Some 20% of the world’s oil goes through the Strait of Hormuz, and that includes a lot of Saudi exports. You might argue that at $62 a barrel (the price of Brent crude after Thursday’s incidents caused a 3% spike), oil is quite cheap and can take more of a knocking. But in the long term it’s unlikely the Saudis would want the Gulf’s shipping lanes to be regarded as unsafe.
If this gets worse and the US military finds itself dragged into protecting shipping in Hormuz, Riyadh’s relationship the Trump administration — which sought to get out of foreign entanglements rather than get into them — would be tested.
There are few easy facts here, as there are few easy culprits. But the sense of uncertainty stokes rather than dampens the fears of mismanagement and conflict.

The Green New Deal Is Unrealistic? Get Real

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-02-11/the-green-new-deal-is-unrealistic-get-real

It’s an attention-grabbing mission statement at the start of a long and necessary battle.

Don’t dismiss it.
Don’t dismiss it.

Photographer: Alex Wong/Getty Images North America

Opinions on the “Green New Deal” run the gamut from calling it “a bold, ambitious vision” to warning that it represents “the first step down a dark path to socialism.” A fairly common critique, though, is that it is unrealistic in whole or part; and that’s a view that crosses political lines. Even Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointedly referred to the proposals put forward by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey as “the green dream, or whatever they call it” in an interview with Politico.

Producers of oil, natural gas and coal — those squarely in the GND’s crosshairs — may be tempted to draw comfort from, or mimic, Pelosi’s offhandedness. I think that would be a mistake.

There are two reasons why dismissing the GND as unrealistic would be an error. First, to do so would be to merely state the obvious. A 14-page set of non-binding resolutions encompassing everything from getting the U.S. to net-zero carbon emissions to overhauling the nation’s transportation infrastructure and even implementing a federal job guarantee is plainly not what you would call ready-to-go legislation. And while AOC’s many critics may deride her as inexperienced, surely even they don’t think she’s unable to count how many Republican senators there are right now.

Rather, the GND is a set of sketched-out goals; a flag to rally support around for what its authors surely know will be a multi-year, and grinding, political battle. As ClearView Energy Partners put it in a report on the GND — coming as it does from a master of social media in our increasingly clickable political culture — this is about “counting likes (not votes).” By marrying environmental objectives with issues related to economic insecurity, Ocasio-Cortez and Markey are attempting to recast the doom-laden threat of climate change as an opportunity for economic and national renewal — a stance that mixes FDR liberalism with dashes of America First populism.

Far from thinking the GND’s enormous scope renders it an unrealistic mess, the fossil-fuel industry should consider it an opening gambit. Many of the proposals could be ditched or modified over time and America might still be left with far-reaching federal measures curbing the use of oil, natural gas and coal when the smoke clears. As it stands, polling shows comfortable majorities of Americans already think climate change is happening and is mostly man-made. Perhaps more importantly, roughly four-in-ten discuss the issue “often or occasionally” with family and friends, the highest proportion since the “Climate Change in the American Mind” survey was launched in 2008.

Such shifts in attitudes are why many fossil-fuel producers have also shifted in recent years toward acknowledging the reality of climate change and the role of their products in causing it. Herein lies the second reason why the GND’s lack of “realism” isn’t a promising line of attack over the long term.

As I wrote here, the incumbent energy industry’s change of heart comes after decades of rejecting warnings about climate change and helping to transform it from a question of science to one of political tribalism. Oil majors calling for carbon taxes after spending so many years of denying the need for action now actually find themselves to the left of a lot of senior Republican politicians on that specific issue. When even relatively straightforward measures like pricing carbon have become untouchable for one of the major U.S. parties, yet even producers admit there’s a problem, something has to give.

We find ourselves perhaps less than two decades away from reaching a tipping point beyond which the planet faces possibly catastrophic impacts in terms of things like flooding, drought and wildfires (indeed, California’s getting a bitter taste of this already). It is from this that the urgency of efforts such as the GND spring. Delaying action for decades and then denouncing ambitious proposals to deal with the consequences of that in short order is, let’s be honest, not a good look.

Sarah Ladislaw, a director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who published this smart blog post on the GND’s potential, offers this succinct rebuttal to the “realist” school of criticism:

It’s a hard conversation to calibrate. If the Green New Deal is infeasible, what do you call managing climate-change impacts? Surely that’s infeasible.

If the GND’s ambition is a testament to anything, it is that there are no easy solutions here. We have built our standard of living on forms of energy that we now know pose a threat to our very existence. That is a simple summation of a monumental challenge; one where time has eroded our margin for incremental action. No matter what you think of the specifics, or lack of them, this is a conversation that is long overdue — and necessarily begins with a shout, not a whisper.

Study suggests meat and dairy industry on track to surpass oil companies as biggest greenhouse gas emitters

July 20, 2018 by Bob Yirka, Phys.org report
Study suggests meat and dairy industry on track to surpass oil companies as biggest greenhouse gas emitters
Estimated global greenhouse gas emission (GHG) targets to keep within a 1.5°C rise in temperature compared to emissions from global meat and dairy production based on business-as-usual growth projections. Credit: Emissions impossible

Researchers at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and GRAIN have released a report titled “Emissions impossible – How big meat and dairy are heating up the planet.” The report is a discussion regarding an analysis the groups did on the impact the meat and dairy industries have on global warming. One of their major findings is that large meat and dairy corporations are set to overtake large oil companies as the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. In the report, the researchers also suggest that it is time to expand the field of corporations that get the major share of attention surrounding global warming. They make the case that that meat and dairy producers have flown under the radar for years, and that now, the time has come to include them.

Researchers for the two groups report that they conducted an extensive review of production numbers released by the largest  and  and used those numbers to calculate greenhouse gas emissions. They note that very few of the largest meat and dairy corporations offer emissions data and that those that do fail to include data regarding the supply chain. They suggest further that the supply chain in the industry typically accounts for up to 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions—it typically includes emissions from activities related to growing crops as well as methane emitted directly from livestock.

The researchers also report that a very large share of meat and dairy production occurs in just a few regions: Argentina, Brazil, the U.S., the European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. They also claim that five of the biggest meat and dairy corporations are already responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than BP, ExxonMobil or Shell. They further claim that their analysis of the industry showed that approximately 80 percent of the global allowable greenhouse gas emissions budget would be taken up by just the meat and dairy industry by 2050, if production is not reduced.

The researchers conclude their report by suggesting that soon there will be no choice—if we are to curb  to meet targets set by agreed upon protocols, meat and  production will have to be greatly reduced.

https://phys.org/news/2018-07-meat-dairy-industry-track-surpass.html#jCp

 Explore further: Meeting climate targets may require reducing meat and dairy consumption

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-07-meat-dairy-industry-track-surpass.html#jCp

How the killer whale became the Achilles heel of Trans Mountain pipeline approval

Southern resident killer whales are designated under the Species At Risk Act, which means federal prohibitions exist against anything that would harm them or habitat considered critical to their survival.(Valerie Shore/Shorelines Photography)

It’s been a summer of dramatic killer whale news — from a mother holding up her dead calf for 17 days in a gut-wrenching display of grief, to a boatload of scientists shooting a sick whale with a dart full of antibiotics.

Now, B.C.’s ailing southern resident killer whale population is proving itself a wedge in one of the most headline-grabbing issues in the province.

In the 200-page decision released by the Federal Court of Appeal Thursday morning, effectively quashing the government’s approvals to build the Trans Mountain expansion project, B.C.’s southern resident killer whales are mentioned no fewer than 57 times.

The court ruled that the National Energy Board (NEB) review failed to assess the impacts of marine shipping — saying it was so flawed, it should not have been relied on by the federal cabinet when it gave final approval to proceed in November 2016.

Activists, lawyers and academics say the decision demonstrates environmental corners cannot be cut when governments seek social licence for major infrastructure projects — especially in a case where increased tanker traffic and vessel noise are known to be key threats to killer whales.

“It’s very clear from this decision that environmental assessment considerations and Species At Risk Act decisions aren’t optional, and they need to be taken seriously,” said Dyna Tuytel, a lawyer with Ecojustice, who represented conservation groups that filed a court challenge to the federal government’s approval for a pipeline expansion.

“There’s a risk in taking shortcuts,” said Eric Taylor, a professor of zoology at the University of B.C., and the chair of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

“It’s going to come back and bite you, as it’s done here.”

Narrow reading of the law

According to the ruling, the shortcut, or “critical error” made by the NEB, was to define the scope of the project as only the pipeline and the marine terminal for the purposes of its environmental assessment.

So although the project looked at marine shipping during the review, it did not assess it to environmental standards, nor did it apply the Species At Risk Act to the effects of marine shipping on endangered species.

B.C.’s southern resident killer whales are considered at risk because of their small population, low reproductive rate and threats including marine traffic and lack of food. (Dave Ellifrit/Center for Whale Research)

“The NEB acknowledged that on the facts there were significant adverse effects of the project on southern resident killer whales — but the board, by defining the project narrowly, was able to say that the project was not likely to cause significant adverse effects,” said Tuytel.

Taylor called the decision to leave out the project-related tanker traffic in the review “unfathomable.”

“The oil is not going to sit there in barrels, it’s got to move out by ships. And ship traffic has clearly been identified as a threat to this endangered species. So it’s unconscionable that they ignored it,” he said.

Cutting corners

Tuytel called the ruling “fairly unusual.” But Taylor said he wasn’t surprised, given the threats to southern resident killer whales have been clear for over a decade.

“I think the court really had no other choice than to do this,” he said.

The whales, which are also threatened due to toxic contamination levels and low supplies of Chinook salmon, are designated under the Species At Risk Act, which means federal prohibitions exist against anything that would harm them or habitat considered critical to their survival.

In June, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans pledged measures to slow down vessel traffic, noting the population was facing an imminent threat to survival.

Fuel spills and underwater noise from tankers are just some of the threats that have endangered the southern resident killer whale population. (Michael Mcarthur/CBC)

Since the time the NEB reviewed the project, B.C.’s southern resident population has declined from about 82 to 75.

The project would increase capacity from five ships a month through Burrard Inlet to a maximum of 34 oil tankers capable of carrying 120,000 tonnes of diluted bitumen at a time.

According to the NEB report, Trans Mountain acknowledged the additional noise the project would create, but argued that the shipping lanes “will continue to host marine vessel traffic with or without the project, and that the impacts to the southern resident killer whales will continue to exist with or without the project.”

Killer whales a ‘flare’ for other issues

This is not the first time whales have played a role in halting a major Canadian infrastructure project.

Last year, energy giant TransCanada scrapped plans for a port for its proposed Energy East pipeline after protesters raised alarms about impacts on the calving grounds of the vulnerable beluga population in the St. Lawrence Estuary.

Taylor said the pipeline and its associated infrastructure are likely to have impacts on many species, but because of the popularity of killer whales, they tend to act as a “flare” for many of the issues associated with the project.

“If this was a lichen, many, many fewer people would be paying attention,” he said.

Seismic Testing to Begin in Atlantic Ocean in Push for Offshore Drilling

Seismic Testing to Begin in Atlantic Ocean in Push for Offshore Drilling

The Interior Department announced it is moving forward with seismic surveys in the Atlantic Ocean following President Donald Trump‘s executive order last month to aggressively expand offshore drilling in protected areas off the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

Six permit applications by energy companies—ones that were rejected by the Obama administration—are being reviewed by the department.

The oil and gas industry has long pushed for seismic surveys used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean’s surface.

However, environmental groups warn that the surveys are an extremely loud and dangerous process.

“Seismic airguns create one of the loudest manmade sounds in the ocean, firing intense blasts of compressed air every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for weeks to months on end,” Dustin Cranor, Oceana‘s senior director of U.S. communications, told EcoWatch. “The noise from these blasts is so loud that it can be heard up to 2,500 miles from the source, which is approximately the distance from Washington, DC to Las Vegas.”

“These blasts are of special concern to marine life, including fish, turtles and whales, which depend on sound for communication and survival,” Cranor said. He noted that the government’s own estimates show that seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic could injure as many as 138,000 marine mammals like dolphins and whales, while disturbing the vital activities of millions more.

Furthermore, Greenpeace said “pursuing this development stands at cross-purposes with the nation’s necessary and rapidly accelerating move away from fossil fuels, and with previous commitments to address global climate change.”

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Capt. Paul Watson explained, “One of the major threats to the survival of cetaceans, is noise pollution. More seismic testing and military LFS testing will result in more strandings. This decision equates to a death sentence for thousands of whales and dolphins.”

Seismic data has not been gathered in the mid- and south-Atlantic regions, from northern Florida to Delaware, for at least 30 years.

The Interior Department said that the surveys are needed to update information about the Outer Continental Shelf that was gathered more than three decades ago, “when technology was not as advanced as today.”

The Associated Press reported that any new drilling activity is expected to be limited to the coasts of Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia.

Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke said that the surveys will help “a variety of federal and state partners better understand our nation’s offshore areas … and evaluate resources that belong to the American people.”

Industry groups applauded the department’s decision to review the permit applications. “There has been no documented scientific evidence of noise from these surveys adversely affecting marine animal populations or coastal communities,” Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, said.

Trump’s executive order was aimed at rolling back President Obama’s permanent ban on new offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

“Renewed offshore energy production will reduce the cost of energy, create countless new jobs, and make America more secure and far more energy independent,” Trump said before signing the document last month.

But Greenpeace said that Atlantic drilling would threaten the region’s vibrant fishing and tourism industry, warning that “a spill equivalent to the BP Gulf oil disaster could coat beaches stretching from Savannah to Boston.”

Additionally, Cranor pointed out that more than 120 East Coast municipalities, 1,200 elected officials, and an alliance representing 35,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families have publicly opposed offshore drilling and/or seismic airgun blasting.

“These individuals and groups understand that nearly 1.4 million jobs and more than $95 billion in gross domestic product are at risk if dangerous offshore drilling activities occur in the Atlantic Ocean,” Cranor explained.

Conservation groups have filed a lawsuit against President Trump, challenging his decision to reverse President Obama’s ban.

British Columbia Humpbacks May Soon Lose Ocean Quiet

Off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, humpbacks are making a comeback. A proposed supertanker highway, however, could change that. ©From the video “Whale Haven” by Pacific Wild

Off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, humpbacks are making a comeback. A proposed supertanker highway, however, could change that. ©From the video “Whale Haven” by Pacific Wild

by Candice Gaukel Andrews August 4, 2016

Video: British Columbia Humpbacks May Soon Lose Ocean Quiet

In some of the last quiet, pristine waters on the British Columbia Coast, humpback whales are making a comeback. In the mid 1960s, when Canada stopped whaling on its West Coast, there were only about 1,500 of them left in the North Pacific. Ten years ago, a study estimated that their numbers had multiplied to about 22,000.

Today, however, these whales are facing another huge menace: a proposed supertanker highway through one of their few remaining peaceful havens. A massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) project that’s being planned for the northern part of the province and possible bitumen oil pipelines from the Alberta tar sands to the B.C. Coast would route a potential 2,000 to 3,000 tankers through the Great Bear Sea per year, putting whales in daily risk of ship strikes.

A quiet ocean is essential for humpbacks; they largely use sound instead of sight to navigate, avoid predators, forage for food and find mates. ©From the video “Whale Haven” by Pacific Wild

A quiet ocean is essential for humpbacks; they largely use sound instead of sight to navigate, avoid predators, forage for food and find mates. ©From the video “Whale Haven” by Pacific Wild

That’s not the only danger the tankers would pose. If the pipelines are approved, each ship would carry over two million barrels of oil—the equivalent of 127, Olympic-size swimming pools. These colossal quantities of oil traveling along one of the world’s most dangerous shipping routes means that there’s a high risk of spillage. Smaller leaks and spills and the introduction of invasive, exotic species are additional threats these huge boats would bring to the waters of the Great Bear Sea. And, supertankers are the loudest marine vessels on Earth. Here, where current low noise levels allow the whales to communicate and forage successfully, the thunder of these carriers could displace the whales again.

Video: British Columbia Humpbacks May Soon Lose Ocean Quiet

The Republican vision for the environment is not a pretty sight

http://grist.org/politics/the-republican-vision-for-the-environment-is-not-a-pretty-sight/

With their party’s national convention just days away, Republicans in the House of Representatives have given us a detailed vision of their environmental agenda. You may be shocked to hear that it would further pollute our air and water and worsen climate change. On Thursday, the House passed its budget bill for the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Interior on a mostly party-line vote.

The bill would spend $1 billion less on the agencies next year than President Obama requested. That comes on top of severe cuts over the last six years, since Republicans gained control of Congress. “EPA’s budget, not including inflation, is already 20 percent below what it was in 2010,” says Scott Slesinger, legislative director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “When the budget agreement was done last year for 2016 and they found more money for domestic [programs and defense], the only agency that did not get an increase was EPA.”

Environmentalists are even more upset, though, about the “policy riders” — that’s D.C.-ese for unrelated amendments attached to a spending bill. The most extreme ones would:

On the bright side, Republicans actually dropped some of the most absurd amendments — such as one that would have prevented EPA employees from flying for work.

Obama threatened to veto this bill before it even passed the full House, so there’s no risk of it actually becoming law. But it’s a handy guide to what Republicans want to do, even if they avoid saying so in prime time this coming week.

623-ft vessel hits object, grounded in Columbia River

http://koin.com/2016/03/21/623-foot-vessel-grounded-in-columbia-river/

Sparna hit submerged object

The motor vessel Sparna, a 623-foot Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier sits aground in the Columbia River near Cathlamet, Wash., March 21, 2016.
The motor vessel Sparna, a 623-foot Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier sits aground in the Columbia River near Cathlamet, Wash., March 21, 2016.

ASTORIA, Ore. (KOIN) – Multiple agencies are monitoring a 623-foot merchant ship that has become grounded in the main shipping channel of the Columbia River.

The motor vessel Sparna, a 623-foot Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier sits aground in the Columbia River near Cathlamet, Wash., March 21, 2016.
The motor vessel Sparna, a 623-foot Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier sits aground in the Columbia River near Cathlamet, Wash., March 21, 2016.

The U.S. Coast Guard says “Sparna” went aground at 12:16 a.m. on Monday in a narrow part of the river near Cathlamet, Wash. It reportedly hit a submerged object.

The vessel took on water in void spaces, but the fuel tanks were not damaged, the Coast Guard said.

“The positive news so far is that responders have not observed any oil in the water,” said Capt. Dan Travers, Coast Guard Captain of the Port for the Columbia River.

The Sparna is fully loaded with grain and was heading west in the Columbia River, towards the ocean, with a river pilot still on-board when it ran into trouble.

The Sparna is weighed down with 218,380 gallons of high sulfur fuel and 39,380 gallons of marine diesel. Two tug boats are on scene to keep the Sparna stabilized, according to the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard, Washington Department of Ecology and Oregon Department of Environmental along with other state and county agencies are on scene monitoring the situation. They say the Coast Guard will need to approve a salvage plan.

The vessel isn’t blocking the navigation channel so it is open to other vessels.

Cathlamet, Wash. is about 1.5 hours from downtown Portland.