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Senate Democrats’ Jobs & Infrastructure Plan For America’s Workers Provides Real Investments, Protects Communities and Our Health

WASHINGTON, DC (March 07, 2018) – In response to a new infrastructure proposal introduced by Democrats on the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Raul Garcia, Earthjustice Senior Legislative Counsel, issued the following statement:
 
“Finally, a plan that recognizes what the American people have known all along – that we can have real infrastructure investment without gutting environmental safeguards that protect the air we breathe, water we drink, and communities we call home. This plan looks at our national infrastructure and our environment as something worth investing into while the President’s plan simply wants to sell them off to wealthy corporations.
 
Unlike President Trump’s scam infrastructure plan, the Democrats’ plan is both practical and actionable. It protects the environment and our health, it is inclusive to local communities and it provides real investment in building safe, clean and resilient infrastructure. While the President’s plan guts health and safety protections, it is all smoke and mirrors when it comes to actual investment. The Jobs and Infrastructure Plan for America’s Workers is the real thing.”
 

 

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Federal Judge Blocks Construction of Bayou Bridge Pipeline

Baton Rouge, LA (February 23, 2018) – Federal District Court Judge Shelly Dick halted the construction of the controversial Bayou Bridge Pipeline (BBP) across the Atchafalaya Basin. Today’s decision grants a preliminary injunction to prevent ongoing irreparable harm to this ecological treasure while a lawsuit, filed Jan. 11, is being heard.  

The Atchafalaya Basin is located in southern Louisiana. The proposed Bayou Bridge pipeline would connect the Dakota Access Pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico.

Judge Dick found that the lawsuit filed by several groups—Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association (West), Gulf Restoration Network, Waterkeeper Alliance and Sierra Club, represented by lawyers with Earthjustice—raises serious concerns and that the 162-mile pipeline would irreparably harm the Atchafalaya Basin.

The groups recently presented live testimony during a hearing showing that the ancient cypress and tupelo trees slated to be turned into mulch while the pipeline right-of-way is being cleared would never return, including evidence that these old-growth trees are the Noah’s Ark of the swamp—providing habitat for migratory birds, bears, bats and numerous other wildlife.

In addition, the groups showed that pipeline construction would further degrade nearby fishing grounds that local commercial crawfishers rely on for their livelihood.  

“The court’s ruling recognizes the serious threat this pipeline poses to the Atchafalaya Basin, one of our country’s ecological and cultural crown jewels,” said Jan Hasselman, attorney from Earthjustice representing plaintiffs in this matter. “For now, at least, the Atchafalaya is safe from this company’s incompetence and greed.”

Jody Meche, a third-generation commercial crawfisher and president of the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association-West, testified about how the Bayou Bridge pipeline would make existing problems worse—problems created by the irresponsible behavior of oil and gas companies during construction to previous pipelines in the basin. 

These problems include hypoxic water conditions that kill crawfish, eliminating harvests in areas of the Basin, the safety of local communities and the survival of Cajun culture.   

“We fight the fight for years, telling our story, raising public awareness about the issues we have in the Atchafalaya Basin,” Meche said. “It felt great to finally be able to tell my story in a courtroom.”

“After years of witnessing the systematic destruction of the Basin with impunity by these companies, while our government turns a blind eye, it felt good to finally tell our story to a person with the power to make a difference,” Dean Wilson, executive director of Atchafalaya Basinkeeper said. 

The groups also raised concerns about the fact that construction of the pipeline would decrease natural flood protection in the basin, which acts as the major floodway project that protects millions of people in coastal Louisiana and the Mississippi River valley from Mississippi flood waters.

The Bayou Bridge pipeline project proposes to connect the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, which transports volatile and explosive Bakken crude oil from North Dakota to refineries in St. James Parish and export terminals, forming the southern leg of the Bakken Pipeline. Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), which owns the Dakota Access Pipeline and is a joint owner in the proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline, has one of the worst safety and compliance records in the industry.

Federal data shows that Energy Transfer Partners and its subsidiary Sunoco Inc. have been responsible for hundreds of significant pipeline incidents across the country in the last decade. 

Last week, Sunoco was fined a record $12.6 million by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for violations incurred during the construction of the Mariner East 2 Pipeline.

The court ordered BBP to halt construction, citing the need to prevent further irreparable harm until the matter can be tried on the merits. The judge said the court would provide a more detailed opinion at a later date. (Update: Read the judge’s full written opinion, issued on Feb. 27.)
ADDITIONAL REACTION FROM PLAINTIFF GROUPS:
“ETP has a horrible track record that keeps getting worse every day,” said Donna Lisenby, Clean and Safe Energy Campaign Manager at Waterkeeper Alliance. “Waterkeeper Alliance is very grateful and relieved that a despicably horrible and incorrigible repeat offender has been temporarily stopped by the courts from damaging water, land, and wildlife in Louisiana.”

“We have no time to lose,” said Scott Eustis, Gulf Restoration Network. “The sand stolen by these rights-of-way must flow to the coast—the sand cannot be spent filling our swamps. Once those swamps are filled, there’s no fish, and the vines cover the trees, so no birds. It’s over.”

“The Bayou Bridge pipeline would pose an unacceptable risk to the wetlands, water, and communities along its route, and should never be built. It is a relief that the court has granted this injunction so we can make our case against this dirty, dangerous pipeline, and we will continue to fight until it is stopped for good,” said Julie Rosenzweig, Sierra Club Delta Chapter Director.

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Trump Administration Sued for Letting Oil Companies Dump Offshore Fracking Waste Into Gulf of Mexico

For Immediate Release

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (510) 844-7108, miyoko@biologicaldiversity.org

NEW ORLEANS (February 13, 2018) — The Center for Biological Diversity, Gulf Restoration Network and Louisiana Bucket Brigade today sued the Trump administration for permitting oil companies to dump waste from fracking and drilling into the Gulf of Mexico without evaluating the dangers to water quality, marine species or the environment.

Today’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, challenges the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act permit for new and existing offshore oil and gas platforms operating in federal waters off Texas and Louisiana. The permit, finalized in September, allows oil companies to dump unlimited amounts of waste fluid, including chemicals used in fracking, into the Gulf of Mexico.

“The Trump administration is letting oil companies dump toxic fracking chemicals into the Gulf with no regard for the risks or the law,” said Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center. “That’s just unacceptable. The EPA is supposed to protect water quality, not give oil companies free rein to use our oceans as their garbage disposal.”

Federal waters in the western Gulf of Mexico host the largest concentration of offshore oil and gas drilling activities in the country. Federal documents revealed that oil companies dumped more than 75 billion gallons of wastewater into these waters in 2014 alone. Records also show that fracking has been on the rise in the Gulf and that the EPA has failed to conduct any meaningful review of the environmental impacts of dumping fracking waste into the water.

“The EPA is putting marine wildlife and coastal communities at risk by rubber-stamping the dumping of dangerous fracking chemicals into our oceans. But we’re confident the court will set the record straight,” said Monsell.

Today’s lawsuit notes that the EPA’s issuance of the permit failed to comply with federal environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act. The suit aims to force the EPA to prohibit the dumping of fracking chemicals and other dangerous waste fluids into the Gulf unless and until the agency adequately studies and discloses the risks.

At least 10 fracking chemicals routinely used in offshore fracking could kill or harm a broad variety of marine species, including marine mammals and fish, Center scientists have found. The California Council on Science and Technology has identified some common fracking chemicals to be among the most toxic in the world to marine animals.

Discharging fracking chemicals into the Gulf raises grave ecological concerns because the Gulf provides important habitat for whales, sea turtles and fish — as well as being federally designated critical habitat for imperiled loggerhead sea turtles. Dolphins and other species in the Gulf are still suffering the lingering destructive effects of 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. 

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28 Groups Unite Against Trump Plan

WASHINGTON, DC (February 12, 2018) – Today, President Trump introduced a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure plan that would exempt thousands of infrastructure projects from or otherwise weaken critical environmental laws including the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Clean Air Act, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and more than a dozen other protections.

The 28 organizations named below issued the following statement in response:  

“President Trump’s proposal is an unprecedented giveaway to the wealthy and powerful that would allow his administration and its special interest allies to unilaterally sidestep bedrock conservation, public health, and worker safety laws that keep our families and communities out of harm’s way.

“Across the country, Americans remain overwhelmingly opposed to any plan that would sidestep critical environmental and conservation laws like the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and National Environmental Policy Act. They know we don’t need to hand over our communities to special interests. They know we don’t need to sacrifice our clean air, clean water, wildlife, and iconic lands and waters.

“President Trump’s dangerous proposal would hand out massive subsidies for wealthy developers to build roads and bridges without any regard to the impacts of hurricanes, fires, or rising seas. Taxpayers have repeatedly built and rebuilt many of the buildings and roads destroyed by disasters like Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma. To continue rebuilding over and over again without taking common-sense, proactive measures to address climate change isn’t just short-sighted – it’s expensive and dangerous.

“America badly needs an infrastructure upgrade. Horrifying events like the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which exposed over 100,000 Americans to high levels of lead in their drinking water, are proof enough of that. But President Trump’s proposal does nothing to address real issues like Flint. Instead, by rubberstamping permits for corporations to build oil pipelines, dams, and toxic waste dumps, gutting environmental and labor laws, and severely limiting the public’s ability to hold government accountable will only make our communities – and our nation – a more dangerous place.”

Here is the alphabetical list of the 27 signers of the joint statement:

32BJ SEIU, American Rivers, Animal Welfare Institute, Alaska Wilderness League, Bold Alliance, Brooklyn Movement Center, Care2, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Community Change Action, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Green Latinos, Hip Hop Caucus, Hispanic Federation, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Patriot Not Partisan, Progressive Congress Action Fund, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Save EPA, Sierra Club, State Innovation Exchange, Western Watersheds Project, The Wilderness Society

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Hartnett White’s Withdrawal as CEQ Nominee the Right Outcome for Science, Health

WASHINGTON (February 5, 2018)—Kathleen Hartnett White, the Trump administration’s nominee to head the Council on Environmental Quality, has withdrawn her name from consideration for the post. That’s good news for public health and safety, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Kathleen Rest, executive director of UCS.

“Kathleen Hartnett White was the absolute wrong choice to lead the Council on Environmental Quality. Her record made it clear that she did not accept basic scientific facts, put industry interests above the public and would not carry out the mission of CEQ.

“While this is the right outcome, it didn’t happen in a vacuum. Thousands of people across the country spoke out against Hartnett White’s confirmation—including hundreds of scientists and scholars who wrote a letter calling on their senators to oppose this nomination.

“Though Hartnett-White’s withdrawal is a positive step, we have to stay vigilant. The Trump administration has appointed conflicted and unqualified individuals to vital scientific posts and has made it clear that they are more than willing to sideline the science that underpins policies that protect public health and the environment.  The scientific community will continue to speak out about abuses of science and oppose efforts to sideline science in decision-making.” 

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

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STATEMENT: Sierra Club Disappointed in Decision Favoring Trump Border Wall

San Diego, CA (February 27, 2018) – Today, Judge Gonzalo Curiel ruled on the side of the Trump administration in their effort to waive environmental laws to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall in California. The decision will expedite border wall construction in delicate habitat and on public lands.  

In response, Sierra Club Managing Attorney Gloria Smith released the following statement:
“The effects of these waivers and the destruction of a border wall will be long-lasting and detrimental for border communities.
“Waiving these bedrock and bipartisan laws has resulted in flooding in places like Nogales where people lost their lives. The waivers have driven destruction in Native American burial sites. They have killed thousands of species and fragmented habitat. Most concerningly, there is zero accountability or consequence for these outcomes.
“The biggest problem with waiving laws is not judicial or philosophical, it is concrete. The laws that are swept aside are not merely red tape. They are critical protections that were put in place for a reason– to protect people, their communities, and the environment that we depend upon.”

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Contact: 
Courtney Bourgoin
(248) 214 6682
courtney.bourgoin@sierraclub.org

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Trump’s Infrastructure Scam Would Gut Environmental Protections, Sell Off Public Lands, Fail to Fix America’s Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, DC (January 29, 2017) – As reported by the Washington Post, the White House has drafted a proposal to gut environmental protections in an effort to make it easier for corporations to build dangerous pipelines and other environmentally destructive projects, forming the cornerstone of what the White House is calling an infrastructure plan. In addition:

Earlier leaked plans indicate that the Trump administration is seeking to sell public lands off to the fossil fuel industry and other special interests in order to finance its limited spending program.
Taken together, Trump’s proposed federal budget and this plan would actually cut existing funds and kill existing infrastructure jobs — $1.69 in cuts for every $1 in proposed spending.
The plan would be a huge handout to Wall Street banks, whose privatization of roads, bridges, water systems and other public assets will require charging Americans big tolls and fees.
The plan would give the Secretary of the Interior the ability to unilaterally authorize the construction of pipelines in our National Parks and public lands, rather than Congress.

In Response, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune released the following statement:

“This is not a serious proposal to make the investments America’s infrastructure needs, this is a scam designed to gut clean air, water, and wildlife protections, transform public highways and bridges into privately owned toll roads, and sell off America’s public lands. “We need a plan to create good paying, family-sustaining jobs nationwide by making America a clean energy superpower and investing in public transportation, not a scam to enrich Wall Street. At its core, this proposal is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to give another massive handout to polluters at the expense of our air, water, and health.

“What’s essential is addressing the trillion-dollar elephant in the room: the fact that state and local governments remain starved of badly needed funding, effectively stalling projects before they even get off the ground. Instead, the Trump administration is attempting to exploit the situation to gut bedrock environmental laws including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many more. Trump and his allies already decided what to do with the money that could fund this project when they handed it to the wealthiest people and corporations in the country.

“Americans know that improving our infrastructure doesn’t have to come at the cost of clean air and clean water. Without bedrock environmental safeguards like the National Environmental Policy Act, the federal government could rubber stamp permits for corporations to build dangerous pipelines and toxic waste dumps.

“When the administration and its Republican allies in Congress use terms like ‘streamlining’ and ‘permitting reform,’ what they are really saying is that they want to eliminate clean air and water safeguards and cut public participation when important decisions are made. We can’t let that happen.”
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Contact:
Adam Beitman
202-670-5585
adam.beitman@sierraclub.org

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Statement on US Forest Service Decision to Downgrade Study on Risks to the BWCA

Ely, MN (January 27, 2017) – Today the U.S. Forest Service significantly downgraded the study of risks posed by sulfide-ore copper mining to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Officials had formerly planned a comprehensive, in-depth scientific and economic Environmental Impact Statement of the Boundary Waters watershed under scenarios with copper mining and no copper mining. The former plan showed respect for Minnesotan’s strong interest in careful decision-making when it comes to the Boundary Waters and its vital role in driving Minnesota’s economy and defining America’s public lands and outdoor heritage. Now, the Forest Service has reduced that process to a simple Environmental Assessment that includes less opportunity for public input and little room for rigorous scientific analysis.

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters issued the following statement:

“There’s no room for shortcuts when it comes to the Boundary Waters,” said Campaign Manager Doug Niemela. “We are very concerned about the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to downgrade the study on the risks to the Boundary Waters from an Environmental Impact Statement to an Environmental Assessment. All Americans, no matter how they feel about this issue, deserve the most thorough and rigorous analysis possible to determine the risks of sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters.

While the U.S. Forest Service has acknowledged that protecting the Wilderness through a land withdrawal has no environmental downsides, the other alternatives being considered – such as converting the Superior National Forest in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters to a sulfide-ore copper mining district – would have catastrophic consequences for one of this nation’s crown jewels.”

 

Contact:
Alex Falconer
Public Affairs and Legislative Director
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters
M: (612) 419-3423
alex@savetheboundarywaters.org

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Senate must reject climate denier Kathleen Hartnett White

January 8, 2018

Contact:
Raul Garcia, Earthjustice Senior Legislative Council
rgarcia@earthjustice.org
202-797-5251

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WASHINGTON, DC (January 8, 2018) – The White House today formally resubmitted the nomination of serial climate denier Kathleen Hartnett White to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). In response, Raul Garcia, Earthjustice Senior Legislative Counsel, issued the following statement:

“The President is doubling down on climate denial by re-nominating Kathleen Hartnett White to lead the Council on Environmental Quality. Over and over again, Ms. White has shown a deficient understanding of pollution’s impact on our environment, our health and our communities.  Among many radical ideas, Ms. White opposes all renewable energy sources and claims that carbon pollution is harmless. Her first confirmation hearing performance would have been comical if it wasn’t downright terrifying. Taken alone, the discovery that White plagiarized at least eighteen responses in her Senate confirmation hearing is disqualifying.

“The opposition to her nomination isn’t partisan politics. It is about simple competency. We urge Senators to consider her record of failure, her demonstrated climate denial, and her lack of competency for this office and reject her nomination.”
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Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer

 

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House GOP Hearing to Focus on Weakening Law Protecting Environment, Public Participation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 28, 2017

Contact:
Paulo Lopes, (202) 849-8398, plopes@biologicaldiversity.org

WASHINGTON (November 28, 2017) — The House Committee on Natural Resources, led by Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), will use a hearing Wednesday to justify weakening the National Environmental Policy Act. The Act, often called “NEPA,” is one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws that guarantees public participation in federal agency decision-making and requires that agencies review the environmental impacts of their actions before making a decision. Congressional Republicans this year have introduced more than 45 bills that would weaken NEPA.

“Laws like NEPA help ensure that we have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. It’s disgraceful that these Republicans want to weaken it,” said Paulo Lopes, public lands policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Polluters and special interests certainly benefit from these kinds of sweetheart deals but people, wildlife and are environment will certainly lose out.”

NEPA requires that federal agencies take a “hard look” at the environmental impacts of their proposed projects either through the completion of a concise “environmental assessment” or a more in-depth “environmental impact statement” for more complex projects. This process is the primary mechanism to ensure public participation in agency decision-making. NEPA has a history of working well. For instance, more than 192,000 projects, worth about $300 billion, successfully went through the NEPA process as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“NEPA provides lifesaving ‘look before you leap’ protections for all of us,” said Lopes. “In the Trump era, where conflict of interest is rampant and industry is firmly in the driver’s seat, NEPA is more vital than ever.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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