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Court Hears Arguments to Stop Destructive Highway-widening Project Through Ancient California Redwoods

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 28, 2018

Contact: Peter Galvin, (707) 986-2600, pgalvin@biologicaldiversity.org

SAN FRANCISCO (November 28, 2018) — Conservation groups and Humboldt residents appeared in federal court today for a hearing on a legal challenge to Caltrans’ controversial “Richardson Grove Operational Improvement Project.” The project would needlessly damage and harm ancient redwood trees in California’s iconic Richardson Grove State Park along Highway 101 in Humboldt County.

The highway-widening project would damage the roots of more than 100 of Richardson Grove’s ancient redwoods, including trees up to 3,000 years old, 18 feet in diameter and 300 feet tall. Caltrans has pursued this project solely to incrementally improve passage for oversized commercial trucks, and continues to rely on inadequate environmental review.

“These are some of California’s oldest and most iconic trees. It’s ridiculous that Caltrans continues to push a plan to hack into them just to accommodate a few more huge trucks,” said Peter Galvin with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The redwoods of Richardson Grove have survived for thousands of years, and we’ll continue fighting to keep these ancient trees intact.”

At today’s hearing before Judge William Alsup in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, the plaintiffs and Caltrans presented motions for summary judgment, with each side arguing that its case should prevail as a matter of fact and law without going to trial. The motions are under submission and a court ruling is forthcoming.

Litigation against the Caltrans project in Richardson Grove has been pursued in both state and federal court. In 2012 the federal court issued a temporary injunction stopping the project, citing numerous errors in Caltrans’ mapping and measurement of affected old-growth redwoods and use of faulty data. The state court ruled in May 2018 against a Caltrans motion to dismiss the state lawsuit.

Background

The federal lawsuit challenges Caltrans’ violations of the National Environmental Policy Act due to inadequate evaluation of the environmental impacts of cutting into tree roots. The suit also alleges violations of the Transportation Act, which requires highway projects with federal funding to minimize harm to natural resources in state parks.

The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Friends of Del Norte, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, and longtime local residents Bess Bair, Trisha Lee Lotus, Jeffrey Hedin and David Spreen.

Previous legal challenges had blocked construction and forced Caltrans to rescind all project approvals in 2014. The agency reapproved the project in 2017, claiming it had made significant changes. However, Caltrans still intends to cut into tree roots, threatening the stability and viability of old-growth redwoods. The conservation groups also filed suit in state court challenging the new project approval.

Richardson Grove State Park, where tourists often first encounter large redwoods when heading north on Highway 101, is home to one of the last protected stands of accessible old-growth redwood trees in the world. The park has essential habitat for threatened and endangered species such as the northern spotted owl, and its creeks support runs of imperiled salmon and steelhead trout.

Caltrans first proposed the project in 2007, claiming the widening is needed to accommodate large-truck travel. But Highway 101 through Richardson Grove is already designated for larger trucks and does not have significant safety problems. The agency cannot demonstrate that the project is necessary for safety or would benefit the local economy.

The attorneys for the plaintiffs in this suit are Philip Gregory of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP; Stuart Gross of Gross & Klein LLP; and Sharon Duggan, a staff attorney with EPIC and a long-time expert on environmental law.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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Otsego 2000 Challenges FERC Decision to Ignore GHG Impacts

Contact: Ellen Pope, director@otsego2000.org, 607-547-8881

COOPERSTOWN, NY (November 26, 2018) — On Monday, November 26, Otsego 2000 filed an appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) decision permitting Dominion Transmission Inc.’s New Market Project to proceed. Otsego 2000 argues that in permitting this project, FERC violated the Natural Gas Act, NEPA, and binding legal precedent, when FERC refused to consider upstream or downstream GHG impacts wrongfully deciding that these impacts were not foreseeable or quantifiable. FERC also announced a significant policy change stating that for the same reasons, it would no longer consider GHG impacts in future cases. By announcing a significant policy change in a single docket, FERC also violated the Administrative Procedure Act which requires agencies to give notice of proposed policy changes, and allow public comment. By its action, FERC denied due process to citizens and stakeholders across the nation who had no notice of FERC’s plan until it was too late to intervene.

“At a time of surging concern for climate change and growing scientific evidence of its causes, FERC’s announcement of a new ‘policy’ to refuse to even consider GHG emission impacts, in defiance of existing law, must be rejected,” said Nicole Dillingham, President of Otsego 2000’s Board of Directors. She added: “The fact that FERC attempts to announce such a policy in a single docket denies all other others of their due process rights. Otsego 2000, as the only party with standing to appeal, simply cannot let this go unchallenged.”

Otsego 2000, an environmental and preservation advocacy organization based in Cooperstown, NY, is represented by Michael Sussman, Esq., of Sussman & Associates, Goshen, NY.

To read the brief and keep up-to-date on the case as it moves forward, visit .

 

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In Blow to Pipeline Project, Court Invalidates Trump Administration’s Keystone XL Environmental Review, Blocks Construction

For Immediate Release, November 9, 2018

Contact: Margie Kelly, Natural Resources Defense Council, (541) 222-9699, mkelly@nrdc.org
Mark Hefflinger, Bold Nebraska, (323) 972-5192, mark@boldalliance.org
Gabby Brown, Sierra Club, (914) 261-4626, gabby.brown@sierraclub.org
Jared Margolis, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 310-4054, jmargolis@biologicaldiversity.org
Patrick Davis, Friends of the Earth, (202) 222-0744, pdavis@foe.org
Dustin Ogdin, Northern Plains Resource Council, (406) 228-1154, dustin@northernplains.org
Dena Hoff, Northern Plains Resource Council, (406) 939-1839

GREAT FALLS, MT (November 9, 2018) — A federal judge ruled yesterday that the Trump administration violated bedrock U.S. environmental laws when approving a federal permit for TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project. The judge blocked any construction on the pipeline and ordered the government to revise its environmental review.

The decision is a significant setback for a pipeline that investors are already seriously questioning. TransCanada has not yet announced a Final Investment Decision on whether to move forward and build Keystone XL should it receive all the necessary permits.

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris found that the Trump administration’s reliance on a stale environmental review from 2014 violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. This ruling follows the court’s previous decision on August 15 to require additional analysis of the new route through Nebraska.

The court required the U.S. Department of State to revise the proposed project’s environmental impact statement to evaluate the extraordinary changes in oil markets that have occurred since the previous review was completed in 2014; to consider the combined climate impacts of approving both the Keystone XL and other tar sands pipelines; to study the many cultural resources along the pipeline’s route; and to examine the harmful risks of oil spills on nearby water and wildlife.

The State Department must also provide a reasoned explanation for its decision to reverse course and approve the permit, after the Obama administration denied it just three years ago on the same set of facts.

Based on these violations, the court ordered the State Department to revise its environmental analysis, and prohibited any work along the proposed route — which would cross Nebraska, South Dakota, and Montana — until that analysis is complete. Keystone XL would have carried up to 35 million gallons a day of Canadian tar sands — one of the world’s dirtiest energy sources — across critical water sources and wildlife habitat to Gulf Coast refineries.

Plaintiffs Northern Plains Resource Council, Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club filed the lawsuit in March 2017 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana.

Quotes

“Today’s ruling is a victory for the rule of law, and it’s a victory for common sense stewardship of the land and water upon which we all depend. Despite the best efforts of wealthy, multinational corporations and the powerful politicians who cynically do their bidding, we see that everyday people can still band together and successfully defend their rights. All Americans should be proud that our system of checks and balances can still function even in the face of enormous strains,” said Dena Hoff, Montana farmer and member-leader of the Northern Plains Resource Council.

“Farmers and our Tribal Nation allies in Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana celebrate today’s victory foiling the Trump administration’s scheme to rubber-stamp the approval of Keystone XL. This now ten-year battle is still far from over. We’ll continue to stand together against this tar sands export pipeline that threatens property rights, water and climate at every opportunity, at every public hearing. People on the route deserve due process and the Ponca Trail of Tears must be protected,” said Mark Hefflinger, communications director for Bold Alliance.

“Today’s ruling makes it clear once and for all that it’s time for TransCanada to give up on their Keystone XL pipe dream,” said Sierra Club Senior Attorney Doug Hayes. “The Trump administration tried to force this dirty pipeline project on the American people, but they can’t ignore the threats it would pose to our clean water, our climate, and our communities.”

“This is a complete repudiation of the Trump administration’s attempts to evade environmental laws and prioritize oil company profits over clean water and wildlife,” said Jared Margolis, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Keystone XL would devastate species and put communities at risk of contamination. There’s simply no excuse for approving this terrible project. We need to move away from fossil fuel dependence, not support more devastation.”

“Keystone XL would be a disaster for the climate and for the people and wildlife of this country,” said Jackie Prange, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “As the court has made clear yet again, the Trump administration’s flawed and dangerous proposal should be shelved forever.”

“Today’s ruling is a decisive moment in our fight against the corporate polluters who have rushed to destroy our planet,” said Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth. “Rejecting the destructive Keystone XL pipeline is a victory for the grassroots activists who have worked against the Keystone XL pipeline for the past decade. Environmental laws exist to protect people and our lands and waters. Today, the courts showed the Trump administration and their corporate polluter friends that they cannot bully rural landowners, farmers, environmentalists and Native communities.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

 

*** The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. ***
 

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Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration’s Texas Border Wall Waivers

For Immediate Release, October 18, 2018

Contact: Jean Su, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 770-3187, jsu@biologicaldiversity.org
Natalia Lima, Animal Legal Defense Fund, (201) 679-7088, nlima@aldf.org
Rebecca Bullis, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-0295, rbullis@defenders.org

WASHINGTON (October 18, 2018) — Conservation groups sued the Trump administration today for waiving 28 conservation laws to speed construction of the border wall along the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

Border-wall construction would cut through the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, National Butterfly Center, Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park and the grounds of the historic La Lomita Chapel, as well as family farms and other private property.

“The Trump administration is casting aside bedrock environmental protections with no regard for human health, wildlife or the law,” said Jean Su, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Waiving these laws is disastrous for border communities and imperiled animals, and it’s unconstitutional. We hope the courts stop Trump’s reckless abuse of power before bulldozers destroy some of the most spectacular wildlands in Texas.”

Today’s filing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. says the Department of Homeland Security does not have authority to waive the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act or other laws that protect clean air, clean water, public lands and wildlife in the borderlands.

The department wants to sweep aside these laws to speed construction of 18 miles of 30-foot-high, levee-style border walls in Hidalgo County, as well as gates and other border-wall infrastructure in Cameron County.

The levee-style walls planned for construction will block the natural migration of wildlife and cause dangerous flooding. Existing walls have been implicated in the deaths of hundreds of Texas tortoises and other animals due to flooding, which is common in the Rio Grande Valley.

The waivers also will allow bulldozing of a 150-foot “enforcement zone” south of the wall and installation of surveillance equipment, lighting and other infrastructure with no meaningful environmental review.

“These most recent waivers of vital environmental and animal-protection laws demonstrate the administration’s continued disregard for wildlife, including the most fragile species that could be pushed to extinction by these projects,” said Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Building a wall that cuts through the heart of vital parks, wildlife refuges and the National Butterfly Center will have devastating effects on these critical areas and the wildlife that calls these areas their home.”

Dozens of rare wildlife species, including the ocelot, jaguarundi and aplomado falcon, make their homes in this region of Texas, as do hundreds of species of migratory birds and butterflies. The area is also within historic jaguar habitat.

“The administration’s latest actions spotlight their willingness to gamble with our country’s natural heritage and environmental health,” said Bryan Bird, Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife. “Ignoring environmental and public-safety laws puts wildlife and borderland communities in the region at unnecessary risk and denies the public due process. We will do whatever it takes to fight these reckless decisions and to protect the Lower Rio Grande Valley for future generations.”

Today’s lawsuit states that the waiver authority, granted in 2006, expired years ago and is an unconstitutional delegation of power to the department. The waiver authority applied to border-wall construction under the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which required the agency to build hundreds of miles of border barriers. That mandate was met several years ago, with the department using REAL ID authority five times to waive more than 35 laws on 625 miles of border-wall and barrier construction.

Last week’s border-wall waivers were issued in the middle of a public comment period that remains open until Nov. 6. So far more than 9,000 people have said they oppose the plan. U.S. Customs and Border Protection opened the comment period after the Center and 42 groups requested public input and increased transparency.

Beyond jeopardizing wildlife, endangered species and public lands, the U.S.-Mexico border wall is part of a larger strategy of ongoing border militarization that damages human rights, civil liberties, native lands, local businesses and international relations.

The border wall impedes the natural migrations of people and wildlife that are essential to healthy diversity.
Maps by Kara Clauser, Center for Biological Diversity. These maps are available for media use.
 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, the Animal Legal Defense Fund files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit aldf.org.

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Rebuilding Stronger: National Wildlife Federation Outlines 12 Recommendations to Protect America from Hurricanes, Worsening Extreme Storms

For Immediate Release, September 27, 2018

Contact: Mike Saccone, National Wildlife Federation, SacconeM@NWF.org, 202-797-6634 

WASHINGTON, DC (October 3, 2018) — In the wake of yet another record-breaking hurricane, the National Wildlife Federation urged Congress to act on a series of urgent, comprehensive steps to prepare America for rising oceans and worsening storms. Rebuilding Stronger: 12 Priority Policies to Better Protect our Nation from Extreme Storms documents lessons learned from Hurricane Florence, which dumped up to 36 inches of rain in parts of North Carolina and about nine trillion gallons of water total on the Carolinas. The storm took more than 40 lives, cut off power for hundreds of thousands, and polluted rivers with spills from coal ash and pig waste lagoons.

“America needs a national commitment to protecting communities from the staggering destruction of extreme storms, like Hurricane Florence. Our communities and wildlife are at-risk because of decades of inaction, but we have highlighted concrete ways Congress can safeguard communities, protect wildlife, promote resilience and adapt to worsening storms, exacerbated by climate change,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “We’re asking Congress not just to fund damage repair for this storm, but to take a series of low-cost or even cost-saving steps to better prepare communities across America for future storms.”

Rebuilding Stronger recommends that Congress:

Prioritize Natural Infrastructure Solutions for Hazard Risk Reduction
Reform the National Flood Insurance Program
Increase Investment in Resilience and “Pre-sponse”  
Reinstate the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard
Ensure Clean Water Act Safeguards Protect Existing Wetlands, Waterways, and Natural Floodplains
Ensure Meaningful Public Input and Environmental Review 
Improve Stormwater Management 
Address Dangerous and Outdated Infrastructure 
Ensure Climate-Resilient Siting and Design of Toxic Pollutant Storage Facilities
Ensure Climate-Resilient Siting, Design, and Management of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.
Ensure Full Funding for Farm Bill Conservation Programs
Advance Climate and Clean Energy Solutions

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Lawsuit Challenges Oil, Gas Lease Sales on Public Lands near Dinosaur National Monument

For Immediate Release, September 27, 2018

Contact:  Matthew Sandler, Rocky Mountain Wild, (303) 579-5162, matt@rockymountainwild.org
                Diana Dascalu-Joffe, Center for Biological Diversity, (720) 925-2521, ddascalujoffe@biologicaldiversity.org
                Alison Heis, National Parks Conservation Association, (202) 384-8762, aheis@npca.org
                Becca Fischer, WildEarth Guardians, (406) 698-1489, rfischer@wildearthguardians.org
                Stuart Gillespie, Earthjustice, (303) 996-9616, sgillespie@earthjustice.org

DENVER, CO (September 27, 2018) — Conservation groups sued the Trump administration today for leasing more than 115,000 acres of public land in western Colorado and northern Utah for oil and gas development without adequate environmental protections. These lease sales, offered by the Bureau of Land Management, violate federal environmental laws and will worsen air quality in a region already laden with harmful levels of ozone pollution.

Today’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, aims to invalidate the leases granted to oil and gas companies by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s BLM due to the agency’s failure to properly analyze risks to public health and the environment, as required by federal laws.

“Zinke’s playing a dangerous game by skipping environmental reviews at the risk of human lives,” said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s appalling that he’d push for more fossil fuel extraction on public lands and then ignore how much damage fracking would do, particularly to kids with asthma. The Trump administration’s drilling and fracking agenda is a disaster for people and wildlife alike.”

Oil and gas operations are the largest human-made source of air and climate pollution in the Uinta Basin, plaguing this once-pristine region with significant air pollution comparable with densely populated cities like Los Angeles and Denver. Elevated levels of ozone pollution endanger public health, causing asthma attacks, cardiovascular disease and premature death. It’s particularly dangerous for vulnerable populations, including children, seniors and people with respiratory conditions.

The BLM had a legal duty to analyze and address potential harms to human health and landscapes before leasing the 115,000 acres in December 2017 and June 2018. The agency skipped this analysis, instead prioritizing the interests of oil and gas companies over public health and environmental protection. Today’s lawsuit claims these leasing decisions violate the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

“Prioritizing economic benefits over public health and the environment is wrong,” said Matt Sandler, staff attorney for Rocky Mountain Wild. “This is especially so when the BLM has failed to comply with the laws that would have ensured the public knew the full impacts of these leasing decisions.”

The leased area includes land near Dinosaur National Monument, where more than 300,000 visitors a year come to experience the expansive views, untouched landscape and dark night skies. Air pollution from oil and gas drilling in the region already worsens visibility, stunts vegetation growth and harms delicate ecosystems. More oil and gas development in the area will only make matters worse.

“Our national parks offer millions of people each year the opportunity to connect to the great outdoors and learn about our country’s past, but the protection of our parks can only be assured when their adjacent lands are well-managed,” said David Nimkin, NPCA senior southwest regional director. “NPCA is deeply concerned about the deteriorating air quality in this region due to oil and gas development that directly affects national parks like Dinosaur National Monument, as well as the health of park visitors, who come here to experience the striking views, dark night skies and exceptional biodiversity of this unique place. As a recent national study found, park visitation drops by at least eight percent when ozone pollution is high — a clear indicator that air quality is an important issue for the public and directly impacts their enjoyment of our national parks.”

“Not only are we moving to protect our communities, public health and national parks by addressing ozone pollution head on, we’re also moving to protect our climate by ensuring that Trump and Zinke account for the cumulative impacts from federal oil and gas leasing,” said Becca Fischer, climate guardian for WildEarth Guardians. “The federal government has ignored these costs for too long.”

Today’s lawsuit was filed by Rocky Mountain Wild, National Parks Conservation Association, the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians. The groups are represented by Earthjustice.

“This case is about enforcing our environmental laws, which are designed to protect public health, the environment and treasured places like Dinosaur National Monument,” said Stu Gillespie, staff attorney with Earthjustice. “BLM cannot circumvent these laws in its headlong rush to lease our public lands for oil and gas development. We’re asking the court to hold the agency accountable and set aside these illegal leasing decisions.”

Public lands oil and gas development and fracking near Utah’s White and Green Rivers. Photo by Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity. Overflight by EcoFlight. This image is available for media use.
Rocky Mountain Wild is a nonprofit organization based in Denver, Colorado, that works to protect, connect, and restore wildlife and wild lands in the Southern Rocky Mountain region. www.rockymountainwild.org

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.

Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

WildEarth Guardians is an environmental nonprofit that works to protect and restore the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health of the American West. We envision a future in which communities are empowered to choose the kind of power, jobs, and local solutions that benefit current and future generations — solutions that will also enable us to confront the climate crisis.

Earthjustice is the nation’s premier environmental law organization. We believe that everyone has the right to a healthy environment. Since our founding more than four decades ago, we’ve defended that right by using the power of the law to fight for the earth and its inhabitants.

 

Rocky Mountain Wild is a nonprofit organization based in Denver, Colorado, that works to protect, connect, and restore wildlife and wild lands in the Southern Rocky Mountain region. www.rockymountainwild.org

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.
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
WildEarth Guardians is an environmental nonprofit that works to protect and restore the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health of the American West. We envision a future in which communities are empowered to choose the kind of power, jobs, and local solutions that benefit current and future generations — solutions that will also enable us to confront the climate crisis.
Earthjustice is the nation’s premier environmental law organization. We believe that everyone has the right to a healthy environment. Since our founding more than four decades ago, we’ve defended that right by using the power of the law to fight for the earth and its inhabitants.

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Lawsuit Challenges Tennessee Valley Authority’s Attack on Solar Energy in South

BIRMINGHAM, AL (September 6, 2018) — Five climate and energy-conservation groups today sued the Tennessee Valley Authority for imposing discriminatory electricity rates that discourage homeowners and businesses from investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Today’s lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Alabama, notes that the utility’s new fixed “grid-access charge” will, for the first time, require its customers to pay a mandatory electricity fee regardless of their energy usage. Such fixed fees make rooftop solar less cost-effective.

The utility is also reducing electricity rates for large businesses. This move encourages companies to continue relying on its fossil fuel-powered energy rather than investing in distributed solar. The new rates also cut costs for the biggest energy users, discouraging efficiency.

The utility’s board of directors, with a majority appointed by President Trump, has now given final approval to all of these rate changes.

“TVA’s outrageous new rates penalize people working hard to save energy and money while rewarding big companies that run up huge electricity bills,” said Howard Crystal, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This perverse plan forces customers to prop up dirty, outmoded power plants instead of transitioning to renewable power. We desperately need clean-energy progress and efficiency investments to protect our communities and the environment.”

As detailed in today’s lawsuit, the utility has failed to disclose the environmental impacts of these rate changes, in violation of federal law. The new rates will inevitably result in more energy generated by power plants that run on fossil fuels — creating unnecessary pollution and worsening the climate crisis. TVA must address the damage the new rates will cause in an environmental impact statement.

“TVA continues to lose its leadership position on renewable energy and energy efficiency. TVA’s rate changes are about one thing and one thing only,” said Daniel Tait, technical director for Energy Alabama. “Killing energy efficiency and renewable energy to protect its monopoly stranglehold on regular folks.”

“Clean, renewable energy like rooftop solar represents a tremendous opportunity in Alabama to create new jobs, generate homegrown energy, save customers and businesses money, and reduce impacts on human health,” said Gasp Executive Director Michael Hansen. “TVA’s so-called ‘grid access charge’ will disincentivize solar energy and all its benefits.”

“The TVA’s notoriously high bills already force working families and low-income households to choose between feeding their families and keeping the lights on,” said Damon Moglen, senior strategic advisor with Friends of the Earth. “Now customers are being forced to bolster the highly polluting fossil fuel industry by paying even more for their electric bills. We must end the TVA’s disastrous and unfair practices and transition to a clean energy system that is accessible and affordable to everyone.”

“TVA’s move to increase fixed fees on monthly bills is intended to undercut customers’ ability to control energy costs through energy efficiency and solar investments,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “TVA is trying to mislead people by talking about their ‘low rates’ but energy consumers don’t pay rates, they pay bills, which are calculated as a rate times consumption plus fixed fees. Customers in the TVA service territory have some of the highest bills in the United States. The devious ‘grid access charge’ will only accelerate the high-bills problem by increasing fixed fees and stifling efforts to control electric consumption by families and small businesses, leading to higher costs and more pollution. This legal action seeks to educate people about what is happening to them each and every month.”

TVA is a federally owned corporation and the nation’s largest public power provider. It generates electricity for more than 9 million customers in Tennessee, northern Alabama, northeastern Mississippi, southwestern Kentucky, and portions of northern Georgia, western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia.

 

Contacts:

Erin Jensen, Friends of the Earth U.S., (202) 222-0722, ejensen@foe.org
Howard Crystal, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 809-6926, hcrystal@biologicaldiversity.org
Daniel Tait, Energy Alabama, (256) 812-1431, dtait@alcse.org
Michael Hansen, Gasp, (205) 746-4666, michael@gaspgroup.org 
Jennifer Rennicks, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 865-235-1448, Jennifer@cleanenergy.org

 
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Trump Administration sells out Boundary Waters Wilderness to industrial mining

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Alison Flint, High Profile Litigation Manager, The Wilderness Society, 303-802-1404
Michael Reinemer, 202-429-3949, Michael_reinemer@tws.org.

WASHINGTON, DC (September 6, 2018) – This week, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made the decision to arbitrarily cancel a proposed 20-year ban on mining activity in the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota.

Statement from Chris Rackens, Senior Representative, Government Relations:

“Today’s announcement immediately threatens 234,328 acres of public national forest lands adjacent to the Boundary Waters.  Since late last year the Trump Administration has moved aggressively to make public lands in the watershed of the Boundary Waters available for industrial mining activity, including unlawfully reinstating expired mineral leases. This most recent decision throws out almost two years of work to prepare an impartial, science-based environmental review and analysis of a mineral withdrawal, and flies in the face of previous decisions by the Forest Service that allowing mining in this sensitive watershed poses too great a risk.

“While the Trump Administration claims today’s decision is based on that environmental review, the review has not been completed or shared with the public. Instead, today’s announcement is a purely political backroom decision fueled by remarks by President Trump and Vice President Pence at recent rallies in Minnesota.

“Conservation in Northeastern Minnesota and other places with prized-public lands offers sustainable jobs and economic opportunity for generations to come. Indeed, a recent study by a renowned Harvard economist debunks the myth that mining in this sensitive landscape would result in job growth and economic benefits. The sulfide-ore mines that are being considered in this area threaten to contaminate the land, water and legacy of the Boundary Waters.”

The Boundary Waters is America’s most visited wilderness area. Explorers find refuge in its pristine waters and forested lands, which offer 1,200 miles of canoe routes and 18 hiking trails. The area also includes more than 1,000 lakes left by receding glaciers and hundreds of miles of streams. Strong protections for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, America’s most visited wilderness, are supported by the public, science and economics.

The pollution resulting from sulfide-ore copper mining would inevitably harm the water quality and ecology of these protected public lands and waterways. The local economy – which is sustained by tourism and jobs connected to this fishing, canoeing, and camping mecca – would also suffer. In an August 6 letter to the Forest Supervisor at Superior National Forest, Harvard Economist James H. Stock predicted economic harm to the region if this mining were introduced in the Superior National Forest.

Earlier this year, the Interior Department reinstated the two expired mineral leases, which date back to 1966. The decision paves the way for Twin Metals to build an industrial mining complex on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The Wilderness Society, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Izaak Walton League of America, represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Washington, D.C. challenging that decision. The week prior organizations joined nine Minnesota businesses to file a separate lawsuit to protect this cherished recreation area from mining.

TO JOIN THE OPPOSITION to this action:

Visit our Too Wild To Drill Boundary Waters page to learn more and take action. You can also find your federal representatives at www.house.gov or www.senate.gov. Call on your members of Congress to tell them you oppose the Trump Administration’s recent actions to allowing mining adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  Sulfide-ore mining would likely harm northeast Minnesota’s economy, which relies on paddling, hunting, fishing, hiking, and other outdoor recreation, with the result of 27,000 lost jobs and $1.4 billion lost economic activity. Tens of thousands of Americans and locally owned businesses have commented in support of protecting the Boundary Waters from toxic sulfide-ore mining.
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The Wilderness Society, founded in 1935, is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. With more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org

 

 

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340 Organizations Call on Trump Administration to Abandon Rushed Rewrite of National Environmental Policy Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

August 21, 2018
Contact: Phil LaRue, Earthjustice, 202-667-4500 x 4317, plarue@earthjustice.org

WASHINGTON, DC (August 21, 2018) – More than 340 public interest organizations from across the country formally submitted comments on Friday urging the White House Council on Environmental Quality to abandon its reckless and unprecedented attempts to rewrite the implementing procedures of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The Act, written partly in response to 1960s highway revolts protesting the destruction of communities and ecosystems, has long been considered a bipartisan core of American environmental law. It passed the Senate unanimously when first considered.

Raul Garcia, Earthjustice Senior Legislative Counsel, issued the following statement:

“The National Environmental Policy Act was written in response to some of the most significant environmental and civil rights issues in modern history. And yet here, in the middle of August, with limited opportunity for public input at a time when millions of Americans are on vacation, the Trump administration appears to be embarking on a sweeping rewrite of the law. Simply put, it’s unacceptable that the administration could roll back the core protections this law affords without seriously listening to the voices of all Americans.

“Instead of persisting with this sham of a rule-making process, let’s work together to strengthen environmental protections for all communities.”

A copy of the coalition’s comments is available HERE.

 
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Federal court throws out key permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday threw out the National Park Service’s permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in a case argued by SELC on behalf of the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Virginia Wilderness Committee. The court also issued its opinion regarding a Fish and Wildlife permit that it vacated earlier.

“This is an example of what happens when dangerous projects are pushed through based on politics rather than science,” said SELC Senior Attorney D.J. Gerken. “This pipeline project was flawed from the start and Dominion and Duke’s pressure tactics to avoid laws that protect our public lands, water, and wildlife are now coming to light.”

The ruling entered by a panel of three judges means that Dominion no longer has the permit needed to drill under the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway weaves through some of the most scenic terrain in Virginia and North Carolina.

Now, if pipeline developers continue construction on the 600-mile route from West Virginia, through Virginia and into North Carolina, they will be operating without two crucial federal permits.

“Given the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s recent decision to stop construction based on an invalid right of way permit in the case of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, FERC should immediately halt all construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” said SELC Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “It’s time to pause and take a look at this project for what it is, an unnecessary pipeline that’s being pushed through to benefit Dominion Energy, not the people of Virginia and North Carolina. ”

SELC is calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to halt all construction along the ACP route given it no longer possesses a right-of-way permit from the National Park Service.

It has become clear in recent hearings at the State Corporation Commission that Dominion has never even conducted a study as to whether the pipeline is needed in Virginia. And Dominion’s claims of energy savings are bogus; Virginians will pay $2 billion more for the pipeline than it would if the utility used existing pipelines.

This May, the same three-judge panel found that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s approval for the project did not comport with the law. The initial order stated that the agency’s limits for harming endangered species were so vague that they undermined the objectives of the Endangered Species Act.

There are other permits in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals under challenge for inadequacy to protect land, water, and wildlife in the path of this risky and unnecessary project.

To learn more about the risks of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline go to inthepath.org.

 

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