Thursday, April 2, 2015

Obama's Complicated and Contradictory Environmental Two Press Releases

On Tuesday, two back-to-back press releases from the Sierra Club in response to announcements from the Obama administration highlighted the administration's contradictory environmental record perfectly.

The first press release was on the White House's submission of the US's 2025 emissions target to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in advance of the COP21 talks in Paris this December.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- This morning, the United States announced its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), the country’s highly-anticipated commitment to climate action in the run up to the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris later this year. As other countries have announced their INDCs -- including Mexico, Switzerland, the European Union, and Norway -- the U.S. has announced an ambitious plan for action, including cutting carbon pollution by up to 28 percent by 2025.

As a new poll released yesterday found, today’s announcement aligns with the priorities of the American people. The poll found that 72 percent of Americans support the U.S. signing an international climate agreement.

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

We applaud the Obama Administration for following through on the ambitious commitment made last November with China by pledging clear, significant action to tackle the climate crisis and protect our children and grandchildren. We’ve seen the effects of unmitigated carbon pollution take their toll around the world, but this announcement is further proof that the U.S. is stepping up to lead the world in pursuing solutions.
“Momentum for real climate action is building at a historic rate. With our nation moving away from coal and the world embracing clean energy at a record pace, this announcement and others like it open the door to meet the 2 degree celsius goal needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. In the coming months, we expect additional ambitious commitments to pour in that will further prove the world is ready to act and keep us on the right track to Paris and beyond.
Just hours later, the Sierra Club issued another press release: this time, on the Department of the Interior's decision to open the doors for oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic Ocean:
Anchorage, Alaska —Ignoring its own environmental review, the U.S. Department of the Interior has opened the door for drilling in the remote and iconic Arctic Ocean. The agency announced today that it is reaffirming controversial Bush-era Arctic oil leases, after a court-ordered re-analysis of the lease sale decision showed that opening the Chukchi Sea to oil drilling will have even more dramatic and long-lasting effects and risks than previously disclosed.
In January 2014, in litigation brought by Earthjustice on behalf of fourteen conservation and Alaska Native groups, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Chukchi Lease Sale 193 was held unlawfully. This marked the second time the massive offshore oil and gas sale had been sent back by the courts. Interior’s supplemental environmental impact statement released in February concluded that drilling in the Chukchi Sea will have significant negative and long-lasting impacts on our waters, animals and Arctic communities. It concluded there is a 75 percent risk of one or more large oil spill when these leases are developed.  There is no way to clean up a major oil spill in the Arctic Ocean.  Further, Arctic oil development undermines the administration’s efforts to address climate change and transition to a clean energy future. But, Interior reaffirmed the leases anyway.

Interior rushed the process of reconsidering the leases, issuing a flawed final environmental impact statement less than two months after it received hundreds of thousands of comments on the draft.  Rather than take the time fully to assess the impacts and alternatives of leasing in the Chukchi Sea, Interior catered to Shell Oil’s desire to drill as early as this summer. Interior should not compound today’s misstep by rushing to approve Shell’s plans to drill this summer, which can only now be formally reviewed by the department.  Shell’s planned drilling is even bigger, dirtier, and louder than in 2012, calling for more sound disturbances and harassment of whales and seals, than the company's previous plans and does not address adequately the company’s failed efforts to drill in 2012.  Interior should take additional time to evaluate Shell’s drilling plans.
"As the U.S. prepares to take over the Arctic Council it's more important than ever to show leadership in keeping dirty fuels in the ground, especially in the Arctic. Permitting new drilling in the Arctic Ocean is tremendously risky for the climate, but also for our waters, wildlife and the communities that rely on them,” said Dan Ritzman, Alaska program director for Sierra Club's Our Wild America campaign.
That's right: on the same day that Obama submitted the US's emissions target to the UNFCC, he opened up remote parts of the Arctic Ocean for oil drilling. 

This, to me, reflected so well the contradictory nature of Obama's record on energy, climate, and environment, a record of pushing and undermining climate action at the very same time.

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