A place of great natural beauty, popular among rock climbers and campers, a part of Tonto National Forest known as Oak Flat has been under federal protection from mining since 1955, by special order of President Eisenhower. On the nearby San Carlos Apache reservation, many consider Oak Flat to be sacred, ancestral land – the home of one of their gods and the site of traditional Apache ceremonies. But Oak Flat also sits on top of one of the world’s largest deposits of copper ore. Resolution Copper Mining, a subsidiary of British-Australian mining conglomerate Rio Tinto, has sought ownership of the land for a decade, lobbying Congress to enact special legislation on its behalf more than a dozen times since 2005. Year after year the bills failed to pass. But in December, the legislation was was quietly passed into law as part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.
Shell Canada Ltd. says it’s pulling its regulatory application for the proposed Pierre River oilsands project north of Fort McMurray, Alta., in order to focus on existing operations. The move is the latest blow to the oilsands as companies look to cut costs and capital spending plans following the drop in oil prices. Shell says that given the preliminary nature of the Pierre River project it expected the impact on jobs would be limited. The Pierre River application proposed a 200,000 barrel-per-day heavy oil mine. The company says it already has existing regulatory approval to potentially more than double its oilsands production from the current level of 255,000 bpd. Shell said Pierre River remains a very long term opportunity and noted that the company will continue to hold the leases and can reapply for regulatory approval.
On Monday, February 23, twenty Cove Point Protectors went to trial in the Calvert County District Court for actions last November and December to raise awareness and build resistance to a new gas refinery, liquefaction train, power plant and export terminal being built by Dominion Resources in the neighborhood of Cove Point in Southern Maryland. The Cove Point Protectors, as a group, were charged with 20 counts of trespass, 19 counts of failure to obey a lawful order and 2 counts of disorderly conduct. The gas refinery and export project, which will emit carcinogens and other toxins into the community and present a risk of chemical spill, fire and explosion, are the first to be placed in a densely-populated area. In fact, Dominion Resources lied during the permitting process by leaving out 90% of the more than 44,000 local people in its application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Dominion’s recent release of proposed “alternative routes” has Nelson County landowners outraged. And so does Dominion’s reliance on eminent domain as the “preferred alternative” to transport vast quantities of natural gas for export. “The fact that Dominion has now gone on record with a handful of routes doesn’t solve any of their problems,” said Joanna Salidis, President of Friends of Nelson. “These will impact an entirely new list of landowners, resulting in increased property owner resistance and lawsuits. Dominion continues to ignore all requests to drop the proposal or to use existing pipeline easement infrastructure instead of depending solely on eminent domain to achieve its business goals. ” This morning’s protests in Richmond give further proof of how widespread and deep-seated is the opposition to Dominion’s plans.
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed criminal charges against Duke Energy for violating the federal Clean Water Act at coal ash sites across North Carolina. The company announced today it has reached a proposed plea agreement with federal prosecutors to resolve the charges. According to a Duke Energy press release, the plea agreement includes $68.2 million in fines and restitution and $34 million for community service and mitigation. The charges include multiple misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water Act in connection with last year’s coal ash spill in the Dan River as well as unauthorized discharges at other Duke coal plants in North Carolina. The agreement is subject to review and approval by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Members of the group Preserve Franklin gathered at the Rocky Mount Courthouse steps this past Thursday to protest the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Concerned citizens, mostly Franklin County residents, braved cold temperatures and high winds to hold signs that warned of what they believe are real dangers if the pipeline is constructed. Mountain Valley Pipeline will purchase land along the route of the pipeline for construction to begin. If those involved with the pipeline are unable to reach an agreement with residents, the property could be acquired by eminent domain with the court determining the compensation. “Landowners should have the right to say no to the pipeline,” Mark Laity-Snyder said. Snyder was one of the many local residents at the courthouse on Thursday.
“We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy,” said Stephen Heintz of John D Rockefeller, as he announced that the heirs to one of America’s most famous dynasties, which was built on oil, were pulling their philanthropic funds out of fossil fuels. For sheer symbolism if not financial value – only $60m (£37m) of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund was invested in fossil fuels – it was perhaps the high point of what has become known as the fossil fuel divestment movement. With its roots in US campuses, the campaign to get institutions to pull their financial investments as a way of tackling climate change has seen a total of $50bn divested so far, according to the US Fossil Free campaign.
If Dominion asks a landowner for permission to survey property for a pipeline route and the homeowner says “no,” can the company come onto the land anyway? Churchville homeowners William and Wendy Little believe their “no” means no. Dominion’s representatives say the company still has the right to survey the couple’s 5 acres. The Littles’ lawyer argued in a hearing for their federal lawsuit Thursday that the state law that grants natural gas companies the right to study private land without the owner’s permission doesn’t speak to the Littles’ case. Virginia’s statute allows such private property entry and doesn’t count it as trespass if the company asks to study the land and doesn’t receive permission.
Perhaps you heard the good news—the world’s largest public relations firm, Edelman, just spun off an advertising subsidiary so that it could show a commitment to not aiding the denial of climate change science. The Guardian explains how American Petroleum Institute’s (API) contracts with Edelman were so massive—tens of millions of dollars—that it was up to 10 percent of the PR giant’s income. or years, Edelman has managed multi-million dollar contracts with the API, using its Blue Advertising subsidiary to help API run commercials selling fantasies to people: that oil and gas are our only viable, plentiful, “AMERICAN” sources of energy. In the saga that led Edelman to dump the lobbyists at API, Greenpeace had a small role to play: we infiltrated a commercial shoot, run by Edelman’s Blue advertising arm for API.
Back in December, Charles Chandler was arrested for trespass in Southern Maryland while protesting a plant under conversion there to liquefy natural gas and load onto tankers for export to Asia. This facility on the Chesapeake Bay, calledCove Point LNG, could be a major driver of fracking on the East Coast and facilitate the emissions of millions of tons of greenhouse gases. Chandler decided that walking to his court hearing in Prince Frederick this coming Monday would be appropriate. But he didn’t just resolve to walk a few miles to the courthouse. No, he embarked on a march of 360 miles. Setting out from Ithaca, New York on January 24, Chandler has walked an average of 13 miles a day for 28 days, and is due to arrive in Lusby today. He is walking this long distance to raise awareness about Cove Point LNG and raise funds to fight it.
By a 4-3 vote, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that local drilling and zoning ordinances in Munroe Falls cannot be enforced because they conflict with the state law regulating oil and natural gas wells. The decision takes local control of drilling away from communities and supports the state as the continued main overseer of drilling. The court ruled that a Munroe Falls’ zoning ordinance and four local laws governing oil and gas drilling are not an appropriate exercise of the city’s home rule powers. Munroe Falls had obtained a court order stopping Beck Energy Corp. from drilling until the company had complied with local laws. Beck Energy, based in Ravenna Township, is “obviously very pleased and very happy with the decision,” company Vice President David Beck said.
Friends of the Earth, with 13 other organizations, submitted a letter to Governor Terry McAuliffe, Members of the Virginia General Assembly, Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners and energy company Dominion Resources urging against building a third nuclear reactor at the North Anna Power Station in Louisa County, Virginia. This proposed reactor would sit on an active earthquake fault and lacks a reliable water supply for cooling three reactors. The letter also emphasized the project’s high cost, a lack of any safe waste disposal solution and other inherent safety concerns related to nuclear reactors. “The nuclear tragedy at Fukushima should have made it clear that the risks of nuclear reactors are too great. Yet Dominion Virginia Power and the state of Virginia continue to flirt with disaster.”
A train carrying more than 100 tankers of crude oil derailed in southern West Virginia on Monday, sending at least one tanker into the Kanawha River, igniting at least 14 and sparking a house fire, officials said. There were no immediate reports of injuries. Nearby residents were told to evacuate as a state emergency response team and environmental officials headed to the scene about 30 miles south-east of Charleston. The state was under a winter storm warning and getting heavy snowfall at times, with as much as 5in in some places. It was not clear if the weather had anything to do with the derailment, which occurred about 1.20pm ET along a flat stretch of rail. A public safety spokesman, Lawrence Messina, said responders reported one tanker and possibly another went into the river.