A federal judge in Washington DC invalidated an oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico, finding that the Biden administration failed to properly account for the auction’s environmental impact. In 2017, the Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas Leasing Program issued a five-year plan which proposed 10 region-wide lease sales. One of those was Lease Sale 257, for 80.8 million acres of Gulf waters, the largest offshore lease sale in United States history. President Biden had initially blocked the sale by executive order, but this was overturned by the courts in a case brought by Louisiana and other states. (Photo: Pixabay)
Five Alaska Native tribes filed a lawsuit to challenge the Trump administration’s move to allow logging in the 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest. In October, the Trump administration announced that it would exempt the Tongass from the Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule, or the “roadless rule.” The roadless rule blocks logging and road construction in specified forests. Alaskan state leadership petitioned for the reversal, which puts nine million acres of the Tongass at risk. According to the United States Forest Service, the Tongass is the “largest intact temperate rainforest in the world.” The complaint details the environmental criticality of the Tongass as a carbon sink and sole habitat of rare endemic species, as well as its importance to indigenous groups. The suit states: “The Tongass National Forest is central to the life ways of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people who have lived in and depended on the forest since time immemorial.” (Photo via EBEB)
The Trump administration announced formal proceedings to sell oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Bureau of Land Management Alaska State Officeissued a call for “nominations” on several lease tracts considered for the upcoming Coastal Plain Oil & Gas Lease Sale, covering approximately 1.5 million acres of the refuge along the coast of the Arctic Ocean. Lease sales could begin by January—but will likely face legal challenge, or reversal by the incoming Biden administration. President-elect Joe Biden’s differing approach to public land management includes “permanently protecting” ANWR and “banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.” (Photo: USGS via Flickr)
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in favor of the US government, allowing oil drilling to proceed in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA). The court rejected a claim by environmental groups that a 2012 impact statement prepared for earlier drilling within the NPRA was inadequate to cover new planned operations by oil companies elsewhere in the reserve, a critical caribou habitat. (Photo: US Geological Survey via Flickr)
A Special Report on Climate Change was released by the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), focusing on greenhouse gas emissions and its links to desertification, land degradation and food security. The report warns that the “rise in global temperatures, linked to increasing pressures on fertile soil,” risks “jeopardizing food security for the planet.” The effects of global warming have led to “shifts of climate zones in many world regions,” further exacerbating land degradation, and leading to extreme weather conditions such as floods and droughts. The reports warns: “The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases.” (Photo of Tantaverom region of Chad via UNDP)
In what the New York Times somewhat hyperbolically calls a “clash,” US Border Patrol vessels have over the past two weeks stopped at least 10 Canadian fishing boats in the Bay of Fundy between Maine and New Brunswick. Canada has responded by beefing up its Coast Guard patrols in what is being termed a “disputed gray zone” between the two countries’ territories. The maritime dispute dates back to the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolution, and is one of several between the US and Canada—including fishing waters at Dixon Entrance between Alaska and British Columbia, and areas of the petroleum-rich Beaufort Sea, near the Arctic Ocean. (Map: ResearchGate)
As a part of the Republican tax overhaul bill, Congress voted to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas drilling, after more than four decades of contestation on the matter. Drilling is still years away at best, due to depressed oil prices, a lengthy review process, and likely legal challenges. But oil companies are already arguing over who will have rights to the reserve—while Native Alaskan communities that depend on its critical caribou habitat see impending cultural extermination. (Photo: FWS)
Hurricane Maria's destruction on Puerto Rico could spawn one of the largest mass migrations in US history. Some 97% of the island's residents are still without power, and half do not have running water. Thousands now awaiting flights from San Juan's airport might be permanently displaced and become the planet's newest "climate refugees."
San Francisco filed a lawsuit against five fossil fuel companies due to expected expenses the city will incur from global warming. The companies named in the suit are BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell—chosen because they are "the largest investor-owned fossil fuel corporations in the world as measured by their historic production of fossil fuels."
Under diplomatic pressure, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed the Fairbanks Declaration on Arctic climate—but with caveats about how the US will not "rush" to change policy.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order to lift restrictions placed on offshore oil drilling by the previous administration, opening vast areas to exploitation.
Is Trump's breach with Putin real, or is all the sudden sabre-rattling part of an elaborate charade to throw Congress off the scent of ongoing Trump-Putin collusion?