Da Beers!

Da Beers!

Monday, January 19, 2015

The “LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act”: How to Destroy American Communities at a Breakneck Pace?

Gabrel Collins at the mega-law firm of Baker Hostetler has a story about the consortium of federal legislators from gas-producing states who want to force FERC to make much faster decisions, and issue permits much more quickly.

Proponents include Senators John A. Barrasso (R-WY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), John Hoeven (R-ND), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Michael Bennet (D-CO). 

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) has introduced H.R. 351, an identically named bill with virtually identical legislative language, in the House on January 14, 2015.  Co-sponsors in the House include Kevin Cramer [ND], Henry Cuellar [TX-28], Bill Flores [TX-17], Gene Green [TX-29], Mike McCaul [TX-10], Pete Olson, Pete [TX-22], Tim Ryan [OH-13], and Michael Turner [OH-10].

Who is missing from the list? 

Right.  These bills haven't a single sponsor from states like Oregon and Washington -- states that will bear the brunt of environmentally destructive mega-pipelines and massive accumulations of the liquified gas in the midst of existing communities.

While state and local governments may be briefly able hold the line against such political forces under state environmental and land use laws, they will ultimately be overwhelmed by the force of federal supremacy -- especially if a Republican takes the White House in 2017 as is widely expected.

* * *

For a rundown of all the things that are wrong with the LNG technology, the Sierra Club has a good informational website.

LNG Tanker
Liquefied Natural Gas Tanker

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Urban Crows

A recent report on Oregon Birding On-line (OBOL) about an urban Peregrine Falcon in Salem, Oregon got me to thinking about an urban PEFA we were lucky enough to spot in downtown Portland, Oregon in early December of 2014.

It seems beyond ironic that as the population of PEFAs seemed to have rebounded, the American Crow seems to have has replaced the feral pigeon as the most common urban bird in many American cities.

Here's an interesting 2001 UW article on the subject by John M. Marzluff, Kevin J. McGowan, Roarke Donnelly and Richard L. Knight.


To the extent that the American Crow seems far too large and aggressive to provide good aerial prey for PEFAs, the odds of seeing these amazing predators in places like downtown Portland seems less likely than ever.

Here's a nighttime picture of just a few of the thousands of AMCRs that were roosting on SW 6th in Portland in early December 2014:


Undisclosed Location

Mike Patterson makes an excellent case for why it's not a God-given constitutional right for birders to invade people's neighborhoods, post their addresses, and generally make asses of themselves (and all other birders by reference).

But a word of warning.  Birders -- especially those of the Big Year ilk -- don't like to hear this message.  I innocently suggested the same idea a few years ago on the infamous (and now defunct) San Diego Bird listserve when hordes of birders had invaded yet another quiet residential neighborhood in search of some rarity. 

All I managed to accomplish then was to set off a torrent of seething vitriol that led me to quit posting anything on that listserve.  Or on any birding listserve for that matter.  Who needs the grief and kickback?

Nowadays I list all our birds -- from mundane to uber-rare -- on eBird.  If someone's looking for such a bird, the data is there for them to access.   But the last thing I want to do is to enable some self-serving fool who may jump in their car and blaze across the state, hoping to tick off that bird on their Big Year list.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When Did Republicans Start Hating the Environment?

That's a question I've asked myself more than once.

Well, the answer is roughly 1991 according to a new study.


Chris Mooney over at Mother Jones explains more fully, but the fact is, it was during the uber-Republican Nixon administration that the nation's most important and enduring environemntal laws and agencies were established:  The National Environemntal Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Nowadays, these laws and agencies -- and their roles in combating global climate change -- are the seethingly hated poster children of the "socialist threat" of climate change politics.

So what happened?

According to a new study in the journal Social Science Research, the key change actually began around the year 1991when the Soviet Union fell. "The conservative movement replaced the 'Red Scare' with a new 'Green Scare' and became increasingly hostile to environmental protection at that time," argues sociologist Aaron McCright of Michigan State University and two colleagues.

So what happened in the early 1990s?

For starters, Bill Clinton and Al Gore took office.  Gore had just published his Earth in the Balance, and this was also when a new zest for attack politics took hold -- when tearing down anything and everything a Democrat president stood for became the raison d'etre of Republican strategists.  Together, these things made environmental issues an important political tool in the right-wing toolkit.  And since the "left," led by Gore, had staked out the pro-environment position, that meant Republicans had to de facto oppose it.  At least in the fevered little brains of emerging righties like Karl Rove.

Throw in the influence of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit which seems to have scared the hell out of the xenophobe wing of the party, and add in the phenomenon of "party sorting" which helped strengthen and ossify American political ideologies, and you start to see how things went so very wrong.

Sadly, the result is that we probably have reached a point where political compromise on environmental issues is near-impossible.  And that doesn't bode well for America's ability to deal effectively with the wide range of environmental problems, just when the need to do so is greater than ever.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Climate change refugees ... stay put!

Sure, Seattle weather guru Cliff Mass says the Pacific Northwest is the last best place in the lower 48 as the climate goes to shyte (thans, BP, Shell, and the Bush family!).  But don't flock here.  Really.  The people are just the worst.  Many of the beers are too darn hoppy.  The coffee is way too strong.  All the greenery hurts your eyes if you're used to California scrub.  And it rains so much you'll likely need a raincoat. 

Word. To. The. Wise.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Future generations gets their day in court (at least in Oregon)

The Oregon Court of Appeals has held that two teens are entitled to a judicial declaration of whether Oregon officials have a “public trust” obligation to “protect the State’s atmosphere as well as the water, land, fishery, and wildlife resources from the impacts of climate change.”

In Chernaik v. Kitzhaber, the court reversed the trial judge’s dismissal of the case and remanded for a decision on the merits.  This is one of dozens of similar actions brought in the name of kids across the country to force government to act more aggressively to combat climate change. The young activists—with a little help from environmental advocacy groups Crag Law Center, Center for Biological Diversity and Western Environmental Law Center—argued that the state has displayed a frustrating lack of urgency:  “I don’t want to live in a wasteland caused by climate change,” Olivia Chernaik told the Eugene Register-Guard.

The public trust doctrine stems from English common law, which states that some resources are so central to the well-being of citizens that they cannot be freely alienated and must be protected. The doctrine was adopted by the U. S. Supreme Court in its 1892 decision Illinois Central Railway v. Illinois, which held that the state could not convey outright title to a substantial segment of the Chicago lakefront.

In 1983 the California Supreme Court greatly expanded the doctrine in National Audubon Society v. Superior Court, extending the public trust doctrine to limit already-vested water rights. In that case, the issue was whether the state must act to limit the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s appropriation of water from tributaries to Mono Lake in the face of declining lake levels.  The expansive reading given the public trust doctrine by the California Supreme Court set the stage for court imposition of regulatory controls to protect the environment, even if doing so might upset settled property rights in a natural resource.

When the Chernaik case is re-heard on remand, we'll find if if Oregon courts will pick up the public trust baton.  Among other things, the state could be ordered to do more to limit greenhouse gas emissions —even if that comes at the expense of other political priorities.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Is the California water situation hopeless?

California drought solutions infographic
NRDC and Pacific Institute’s issue brief "The Untapped Potential of California’s Water Supply"

Not according to a story in Mother Jones.  Increasing water use efficiency -- something the energy experts have been focused on for years -- can do wonders. 

But it requires faith in, and public backing of the government.  For which most Americans just seem to have lost all capacity. Which is why Americans seem doomed to keep sliding into third-world status while other industrialized nations continue to rise.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Very early occurrence of Craveri’s Murrelets off San Diego (and can the end of the world be far behind?)

Gary Nunn, Paul Lehman, Barbara Carlson, and other top San Diego birders have noted the very early arrival this year of Craveri’s Murrelets (Synthliboramphus craveri).  Writes Gary:
Catching many seasoned observers by surprise, this very early calendar date pair of Craveri’s Murrelets Synthliboramphus craveri were passed off as Scripps’s Murrelets while being watched at close quarters aboard a pelagic out of San Diego on 07 June 2014. Steadfastly avoiding flight, the two murrelets paddled away from observers and did not reveal their characteristic darker underwing pattern. However the detailed examination of photographs, after the event, revealed all other characteristic field marks of this rarely seen enigmatic Southern California alcid visitor. Note the longer and thinner bill, with tweezer like mandible tips, the solid black face marking under the eye conjoining the chin, and the black colored spur on the breast side. In addition around the eye can be seen two very small white eye arcs, which I find from close up photographs are characteristic of this species. In general it is possible to see a small white fleck in front of the eye in many Scripps’s Murrelets. This white fleck mark is usually more pronounced in one individual in pairs that are seen together (I think there is perhaps a slight sexual dimorphism in the extent of white face coloration in Scripps’s Murrelets). No such mark exists on these birds, they show an evenly black marked face in front of the eye.
It appears these Craveri’s Murrelets are as many two full months ahead of the more normal calendar date of first occurrence in Southern California.

Photo by Gary Nunn
Paul and Barbara wonder if this is related to two different pairs of Scripps's Murrelets way north off Humboldt County during May, which is very early (and fairly rare) for that latitude.

Gary further notes that 2014 is "shaping up poorly for breeding seabirds in Baja in general with several species now documented to have abandoned nesting rookeries and islands."  He says "it all seems a bit awry somehow... we are also experiencing an early influx of several thousands of Elegant Terns [in San Diego] for example, which appear to have abandoned Isla Rasa in the Gulf of California."

Is this about a failure of food stocks in the Gulf of California?  And if so, what's the nexus (if any) to Global Climate Change?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

When Global Warming Kills Your God

Here's a fascinating article in the Atlantic that paints a powerful picture about the devastating impact the warming climate is having on Alaska Natives.

It's bad enough that an estimated 86 percent of Alaska Native villages will require relocation over the next 50 years because of climate changes.

Consider Newtok, Alaska — a town of 354 perched at the mouth of the Ninglick River, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. In 2009, it was one of 26 indigenous villages listed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as “priority action communities”: The ground beneath Newtok is being usurped by the sea at such a rate that the village may only have two more years before the first houses fall away.

Salmon dry in the sun in the indigenous Alaskan village of Chefornak -
Loren Holmes
Throughout Alaska, climate change is intensifying storm surges and thawing the permafrost — land that used to remain frozen year-round. Highways are sinking, and trees have teetered to such rakish angles that they have become known as drunken forests.

The article also looks at the case of 23 Alaska Natives who were punished by the state for defying a fishing ban. Their case will be heard at the Alaska Court of Appeals, possibly sometime this summer. According to the article, "the fishermen’s civil disobedience has been framed as a First Amendment issue: The Yup’ik believe they have an obligation to continue their ancestral traditions." In an amicus brief, the ACLU stated —
A Yup’ik fisherman who is a sincere believer in his religious role as a steward of nature, believes that he must fulfill his prescribed role to maintain this 'collaborative reciprocity' between hunter and game. Completely barring him from the salmon fishery thwarts the practice of a real religious belief. Under Yup’ik religious belief, this cycle of interplay between humans and animals helped perpetuate the seasons; without the maintaining of that balance, a new year will not follow the old one.
While the trial judge appeared sympathetic, he still felt the state had sufficient reason for imposing the ban. It will be interesting to see how the court of appeals deals with this defense, particularly under current changing conditions.
There, state-appointed judges will grapple with the same question the court faced in 1979, when an indigenous hunter named Carlos Frank was charged with illegally transporting a newly slain moose. Frank argued that he had needed the animal for a religious ceremony. Two lower courts found him guilty, but the Alaska Supreme Court reversed the verdict, calling moose meat “the sacramental equivalent to the wine and wafer in Christianity.”
Thanks to Turtle Talk for the heads up.