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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coral 0623wrp optA coral outcropping. (Photo: Toby Hudson)Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke, who recently recommended a reduction in the size of the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument to President Trump, is advocating for more drilling and mining on public lands and waters.

The former Montana Rep. told Reuters that the development of America's protected federal lands could help the country become a "dominant" global energy force.

"There is a social cost of not having jobs," he said. "Energy dominance gives us the ability to supply our allies with energy, as well as to leverage our aggressors, or in some cases our enemies, like Iran."

Zinke has been tasked by Trump to review 27 national monuments across the country as part the administration's plans to expand development of public land. Reuters notes that at least six of these sites hold oil, gas and coal.

Earlier this month, the interior secretary called for a scaling back of Bears Ears despite vocal opposition from Native American tribes and environmental advocates.

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DAN ZUKOWSKI OF ENVIRONEWS ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Cuyahoga 0621wrp optThe Cuyahoga River on fire, 1969. (Photo: EnviroNews)Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President of Waterkeeper Alliance (the Alliance), sat down with EnviroNews Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry to discuss the organization's response to the Trump Administration, which has been active in upending environmental regulations. The interview took place June 8, 2017 in Park City, Utah at the Waterkeeper Alliance International Conference.

Kennedy began by telling EnviroNews, "We're filing just barrages of suits to stop the dismantling of the Clean Water Act." Columbia Riverkeeper, part of the Alliance based in Oregon, fired off the first lawsuit in the U.S. against EPA head Scott Pruitt on February 23, 2017, just 13 days after he was confirmed by the Senate. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Seattle and aims to force the EPA to mitigate high water temperatures in the Columbia and Snake Rivers that killed 250,000 adult sockeye salmon in 2015.

The action continued a lengthy record of using the courts to protect the nation's waterways. Among the highlights cited in the 2016 Waterkeeper Alliance Annual Report are rulings that imposed fines for polluting the Chattahoochee and Potomac Rivers and prevented sand mining in San Francisco Bay. Other actions have resulted in protection for sea otters along the coast of Southern California and defeating the proposed Gateway Pacific coal export terminal in Bellingham, Washington.

Kennedy said the Alliance was also working to prevent the EPA from undoing rules that protect communities and waterways from toxic coal ash waste. The Utility Solid Waste Activities Group, which represents electric generation utilities, has filed a petition that Waterkeeper Alliance says "seeks to do away with most of the EPA's environmental safeguards for coal ash." According to Waterkeeper, at least 200 coal ash waste dumps have contaminated local water sources with arsenic, lead, mercury and chromium.

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KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Peacekeeper 0621wrp optA "Peacekeeper" nuclear missile launch. (Photo: US Air Force)This week, in New York City, representatives from more than100 countries will begin collaborating on an international treaty, first proposed in 2016, to ban nuclear weapons forever. It makes sense for every country in the world to seek a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons. It would make even more sense to immediately deactivate all nuclear weapons. But, by boycotting and disparaging the process now underway, the U.S. and other nuclear armed nations have sent a chilling signal. They have no intention of giving up the power to explode, burn and annihilate planetary life. "The United States is spending $1 trillion USD over the next thirty years to modernize its nuclear weapon arsenals and triple the killing power of these weapons," says Ray Acheson, programme director at Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Acheson also notes that the excessive spending for nuclear weapons contrasts with U.S. cuts to vital anti-poverty programs. On June 19th, more than a dozen people blocked the U.S. Mission to the UN entrance to protest Washington's boycott of the negotiations. They were arrested for disorderly conduct, but I believe it's incomparably  more disorderly to plan for nuclear war.

During the past weekend, to support the negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons, WILPF called for "Women's March to Ban the Bomb" actions in cities across the U.S. and around the world. Jane Addams, who helped found the League in 1919, was a Chicago woman who understood the crucial need to put an end to war, all war, and instead care for the neediest people. She dedicated herself to assuring that many new immigrants in her city were treated with respect, given assistance to meet basic needs and encouraged to live and work together, peaceably. Addams worked passionately to prevent nations from sleepwalking into the horrors of World War I, and she vigorously campaigned to stop the United States' entry into it.

Upon return from visiting soldiers who had been maimed while fighting in the trenches of World War I, she spoke of how the young men couldn't have carried on the war without mind-altering substances -sometimes absinthe, sometimes extra rations of rum. Families were sending laudanum and even heroin to the front lines in hampers. The soldiers couldn't kill, she concluded, if left in their right minds.

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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Sekulow 0620wrp optJay Sekulow speaking at an event in Washington DC. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)Jay Sekulow, a hero to conservative Christians, is back on the scene as part of President Donald Trump's legal team. During recent appearance on Fox News, Sekulow defended Trump, and smeared former FBI director James Comey. That may have been his ticket to Team Trump. Salon's Heather Digby Parton hypothesized that Trump "likely saw Sekulow 'defend' him on TV one night and decided he'd be a good 'defense' lawyer."

Trump may also be impressed by Sekulow's business deals, which appears to have enriched his entire family. A 2011 investigation by Bob Smietana at The Tennessean, revealed Sekulow "as the principal officer of two closely related multimillion-dollar legal charities: Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, which he founded in San Francisco, and the better-known American Center for Law and Justice, founded by Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson and based in Virginia Beach."

According to Smietana, "Since 1998, the two charities have paid out more than $33 million to members of Sekulow's family and businesses they own or co-own, according to the charities' federal tax returns. One of the charities is controlled by the Sekulow family — tax documents show that all four of CASE's board members are Sekulows and another is an officer — an arrangement criticized by a nonprofit watchdog group."

After televangelist Pat Robertson's 1988 presidential campaign, he established the Christian Coalition, and he and Sekulow launched a legal group called the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) to, as MSNBC's Steve Benen pointed out, "serve as a right-wing rival to the ACLU … [and] advance the religious right's agenda in the courts." Sekulow became chief counsel for the group.

Sekulow's emergence into the public spotlight was on full display this past Sunday as he pogoed his way around to the major television talk shows. "He insisted to anyone who would listen that despite the president's tweeting that he was under investigation, he was really only responding to the news report and isn't under investigation at all," Parton pointed out.

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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

WaterFrack 0620wrp optWater tanks preparing for hydraulic fracturing. (Photo: Joshua Doubek)A new analysis of Texas' oil and gas development underscores how there really are two sides to the energy debate. We know that drilling has brought the state billions in wealth, but its vast impacts on the environment cannot be ignored.

The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST)—the state's top scientific community—has released a comprehensive, peer-reviewed report today analyzing the wide-ranging environmental, economic and social impacts of shale oil and gas production in the Lone Star State.

"This study aims to help us better understand what is and is not known about the impacts of shale oil and gas development in Texas and it offers recommendations for future research priorities," the report states.

The 204-page Shale Task Force report was compiled by representatives from academia, environmental organizations, the oil and gas industry, and state agencies with a focus on six key areas: seismicity, land, air, water, transportation and economic and social impacts.

Citing the report, the Houston Chronicle noted that the shale boom has contributed to the state's economic gains but has also "degraded natural resources, overwhelmed small communities and even boosted the frequency and severity of traffic collisions as workers and equipment rush to oil fields."

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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

NoDAPL 0619wrp optA protest against the Dakota Access pipeline. Pax Ahimsa GethenEnergy Transfer Partners, the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline and the fracked gas Rover Pipeline, has quite the extensive spill history, a new analysis shows.

After crunching the numbers from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), TheStreet revealed that the Dallas-based company spilled hazardous liquids near water crossings more than twice the frequency of any other U.S. pipeline company this decade.

According to the report:

"The company has spilled hazardous liquids five times near water crossings since 2010 when PHMSA started collecting detailed data. The company's spills account for almost 20% of all hazardous liquid spills near water crossings since 2010, primarily because of a 55,000-gallon gasoline spill in 2016 near the Susquehanna River in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. TheStreet only included onshore spills in its analysis, and included subsidiary companies.

"Since 2010, the company has spilled hazardous liquids 204 times in all, ranking only behind Enterprise Products Partners LP (EPD) and Magellan Midstream Partners, LP MMP, according to TheStreet's tally."

Energy Transfer owns about 71,000 miles of natural gas, natural gas liquids, refined products and crude oil pipelines across the country.

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KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Yemen 0619wrp optHouse in Yemen destroyed by Saudi air strike. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)On June 15, 2017, the New York Times reported that the government of Saudi Arabia aims to ease the concerns of some U.S. legislators over U.S. weapon sales to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis plan to engage in "a $750 million multiyear training program through the American military to help prevent the accidental killing of civilians in the Saudi-led air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen." Since entering the war in Yemen, in March of 2015, the Saudi coalition's airstrikes, with U.S. assistance, have destroyedbridges, roads, factories, farms, food trucks, animals, water infrastructure, and agricultural banks across the north, while imposing a blockade on the territory. For a country heavily dependent on foreign food aid, that means starving the people. At least seven million people suffer now from severe acute malnourishment.  

U.S. assistance to the Saudi-led coalition has included providing weapons, sharing intelligence, targeting assistance, and aerial jet refueling.  "If they stop the refueling, that would stop the bombing campaign literally tomorrow," says Iona Craig, who frequently reports from Yemen, "because logistically the coalition would not be able to send their fighter jets in to carry out sorties without that help."

The U.S. has also provided "cover" for Saudi violations of international law. On October 27th, 2015, Saudi Arabia bombed a Yemeni hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders. The airstrike went on for two hours, reducing the hospital to rubble. Ban Ki Moon, then Secretary General of the UN, admonished the Saudi government for attacking a medical facility. The Saudis responded that the U.S. had similarly bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital, in Afghanistan's Kunduz province, which indeed the U.S. had, earlier that same month, on October 3, 2015. The U.S. airstrikes continued, in fifteen minute intervals, for an hour, killing 42 people and likewise reducing the Doctors Without Borders hospital to rubble and ash.

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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Sungei 0616wrp optThe Sungei Buloh Wetlands, part of the Singapore Biosphere Reserve. (Photo: Calvin Teo)The U.S. has quietly withdrawn 17 sites from the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves program.

As first reported by National Geographic, the sites include a number of national forests, preserves and reserves from Alaska to the Virgin Islands (see list below). There were previously 47 biosphere reserves in the U.S.

The move was made during the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme meeting in Paris this week. Bulgaria also removed three sites.

"Prior to this year, a total of 18 sites had been removed from the program since 1997, by seven countries," National Geographic noted.

"It's not currently clear why the U.S. and Bulgaria asked to remove those sites: requests for comment have not yet been returned. In the past, sites were removed after countries were no longer able to meet the requirements of the program for protecting them."

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 07:36

New Coal Mine Opens, Employs Just 70 People

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Miners 0614wrp optCoal miners. (Photo: Jack Corn)Is this what Donald Trump meant when he campaigned on being the "greatest jobs president that God ever created"?

The president celebrated the 70 whole jobs created by the Acosta mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, the nation's newest coal mine.

"When I ended the 'war on coal,' I said I would put our incredible miners—and that's what you are, incredible—back to work," Trump said after the mine opened last Thursday, likely forgetting that his budget slashes 40 percent, or about $1 billion, from federal job training programs.

Corsa Coal Company CEO George Dethlefsen said 400 people applied for the 70 positions available at the new mine.

Dethlefsen said the mine will help the area's struggling economy but as Quartz pointed out that's "significantly fewer than the 92 jobs created by the opening of one American supermarket on average."

Most of the coal isn't even staying in the country. According to PennLive, "as for where the coal ultimately ends up, as much as 85 percent could be exported overseas to make steel in countries such as South Korea, Turkey, Egypt and Brazil, Corsa officials say."

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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Kerr 0614wrp optGolden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. (Photo: Keith Allison)If the Golden State Warriors are invited to Donald Trump's White House, will they go? In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, after having won the 2016-17 National Basketball Association Championship, acknowledging the love of their fans at Oakland's Oracle Arena, and spritzing themselves with champagne, Downtown Josh Brown issued an un-sourced tweet claiming that the Warriors had made a "unanimous" decision not to go to the White House if invited. While several team members and coach Steve Kerr have been outspoken in their criticisms of Trump, it appears that no such decision was made. An early morning statement from the team read:“Today is about celebrating our championship. We have not received an invitation to the White House, but will make those decisions, when and if necessary.”

Since assuming office in January, Trump has hosted Super Bowl champion New England Patriots – albeit with several players refusing to attend for political reasons -- and Clemson University, the NCAA football champion. (In 2015, the team met with President Obama at the White House in what turned into a highly spirited, fun-filled, and glorious championship celebration.)

If the Warriors turned down an invitation to the White House, it would not be surprising.

"I have no idea what kind of president he'll be because he hasn't said anything about what he's going to do," Warrior coach Steve Kerr said shortly after the election. "We don't know. But it's tough when you want there to be some respect and dignity, and there hasn't been any. And then you walk into a room with your daughter and your wife who have basically been insulted by his comments and they're distraught. Then you walk in and see the faces of your players, most of them who have been insulted directly as minorities, it's very shocking. It really is."

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