For as long as I can remember, I’ve been going to the Eastern Sierras in California to fish, hike, sail and relax. I am fortunate that my grandfather owned a sporting goods store and was able to buy or, according to family lore, barter for a cabin in the Sierras. I grew up in Los Angeles, where in the 1970’s, the skies were yellow with smog a lot of the time, even more so than now. But for at least a week or two in the summer, we were able to go to a place with fresh, crisp air.
I’ve hiked into the Yosemite Valley from Porcupine Creek, and all around Mammoth Lakes and Lee Vining in the Inyo National Forest, including the Ansel Adams and Hoover Wilderness Areas. There are hikes to lakes and waterfalls and mountain passes, through Jeffery Pine forests and a wildflower hike with a series of cascades that in some years, thunder with water. Some friends and members of my family have not taken to my hikes, since I go out even if afternoon temperatures hit 80 or 90 degrees, and reach an altitude anywhere from 4,000 to over 10,000 feet. I often walk for five to six hours with a break for lunch.
Unfortunately, last year I couldn’t enjoy one of my favorite hikes, which connects to a former Native American trail, because in November 2011, a freak windstorm from the north blew down tens of thousands of trees throughout the Sierra Nevadas. The winds don’t normally come from the north, which is why so many trees fell and blocked formerly passable trails. Read the full article…
Great Sand Dunes National Park (Photo courtesy of Brian Dierks)
Every year, I looked forward to school fieldtrips to the Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado. Riding in yellow school buses full of kids and the smell of sunscreen. Trekking up the dunes for hours in knee-deep sand with colorful plastic sleds, and flying down the slopes in a matter of seconds. Watching simulations of the changing dunes in the education center and swimming in Medano Creek, which felt like being buried in fine, cool sand. My lunch always managed to have grit in it, and I always returned sunburned and happy. Sleep came invariably on the ride home.
On these days, this land belonged to my classmates, and it belonged to me. It was our land, and we enjoyed it to the fullest extent.
Great Sand Dunes National Monument was created in the 1930s, when the integrity of Medano Creek was threatened by decades of gold mining around the dunes. It has been reclassified as a national park since my schooldays, which I assumed provided our beloved dunes with greater levels of protection. But, it’s happening again –the lands around this and other U.S. National Parks located above oil and gas deposits, are at risk of experiencing the negative effects of fracking, particularly if President Obama’s Bureau of Land Management gets its wish to pursue fossil fuel development near many of our nation’s parks.
It may go without saying, but the Great Sand Dunes are located in the desert – one of Colorado’s most fragile ecosystems. Isolated dunes are a rare phenomenon, and this protected area in Colorado is just one of few in the world. Little Medano Creek plays a crucial role in maintaining these dunes by returning sand blown into the mountains back to the dune field. Humble endemic species and charismatic fauna like bison, elk, black bears and pronghorn antelope rely on this environment. This is their land. Read the full article…
This blog is the first in a series highlighting national treasures that could be affected by natural gas development should President Obama allow fracking to move forward near federal lands.
Vast, otherworldly, humbling. This is red rock country. Notable to Utah, it is a place of wonder. It is a place where I have spent days happily lost, wandering about deep slot canyons and standing atop spires of sandstone, gazing out at fields of hoodoos that look as if they have been melted by the sun. I have spent nights wrapped in my sleeping bag beside canyon walls, craggy silhouettes against a sky spattered with stars. I have woken up to those same canyon walls illuminated pink by the light of dawn, beckoning a new day of adventure. Read the full article…
Earlier this month, fire and a series of horrific explosions swept through Lac-Mégantic, a small town in Québec just miles from the Maine border, after an unmanned 72-car train derailed. The train was transporting 27,000 gallons of crude oil from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota to a refinery in New Brunswick on the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA). The death toll has climbed to more than 50 people. This is but one of the latest tragedies resulting from the rapid expansion of risky oil and gas drilling and fracking across North America.
Oil produced by the boom in North America from tar sands in Alberta and the Bakken Shale Formation under North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba requires transport. With pipelines already pumping at capacity, companies are turning to rails and ships to move their dirty products. Because most refineries in East Canada are not able to process heavy tar sand crudes, they are switching from distilling imported foreign light crudes to the cheaper Bakken light crudes.
Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted in support of the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, a bill that would streamline the permitting process for natural gas pipelines by placing mandatory deadlines on the agencies in charge of approving infrastructure projects. Having passed out of committee, it may now make its way to the House floor for a vote.
It is obvious the oil and gas industry is looking to expand its market overseas. In pursuit of foreign markets, the industry needs to first create an expansive infrastructure to export liquefied natural gas. But these pipeline projects will ensure increased drilling and fracking across the country, bringing with them a host of health and environmental problems for nearby communities.
More specifically, the bill would place the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) under a mandatory 12-month deadline to approve or deny any natural gas infrastructure projects. This 12-month deadline starts ticking as soon as FERC receives a completed application. Other federal agencies would have 90 days after FERC releases its environmental review of the project to act. If they do not, or do not meet the requirements to demand 30 more days, the projects would automatically go into effect 30 days after the window for approval or denial runs out.
Building more natural gas pipelines only locks us into a future fueled by dirty fossil fuels. America’s sustainable, energy independent future depends on true renewables, like solar and wind power. The Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act may have passed out of the Energy and Commerce Committee, but it still has to survive a full House vote. Please contact your House Member to tell them to vote against speeding up natural gas pipeline approvals.
The momentum of the anti-fracking movement is growing as concerned communities across the globe feel the threat of natural gas development. On October 19, activists around the world will join together for the second annual Global Frackdown, an international day of action and an opportunity to, as one unified community, send a message to protect our resources. In anticipation of this year’s Frackdown, we can’t help but point to the recent victories of the anti-fracking movement in Argentina as an inspiring example of global resistance. Read the full article…
Leaders in the Maryland Legislature rejected a bill last session that would have placed a ban on fracking in the state, seemingly supporting Governor O’Malley in whatever plan he unveils for Maryland. The governor, in turn, has appropriated taxpayer money to conduct several studies to determine whether or not the long-term effects of fracking would be too detrimental to public health and the environment. In fact, Governor O’Malley has been telling anti-fracking advocates that the Old Line State will not turn into another version of Pennsylvania, where regulations are scant and taxes on the oil and gas industry are virtually non-existent. But more and more, we are seeing evidence that Governor O’Malley wants to turn Maryland into a natural gas-friendly state like Pennsylvania. Almost as if to demonstrate that very point, I got some news that is as surprising as it is frustrating.
State officials recently revealed to Food & Water Watch that Governor O’Malley has hired John H. Quigley, who served as secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources during the state’s rapid expansion of fracking, to help draft key fracking regulations in Maryland. The news is further proof that Governor O’Malley has already made his mind up to allow fracking and is moving forward with developing regulations to issue fracking permits in Maryland. Read the full article…
What do kid-hosted lemonade stands, a Governor Hickenlooper impersonator and over 100 activists have in common? They were all part of a protest this past weekend in Aspen to tell Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper and the other members of the Democratic Governor’s Association (DGA): “good Governors don’t frack their people.” Protect Our Colorado, a statewide coalition to fight fracking in Colorado’s communities, brought together children, activists and community members to join in the growing movement to support a ban on fracking.
I watched with anticipation yesterday as President Obama delivered his speech laying out his new climate action plan. Climate change is one of the most pressing issue of our time, and one on which the United States desperately needs to lead. While it was heartening to hear the President take on climate deniers and pledge to fight the problem, his full-throated advocacy for fracked natural gas and oil was more a case of two steps back than a giant step forward.
Industry funding of studies and universities presents a significant challenge to academic integrity, and the latest opportunity for influence — fracking on campus land — can also endanger public health and the environment.
Back in February, Food & Water Watch blogged about the University of Tennessee’s intention to open up 8,600 acres of publicly owned land in their Cumberland Research Forest for fracking.
Despite opposition from those in and outside the academic community, the plan moved forward. On June 7, 2013, the institution called for proposals for the “lease of oil and gas interests” – officially seeking bidders for drilling and fracking.
The University of Tennessee betrayed the public and the environment by putting up a figurative picket sign on the Cumberland Research Forest, a forest that has nurtured over 60 years of environmental research.
Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.