National Forests, Endangered Species Under Attack as House Republicans Pass Reckless Logging Bill

GR: The bill is just as bad as we feared it would be. Click here for the earlier discussions. Using catastrophic fires as cover, House Republicans passed a bill that removes protections from U. S. national forests. The bill will lift the few restrictions now in place and permit unrestricted logging in critical habitats and sites subject to soil erosion. The purpose is to give logging companies a profit boost.

A logger climbs down a mountainside while working on Admiralty Island in the Tongass National Forest. Michael Penn

“In a partisan vote, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation Wednesday that would devastate national forests by gutting endangered species protections and rubber-stamping huge logging projects. The final vote was 232 to 188.

“HR 2936, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), also limits public comment and environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act. Under the guise of reducing forest fires, the bill would increase unfettered logging across national forests and public lands, increase fire risk and harm forest health, while doing nothing to protect communities.

“This bill is a dangerous bait-and-switch that rewards the timber industry. It puts the health of our forests and wildlife in grave danger and ignores real solutions,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It would green-light the worst forest management practices from decades ago, when reckless logging devastated wildlife, degraded rivers and ruined recreation opportunities for countless Americans.”

“Westerman’s bill is a timber-industry wish list. Among other harmful provisions, it would allow rushed logging projects up to 30,000 acres—46 square miles—without public notice or scientific assessment of potential harm to the environment as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“The bill would render forest plans meaningless, roll back measures designed to protect old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest, waive protections for waterways and water quality across the national forest system, promote harmful logging in otherwise protected roadless areas and force the Forest Service to ignore potential harm to thousands of imperiled species.

“It would also give private landowners with easements on public land full ownership of that land and allow herbicides to be sprayed without reviewing the harm to water, fish and wildlife.

“The knee-jerk response from Republicans is always to gut our environmental laws, no matter what the issue is,” said Spivak. “They’re willing to sacrifice our wildlife, healthy streams and rivers, and vibrant public lands for private profit.”

In the first four months of the 115th Congress, Republicans have introduced more than 80 bills that attack public lands, weaken environmental safeguards on those lands or turn over control to states and local governments. These attacks go against the wishes of most Americans, since the vast majority of voters across political parties support protecting and maintaining forests, national parks, monuments and other public lands and waters.” –Center for Biological Diversity (National Forests, Endangered Species Under Attack as House Republicans Pass Reckless Logging Bill).

Tar Sands Pipeline that Could Rival Keystone XL Quietly Gets Trump Approval

GR: It’s really hard to find a fresh or useful comment on something like this. Just sad.

Enbridge’s Line 67 carries tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin. The Trump administration just approved a permit to nearly double its flow at the border. Credit: John W. Murray/CC-BY-NC-2.0

“You’ve probably heard of the Keystone XL pipeline. But what about Line 67, also known as the Alberta Clipper?

“Nine years ago, both were controversial proposals to ship oil from Canada’s tar sands into the United States. But while Keystone XL is still awaiting approval and continues to draw protests, Line 67 quietly secured a federal permit last week to ship even more crude than Keystone would.

“On Oct. 13, the State Department approved a long-awaited permit that allows Enbridge, which owns the pipeline, to pump up to 890,000 barrels per day across the border between Canada and North Dakota, en route to Superior, Wisconsin.

“Enbridge has built the equivalent of a Keystone XL pipeline without gaining the kind of attention that Keystone got,” said Kenneth Rumelt, a senior attorney and professor at Vermont Law School who represented several environmental and indigenous groups in a challenge to the project. “Other than our suit, it largely slipped under the radar. But really, this is a quiet Keystone XL pipeline.”

“Even before the approval, though, the company had already effectively been shipping the full volume through a clever work-around.

“It’s a convoluted story that reflects how Enbridge has gone about trying to boost its capacity to ship Canadian tar sands crude to U.S. refineries piece by piece.

Boosting Line 67’s Volume Before the Permit

“Enbridge began construction on Line 67 in 2008, designing it to eventually carry up to 890,000 barrels per day. Yet when the company initially applied to ship oil over the border, it requested approval to ship about half that amount, 450,000 barrels per day. Enbridge got that approval in 2009, about the time opposition to Keystone XL began gaining steam.” –Nicholas Kusnetz (Continue reading: Tar Sands Pipeline that Could Rival Keystone XL Quietly Gets Trump Approval | InsideClimate News.)

Take Action: Tell Your Senators to Vote Against EPA Nominee with Chemical Industry Ties

Crony-Capitalism. Is this us? (Click image to read the fine print.)

GR: The Trump/Republican choices for government office are people who 1) lack experience or 2) have close ties to businesses or 3) wish to profit from their positions (For example, Rex Tillerson’s huge Exxon Mobile oil deal with Russia). The instance described below is the second type.

“Tell your U.S. Senators to oppose the Trump Administration’s nominee for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Michael L. Dourson, Ph.D., who has spent a good deal of his career helping chemical companies resist restrictions on their toxic compounds. The U.S. Senate’s August 20 hearing on Dr. Dourson’s nomination, was abruptly postponed on August 19, with no reason offered, but later held on October 4 under a cloud of controversy.

Write your U.S. Senators now!

“Critics, including former EPA officials, Congressional Democrats, and public health scientists say that Dr. Dourson’s close ties to the chemical industry should disqualify him from becoming the country’s chief regulator of toxic chemicals.

“U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said, “Dr. Dourson’s consistent endorsement of chemical safety standards that not only match industry’s views, but are also significantly less protective than EPA and other regulators have recommended, raises serious doubts about his ability to lead those efforts. This is the first time anyone with such clear and extensive ties to the chemical industry has been [nominated] to regulate that industry.”

“Dr. Dourson’s professional history provides important context for considering his nomination. He did a turn at EPA from 1980 to 1994, starting as a staff toxicologist, and then leading a pesticide and toxics group that supports EPA’s regulatory work. However, in 1995, Dr. Dourson started the consulting group, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), which has done contract work for chemical companies, producing research and reports that often “downplayed the health risks posed by their compounds.” Source: Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog » Blog Archive Take Action: Tell Your Senators to Vote Against EPA Nominee with Chemical Industry Ties – Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog

OMB Director Mulvaney Responds to Western Caucus Calls for Forestry Action | Congressional Western Caucus

GR: There is a misconception in Congress that managing hazardous fuels means that we should remove restrictions that prevent timber companies from clear-cutting the forest. True, clear-cutting eliminates forest fires, but it does not remove the fuels. Perhaps our Congresspeople see themselves as wise Walruses, but instead of asking “. . . why the sea is boiling hot–and whether pigs have wings”, they wish to ask if they can stop the forest from burning by insuring there is no forest to burn.

The Western Caucus should leave the few restrictions the pro-business Forest Service has been able to scrape together alone and focus their attention on future budget problems. As our climate warms, fires will grow larger and more frequent. Perhaps now is the time to start thinking about diverting some of our military spending to protecting our land.

“Today, 17 Congressional Western Caucus Members released statements applauding Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s October 4, 2017 letter to Speaker Paul Ryan requesting that Congress pass forestry management reform and disaster relief packages.” Source: Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ),  OMB Director Mulvaney Responds to Western Caucus Calls for Forestry Action | Congressional Western Caucus. 

GR: Here’s a better informed discussion of logging and wildfire:

Forest Fire, Bonner, Montana

“Montana GOP Senator Daines recently published a simplistic and misleading guest commentary on a wildfire in the Washington Post.
In that editorial, Daines, like many other misinformed logging proponents claims more logging would reduce large wildfires and he blames “environmental extremists” for delaying the forest reduction projects.

“Most of the wildfires burning under low to moderate fire weather conditions either self-extinguish or are easily controlled.

“The majority of all acreage burned in any summer is the result of very few wildfires that are burning under extreme fire weather.

“Indeed, the bulk of all wildfire acreage burned is the result of less than 1% of all fires, and indeed, in a typical year, 0.1% of fires are responsible for half or more of the acres reinvigorated by wildfire. These wildfires burn under what is termed “extreme fire weather” conditions.

“Many studies show a correlation between extreme fire weather and extreme wildfires. When you have high temperatures, low humidity, drought, and in particular wind, you cannot stop a blaze. And they will burn through any forest reduction, prescribed burning, and other forms of “active forest management” that are designed to slow or halt such blazes.” –George Wuerthner (Continue reading:   http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2017/09/24/response-to-senator-daines-washington-post-commentary-on-wildfires/