First he came for our auto emissions standards, now he wants to frack our federal lands . . .

By Christina Tarr

Deadline – submit comments by email by September 7, 2018. Note that you are commenting on 83 FR 39116.
If email link doesn’t work, address is: blm_ca_bkfo_oil_gas_update@blm.gov  

In a coordinated attack on California, coming just after challenging our vehicle emissions standards, the Trump administration took the first steps toward opening up 1.6 million acres of public land and mineral estate in California to fracking and oil drilling. The Bureau of Land Management posted a notice of intent in the Federal Register on August 8, 2018:

the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Bakersfield Field Office, Bakersfield, California, intends to prepare a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and a potential Resource Management Plan (RMP) amendment for the Bakersfield Field Office Resource Management Plan. The supplemental EIS will analyze the impacts of hydraulic fracturing technology on BLM-administered public land and mineral estate in the Bakersfield Field Office Planning Area exclusive of the California Coastal National Monument and the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

The notice seeks comments on the dangers of opening up 400,000 acres of public land and an additional 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties. This would end a five year moratorium on leasing federal land to oil companies in California: no federal lands in the state have been leased to oil companies since 2013, when a federal judge found that the BLM had leased land in Monterey County without fully considering the environmental impact of fracking.

Environmentalists are concerned that fracking — an extreme oil-extraction process that blasts toxic chemicals mixed with water underground to crack rocks — can increase the risk of earthquakes and contaminate groundwater. The public lands in question here sit over groundwater that supplies neighboring areas with water for agricultural and human uses. In addition, fracking in California happens at unusually shallow depths, which means toxic chemicals are even closer to underground drinking water supplies than usual, with unusually high concentrations of chemicals, many of which are dangerous to human health and the environment.

In a state where water is more precious than oil, we can’t take this kind of risk with our groundwater.

Comment now! Comments close on September 7, 2018. More info on commenting here (but don’t use the comment link on that page – it appears to be broken!) Send an email instead to: blm_ca_bkfo_oil_gas_update@blm.gov and note that you are commenting on 83 FR 39116. 

Notes you can include in your comment:

  • Do not open our beautiful public lands to fracking and drilling. Do not sacrifice our health, wildlife and climate to profit big polluters.
  • Fracking involves the use of very toxic chemicals, which we don’t want on our public lands.
  • The toxic chemicals will invariably spread to nearby cities and towns, and the people affected are often the very poorest people.
  • These toxic chemicals get into the groundwater, especially in California, where fracking is dangerously shallow.
  • In a state where water is so precious — to agriculture, human populations, and wildlife — clean water is worth more than dirty oil.
  • We desperately need to keep these dirty fossil fuels in the ground and focus more on developing cheaper and cleaner green energy technologies. The climate is changing and we need to take step to move away from oil, not pour resources into using the dirtiest and most difficult to extract.
  • Why despoil our environment to extract a resource we should be moving away from?

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.

Stop Republican Resolution Condemning Carbon Pricing

The House is poised to vote on House Concurrent Resolution 119, which expresses the belief by Congress that carbon pricing would be “detrimental to the US economy.” This inane resolution, reintroduced by Majority Whip Steve Scalise, is a symbolic attempt by Republicans to suck up to their donors in the fossil fuel industry by petulantly refusing to do anything meaningful to address climate change.

A growing body of economic literature indicates that putting a price on carbon could be the most effective way to quickly and decisively reduce carbon emissions. In uniformly declaring carbon taxation economically harmful, Congress would tie our hands in the fight against climate change.

For more background, check out this rebuttal to H.Con.Res.119 from our friends at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

What to say:

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want Representative ____ to vote NO on the anti-carbon tax resolution, House Concurrent Resolution 119.

  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

As of this writing, Rep. Barbara Lee, for one, has indicated that she intends to vote no. When calling her office, thank her for signaling her intention and urge her to follow through with a no vote.

Keep Brett Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court

We know, you don’t need a singing elf on a unicorn to get you to oppose a Supreme Court nominee with a record against abortion rights, environmental protection, consumer protection, and common sense gun safety – but we’re giving you one anyway!

singing elf on unicorn

Brett Kavanaugh, nominated not long after the Fourth of July (ain’t irony great), has a record that’s all of the above. He is a “textualist,” an “originalist,” like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who believed that the Constitution must somehow be interpreted according to its text alone as written and intended by the Founding (white male slave-owning) Fathers. But most troubling of all, Kavanaugh has said that a sitting President should be exempt from criminal investigation and questioning, including questioning by prosecutors and defense counsel. No wonder Trump chose him!

Whether Kavanaugh sits on the Supreme Court for generations to come (he’s only 53 years old) is up to the Senate, and they need to hear from you: please call Senators Feinstein (202) 224-3841 and Harris (202) 224-3553 and ask them to do everything they can to block this nominee who would gut Roe v. Wade and give someone like Trump even greater executive power.

What to say:

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He would be a threat to our rights, our environment, and our protections against a dangerous administration. I want Senator ____ to speak out against Kavanaugh’s nomination, and to vote against him, and to persuade other Senators to vote against him.

Other things you can do:

  • #SaveSCOTUS Phone Banking. Sign up for an Indivisible National virtual phone bank to help flip crucial Senate seats in November. Training provided. All info & sign up for July 15 & 16 banks here.
  • Text banking with Resistance Labs: this is a fantastic resource – if the text banking to fight the Kavanaugh nomination has not yet gone live, sign up to be alerted when it’s ready to go!

 

For the Birds

By Christina Tarr

On February 18, 2018, Indivisible East Bay and Golden Gate Audubon Society held a birding-and-postcard-activism event near the Rotary Nature Center at Lake Merritt in Oakland. We told people about our local avian wildlife and about the 100 year old Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which proposed legislation and an interpretation of the Act by the Department of Interior are now threatening; and we told them how they can protect the birds by speaking up to protect the MBTA. Lake Merritt, the first National Wildlife Refuge in the country, was an ideal place for our event.

Kingfisher. PhotographyByRex
Kingfisher in tree at Lake Merritt. Copyright PhotographyByRex

We had two scopes zoomed in on the birds hanging out on or near the islands. A kingfisher posed for a long time on a snag, and a red-shouldered hawk sat watchfully above our table, hidden unless you happened to look in the scope. As usual, there were crowds of herons and egrets, coots, a canvasback duck, several scaup and even an American white pelican named Hank. One of our Golden Gate Audubon docents led a group on a bird walk, pointing out white-crowned sparrows, a yellow-rumped warbler, and a western bluebird on the lawn.

Bird walk Lake Merritt. Photo by Heidi Rand
Bird walk Lake Merritt. Photo by Heidi Rand

In all, people wrote 120 postcards! Most (40) wanted to send Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke a piece of their mind, but many also realized that it’s important to write to our Members of Congress even when they’re on the right side of an issue. The grand totals: Senators Feinstein (29) and Harris (23); and Representatives Lee (14), DeSaulnier (8), Swalwell (4), Pelosi (1) and even one to Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) by some tourists from Los Angeles. The front of the postcards showed off original artwork of Lake Merritt birds by local wildlife artist Maddy Donahue.

Bird walk Lake Merritt.
Bird walk & postcards at Lake Merritt. Photo by Heidi Rand

For more information and actions you can take, read Christina Tarr’s article about threats to the MBTA and check out the National Audubon Society’s Action Center’s talking points.

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.

Border Wall: Bad for People and Other Living Things

By Christina Tarr

A keystone of Trump’s presidential campaign was his call for an enormous wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. According to Trump, Mexico would pay for it and it would keep very dangerous immigrants out. The idea is popular with xenophobic and racist members of his base, and we know he continues to use the argument to whip up their support.

On January 18, 2018, Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly said that Trump’s ideas on the border wall had evolved, and that he was willing to consider fencing or other nonphysical ways to monitor the border. But in fact, Trump’s thinking has not evolved. He shot back in a Tweet:

We all know what a disaster this wall would be for humans – splitting families apart, forcing people who must cross the border into more and more inhospitable and dangerous lands while cutting off access to American-owned lands along the border. And we know the wall would be futile at curbing immigration. As Bill Maher says, “You know how immigrants come here, right? They buy a ticket, just like you do when you’re returning from Cabo. They fly here, and then they stay.”

We all also know there are far better things we could do with the $66.9 billion the wall is estimated to cost. The Sierra Club notes that even for the $3 billion budgeted for immigration enforcement funds for fiscal year 2018, we could create 45,000 middle class jobs, or build 184 new elementary schools.

Bottom line: It’s a dumb idea and a waste of money.

But there’s more: often overlooked in the furor and tweets about the wall is the irrevocable damage it would do to the environment. The 654 miles of existing walls and fences on the US-Mexico border have already made an environmental mess: destroying pristine wilderness, harming populations of rare and endangered animals, and causing flood or starving the land of water. And there is every reason to believe that adding more miles of wall would do more of the same:

  • The border lands are an area of great species richness, both because they are at the edges of different habitats, and also because they are underpopulated and have been protected from human activity for hundreds of years. These lands are home to Sonoran pronghorn, prairie dogs, black bears, and gray wolves; they contain some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the continent. More than 450 rare species live here – some cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. At least 700 neotropical birds, mammals, and insects migrate through the borderlands each year.
  • The wall would destroy and fragment habitats of rare and endangered animals including the jaguar, ocelot, and Mexican gray wolf, cut them off from larger populations needed to retain gene pools or from water and food, and block migration corridors for endangered species.
  • The wall, if high enough, could block birds and bats from resources and larger populations on the other side of it.
  • The wall could kill pollinators, including butterflies, with lights and zaps.
  • The wall would act as a dam, blocking water from flowing where it needs to go and causing flooding by interrupting flood plains.
  • Construction of the wall would not be regulated by law. The Department of Homeland Security has, bizarrely, used Section 102 of the 2005 Real ID Act to waive construction on 15 miles along the San Diego border from complying with any part of 37 federal laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Solid Waste Disposal Act.
  • Wildlife refuges and national parks may be most at risk for wall construction because the U.S. government already owns the land.
  • Concrete construction releases a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide, posing environmental risks that this Administration has shown no inclination to control or mitigate.

How we can fight against the wall:

  • Contact your members of congress. Let them know you oppose the environmental consequences of this wall in addition to the human costs. 
  • Tell everyone you know, and urge them to contact their MoCs.
  • Contact your city, county, and state and ask them to divest from companies that would profit from building the wall.
  • See Indivisible Guide’s article “Resisting Trump’s Budget: No Cuts, No Wall, No Deportation Force” for more info and talking points.
  • See the Sierra Club’s “Border Wall Toolkit
  • Find more actions at Center for Biological Diversity’s article “No Border Wall
  • Look for chances to resist – like this protest in Texas – and take part, or organize one in your community!

 

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places. 

Photograph © Steve Hillebrand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 

Protect the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

By Christina Tarr

First enacted in 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) makes it a crime to “pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture or kill,” possess, sell, purchase, or ship any migratory bird or any part, nest or egg of a migratory bird unless authorized by regulation. More than a thousand bird species are currently protected under the statute. It has saved many species of birds, including the snowy egret, from extinction.

The MBTA provides industry with incentive to adopt simple practices that save birds’ lives, such as covering oil waste pits, and it gives government the ability to enforce accountability and recovery after events that kill large numbers of birds. After the Gulf oil spill killed one million birds, for instance, MBTA enforcement was responsible for BP paying $100 million to restore habitat. Read more about the history of the Act here.

But now Republican-introduced legislation in Congress (HR 4239) and a new interpretation of the MBTA by the Department of the Interior could end the Act’s effectiveness in holding industries accountable for bird deaths by removing its authority to prohibit “incidental take.” These proposals would prevent enforcement of “incidental” bird deaths, thus removing incentive for good practices and eliminating penalties for industry practices that kill birds. You can read the Interior Department’s Memorandum M- 37050, “The Migratory Bird Treaty Act Does Not Prohibit Incidental Take” here.

Of local interest is our own Lake Merritt, declared a National Wildlife Refuge in 1869 (the oldest in the United States), and an important stop for migratory birds on the Pacific flyway. Click here to see the migratory and resident birds you can find at Lake Merritt.

Please call your members of Congress and tell them to uphold the MBTA and its current provisions:

Also, contact the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, at feedback@ios.doi.gov

What to say:

Please defend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, including the Act’s ability to address the incidental take of birds. The MBTA has saved many species of birds from extinction for decades under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Proposals like HR 4239 and the new interpretation by the Department of the Interior would threaten the MBTA’s ability to protect birds and prevent collateral environmental damage. Please defend against attacks on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

For more information, check out the National Audubon Society’s Action Center’s talking points.

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.

Photo of egret in Lake Merritt by Heidi Rand

Let’s Show Trump What Resistance to Offshore Drilling Looks Like!

Thirteen hundred miles of coastline on the West Coast – over a thousand in California alone, counting the Channel Islands – would be threatened by the a Trump administration’s proposal to expand offshore oil drilling. And yet, the Republicans have scheduled only one public hearing on this outrageous threat to the environment and public health. A coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing to protest; join and make your voice heard!

Trump recently announced his disastrous plan to hand over the Pacific Ocean – as well as the Arctic, Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico – to oil companies keen to expand offshore drilling off the California coast for the first time in over 30 years. Read the oily details of the proposed plan in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s press release.

Offshore drilling is a nightmare for people and the planet. It poisons our oceans, covers our beaches in oil, and directly threatens California’s superior coastal economy. It also deepens our dependence on fossil fuels, driving the climate change that accelerates sea level rise and fuels wildfires.

Join the fight to protect the California coast from new offshore drilling! Let’s show Trump and his oil cronies what resistance to their unending quest to wreck the planet looks like. Join us Thursday, February 8 in Sacramento to tell the Trump administration that offshore drilling and the oil spills, pipelines, and climate chaos that come with it are not welcome off our coast.

WHAT: Protest February 8 Against Offshore Drilling Off the California Coast – rally featuring powerful speakers, music, art, marching in the streets and lots of chanting

WHEN/WHERE: Thursday, February 8, 1:30–7:00 PM:

  • 1:30 PM – Meet at the North Steps of the California State Capitol, 1100 L St., Sacramento, for a press conference and rally
  • 2:30 PM – March to the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I Street, for the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) public meeting
  • 3:00 PM – Enter the meeting and let BOEM know that new drilling is not welcome off our coast or in any of our oceans.

GETTING THERE: On February 8 there will be buses to Sacramento from multiple cities including San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura / Santa Barbara. This is in the organizing stage, so sign up on the Facebook event page to get details as they develop.

Hosting Organizations: Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch California, Oceana Southern California, Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples, Save Our Shores, Sierra Club California, and other partnering organizations.

More details about the protest and RSVP here.