Archive for December, 2016

Obama and Trudeau move to stop offshore oil drilling in the Arctic

December 21, 2016

Obama Said to Use 1953 Law to Restrict Offshore Oil Drilling  Bloomberg, by 

Jennifer A Dlouhy and Josh Wingrove   December 21, 2016, 
  • Move to permanently protect parts of Atlantic, Arctic
  • Canada to join in coordinated announcement of restrictions

President Barack Obama is preparing to block the sale of new offshore drilling rights in most of the U.S. Arctic and parts of the Atlantic, a move that could indefinitely restrict oil production there, according to people familiar with the decision.

Obama will invoke a provision in a 1953 law that gives him wide latitude to withdraw U.S. waters from future oil and gas leasing, said the people who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been announced. Until now the law has been used mostly to permanently preserve coral reefs, walrus feeding grounds and marine sanctuaries.

Related actions by Canada, including a possible five-year pause on some activity in its share of the Beaufort Sea north of Canada’s Northwest Territories, will be announced at the same time as the U.S. action, the people said.

“If the reports are right, then this is a gift to the public and to our kids that will rank with any in the history of American conservation,” said Niel Lawrence, Alaska director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Coming in the waning days of his administration, Obama’s move — set to be announced Tuesday — responds to a clamor from environmental activists who have looked for a way to lock in protections before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

Read more: Offshore Drilling Foes Invoke 1953 Law to Prod Obama

Environmentalists said the action would further bolster Obama’s legacy as the president who has done more than any other to combat climate change, because it would illustrate he believes the warming Earth can’t afford the oil and gas locked under the Arctic and Atlantic waters targeted for protection.

“If President Obama acts to permanently protect important areas of the Atlantic Ocean from offshore drilling, he will be making a good decision — a smart business decision — based on science and facts,” said Jacqueline Savitz, a senior vice president with the conservation group Oceana. “This decision would help to protect existing lucrative coastal tourism and fishing businesses from offshore drilling, which promises smaller, short-lived returns and threatens coastal livelihoods.”………

Trudeau Pledge

The U.S. move is expected to be paired with action from Canada, following a March pledge by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Obama to collaborate in managing the Arctic, including taking unspecified “concrete steps” to protect at least 10 percent of its water.

Although some oil companies hold exploration rights in Canada’s Beaufort waters, no drilling is currently taking place. Activity there is now stalled or uneconomical, said Michael Byers, a University of British Columbia professor.

Obama’s decision takes advantage of oil and gas companies’ relatively lackluster interest in Arctic waters, where exploration costs are high and development can take a decade or more. Oil companies spent more than $2.5 billion nabbing drilling rights in the region, but relinquished many of those claims as low crude prices forced them to cut spending…..

Environmentalists have been laying the groundwork for Obama’s decision by circulating memos on the legal strategy and highlighting how oil spills could devastate wildlife in the Arctic and tourism on the U.S. East Coast.

“The Trump administration has the potential to do serious damage to our climate — but in the last few months of his presidency, President Obama can take concrete steps to secure his environmental legacy,” NextGen Climate President Tom Steyer said in a recent letter.  https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-12-19/obama-said-to-use-1953-law-to-block-drilling-in-arctic-atlantic

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The continuing radiation horror of Russia’s Mayak nuclear plant

December 21, 2016

Many people we spoke to say they are being used as human guinea pigs. They talk of a secret government experiment looking at the effects of radiation exposure on humans.

They say they have to go to a hospital in Chelyabinsk, the regional capital around 50km away, for treatment of the various radiation related illnesses they suffer.

text-from-the-archivesLiving in a nuclear hell, Aljazeera, By Charles Stratford in Europe , 2012-04-04 The town of Muslymovo has to be one of the saddest places on earth. The thousands of people who have little choice but to live here, on the banks of the Techa river not far from Russia’s
southern border with Kazakhstan, are the victims of a nuclear disaster that began more than six decades ago.

They are still suffering with the consequences of life next door to the Mayak nuclear plant – still dying from the radiation-related illnesses that have claimed the lives of so many before them.

Mayak was constructed in the 1940s. Our driver knew how to avoid checkpoints. We stuck a small camera on our windscreen and drove to within a hundred metres of the plant gates.

It’s like a city. Families work and live here. Teenagers chased eachother in the snow just beyond the fence.

Mayak is surrounded by silver birch forests. Signs by the road warn people not to enter the woodland or pick the wild mushrooms. Mayak once provided the Soviet Union with around 40 per cent of the world’s
weapons-grade plutonium.

The country’s first atomic bomb was built here. Between 1949 and 1951, the plant dumped hundreds of tonnes of highly radioactive waste into the nearby Techa.

Hundreds of villages were resettled but incredibly, four remain in the contaminated area. Residents don’t know why they were never moved.

Many people we spoke to say they are being used as human guinea pigs. They talk of a secret government experiment looking at the effects of radiation exposure on humans.

They say they have to go to a hospital in Chelyabinsk, the regional capital around 50km away, for treatment of the various radiation related illnesses they suffer.

One woman described her visits.

“They must have tested new drugs on us. You come from the hospital where you spend a month then get sick for a month at home. They don’t treat you. They hurt you. They don’t say anything.”

Some of the old Muslymovo village has been moved in recent years but to a place which is only a less than a half hour walk from the highly radiation polluted river. The Geiger counter readings we took by the river showed radiation levels 50 times higher than the level experts say is safe for humans.

mayak-disaster

Our driver, who himself suffers chronic radiation illness pointed to a car tyre frozen solid in icy marsh. He said if we tested our Geiger counter there we would get a reading at least three times higher than
the one we had.

There were no barriers or fences to keep people out. And there were footprints in the snow everywhere. A rusty sign warned people not to enter or pick the berries. But fishermen still come here. In the summer children still swim…….

Most of the children in this area suffer some form or other of radiation related illness.   Symptoms of Chronic radiation sickness include recurrent infections, swellings, anemia, unhealed wounds, hair
loss and bruises. Long term exposure to high rates of radiation causes birth defects and cancer.

Locals call it the “river sickness”.

The boy in our report with the growth on his neck is 17 years old. He has eight brothers and sisters. They all suffer from radiation related illness. His mother says she took him to the local doctor to get his neck checked.

She says the doctor told her the lump would disappear. She says her son was never even offered a biopsy.

This, in a place where people have died of cancer for decades. An area that has some of the highest levels of radiation pollution in the world.

“We are afraid, the consequences are terrifying. But where can we move
to?” she said… .. http://blogs.aljazeera.com/europe/2012/04/04/living-nuclear-hell