Editorials and Opinion
Legislature shouldn't weaken levee board reforms: Editorial (Advocate [Baton Rouge, LA], 04/09/14)
"Gov. Jindal's move to get more control over the authorities is not surprising, given how upset he was about the lawsuit the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East filed last year in hopes of forcing 97 oil and gas companies to pay for damage to the state's coastline."
EDITORIAL Our Views: Don’t limit court actions (Advocate [Baton Rouge, LA], 04/09/14)
"We’d prefer a political answer to the coastal catastrophe in which the many parties who compromised Louisiana’s wetlands over the years help pay the billions it will cost to repair them. But without the threat of court action, what’s the incentive for powerful corporate interests to come to the negotiating table? Decades of political expedience led to the environmental disaster of Louisiana’s vanishing coastline. These bills seem like more of the same, and that’s bad news for a state so vulnerable to continuing coastal decline."
Guest commentary: Why is lawsuit such a bad idea? (Advocate [Baton Rouge, LA], 04/09/14)
Prof. Oliver Houck: "Louisiana legislators, still searching for a reason to quash the New Orleans levee board’s you-broke-it-you-fix it lawsuit against major oil companies, have turned up instead a canard. ...I do not think we are ready to write off the 5 million acres of wetlands that used to buffer us from the Gulf of Mexico and have provided so much bounty.... Not much time, though, because of the beast whose name our legislators have trouble mentioning as well: sea level rise. Every time it is measured, the rates go up. ... Louisiana will require major funding to hold whatever line it can.... but one big player is missing: the one that created much of our predicament (most conservative estimates start at one-third of coastal loss), made large sums of money so doing and has so far avoided paying any part of the bill: The oil and gas industry.
That is all the levee board suit is asking: not that this industry be heaped in blame, not that it pay for all harm, just that it pay its share."
Editorial: Flowing under the radar (Anniston Star [AL] , 04/08/14)
"Were it not for environmental groups keeping watch on the Alabama Legislature, lawmakers in Montgomery might have slipped through yet another stealth bill.... The matter in question is stormwater runoff, which, of all the things that pollute streams, is one of the worst.... It’s clear that this is one more attempt to block Environmental Protection Agency rules and poke a finger in the federal eye, something Alabama legislators love to do. But in doing this, the state risks being hauled into court for violating the Federal Clean Water Act. If so, Alabama money again would be spent fighting a losing battle."
Editorial: Logic runs through it: An EPA rule will clarify its authority on water (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA] , 04/08/14)
"“All the rivers run into the sea,” notes Ecclesiastes, and they do this even if they are streams that do not flow all year. As long as water flows downhill, pollution in one place can be carried to another. So it makes sense that the Environmental Protection Agency has long sought to recognize this reality. But Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 have confused the understanding of which waterways can be subject to EPA rules. On March 25 it issued a proposal to clarify that intermittent streams near bigger ones will be covered."
Inquirer Editorial: Cleaning up New Jersey's act (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 04/07/14)
"With a new United Nations report showing global warming is getting worse, the window to protect food supplies and endangered coastal communities is closing. But progress is being made. In New Jersey, an appellate court has ruled that Gov. Christie was wrong to pull out of a regional compact to reduce climate-changing pollution.... it's clear that New Jersey should return to the RGGI.... Christie should take a cue from the Environmental Protection Agency, which ... for a decade after a court order failed to clarify its authority under the Clean Water Act. The EPA recently issued a rule placing millions of acres of wetlands and miles of streams under its jurisdiction."
If Legislature forbids levee lawsuits, Louisiana taxpayers will pay the price of coastal repairs: Mark Davis (Times-Picayune [LA] , 04/06/14)
"Right now, the Legislature is deciding whether or not Louisiana is best served by re-politicizing our flood protection and inoculating the oil and gas industry against having to live up to its obligations to our coast and environment. Both moves stem from the decision by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East to file a lawsuit against a number of oil and gas companies for impairing the authority's ability to provide flood protection by failing to live up to their legal duties to repair the damage they have done to our coastal wetlands."
Guest commentary: Levee vegetation is saving taxpayers and the environment (Contra Costa Times [CA] , 04/05/14)
John Gioia, member, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors and president, California State Association of Counties: "The recent U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' interim decision allowing local levee management agencies to leave trees and other vegetation on levees is a major win for local residents, taxpayers and the environment. Many areas of California, including Contra Costa, rely on levees for flood protection. We now need to keep working to make sure this interim decision becomes permanent law.... In some cases, the Corps even required a local agency to remove trees and other vegetation that provided habitat for an endangered species -- a true Catch-22."
Editorial: Victory for clean water (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 04/04/14)
"A federal judge brought long-awaited clarity and common sense last week to the state's age-old practice of pumping polluted water into South Florida's Lake Okeechobee. U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas' finding that the practice violated the Clean Water Act is a victory for public health and Florida's environment"
Forum editorial: Confluence oil spill is troubling (Forum of Fargo-Moorhead [ND], 03/25/14)
"Here is a generous serving of high praise for North Dakota Game and Fish supervisor Kent Luttschwager. He seems to be one of the few (the only?) state habitat/wildlife managers who has spoken out forcefully regarding oil pollution....The mess will require extensive cleanup, and could be a threat to the endangered pallid sturgeon, one of the iconic fish species in the rivers.... But there is no effective regulation that orders the wells be shut down and secured before damage and spills occur. There are no short-term or long-term response plans for protecting habitat after a spill. In other words, it’s pretty much up to the oil well companies to respond in the way they see fit, which they can do because what regulation exists is perceived as toothless."
Opinion: The Endangered Species Act turns 40 (Rutland Daily Herald [VT] , 03/16/14)
Deb Markowitz and Dorothy Allard: "Global climate change is causing extreme fluctuations in weather, as well as drought, floods, ice and fire, and weakens species already at risk. In Vermont, the warming climate impacts our high alpine habitat, and is causing a rapid increase in the spread of forest pests and invasive species. Increased rainfall rates mean we have more pollution running into our lakes and streams, threatening important spawning grounds of many fish species.... But if nothing else, working together for the forty years since the Endangered Species Act was signed into law has proven that we can find a way to protect the biodiversity that makes our planet and its ecosystems work for all of us. In one of the great comeback stories of the last century, the bald eagle, gray whale, American alligator and many other species were saved from becoming consigned to memory because of the federal Endangered Species Act."
Editorial: A Reprieve for Bristol Bay (New York Times, 03/03/14)
"E.P.A. determined that even a carefully designed mining operation would exact a heavy toll on wildlife during construction, destroying more than 80 miles of spawning streams and extensive wetlands. The mine would also generate huge amounts of highly acidic wastes that, in the event of an accident, would pollute streams and wetlands and greatly harm Bristol Bay."
Editorial: To Save Fish and Birds (New York Times, 02/16/14)
"The researchers identified five essential characteristics of the most successful marine-protected areas: These areas were designated “no take” (allowing no fishing whatsoever), their rules were well enforced, they were more than 10 years old, they were bigger than 100 square kilometers, and they were isolated by deep water or sand.... Governments and scientists need to work together to better design, maintain, improve and protect “protected areas.”"
EDITORIAL: U.S. Senate is tackling drought relief (Fresno Bee [CA] , 02/11/14)
"There is much to like in the senators' ideas. As Feinstein pointed out Tuesday morning in a conference call with The Bee editorial board, the proposed drought relief wouldn't violate the Endangered Species and Clean Water acts."
Editorial: McCarthy should whip a new water deal into shape (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 02/04/14)
"Among other things, H.R. 3964 would:
• Repeal the bipartisan settlement aimed at restoring flows in the San Joaquin River, which once supported spring-run salmon before it started drying up after the Friant Dam was built in the 1940s. This is unnecessary. • Override the bipartisan state law, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act of 2009, that requires that any actions in the Delta be aimed at achieving co-equal goals of restoring the Delta and improving water supply reliability."
Editorial: Playing politics with California's drought; Competing interests are working together on water. A House GOP bill would undermine their efforts. (Los Angeles Times, 02/03/14)
"Funny, isn't it, that folks who question man's ability to affect the global climate are so quick to assign human causes to the drought? ... In their imagined "people versus fish" scenario, towns are going dry and growers are going out of business because crazy environmentalists are hogging water to protect an obscure fish, the delta smelt. Water that could irrigate fields and keep people working is instead being kept in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and flushed into the ocean. What they don't like to point out is that without that supposed flush pushing out into the Pacific, seawater would continue to intrude farther into the delta, leaving only useless salty brine to pump into canals and onto fields — and then where would the growers and the rest of us be? ... And as for the smelt, the Endangered Species Act protects not only that fish but all of us, by holding together the fragile environmental web we rely on."
Editorial: Law favors fish over people? No, people need fish (Redding Record Searchlight [CA], 01/29/14)
"“How you can favor a fish over people is something the people in my part of the world would not understand.” So said no less an eminence than House Speaker John Boehner, of Ohio, last week while visiting California to promote a measure that would waive various federal protections of rare fish and halt an effort to restore salmon to the San Joaquin River.... But let’s be clear about one thing: We don’t favor fish over people, even if the law might look that way sometimes. We favor fish for people.
Salmon make a tasty dinner and keep thousands of Northern Californians employed ... Nobody much loves the poor Delta smelt, a “3-inch baitfish” that has become a symbol of misguided priorities to San Joaquin Valley conservatives. But little fish feed big fish. Killing off the bottom of the food chain works about as well as pulling the foundation out from under a house."
PD Editorial: No drought in California's water wars (Press Democrat [CA] , 01/27/14)
"[T]he Senate already rejected the House bill once — and for good reason. A drought isn't justification to ignore the Endangered Species Act or undercut one important California industry — salmon fishing — in favor of another — agriculture. Both need assistance to thrive, and both are accomplished water warriors. Boehner surely scored some points with the most militant growers, but his bill isn't going anywhere."
Editorial: A brazen GOP water grab (San Francisco Chronicle [CA] , 01/27/14)
"For simple-minded thinking on California's worsening drought, it would be hard to top the ideas trotted out by Republican leaders. Their plan: Divert water to farms and forget the environment.... House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, flew in to talk up the issue, playing the role of the puzzled outsider perplexed by California's water policies. Why not steer the flows to farms, not fish, he suggested, playing on long-running controversies over diverting water to save and restore historic fish runs. At his side were valley Republicans looking for an issue to improve their chances of re-election and widen the appeal of a party as endangered here as the salmon they denigrate."
Editorial: California's drought, times three; The state is facing three distinct water crises, each requiring its own emergency and long-term responses. (Los Angeles Times, 01/26/14)
"We may have to build new dams to store water for future use without drying up rivers and destroying the ecosystem, as dams in California historically have done. ...That means diverting some of the delta's water with pumps that do less damage to endangered fish and rely less on earthquake-vulnerable levees. The kind of system envisioned by the Bay Delta Conservation Plan would help all parts of California deal with global climate change and its inevitable result: precipitation that falls on the Sierra less like the snow that generations have come to rely on and more like the rain that comes, when it does, to Southern California in unmanageable torrents."
Editorial: Don't use 'drought emergency' to divide us (Bakersfield Californian [CA], 01/25/14)
"Boehner should know a thing or two about the "nonsense" of a bureaucracy that protects fish and water quality; he should know that when it comes to water, simple answers are exceedingly hard to come by. The legislation Boehner and the three Valley Republicans are proposing -- this time as a short-term emergency response -- was rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate and strongly opposed by state and federal agencies in 2012. Likely the proposed "emergency" legislation will meet the same end this year.... Coastal salmon fishermen say it will destroy their industry. And Delta farmers and environmentalists contend it is a blatant, short-sighted water grab fueled by political contributions from big growers....And increasing Delta exports in a dry year could end up hurting both the Delta and water users to the south. It could suck salty sea water into the Delta and into aqueducts that transport water to Valley and Southland farms and cities."
Boehner vs. fish and Delta farms (Sonoma Index-Tribune [CA] , 01/23/14)
By David Bolling/ Index-Tribune Editor: "Boehner, who is from Ohio and thus revealed his ignorance of both hydrological reality and environmental sustainability while milking the state’s potentially catastrophic drought for profoundly political purposes. Boehner was on hand to lend support to three Central Valley Congressmen who want to adopt federal legislation suspending the endangered species act, reversing restoration of the San Joaquin River and draining the Delta to water farms in Bakersfield, Tulare and Hanford, among other places, during the drought. Reducing the drought to a fallacious equation pitting endangered fish against people mocks science and blocks a rational conversation over wise, realistic and equitable solutions to California’s chronic water crisis. The bill Boehner says he’ll support would protect the interests of some farmers at the expense of others, while placing the future of salmon restoration in even greater peril."
Editorial: A Speaker Boehner runs through it (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 01/23/14)
"Along with GOP Reps. Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy and David Valadao, Boehner said he wants to delay implementation of the San Joaquin River Restoration Project until 2015, which would leave salmon high and dry. Anything Boehner can do to assist with Gov. Jerry Brown’s drought response would be welcome. Gutting the intent of the Endangered Species Act isn’t."
Editorial: Critical tool helps threatened species (Virginian-Pilot, 01/14/14)
"Endangered species in America would become considerably more endangered if the anti-regulation crowd in Congress ever gets its way. Thankfully, that doesn't appear likely, at least anytime soon. The Endangered Species Protection Act, signed by President Richard Nixon, reached its 40th birthday last month. It is one of those federal laws - like the Clean Air and Clean Water acts - that has done immense good for the nation simply by demanding that businesses and people be responsible for their own actions.... Republican Sens. Rand Paul and Dean Heller have introduced legislation that would gut the Endangered Species Act, requiring an act of Congress to add a new animal, allowing states to opt out, and requiring individual protections to be renewed every five years.... such legislation would reverse decades of progress, imperiling species that are already threatened. ... It has worked for 40 years, and it shouldn't be sacrificed simply because animals can't write campaign checks."
Save the Shark, Save the World (New York Times, 12/31/13)
OP-ED By JOSHUA S. REICHERT: "Given China’s immense size and expanding influence, it has the potential to play a key role in helping to solve the problems of climate change, overfishing, pollution and conservation. The new shark-fin diplomacy may prove to be a pivotal event — but only if China adopts the environmental leadership that the world so desperately needs."
Barack Obama Is Not George W. Bush (New York Magazine, 12/20/13)
Jonathan Chait: "Obama’s prospects for executive action are actually stronger now. The main impediments to an aggressive regulatory agenda were twofold. First, Republicans could stop regulations by blocking nominees for major agencies. Second, they held a functional majority on the D.C. Circuit Court, and stood poised to block Obama’s environmental and financial reforms. Republicans understood full well the importance of that court to Obama’s second term. (McConnell, again, identified the crucial dynamic: Obama’s second-term agenda, he said, “runs straight through the D.C. Circuit.”) That’s why Republicans took the extraordinary step of declaring a full blockade on any nominee for the court’s three vacancies, however ideologically moderate. And it’s why the Senate Democrats’ decision to abolish the judicial filibuster looms so large. With a stroke, they eliminated the strongest leverage Republicans have to gum up the president’s second term. Obama has managed to seat nominees to the Federal Housing Authority and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And the odds that the court will overturn new regulations have diminished sharply."
Editorial: The threat to Florida's manatees (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 12/20/13)
"The record kill-off this year, coming as the state's waters get more polluted, should be a wake-up call to state lawmakers and regulators, and a reminder to the voting public that protecting the environment must be serious work and not a political slogan.... meantime, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should not grant a petition being considered that would downgrade the status of manatees from an endangered to a threatened species. With this year's die-off, the mystery over what's happening in the Indian River Lagoon and the declining health of Florida's springs, this is no time to begin scaling back protections for manatees."