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‘It’s No Longer About Saying No’: How B.C.’s First Nations Are Taking Charge With Tribal Parks

Dasiqox Tribal Park declaration

As the crow flies, the territory of the Tsilhqot’in Nation lies just 300 kilometres north of Vancouver — but, cut off by the coastal mountains, it feels like a world away.
 
By car it takes about nine hours to arrive in the heart of the territory from the Lower Mainland, including an hour or two down a dirt road. If you’re one of the lucky few to arrive here, you’ll be standing on the territory of the only First Nation in Canada to win legal title to its land.
 
On June 26, 2014, the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s 25-year court battle came to an end when the Supreme Court unanimously ruled the nation holds title to approximately 1,900 square kilometres of its traditional territory.
 
Just months after that historic win, the Tsilhqot’in National Government pushed forward with another statement of its sovereignty — this time the declaration of the Dasiqox Tribal Park, located just outside of the nation’s title lands, but within the area the Supreme Court ruled the Tsilhqot’in have constitutionally protected rights to hunt, fish and trap.

Dimock Water Contamination Verdict Prompts Calls for Federal Action on Fracking

Last week, in a historic verdict, a Pennsylvania jury awarded $4.24 million to two families in Dimock, PA who sued a shale gas driller, Cabot Oil and Gas Corp., over negligent drilling that contaminated their drinking water supplies.

Dimock has for years been one the nation's highest-profile cases where shale gas drilling and fracking was suspected to have contaminated water, a claim the oil and gas industry strenuously denied. Controversy over the water quality swirled as state and federal regulators repeatedly flip-flopped over who was responsible for the water contamination — and whether the water might even be safe to drink.

For years, Cabot Oil and Gas has maintained that the problems with the water were simply cosmetic or aesthetic, and that even if the water was not good, their operations in the area had nothing to do with it.

The federal jury's verdict last Thursday represents a legal conclusion that the water was in fact contaminated because of the negligence of the drilling company — no small matter for those who spent years living in a deeply fractured community where emotions over the shale rush have run high and pitted neighbor against neighbor.

The verdict also has broader ramifications for the national debate over shale drilling and water contamination.

Oregon First to End Coal Era: Landmark Ban Sets National Standard for Clean Energy

The Oregon legislature just put another nail in the coffin of the coal era.

On Friday, Oregon governor Kate Brown signed into law one of the most ambitious and sweeping pieces of energy legislation in the country’s history, one which will eradicate the use of coal for electricity generation entirely within two decades.

The pioneering law makes Oregon the first state in the nation to legislate a ban on coal for the electric supply, while also mandating that utilities provide half of their electricity from new renewable sources by 2040.

Add those new renewables to Oregon’s existing hydropower resources and, in less than 25 years, the state’s electric sector will be between 70 and 90-percent carbon-free, one of the cleanest energy portfolios in the country.

Audit of Federal Railroad Administration Enforcement Reveals Serious Failures

In January, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) released the report “Rigged Justice - How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy” detailing what is known as regulatory capture.

A key point made in the report is that serious corporate offenses — even those resulting in massive environmental contamination or deaths — almost never result in criminal charges against the individuals involved. The most likely outcome is always a small fine that, when compared to the corporation’s annual profits, is nothing more than a rounding error.

While “Rigged Justice” did not specifically focus on the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), an audit of the FRA’s policies on hazardous material transportation by the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Transportation released in February found many of the same issues.

Echoing the message of Warren’s report, the audit notes that “penalties have little deterrent effect, and criminal penalties are not being pursued.”

The audit notes that within the sample of cases reviewed, 17 cases could have been referred for criminal investigation and yet none were. The audit estimates that over 20% of all violations could be reviewed for criminal investigation.

Exclusive: Newly Released Inspection Reports on Keystone XL’s Southern Route Fuel Doubt Over ‘Safest Pipeline Ever Built' Claims

TransCanada’s claim that the southern route of the Keystone XL Pipeline is the safest pipeline ever built in the United States is challenged by the release of new documentation confirming multiple code violations.
 
Daily inspection reports on the construction of the pipeline obtained by the Tar Sands Blockade, an activist group, renew questions about the pipeline’s integrity.

Warren Buffett's Quieter Quest to Kill Solar in the West

There are solar battles blazing all across the west right now, as utilities anchored to fossil fuel power plants strain to avoid the inevitable spread of solar across their areas of operation.

Not a month goes by without a story of some assault on solar-friendly policies by utilities, or by the Utility Commissions that are often in their pocket.

During the holidays at the end of 2015, it was Nevada’s utter dismembering of its net metering policy. Nevada is—or was—one of 42 states that offered net metering, a program through which customers with solar arrays are compensated for the energy they produce on their rooftops or in small installations connected to the electric grid.

NV Energy Inc. unleashed this full frontal attack on the program that—in one quick vote of three unelected commissioners—pulled the rug out from under 17,000 solar customers and eviscerated at least 8,000 solar jobs. And the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) was happy to oblige.

Fossil Fuel Industry Spending Millions On 2016 Presidential Candidates

By Alex Kotch
 
When candidates run for president, they receive a slew of donations from across the business world, from sectors such as finance, insurance and real estate, health, communications and electronics, labor, and energy and natural resources. Some of these donations have come under scrutiny recently, particularly those from Wall Street and those from the fossil fuel industry.
 
Disturbed by current elected officials’ inaction on climate change at least in part due to the powerful influence the fossil fuel industry has on policy, environmentalists and concerned citizens are pushing the 2016 presidential candidates to reject campaign contributions from industry political action committees (PACs) and people who work in the industry.
 
Last July, The Nation and 350 Action called on the candidates to sign their pledge to refuse donations from oil, gas or coal companies; however, direct federal contributions from companies are illegal. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who recently dropped out of the presidential contest, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein have signed the pledge.
 
In December, Greenpeace and 19 other organizations asked the candidates to sign on to their Pledge to Fix Democracy, a pledge to defend voting rights, overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission decision, and to refuse “money from fossil fuel interests.” These interests, as defined by Greenpeace, mean fossil fuel company PACs, registered lobbyists that work on behalf of such a company, or top executives. Only Sen. Sanders has signed this pledge.
 
A look into the financial support that the fossil fuel industry has given presidential contenders may shed light on their resistance to these anti-fossil fuel pledges.

Positive Train Control, Critical Rail Safety Improvement, Delayed for Decades

In the recent New York Times article “The Wreck of Amtrak 188” Federal Railroad Administration leader Sarah Feinberg explained the advantages of the rail safety technology known as positive train control (PTC).
 
“I’ll describe it to you this way,” Feinberg said. “If a train is traveling in an area where P.T.C. isn’t in place and working as a backstop, you’ve got a situation where an engineer has to execute everything perfectly every hour, every day, every week. All the time. Because the slightest, smallest lapse can mean disaster.”
 
The general consensus is that the Amtrak 188 train crash — which caused eight fatalities — would have been avoided if positive train control was in place. The system would have slowed the train automatically so that it didn’t head into a hard curve going much too fast.
 
But despite the fact PTC was first recommended as a safety measure by the National Transportation Safety Board in 1970, the railroads have failed to install positive train control. So the smallest lapse can mean disaster.

Fend Off Iran? First Company That Exported US Crude Oil Now Exporting Iran's Oil

Proponents of lifting the U.S. crude oil export ban trumpeted the rhetorical question that since U.S. geopolitical rival Iran can export its oil, why can't the United States?

But now that “liquid freedom” has begun to flow from American export terminals to the global market, it turns out the same company that exported the first batch of U.S. crude oil to the global market is now also exporting Iranian oil products. That company, the Switzerland-based Vitol Group, was profiled in an investigative piece on DeSmog late last year. 

“Vitol, one of the world's largest traders in oil and oil products in terms of volumes, has fixed three vessels to load Iranian condensate,” Platts reported on January 29. “The recent removal of sanctions on Iran has resulted in international companies rushing to trade in Iranian petroleum with the latest being Vitol.”

What Are The Chances Of Getting All These Record Hot Years Without The Extra Greenhouse Gases? The Answer...

From hot to fractionally less hot, here are the planet’s ten warmest years on record – 2015, 2014, 2010, 2005, 2007, 2013, 2009, 1998, 2002 and 2006.

These are the numbers according to NASA and include measurements taken on land and at sea in a record that goes back to the year 1880.

Now that’s a pretty remarkable run of hot years for an era when, according to the rusted-on professional climate science denialists, global warming was supposed to have stopped.

But what are the chances of getting a run of “hottest on record” years like that - 14 of the 16 hottest years all happening since 2000 - without all the extra greenhouse gases that humans have been judiciously stockpiling in the atmosphere and oceans?

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