Ashley Braun's blog

A Witness to the Disappearing Wonder of Wild Orcas

Read time: 4 mins
A pod of orcas at sunset

I never thought I’d live to see an orca in the wild, a sobering prospect for someone in her 30s living in the Pacific Northwest. Or rather, I never thought the orcas would live long enough for me to see them in the wild.

I’m not talking about meeting just any orcas; I wanted to meet my orcas, the 74 remaining endangered Southern Residents who call the busy, steely blue waters of the Salish Sea their home.

In this corner of the cold Pacific Ocean spanning Washington and British Columbia, the Southern Resident orcas face more challenges than most, faring worse even than their nearby neighbors, the Northern Resident community, similar orcas who live similar salmon-eating lives farther north along the Pacific Coast.

Despite Trump, More Signs Coal Power’s Future Actually Looks Terrible in the US

Read time: 7 mins
Demolition of Richborough Power Station in the UK

In August, President Donald Trump told a rally in West Virginia: “We are back. The coal industry is back.” And to be sure, Trump keeps trying to revive the dying U.S. industry by doing things like relaxing pollution rules for coal power plants, pushing initiatives to keep failing coal plants open, and nominating a pro-coal candidate as a federal energy regulator.

Despite all that, however, the outlook for coal, especially in the U.S., is actually pretty terrible, and reminders of this just keep coming.

News Not to Miss: Oil Train Spill, China Petrochemical Deal, Methane Leaks

Read time: 4 mins
Oil train cars

It's hard to keep up with the flood of news these days. Here's your weekly round-up of news not to miss from DeSmog.

Justin Mikulka has been on the oil train beat for years. He's documented how the oil boom and pipeline bottleneck in the Bakken Shale has led to more, longer, and heavier trains shuttling oil across North America and how various factors also have led to another type of boom: the literal “boom” of exploding oil trains. (In fact, train operators have given them the nickname “bomb trains.”)

This week, Mikulka writes about the latest oil train incident, this time involving a BNSF train carrying tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, across northwestern Iowa.

Rick Perry Resorts to Subsidizing Coal With Measures Used in Wartime and Natural Disasters

Read time: 5 mins
Rick Perry and Ryan Zinke at 2018 CPAC

Under the purported banner of national security, Energy Secretary Rick Perry appears again to have heeded the self-described “desperate” calls of coal baron Robert Murray in order to prop up dying coal and nuclear plants. This time, Perry is planning to resort to federal emergency measures typically employed during wartime or natural disasters, according to Bloomberg.

TigerSwan Employee Applied for Security License in Louisiana Without Disclosing Ties — After Firm’s Attempt Was Denied

Read time: 7 mins
Bayou Bridge pipeline protester Ann White Hat being arrested in Louisiana

The private security firm TigerSwan, known for its controversial military-style tactics against Dakota Access pipeline protesters, is appealing the decision to deny its application for a license to operate in the state of Louisiana, where Energy Transfer Partners is building the Bayou Bridge pipeline. In November, several environmental groups opposed to the Bayou Bridge pipeline attempted to intervene in this case, saying their members were particularly vulnerable to TigerSwan’s security and surveillance practices should it be allowed to operate in support of that oil pipeline, but today the Louisiana State Board of Private Security Examiners denied this request.

However, during this process, it came to light that the state board denied another security license application from a TigerSwan employee who failed to disclose her employment with the firm after TigerSwan’s application was rejected.

Nations Won’t Reach Paris Climate Goal Without Protecting Wildlife and Nature, Warns Report

Read time: 4 mins
Sierpe river mangrove forest in Costa Rica

A sweeping new report released today emphasizes just how intertwined the challenges of climate change and loss of biodiversity truly are.

The Paris Climate Agreement and several other United Nations (UN) pacts “all depend on the health and vitality of our natural environment in all its diversity and complexity,” said Dr. Anne Larigauderie, executive secretary of the UN-backed organization behind the report. “Acting to protect and promote biodiversity is at least as important to achieving these commitments and to human well-being as is the fight against global climate change.”

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