where checking accounts rebuild communities
Back to homepageInstitutional ReportsSRI Financial Professionals DirectoryToolsNewsSRI Performance and TrendsAbout Us   

August 21, 2015
Drilling in the Arctic, Mining at the Grand Canyon
    by Robert Kropp

President Obama's legacy on climate will be compromised by Shell drilling for oil in the Arctic, and the Grand Canyon is under siege from uranium mining and tourism development.

On June 26, 2009—just months after Barack Obama assumed the Presidency—the US House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, commonly referred to as the Waxman-Markey Clean Energy Bill, by a vote of 219 to 212. The bill, of course, never made it through the Senate; if it had, electric utilities would be required to meet 20% of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by 2020, $190 billion would have been invested in new clean energy technologies and energy efficiency, and a federal cap-and-trade program would reduce carbon emissions by 17% by 2020 and over 80% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.

Here it is more than six years later, and instead of throwing the bully pulpit behind a national campaign to combat climate change, the Obama administration has given final approval to Shell to resume its disastrous effort to drill for oil in the Arctic. Shell has spent seven billion dollars on its efforts thus far, with little to show for it but repeated mishaps that would be comic were it not for their potential for environmental disaster.

A report published earlier this year stated, “The US Arctic Ocean presents almost a perfect storm of risks. These include a requirement for a long-term capital-intensive investment for uncertain return, a uniquely challenging operating environment, a lack of extraction and spill response infrastructure, and intense media and public scrutiny.”

Ironically, Obama is scheduled to visit Alaska later this month, to take part in an international conference on the impact of climate change on the Arctic region. The
Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience, (GLACIER) “will discuss individual and collective action to address climate change in the Arctic; raise the visibility of climate impacts in the Arctic as a harbinger for the world, and the Arctic’s unique role in global climate change; identify ways that Arctic innovators are responding to these critical challenges; and share opportunities to prepare and respond to other issues in the changing Arctic,” according to the State Department.

Obama “will probably say he is mindful of the dangers of offshore drilling and of climate change, but that oil will be with us for a long time yet, that UN agreements will progressively reduce global emissions and that the transition away from fossil fuels cannot be done overnight,”
John Vidal of The Guardian wrote. “ Obama caving in to Big Oil, giving a licence to continue business as usual. Here is the US – claiming to be the leader in the fight to reduce emissions – backing the riskiest, least-needed oil in the world while saying that the future is clean energy.”

An environmentally pristine Arctic is doubtlessly a national treasure, as is the Grand Canyon. But the Grand Canyon is currently under siege as well, from tourism development and a resumption of uranium mining. In April, the
C enter for Biological Diversity reported that a federal judge refused a request to halt new uranium mining near the site, despite the fact that the last environmental review of the practice was conducted in 1986. In 2009, the Interior Department ordered a halt in uranium mining near the Canyon until a thorough assessment of the impacts could be done. In 2012, the ban was extended for another 20 years.

“This uranium project could haunt the Grand Canyon region for decades to come,” said Katie Davis of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Uranium mining leaves a highly toxic legacy that endangers human health, wildlife and the streams and aquifers that feed the Grand Canyon. It’s disappointing to see the Forest Service prioritizing the extraction industry over the long-term protection of a place as iconic as the Grand Canyon.”

It does not appear that the Forest Service has ruled yet on a proposal to build a massive tourist attraction within the town of Tusayan, which is next to the Grand Canyon and surrounded by national forest. In order for the development to occur, the Forest Service will have to provide easements to allow for the paving of dirt and gravel roads through the forest. “The Forest Service right of way is the linchpin for the whole development,” said Grand Canyon Superintendent Dave Uberuaga, who is against the development.

Stilo, the Italian developer proposing the project, has not specified how it would meet the water demands of such an ambitious development. “The increase in residents and visitation will have tremendous negative (and possibly irretrievable) impacts on the park infrastructure and resources for which the park was established, including the fragile seeps and springs that represent some of the least altered water resources in the southwest,” Uberuaga wrote in a letter to the Tusayan town planner.

The nongovernmental organization (NGO)
American Rivers cited threats of development in designating the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon as the nation's most endangered river.


| Reports | SRI Financial Professionals Directory | Tools | News | SRI Performance and Trends | About Us | Contact
© SRI World Group, Inc. - All rights reserved
Terms of use - Privacy Policy - OneReportTM Network