Shut Down America’s Bird Death Traps: USFWS To Tackle Bird Kills at Oil Pits, Gas Flares, Power Lines

Audubon head: “We’re talking about tens of millions of birds every year. It’s time to end this terrible and unnecessary slaughter.”

NEW YORK (May 22, 2015) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced its intent (https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/05/26/2015-12666/migratory-bird-permits-environmental-impact-statement) to address millions of grisly and unnecessary bird deaths by strengthening implementation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (http://www.audubon.org/mbta), one of the nation’s oldest and most important wildlife conservation laws. The process will address threats like uncovered oil waste pits that trap and kill birds, gas flares that lure and incinerate birds, and unprotected communication towers and power lines that kill and electrocute birds by the tens of millions each year.

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“Every day, countless death traps across America needlessly kill birds in horrible ways, from electrocution to drowning in oil – we’re talking about tens of millions of birds every year,” said National Audubon Society President and CEO David Yarnold (@david_yarnold). “It’s time to end this terrible and unnecessary slaughter. There is hope: in many cases, the tools and technology to save birds have already been developed. It’s time to make sure everyone plays by the same rules. Protecting wildlife is a deeply held American value, and we know that when we do the right things for birds, we’re doing the right things for people too.”

While obtaining reliable estimates of bird mortality from various hazards is challenging due to lack of standardized procedures and poor or absent reporting by some industries, it is clear that millions of birds could be saved by addressing the following sources of mortality, all of which are named in the USFWS document released today:

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Power lines: Up to 175 million birds per year (Source: http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/documents/psw_gtr191/Asilomar/pdfs/1051-1064.pdf)
Communication towers: Up to 50 million birds per year (Source: http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/documents/psw_gtr191/Asilomar/pdfs/1051-1064.pdf)
Oil waste pits: 500,000 to 1 million birds per year (Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16988870)
Gas flares: No reliable mortality estimates, but an infamous 2013 incident in Canada incinerated an estimated 7,500 birds (Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/7-500-songbirds-killed-at-canaport-gas-plant-in-saint-john-1.1857615)

“This is just common sense. We can save the lives of millions of birds every year by adopting practical, inexpensive solutions that put an end to these death traps,” said Audubon Vice President for Government Relations Mike Daulton. “These horrific deaths have gone on far too long.”

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Congress passed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918 in response to public outcry over the mass slaughter of birds, which threatened egrets and other species with extirpation. The law prohibits killing or harming America’s birds except under certain conditions, including managed hunting seasons for game species. The law protects more than 1,000 bird species.

Early Audubon Society activists were instrumental in passage of the law and in shifting Americans’ relationship with its birds and other wildlife following the extinction of birds like the Passenger Pigeon and Carolina Parakeet near the turn of the 20th century.

The National Audubon Society saves birds and their habitats throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at www.audubon.org and @audubonsociety.

Solar Program to Train Troops for Civilian Careers

Obama: Solar Program to Train Troops for Civilian Careers
04/03/2015 05:42 PM CDT

By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 3, 2015 – As the solar industry continues to create new jobs and spur the economy, President Barack Obama announced today at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, significant strides to prime separating service members for entry into the workforce.

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Obama reported an overall goal to train 75,000 workers for the renewable energy industry by 2020. “As part of this, we’re creating what we’re calling a ‘Solar Ready Vets’ program,” he said, “… modeled after some successful pilot initiatives … established over the last several years.”

Hill is one of 10 military installations slated to participate, he noted. Solar Ready Vets, the president said, is “one of the many steps we’re taking to help nearly 700,000 [service members,] veterans and military spouses get a job.”

“As part of this effort, we’re also going to work with states to enable more veterans to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill for solar job training,” he said.

That educational funding would enable more veterans to participate in the job-driven training program. The solar industry, Obama said, offers “good-paying jobs.” He added, “Today what we’re going to try to do is to build on the progress that’s already been made.”

Training Initiatives Expanding

Solar Ready Vets is underway at Camp Pendleton, California, Fort Carson, Colorado, and Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, all of which announced pilot initiatives earlier this year.

The Energy and Defense departments are joining efforts in the Solar Ready Vets initiative, DoD officials said. DoE’s “SunShot” Solar Instructor Training Network will leverage DoD’s Skillbridge, a program that allows service members to participate in job training — including apprenticeships and internships — beginning up to six months before they leave the military.

Under the program, service members will learn how to size and install solar panels, connect electricity to the grid, and interpret and comply with local building codes. According to White House officials, the accelerated training will prepare troops for careers as installers, sales representatives, system inspectors and other solar-related occupations.

National Security Includes Economic Security

“One of the most important aspects of national security is strong economic security,” Obama said. “We can’t maintain the best military that the world has ever known unless we also have an economy that’s humming.”

Employers Eyeing More Veterans

The president noted that the solar industry is adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy, making it a promising prospect for veterans. “Employers are starting to catch on if you really want to get the job done, hire a veteran,” Obama said.

“What is true for DoD has to be true for the entire country,” the president said. U.S. energy is “going to provide enormous prospects for jobs and careers for a whole lot of folks out there if we continue to make this investment,” he added.

(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDODNews) at USDOD

Next up for Keystone XL: the question of national interest will show that the tar sands pipeline must be rejected

As the assessment of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline enters the final stages with the release of the final environmental review, there are a lot of questions about what we can expect. Bottom line: the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a project that brings risk with no reward. The environmental review for the pipeline is one step and it has been contentious. But the decisive phase is the national interest determination over the coming months.

Given the overwhelming evidence, a national interest determination will show that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would create few jobs, bring tar sands to the Gulf for export, and put farms, homes and fresh water at risk. Add to that the fact that Keystone XL will drive tar sands expansion, significantly worsening climate pollution, it is clear that there is no justification for allowing the project to go forward.

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in the national interest and should be rejected.

The Executive Directive under which decisions are made on transboundary energy projects such as Keystone XL requires this national interest determination which starts after the environmental review is completed. The national interest determination period is at least 90 days and the State Department has said it would also have a process for public input.

Let’s review how completely this dirty energy project fails the national interest test on a few critical points:

Keystone XL’s path to export means less economic and energy security for the US, not more: Keystone XL tar sands oil is mostly destined for export. This is not a pipeline for US economic or energy security, but a project to spur tar sands expansion, raise oil prices and help the oil industry. Why this push to export tar sands overseas? It is commonly acknowledged by the oil industry and financial analysts that tar sands expansion is currently stalled due to the low prices for this very expensive to extract fuel. Without avenues for overseas export, the tar sands market is primarily the US Midwest and Rockies and Canada where there is currently a glut that has depressed oil prices. What the oil industry wants is higher oil prices for its expensive to extract tar sands.

Hardly a recipe for US economic security.

Climate change is not in our national interest: In the recent State of the Union speech, President Obama said, “And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.” The United States broke one record after another for extreme weather in 2013. From deadly floods in Colorado to prolonged drought across the Southwest, Americans saw what unchecked climate change can do to our communities and we know that climate change is not in our national interest. The growing cost of climate change to US taxpayers is not in our national interest and this is a fact that even industry is increasingly recognizing as the financial risks of climate change increase. And it is clear that the Keystone XL project will make climate change worse by enabling expansion of the climate polluting tar sands in Canada. The growth path that the tar sands industry would like to see for itself is not inevitable. We can make more climate-friendly choices for North American energy.

We can do better with clean energy construction jobs without risk to farming jobs and water in America’s heartland. Although we are likely to continue to see reports of jobs exaggerated by pipeline supporters, the facts are that Keystone XL will mean approximately 35 permanent jobs and 3,900 construction jobs with only 10% of the workforce hired locally. What is more, the pipeline could hurt jobs along its path if there is a spill.

Farming, ranching, and tourism are major sources of employment along the Keystone XL pipeline’s proposed route – approximately 571,000 workers are directly employed in the agricultural sector in the states along the Keystone XL corridor. The unique risks associated with diluted bitumen tar sands spills are truly frightening in a pipeline that would cross more than 1000 water bodies, including 50 perennial rivers or streams, and several aquifers, including the Ogallala while also coming within a mile of approximately 2500 water wells. We can do better.

As a result of our clean energy industry’s rapid growth and effective state and federal policies, clean energy projects and programs currently in progress are creating thousands of jobs in communities across the country without the risk of oil contamination.

The evidence will show that in order to fight climate change and move ahead in the national interest President Obama should reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

As the President noted in his State of the Union speech, clean energy is an area rich with energy resources and economic opportunities. The way to best serve our national interest is to continue to increase our energy and fuel efficiency, strengthen our renewable energy, use smarter growth, and electrify our vehicles. We have better choices for our national interest that the dirty energy Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Source: Natural Resources Defense Council, Posted January 31, 2014

President Obama Announces New Energy Efficiency Manufacturing Hub in North Carolina Visit

Posted January 15, 2014

Here is the latest post by my colleague Luis Martinez, on NRDC’s energy and transportation team:

President Obama dropped into our state (North Carolina) on a clean-energy visit Wednesday to tour a private company’s research into energy efficiency and to unveil a new private-public energy consortium at North Carolina State University.

The president’s visit also serves as a nod toward the Tar Heel State’s nation-leading efforts to create clean-energy jobs and the strong pushback in the past year against efforts to ease regulation that promotes clean energy.

In Raleigh, Obama spent an hour in the offices of the power manufacturing company Vacon, a Finnish company that opened a research-and-development facility in 2012 in the Research Triangle Park. Vacon manufactures AC drives, which control the speed of electric motors to maximize energy efficiency.

Accompanied by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Vacon Vice President Dan Isaksson, the president stopped at a display of computer screens and devices and got an overview of the technology from Vacon engineer Rod Washington. Obama said Vacon’s work was leading to a “huge increase of efficiencies of power” that saves money. At a second stop in the plant, Obama praised the company’s “good work” and efforts to link up with local universities.

An hour later, Obama was back in the heart of Raleigh at North Carolina State, where he announced that the university’s Centennial Campus will be home to a consortium of companies and universities that aims to develop the next generation of energy-efficient electronic chips and devices.

Participating in the consortium are seven universities and 18 companies, including companies such as Cree and ABB that have a large presence in the Raleigh-Durham area. The consortium, called the Next Generation Power Electronics Institute, will over the next five years receive $70 million from the U.S. Energy Department and $10 million from the state. The consortium partners will march the federal money with an additional $70 million.

The North Carolina consortium is the first of three manufacturing centers that Obama proposed in his State of the Union address last year. The N.C. bid was selected in a competition launched last May. The two other institutes are still in the selection process, and the White House said Wednesday they should be announced soon.

North Carolina’s advances in clean-energy technologies are the envy of many states. Research from RTI International has found that clean-energy businesses have created more than 21,000 jobs and brought in $1.7 billion into North Carolina’s economy.

And our business affiliate Environmental Entrepreneurs has found that North Carolina is No. 5 for solar development and No. 2 in clean energy and clean transportation jobs announcements.

Even amid such demonstrated results, resistance to clean-energy policy remains. Opponents took a hard run at repealing North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard. This rule requires investor-owned utilities to produce 12.5 percent of their electricity by 2021 using renewable resources and energy efficiency.

Ultimately, the repeal effort failed – largely because of the tide of clean-energy jobs that have come into North Carolina precisely because of the standard. Republican Rep. Tim Moore of Cleveland County told The News & Observer of Raleigh that his vote “was based off local issues back home. I would have had a difficult time talking to a CEO who just brought 300 jobs to Cleveland County (and telling him) that I’m going to vote to eliminate this program that justified their investment.”

Additional movement towards a clean energy economy happened this November when the state’s utilities commission approved a “shared savings” program that will compensate Duke Energy for its investments in energy efficiency programs if they save money for customers. With “shared savings,” Duke Energy customers will keep close to 90 percent of efficiency savings, and Duke earns the rest.

Wednesday’s presidential visit and announcement only pushes North Carolina further ahead in clean energy. But it doesn’t take a visit by a chief executive to get Tar Heels thinking about energy efficiency – they already know it’s the future.

Source: NRDC