Conservation Update - January 2015

Feinstein and Graham Introduce Bill to Crack Down on Illegal Wildlife Trafficking
On January 8th, a bill with bipartisan support was introduced to increase penalties for illegal wildlife poaching and trafficking. Illegal wildlife trafficking generates an average $8 - $10 billion annually in illicit funds, making it one of the top 5 global crimes. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced the introduction of the Wildlife Trafficking Enforcement Act as a response to increased poaching and trafficking, and the imminent extinction of the African Elephant, which is being poached faster than it can reproduce. In 2013, more than 20,000 African Elephants were slaughtered. Read more here:
New Congressional Leadership Gets to Work on Energy and Environment Policy Priorities for the Next Two Years
With some new energy and environment leadership, Congressional committees, chairs and ranking members are beginning to lay out their priorities for the next two years. Most of these priorities are staunchly anti-conservation, and measures that NLCV does not support:
In the Senate:
“Former Senate Environment and Public Works Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA) led the way, introducing numerous energy and climate bills, including:
  • altering the five-year Outer Continental Shelf lease plan (S. 59);
  • forcing approval of the Keystone XL pipeline;
  • prohibiting the United States from regulating CO2 unless China, Russia, and India have similar regulations (S. 66);
  • reorganizing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission;
  • extending the offshore boundaries of several Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern states to three marine leagues from the coast line;
  • blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from vetoing Clean Water Act permits for dredge-and-fill operations if the Army Corps of Engineers has issued or plans to issue permits (S. 54); and
  • expressing the sense of the Senate that a carbon tax is not in the interest of the United States (S. Con. Res. 1).
In the House:
House Republicans introduced a broad variety of energy measures, including quite a few that were introduced last Congress as well, such as legislation to:
  • repeal the United States ban on crude oil exports (H.R. 156),
  • expedite the natural gas approval process (H.R. 161), and
  • overhaul regulatory procedures for federal rulemakings (H.R. 185).
In the White House:
“The Obama Administration has a full energy agenda as well, from proposing and finalizing a long list of Environmental Protection Agency regulations to addressing fracking at the Department of Interior, moving forward with efficiency standards at the Department of Energy, and finalizing solar trade issues at the Department of Commerce, and making preparations for the international climate negotiations in Paris at the end of the year.”


Pipeline Spill Threatens Downstream Water Users
This week, a break in a 12 inch pipeline caused 50,000 gallons of oil to spill into the Yellowstone River, threatening downstream water users, including drinking water supplies, agricultural uses, and wildlife. Bridger Pipeline said the break happened in an area about five miles upstream of Glendive, an agricultural community in east-central Montana near the North Dakota border. An Environmental Protection Agency official said an oil sheen was detected near Sidney, about 60 miles downstream. Initially, tests didn’t show any contamination, but now the 6,000 residents of Glendive will have drinking water shipped to their town as residents noticed an odor coming from their tap. First responders have had difficulty containing the spill, as the frozen water prevents them from seeing or smelling the spill. Read more here:
U.S. Senate Denies Humans Cause Climate Change
The Senate voted on Jan. 21 to affirm that climate change is real and is not “a hoax,” however, they failed to pass an amendment that would acknowledge humans as the primary cause. In a 98 - 1 vote, only Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, voted against accepting that climate change is happening at all. However, he had many more Republicans join him in voting down an amendment that attributed today’s climate change to human activities. On a 50 - 49 vote, that amendment failed to gain the 60 votes needed to pass. Thus, our U.S. Senate has voted to deny human caused climate change. Read more here:


Dams Reshape the World's Rivers
According to research by Günther Grill of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, dams have altered 48% of all river flow worldwide. And if all dams planned for the next few decades are built, that proportion will nearly double. Read more here: