Tag Archives: endangered species

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 5, 2019

Thank Your Congressperson for Supporting Climate Action

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons user Arthurguo (Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Last week Congress passed the Climate Action Now Act to uphold US commitment to the Paris climate agreement. It’s the first large-scale climate change legislation to pass congress in nearly 10 years, and Massachusetts’ delegation unanimously voted yes. Please take a minute to contact your representative to thank them for taking climate action.

Meeting with Congressman Moulton

Mass Audubon and our environmental partners met with Congressman Seth Moulton last week at his Salem office, where our discussion included topics like conservation funding and regional marine fisheries issues. Learn more about the meeting.

Climate Central

Photo credit: Zeynel Cebeci

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

Upholding National Environmental Protections

Green sea turtle photo credit: NOAA

We joined partners in opposing changes in the Navy’s compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The proposed revision would make it easier to approve projects that adversely affect endangered and threatened species

Coastal Protections at Risk

We also submitted joint comments on proposed changes to the Coastal Zone Management Act, which would weaken state-level review of federal coastal development projects. This is especially problematic at a time when expanded offshore oil and gas drilling has been proposed at the federal level.

Offshore Drilling Expansion Delayed

Humpback whales are among the many species whose habitat could be impacted by an expansion in offshore drilling. Photo credit: NOAA

Good news though – federal plans to expand offshore drilling have been postponed. The delay is largely due to a recent court decision upholding protections in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. While this news is encouraging, a delay doesn’t mean our fight is over, so we’ll be keeping it up.

Poll of the Week

According to a MassInc poll, 68% of Massachusetts voters support the creation of a regional carbon-trading plan for transportation.

Offshore Drilling Expansion Partially Blocked

Good news – the Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore oil and gas drilling in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans has been blocked in federal court.

Thanks to a lawsuit brought forward by the League of Conservation Voters and ten other conservation and indigenous groups, a federal judge has upheld permanent protection from offshore drilling for select protected areas of the Atlantic Ocean, and nearly all of the Arctic Ocean, as established by President Obama in 2016.

Mass Audubon has been speaking out on this issue too, and while this is decidedly a victory, our work isn’t over. Much of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are still at risk from expanded drilling, and the Trump administration will likely appeal the ruling.

Expanded offshore drilling could threaten species like the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

We have to keep up the opposition! At the national level, the Coastal & Marine Economies Protection Act was introduced in Congress to ban offshore drilling & seismic testing on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. And here in Massachusetts, Mass Audubon supports legislation filed by Cape and Islands Senator Julian Cyr that would prohibit offshore oil and gas drilling in state waters. We’ll keep you posted on opportunities to support these bills as they comes up for hearings and votes.

And save the date – our partners at the Massachusetts chapter of the Surfrider Foundation will be organizing a Boston-area event on May 18 as part of Hands Across the Sand. This global initiative is a chance to stand in solidarity and support protection of our lands and waters from fossil fuel development.

More Momentum for US Offshore Wind

Update 12/17/18:

Last week, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held their auction for three offshore wind leases in federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The results were staggering – the winning bids from three companies totaled $405 million, which is nearly a tenfold increase from the most recent prior federal sale! The areas could support approximately 4.1 gigawatts of commercial wind generation, enough to power nearly 1.5 million homes. Federal officials and wind industry insiders alike were surprised by the sale – this Boston Globe article looks at how the event marks a decided shift for US offshore wind energy.

In other wind news, Mass Audubon will also be commenting on the latest stage of Vineyard Wind’s proposed offshore project later this month, on which BOEM will be holding public hearings.

Original post:

Last week the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced several major developments in American offshore wind energy, including one here in Massachusetts.

Expansion of offshore wind here in the US will be critical in reducing emissions that contribute to climate change.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold the next Massachusetts offshore wind auction – to include nearly 390,000 acres – on December 13, 2018. Nineteen companies have qualified to participate in the auction. It’s estimated that this auction could support more 4.1 gigawatts of power to supply nearly 1.5 million homes. Mass Audubon plans to review and comment on any projects resulting from the lease.

Speaking at the American Wind Energy Association Offshore Wind Conference, DOI Secretary Zinke also announced the environmental review of a proposed wind project offshore Rhode Island, and the next steps to a first-ever wind auction in federal waters off of California.

While this is good news for the growth of renewable energy, the Trump administration also plans to ease Endangered Species Act regulations to speed up the approval process for offshore wind projects. Mass Audubon will be opposing that change – for offshore wind deployment to be done in a way that is safe for wildlife, a full understanding of the risks to species is needed.

Learn more about Mass Audubon’s recent involvement with the offshore wind public review process here.

Bald eagle © Robert DesRosiers

Endangered Species at Risk Again

Update 10/1/2018: Mass Audubon signed onto joint comments with more than 200 of our partner conservation groups to speak out against these proposed changes.

Over the past few weeks, the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) has come under unprecedented threat. For 45 years the law has successfully protected wildlife, including species like the Bald Eagle, which the ESA helped bring back from the brink of disappearing in the US. In fact, thanks to the ESA, more than 99 percent of the nearly 1,800 animals and plants protected by it have been saved from extinction.

Now, the ESA is under attack. In the past two weeks, more than two dozen pieces of legislation, policy initiatives, and amendments designed to weaken the law have surfaced. Many of these proposed changes have been under the guise of “updating” or “reforming” the Act, but in reality would undermine its core principles and gut its scientific basis for protecting wildlife.

Bald eagle © Robert DesRosiers

Bald Eagle © Robert DesRosiers

Earlier this month, Mass Audubon and 420 other national, state, and local conservation groups sent a letter to US Senate and House leadership voicing our overwhelming support for the ESA. Our group included at least one organization from all 50 states.

We’ll be continuing to follow this issue closely, and will keep you updated with actions you can take to keep the ESA firmly in place.

Endangered Species Act on the Brink

by Karen Heymann

The federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) is one of America’s most successful and important environmental laws, passed unanimously and with broad bipartisan support in 1973, and signed by Republican President Richard Nixon. Since its inception the ESA has successfully prevented the extinction of 99% of the native plant and animal species it has sought to protect, and has recovered many species formerly under its protection, including our national symbol, the iconic bald eagle.

Bald eagle. Photo credit: USFWS

ESA in Jeopardy

This week, the ESA came under attack in what we anticipate to be just the first of ongoing efforts to weaken or repeal this critical law. First, the Trump Administration delayed the start date of protections for the newly listed rusty patched bumblebee, an action which, if not corrected, could drive this once-abundant native species to extinction. Learn more about the importance of pollinators like this native bumble bee.

And in Congress, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held an oversight hearing aimed at undermining and misrepresenting the work accomplished under the ESA. Legislation was introduced by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) to repeal the ESA entirely, claiming “it has never been used for the rehabilitation of species” but rather “to control the land,” a false claim that has no bearing in reality.

Speak Up for the ESA

Please call your members of Congress (here’s contact information for your U.S Senators and Representatives) to let them know that you oppose any attempt at repealing or diminishing the work of the Endangered Species Act and demand they urge the Trump administration to enforce every single aspect of the ESA, including protection for the rusty patched bumblebee. Be sure to include your name and city or town you live.

Mass Audubon is also gearing up to push back against efforts to undermine the ESA and we urge you to join us. We recently signed on to an opposition letter, and will continue to double down on our work with our national partners to protect wildlife.

Hawksbill sea turtle, a federally-protected species found in Massachusetts. Photo credit: Caroline Rogers, NOAA

We are also working at the state level to ensure that our endangered species programs are fully funded, and we are focusing on passing legislation to protect pollinators such as bees and butterflies, as well as the habitat they depend on.

The good news: we are not alone. A recent national poll shows that voters overwhelmingly support the ESA and the role of science in determining which species receive protection under the Act. Now, we just need to make sure our voices are heard.

Karen Heymann is Mass Audubon’s Legislative Director

Snowy in Boston, Busy in DC: Staying on Top of Environmental Reviews

As we dig out from our recent blizzards here in Boston, congressional committees are ramping up their work this week in our nation’s capital. Unfortunately, this may be bad news for some of our environmental policies. A number of hearings are scheduled with the goal of “modernizing” these policies, but the real purpose of the hearings is to undermine our nation’s basic environmental protections and renewable energy methods; for instance, by promoting gas pipelines and fossil fuels over wind and solar. A bill was also introduced in Congress this month to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency. Mass Audubon stands in direct opposition to any such attempt.

Here are the hearing specifics:

Two House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee hearings will hold focus on energy infrastructure and important environmental laws like the Clean Air Act. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will review the Endangered Species Act, and House Energy and Oversight subcommittees will focus on an energy innovation loan program.

We will be closely following these and other federal legislative issues this week, and will let you know when and if your help is needed with calls to your Senator or Congressperson.

And for some pro tips on how to be most effective when contacting your federal legislators, read this recent Op Ed by Congressman Barney Frank.

Responding to the Trump Election

By Jack Clarke

Update: Mass Audubon recently met with Senator Edward Markey and partner groups to brainstorm more strategies for working with the incoming Presidential administration and new Congress on critical environmental issues.

And to continue this momentum, Mass Audubon President Gary Clayton and Conservation Law Foundation President Brad Campbell convened the CEO’s of Massachusetts leading environmental organizations to develop a shared and coordinated public policy conservation strategy. They also put together a plan for strengthening our collective work at the state and local levels of government.

Note: this post was also published as an Op Ed in local newspapers statewide

As we’re deep into the presidential transition, it’s time for many to let go of denial and anger and accept the reality of a Donald Trump White House come January 20th. For the environmental community, there are three things we’re going to do.

First, with conservation partners across the country, we’re going to fight to hold on to what we have. For almost half-a-century and until most recently, we’ve had environmental success coming from Congress. Starting in 1969, GOP President Richard Nixon cooperated with bi-partisan law-makers to pass the National Environmental Protection Act, followed by the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. These laws protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we live, work and play on. Millions of American lives have improved as a result of their implementation.

The Boston Harbor Islands are among our network of federally-protected National Parks. Photo credit: National Park Service

Congress later enacted legislation to conserve the nation’s forests and parks, historic sites, wildlife and wetlands, coasts and oceans. These laws benefit people, nature and the economy and are a sacrosanct part of America’s natural heritage. Encouraged by the White House, the upcoming 115th Congress, with 239 Republicans and 193 Democrats in the House of Representatives, may try to weaken or do away with some of these provisions.

To prevent a roll-back of progress, we’ll work in the House but focus on the Senate. Although Republicans outnumber Democrats fifty-two to forty-eight in the Upper Chamber, we’ll call on Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey to initiate and lead a stop-the-repeal campaign. If needed, we will ask them to use the filibuster which will require a sixty vote super-majority to erase America’s environmental legacy.

In addition, we’ll watch what goes on behind the scenes in the Oval Office. So often, bureaucratic actions fly under the public’s radar screen. The executive branch is mandated by the constitution, courts and Congress to implement, enforce and execute the nation’s laws. This is done largely through administrative rule-making. However, the President can unilaterally weaken or repeal regulations. He can also cut funds for existing programs, fail to enforce the law, make hostile political appointments, reduce the workforce, and simply drag his feet. As a preventive measure, we’ll go to court to require that the law be enforced.

Second, we’re going to support state and local governments in stepping-up protection of our health and environment. A few examples:

Mr. Trump believes climate change is a hoax. But ninety-five percent of utility and electricity oversight is done by the states, not the feds. So it will be in states like ours and California where we will continue to reduce heat-trapping air pollution and require industry to produce and use more green energy.

The Massachusetts Endangered Species Act protects 432 native Massachusetts plants and animals on the edge of extinction. With that in place, we will continue to defend endangered species even if protections are relaxed or removed at the federal level.

Piping plovers are protected under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Piping plovers are protected under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

And there are a host of additional state laws providing public health and environmental benefits for Bay Staters that we will work to ensure are adequately funded and fully implemented on Beacon Hill.

On November 8th, there was a huge success for Massachusetts at the ballot – the Community Preservation Act passed in eleven municipalities. This brought the state adoption to 172 cities and towns, or 49 percent of the Commonwealth. Since the Massachusetts legislature passed the enabling statute in 2000, almost $2 billion has been raised for community preservation projects providing for the creation of 10,000 affordable housing units; 26,300 acres of open space; 4,400 historic preservation initiatives; and 1,700 outdoor recreation projects – all without any federal involvement.

It’s in the city and town halls across the Commonwealth where mayors and selectmen, city councils and town meetings, school committees, planning boards, boards of health, conservation commissions, and public safety officials make some of the most important day-to-day decisions that directly affect our children and families. We will increase our efforts at the local level to support and enhance their work.

Finally, we remain committed to our aspirations, goals, and vision and for a clean, healthy and vibrant environment. Irrespective of who controls the levers of government, we will continue to advocate for a progressive environmental agenda in our nation’s capital – an agenda that provides for the health, safety, and natural security of all Americans while protecting the nature of this great land for this and future generations.

Jack Clarke is Director of Public Policy and Government Relations