Monday, September 28, 2020

Conservative groups rally to save Pebble Mine

Americans for Limited Government, along with 65 other conservative groups, sent a letter to President Trump this week urging him not to allow political meddling in the permitting process for the Pebble Mine in Alaska.

Just hours after sending the letter of support for the embattled project, Tom Collier, CEO for the Pebble Limited Partnership, which is owned by Canada-based Northern Dynasty, resigned following the release of recorded comments in which it says he “embellished” relationships with elected and regulatory officials.

A Pebble spokesman says Collier will be replaced on an interim basis by the company’s former CEO John Shively.

“John Shively is the exact kind of steady hand that Pebble Mine needs to steer it to completion,” said Rick Manning, President of Americans for Limited Government, a long-time supporter of the project. “His reputation as a lowkey executive who gets things done will serve the company and our nation well as this mine is developed and we take a giant step towards rare earth mineral independence.”

The upheaval comes amidst concerns of high-level political interference in the mine. Insiders believe White House meddling has resulted in further regulatory delays aimed at killing the project which would be the largest gold and copper mine in North America. Pebble Mine also has a large deposit of rhenium used in military aircraft and is a key component in aircraft engines.

The letter, spearheaded by the Conservative Action Project, said these delay tactics harken back to “the bad old days when the Obama administration misused its Clean Water Act authority and used bogus science to veto the project before an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) had even been submitted.”

In July, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its final environmental impact statement (E.I.S.) for the Pebble Mine project by concluding that the project would not lead to “long-term changes in the health of the commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay,” under normal conditions.

The E.I.S. noted that the mine would provide significant tax revenue to Alaska, create well-paying jobs in an increasingly poverty-stricken region, and “provide a domestic resource of raw materials lowering the United States reliance on foreign sources.”

However, before the Corps made its final record of decision, old claims were again raised that the mine would threaten the salmon and destroy hunting and fishing opportunities for wealthy sportsmen. All of these claims were fully considered by the Army Corps in the E.I.S. process and dismissed on the basis of overwhelming scientific evidence.

As a result of this meddling, in August, the Army Corps of Engineers wrote that Pebble Mine would “cause unavoidable adverse impacts to aquatic resources” in the area and is requiring the mine “in-kind compensatory mitigation within the Koktuli River Watershed … [to] compensate for all direct and indirect impacts caused by discharges into aquatic resources at the mine site.”

In short, the Corps reversed itself by throwing up a roadblock in the mine’s progress, just one month after issuing a favorable environmental impact report.

“As conservatives, we applaud the progress President Trump has made toward achieving energy independence for the first time in 60 years,” noted Rick Manning, President of Americans for Limited Government. “We support his administration’s broad regulatory reform agenda and his continuing push to remove obstacles to environmental permitting of natural resource and infrastructure projects. But this regulatory delay appears to be a clear case of political interference. It was inappropriate when President Obama did it and it’s still inappropriate today.”

So, while the Pebble Mine prepares to submit its mitigation plan, Americans for Limited Government is hopeful the regulatory process will move forward in strict accordance with the law and without further delays based on groundless claims.

Were political meddling to kill the mine, it would undermine one of President Trump’s campaign promises, to create jobs by rolling back burdensome and onerous federal regulations. It would also discourage the mining industry, which is at a low ebb in the United States as the result of decades of regulatory suffocation, from making other multi-billion-dollar investments to take advantage of America’s vast mineral potential.

Pebble Mine is vital to the economic future for the people living in the Bristol Bay watershed (an area the size of Ohio) and for the State of Alaska. It is located in a remote area where there are few jobs for native villagers and where endemic poverty has fostered serious social dislocations. The recent collapse in oil prices is a painful reminder that Alaska’s economy is overly dependent on oil production and must diversify if it is to flourish in the future.

The mine’s economic benefits go far beyond the jobs in Alaska. The Pebble ore body contains colossal quantities of copper, gold, and molybdenum, as well other strategic minerals like rhenium used in aircraft engines. The mine will provide minerals that are critical to high-tech industries in America and the world and create tens of billions of dollars of economic activity across the country.


A Century of Wrong Federal Forest Policy

I live in Klamath Falls, Oregon which is a wonderful community. Klamath Falls is in southern Oregon just 20 miles North of the California border. Klamath County has large private and public forests, many large cattle ranches, and beautiful marshes and lakes, which attract thousands of migratory birds throughout the year.

When I started writing this blog, I was looking at the mountains that surround the magnificent Crater Lake. Now eight days later, I have not seen the mountains surrounding Crater Lake and have quit taking my morning walk. There are fires all around Klamath Falls. Fires that have been reoccurring for the last few summers. Most disturbing is that a very high percentage of these fires should have been prevented.

Two years ago, then California Governor Jerry Brown said the fires were a “new normal” because of global warming. This claim was refuted by University of Washington climate scientist Cliff Mass, who told the Daily Caller, “Global warming may contribute slightly, but the key factors are mismanaged forests, years of fire suppression, increased population, people living where they should not, invasive flammable species, and the fact that California has always had fire.”

This post will focus on the history of forest fires, mismanagement, and suppression and how that impacted the people and industries living near the forests’ fires.

California has Always had Fires

As Professor Mass stated, California has throughout history had naturally caused fires. Scientists estimate that before Europeans arrived, 4.4 million acres of California burned annually, which is 16 times larger than the amount that burned in 2019.

California has two separate fire problems. There are the coastal scrub brush fires that include the notorious Santa Ana fires spread by devastating winds. The Sierra Nevada fires are the high-altitude pine forests that are now burning in California and Oregon mountains.

Mismanaging the Forest

The mismanagement occurred from decisions made during President Clinton’s administration. A combination of listing the Northern Spotted Owl on the endangered specifies list and strong pressure for saving old growth timber by numerous environmental organizations reduced the timber harvest substantially. Worse, it also greatly reduced active management of the forest – thinning, prescribed burns and clearing underbrush. As a comparison, the amount of timber harvested from Forest Service land from 1960 until 1990 was an average of 10 million feet each year. Between 1991 and 2000 the harvest was purposely reduced. From 2000 to 2013 the decline was a precipitous – 80 percent.

Two years ago, in The Daily Caller interview, Bob Zybach, an experienced forester with a Ph.D. in environmental science, described the Forest Service practices up to 1990, “Mostly fuels were removed through logging, active management — which they stopped — and grazing. You take away logging, grazing and maintenance, and you get firebombs.”

While bad fires still happen on state and private lands, most of the massive blazes happen on or around lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies, Zybach said. Poor management has turned western forests into “slow-motion time bombs.”

Years of Fire Suppression

For over a century in the West, the general procedure was to stop a forest fire as quickly as possible. “We have put out fires for 100 years. Now we are paying the price,” said Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at UC Berkeley. “It will take a while to make these forests healthy again. But it’s absolutely possible.” Stephen noted that the Sierra mountains typically had about 40 trees per acre in the early 1800s. Now they have 400 or more, creating heavy brush and thick forests, which explode when ignited.

Incompetent Federal Government

The federal government has created dangerous and deadly fires. A century of wrong policies and mismanagement has caused enormous economic damage to hundreds of small lumber producing towns. It has also harmed America by denying the beneficial use of the timber.

Now, former Governor Jerry Brown and many environmentalists are attempting to connect the fires to climate change, which will greatly exacerbate the government made fire disaster which plagues much of the American West.

Solution: Sell Most of the Government Lands

Unfortunately, after a century of incompetent policy and mismanagement, mostly caused by the contradictory demands of environmentalists, it is difficult to believe the federal government will properly pass beneficial legislation that will substantially increase logging, properly thin forests and wisely activate prescribed burns. Therefore, I proffer to sell much of the forest lands for two reasons. First, those of us living in the timber communities of the rural West know which lands are owned by private citizens and which are owned by the Forest Service. Private owners manage and protect their assets by harvesting, thinning and prescribed burns. Second, the federal government with enormous and dangerous debt augmented by the pandemic and lockdowns needs the revenue.

Selling government-owned forests is a win-win. I will gladly assist any organization that wants to promote selling government forests.


Global climate goals ‘virtually impossible’ without carbon capture, IEA says

Trees do that, using thermonuclear power

A growing number of countries and companies are targeting net zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by around the middle of the century in the wake of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

To reach that, the amount of CO2 captured must rocket to 800 million tonnes in 2030 from around 40 million tonnes today, the IEA, which advises industrialised nations on energy policies, said in a report.

Up to $160 billion needs to be invested in the technology by 2030, a ten-fold increase from the previous decade, it added.

“Without it, our energy and climate goals will become virtually impossible to reach,” the IEA head Fatih Birol said in a statement.

The global economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic risks delaying or cancelling projects dependent on public support, the IEA said.

An oil price slide had also reduced revenues for existing CCUS facilities selling CO2 for so-called enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

However, the IEA added: “Economic recovery packages are a unique window of opportunity for governments to support CCUS alongside other clean energy technologies.”

Referring to a major investment to build two carbon capture plants and an offshore CO2 storage facility, Birol said: “Norway showed its leadership in Europe by making a major funding commitment to the Longship project.”Nonetheless, the story of CCUS has largely been “one of unmet expectations”, marred by lack of commercial incentives, large capital costs and public opposition to storage, especially onshore, the IEA said.

In 2009, the IEA called for 100 large-scale CCUS projects to be built by 2020 to store around 300 million tonnes of CO2 per year. To date, just 20 commercial projects are in operation, capturing around 40 million tonnes per year


Bad Policies Fuel Fires

“The debate is over around climate change!” says California Governor Gavin Newsom, smirking, strangely.

They’re eager to blame climate change for the wildfires in their state. I’m surprised they didn’t say it causes COVID-19, too.

Newsom, ridiculously, says wildfires are another reason to get more electric cars on the road. I wonder if he even knows that electricity for such cars comes from natural gas.

“This catastrophizing around climate change is just a huge distraction,” says environmentalist Michael Shellenberger, author of the new bestseller, “Apocalypse Never,”

Shellenberger says: “Climate change is real, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s not our most serious environmental problem.”

California warmed 3 degrees over the past 50 years, but that’s not the main cause of California’s fires, no matter how often politicians and the media say it is.

Why do they keep saying it?

“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” says Shellenberger. “Every weather event you blame on climate change.”

What actually is to blame, as usual, is stupid government policies.

Forests are supposed to burn. If there aren’t small fires, debris from dead trees and plants accumulate. That provides fuel for big, deadlier fires, that are more likely to burn out of control.

But for years, governments and environmentalists put out every small fire they could, while also fighting logging.

Megafires could have been avoided if forests had just been better managed.

An example is Shaver Lake forest, managed by Southern California Edison. The company thinned that forest, creating fire breaks with selective logging. When the wildfires reached Shaver Lake, they diminished into low intensity “surface fire.” That protected the bigger, older trees.

Forests in America’s west were supposed to burn more often, says Shellenberger. “When Europeans came, they reported California being very smoky and on fire during the summers. And Native Americans burned huge amounts of land.”

“So, for the past years, it’s been unnaturally un-smoky?” I ask.

“It’s what a lot of forest ecosystems require,” answers Shellenberger. “We haven’t had enough fires for maybe 100 years.”

But it’s hard to convince governments to allow small fires when politicians demand that every fire be put out, and the media call every fire a disaster.

Recently, wildfire hit the ancient redwoods in Big Basin State Park. Politicians and East Coast environmental reporters worried about the redwoods disappearing.

But of course, they didn’t.

“Redwood trees and other old growth, the bark is very thick, it’s fire-resistant,” says Shellenberger.

The politicians didn’t know that. “They’re still standing!” giggled an astonished Newsom after the fire passed.

But “it was exactly what you would expect,” says Shellenberger. “Journalists go, ‘Wow. What a surprise! The ancient redwoods didn’t burn down!’ Nobody’s more alienated from the natural environment, and nobody’s more apocalyptic than environmental journalists.”

Well, maybe politicians.

For years, they and environmentalists increased the risk of big fires by opposing the thinning of forests.

The town of Berry Creek, California, tried to get permits to legally clear their forest. For two years, regulators delayed approval. This year, fire destroyed the town.

Forest Service ecologist Hugh Safford wishes they would “get away from the tree-hugging mentality. It’s the classic ‘not seeing the forest for the trees.'”

This year’s wildfires finally persuaded politicians to allow more people to cut trees down.

“There’s actually widespread agreement on this, says Shellenberger. “The governor of California and President Trump recently signed an agreement to clear much more area. Even the Sierra Club, which opposed the thinning of forests, has now changed its tune.”

It’s about time.

Politicians and environmentalists, eager to raise money, cite climate change and blame fossil fuels for problem after problem.

While climate change is a problem, Shellenberger points out, “the number of deaths from natural disasters declined 90% over the last hundred years. A small change in temperature is not the difference between normalcy and catastrophe.”




Preserving the graphics: Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere. But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life — as little as a week in some cases. After that they no longer come up. From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together — which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site. See here or here


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