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Today, the president signed two proclamations drastically cutting land from two federal monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, by 80 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

When President Obama designated Bears Ears a national monument last year, it was a huge victory for five Utah tribes — the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Hopi, and the Pueblo of Zuni — who came together in 2015 to push for the preservation of what they estimate are 100,000 cultural and ancestral sites, some dating back to 1300 AD, in the region.

“More than 150 years ago, the federal government removed our ancestors from Bears Ears at gunpoint and sent them on the Long Walk,” Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred said in statement. “But we came back.”

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president authority to establish national monuments, largely to thwart looting of archaeological sites. Trump is the first president to shrink a monument in decades.

The five tribes have said they will bring a legal case against the administration — the outcome could redefine the president’s powers to use the Antiquities Act. “We know how to fight and we will fight to defend Bears Ears,” Filfred said.

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After farmed salmon break-out, Washington state says: “Please, go fishing.”

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative announced yesterday that it plans to curb power plant emissions by 30 percent between 2020 and 2030.

The participating states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont — will finalize the agreement on Sept. 25. According to the Washington Post, Massachusetts wanted to set the bar higher by “reducing carbon emissions 5 percent a year. But Maryland balked and threatened to pull out of the pact, saying it would lead to higher energy costs for consumers.”

The agreement caps the emissions from the power generation only (unlike California’s system, it does not include other industry, transportation, or agriculture), and allows those electricity generators to buy and sell emissions rights. This latest move simply lowers the cap.

Even though Washington, D.C., tends to suck up all the oxygen in the conversation, local and regional leaders are trying different approaches to suck all the carbon out of the economy. In these statehouses, it’s a lot less hot air, and a lot more action.

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After farmed salmon break-out, Washington state says: “Please, go fishing.”

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The Standing Rock Sioux could still beat the Dakota Access Pipeline — in court

By some accounts, the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline now looks unwinnable. Standing Rock became a ghost town last week after police raided and razed the prayer camp that once hosted thousands of water protectors. Earlier this month, the Trump administration fast-tracked approval to build the final section of the pipeline and cancelled the environmental impact statement ordered by President Obama. Construction is nearing completion and oil could flow through the pipeline as early as March 6. For the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, time is running out — fast.

The Sioux’s best shot at stopping Dakota Access now lies in court. It may be a long shot, but a legal win is still possible, some advocates say.

A legal challenge filed by the tribe on Feb. 14 charges pipeline builder Dakota Access, LLC, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with a range of environmental, cultural, and treaty-based violations. It asks a federal judge to rule on whether the Army Corps broke laws and treaties by allowing construction of the last leg of the pipeline under Lake Oahe, a reservoir along the Missouri River in North Dakota.

“What you have is this well-supported decision from a past administration to do more and give a full consideration to treaty rights, and then the second administration throws it in the trash,” says Jan Hasselman of Earthjustice, who’s representing the tribe in its lawsuit. “That’s just not how it works.”

“It’s absolutely not over,” says Kyle Powys Whyte, a professor of philosophy and community sustainability and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. He’s been closely tracking the battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and he thinks the tribes fighting the project have a good legal case. “Absolutely I think there’s a chance to stop this thing.”

One of the Sioux’s main legal complaints is that construction of the pipeline near its reservation and through sites it considers sacred would violate the tribe’s treaty rights — specifically, its rights under the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie treaties. At the heart of the matter is the Sioux’s right to self-determination and tribal sovereignty. Tribes like the Sioux are independent, self-governing nations like any other in the world. And the sovereignty of tribal nations preexists the United States, just like the nations themselves.

Many Native Americans believe that this sovereignty is now under extreme threat. The administration of Donald Trump may be the most hostile to Indian tribes since that of Andrew Jackson, who caused the Trail of Tears in the 1830s, argues Matthew Fletcher, a professor of law at Michigan State University and a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

The tribe’s legal motion also charges that the Army Corps violated the National Environmental Policy Act by terminating an environmental review of the pipeline, and violated the Clean Water Act as well.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has joined the Standing Rock Sioux in its legal challenge, and on Feb. 22, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe filed its own motion in the case, calling on the court to reject the Army Corps’ permit for pipeline construction. Several other allies, such as the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, have filed amicus briefs supporting the Standing Rock Sioux’s legal case.

Hasselman believes the Sioux have strong legal claims that could lead to the pipeline’s approval being overturned. If the current legal motion fails, he says the tribe will appeal in federal circuit court. Even if oil starts flowing in the pipeline in the interim, it could still be shut off down the line, Hasselman told the Bismarck Tribune.

And tribes are waging other legal battles against the pipeline too. On Feb. 9, the Cheyenne River Sioux filed a motion to temporarily halt construction on the grounds that the pipeline would violate their right to religious freedom by desecrating the sacred waters of Lake Oahe.

“I really hope that the case for religious freedom works,” Powys Whyte says. “This can’t possibly be a country where someone’s business idea can trample someone’s constitutional right to practice their religion.”

The Oglala Sioux Tribe joined the fray on Feb. 13 with its own lawsuit claiming that the pipeline threatened its treaty rights to safe drinking water.

The Cheyenne River Sioux’s religious claim is being heard on Feb. 28, and other motions should be considered in the coming weeks. Still, it could take months, if not years, for all of these cases to move through the courts.

Even if pipeline opponents’ lawsuits are not successful in stopping the pipeline, Powys Whyte sees other gains that have come from the #NoDAPL fight. Standing Rock has provided a template for an indigenous-led movement against projects that pose threats to the environment and to tribes’ sovereignty — a template that could prove crucial to activists over the next four years. He points to two other battles for indigenous rights that will be heating up in coming months: the resistance against the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Tohono O’odham Nation’s staunch opposition to Trump building a border wall on their reservation in Arizona.

Powys Whyte urges non-indigenous environmentalists to get educated about Native American history and tribal rights, and to consult with tribes and incorporate their concerns into campaigns. “Part of the reason why non-indigenous activists are coming late to the Dakota Access fight is because they weren’t aware of the vulnerability and susceptibility Native tribes have,” Powys Whyte says. To learn more, he recommends reading the Native Appropriations blog and the Standing Rock syllabus.

“Literally, if more people supported democratic tribal sovereignty, we wouldn’t have something like the Dakota Access Pipeline happening,” Powys Whyte says.

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The Standing Rock Sioux could still beat the Dakota Access Pipeline — in court

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Innovation, not scarcity, could bring us peak oil as soon as 2020.

The acting secretary of the Army has reportedly ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to issue a critical easement that would allow the pipeline to be built underneath Lake Oahe, the primary source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, a proponent of the pipeline, announced the news Tuesday night.

The easement, which could come within days, would clear the way for construction of the last major segment of the pipeline. A week ago, President Trump called for the Army Corps to move quickly toward approval of the easement.

This is the same easement the Obama administration declined to issue in December. At that time, the Army Corps ordered an environmental impact statement (EIS) to be conducted for the project, a process that could take years, granting the water protectors a small but important victory. It’s not clear whether the Army Corps now has the authority to simply stop the EIS process.

“If and when the easement is granted, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will vigorously pursue legal action,” the tribe said in a statement. “To abandon the EIS would amount to a wholly unexplained and arbitrary change based on the President’s personal views and, potentially, personal investments.”

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Innovation, not scarcity, could bring us peak oil as soon as 2020.

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Meet one young woman who took up the fight at Standing Rock

Protests are taking place across the country today at the offices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as activists seek to convince the agency to reject the Dakota Access Pipeline. Late last night, the Corps announced that it was still consulting with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe about the pipeline and its route, and that while it did so, construction near or under the Missouri River was explicitly not allowed.

Among the tens of thousands of people who have joined this now historic struggle to protect the water and land of the Sioux is one young woman I met in North Dakota on Nov. 5 at Oceti Sakowin, the main camp of the self-described “water protectors.” In our talk, she revealed deep convictions and sacrifices that she has made as part of this effort, which she is in for the long haul. I found her story emblematic of the larger movement, and instructive as to why it has had such remarkable reach and staying power.

Rana is a diminutive 26-year-old from Chicago, with brown skin, brown hair, and gentle yet wary brown eyes. She is a descendent of the P’urhépecha indigenous people of Mexico. When we met, she was trying (unsuccessfully) to retrieve items taken by police during a now-infamous Oct. 27 raid that resulted in the forcible removal of two water protector camps that had been located directly on top of the Dakota Access Pipeline route.

Antonia Juhasz

Several days after the raid, police used a large dump truck to deposit hundreds of confiscated tents, sleeping bags, and personal items into a giant pile on the side of the road south of camp. Many people, including Rana, reported that belongings had been urinated on, and some said they even saw human feces. Many of the returned items were subsequently burned.

When we talk, Rana is nervous. She is new to activism and has never been interviewed before. She’s worried that she’ll be inarticulate and “sound like a dunce,” but even more fearful for her safety. She remains on the frontlines in North Dakota and does not want either her last name or photo published. (Police have been rumored to target those identified in the press). Grist independently confirmed her identity. This interview with her has been edited for length.

On Sept. 3, Dakota Access began to bulldoze an area that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe identified as a sacred burial ground of cultural and spiritual significance. Private security guards used dogs and pepper spray in a violent confrontation with water protectors captured by Democracy Now!

After the skirmish, a small group returned to the area to establish a makeshift camp on either side of Highway 1806, directly on land Dakota Access was preparing to excavate. Dubbed “Sacred Ground Camp” (also referred to as “Front-Line” or “Treaty Camp”), Rana had been there for over two weeks when a larger group of water protectors arrived. Four days later, on Oct. 27, a militarized police force raided and eviscerated the camp.*

Antonia Juhasz

Q. What motivated you to be a part of this and to be at the riskiest location?

A. This pipeline stops in Illinois, which is my home. It’s an issue that we have in our backyard as well. I don’t think that a lot of people really grasp that concept. It’s the water that we shower with, that we brew our coffee with, that we brush our teeth with, that we cook with — everything that’s at stake.

Also, the fact that this is an indigenous-led movement, and I myself am indigenous.

Water is our first medicine. It should never be at stake, never be tampered with. When we carry our children in our wombs, they are protected by water, so water is life. You have these greedy corporations who will do anything to protect their money and oil, so when you have all that invested against you, we have to come out and help the earth as water protectors.

Q. What was the day of the Oct. 27 raid like for you?

A. It was heartbreaking. It was infuriating. I wasn’t there from the beginning, but my friends and my companion were. They worked so hard for everything they had there. It wasn’t a big camp, but they put their all into it, their own funds, their own sweat. Of course with the donations of people, as well.

They established that camp for the sole purpose of protecting those sacred grounds so the pipeline wouldn’t go through. We were caught off guard. Then we saw the police coming closer and closer. In that moment, it was a war zone. I was so focused on staying right there on the front line, holding the front line, and helping everyone with whatever I could. They poked through our tents and they instantly fell to the ground. That’s how they left them as they moved forward.

It’s sad. I think of the police: “How can you do these things? How can you be such a lost soul?” I can only hope that they find their way. I’ve heard of officers turning in their badges. And so that says a lot.

I had some really sacred items with me. I had a shawl that my auntie gave my grandma and my grandma gave to my mother when she was carrying my little brother in her womb. My mother gave it to me, and I was supposed to carry my children in that … They took that. That really hurts … I feel like I broke a sacred knot …

Antonia Juhasz

Q.What was it like for you after Oct. 27?

A. After the raid, a lot of us are experiencing PTSD. There was a lot of division. You could feel it. Everyone going up against each other. But now, it seems like it’s coming together again.

And now I know that we’re not going to go home. We’re not going to go anywhere until we stop this pipeline. We have a duty and it must be fulfilled. We’re just as motivated as DAPL is, you know. We’re watching them watch us, watch us, watch them. They can’t break our spirits — at the end of the day, they’re not stronger than us. We have love, we have culture, we have roots. They’re lost. The creator and the ancestors are with us — it’s a strong presence that we feel. We’re going to win this because I see people’s commitment. I for one left my job and my home.

Q.What was the job that you left to come here?

A. I was a nanny. I’m new to activism. But I knew there was always something that I wanted to do for this earth. I knew that I had that calling. I don’t have any children, so I said, “What am I doing here? There’s a battle to be fought over there! If I’ve ever called myself a warrior, this is the time to show who I am!” I’m honored to be here. To be part of history.

I want to have children one day. They deserve to be carried in a womb that’s safe and healthy for them. And, if they were to ask me, “Hey Mom, you were present during the Dakota Access pipeline, what did you do about it?” I wouldn’t be able to look them in the eye and say, “I didn’t do anything.” That would be shameful. Not a lot of people have the ability to just get up and go. I’m blessed to have that opportunity, and I wasn’t going to let it go. I’m not going anywhere. I’ve never experienced a North Dakota winter, but we’ll make it through. Our ancestors made it, one way or another. We’re going to make it. I have faith.

I’m not gonna lie. Before I came here, I was a bit terrified. I had a lot of mixed emotions. But once you get here, it all kind of just dissolves, and that empowerment takes over you and you really know why you’re here. There’s no other place I would rather be today.

*This paragraph was updated to clarify information regarding the establishment of the camp.


Antonia Juhasz writes about oil. You will find her stories in many publications, including Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Harper’s Magazine, and The Nation. She is the author of three books, most recently, Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill.

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Meet one young woman who took up the fight at Standing Rock

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Court hears attacks on Obama’s big climate initiative

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

President Obama’s signature climate change initiative had its day in court Tuesday, as lawyers for 27 states, nonprofit groups, and utility companies argued that it is unconstitutional.

The rule, known as the Clean Power Plan, would enforce a 32 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants by 2030 (compared with 2005 levels). As part of the implementation, the Environmental Protection Agency would require states with at least two coal-fired power plants to submit plans for emissions reductions. If a state chose not to submit an acceptable plan, the EPA would impose one on it. The plan was a critical piece of the Obama administration’s successful efforts to forge the landmark Paris climate agreement last year.

The administration is relying on a section of the Clean Air Act as justification for the regulations, arguing that the law, originally passed by Congress in 1970 and later amended, empowers the EPA to “protect public health and welfare” from pollutants — in this case, carbon emissions that are driving global warming.

But the Clean Power Plan’s path has not been an easy one. Even before the regulations had been finalized, opponents sued to block it — a move that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected last year. Opponents had more success once the final version of the rule was adopted. In a 5-4 decision in February, the Supreme Court issued an unusual stay, which prevented the rule from being implemented before it made its way through the courts. Yesterday’s arguments were the latest episode in the legal drama.

A panel of 10 federal judges heard the case in a marathon session that pitted the administration’s lawyers and environmental groups against a slate of opponents who argued the regulations exceed the EPA’s authority. West Virginia Solicitor General Elbert Lin charged that the rule would create a complex “new energy economy.” Others, such as attorney David Rivkin, who represents the state of Oklahoma, argued the Clean Power Plan intrudes on states’ rights to regulate their own electric grids. There were also several hours of highly technical arguments relating to inconsistent language in the House and Senate versions of a 1990 amendment to the Clean Air Act.

At a panel discussion on Monday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose state is part of the coalition suing to block the rule, said the Clean Power Plan “represents an unprecedented expansion of federal authority.”

Others, such as attorney Allison Wood, who represents utility industry groups, told the court that the EPA can’t regulate emissions from sources like power plants under one section of the Clean Air Act when it already does so under a different section.

But Judge Cornelia Pillard, an Obama appointee, questioned this “double regulation” argument, pointing to laws that require motorists to drive on the right side of the road while also following the speed limit.

On constitutional grounds, the plan has one unlikely critic: Laurence Tribe, a liberal Harvard lawyer and former mentor to Obama who is participating in the case on behalf of the opponents to the rule. During Tuesday’s hearing, Tribe argued the Clean Power Plan violates the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. If the Obama administration wants to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, he told the judges, “the solution is to go to Congress.”

But advocates say the Supreme Court has already determined that the EPA can regulate carbon dioxide. In the 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA case, they note, the court found that the Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.

After a long day of arguments, supporters of the plan were optimistic. “I think it was a remarkable day,” said Howard Fox, counsel for Earthjustice, an environmental law organization that signed on to a motion in support of the Clean Power Plan, on a conference call with reporters.

Where will the fight over the Clean Power Plan end up, and what does it mean for Obama’s legacy on climate issues?

If the D.C. Circuit were to find that the EPA exceeded its authority, it would remand the case to a lower court and the “EPA would essentially redo the rule,” Joanne Spalding of the Sierra Club told Mother Jones at a briefing. That would leave the country’s climate regulations in the hands of an administration led by either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

Another pathway is to the Supreme Court. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who has led the charge against the Clean Power Plan, speculated at a panel discussion that if the current case doesn’t go his way, it could wind up at the Supreme Court in the fall of 2017. This time around, the result could be very different; Justice Antonin Scalia died in February shortly after casting one the deciding votes to put the regulations on hold. With the court now potentially split 4-4 on the issue, the fate of the Clean Power Plan could be tied to the ongoing fight over Scalia’s replacement.

The D.C. Circuit Court’s opinion in the case is expected to come out near the end of this year or early next year, according to David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council, which supports the plan.

Whichever way it goes, the stakes are high. As Brett Kavanaugh, one of the D.C. court’s most outspoken judges during the arguments, said, “This is a huge case.”

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The Next Keystone? Protesters Try to Stop Another Huge Oil Pipeline.

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

Tensions continue to rise over the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (known also as the Bakken Pipeline), a proposed 1,172-mile project currently under construction. Demonstrations over the pipeline, which will travel from North Dakota’s northwest Bakken region to southern Illinois, have grown steadily over the last few weeks. As many as 4,000 people have reportedly joined the Standing Rock Sioux in protesting the pipeline, which is slated to travel beneath sacred Native lands and cross under the Missouri River, the region’s main source of drinking water. The protesters have gathered along the border of the Standing Rock Sioux’s reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, blocking the construction site. (Read Mother Jones‘ report on the pipeline here.)

RELATED: The government quietly just approved this enormous oil pipeline

On Monday, according to the Bismarck Tribune, Greg Wilz, Division Director of Homeland Security, ordered the removal of the state-owned water tanks and trailers that had been providing the protesters with drinking water. Wilz attributed the decision to alleged criminal activity—specifically two complaints of laser pointers being shined in the eyes of pilots of surveillance aircraft monitoring the protest. “Based on the scenario down there, we don’t believe that equipment is secure,” he said. The supplies were provided last week by the North Dakota Department of Health at the request of the tribe.

Authorities in North Dakota have now arrested 29 protesters in the last two weeks, including the tribal chairman. A federal judge will rule by September 9 on the injunction filed by the Standing Rock Sioux to prevent construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Pipeline protesters—including actors Shailene Woodley and Susan Sarandon—have also gathered in New York and Washington, DC. Woodley has been protesting the pipeline for weeks, documenting the peaceful nature of the Standing Rock demonstration in North Dakota on her Twitter page before returning to DC for the rally, which took place Wednesday outside a federal court building where challenges to the permits were being heard.

Environmentalist Bill McKibben also weighed in on the pipeline with an article published Monday. Indigenous populations like the Standing Rock Sioux “have been the vanguard of the movement to slow down climate change,” wrote McKibben.

Sen. Bernie Sanders issued a press release of his own on Thursday, condemning the pipeline and upholding the grassroots efforts to stop it. “Regardless of the court’s decision, the Dakota Access pipeline must be stopped,” he wrote. “As a nation, our job is to break our addiction to fossil fuels, not increase our dependence on oil. I join with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many tribal nations fighting this dangerous pipeline.”

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The Next Keystone? Protesters Try to Stop Another Huge Oil Pipeline.

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Pipeline company gets nasty as it tries to push huge new project through sensitive lands

midwestern battles

Pipeline company gets nasty as it tries to push huge new project through sensitive lands

By on Aug 17, 2016Share

If pipeline companies learned one thing from the fight that took down Keystone XL, it’s that sustained and vocal criticism can achieve real political outcomes, so they shouldn’t underestimate their opposition.

Maybe that’s why Dakota Access LLC, the company building one of the biggest pipelines proposed in the U.S. since Keystone XL, is attacking its critics directly.

On Monday, Dakota Access filed suit against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, asking for restraining orders and seeking unspecified monetary damages against a tribal chairman and other protesters who had been “occupying” land near pipeline construction sites.

The company has already begun construction on the 1,172-mile pipeline, intended to send up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil a day from North Dakota’s Bakken shale sites, through South Dakota and Iowa, to a refinery in Illinois.

Along the pipeline route, Dakota Access cuts across farmland, the Missouri, Mississippi, and Big Sioux rivers, and cultural and historical sites sacred to Native American tribes. In one location, the pipeline runs just 500 feet from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation border, according to organizer and property owner LaDonna Brave Bull Allard.

The tribe last week organized protesters to occupy land less than a mile from the tribe’s reservation boundary — land that Dakota Access had intended to cross in order to begin laying down pipe, said Nicole Donaghy, a native of Standing Rock and lobbyist for the Dakota Resource Council.

More than 500 protesters faced off with police and private, armed security guards; about 28 people have been arrested, reports the Bismarck Tribune. (Among their number was Hollywood actress Shailene Woodley, the star of the Divergent film series, reports the Associated Press.) Dakota Access did not respond to Grist’s request for comment.

The Army Corps of Engineers in July gave the pipeline its final federal permits, despite the tribe’s pending lawsuit against the Corps, filed in D.C. district court, which has an injunction hearing scheduled for Aug. 24. The suit argues that the project violates the Clean Water Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, among other laws. The tribe hopes the court will rule in its favor and issue a stop-work order.

Meanwhile, in Iowa, landowners have filed suit against eminent domain proceedings, which they argue would only be legal if the pipeline were a public utility instead of being privately owned.

Despite protests and pending lawsuits, Dakota Access will keep laying pipeline in the ground in all four states. Unless Dakota Access is derailed or delayed, the pipeline should be operational by the end of 2016.

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Pipeline company gets nasty as it tries to push huge new project through sensitive lands

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Walleye move in to a warming Lake Superior

Walleye move in to a warming Lake Superior

Aaron KamphuisHe caught a walleye.

If you are a warm-water-loving fish looking for a Great Lake in which to swim, Lake Superior is traditionally not your best option. It’s the northernmost of the five lakes, stretching far into Ontario, and it’s especially deep and often covered with ice. Its frigid waters have traditionally been too cold for balmy swimmers like the walleye.

But, hey, it’s a fast-changing world — Lake Superior included.

The Daily Climate reports that water temperatures in the lake have risen by about 5 degrees F since the 1970s; ice cover has fallen by a half during the same period. And that’s bringing the walleye within reach of the lake’s anglers.

Just one out of every 500 charter fishing boat excursions landed a walleye in 1998; now the average such expedition nets seven. Because the waters can now sustain the popular species, the lake is being stocked with them. From the article:

Long dedicated to the trout that sustain its commercial fishing, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community started rearing fish that historically couldn’t survive in much of frigid Lake Superior.

“We started raising walleye at the hatchery in 2005,” said Evelyn Ravindran, a natural resource specialist with the tribe. “We see them more and more.”

Commercial fishing has been a steady staple for the tribe over the past few decades. Walleye is a highly sought fish in the lower Great Lakes. And so the tribe, sensing a business opportunity, added that fish to its hatchery.

Of course, the news can’t all be rosy when an ancient ecosystem gets suddenly superheated. Warm waters also bring more sea lampreys with them — invasive jawless fish that resemble eels and attach their mouths to passing trout and other fish, sucking them dry of their blood.

USDAWalleye fingerlings destined for Lake Superior.

Lampreys are hideous and slimy, but people used to like them in pies. Bonus business opportunity?

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants: johnupton@gmail.com.Find this article interesting? Donate now to support our work.Read more: Business & Technology

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Walleye move in to a warming Lake Superior

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Massive Montana mine has tribes fighting over coal exports

Massive Montana mine has tribes fighting over coal exports

A huge new coal-mining project just approved by the federal government pits a Montana tribe against native communities in the Pacific Northwest.

Lance Fisher

They may soon have a lot more than litter to worry about.

The Crow Nation in southern Montana overlaps the coal-rich Powder River Basin. The tribe is sitting on a deposit of up to 1.4 billion tons of coal — more than the United States produces in a year — and on Thursday, the federal government approved the lease of that coal to mining company Cloud Peak Energy. The company has begun preliminary work on a mine that could eventually produce up to 10 million tons of coal every year, much of which it hopes to move through three proposed export terminals in Washington and Oregon to sell to Asian markets.

As demand for coal in the U.S. fizzles thanks to the natural-gas boom, the coal industry is banking on a growing Asian appetite for cheap power to keep it afloat. And the Crow Nation is banking on the deal with Cloud Peak to turn its fortunes around. The Associated Press details what’s in it for the tribe:

Cloud Peak paid the tribe $1.5 million upon Thursday’s [Bureau of Indian Affairs] approval, bringing its total payments to the tribe so far to $3.75 million.

Future payments during an initial five-year option period could total up to $10 million. Cloud Peak would pay royalties on any coal extracted and has agreed to give tribal members hiring preference for mining jobs.

The company also will provide $75,000 a year in scholarships for the tribe.

It would have been tough for tribal leaders to turn down such a deal. The New York Times describes bleak life on the reservation:

While coal mining is the largest private sector provider of jobs, half the adult population is unemployed. Homelessness would be pandemic if it were not customary for three or four families to cram into small trailers so crowded that couples sometimes go to motels for moments of privacy and children struggle to do homework through a blare of television.

Three bright days a year come when families receive small bonuses from the tribe, thanks to one coal mine that operates on the reservation, to buy presents for Christmas and beads and tepee canvas for the tribe’s annual powwow. …

The Crow Nation chairman, Darrin Old Coyote, insisted that coal was a gift to his community that goes back to the tribe’s creation story. “Coal is life,” he said. “It feeds families and pays the bills.”

But tribal leaders in western Washington and Oregon feel differently about coal. They’ve been some of the most vocal opponents of the proposed export terminals, warning of the harm that would be done to fisheries, human health, the natural environment, and sacred cultural sites if more and more coal trains start rumbling through the region toward coastal ports. The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission have come out against coal exports. The Crow reportedly lobbied other tribes while trying to win federal approval for the Cloud Peak deal, but it doesn’t look like any officially expressed support.

Cloud Peak says it will take about five years to get the new mine up and running. But if coal opponents succeed in blocking proposed terminals, the whole deal could fall through.

Claire Thompson is an editorial assistant at Grist.

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Massive Montana mine has tribes fighting over coal exports

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