Five Environmental Battles Worth Waging in 2019
A new year. A new beginning for some. The same old battle for others. And so it is with the environment, as perennial battles continue for the year ahead.
Here are five environmental issues The Trek will be watching in 2019:
1) Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
The Trump administration announced in December that it would sell oil and gas leases in 2019 to open up exploration for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s 1.6-million-acre coastal plain in Alaska. Conservationists and Native American groups have been fighting drilling efforts in the 19-million-acre ANWR—home to polar bears, wolves, migratory birds, and the porcupine caribou herd—since the 1970s.
Outlook: Expect court battles and challenges by the new Democratic majority in the US House of Representatives to slow down drilling efforts in ANWR.
2) Pipelines Crossing the Appalachian Trail
“We trust the United States Forest Service to ‘speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues,’ ” the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, VA, said in December, quoting from Dr. Seuss’s book The Lorax, when it rejected permits issued by the Forest Service for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The natural gas pipeline would cross the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, and George Washington and Monongahela national forests in Virginia and West Virginia. The companies behind the pipeline have vowed to appeal the ruling. A separate pipeline, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would also cross the AT in Virginia, has been temporarily halted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Outlook: The Fourth Circuit court has taken a dim view of both pipelines’ proposed paths, but the battle is sure to continue.
3) Land and Water Conservation Fund
Despite bipartisan support in Congress, funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which protects national parks and open spaces, dried up in September.
Outlook: Democratic control of the House in 2019 could tip the balance toward permanently authorizing the fund.
4) Wildfires in the West
Deadly and devastating wildfires tore through the West in 2018, most notably in California. Climate scientists say climate change is raising the temperature in California and extending the state’s fire season.
5) Government Shutdowns
OK, not specifically about the environment, but government shutdowns are certainly a major player. Consider this: The National Park Service estimated that 331 million people visited national parks in 2017 and spent $18.2 billion in communities within 60 miles of a park. Park tourism, the agency said, supported 306,000 private jobs, with total wages of $11.9 billion. Do the math: fewer tourists, fewer dollars spent outside parks during a shutdown.
Outlook: Three shutdowns in 2018, a year when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House. Expect more turmoil now that Democrats control the House.
What You Can Do
Join up: Become a member of an environmental activist group. Contribute financially to an environmental campaign if you can.
Act up: Actions you take in your community can reverberate nationwide. Join a community beautification or conservation group; help with a local environmental effort; volunteer to maintain a hiking trail.
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