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In This Issue of the Sierra Club Insider:
New Disaster Strikes Alaska's North Slope: Tell Congress to Keep Arctic Refuge Safe
Protected Coasts Now Threatened by Drilling
Where Paving Roads Is Good for the Environment
New Cartoon - How Politicians Might Kick Their "Oil Addiction"
And the Oscar Goes To...
Steelworkers Kick Off Environmental Campaign
EXPLORE: Forest Service's Costly Mistake at Babyfoot Lake
ENJOY: Happy Birthday, Sort of, to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
PROTECT: Your State's Ability to Require Food Safety and Warning Labels
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Sierra Club InsiderMarch 7, 2006
New Disaster Strikes Alaska's North Slope: Tell Congress to Keep Arctic Refuge Safe
CaribouWhat could potentially be the worst oil spill in history on Alaska's North Slope was discovered last week after a BP oil operator noticed signs of a spill at a caribou migration site. Three days later, response workers finally found the source of the spill -- a breach in an oil transit pipeline feeding into the larger trans-Alaska oil pipeline. At least one report from an industry expert has indicated that up to 798,000 gallons of crude oil could be unaccounted for, which could make this second in Alaska only to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Ironically, the House and Senate budget committees are scheduled to mark up their budget bills as early as tomorrow (Wed., March 8). The Arctic Wildlife Refuge represents the last 5 percent of the North Slope that is off-limits to destructive oil drilling. We can't take the chance the disasters like last week's will destroy that as-yet unspoiled wild place. Send the message to your Senators and Representatives TODAY that the controversial issue of Arctic Refuge drilling should be put to rest, not revisited again this year. Urge them to ask leadership to keep Arctic Refuge drilling revenues OUT of the budget!

Protected Coasts Now Threatened by Drilling
offshore drillingBoth the first President Bush and President Clinton issued presidential directives that banned oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, in Alaska's famous salmon-fishing grounds in Bristol Bay, off the coast of Virginia, and up and down the east and west coasts. Congress also has annually reaffirmed a moratorium on drilling off these protected coasts. But the current Bush administration wants a radical change to that policy.

In February, the federal Mineral Management Service released a new leasing plan that will open vast formerly protected areas to oil and gas drilling. But the proposal is open to public comment, though, and if citizens express enough outrage, the agency may withdraw its proposal. The comment period ends April 10, so don't wait to declare your support for rig-free coasts.

Where Paving Roads Is Good for the Environment
environmental concerns at the borderFor Sierra Club environmental justice organizer Oliver Bernstein, who bounces back and forth across the U.S./Mexico border like a ping-pong ball, the biggest difference from one side to the other isn't the food or language, but what's considered "environmental." In Mexico, he is more likely to attend environmental meetings about the need to pave roads, build incinerators, or buy an SUV to reach rural communities than about, say, protecting migratory birds.

In an industrial area near Matamoros, at the eastern end of the border, Bernstein says one of the most pressing problems is that the streets and canals are filled with trash and they need to pave the road so the garbage trucks can get in and pick up the waste. Environmental concerns in Mexico are more often thought of as "basic services" north of the border -- things like safe drinking water and functioning sewage systems.

Read more from Bernstein in Grist's seven-week Poverty & the Environment series.

How Politicians Might Kick Their "Oil Addiction"
Ted Rall cartoonWho could forget President Bush's declaration in his State of the Union Address that we're "addicted to oil"? Although most Americans overwhelmingly support commonsense approaches such as better mpg standards, the politicos in Ted Rall's latest cartoon have their own creative ideas about how to kick the petroleum habit.

And the Oscar Goes To...

SyrianaGeorge Clooney took the Academy Award for his supporting role in Syriana, a complex geopolitical thriller that dramatized what even President Bush admits is our nation's addiction to oil. The Sierra Club has been a proud partner in outreach efforts associated with the film and continues to confront the causes and consequences of our oil dependency not only in our top priority Energy and Global Warming Campaign, but also on the movie's companion website, Oil Change, where Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope is a frequent blog contributor. In his acceptance speech, Clooney told the Academy he was proud to be part of a creative community that wasn't afraid to bring up uncomfortable subjects. Likewise, we're proud to be associated with Syriana and Oil Change.

Steelworkers Kick Off Environmental Campaign
Ending logging in Alaska's Tongass National Forest, protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and moving forward with massive investments in energy efficiency and renewables -- that sounds like the Sierra Club's platform. (And it is.) But it was the United Steelworkers Union President Leo Gerard who announced those policies last week in Pittsburgh as part of a formal alliance with the Sierra Club. Among the participants who fleshed out the policy and alliance were Club Executive Director Carl Pope and former House leader Richard Gephardt. Gephardt told Pope that "the Board of US Steel is not just a bunch of US Steel guys -- it's people who run dozens of other companies, and they know that the country is ahead of its leaders." Read more in Carl Pope's blog "Taking the Initiative."

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Oops, Says the Forest Service

All the guidebooks say that the hike to Babyfoot Lake is one of the prettiest in Oregon's Siskiyou National Forest. It's a botanical reserve, noted for its wildflowers, rare Brewer's spruces, and enormous old-growth trees. But try visiting it today, and you're in for an unhappy surprise. The picnickers below may be fictional, but the stump is real -- more than 200 years old. The devastation is thanks to an illegal clearcut by the Forest Service as part of the Biscuit salvage sale -- the result, the agency says, of a "serious error" in drawing the sale's boundaries. You can read the whole story in the latest Sierra magazine.

Babyfoot Lake
Happy Birthday, Sort of, to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

On March 24, we are having a night of house parties to mark the 17th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill -- with a screening of "The Day the Water Died," from the Sierra Club Chronicles TV series. The filmmakers visit Cordova, Alaska, whose citizens are still fighting to make Exxon pay $4.5 billion in damages to the 30,000 plaintiffs affected by the spill. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals currently is hearing Exxon's latest appeal. House party hosts can get not only a free DVD from the Sierra Club but also a phone number to call for the latest on the court decision.

Meanwhile, Sierra Club Chronicles continues with a new episode "Dioxin, Duplicity and DuPont" premiering on Link TV at 8:30 pm ET/PT on Thursday April 9. Tune in or host a house party. The DuPont plant in DeLisle, Mississippi, has been releasing large amounts of dioxin and heavy metals for a quarter century. This episode explores the evidence of health hazards to workers and residents and nearby oyster beds. Not to mention 2,000 lawsuits pending against DuPont.

Hosting a house party is easy -- all you have to do is invite some friends over to watch the episode, and we'll send you a free DVD. We'll also provide some discussion questions and "take action" materials. You're on your own for the popcorn.

Sierra Club Chronicles


Active Ingredients: (Sorry, That's a Secret)

The food industry calls it the "National Uniformity for Food Act." But it's not about all apples being the same size. It's about food labels being uniform across all states -- uniform as in non-existent. New York, for instance, currently requires that food labels document high levels of lead or mercury. That would be pre-empted under this law unless the state petitions for an exception.

The bill is being rushed through Congress -- there hasn't been a single congressional hearing -- although 37 state attorneys general wrote a letter to Congress opposing the bill. The vote is scheduled for Thursday, so tell your representative today to protect your state's ability to require food safety and warning labels.

Protect Food Safety
Photos: Caribou (USFWS) | Cartoon (Ted Rall) | Syriana (Warner Bros.) | Babyfoot Lake (Models, left to right: Nadine Kahney, Milo Kahney, Tracy Dauphin, Barry Spencer. Photos by Rolf Skar, family photos by Lori Eanes, photo composites by Lauren Burke)