The Road to Perdition

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Sun, Jun 01, 2014, 12:39 am  //  Guest writer

Greater Sage Grouse. Photo courtesy of WildEarth Guardians.

Sandy Robson guest writes this article.  She is a professional worker who lives in Whatcom County and is concerned about our environment.

This is a follow-up to my May 22, 2014 article posted on NW Citizen about efforts by Powder River Basin states Montana and Wyoming to pressure Washington into permitting and building the proposed coal terminals; Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) at Cherry Point, and Millennium Bulk Terminals in Longview (MBTL). GPT was proposed by SSA Marine/Pacific International Terminals (PIT), and MBTL was proposed by Ambre Energy and Arch Coal. The PRB coal industry and PIT desperately need the coal export terminals proposed in Washington state to be permitted and built—stat.

Earlier this year, the Wyoming State Legislature appropriated $500,000 for potential legal action to gain access to deep-water ports in Washington state. Further, the legislature also specified additional funds to protect land-use interests in the state—interests of industries such as mining, energy production, and ranching. In one effort to protect these land-use interests, the Legislature is trying to avoid a potential determination by the federal government to list the greater sage-grouse as a protected species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

Sage-Grouse a Canary in the Coal Mine

The greater sage-grouse is the largest grouse in North America and is dependent on sagebrush-dominated habitats such as big sagebrush in Wyoming. The bird’s historic range covers about 160 million acres across the Mountain West Region including land in 11 states. 

In a May 11, 2014 Washington Post article, Randi Spivak, the public-lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity explained the bird’s vital significance: “The sage grouse is an umbrella species, so it’s sort of the canary in the coal mine.” An umbrella species serves to protect many co-occurring species and is selected as such for making conservation related decisions. 

As a canary in a coal mine, if the greater sage-grouse were listed as an Endangered Species it could put quite a crimp in Wyoming’s coal mining industry by impacting public land use. Thus, the Wyoming State Legislature designated $1.2 million to the governor's office budget to be used for, "sage grouse research and advancing the state's position, as determined by the governor, with respect to potential endangered species listing of the sage grouse by United States Fish and Wildlife Service." 

To List, or Not to List, That is the Question 

A website called the “Wyoming Density and Disturbance Calculation Tool (WDDCT),” provides a process to give enough protection of Core Areas (a safe haven) for greater sage-grouse so that its listing under the ESA might become unnecessary. According to the WDDCT website:
“The greater sage-grouse has been the subject of several petitions to list the species as threatened or endangered pursuant to the Endangered Species Act. Based on their 12 month finding the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined that listing the greater sage-grouse as a threatened or endangered species is warranted over all of its range, including the populations in Wyoming. However, the USFWS has determined that listing the greater sage-grouse as threatened or endangered is currently precluded by higher priority listing actions, resulting in the greater sage-grouse currently being termed a ‘candidate’ species under the auspices of the Endangered Species Act. The USFWS is required to review the status of all candidate species every year and resolution of final listing determination for greater sage-grouse is expected in 2015.”

That final 2015 determination deadline stems from USFWS’s 2005 decision not to list the grouse as threatened, which triggered a lawsuit from environmental groups. Two years later, a federal judge overturned USFWS’s 2005 decision. In 2010, the agency determined the grouse warranted protection and an agreement was reached between USFWS and the environmental groups stipulating that USFWS had until September 2015 to put forth regulations controlling the bird’s habitat, or to change its decision.

In the Wyoming Legislature's efforts to avoid the “endangered” listing of the greater sage-grouse, their use of the phrase, "advancing the state's position," when referencing the utilization of the $1.2 million, raises the question as to whether those efforts could also include joining other efforts to weaken or gut the ESA. There is already an effort to bypass the ESA by legislators in Wyoming. On May 22, 2014, U.S. Senators Mike Enzi, John Barrasso, and U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis (all Republicans from Wyoming), joined Congressmen Cory Gardner (R-CO), Scott Tipton (R-CO), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Rob Bishop (R-UT) in introducing the “Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act,” in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

This legislation would prevent the sage grouse from being listed under the ESA for 10 years and would allow states to develop their own conservation management plans for sage-grouse. Republican sponsors of the bill said they were concerned that the federal listing of the sage grouse could impede economic development. Barasso said in a May 2014 press release: "By forcing Washington [D.C.] out of the way, this bill puts Americans who live in these communities and know what works best in charge of managing the land and wildlife." Possible translation: “Washington, D.C., mind your own beeswax. This bill puts Americans who run corporations in the mining, oil and gas, and ranching industries and know what works best for their businesses, in charge of managing the land and wildlife.” God help us all.

Endangered Species Act Under Attack by Congressmen

The Endangered Species Act itself is under assault by legislators from Kentucky and Nevada. In November of last year, Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul introduced bill S. 1731, the "Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act." Nevada Senator Dean Heller and Representative Mark Amodei of Nevada, are co-sponsors. According to a March 2014 editorial published in Scientific American, S. 1731 would require state and congressional approval to add new species to the protected list (USFWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service do this currently), based on the best available scientific data. This bill would allow governors to decide if and how their states follow ESA regulations, and would also automatically delist species after five years. 

Scientific American's editorial reminded readers that, "The ESA has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the 2,000 listed species. It is widely considered the strongest piece of conservation legislation ever implemented in the U.S. and perhaps the world. Yet for years the ESA has endured attacks from politicians who charge that it is economically damaging and ineffectual." 

The editorial went on to say, "Senator Paul and others advocating for reform say that they want to improve the law to better serve imperiled species and local people. But their arguments are flawed. The reason why few species have recovered to the point where they can be delisted is not because the ESA is ineffective but because species take decades to rebound. In fact, 90 percent of the listed species are on track to meet their recovery goals." 

An important take-away quote from the editorial suggests,  ". . .conservation efforts must be updated to reflect what scientists now know about climate change and the threats it poses to wildlife. As temperatures rise, many more species will fall on hard times. Policy makers should thus increase ESA funding to allow more rigorous monitoring of wildlife and to protect more species."
Is Political Science Trumping Science Education?

The subject of climate change or climate science relates to another way Wyoming is fighting hard for the continued extraction and use of fossil fuels like coal. According to a March 25, 2014 column published online on WyoFile, an independent, nonprofit news service, Wyoming became the first state in the nation to block adoption of the national Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). WyoFile Editor-in-Chief Dustin Bleizeffer wrote that this was, "based on the fear that the climate science within NGSS may be a threat to Wyoming’s culture and economy." 

The article observes, "Lawmakers and Gov. Mead kicked NGSS out from under the board [State Board of Education]. But they didn’t change the board’s charge to provide the best educational management guidance for the benefit of Wyoming students. This places the board in an impossible position: Damned by education peers, parents, and students’ future employers if they do attempt to debunk or ignore climate science; damned by Wyoming elected officials if they don’t." 

Bleizeffer also wrote, "Wyoming’s students and educators should not be forced to accept and promote the same political tactics that, unfortunately, work so well in shoring up votes for political offices in this state. Climate denial might help, or at least not diminish, a Wyoming politician’s voter base. But it certainly degrades the quality and reputations of our educational institutions.” This seems to be a case of political science attempting to override science education.

Wyoming's blocking of NGSS, the grouse war being waged, and the continued assault on the ESA, should be blazing red flags to those of us in Washington where two huge coal export terminals are proposed. Coal industry money has the potential to act like a powerful drug. Lawmakers “addicted” to that coal money may show their inability to put the best interests of Wyoming's young students who represent the future, endangered species vital to our existence, and Washington state residents, ahead of lawmakers' own insatiable appetite for their drug of choice---coal money. 

Guess all’s fair in love and war, and in this case, the war is the war for coal. . .and for Pacific Northwest coal export terminals.

Wyoming's Black Thunder coal mine in the Powder River Basin is the largest in the world. Photo courtesy of WildEarth Guardians

Barbara Perry  //  Mon, Jun 02, 2014, 10:11 am

Hello Sandra Robson,

I sent the NW Citizen site of your article to a friend from Wisconsin, knowing how this is an international as well as local topic. I had first heard about the topic on a Facebook site of a friend who lives in Montana and is a professor who uses Facebook to give information to students.  I haven’t sent the Montana friend the article yet, but the Wisconsin friend thought it wonderful and hopefully is sending it on.  He was most impressed with your writing and detail.

So Great Work!!

Sandy Robson  //  Mon, Jun 02, 2014, 5:07 pm

Barbara Perry: Thank you for your post saying your friend enjoyed my article here on NWCitizen, and for your compliment. Since in your post you mentioned you were going to send another friend of yours in Montana this article above, you may want to also direct that person to a related May 22nd article I wrote that is posted on NWCitizen. There is a link to it in the first sentence of this article.

I think your Montana friend may be interested in that article too, because it is mostly about the efforts that Montana is going to relating to the proposed Pac NW coal export coal terminals.

Thanks again, for checking out the article here on NWCitizen. I was happy that John Servais/NWCitizen felt it worthy to post.

The Road to Perdition

Sun, Jun 01, 2014, 12:39 am  //  Guest writer

A Venn diagram where coal, the Endangered Species Act, Republicans, and Wyoming’s Board of Education collide.

2 comments; last on Jun 02, 2014

Move To Amend - Persons vs Corporations

Thu, May 01, 2014, 10:21 pm  //  Guest writer

Move to Amend is a national movement to amend the U.S. Constitution and define persons as people and speech as not money.

7 comments; last on Jun 02, 2014

Village Books

In historic Fairhaven. Take Exit 250 from I-5.

Syrian War Perspectives: Jon Stewart

Wed, Sep 04, 2013, 9:37 am  //  John Servais

An attempt at linking to one or more writers who can help us make sense of going to war with Syria. An alternative to Kerry-Obama.


We Citizens Get a Say on War

Wed, Sep 04, 2013, 1:36 am  //  John Servais

Contacting Rick Larsen and Susan Delbene is actually a viable citizen exercise just now. Tell them to vote NO on bombing Syria.

1 comments; last on Sep 04, 2013

Riley Covers Anti Syria War Demo

Sat, Aug 31, 2013, 3:10 pm  //  John Servais

Saturday afternoon - and a rally is taking place in downtown Bellingham against bombing Syria. Riley Sweeny and his Political Junkie site cover it.


To Obama:  No.  Do Not Bomb Syria

Fri, Aug 30, 2013, 12:08 pm  //  John Servais

Gee, can we make it any clearer? Publisher opinion. So sad that we have to write this to Obama - who got our vote in 2008 because he…

4 comments; last on Aug 31, 2013

Privacy Story of Feds Stripping All

Wed, Aug 14, 2013, 12:24 pm  //  John Servais

The Feds gag an Email service owner - so he cannot even tell us why he is gagged.

2 comments; last on Aug 15, 2013

So Long Lawrence O’Donnell

Thu, Aug 08, 2013, 1:05 am  //  John Servais

Liberal talking head Lawrence O'Donnell went into a bullying rant against a well qualified guest - and showed he's just like O'Reilly.

2 comments; last on Aug 08, 2013

Celebrations More Racist than Verdict

Sun, Jul 14, 2013, 11:25 am  //  John Servais

The explosion of hate and racist rhetoric is the saddest aspect of the verdict. The evidence was complicated and the verdict difficult to make.

2 comments; last on Jul 16, 2013

NWCitizen Stands With Edward Snowden

Mon, Jun 10, 2013, 1:53 pm  //  John Servais

Edward Snowden is a very courageous patriot, in the opinion of the publisher of NWCitizen.

3 comments; last on Jun 14, 2013

Krugman Spells It Out In Plain English

Sun, Apr 28, 2013, 10:30 pm  //  John Servais

New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, has a masterful short article that explains why austerity is not working.

3 comments; last on May 23, 2013

Obamacare and the Coming (Not Again?) Wealth Transfer

Wed, Mar 06, 2013, 11:05 am  //  Dick Conoboy

You are not likely to escape the coming transfer of $billions from your pocket to the health insurance industry. You will get little, if anything, in return.

4 comments; last on Apr 05, 2013

We Need a Goods and Services Tax - Like Canada

Fri, Dec 28, 2012, 1:33 pm  //  John Lesow

A comparison of U.S. and Canadian attitudes and policies for taxes and fiscal integrity. By a Canadian citizen.

7 comments; last on Feb 03, 2013

Are you in foreclosure?

Wed, Dec 12, 2012, 12:04 pm  //  John Servais

If you or a friend are in foreclosure, or an attorney defending someone, then hopefully you already know about this. If not... here it is.

2 comments; last on Dec 19, 2012

Riley teases us with 2016

Sat, Nov 24, 2012, 12:09 pm  //  John Servais

Wherein that local political junkie, Riley Sweeney, has written up a comprehensive analysis of 2016 U.S. presidential election.


Election Night at the VFW

Wed, Nov 07, 2012, 1:21 am  //  John Servais

A light and short take on the Democratic Party celebration at the VFW Post meeting hall. And a heavy bit on national politics.

18 comments; last on Nov 10, 2012

Election Predictions

Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 8:29 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Here's your shot at fame and glory as a political pundit

4 comments; last on Nov 02, 2012

Feds Should Delete Anti-Islam Video

Mon, Sep 17, 2012, 10:45 am  //  John Servais

Precedent is plentiful of the Feds censoring free speech and videos - but double standard is protecting anti-Islam film.

6 comments; last on Sep 20, 2012

Riley interviews Rep. Rick Larsen

Thu, Aug 23, 2012, 4:16 pm  //  John Servais

Over at the Political Junkie, Riley Sweeney has posted a long and interesting interview with our U.S. Congress Rep Rick Larsen

2 comments; last on Aug 25, 2012

The Plea of Julian Assange

Sun, Aug 19, 2012, 11:09 pm  //  John Servais

Wikileaks founder spoke from a safe open window to the people of the world. His words are important to the future of democracy and freedoms.

4 comments; last on Aug 21, 2012

Is NOAA Reporting False Higher Temperatures?

Sun, Jul 29, 2012, 12:17 pm  //  John Servais

New report suggests U.S. weather stations reporting higher temperatures because NOAA has poorly managed sensors and caused false higher readings.

11 comments; last on Aug 06, 2012

That fuss in Wisconsin over Walker

Wed, Jun 06, 2012, 6:45 pm  //  John Servais

The recall of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker failed - failed big. Here is another 2 cents worth of opinion - from a Wisconsin conservative.

3 comments; last on Jun 07, 2012

Congressional Candidates and Overstreet’s Town Hall

Sun, Feb 19, 2012, 6:37 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley at The Political Junkie attends a forum of Congressional Candidates, and a town hall meeting in Lynden


The Big Business of Breast Cancer

Wed, Feb 08, 2012, 10:14 am  //  Guest writer

There’s no profit in searching for causes, and we know there's no real cure. But there's big money in the detection and treatment of breast cancer.

2 comments; last on Feb 11, 2012

SOPA - A Step in Destroying Democracy

Thu, Jan 19, 2012, 2:17 am  //  John Servais went black for Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012, as a protest against proposed legislation, SOPA and PIPA. Here is what was posted.

1 comments; last on Jan 19, 2012

Why SOPA is so terrible

Tue, Jan 17, 2012, 8:28 pm  //  John Servais

On Wednesday, thousands of websites will go dark to show opposition to SOPA. I will be posting a single article explaining who SOPA is so bad.


Jack Petree, Olympia, the Whatcom Council and Obama’s Inner Circle

Wed, Jan 11, 2012, 10:04 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Latest from the Political Junkie on a variety of subjects

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Dan Pike Issues Order to Evict Occupy Bellingham

Tue, Dec 27, 2011, 1:55 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley questions Pike's timing, and Occupy's choice of tactics

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Rick Perry, Can We Talk?

Tue, Dec 13, 2011, 11:58 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley has a conversation with Rick Perry

2 comments; last on Dec 16, 2011

From the Political Junkie: Is Mitt Romney actually Arrested Development’s Michael Bluth?

Fri, Nov 11, 2011, 10:44 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Mitt Romney is darn lucky


Why is Guy Fawkes attending Occupy Wall Street?

Sat, Nov 05, 2011, 6:14 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Remember, remember the fifth of November . . .


Sergeant Thomas talks to the NYP

Sat, Oct 29, 2011, 3:00 am  //  John Servais

Sergeant Shamar Thomas talks sense to the NY police on the streets after they beat peaceful demonstrators - and they are zombies. Nobody home. Mindless cops.

10 comments; last on Nov 04, 2011

The Political Junkie Occupies Bellingham

Sat, Oct 08, 2011, 3:29 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley reports on the Occupy Bellingham Rally

11 comments; last on Oct 13, 2011

From the Political Junkie: The Presidential Primary and Florida

Thu, Sep 29, 2011, 8:46 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley looks at Florida cutting in line

1 comments; last on Sep 30, 2011

From the Political Junkie: We need Godfrey

Mon, Sep 26, 2011, 2:00 am  //  Riley Sweeney

My Man Godfrey and the Forgotten Generation

4 comments; last on Sep 28, 2011

Wall Street protests ignored by news media

Sun, Sep 25, 2011, 12:11 pm  //  John Servais

Wall Street protests have been ongoing for over a week - but U.S. corporate news media have been covering them up.

1 comments; last on Sep 26, 2011

The Political Junkie stares at Redistricting Maps

Wed, Sep 14, 2011, 11:34 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley examines the legislative and congressional redistricting.

1 comments; last on Sep 18, 2011

From the Political Junkie: One Day for Labor?

Mon, Sep 05, 2011, 9:19 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley writes for the local Dems about Labor Day

3 comments; last on Sep 07, 2011

“Coal on a Roll” - in depth from

Thu, Sep 01, 2011, 3:46 pm  //  John Servais

George Black is comprehensive on the Powder River coal basin, BNSF, and the shipping of coal from Cherry Point and Longview.

6 comments; last on Sep 07, 2011

How it is done - courtesy of James Fallows

Fri, Aug 19, 2011, 3:13 pm  //  John Servais

Rick Perry hardly breaks his shuffle as Bank of America promises to support his campaign for president.

1 comments; last on Aug 21, 2011

From the Political Junkie: A Sobering Reminder at the Old Settlers Parade

Sun, Jul 31, 2011, 3:17 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley talks about the sobering reminder of our fallen soldiers at the Old Settler's Parade

2 comments; last on Aug 01, 2011

From the Political Junkie: Entitlement Reform?

Tue, Jul 26, 2011, 10:45 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley tackles "Entitlement Reform" as a bad frame

8 comments; last on Aug 01, 2011

The Debt isn’t the issue . . .your approach is!

Wed, Jul 06, 2011, 1:40 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley rants about the economy, and the solutions to our ills

6 comments; last on Aug 02, 2011

From The Political Junkie: Obama’s Re-election Stories

Sun, May 15, 2011, 2:16 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley Sweeney outlines the three storylines defining Obama's Re-election Campaign

2 comments; last on May 17, 2011

From a Political Junkie: A Sweetener for Old School Politics

Sat, Apr 09, 2011, 12:50 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley Sweeney highlights some Old School Politics

1 comments; last on Apr 10, 2011

From a Political Junkie: Thousands Gather for International Labor Rally

Mon, Apr 04, 2011, 5:00 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley Sweeney reports on April 2nd Labor Rally

9 comments; last on Apr 09, 2011

The (political) world according to Karp

Sat, Mar 05, 2011, 6:20 pm  //  Guest writer

By guest writer Bo Richardson. Karp believes the two-party goal is to make sure your ballot only offers a choice between two hacks - reformers need not apply.

9 comments; last on Mar 09, 2011

From The Political Junkie: Harry Reid works it Old School

Fri, Feb 25, 2011, 11:17 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley Sweeney gives a short post about Harry Reid's old school politicking

2 comments; last on Feb 27, 2011

From The Political Junkie: Legalization? It is time.

Mon, Feb 21, 2011, 6:17 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley Sweeney talks about why it is time for legalization of hemp

1 comments; last on Mar 29, 2011

Egypt - one writer’s perspective

Wed, Feb 02, 2011, 10:22 am  //  John Servais

Egypt - just one citizen voicing his perspective on what is happening. Speaking freely.

4 comments; last on Feb 07, 2011

From a Political Junkie: State of the Union Bingo

Mon, Jan 24, 2011, 5:33 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley Sweeney briefly shares his thoughts on the State of the Union Address

1 comments; last on Feb 06, 2011

Violence was legitimized by Sarah Palin

Sun, Jan 09, 2011, 12:56 pm  //  John Servais

Sarah Palin's violence-laced rhetoric shares the blame for the Arizona massacre.

18 comments; last on Jan 12, 2011

From a Political Junkie: All I want for 2011 is my two front teeth

Mon, Jan 03, 2011, 6:49 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley Sweeney talks about his 2011 Legislative Wish List

10 comments; last on Jan 09, 2011

From a Political Junkie: Obama’s Excellent Tax Bargain

Mon, Dec 27, 2010, 6:29 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Sweeney explains how President Obama bought off his opponents and scored a solid victory.

12 comments; last on Dec 29, 2010

Learn the Facts from Foreign Media

Wed, Dec 08, 2010, 3:21 am  //  John Servais

WikiLeaks' Julian Assange faces rape charges. The facts are revealed only by foreign news media.

14 comments; last on Dec 15, 2010

From TWO Political Junkies: Our 2012 Cattle Call

Mon, Dec 06, 2010, 6:39 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley Sweeney and his brother, Devlin, take a look at the 2012 Republican Candidates


Wikileaks is serving Democracy

Wed, Dec 01, 2010, 9:59 pm  //  John Servais

Updated Dec 3. I support WikiLeaks and their release of government documents so citizens can vote intelligently.

12 comments; last on Dec 07, 2010

From a Political Junkie: Abstaining from Abstinence-Only

Mon, Nov 29, 2010, 6:16 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley Sweeney examines facts vs beliefs and comprehensive sex education

4 comments; last on Dec 01, 2010

TSA protecting us from terrorists

Sat, Nov 27, 2010, 8:19 pm  //  John Servais

TSA puts young mother with a bag of breast milk through an illegal and unbelievable process.

5 comments; last on Nov 29, 2010


Fri, Nov 05, 2010, 4:00 pm  //  Paul deArmond

What went wrong in the mid-term election, why, and what we can expect now.

3 comments; last on Nov 16, 2010


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