November 26, 2019
A few days before we celebrate that national day of gratitude and thanksgiving, the news is full of the words of a soul-less, monstrous systemic destructive force. And of grave efforts to confront the beast in the offices of the world’s most powerful leaders. It is becoming evident on every side that we are facing a deep spiritual crisis. And to that, T.S. Eliot’s words come to mind, “It is ours to do the work. The results are none of our business.”
First the news.

“Governor Cuomo, Please declare a climate emergency
for the state of New York

and immediately ban all new fossil fuel infrastructure.
Tel: 518-474-8390, press (1)
or Tweet: @NYGovCuomo

Since I’m on the phone anyway I add stopping Danskammer, CPV, Cricket Valley and the 7 mile pipeline loop around Alb/Ren.  I also ask Cuomo to power the Empire State Plaza with renewables and to stop exploiting the environmental justice community of Sheridan Hollow.   People from other parts of the state are free to add their own local horrors or even thank the governor for anything positive he has done. BUT, none of the extra stuff is necessary.  Just what is in bold above.  It really does take less than a minute.  I’ve got a note on my fridge so I don’t forget.  If you’re on the road a lot you could put it in your car.  Soon it’s a habit.

Calling direct and leaving a message means you don’t have to leave your name, zip code or any other contact info.  It also means you don’t have to wait while a recording tells you what to say.  Thanks to Sue’s promotion in Rochester we now have 30 people calling the governor which means 210 calls a week.  When we hit 100 people calling (700 calls/week) then I’ll contact the Times Union, WAMC, etc. to see if they’ll promote our action. 

A little about me – If you know of my work at all (and you probably don’t) I headed up the fight against the Bomb Trains in the Albany area 4 or 5 years ago.  We got a lot of press at the time.  Most recently I was lead organizer for the 9/20/19 Climate Strike March that drew in 500 marchers.  The People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE) is my main group which I founded in 2014.

That’s about it. I’ve got a spreadsheet going so I can track who’s calling. I truly believe that for the time spent there’s nothing more impactful than this call-in campaign.  It’s so utterly simple and takes 7 minutes a week.

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Settlement with Oil and Gas Industry Seeking Monetary Award
Ban Against Injection Wells Continues

Following settlement of one of the lawsuits against Grant Township, PA, for daring to protect its water from a frack wastewater injection well, the township continues to stand up to the oil and gas industry.

MERCERSBURG, PA— An oil and gas industry lawsuit – seeking to override a community’s ban on frack waste injection wells, and simultaneously discipline the lawyers working to defend the community – has been settled.

The Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA) and Pennsylvania General Energy (PGE) sued Grant Township, PA, in federal court to overturn its 2014 ban on frack waste injection wells. Such wells are known to introduce radioactive waste and other chemicals (undisclosed by corporations), as well as cause earthquakes, in the communities where they are sited.

The rural Indiana County community passed the ban to protect its only source of drinking water from the risk of permanent contamination. The township law secured the right of the people to protect their water, and the environmental rights of the people and ecosystems in the community to be protected from such threats.

The lawsuit sought to overturn the community’s democratically enacted prohibition on the wells. PIOGA and PGE argued that preventing oil and gas corporations from dumping frack waste in the community amounted to violation of the corporation’s civil rights, and the attorneys’ defense of the law to harassment. Therefore, they argued, the attorneys must be financially sanctioned for defending the community, and PGE sought to compel Grant Township to pay for the money the company spent to sue the community.

As the court and the corporation discussed how to punish Grant and its legal team – from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) – the people of the township voted for a new municipal home rule charter, in 2015. That charter stands and continues to prohibit frack waste wells.

Grant and CELDF faced difficult choices. Grant faced a fee amounting to over $102,000, and Grant Township’s attorneys, supported by CELDF, faced sanctions of $52,000. On appeal, PGE sought sanctions of more than $600,000 against the attorneys and CELDF. After months of legal negotiations, CELDF and Grant decided the financially prudent decision was to settle for $75,000. CELDF will pay the entire settlement. Grant will pay nothing. This settlement does not allow injection wells to be sited in the township.

But it is outrageous that the judge and industry have taken these actions.…—Ben Price, “Settlement Announced with Oil and Gas Industry Seeking Monetary Award: Ban Against Injection Wells Continues,” CELDF, 11/11/19

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Letter to the Editor:
Regarding That Food & Water Watch Criticism of RGGI

At an event this past weekend, I had the chance to participate in a rendition of one of my favorite chants: ” The People, United, Will Never Be Defeated”.  I love the sentiment, of masses of people coming together with shared purpose in order to overcome the forces that seek to benefit a more narrow set of interests.  But even as I chant the words longing for them to be made real, I feel the knot building in my stomach and my mind drifts to how easily we are kept divided.  A concern I also had when reading, “Cap and Trade: More Pollution for the Poor and People of Color”, in the last edition of The Banner.

I suppose I have seen previous articles on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that have raised concerns as to its effectiveness.  Generally, I have given the criticism consideration and yet have remained mostly positive about the program.  I have been able to balance that negative perspective with the program’s review by representatives from the electricity industry, regulators, and other journal articles that have been more complementary.  And, I am not a person who thinks there is going to be one perfect answer to the elimination of greenhouse gases.  I know RGGI is just one tool, the Renewable Energy Standards another, Zero Emissions Requirements another, Community Choice Aggregation another, and Community Solar yet another…to name a few.  

And, as much as I might like to personally reign in corporate capitalism, the electricity sector is a highly regulated section of the economy and one in which our Governor and his appointed Public Service Commission could wield more influence.  I suppose that is why I find Food & Water Watch and their intolerance for any use of markets frustrating, and I’m even more concerned when they are citing material published by the CATO Institute to defend their position.  I’m convinced, that much like a product defense company, the CATO Institute will only publish work that supports their agenda and has no interest in determining if the research is accurate.  In the case of the CATO Institute, that agenda is neoliberal economics.

Is RGGI perfect?  Is New York State moving quickly enough to avert disaster?  Certainly not.  But, I am deeply concerned that the Koch brothers and their ilk are being very effective at preventing change – largely by keeping the opposition divided.  Sow some seeds of doubt, target what is working and watch the people attack each other.  Whether the question is on the scale of renewable projects or a particular policy like net metering or RGGI….so long as you keep people doubtful and distracted then they won’t organize around a common agenda.  

So let me be very clear.  If you care about communities of color and the poor, then embrace the elimination of fossil fuels from transportation, building heating, and the electricity sector because poor communities and communities of color are bearing the brunt of the pollution from production, to refining, to storage, to combustion.  Even better, say YES to renewable energy, especially large scale renewable energy.  Say YES to 1-2% of New York land being used to cite large solar and wind projects.  We need policy, and we need to keep up the pressure to make sure those policies are better and more effective but don’t let the opposition distract  and divide us. 

Remember, “The People, United, Will Never Be Defeated”.  Please unite. —Sue Hughes Smith, 11/24/19

Sue Hughes-Smith is Manager of Mayhem (M.O.M), and Adjunct Professor of Environmental Health, SUNY Brockport

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Blockade of the Cricket Valley Gas

On Saturday November 16, 2019 community members, farmers and supporters shut down the Cricket Valley fracked gas power plant in New York State by blocking the entrance with a tractor and climbing the 275ft tall smokestacks.

29 people were arrested.

The tractor blockade lasted 7 hours before police made arrests. And the 4 people who climbed the smokestack came down at sunset and were up there for 12 hours

The plant was shut down for the day and workers were sent home. As the workers were leaving, those shutting down the plant sang “With you, for you, on your side. We are the rising tide” to show them they are fighting for a just transition that does not leave them behind.

Call Cuomo. Everyday.

Calls to the Governor’s office really counts! We logged 300 calls just this week, but we need so many more. We have a dedicated hotline to Cuomo’s office for Stop Cricket Valley efforts. It takes 60 seconds. You will hear a welcome message from Phil, Ben and Donna and once connected, you can type 1 to leave a message or type 2 to speak to an operator (She is very nice). Tell her why the Governor should close Cricket Valley and she will ask for your zip code and then you’re done! You can call from anywhere. 877-252-4545. Memorize it. Share it.

 

We went to our first court appointment last night. As it stands now, the tractor blockade folks are facing 50 hours of community service and the Smokestack Climbers are facing 30 days in jail. We are going to fight it with our amazing lawyer but we’ll need your support during this long battle.

Come to Court Support December 9 and January 13

Court support does something very radical and key to movement building: it transforms an otherwise individualistic act of attending a court appearance into a collective experience. We prepare together, we debrief together, we improvise together, and we celebrate our victories together. Please come and stand with the defendants who will face a judge.

We went to our first court appointment last night. As it stands now, the tractor blockade folks are facing 50 hours of community service and the Smokestack Climbers are facing 30 days in jail. We are going to fight it with our amazing lawyer but we’ll need your support during this long battle.

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Regarding Mammon at Thanksgiving
With Coal’s Decline, Pennsylvania Communities Watch the Rise
of Natural Gas-fueled Plastics

For Beaver County, just northwest of Pittsburgh, the construction of Royal Dutch Shell’s towering new plastics factory overshadows the closure of the Bruce Mansfield Power Plant, the state’s largest coal power station, located along the same stretch of Ohio River in western Pennsylvania. 

The juxtaposition of these two projects, in which one powerful fossil fuel supply rises as the other falls, reflects the broader pattern of changing energy sources in America. A growing chorus agrees the expansion of the natural gas industry, which feeds plastics and petrochemical plants like Shell’s, is moving the U.S. in the wrong direction to prevent catastrophic impacts from climate change.

A Global Mismatch: Climate Plans vs. Fossil Fuel Plans

Scientists have warned that if the world doesn’t limit global temperature increase to 2.7º F (1.5º C) above preindustrial levels, called for in the 2015 Paris Agreement, we won’t be able to prevent the most severe effects of global warming. 

A November 20 report from the United Nations Environment Program assesses the gap between Paris Agreement climate goals and countries’ planned production of fossil fuels. The report states that “the world is on track to produce about 50 percent more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 2°C and 120 percent more than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.”

While coal is the biggest driver, according to the report, “Oil and gas are also on track to exceed carbon budgets, as countries continue to invest in fossil fuel infrastructure that ‘locks in’ oil and gas use.”

The shale gas industry has been building demand for fossil fuels from its fracked oil and gas wells by promoting turning its products into plastics and petrochemicals.…—Julie Dermansky, “With Coal’s Decline, Pennsylvania Communities Watch the Rise of Natural Gas-fueled Plastics,” DeSmog, 11/22/19

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Projected Fossil Fuel Production
‘Dangerously Out of Step’ With Global Climate Goals

“Governments are planning to produce about 50% more fossil fuels by 2030 than would be consistent with a 2°C pathway and 120% more than would be consistent with a 1.5°C pathway.”

A United Nations report released Wednesday warns that worldwide projections for fossil fuel production over the next decade indicate that the international community is on track to fail to rein in planet-heating emissions and prevent climate catastrophe.

The Production Gap (pdf), produced by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and other leading research organizations, claims to be the first assessment of the gap between countries’ plans for coal, gas, and oil production and governments’ plans to meet the primary targets of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

The Paris accord is backed by every country on Earth except the United States under President Donald Trump, who earlier this month initiated the deal’s yearlong withdrawal process. The agreement aims to keep average global temperature rise this century “well below” 2°C compared with pre-industrial levels, limiting it to 1.5°C.


The new report’s key findings, as the executive summary outlines, are:

  • Governments are planning to produce about 50% more fossil fuels by 2030 than would be consistent with a 2°C pathway and 120% more than would be consistent with a 1.5°C pathway;
  • This global production gap is even larger than the already-significant global emissions gap, due to minimal policy attention on curbing fossil fuel production;
  • The continued expansion of fossil fuel production—and the widening of the global production gap—is underpinned by a combination of ambitious national plans, government subsidies to producers, and other forms of public finance;
  • Several governments have already adopted policies to restrict fossil fuel production, providing momentum and important lessons for broader adoption; and
  • International cooperation plays a central role in winding down fossil fuel production.

“This important report shows that governments’ projected and planned levels of coal, oil, and gas production are dangerously out of step with the goals of the Paris agreement on climate change,” Nicholas Stern, a professor at the London School of Economics and chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said in a statement.…—Jessica Corbett, “Projected Fossil Fuel Production ‘Dangerously Out of Step’ With Global Climate Goals, UN Report Reveals,Common Dreams News, 11/20/19

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House clean energy tax bill sees broad industry support,
but Senate path uncertain

House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures Chairman Mike Thompson, D-Calif., introduced a draft bill on Tuesday to expand and extend renewable energy use through the tax code.

Thompson and a group of Democrats in the committee introduced the draft legislation that extends credits for solar, wind and electric vehicles, while also creating specific tax incentives for used electric vehicles, energy storage systems over 20 kWh and offshore wind.

Clean energy and renewables advocates, many of which supported the inception of the energy tax package, are asking for the bill to be brought to the House floor quickly, to put it into effect by the end of the year. Many credits, like the production tax credit, expire in 2020.

The draft bill is meant to address climate change through the tax code, creating job investment opportunities and also adding funding for new technologies, such as energy storage.

“The climate crisis requires bold action, and I’m pleased that we’re using legislative tools at the Ways and Means’ disposal to create green jobs, reduce carbon emissions, and heal our planet,” House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said in a statement.…

The tax package is hailed as a crucial step in climate policy by a number of environmental groups.

“We encourage House leadership to quickly bring a package of clean energy extenders to the floor for a vote,” John Bowman, managing director for government affairs at the National Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “This is the one chance we have this year to move true climate legislation.”

Utility advocacy groups also cheered for the draft bill, specifically for the expansion of the electric vehicle credit, which has become a priority for the investor-owned utility group Edison Electric Institute (EEI).…

Uncertainty lies ahead

The new bill unites a lot of competing technologies for the first time, although Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., had previously proposed a technology neutral tax credit that could be utilized by multiple clean energy resources.

However, it is uncertain whether the bill will advance past the House of Representatives before 2020.…—Iulia Gheorghiu, “House clean energy tax bill sees broad industry support, but Senate path uncertain,” Utility Dive, 11/20/19

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Blood Gold in the Brazilian Rain Forest

Belém, a member of the Kayapo people, confers with Chicão, a miner whom his tribe allows to work on indigenous land. A new wave of prospectors, encouraged by Brazil’s President, threatens to upend a vital ecological balance in the rain forest. Photograph by Mauricio Lima for The New Yorker

Indigenous people and illegal miners are engaged in a fight that may help decide the future of the planet.

One day in 2014, Belém, a member of Brazil’s Kayapo tribe, went deep into the forest to hunt macaws and parrots. He was helping to prepare for a coming-of-age ceremony, in which young men are given adult names and have their lips pierced. By custom, initiates wear headdresses adorned with tail feathers. Belém, whose Kayapo name is Takaktyx, an honorific form of the word “strong,” was a designated bird hunter.

Far from his home village of Turedjam, Belém ran across a group of white outsiders. They were garimpeiros, gold prospectors, who were working inside the Kayapo reserve—a twenty-six-million-acre Amazonian wilderness, demarcated for indigenous people. Gold mining is illegal there, but the prospectors were accompanied by a Kayapo man, so Belém assumed that some arrangement had been made. About nine thousand Kayapo lived in the forest, split into several groups; each had its own chief, and the chiefs tended to do as they pleased.

Ever since the Kayapo had come into regular contact with the outside world, in the nineteen-fifties, whites had been trying to extract resources from their forests, beginning with animal skins and expanding to mahogany and gold. In the eighties, some chiefs made easy profits by granting logging and mining rights to outsiders, but after a decade the mahogany was depleted and the price of gold had dropped. After environmental advocates in the Brazilian government brought a lawsuit against miners, the Kayapo closed the reserve to extraction. Since then, though, international gold prices have tripled, to fourteen hundred dollars an ounce, and an influx of new miners have come to try their luck.

“All of us here realize we’re fucking the environment,” Jorge Silva, a forty-eight-year-old miner, said. “It’s not like we want to—it’s that we haven’t found any alternative means to survive.

The prospectors whom Belém met told him that they wanted to build a road linking Turedjam with their mine, about forty miles away through the forest. Belém understood why they wanted such a road. Turedjam was situated on the Rio Branco, which formed the northeastern boundary of the Kayapo reserve. The area was rich in gold—and Turedjam had a recently built bridge that could support heavy vehicles. The proposed road would also allow prospectors to sneak machinery through the reserve under tree cover, without being spotted from the air by federal police, who periodically raided their operations.…—Jon Lee Anderson, “Blood Gold in the Brazilian Rain Forest,” The New Yorker, 11/11/19

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Chasing Tomorrow

Follow Max and Jeremy!

Two friends that came to see the decline in our environment; arousing a profound need to reevaluate their lives after watching a series of films pointing at the leading causes of climate change.

Now, they aim to establish a connection between their thoughts, and their actions.

With their passion for filming and photography, they explore the UK in their campervan to document and highlight the people and communities that reinvent our future and work towards a more ethical and sustainable world.—”Chasing Tomorrow,” YouTube, 7/6/17

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New estimate puts October brine leak at 1.3M gallons,
one of largest oilfield spills in ND

A leak on a pipeline in Dunn County last month spilled more than 1.3 million gallons of brine that contaminated a pasture, a creek and the water supply for cattle.

The leak is among the biggest oilfield spills to occur in North Dakota, according to Bill Suess, spill investigation program manager for the state Department of Environmental Quality. 

The spill caused elevated salt concentrations in the creek and a stock pond, he said. No cattle were harmed, but they have been moved to a new area and supplied with clean water.

The updated spill volume, which is equal to 32,826 barrels, was released by Environmental Quality on Friday after the agency received new information from Marathon Oil Co., which operates the pipeline.

The company initially reported a far smaller volume estimate of 500 barrels to the state when it detected the leak on Oct. 1. That amount is equal to 21,000 gallons.

“We knew it was going to be bigger,” Suess said, adding that the first estimate just examined the surface impact of the spill.…—Amy R. Sisk, “New estimate puts October brine leak at 1.3M gallons, one of largest oilfield spills in ND,” Bismarck Tribune, 11/22/19

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Amazonian tree with human-sized leaves
finally gets Identified as a new species

  • More than 35 years after it was first seen, researchers have described Bacolod gigantifolia, a tree species from the Brazilian Amazon with gigantic leaves that can reach 2.5 meters (8 feet) in length.
  • Although C. gigantifolia has been known to the public and the scientific community for a long time, describing it formally and giving it an official name was essential to be able to assess its conservation status and design conservation strategies to protect it, the researchers say.
  • The species is rare and likely has disjointed populations occurring in a rapidly changing landscape, and the researchers recommended listing it as endangered on the IUCN Red List.

At the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA) in Manaus, Brazil, a framed exhibit of a massive dried leaf has been a local attraction for decades. But the complete identity of the tree it belongs to remained unresolved — until now.

Further reading Youth activists came together in the Amazon to strategize on how to combat climate change
The loss of rainforests means that we’re also losing a source of important medicines
Brazil’s environment minister says that improving economic opportunities for people in the Amazon will slow deforestation
The largest ape ever to live trod the Earth almost 2 million years ago, and its closest living relative is the orangutan

Researchers have known that the tree is a species of Coccoloba, a genus of flowering plants that grow in the tropical forests of the Americas. Botanists from INPA first encountered an individual of the unknown Coccoloba tree in 1982 while surveying the Madeira River Basin in the Brazilian Amazon. They spotted more individuals of the plant over subsequent expeditions in the 1980s. But they couldn’t pinpoint the species at the time. The individual trees weren’t bearing any flowers or fruits then, parts that are essential to describing a plant species, and their leaves were too large to dehydrate, press and carry back to INPA. The researchers did take notes and photographs.…—Shreya Dasgupta, “Amazonian tree with human-sized leaves finally gets ID’d as new species,” Mongabay, 11/22/19 https://news.mongabay.com/2019/11/amazon-tree-giant-leaves-coccoloba-gigantifolia-new-species-brazil/

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Miners Kill Indigenous Leader in Brazil
During Invasion of Protected Land

Land invasions in indigenous territories are on the rise across Brazil. Indigenous leaders say they regularly come under threat by miners, loggers and farmers.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Several dozen heavily armed miners dressed in military fatigues invaded an indigenous village in remote northern Brazil this week and fatally stabbed at least one of the community’s leaders, officials said Saturday.

The killing comes as miners and loggers are making increasingly bold and defiant incursions into protected areas, including indigenous territories, with the explicit encouragement of Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. Officials warned the conflict could escalate in the coming hours.

Mr. Bolsonaro has said that indigenous communities are in control of vast territories that should be opened up to industries to make them profitable.

Land invasions in indigenous territories are on the rise across Brazil, where indigenous leaders say they regularly come under threat by miners, loggers and farmers (sic; more properly known as ‘rogues’—Editor). Yet assassinations of indigenous leaders are rare.

Leaders of the Wajapi indigenous community made urgent pleas to the federal government on Saturday, warning that the conflict between the miners and members of their community who live in remote villages in the northern state of Amapá risked turning into a blood bath.

“They are armed with rifles and other weapons,” Jawaruwa Waiapi, a leader of the community, said in a voice message sent to one of the state’s senators, referring to the miners. “We are in danger. You need to send the army to stop them.”…—Ernesto Londoño, “Miners Kill Indigenous Leader in Brazil During Invasion of Protected Land,” The New York Times, 7/27/19

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Court Rules No Compensation for Klamath Irrigators
Due To Superior Tribal Rights

In this long-running case, NARF represents Klamath Tribes (as amicus curiae) as they fight to protect their treaty rights in the Klamath Basin.

On November 14, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Court of Federal Claims decision in Baley v. United States, denying compensation to Klamath Project irrigators for a claimed 2001 taking of their water rights by the United States government. The decision hinged on recognition of the senior tribal water rights of the Klamath Tribes and other downriver Klamath Basin tribes. This is a tremendous victory for the Klamath Tribes, which NARF represented as amicus curiae in the case, as well as for the other Klamath Basin tribes, the United States, and environmental groups.

In this long-running case, Klamath Project irrigators sought nearly $30 million in compensation from the United States government for the Bureau of Reclamation’s curtailment of Project water deliveries during a severe drought in 2001. The water restrictions were made to meet Endangered Species Act requirements and fulfill tribal trust responsibilities. Among other things, the irrigators claimed that tribal water rights were not relevant to Reclamation’s water management decisions. In late 2017, the US Court of Claims confirmed that the Klamath Tribes and downriver Klamath Basin tribes have senior water rights over other water interests in the Klamath Basin. Thus, the Project irrigators, as junior water rights users under the western water law system of “first in time, first in right,” were not entitled to receive any Project water in 2001.

Further reading: Learn more about the Baley v. United States case.

In appealing the case, the irrigators disputed whether the tribal water rights included all of the water Reclamation withheld from delivery in 2001. The irrigators also argued that the Klamath Tribes do not have water rights in Upper Klamath Lake, which is outside of and forms part of the boundary of the Klamath Tribes’ former reservation. With this week’s ruling, the US Court of Appeals declared, once again, that the Klamath Tribes’ water rights are the most senior in the region, with a priority date of time immemorial… —”Court Rules No Compensation for Klamath Irrigators Due To Superior Tribal Rights,” Native American Rights Fund, 11/18/19

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And That’s A Wrap! Thanks to everyone who sent in news, action announcements and comments this week. Send kudos, rotten tomatoes and your story ideas, your group’s action events, and news of interest to intrepid climate change and environmental justice warriors! Send to editor@thebanner.news.