(Yuri Gripas/Reuters) Former energy lobbyist David Bernhardt is sworn in before a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on his nomination of to be Interior secretary, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 28, 2019.

Meet the Next Ryan Zinke


Ryan Zinke, of course, was Trump’s ethically-challenged Secretary of the Interior, who resigned under pressure as the ethics investigations mounted. Not before working grievous harm to the lands, airs and waters he had sworn to protect, of course. Trump’s nominee to succeed Zinke is David Bernhardt, a career lobbyist for Big Agriculture. Bernhardt was a…

Travis Schumm/ Courtesy The Platte River is set on fire following train derailment.

Why Coal Should Stay in the Ground


Coal is the world’s dirtiest fuel. There are at least four strikes against coal as an energy fuel: It’s messy and damaging to the environment to mine. Whether it is the mountain-destroying techniques in West Virginia, or the strip-mining in Wyoming, coal mining causes great hard to the environment. By definition, the mine site is…

Mark Twain's "War Prayer"

The Other Alaska Prayer


Do you remember Mark Twain’s short essay, “The War Prayer“? In that essay, Twain has a messenger – perhaps a messenger from God – explain to a congregation what their prayer in support of their patriotic war meant. That messenger laid out, in part, what any war means: O Lord our God, help us to…

Minimata Disease Victim, 2006 (photographer unknown)

Coal and Mercury


Back in September 2014, when the effects of methylmercury poisoning in songbirds was first reported, WC asked, “Minamata Disease in songbirds. Are we going to pay attention?” We now have the answer. No. We need to take a couple of steps back to understand the problem and the enormity of the Trump Administration’s recent outrageous decision.…

Aerial Photo, Umiat, Alaska c. 1963

Case Study: The Umiat Mess


Umiat is located in the foothills of the Brooks Range in Alaska, southwest of Prudhoe Bay, in what used to be called Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 4. From 1945 to 1954, the U.S. Navy constructed facilities at Umiat for oil and gas exploration purposes. Improvements included living quarters, mess hall, latrines, shops, powerhouse, office, storage, and…

Relative frequency of once-in-five-year precipitation events falling over a 2-day period, averaged over the continental U.S, 1901-2012. Green bars in recent decades show these events have become more frequent, when averaged across much of the country. SOURCE National Climate Assessment (U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2014)

The Thing about 100-Year Floods


A 100-Year Flood, of course, is an extreme flooding event that happens, on average, only once every 100 years. A hydrologist would describe it as a “recurrence interval” or talk about an “annual exceedance probability (AEP).” The recurrence interval can change. If the stream basin is altered, say by urbanization or wildfire, then less rain…