Tag Archives: rights

6 surprising health items that could disappear with ACA repeal

The Affordable Care Act of course affected premiums and insurance purchasing. It guaranteed people with pre-existing conditions could buy health coverage and allowed children to stay on parents’ plans until age 26. But the roughly 2,000-page bill also included a host of other provisions that affect the health-related choices of nearly every American.

Some of these measures are evident every day. Some enjoy broad support, even though people often don’t always realize they spring from the statute.

In other words, the outcome of the repeal-and-replace debate could affect more than you might think, depending on exactly how the GOP congressional majority pursues its goal to do away with Obamacare.

No one knows how far the effort will reach, but here’s a sampling of sleeper provisions that could land on the cutting-room floor:

CALORIE COUNTS AT RESTAURANTS AND FAST FOOD CHAINS

Feeling hungry? The law tries to give you more information about what that burger or muffin will cost you in terms of calories, part of an effort to combat the ongoing obesity epidemic. Under the ACA, most restaurants and fast food chains with at least 20 stores must post calorie counts of their menu items. Several states, including New York, already had similar rules before the law. Although there was some pushback, the rule had industry support, possibly because posting calories was seen as less onerous than such things as taxes on sugary foods or beverages. The final rule went into effect in December after a one-year delay. One thing that is still unclear: Does simply seeing that a particular muffin has more than 400 calories cause consumers to choose carrot sticks instead?  Results are mixed. One large meta-analysis done before the law went into effect didn’t show a significant reduction in calorie consumption, although the authors concluded that menu labeling is “a relatively low-cost education strategy that may lead consumers to purchase slightly fewer calories.”

PRIVACY PLEASE: WORKPLACE REQUIREMENTS FOR BREAST-FEEDING ROOMS

Breast feeding, but going back to work? The law requires employers to provide women break time to express milk for up to a year after giving birth and provide someplace — other than a bathroom — to do so in private. In addition, most health plans must offer breastfeeding support and equipment, such as pumps, without a patient co-payment.

LIMITS ON SURPRISE MEDICAL COSTS FROM HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM VISITS

If you find yourself in an emergency room, short on cash, uninsured or not sure if your insurance covers costs at that hospital, the law provides some limited assistance. If you are in a hospital that is not part of your insurer’s network, the Affordable Care Act requires all health plans to charge consumers the same co-payments or co-insurance for out-of-network emergency care as they do for hospitals within their networks. Still, the hospital could “balance bill” you for its costs — including ER care — that exceed what your insurer reimburses it.

If it’s a non-profit hospital — and about 78 percent of all hospitals are — the law requires it to post online a written financial assistance policy, spelling out whether it offers free or discounted care and the eligibility requirements for such programs. While not prescribing any particular set of eligibility requirements, the law requires hospitals to charge lower rates to patients who are eligible for their financial assistance programs. That’s compared with their gross charges, also known as chargemaster rates.

NONPROFIT HOSPITALS’ COMMUNITY HEALTH ASSESSMENTS

The health law also requires non-profit hospitals to justify the billions of dollars in tax exemptions they receive by demonstrating how they go about trying to improve the health of the community around them.

Every three years, these hospitals have to perform a community needs assessment for the area the hospital serves. They also have to develop — and update annually — strategies to meet these needs. The hospitals then must provide documentation as part of their annual reporting to the Internal Revenue Service. Failure to comply could leave them liable for a $50,000 penalty.

A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE … HER OB/GYN

Most insurance plans must allow women to seek care from an obstetrician/gynecologist without having to get a referral from a primary care physician. While the majority of states already had such protections in place, those laws did not apply to self-insured plans, which are often offered by large employers. The health law extended the rules to all new plans. Proponents say direct access makes it easier for women to seek not only reproductive health care, but also related screenings for such things as high blood pressure or cholesterol.

AND WHAT ABOUT THOSE THERAPY COVERAGE ASSURANCES FOR FAMILIES WHO HAVE KIDS WITH AUTISM?

Advocates for children with autism and people with degenerative diseases argued that many insurance plans did not provide care their families needed. That’s because insurers would cover rehabilitation to help people regain functions they had lost, such as walking again after a stroke, but not care needed to either gain functions patients never had, such speech therapy for a child who never learned how to talk, or to maintain a patient’s current level of function. The law requires plans to offer coverage for such treatments, dubbed habilitative care, as part of the essential health benefits in plans sold to individuals and small groups.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. This story from HKN is published under a Creative Commons license.

Planned Parenthood: Ryan lies about access to health care in Wisconsin

During a CNN town hall meeting last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan told a patient who relies on Planned Parenthood that she would have many other places to go for her health care if he is successful in kicking Planned Parenthood out of the Medicaid program.

However, ending funding for preventive care at Planned Parenthood would devastate essential health care access among the country’s and state’s most vulnerable populations — most prominently in Paul Ryan’s own back yard.

If Paul Ryan really wanted women to get the health care they need, he would not propose ending Planned Parenthood’s ability to serve 50,000 people in Wisconsin, leaving most of them without another provider.

As a part of the pubic health network in Wisconsin, no one knows better than Planned Parenthood the lack of access people in our state already face. We have been unable to identify alternative health care providers who are able to absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients in Wisconsin — including in Paul Ryan’s own district.

In 73 percent of the counties PPWI serves, there is not a provider who could absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients. In those rare communities where there are other community health care providers, many would be unable to meet our patients’ need if Planned Parenthood could not provide care.

In fact, more than 6,000 people living in Speaker Ryan’s own district rely on Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment and birth control. On behalf of these patients, we ask Speaker Ryan where these people go for health care? Community based health centers like Planned Parenthood are critical for especially vulnerable patients without easy access to other providers.

Even with Planned Parenthood’s continued care, there is a tremendous unmet need for health care in Wisconsin and in Speaker Paul Ryan’s own district. In Ryan’s district specifically, STD rates, teen births, poverty, infant mortality and unemployment rates are all higher than the state average. We’ve been hearing from leaders, partners and patients across Wisconsin, including those in the Speaker’s district. What they all know is ensuring continued access to a trusted and affordable community health care provider like Planned Parenthood is something we should all agree is important to help keep our communities safe, healthy and strong.

 

Study: North Dakota pipelines average 4 spills per year

Pipelines in North Dakota have spilled crude oil and other hazardous liquids at least 85 times since 1996, according to an analysis released today by the Center for Biological Diversity. These 85 spills — an average of four a year — caused more than $40 million in property damage, according to the data compiled from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The analysis follows the recent decision by the Obama administration not to grant the Dakota Access pipeline an easement for construction under Lake Oahe.

After months of peaceful protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will undertake a review of alternate routes for the pipeline.

“Pipeline leaks are common and incredibly dangerous, and the Dakota Access pipeline will threaten every community it cuts through,” said the center’s Randi Spivak. “This pipeline wasn’t considered safe for the residents of Bismarck. It is equally unsafe for the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux. The Army Corps should not be putting anyone’s water supply at risk.”

Energy Transfer Partners, the conglomerate behind the controversial Dakota Access project, has a questionable safety record. The company has been responsible for 29 pipeline safety incidents since 2006, in which 9,555 barrels of hazardous liquids were spilled.

The standoff over the Dakota Access pipeline has united indigenous people across the globe in an unprecedented show of solidarity. Thousands have come to show their support. In response local police have militarized the situation, firing rubber bullets and showering protesters with water in freezing temperatures.

A 2013 study reveals a deeply troubling history of pipeline accidents in the United States. This independent analysis of federal records found that since 1986, oil and gas pipeline leaks, spills and other safety incidents have resulted in nearly $7 billion in damages, more than 2,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths.

A time-lapse video documents significant pipeline” incidents in the continental United States — along with their human and financial costs — from 1986 through May 2013.

On average one significant pipeline incident occurred in the country every 30 hours, according to the data.

“We expect the Corps to conduct a full oil-spill risk analysis for every river crossing along the entire route of the Dakota Access project,” Spivak said in a statement to the press. “Spills are a fact of life when pipelines fail — and that puts water, wildlife and people directly in harm’s way.”

 

Dakota Access Pipeline protesters celebrate, remain at camp

Thousands of protesters in North Dakota celebrated after the federal government ruled against a controversial pipeline project but were mindful the fight is not over, as the company building the line said it had no plans for re-routing the pipe.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said on Sunday it rejected an application to allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to tunnel under Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.

The decision came after months of protests from Native Americans and activists, who argued that the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline would damage sacred lands and could contaminate the tribe’s water source.
Energy Transfer Partners, in a joint statement with its partner, Sunoco Logistics Partners, said late on Sunday they do not intend to reroute the line, calling the Obama administration’s decision a “political action.” They said they still expect the project to be completed, noting that the Army Corps said they had followed all required legal procedures in the permitting process.

The mood among protesters has been upbeat since the rejection was announced at the Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Activists were seen hugging and letting out war cries in response to the news.

With the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump supportive of the project, activists were concerned a reversal could be coming.

“This is a temporary celebration. I think this is just a rest,” said Charlotte Bad Cob, 30, from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. “With a new government it could turn and we could be at it again.”

The pipeline is complete except for a 1-mile (1.61 km)segment to run under Lake Oahe. That stretch required an easement from federal authorities.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it will analyze possible alternate routes, although any other route also is likely to cross the Missouri River.

The protest camp’s numbers have swelled in recent days, as hundreds of U.S. veterans have flocked to North Dakota in support of the protesters.

Some of those in a long line of traffic along Highway 1806 heading into the camp hollered and honked their horns after the news was announced.

Craig Edward Morning, 30, a carpenter from Stony Point, New York, said he will leave when the tribe says he should and the company agrees to stop building the line.

“They retreat first,” he said. “They’re the ones that aren’t welcome.”

FIGHT MAY BE A ‘LONG HAUL’

Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II, in a statement, said he hoped ETP, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple and Trump would respect the decision.
“When it comes to infrastructure development in Indian Country and with respect to treaty lands, we must strive to work together to reach decisions that reflect the multifaceted considerations of tribes,” he said.

Trump could direct authorities to approve the line, even if before he takes over from Democratic President Barack Obama on Jan. 20 federal authorities will be studying alternative routes. North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer, a Republican, who has advised Trump on energy policy, said the decision ignores the rule of law.

Tom Goldtooth, a Lakota from Minnesota, and a co-founder of Indigenous Environmental Network, said he expects Trump to try to reverse the decision.

“I think we’re going to be in this for the long haul. That’s what my fear is,” he said.

In November, ETP moved equipment to the edge of the Missouri River to prepare for drilling, and later asked a federal court to disregard the Army Corps, and declare that the company could finish the line. That ruling is still pending.

Several veterans who recently arrived in camp told Reuters they thought Sunday’s decision, which came just as Oceti Sakowin has seen an influx of service members, was a tactic to convince protesters to leave.

Those spoken to after the decision said they had no plans to leave because they anticipate heated opposition from ETP and the incoming administration.

“That drill is still on the drill pad. Until that’s gone, this is not over,” said Matthew Crane, 32, from Buffalo, New York, who arrived with a contingent of veterans last week.

On the Web

Stand with Standing Rock.

Groups challenge abortion restrictions in 3 states

Abortion rights groups filed three lawsuits challenging medically unnecessary abortion restrictions in Alaska, Missouri and North Carolina.

This follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down two Texas laws that devastated access to abortion in the state. Since the ruling, abortion restrictions in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Oklahoma and Wisconsin were blocked.

The lawsuits involve the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU and challenge the following:

  • Medically unnecessary Alaska restrictions, passed more than 40 years ago, that ban abortion in outpatient health centers after the first trimester of pregnancy, forcing many women to travel out of state for procedures.
  • A ban on abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy in North Carolina which was recently amended to further restrict the already narrow health exception to extremely limited health emergencies.
  • Medically unnecessary restrictions in Missouri that have closed all but one health center that provides abortion in the state.

“Today’s filing is a major step in the fight to ensure all women can get safe and legal abortions in their own communities, when they need them,” stated Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “We are a nation of laws, and the center is prepared to use the full force of the law to ensure women’s fundamental rights are protected and respected.  We are proud to stand with our partners in challenging these unconstitutional measures and vow to continue the fight for women’s health, equality, and dignity.”

At Planned Parenthood Federation of America, chief medical officer Raegan McDonald-Mosley said, “These restrictions have a disproportionate impact on those who already face far too many barriers to health care as people of color, people who live in rural areas, or people with low incomes. These laws are dangerous, unjust, and unconstitutional — and they will come down.”

Added Jennifer Dalven of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project: “With the cases we are filing today, we are sending a clear message that we won’t stop working until every woman can get the care she needs no matter who she is, where she lives, or how much money she makes.”

In the Alaska case,  Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands is represented by Janet Crepps of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Brigitte Amiri of the ACLU, Carrie Flaxman of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Tara Rich and Eric Glatt of the ACLU of Alaska, and Susan Orlansky of Reeves, Amodio, LLC.

In the North Carolina case, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic is represented by Maithreyi Ratakonda and Carrie Flaxman of Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Beverly Gray, M.D. and Elizabeth Deans, M.D. are represented by Andrew Beck of the ACLU; Amy Bryant M.D., M.S.C.R., is represented by Genevieve Scott and Julie Rikelman of the Center for Reproductive Rights; Irena Como and Christopher Brook of the ACLU of North Carolina is representing all plaintiffs.

In the Missouri case, Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region are represented by Melissa Cohen and Jennifer Sandman of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Arthur Benson of Arthur Benson & Associates.

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that women have a constitutional right to decide whether to end or continue a pregnancy and states cannot ban abortion prior to viability.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court refused to review North Dakota’s ban on abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy and Arkansas’ ban on abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy that had been struck down by lower courts.

The Supreme Court’s Whole Woman’s Health decision also affirmed that states cannot pass sham restrictions on abortion.

Youth travel from Standing Rock to NYC to urge Clinton to take a stand

Young people from Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires and the Standing Rock Sioux Nation traveled this week to Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters in New York City to call on her to speak out against the Dakota Access pipeline.

The group also visited Trump tower to urge the Republican candidate to weigh in.

Some remarks made by the young demonstrators:

“We made treaties and agreements. A violation of a native treaty is a violation of federal law. By refusing to stand against DAPL, Hillary is putting our environment, wildlife, culture and land at risk.” — William Brownotter, 16

“As a young person I want to know what the next four years are going to entail. Is Hillary going to be focused on protecting our land? I want to know if my younger family is going to be safe. Our present situation is in dire need of a leader that still remembers that our kids are here. We want to protect the future for the young ones that come after us. I’m here to support my family.” — Garrett Hairychin, 23

“We are coming directly to Hillary at her headquarters because as the future president, she is going to have to work for us, and we want her to uphold the treaties and her promise to protect unci maka (Mother Earth).” — Gracey Claymore, 19

“Young people need to speak up and not be scared of adult leaders. We are left to take care of what they mess up.” — Marilyn Fox, 18

“We are here to tell Hillary how badly we need to protect the water. We didn’t come all the way to NY for nothing. We didn’t run all the way to Omaha or DC for nothing. We want to ask Hillary if she wants to see her great-grandkids line up for water rations.” — Adam Palaniuk Killsalive, 18, who is one of the Ocheti Sakowin Runners

“With the land and the water, we don’t speak their language. But we understand enough to know that they are hurting, and need our protection.” — Danny Grassrope, 24

Greenpeace spokeswoman Lilian Molina, encouraging the delegation, said, “Now is the time for Hillary Clinton to prove her commitment to both strong climate action and Indigenous sovereignty. Silence is not acceptable. Waiting is not acceptable. We are grateful for the young people who have traveled so far to say enough is enough. If you claim to be a climate champion, that means respecting Indigenous sovereignty, rejecting new pipelines, and keeping dangerous fossil fuels in the ground.”

A large and growing community, led by indigenous groups, has come together to protest the planned Dakota Access pipeline.

Thousands of people have gathered at a series of encampments on the lands of the Standing Rock Sioux in opposition to the pipeline’s construction.

Additionally, more than 300 tribes have joined in solidarity, as well as 21 city and county governments and some national politicians, including U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

A statement from the youth group said, “The Dakota Access pipeline is a direct violation of the sovereign rights and culture of the Standing Rock Sioux, placing serious risk to the nation’s water supply, violating federal trust responsibilities guaranteed through treaties with the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota tribes and desecrating burial and other historical sites.”

On the Web

The letter to Hillary Clinton.

Native American protesters occupy land in Dakota pipeline dispute

Native American protesters on Monday occupied privately owned land in North Dakota in the path of the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, claiming they were the land’s rightful owners under an 1851 treaty with the U.S. government.

The move is significant because the company building the 1,100-mile (1,886-km) oil pipeline, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP, has bought tracts of land and relied on eminent domain to clear a route for the line across four states from North Dakota to Illinois.

Video posted on social media showed police officers using pepper spray to try to disperse dozens of protesters, who chanted, beat drums and set up a makeshift camp near the town of Cannon Ball in southern North Dakota, where the $3.8 billion pipeline would be buried underneath the Missouri River.

The area is near the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. It was not immediately known who owns the occupied land.

In September, the U.S. government halted construction on part of the line.

The Standing Rock Sioux and environmental activists have said further construction would damage historical tribal sacred sites and spills would foul drinking water.

Since then, opponents have pressured the government to reroute construction. The current route runs within half a mile of the reservation.

Protesters on Monday said the land in question was theirs under the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, which was signed by eight tribes and the U.S. government. Over the last century, tribes have challenged this treaty and others like it in court for not being honored or for taking their land.

“We have never ceded this land. If Dakota Access Pipeline can go through and claim eminent domain on landowners and Native peoples on their own land, then we as sovereign nations can then declare eminent domain on our own aboriginal homeland,” Joye Braun of the Indigenous Environmental Network said in a prepared statement.

Energy Transfer could not be reached for comment.

Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. said the proposed route should be changed.

“The best way to resolve this is to reroute this pipeline and for the (Obama) administration to not give an easement to build it near our sacred land,” Archambault said in an interview.

In filings with federal regulators, the company said at one point it considered running the line far north of the reservation and close to Bismarck, the state capital.

Investors representing $2.1 trillion join call to repeal anti-LGBT law

Some 60 investors representing $2.1 trillion in managed assets joined the NCAA, entertainers and more than 200 businesses in calling for North Carolina to repeal its law limiting LGBT protections against discrimination.

“While the U.S. economy continues to grow, quite frankly North Carolina appears to be headed for what I would call a state-government-inflicted recession,” said Matt Patsky, chief executive officer of Trillium Asset Management. Trillium has more than $2 billion in assets under management.

Patsky spoke this week at a news conference alongside some of the investors who signed a statement calling for repeal of the law known as HB2. Trillium was one of the organizers of the statement, along with environmental research group Croatan Institute and the New York City comptroller, Scott Stringer. Stringer was unable to attend because of a New York ban on travel to North Carolina, Patsky said.

“As long-term investors, we can’t sit idly by as HB2 undermines fundamental human rights at our expense,” Stringer said in the statement. “For the last 25 years, New York City’s pension funds have pushed more than 100 companies to enact non-discrimination policies that protect LGBTQ individuals and ensure they attract, retain, and promote the best and the brightest. These policies are essential if we want companies — and our economy — to succeed, and we can’t let a hate-filled law get in the way.”

State legislators were enraged when the Charlotte City Council passed an ordinance expanding protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. During a one-day special session in March, Republicans passed a state law that blocks any municipality from expanding protections against sexual discrimination in public accommodations to LGBT people and ordered public schools and universities to ensure that students use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.

Earlier this month, Gov. Pat McCrory and GOP legislators offered to consider rescinding the law, but only if the Democrats who pushed for Charlotte’s ordinance would essentially admit they were wrong, something the council hasn’t done.

Meanwhile, the NBA pulled its All-Star Game from Charlotte. The NCAA earlier this month took the unprecedented step of pulling seven championship events from the state over its objection to the law. Two days later, the ACC did the same thing — relocating all 10 of its neutral-site championships from the state the conference has called home since its founding in 1953.

Performers including Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Maroon 5 canceled concerts in North Carolina, and more than 200 business leaders signed a letter to McCrory. The Williams Institute, which is part of the UCLA School of Law, has said HB2 could cost the state as much as $5 billion in lost federal funding and business investment.

“This latest attack on North Carolina values is being coordinated by the same people who manage the New York City pension fund that is on the verge of an ‘operational failure,’ according to a recent report,” McCrory said in a statement released by his campaign. “For New York hedge fund billionaires to lecture North Carolina about how to conduct its affairs is the height of hypocrisy.

McCrory is seeking re-election in a campaign against Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, who opposes the law.

Some clients are seeking “North Carolina-free portfolios,” including divestment of municipal bonds, Patsky said, and he expects that number to grow if the law isn’t repealed.

Those who signed the letter include representatives of North Carolina-based groups such as Investors’ Circle and the Mary Babcock Reynolds Foundation. Others who signed are from Morgan Stanley Investment Management, John Hancock Investments and RBC Wealth Management.

“This fallout is real,” said Bonny Moellenbrock, executive director of Investors Circle, which she said has invested $200 million in more than 330 start-ups. “It has had a devastating impact on our reputation and that has a direct impact on entrepreneurs’ ability to grow their business here.”

Pipeline fight hangs over White House tribal summit

The Obama administration will soon ask federal agencies to require that treaty rights be considered in decision-making on natural resource projects, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said on Monday, hoping to avoid future conflicts with Native-American tribes such as the current one over the Dakota Access pipeline.

Jewell announced a forthcoming memorandum from President Barack Obama at a Tribal Nations Conference — the eighth and final one he will attend — that began on Monday. Leaders of more than 560 Native American tribes are discussing the environment among other issues as one of the largest Native-American protests in decades continues in North Dakota.

“Your voices are important,” Jewell said in her opening remarks to the tribal leaders’ summit, which included many youth groups. “The president gets this.”

The Interior secretary acknowledged the demonstrations by thousands of Native Americans and environmentalists against the $3.7 billion oil pipeline they say threatens the water supply and sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux. She praised the “the unprecedented solidarity” through weeks of “prayerful and peaceful assembly to make your voices heard.”

She also recognized to wide applause the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Dave Archambault, who has been the face of the demonstrations.

“What we have today is an opportunity to ask ourselves if we are doing all we can to live up to those principles of the nation-to-nation relationship,” she said.

The Justice and Interior Departments on Monday announced settlements with 17 tribes that had sued the U.S. government for allegedly mismanaging monetary assets and natural resources that the government held in trust for the tribes.

The “vast majority” of all such disputes have been settled, according to the government, which has paid $1.9 billion to resolve the cases that go back to April 2012.

Obama will address the summit Monday afternoon, though it was not clear if he would discuss the 1,100-mile (1,886-km) Dakota Access pipeline, being developed by Energy Transfer Partners.

He has not publicly commented on the pipeline since the Justice Department, Interior Department and the U.S. Army made a surprise move on Sept. 9 to temporarily block its construction.

At that time, the administration called for “a serious discussion” about how tribes are consulted by the government on decisions over major infrastructure projects.

The uproar over the Dakota Access pipeline has sparked a resurgence in Native-American activism.

The Army, Interior and Justice will hold hearings on the shortcomings of the present process on Oct. 11 and formal discussions with tribes in six U.S. regions from Oct. 25 through Nov. 21.

The deadline for written comments will be Nov. 30, the agencies announced.

On Thursday, Archambault told a House of Representatives panel there was no “meaningful consultation” before permits were issued to bring the pipeline through his tribe’s territory.

Archambault is scheduled to speak on Monday evening at a rally of pipeline opponents.

Genetic ‘extinction’ technology raises concerns at World Conservation Congress

As thousands of government representatives and conservationists convene in Oahu this week for the 2016 World Conservation Congress, international conservation and environmental leaders are raising awareness about the potentially dangerous use of gene drives — a controversial new synthetic biology technology intended to deliberately cause targeted species to become extinct.

Members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, including NGOs, government representatives and scientific and academic institutions, overwhelmingly voted to adopt a de facto moratorium on supporting or endorsing research into gene drives for conservation or other purposes until the IUCN has fully assessed their impacts.

Yet, scientists and environmental experts and organizations from around the globe have advocated for a halt to proposals for the use of gene drive technologies in conservation.

Announced this week, a long list of environmental leaders — including Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, genetics professor and broadcaster Dr. David Suzuki, Dr. Fritjof Capra, entomologist Dr. Angelika Hilbeck, Indian environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva and organic pioneer and biologist Nell Newman — have lent their support to the open letter: “A Call for Conservation with a Conscience: No Place for Gene Drives in Conservation.”

The letter states, in part: “Gene drives, which have not been tested for unintended consequences, nor fully evaluated for ethical and social impacts, should not be promoted as conservation tools.”

“Gene drives are basically a technology that aims for a targeted species to go extinct,” explains ecologist and entomologist Dr. Angelika Hilbeck, president of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility. “While this may appear to some conservationist professionals to be a ‘good’ thing and a ‘silver bullet’ to handle complicated problems, there are high risks of unintended consequences that could be worse than the problems they are trying to fix.”

Both the leading developers of the technology and also those concerned about gene drives will be attending this week’s Congress and holding events to raise awareness, hype promises or highlight the potential hazards of gene drives.

One near-term gene drive proposal, promoted by U.S.-based non-governmental organization Island Conservation, intends to release gene drive mice on islands to eradicate them.

Another led by the University of Hawai’i would develop gene drive mosquitoes for use in Hawaii to combat avian malaria which affects honeycreeper birds.

The debate around gene drives is likely to resurface later this year at the negotiations of the United Nations Biodiversity Convention in Cancun Mexico in December.

“Gene drives, also known as ‘mutagenic chain reactions,’ aim to alter DNA so an organism always passes down a desired trait, hoping to change over time the genetic makeup of an entire species,” said Dr. Vandana Shiva of Navdanya. “This technology would give biotech developers an unprecedented ability to directly intervene in evolution, to dramatically modify ecosystems, or even crash a targeted species to extinction.”

“Genetic extinction technologies are a false and dangerous solution to the problem of biodiversity loss,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. “There are real, sustainable, community-based conservation efforts that should be supported. We are concerned that genetic extinction technologies will allow new destructive agricultural practices and even use by the military. Speculative conservation claims are at best an unfounded diversion or smokescreen. We support those in the IUCN who recognize the gravity of irreversible and irresponsible technologies such as gene drives.”

Signatories of the letter, which include indigenous organizations and legal experts, raised legal and moral questions, citing an “ethical threshold that must not be crossed without great restraint.”

“From military testing to GMO crops, and now gene drives, Hawai’i should not be treated as a test zone for risky and experimental technologies,” said Walter Ritte, Native Hawaiian activist and hunter. “What happens in Hawai’i must be discussed with residents, not decided from a lab on the other side of the continent. Hawaiians should decide what is best for Hawai’i.”