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Russia is moving ahead with plans to drill in the Arctic (with BP at its side, no less). This is a clear wake-up call: Arctic basin countries need to create an agreement on international environmental standards for the Arctic.

Because oil exploration exposes the Arctic to spills that cross artificial boundaries on a map, international circumpolar environmental standards are critical to help prevent oil spills and respond effectively when they happen (lest we have another Valdez or Deepwater Horizon oil spill on our hands).

The EPA today issued its final standard to protect Americans from the toxic air pollution emitted by industrial facilities like chemical plants, refineries and paper mills.

Across the country more than 200,000 industrial boilers, heaters and incinerators operated for decades nearly unregulated, though they are major contributors of toxic air pollutants like lead, arsenic, and acid gases. Today’s announcement will save thousands of lives, and prevent thousands of cases of asthma attacks, heart attacks and hospital visits.

News headlines last week prominently featured both music (the Grammy Awards rolled out their red carpet) and the environment (the GOP’s proposed spending legislation steamrolled through the House, nearly crushed under the weight of riders and amendments seeking to rollback many environmental and public health gains of the past several years).

What readers may not be aware of is that in two smaller stories, the environment weighed in on music:

 It’s a shame that it took the House days and many late night and early morning hours to come up with a budget plan like this. And during the wee hours of 4:35 a.m. the final roll call counted a vote of 235 to 189. And just like that our elected leaders eliminated safeguards for our air, water and wildlife.

As I write this, members of the House of Representatives continue to debate and move their way through votes on hundreds of amendments to the chamber's government spending bill. The voting and debate has been a marathon process, stretching from morning through late at night for the last three days, and looks to carry on until late tonight or tomorrow.

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