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Becoming a grandfather is cause for celebration, unless you're a coal-fired power plant.

Coal plants that predate the Clean Air Act have become the mules of air pollution—set in their ways and not liable to change. Exploiting their "grandfathered" status, these coal plants have refused to implement technologies that are currently available to reduce pollution.

Now, Congress seems determined to let these dinosaurs off the hook all over again.

(Earthjustice attorney Erika Rosenthal is blogging from the Copenhagen climate conference)

4 a.m… Bella Center…December 15

I'm in a huge plenary room, waiting for the final session of the "Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action under the Convention" to reconvene. (The AWG-LCA is responsible for one of the two negotiating tracks negotiations that are going on here to accommodate the fact that the US has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol.)

The hall has been in a state of suspended animation since midnight.

The tens of thousands of new oil and gas wells that have popped up in the U.S. over the last decade—especially in the Rocky Mountain states—have created lots of air pollution. Much of it comes from the engines used to pump and compress the oil and gas or from leaks around the wells and pipelines. This air pollution makes skies smoggier, hazier, more toxic to breathe and alters the climate.

In New Mexico, some gas wells produce hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs. At low levels, hydrogen sulfide can cause difficulty breathing and headaches. At high levels, it can be lethal.

In western Wyoming and metropolitan Denver, oil and gas drilling is linked to rising smog levels, haze in wilderness areas and national parks, and to climate change.

Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the Bush administration to force it to update the air pollution regulations with modern, state of the art technology to minimize the pollution. The Obama administration inherited this lawsuit and quickly recognized that Earthjustice was right. So they settled the case and have promised to do a fresh review with an eye towards getting newer, cleaner technology into the field.
 

(Editor's Note: This file presents news and information from the Copenhagen climate change conference on Dec. 16, distilled from news outlet reports. Check for updates during the day.)

<Update>: The next 24 hours will make or break the Copenhagen climate conference, said the U.N.'s chief climate negotiator. More than 100 world leaders will soon be on their way to the conference, but whether they have anything significant to agree on has yet to be negotiated.

<Update>: The fate of climate change legislation in the U.S. Senate hinges on what happens in Copenhagen, Sen. John Kerry said today. What has to happen, he warned, is an agreement that wrings concessions from China and India. Absent that, he predicted, U.S. legislation will founder on domestic economic fears.

<Update>: "I'm stuck between a rock and hard place," said the frustrated chief of the U.N. climate conference, as he stood before thousands of protesting people. Most were protesting the lack of action in Copenhagen. Hundreds were arrested.

In what could be the most significant achievement in Copenhagen, climate negotiators are close to agreement on the idea of paying to keep the world's forests from being cut down. Trees store vast amounts of CO2, the single biggest contributor to climate change.

It's "deal or no deal" time in Copenhagen, and the poorest, fastest-growing countries have the upper hand, says The Los Angeles Times.

In an emotional speech, Al Gore told the conference that the world should meet again next July in Mexico to try and create the binding climate change agreement that probably won't be reached in Copenhagen.

For perspectives, news and information from environmental groups at the conference, check out the The Copenhagen News Collaborative.

Contrary to the bleating of the pollution lobby, Americans believe new jobs would be created by U.S. efforts to address the climate crisis. This according to a new study conducted by AP and Stanford University.

On jobs: 40 percent of Americans say U.S. action to slow global warming would create jobs, while only 23 percent believe such action would reduce jobs.

On the economy: 46 percent said U.S. action to slow global warming would be a boost, as opposed to 27 percent who think it would hurt the economy.

The results of the poll are encouraging.

Last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told the world from the Copenhagen Climate Conference how U.S. public lands, which include the continental shelves off our coastlines, are being managed by the government to reduce climate pollution. What he didn't say was that he had recently approved oil drilling permits allowing Shell Oil to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean, including one site 20 miles offshore of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

(Editor's Note: Earthjustice attorneys Martin Wagner and Erika Rosenthal are blogging live from the Copenhagen climate change conference.)

I took a moment out of the negotiation madness this morning to sit in on an event sponsored by Oxfam International in which Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu participated. I had been in the same room as Archbishop Tutu once before, and wanted another opportunity to experience his incredible energy.

(Editor's note: Earthjustice trustee Lisa Renstrom is blogging from the Copenhagen climate change conference)

We have the technology. We have the resources. Addressing climate change is doable and desirable. It could establish energy independence, jump start a green based economy, make our cities more livable, improve our health and reestablish our moral compass. All good things.

The Message: We Want a Real Deal
The Timeframe: The next 48 hours
Atmosphere: Palatable tension
Missing: Leadership and political will.

In times of great need, one needs to speak truth to power. It is time for our president to again speak truth on climate, to power, to the American people, as he has on race and war. Keep your fingers crossed, say prayers, send offerings, send grace, do what ever you do to increase the likelihood of a real deal here in Copenhagen.

On November 5, 2009, something happened in Colorado that hasn't happened in a long, long time: the U.S. Forest Service rejected a proposal to turn a natural area into ski runs and a magnet for private land development.  The natural area is Snodgrass Mountain, which includes inventoried roadless lands, beautiful aspen stands, raptor habitat, and open space.  

(Editor's Note: Earthjustice board member Lisa Renstrom is at the Copenhagen climate change conference and will be blogging from it. Here is her first report.)

What a privilege it is to be here.

My friend Steve English described COP 15 as, "The most important conference/gathering in the history of the planet. We must ALL pray, dance, laugh, love, open, cry, cajole, think, and inspire our deepest, most-connected souls into the depths of possibility and into grief, anxiety, fear, anger, and vulnerability, and, then to emerge with our fullest heart-centered life-nourishing centers, throw caution to the winds, be bold, courageous, and unbelievably articulate, as well as 'just short of crazy' with our collective awakening, blessed unrest, and life-supporting intention!"

That sums it up. Chaos and urgency mingling with the long view.

This is my 3rd COP. Last year at COP 14 in Poznan, Poland everyone hoped that Copenhagen would engage finance ministers and heads of state. We got our wish. So many of both are expected to arrive Thursday and Friday that the traditional role of the environmental ministers and negotiators will be rewritten.

Thursday, the big guns begin arriving. Stay tuned.

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About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.