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(A powerful faction in the new Congress has allied with industry to weaken our nation’s most basic environmental laws. Earthjustice will report on this expected barrage of legislative attacks as they occur.)

<<<Update 6 p.m., Monday, Jan. 31: Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller has introduced his own “Dirty Air Act.” Like Sen. Barrasso's bill (see below), Sen. Rockefeller's bill blocks the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to limit carbon dioxide emissions for two more years.

Finally admitting the unprofitably of turning coal into motor fuel, Chevron announced on Friday that it is getting out of the business.

Chevron will sell off three coal mines in Alabama, New Mexico and Wyoming. Together, those mines produced 10 million tons of coal in 2009.

The company sees the process as "10 to 15 years in the future" and made a strategic decision to focus on operations other than mining.

We at Earthjustice are dismayed that a champion of energy efficiency, Scott Blake Harris, will be leaving his post at the U.S. Department of Energy. Harris, the department’s General Counsel, made the enforcement of energy efficiency standards for household appliances and commercial equipment a priority at DOE, and essentially built the department’s enforcement program from the ground up.

I don’t want to jinx anything, but we’re positively thrilled to see GASLAND—the truth-telling/irreverent film about toxic gas drilling—get an Oscar nod for best documentary. If you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for? It’s readily available on DVD.

Whether or not the United States addresses impending climate change hinges largely on the marketing message driving the discussion. Last night, President Barack Obama made his best pitch to reframe the climate change debate, casting it through the prism of a Works Progress Administration-style plan for achieving a clean energy future.

(This is the latest in a weekly series of 50 Tr-Ash Talk blogs discussing the dangers of coal ash. Earthjustice hopes that by December 2011, the third anniversary of the TVA coal ash spill, the EPA will release a coal ash rule establishing federally enforceable regulations ensuring the safe disposal of this toxic waste.)

Last night in his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama rightly spoke about the importance of growing a clean energy economy. Dedicating a chunk of his speech to the promise of the clean energy sector of the economy and the necessity for us as a nation to invest in this sector, the president issued a promise to America's scientists and engineers: If they innovate and come up with clean energy solutions, our government will invest in them and scale them up.

As anyone who has been “lucky” enough to pass by a factory farm can attest, Confined Animal Factory Operations (or CAFOs) bring a certain...fragrance to the surrounding environs. It doesn’t matter if you’re downwind or up—the stench is inescapable.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has a snazzy new interactive slideshow on its website, highlighting states that are bypassing opportunities to ditch dirty coal and embrace clean energy. The slideshow is both interesting and an office-safe distraction good for at least a five-minute break from your spreadsheet formulas.

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.