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Yesterday—10 weeks after a billion-gallon spill of coal ash in Tennessee—two U.S. senators challenged the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate disposal and storage of the toxic sludge.

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Thomas Carper (D-DE) submitted a resolution requesting rules "as quickly as possible" and calling on the Tennessee Valley Authority to "be a national leader in technological innovation, low-cost power and environmental stewardship." On Dec. 22, about 1 billion gallons of coal ash burst through a dam at the Tennessee Valley Authority site in Harriman, flooding more than 300 acres with toxic levels of arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium and boron.

Communities have been exposed to the toxic substance, which presents a cancer risk nine times greater than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Yet coal ash is severely under-regulated and exempt from safeguards required of even municipal waste landfills. Earthjustice is calling on the EPA to eventually prohibit the storage of wet coal ash sludge and instead, mandate dry disposal in monitored landfills or safe recycling of the material.

The Obama administration signalled today that it is rescinding a last-minute rule change by the Bush administration that eliminated a requirement that executive agencies (the Forest Service, for example) must consult with scientific experts in the Fish and Wildlife Service or NOAA when a project may affect protected species. When Bush instituted the change last December, Earthjustice immediately challenged the rule change in federal court.

I just received notice that Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, has put a hold on the nominations of John Holdren  to be Science Advisor in the White House and Jane Lubchenko, who is slated to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. According to anonymous sources quoted by the Washington Post, the senator has no objection to these individuals but wants to force senators to focus their attention on some matter having to do with Cuba.

I have no opinion one way or another about Sen. Menendez, but I have a very strong feeling that both these individuals should be confirmed instantly. There’s an endless amount of work to do, and both are supremely qualified to do it.

If you go to the senator's website, there’s a form to fill out for comments. Give him a piece of your mind.

After 21 years of studies, debate, protests and lawsuits—and $9 billion from the pockets of taxpayers—Yucca Mountain is dead.

President Obama's proposed federal budget axes funding for the Department of Energy's plan to store the waste from nuclear reactors 1,000 feet under a mountain northwest of Las Vegas. Bloomberg reports:

Interior Dept. Sec. Ken Salazar is turning his nose up at another one of Bush's "midnight regulations." This one has to do with leases for oil shale research and development in Colorado and Utah.

Salazar halted the lease sale process because it had terms that didn't pass "the smell test," he announced this week. Instead, he will start a new leasing process that includes 90 days of public comment.

This is clearly a move in the right direction by Salazar, who -- unlike Bush -- at least is taking time to kick the idea around. It's an idea that's worth a good kick. One of the dirtiest ways of getting energy, oil shale extraction has never been commercially proven. In a word, it stinks.

On the heels of last night’s speech by President Obama, the governor of Kansas is more resolute than ever in her opposition to the proposed Sunflower coal-fired power plant expansion. She vetoed pro-Sunflower legislation three times last year and is poised to do the same with a new bill coming to a vote tomorrow in the Legislature.

Order "Roadless Rules" at www.islandpress.org/roadlessrules. On the checkout page type in RR09 (that’s a zero, not a capital O) for a 25 percent discount.

As longtime readers of this screed know all too well, I’ve been obsessed by the Roadless Rule for a long time. The trigger for this was when several states, the timber industry, a few counties, some off-road vehicle interests, and an Indian tribe challenged the rule in court.

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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.