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A couple of weeks ago we jumped the gun and announced that Mineral King, a lovely high-elevation valley in the southern Sierra Nevada in California, would be added to the National Wilderness System along with around 170 other areas totalling about two million acres. Last minute parliamentary tricks in the House kept it from happening then.

Today, under new rules, the House passed this monumental bill -- the greatest single expansion of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 15 years. President Obama is expected to quickly sign it into law.

Mineral King is especially close to our hearts because it was a lawsuit in the late 1960s challenging plans for a huge ski resort in the valley that gave birth to modern environmental law and to Earthjustice itself.

The King Lives! Long Live the King!

UPDATE: There was a lot of confusion and misinterpretation about Tuesday's announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency that it was reviewing mountaintop removal mining permits to assess their potential impact on the waterways and people of Appalachia. Only two permits have been questioned. Dozens are under review. And the EPA is signalling that many of those may not be held up for environmental reasons.

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency took a giant step away from the path it was on under Bush by moving a step closer to finding that carbon dioxide from major global warming polluters threatens our health and well being.

The EPA proposal to the White House could result in national limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

One year ago in this column, I called on Environmental Protection Agency chief Stephen Johnson to resign for letting politics, not science, guide his agency's decisions. Nor was I alone—10,000 EPA employees were in open revolt for the same reason. Johnson was defying the Supreme Court's ruling that his agency should move forward on climate change and was refusing to approve California's forward-looking controls on climate-altering pollution.

Apparently, the sight of toxic algae blooms spreading across South Florida's public waterways last year wasn't enough to convince the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to do the right thing and toughen standards for nutrient pollution.

So on March 9, we filed suit in U.S. District Court to compel the EPA to set more protective pollution limits for Lake Okeechobee and its tributaries. Lake Okeechobee is the second-largest freshwater lake wholly within the continental United States, second only to Lake Michigan.

Quick—what country exports the most oil into the United States? Saudi Arabia? Venezuela? Iraq?

Nope. Canada. And the oil we get from our northern neighbor is about the most ridiculous energy bargain imaginable. Most of the stuff comes from vast deposits of tar sands in Alberta. Eventual emissions of CO2 are three times as much as from an equivalent amount of conventional crude oil. Mining the sands requires razing wide expanses of boreal forests and the peat soil beneath the trees, an inconvenient substance the industry sometimes calls "overburden." This is clearly disastrous for wildlife as well as for groundwater and air quality.

And now the capper—extraction of the tar sands and conversion to usable oil is so energy intensive that Canada is considering building nuclear plants to generate the electricity necessary to mine and refine the sands. This would be, according to a series of articles and links gathered by Grist magazine  (make sure to look at the photographs), the first time so-called "clean" nuclear electricity would be used to provide decidedly unclean fossil fuels to keep global warming rocketing along on track.

People really are nuts.

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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.