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Brian Smith's blog

New Spill Total Estimate
Government estimates released today now put the total oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico at somewhere between 89 million and 176 million gallons. Seems like a pretty large range to us. For comparison, and to give you perspective on how big this environmental disaster has become, the Exxon Valdez spilled just 11 million gallons into Prince William Sound in Alaska.

New Cap Being Lowered into Place
Over the weekend, a team of robots removed the old cap, cleaned up the site, and prepared for the installation of a new 150,000-pound metal cap over the leaking well. The well may still leak with this new cap, but BP claims they will be able to funnel more oil to ships on the surface.

A permanent fix may still be more than a month off when the relief wells can reach the original well and hopefully plug the hole from the inside with drilling mud and cement.

The state of Washington announced a deal with Canadian-based TransAlta Corp. last week to "clean up" pollution from mercury and oxides of nitrogen. But the plan is sorely lacking.

A coalition of faith, environmental and public health groups are working to see the TransAlta coal plant, the state's largest single pollution source, converted to cleaner fuels or shut down by 2015. Coalition members were not impressed by this sweetheart deal and have already taken their case to the courts.

Global warming not only is real but is "primarily human-induced," the U.S. State Department has concluded in its draft 5th Annual U.S. Climate Action Report.

According to the report, climate change effects include the thinning of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, rising sea levels, thawing permafrost, vanishing mountain glaciers, and warmer ocean temperatures.

Facing a $2.8 billion budget shortfall, there is a movement afoot in Olympia, Washington to repeal a generous tax break enjoyed by the state's largest polluter, the TransAlta coal plant in Centralia.

The tax break was given to the company in the 1990s provided they kept coal mining jobs in the state. In 2006, TransAlta closed the local mine, laid off 600 workers, and began purchasing coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana.

Just south of Burlington, Vermont, the residents of the Wake Robin retirement community came together recently to share memories of living in leaner times. Driven more by survival instincts than environmental concern, the experiences of our elders provide valuable lessons in green living.

Luckily, Burlington Free Press reporter Matt Sutkoski was there to record the proceedings.

Last week, we got a bit of good news.

Earthjustice and our allies in British Columbia and Montana convinced a UN committee in 2009 to come investigate serious environmental threats facing the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park which lies on both sides of the U.S and Canadian border.

After sending a team to investigate last fall, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee will recommend a moratorium on mining in the Flathead Valley of southeastern British Columbia and the development of a conservation and wildlife management plan for the region. (Video after the jump.)


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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.