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Brian Smith's blog

The single biggest air polluter in the entire state of Washington is the state's one and only coal-fired power plant. The operating permit for the coal plant, which is in Centralia, was recently renewed without needed upgrades to protect the air and the people living nearby who breathe it. Earthjustice attorney Janette Brimmer has been working hard to get the permit pulled back and updated with better pollution standards to clean up the air.

The Tongass National Forest is a sight to behold. From a boat you can watch bears fishing at the mouths of streams and eagles flying through pristine old-growth forests. This natural beauty is what makes America's largest temperate rainforest such a draw. Ecotourism, hunting, and fishing trips, are building a new economy for the people of Southeast Alaska.

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.

As the first day of Earthjustice's annual meeting on global warming came to a close, it struck me how seriously the organization now takes the goal of reducing our own carbon footprint.

How can we fight against global warming if we are part of the problem?

This year's annual strategy session included 28 staff people from around the country. A few years ago, this meeting would have required at least a dozen cross-country air flights, hotel stays, and nights away from family.

Almost one year ago, a dyke holding back the 40-acre coal ash pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant broke, releasing more than 500 million gallons of toxic coal ash. The sludge (six feet deep in some places) spread out over 400 acres, damaged 12 homes, and wrecked a train. It was the largest human-induced environmental disaster since Chernobyl.

Despite the insistence of multi-billion dollar ad campaigns from the coal industry, “clean coal” simply does not exist.

Even when scrubbers are installed to filter air pollution from coal-fired power plants, the mercury, selenium, and other toxic heavy metals released by coal combustion have to go somewhere. Sadly, too much pollution is ending up in America’s rivers and groundwater.

This week, the New York Times’ excellent series "Toxic Waters" takes a look at the dangers of shifting coal pollution from air to water.

Earthjustice was more than a little surprised to hear that a regional office of the Tongass National Forest is moving ahead with plans to open a roadless area in America's largest temperate rainforest to logging. The Central Kupreanof timber sale project, would carve 15 miles of new roads and log 1,339 acres of old growth forest.

But this is not a done deal. As the press release from the regional national forest office admits…

"The Final EIS is being released without an accompanying Record of Decision (ROD) in light of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary's memorandum dated May 28, 2009, which stated the Secretary reserved decision-making authority over construction and reconstruction of roads and the cutting, sale or removal of timber in Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRA)."

Earthjustice attorney, Tom Waldo called the news, "a reckless action by local officials in the Tongass National Forest…The Secretary of Agriculture should just say no to this project."

The final decision now sits on the desk of Agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack.

In his final years of life, David Brower spoke of the need for Global CPR (conservation, preservation and restoration). What a shame Dave is not around to witness a few major river and stream restoration projects that are upon us.

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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.