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John McManus's blog

The tens of thousands of new oil and gas wells that have popped up in the U.S. over the last decade—especially in the Rocky Mountain states—have created lots of air pollution. Much of it comes from the engines used to pump and compress the oil and gas or from leaks around the wells and pipelines. This air pollution makes skies smoggier, hazier, more toxic to breathe and alters the climate.

In New Mexico, some gas wells produce hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs. At low levels, hydrogen sulfide can cause difficulty breathing and headaches. At high levels, it can be lethal.

In western Wyoming and metropolitan Denver, oil and gas drilling is linked to rising smog levels, haze in wilderness areas and national parks, and to climate change.

Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the Bush administration to force it to update the air pollution regulations with modern, state of the art technology to minimize the pollution. The Obama administration inherited this lawsuit and quickly recognized that Earthjustice was right. So they settled the case and have promised to do a fresh review with an eye towards getting newer, cleaner technology into the field.
 

Last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told the world from the Copenhagen Climate Conference how U.S. public lands, which include the continental shelves off our coastlines, are being managed by the government to reduce climate pollution. What he didn't say was that he had recently approved oil drilling permits allowing Shell Oil to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean, including one site 20 miles offshore of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

How much sense does it make for your tax dollars to underwrite home loans for new homes in a place with inadequate water supplies, say like out in a desert? The realtors love it, but when the new homes drill another well for water, nearby rivers disappear undergound.

At least that's what's happened to the San Pedro River in south central Arizona. The San Pedro is one of the last free-flowing rivers in the desert southwest. The river is a lush ribbon attracting all manner of southwest wildlife, and is a major overwintering spot for migratory birds, but all this is threatened by a real estate boom. Earthjustice sued to stop government lending that was pushing ever more home construction—until builders come up with a water source that won't kill the river. So far, the builders have failed, which is why Earthjustice attorney McCrystie Adams will be back in federal court this week, arguing to protect the unique ecosystem and wildlife of the San Pedro River.

Salmon in the Sacramento River, which produces most of the king salmon caught in California and Oregon, are struggling. As a result, for the second time in two years, the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to ban almost all ocean salmon fishing off California in 2009.

There's good news: Major portions of the Sacramento River are still undammed and can produce salmon once again.

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.

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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.