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Tom Turner's blog

Back in my early days at Earthjustice I got into an argument with a colleage that has stuck with me ever since. She (no names) observed that if we—the movement in general—conceded that restoration of damaged ecosystems is possible that we'll never be able to protect forests, wetlands, parks and the like because developers could simply say they'll eventually restore the land to its former glory.

And here I thought the bankruptcy of General Motors might start to spell the end of outrageous profligacy. That is to say, news reports that GM would shut down its Pontiac, Saturn, and Hummer divisions and start up a new high-mileage, low-emission model sounded like steps in the right direction. Especially as regards the Hummer.

But wait a minute. An Associated Press story June 3 reports that Hummer is being bought by a Chinese company that heretofore has made only cement mixers and tow trucks. And the small company is not equipped to actually manufacture the gas-guzzling behemoths (the Chinese name of the Hummer is "Bold Horse," according to the AP) in China, so will keep production in the U.S.

That seems like a pretty crazy idea, especially with gas prices zooming upward again. Will the world ever wake up? Let's just give the Hummer a dignified funeral (OK, undignified would be just as welcome) and get on with it.

The wonderful and valuable High Country News has published a very instructive buttal and rebuttal that arise from an article in the print version of the paper that analyzed the long-running struggle over four power dams built on the lower Snake River in the 1960s. Those dams and their reservoirs have long been criticized by scientists and conservationists as inimical to the survival and recovery of once-stupendous salmon runs in the Columbia basin.

(The dams have also been the subject of a long litigation campaign by Earthjustice and its allies, who would like to see the dams removed, or at least breached.)

The Bonneville Power Administration, which operates the dams, has fought vigorously to keep the dams, even arguing in court papers that the structures have been in place so long that they’ve become a permanent, all but natural, fixture in the river, like boulders or eddies.

BPS’s Gregory K. Delwiche wrote a long and fairly sober answer to Ken Olsen’s original piece, that makes good sense—until you read Olsen’s reply. It’s a fascinating exchange, worth taking the time to read. I pretend no particular expertise in this debate, but one of Delwiche’s assertions caught my eye: In response to the claim by Olsen that BPA’s practice is to use all the water in the river for power generation, Delwiche wrote,

The federal agencies operating the hydro system never put "every drop of water" through turbines. It is common practice to spill water around turbines for fish. In 2008, for example, BPA spent $275 million buying replacement power to make up for power not generated at the dams because water was being diverted for fish.

What he didn’t say, and what I know only because of where I work, is that the spilling of water to aid salmon downstream migration came only with a court order, issued by Judge James Redden. Take a look. It’s fascinating stuff.

Meanwhile, Judge Redden has just written to the BPA urging prompt and vigorous efforts to reform river management. One might guess that he’s closer to Olsen than [the BPA guy] in this matter.

A press release came across my screen Wednesday afternoon announcing that a judge had found that Glen Canyon dam's operating scheme is illegal, since it doesn't do enough to protect endangered fish in the river.

That's putting it mildly.

It had to come, such things always do. We speak of a shrill attack on the very idea of green jobs, emanating this time from PERC, a collection of free-market economists and ideologues in Bozeman Montana, that was a source of some of the ideas that informed the Bush administration, especially those of Gale Norton, W's first interior secretary.

Grist, the most valuable daily green news and comment ezine, published a very interesting piece May 4, talking about "old" environmentalism and "new" environmentalism as exemplified by campaigns to protect wolves (that's the old part) and polar bears (new).

Both efforts have news hooks just now, and one, at least, does not display the Obama administration, particularly Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in a good light.

When the going gets tough, call the PR department, and ask it to come up with a spiffy new acronym. It's a recognized ploy with a long history.

Here we go again.

The bold, ambitious plans to push solar power plants, windmill farms, and other green facilities is causing a major backlash among industries used to having their way with government policy -- coal companies, oil companies, the usual suspects.

The blaring headline to the San Francisco Chronicle April 3 was all about our continuing drought and upcoming water rationing. This is not exactly news -- we've been warned for months.

What I wrestle with is how to spread the hardship fairly. The remedy the utility company will impose is across-the-board reductions of 15 percent or more. No hosing down your driveway. No washing your car more than so often.

But what about us noble citizens who already conserve like crazy?

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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.