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?
Two million acres of new wilderness, miles of new scenic rivers, the withdrawal of land in the Wyoming Range and elsewhere, all signed into law by President Obama (it still feels really good to type that) just in time for my birthday. The bill, a so-called omnibus, was a patchwork of nearly 170 separate bills, many of which had been kicking around for quite a while.
I only wish they had added one more: A bill to codify the Roadless Rule of 2001.
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.
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.
A few weeks back, the Senate passed a bill providing for a two-million acre expansion of the National Wilderness Preservation System, and we all cheered. It was a umbrella bill that encompassed some 170 smaller bills, many of which had been pending for years.
The Obama administration signalled today that it is rescinding a last-minute rule change by the Bush administration that eliminated a requirement that executive agencies (the Forest Service, for example) must consult with scientific experts in the Fish and Wildlife Service or NOAA when a project may affect protected species. When Bush instituted the change last December, Earthjustice immediately challenged the rule change in federal court.
I just received notice that Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, has put a hold on the nominations of John Holdren to be Science Advisor in the White House and Jane Lubchenko, who is slated to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. According to anonymous sources quoted by the Washington Post, the senator has no objection to these individuals but wants to force senators to focus their attention on some matter having to do with Cuba.
I have no opinion one way or another about Sen. Menendez, but I have a very strong feeling that both these individuals should be confirmed instantly. There’s an endless amount of work to do, and both are supremely qualified to do it.
If you go to the senator's website, there’s a form to fill out for comments. Give him a piece of your mind.
As longtime readers of this screed know all too well, I’ve been obsessed by the Roadless Rule for a long time. The trigger for this was when several states, the timber industry, a few counties, some off-road vehicle interests, and an Indian tribe challenged the rule in court.
One of my favorite memories is of being in Brighton, England, in June 1985 when the International Whaling Commission, after a struggle that lasted well over a decade, adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling, to last for at least five years. It has lasted for almost 24 years, but now seems in jeopardy of being fatally watered down.
I never know whether to dignify irrational wing-nut attacks on environmentalists in general and specific organizations in particular by mentioning them in print, but the latest is so over the top that I can't resist.
Something called the Capital Research Center recently published a screed titled, "EarthJustice [sic] Legal Defense Fund [sic]: How Environmentalism Weakens U.S. National Security."