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Tom Turner's blog

You've probably read news stories, or seen reports on TV, or heard reports on the radio about how House Speaker Boehner has allowed dozens of amendments to come to the House floor to be voted on, congratulating himself on his transparency (is that his liver I see in there?) and openness. In response to this invitation, house members came forward with an astonishing variety of bills, one worse than the next.

On Feb. 8, a federal judge in Washington State sided with conservationists, energy efficiency boosters and the state's building code council, upholding new standards for energy conservation in new home construction. The homebuilders’ association had challenged the new standards, which went into effect this past Jan. 1, claiming they were in conflict with federal law.

Everyone is in favor of bikes and biking, or almost everybody. Riding a bike is good for your health, keeps you fit and slender, gives you that important aerobic exercise, plus it’s fun. And it saves gasoline, thus reducing dependency on foreign (and domestic!) oil. And it helps in a small way in the fight against global climate disruption (aka global warming or climate change, take your pick). What’s not to like?

Coho and chinook salmon, along with their steelhead cousins, are making some promising headway in California's North Coast streams. The San Francisco Chronicle carried a front-page story on Dec. 19 describing a higher-than-expected return of spawning coho in Lagunitas Creek. The same trend holds true for the Garcia and several other streams.

A company called Verdant Power has just received permission to install up to 30 turbines in the eastern channel of the East River in New York to harvest the power of the natural currents and feed electricity into the grid for use mainly in New York City. The plan has been underway for 10 years, and stage three—the scaling-up to commercial scale—has just been approved.

One of the more frustrating tactics used repeatedly by the Bush administration in environmental matters was something we called “sue and settle.” These were cases filed against the government by states, industrial interests, or others seeking, for example, to open up wild lands to development.

When Jerry Brown became governor of California in 1975, it was, for many of us, a relatively green nirvana. He created the Office of Appropriate Technology. He established a state sustainable energy agency called SolarCal.They were heady times, and much good was accomplished.

Now, he's coming  back to Sacramento as governor, older and maybe wiser, and old hands are looking to see if the same progressive ideas will be showing up. We'll see. When he was mayor of  Oakland, Brown hired the founder of the Rainforest Action Network, Randy Hayes, to make Oakland a sustainable city. Will there be a return act?

California, of course, is in a gigantic mess, budget-wise. Programs will be cut. Taxes will be raised. No fun. But maybe this is an opportunity to put lean, mean and green policies and programs to work

Roger Beers, a lawyer who worked for Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council, once said that environmental cases are the most political of all. He meant that in environmental cases, the biases of the judge in a case are more likely to steer his decisions than in other kinds of cases.

I don't know if that's true, but I do know that our lawyers were always happy to draw federal judge Sam King should they be filing suit in Hawai`i. His biases--that's too loaded a word, of course, maybe his instincts--tended to be on the side of people and the natural world.

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