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When Bush II’s Head of EPA came to California’s Central Valley, he tried to hold secret meetings with industry and was met with a protest from clean air advocates angered by EPA’s long history of ignoring the Valley’s severe public health and environmental justice problems in favor of big business interests.

For years citizens of California's central valley have been asking for help and Wednesday, if only for a few hours, one of the most influential people in the country listened. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson travelled to a church in Fresno to hear the concerns of the people of the valley and what she heard was troubling to say the least.

On a day when every resident of the Pacific Rim is grateful for advanced warning systems, we are reminded of the essential services that government agencies provide. Certainly, fishermen in California who got their boats out of the water this morning as the Japanese tsunami approached are grateful for those who work around-the-clock to protect lives and property.

But essential services now face the chopping block in Washington, DC.

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.

It's always been amazing to me just how much money polluters are willing to spend to try to convince lawmakers and the American public that public health and safety regulations will cost them too much money.

Seat belts and airbags, now standard features in all cars and trucks, were fought tooth and nail by the auto industry, which claimed they would be too costly and unpopular. It took the federal government 20 years to stand up to industry pressure and finally require life-saving airbags.

As a child, Earthjustice client Michael Donahoe spent many early mornings waterskiing along the west shore of Lake Tahoe. The lake was so clear that he could see a hundred feet down into its depths.

"It was a glassy, beautiful, blue lake," said Donahoe. "The boulders that were down there, it looked like you could reach out and touch them."

After years of fighting with the EPA and the local air district to improve air quality in California's smoggy San Joaquin Valley—and often feeling like all of our progress was being made in court—we're finally seeing some change, at least at the federal level.

Through persistent administrative advocacy, we were able to convince EPA to reject the local district's do-nothing regulation covering sources that burn coal, petcoke, tires, biomass and municipal solid waste in the Valley.

Update:This month, Chevron quietly let pass its final opportunity to appeal a California Court of Appeal decision that rejected the Environmental Impact Report for its expansion project at the Richmond Refinery.

Most of us know what it's like to have a bad neighbor—but imagine one so bad that you're forced to regularly hide indoors from it.

Reversing its August 2008 decision, the California Fish and Game Commission recently voted to grant candidate status to the Pacific fisher under the California Endangered Species Act.

This begins the review process to determine if full protection is warranted.

Earthjustice and our colleagues at Center for Biological Diversity have worked to protect the fisher for many years, so this policy reversal is very good news.

The fisher (Martes pennanti) lives in old growth forests and is a close relative of the marten.

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