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California

Did you hear about the secret attacks being planned on public health and the environment of the United States?

Probably not. The news from Washington these days is focused on the fight over raising the debt ceiling.

Meanwhile, the 2012 House Interior/EPA Appropriations (H.R.2584) bill is being considered, and it is larded with riders that will increase pollution, destroy protected wilderness, and harm the health of American families.

Loggerhead turtles are beset by a bewildering and deadly series of challenges, much as the other species of sea turtles are. People raid their nests and steal eggs. Hundreds used to die in shrimpers' nets until the advent of turtle excluder devices. Miles of their nesting beaches have been "armored," that is, lined with boulders to defeat natural erosion. Hundreds used to die feeding on baited hooks aimed at catching swordfish and tuna.

Once upon a time, a valley known for being so fertile that it could grow much of America's produce came to be known for something else entirely: air pollution. The people of California's San Joaquin Valley needed help because the polluted air was making them sick with asthma -- at rates three times higher than the entire nation. Thousands were dying each year because of the smog, particulate matter, lead, arsenic and toxic gases in the air.

When Lisa Jackson took the reins as administration of the Environmental Protection Agency, she issued a memo to staff stating that:

"Science must be the compass guiding our environmental protection decisions. We cannot make the best decisions unless we have confidence in the integrity of the science on which we rely. Therefore, it is my promise that scientific integrity will be the backbone of my leadership of the Agency."

It’s hard to view the recent actions of some big agricultural operations in California’s San Joaquin Valley as anything but hostile to the state’s wildlife. Some of the biggest growers are refusing to take an overflowing allotment of irrigation water as enough and are cluttering up the court system with lawsuits aimed at wringing every last drop of water for themselves, no matter what damage that causes native fish species. 

As gas prices approach $4 a gallon this summer, American families who depend on cars to get to work, school, groceries, etc. are feeling a bit bent. These higher fuel prices were not in the budget, but now they must be.

Even Big Box stores are feeling the pinch. Wal-Mart’s Michael T. Duke told an audience in New York last week, “There’s no doubt that rising fuel prices are having an impact on our customers.”

President Barack Obama came to California on Wednesday on a fundraising blitz, and California's salmon-dependent communities tried a blitz of their own to turn his attention towards protecting the Sacramento River king salmon run. San Francisco Bay Area commercial and sportfishing groups, restaurants and seafood distributors published a half page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle on page A9.

How should America's 190 million acres of national forest be managed?  Nine Republican congressmen, led by Rep. Stevan Pearce of New Mexico, have the answer in a bill introduced last month:  Forests are for logging. And to hell with everything else.

The bill, H.R. 1202, is short and not-so-sweet. The meat of the bill is a single sentence: 

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.

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