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Rocky Mountain

In 2009, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued an order taking aim at climate change, saying: "The Department is ... taking the lead in protecting our country's lands and resources from the dramatic effects of climate change....  The realities of climate change require us to change how we manage the land, water, fish and wildlife ... and resources we oversee."  Bold stuff.

Which has a worse smog problem ? The car-choked sprawling megalopolis of Los Angeles? Or the wide open plains of Wyoming?

If you guessed LA, you’d be wrong. It’s actually Wyoming.

This depressing tidbit comes courtesy of the oil and gas industry, which is in the midst of a drilling boom that has left the air in Wyoming and other areas cloaked in smog and hazardous air pollutants.

The recent New York Times investigation into the dangers posed to our air and water by fracking is a must-read. The meat of the investigation deals with radioactive material in wastewater from the fracking process and its possible migration into our lakes and rivers. The paper's findings are alarming to say the least, here are just a few:

There's a lot of backward movement on the environment in Congress these days.  EPA is under assault for trying to regulate greenhouse gases.  The Interior Department's efforts to protect some wildlands are also being attacked.

But why should Congress have all the fun?  Here in the Rocky Mountain West, the 2012 elections also brought some backsliding.

In the not-too-distant past, Interior Sec. Ken Salazar issued a bold call to action for his department. With authority over hundreds of millions of acres of public lands and the vast majority of coal, oil, and gas owned by taxpayers, he stated that his department would be "taking the lead" in protecting the nation's wildlife and water from climate change, and that doing so would "require us to change how we manage the lands."

Just last week we marked the two-year anniversary of the Kingston, TN TVA coal ash spill. Today, Earthjustice, the Environmental Integrity Project and Stockholm Environment Institute’s U.S. Center have released an analysis of an analysis: basically the EPA overinflated (by 20 times!) the values for coal ash recycling. The EPA claims that coal ash recycling is worth more than $23 billion a year, but the government’s own data shows that this number is actually $1.5 billion.

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.

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