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Bush administration

This week, after seven months of dodging bullets, Idaho's wolves got a reprieve: the statewide hunt that left 188 of them dead is over.

The actual number of wolves killed since hunting was legalized last year is more than 500—including those shot during the Montana season and others killed by governmental agents protecting livestock.

Today, the Obama administration sent a mixed signal on offshore oil drilling, a move guaranteed to raise concerns from native groups, environmentalists, and communities living near some of the most sensitive and biologically diverse coastal areas. Obama and Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a plan to halt oil and gas leasing in Bristol Bay off Alaska's southwestern coast and to postpone future lease sales in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, off Alaska's northern coast, while needed missing information is gathered.

Imagine loving to garden but being unable to do so because the air outside your home is thick with ozone. Or a travel down the freeway literally taking your breath away because the pollution is just that unbearable.

Enter the life of Mary Theriault. The northern Virginia resident battles chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was supposed to testify at an EPA hearing today in Arlington on stronger ozone standards. But Mary was hospitalized due to a COPD flair-up.

Interior Sec. Ken Salazar stepped up to the microphone this week and told the nation the days of drilling oil and gas everywhere on public lands are over. This is welcome news to Earthjustice attorneys who opposed many of the public lands oil and gas leases ramrodded through by the Bush/Cheney administration.

Salazar made clear that he, unlike his predecessors in the prior administration, understands some public lands, especially in the west, are special and should not be drilled.

The tens of thousands of new oil and gas wells that have popped up in the U.S. over the last decade—especially in the Rocky Mountain states—have created lots of air pollution. Much of it comes from the engines used to pump and compress the oil and gas or from leaks around the wells and pipelines. This air pollution makes skies smoggier, hazier, more toxic to breathe and alters the climate.

In New Mexico, some gas wells produce hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs. At low levels, hydrogen sulfide can cause difficulty breathing and headaches. At high levels, it can be lethal.

In western Wyoming and metropolitan Denver, oil and gas drilling is linked to rising smog levels, haze in wilderness areas and national parks, and to climate change.

Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the Bush administration to force it to update the air pollution regulations with modern, state of the art technology to minimize the pollution. The Obama administration inherited this lawsuit and quickly recognized that Earthjustice was right. So they settled the case and have promised to do a fresh review with an eye towards getting newer, cleaner technology into the field.
 

The Bush years—a seemingly endless era in which those concerned about the planet's fate found themselves arguing with a table, to appropriate the words of a silver-tongued Massachusetts congressman—aren't typically remembered for good efforts to combat global warming.

But a new report by Environment America—"America on the Move"—contends those lost years, thanks to states (not the Bush administration), may actually prove themselves a critical period in our national efforts to lower carbon pollution. The report estimates that states like California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and many others initiated programs during those years that will lead to a reduction of more than 500 million tons of global warming pollution by 2020.

The projected amount, approximately 7 percent of total domestic emissions in 2007, is no small thing, roughly equivalent to the collective annual emissions of more than 100 million cars.

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.