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Clean Water Act

In addition to being Groundhog Day, Feb. 2 is World Wetlands Day. Say what? An international day to celebrate swamps? If you’re scratching your head wondering why in the world we’d throw a party for swamps (and bogs and marshes and fens and floodplains and other wet, buggy places), here’s why:

To date, mountaintop removal coal mining has buried more than 2,500 miles of streams and leveled an area of Appalachia bigger than the state of Delaware. Perhaps even scarier than the outright wasteland it leaves are the health impacts it levels against the people of Appalachia. More than 19 peer-reviewed health studies detail these problems--from significantly higher rates of birth defects in areas of mountaintop removal mining to higher rates of major diseases like cancer and lung disease.

President Obama won the White House on a platform of hope and change – promising an end to dirty corporate influence over our political system and a beginning to an era in which our energy choices lead us to a clean, sustainable future, or at least don’t kill us or make us sick.

So far, the president’s performance has been mixed – with some deliveries on the promise and some disappointments. His last year, whether in office or in his first term, will be crucial in righting his spotty record and making good on his campaign promises to the American people.

It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about the great big man in the red suit and last-minute Christmas shopping.

I’m talking about the House GOP majority trying to deliver on their year-long assault on environmental and public health protections in the last two bills that will be passed by Congress this year.

This Friday, the Obama administration has the historic opportunity to rein in a coal industry that has been allowed to pour toxic emissions like mercury, benzene and arsenic into our lives without limit.

There’s little question that the administration will set limits – the law requires it and the courts have ordered it. The question, and the opportunity facing Obama, is how strong those limits will be.

A little-covered news item from Nov. 18 bears much more attention. The Charleston Gazette's Ken Ward reported on some new data that blows the top off two years of coal industry lies and spin: Obama's so-called "job-killing regulations" and "war on coal" are not actually killing jobs, they are CREATING JOBS! We've been saying it all along, but here's the proof.

From early morning tadpole pursuits to sunset creek walks, my summer days started and ended in the creek that ran behind my home. My dad built a bridge across the creek, but for our neighborhood gang of rascals, well, there was no use for such bridges when we could splash and wade right through that water. Whether we were forging the stream or sitting cross-legged in it with our heads above the water, exploding with impish giggles, this creek was as much our home as our bedrooms 50 yards away.

Today Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a major agency reshuffling that will affect how the government enforces laws on mountaintop removal and surface coal mining.  He will fold the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) into another Department of Interior subdivision, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

In the back and forth between climate skeptics and conservationists, we’ve clearly got two things on our side (although many of our foes would argue this): science and the law.

This point was clearly delineated during a panel discussing the congressional attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency (and the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act) at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Miami last week.

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