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Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. Einstein, who had a particular knack for coming up with enduring and timeless ideas, may find application in our country's energy landscape today.

“The battle to restore a proper relationship between man and his environment, and between man and other living creatures, will require a long sustained political, moral, ethical, and financial commitment far beyond any commitment ever made by any society in the history of man. Are we able? Yes. Are we willing? That’s the unanswered question.” – Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day.

In Appalachia, moving mountains is easy. What's hard is keeping them where they are. Coal companies have used dynamite's muscle to blast hundreds of the earth's oldest summits into neighboring valleys, permanently altering the landscape. But two recent developments are shaking the foundations of mountaintop removal mining, signaling that perhaps, at long last, what's moving is the mountain of science and law that compels the end of this destructive practice.

I am not a great student of TV news, but I watch a little almost every night, and I've noticed something that makes me wonder about how stuff works in this day and age. I rather enjoy MSNBC--Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews. It's refreshing to have someone abandon fake objectivity and cut loose. Not that they're always right--that is, always agreeing with me--but they're always intelligent and passionate.

On the Obama administration's second Earth Day, we can look back on some change we can believe in: oil and gas leases near national parks in Utah suspended, a glimmer of progress on slowing the destruction of rivers and streams in Appalachia by coal mines, the beginning of EPA's commitment to slow global warming from car tail pipes.

But 15 months in, the administration appears to have at least one glaring blind spot: how to reduce the environmental destruction from coal mining in the West - both on the ground and in the atmosphere. 

When the EPA said on its website that April was going to be the month when we'd see the first ever federal coal ash regulations, environmental groups were in support. Sure, it would be four months later than what the EPA originally promised when a billion gallons of coal ash spilled across 300 acres in Tennessee, but we remained optimistic.

Now the month is half over and still no coal ash regulations. So, we're taking our fight up the ladder.

Facing a $2.8 billion budget shortfall, there is a movement afoot in Olympia, Washington to repeal a generous tax break enjoyed by the state's largest polluter, the TransAlta coal plant in Centralia.

The tax break was given to the company in the 1990s provided they kept coal mining jobs in the state. In 2006, TransAlta closed the local mine, laid off 600 workers, and began purchasing coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana.

More than a decade ago, dedicated conservationists within and without the Forest Service began clamoring for a nation-wide policy to protect the last remnants of roadless lands across the National Forests. The rationales were many: providing solitude for wildlife, preventing wildfires (which occur most often near roads), protecting water supplies for cities and towns, and leaving the last scraps of land unharmed by the buldozer after a century of pressure from loggers, miners, and other development.

I know how crazy this sounds: I love spending time reading through arcane government filings in the Federal Register and on Regulations.gov. I'm fascinated by the volume of it all, and like a modern day miner panning for environmental gold, I sometimes unearth a juicy nugget of information. Today is one of those days.

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About the Earthjustice Blog

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.