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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.

Yesterday, a new political theater opened in the battle over whether the Clean Air Act should be used to reduce global warming pollution. At issue is a request contained in the Obama administration's 2011 budget proposal that $56 million—$43 million of it new—be directed to the EPA for use in efforts to cut global warming pollution from mobile sources like cars and stationary sources like coal-fired power plants.

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama made it clear—when it comes to the environment, we are at a crossroads. There is historic opportunity for us to lead the clean energy revolution that will transform our societies or watch as others claim the technologies, jobs and environmental benefits that will be its rewards.

Some top stories from the past week at Earthjustice…

One result of burning coal is lots and lots of toxic coal ash. It's stored in hundreds of ponds across the U.S., and it can flood and devastate entire communities. Yesterday, Earthjustice joined more than 100 environmental groups in a Day of Action, urging the White House to finally call coal ash what it is: hazardous waste.

A heated debate over mountaintop removal coal mining last week drew huge crowds. The competitors: Don Blankenship, CEO of coal giant Massey Energy, and Waterkeeper founder Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. The reporter: Earthjustice Campaigns Director, Jared Saylor. The victor: Decide for yourself!

The same Massey Energy is one of several industry groups asking a federal appeals court to review (aka do away with) the EPA Clean Air Act endangerment finding. In defense of the finding, 16 states and New York City filed a motion last week to intervene in the case.

Glacier National Park is nearly 100 years old, and Monday Reads introduces us to a truly incredible photography project in celebration of its centennial birthday. Right next door on the U.S.-Canadian border lives the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, now threatened by mining plans in the nearby Flathead Valley. But there was hopeful news last week: Earthjustice encouraged an investigation that has resulted in a recommendation of a moratorium on mining and a conservation plan for this essential region.

Coal ash currently stored in ponds across the U.S. could flow continuosly over Niagara Falls for three days straight. The new Dallas Cowboys stadium couldn't hold all the coal ash in those ponds; in fact, you'd need 263 Dallas Cowboys stadiums to hold it all. We'd need to build 738 Empire State buildings to contain it all.

The EPA Clean Air Act endangerment finding, under attack in the U.S. Senate by Lisa Murkowski and her lobbyist allies, is also facing opposition in the courts. Last month, a band of industry interests asked a federal appeals court to review the EPA's finding, which is a prerequisite for using the Clean Air Act to reduce global warming pollution in the U.S.

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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.