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People began filing into the University of Charleston's auditorium nearly two hours before the debate began. Charleston police, county sheriffs, state troopers and UC police lined the hallways and entrances. There were rumors of activists chaining themselves to trees and coal miners planning a huge rally. Television cameras were stationed along the walls and in nearly every corner of the auditorium.

Last year, the U.S. government started taking environmental protection seriously again, but as 2010 dawns, we continue to see political and economic interests preventing or stalling critical environmental solutions.

In the face of this opposition, this year Earthjustice is targeting key issues with our legal and advocacy work. Our focus is on three core priorities: building a clean energy future, protecting our natural heritage, and safeguarding our health.

Proponents of an 895-megawatt coal-fired power plant expansion project in Holcomb, Kansas have resubmitted an application for an air permit. The first application was rejected by the state environmental agency in 2007 due to concerns over air and global warming pollution. This was the first coal plant air permit rejected on those grounds in the United States.

The tension has been building since the date was set last November. Ever since it was announced, skeptics clamored, "There's no way this is actually going to take place. Someone is going to back down." But they underestimated the raw emotion and high-voltage electricty surrounding this epic event.

I'm not talking about the next big boxing match, I'm talking about Thursday's (Jan. 21) debate between environmentalist Bobby Kennedy Jr. and Massey Coal Company chief Don Blankenship!

Updating a story from a few weeks ago, proposals for big new transmission lines that would bring coal plant energy from the Appalachia to the Eastern Seaboard are not standing up well when put under the microscope.

The largest of these projects, the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH), was recently put on ice when the proponents (two coal companies) were challenged to prove they were actually needed.

<Update, Jan. 21>: Sen. Murkowski today declared her plan to exempt polluters from the Clean Air Act. She intends to use a little-known legislative maneuver to nullify the EPA's recent determination that greenhouse gases threaten public health. This move would restrict the Clean Air Act, a powerful and effective law, from being used to hold polluters accountable for their global warming emissions.

While it may seem obvious, especially with coal companies completely burying streams and routinely poisoning drinking water supplies, an article in the scientific journal Science shows clear scientific evidence that mountaintop removal mining destroys streams and poisons communities.

The single biggest air polluter in the entire state of Washington is the state's one and only coal-fired power plant. The operating permit for the coal plant, which is in Centralia, was recently renewed without needed upgrades to protect the air and the people living nearby who breathe it. Earthjustice attorney Janette Brimmer has been working hard to get the permit pulled back and updated with better pollution standards to clean up the air.

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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.