Skip to main content

coal

My friend Bill McKibben, climate campaigner extraordinaire (he blew the first public whistle with The End of Nature in the late 1980s) has been organizing internationally behind the notion that 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon in the atmosphere is the absolute limit of what the earth can tolerate. The IPCC—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—in its latest report two years ago, set the number at 450. The current carbon load in the atmosphere is about 370 ppm and rising.

McKibben's organization, 350.org, has been agitating for a lowering of the goal to 350 and on Aug. 25 got the welcome news that Chairman Rajendra Pachauri of the IPCC had given his personal endorsement to the 350 number. This, as Bill explained in an email, is a very big deal and governments everywhere should sit up, take notice, and get finally off their duffs.

What does it take to peel back the abstractions of email, press reports, and legal briefs and really see some of what is at stake in Earthjustice's work? It's as easy as getting away from the computer, out of airports, and off the interstate.

Over the last couple of weeks I was lucky enough to travel across the Great Plains and the Rockies. Everywhere I went, I saw our country wrestling with the big challenges of energy supply and climate change, biodiversity and wildlands protection, and the human consequences of poorly enforced environmental standards.

If you look at a map showing a planned network of high-voltage power lines through West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia, you’ll notice something curious: they match up quite neatly with the region’s existing power plants.

The $1.9-billion Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) is a pet project of two of the country’s most powerful coal producers: American Electric Power and Allegheny Energy. And they don’t seem particularly interested in making room for their counterparts in the renewable energy business.

That didn’t seem quite fair to those of us at Earthjustice. So last month we went ahead and intervened in the project’s Virginia State proceedings, hoping to help clear a space at the table for renewable energy.

We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

A troublesome new chapter has opened in the matter of Sunflower Electric's attempt to more than double the electrical output at its existing coal-fired plant in Holcomb, Kansas.

After digging through 10,000 pages of documents, Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman discovered that Sunflower in the past had defaulted on its debt service payments to the federal government, and that as a consequence the federal government now has effective oversight over Sunflower's business decisions, including the attempted expansion of its existing plant.

The New York Times, in an editorial today, zeroed in on a coal loophole that must be fixed in the House version of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill.

Echoing comments by Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen, the Times called on the Senate to impose greenhouse gas emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants, which were deliberately excluded from those standards in the House bill. Because of what the Times called "wheeling and dealing," those plants—which are the dirtiest coal polluters—would not be subject to the Clean Air Act.

Legislation aimed at controlling climate change can't work if it doesn't control the biggest contributors to climate change. We all need to get this common sense-message across to senators who even now are being wheeled and dealed by coal industry lobbyists. To speak out, go to the Earthjustice action alert page. It's a quick, easy, and effective way of joining the debate.

Pages

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.