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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.

For the past month, the klieg lights have been squarely focused on attempts inside the Beltway to cobble together compromise legislation to address global climate change (AKA the Waxman-Markey bill), and President Obama's commitment at the G-8 summit to keep the planet from heating up more than two degrees celsius.

Meanwhile, out here in the West, it's CO2-emitting business as usual, with the federal Bureau of Land Management this month proposing to lock in long term federal coal leases to giant mining firms. And not small amounts of coal either.

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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.