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The Congressional Research Service, the non-partisan research arm of the Library of Congress, drew anger from two legislators after it issued an unfavorable report on their coal ash bills (S. 3512 and H.R. 2273). Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) have aggressively pursued the CRS since early December, after it gave both bills a failing grade, finding their weaknesses “unprecedented” in environmental law.

This week, our friends down under are experiencing climate chaos up close and personal.

Australia is enduring a record heat wave that is causing massive forest fires and unprecedented public health issues.

The situation has become so bad that the weather service was forced to add to add additional colors to the heat map to capture temperatures up to 54 degrees Celsius (129°F).

A recent heat map of Australia, with the new colors.  (AUS Bureau of Meteorology)

Satellite imagery of the massive Hobet mine, taken in 2013.
Associate Attorney Neil Gormley took a trip to West Virginia to visit partners and clients and to see the effects of mountaintop removal mining first-hand. As he explains, his visit prompted questions about the relationship between this destructive practice and regional poverty.

Blog posts about Earth's magnificent places and creatures were the most popular themes for unEarthed readers in 2012. By far the most-read post concerned Arctic drilling, followed by reports of bison being restored and wolves losing protection. Not shown in our top 10 blog posts, below, are the delightful tales of curious critters painted in words by our own Shirley Hao. Posts written years ago by Shirley are still being discovered and read by thousands of people every year.

“…My son's school would be named in a USA Today report as being in the upper 1 percent of the most toxic schools in the nation—the same school I butted heads with cement plant executives about being under the toxic plumes while children were at recess.”

– Alex Allred,
50 States United Clean Air Ambassador from Texas

A child suffering from asthma.

No one likes to breathe dirty and polluted air. Unfortunately, for some communities there may be little to no choice.

But today, the EPA took a step in the right direction to clean up soot pollution and protect millions of Americans forced to breathe dirty air. Administrator Lisa Jackson announced a tightened standard that will limit soot pollution in many major metropolitan areas across the country, cleaning up the smokestacks and tailpipes that belch out this dirty pollution.

A new report has some not-so-great news for those who love to eat fish. Mercury is turning up in fish from all over the world—and coal is one of the main culprits.

Coal burned in power plants releases mercury, basically dissolved in smoke, that later settles out over the land. It typically falls out of the atmosphere within 30 miles or so of where it was burned and then finds its way into soil and runoff that eventually end in the oceans.

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