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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.

<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.

Today, as world leaders, led by President Obama, struggled deep into the night on a plan to fight climate change, a handful of U.S. senators at home were trying to sabotage U.S. climate action. In league with long-time climate science deniers in Congress, they launched an effort to keep the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

For the second time in 3 months, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is trying to block solutions to global warming. In September, she attempted to tack an amendment onto an appropriations bill that would have kept the Environmental Protection Agency from spending any money on reducing global warming pollution from major emissions sources, like coal-fired power plants. She failed.

(Editor's Note: This file presents news and information from the Copenhagen climate change conference on Dec. 17, distilled from news outlet reports. Check for updates during the day.)

<Update>: A leaked draft document at Copenhagen suggests that the political agreement being forged will allow the planet's temperature to rise so high that disastrous consequences will result.

Becoming a grandfather is cause for celebration, unless you're a coal-fired power plant.

Coal plants that predate the Clean Air Act have become the mules of air pollution—set in their ways and not liable to change. Exploiting their "grandfathered" status, these coal plants have refused to implement technologies that are currently available to reduce pollution.

Now, Congress seems determined to let these dinosaurs off the hook all over again.

The endangerment finding released by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this week—which states that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are a threat to public health and welfare—sure seems to rub some politicians the wrong way. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), a U.S. Senate hopeful, made an attempt to keep any funding allocated in an omnibus spending bill to the EPA from being spent on regulations based on the endangerment finding.

Tiahrt's amendment to the $446.8 billion dollar spending bill was rejected last night in a 5-9 vote. A similar unsuccessful assault on EPA regulation of global warming pollution was mounted in September by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Her amendment, which would have prevented the EPA for one year from spending any money allocated to them through an appropriations bill on regulating stationary sources of carbon pollution like power plants, didn't even get a vote.

These attempts to block funding for regulations, compared to the enthusiasm expressed by many at the announcement of the endangerment finding, illustrate a central issue: Using the Clean Air Act to regulate global warming pollution from cars, trucks, power plants, factories and other sources is a divisive issue. Moving forward, if and when EPA rolls out proposed regulations for these sources, it'll be interesting to see who lines up on which side of the argument.

A host of wildlife, plants and fish in America may not survive the current debates over global warming in Congress and among the world's nations. According to a report from the Endangered Species Coalition, the effects of global warming could be the coup-de-grace for species that are already endangered by other causes. Says Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition:

Global warming is like a bulldozer shoving species, already on the brink of extinction, perilously closer to the edge of existence...We need action now. Polar bears, lynx, salmon, coral and many other endangered species are already feeling the heat.

The report focuses on 10 endangered or threatened species that represent many other species jeopardized by a warming climate, and sets forth actions that Congress and the international community must quickly take to keep species from disappearing forever. Read the full report here.

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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.