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Environmental Protection Agency

Just as world leaders convened in New York earlier this week for the U.N. Climate Conference, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was introducing an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have hogtied EPA's ability to regulate carbon pollution from power plants and other large industrial polluters.

Fortunately, the Senate just decided not to vote on Senator Murkowski's amendment.

Some major dominoes still have to fall before big carbon polluters like power plants are regulated under the Clean Air Act, but the jettisoning of Murkowski's amendment clears the way for EPA to continue its work in that direction.

Here's a thanks to the 12,000 Earthjustice supporters who earlier this week urged their senators to reject Murkowski's amendment and instead tackle climate change and carbon polluters head on.
 

Yellowstone's grizzly bears are back under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, thanks to a federal court decision overturning Bush-era directives.

The court ruled in favor of Earthjustice litigation by finding the Bush administration illegally removed ESA protections from the bear in 2007. In overturning the delisting, the court cited inadequate state laws and the ongoing demise of whitebark pine—a key grizzly food source—caused by global warming.

Because they grow in high, remote places, whitebark pine forests also keep grizzly bears out of harm's way: in poor seed years, grizzlies seek foods elsewhere, bumping into people more and dying at rates 2-3 times higher than in good seed years.

 

On most environmental matters, the Obama administration scores high marks from us, especially for revitalizing the role of science and respect for the law in the agency's decisions. The shift in ethos from eight years of ruinous Bush policies occurred almost immediately after Obama took office. We have seen dramatic positive changes in how some federal agencies deal with the key issues of climate change and clean energy, roadless protections, clean air, and hazardous waste regulations.

The last year has been a roller coaster ride for mountaintop removal. Despite a loss in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in February (which we're now appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court), the U.S. Senate was taking up the fight with some public hearings back in March.

The attorneys general of five states are urging Senate leaders to strengthen the federal climate bill by requiring cleanup or closure of dirty coal-fired power plants, preserving state authority to set stricter clean air standards than in federal law and ensuring that citizens can sue to enforce the bill’s provisions.

More than two-thirds of fish tested by the federal government between 1998 and 2005 are contaminated by mercury at levels exceeding EPA standards according to a recent report.

Contamination is widespread, the report said, coming from various sources depending on geography. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury, although 59 of the 291 streams studied may have been affected by gold and mercury mining. The highest mercury levels were found in the south and southeast-North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana, while elevated levels were found in mining areas of the West and watersheds in the Northeast and Upper Midwest.

In 2008, Earthjustice successfully appealed an EPA rule favorable to industry which would have allowed dangerous levels of mercury to persist. We’re waiting for the Obama administration to make good on its promise to introduce new power plant emission regulations.

Things involving climate change are getting decidedly bizarre. The three-million-member U.S. Chamber of Commerce is demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency hold a trial—witnesses, cross-examination, the whole nine yards—to challenge climate science. The Chamber's purpose is to head off regulations that EPA may adopt based on an upcoming "finding" that CO2 emissions "endanger" human (Americans' in this case) health.

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.

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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.