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The new Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, is on a mission to change the face of environmentalism. 

She speaks as a daughter whose mother was flooded out of the 9th Ward by Hurricane Katrina and who “can now make as compelling an argument as any wetlands expert about the need to protect and preserve wetlands.”  She speaks as a mother of a son with asthma who may not be able to go outside when ozone levels are high.

If you looked to the night sky on New Year’s Eve, you may have wondered if the new decade was being ushered in with a full moon. Indeed, your eyes did not deceive you—and not only was the moon full, but it was blue, a feat worthy of the oft-used phrase "once in a blue moon."

Commercial fishing for swordfish can be deadly for sea turtles that get hooked and often killed in the process. Turtles aren't the only unintended victims. Albatross, dolphins, whales, and sharks are often hooked and killed, too. The giant leatherback sea turtles, which currently cling to existence with shrinking numbers in the Pacific, are among the victims of greatest concern.

A major swordfish longline fishing fleet operates out of Hawai'i and ranges far and wide throughout the central Pacific, fishing the same waters where turtles travel. Federal regulations passed in 2004 tightened rules on how much the fleet could fish in an effort to reduce the bycatch of turtles.

In a move hard to comprehend, the federal government loosened these restrictions earlier this month, unleashing the fleet from any restrictions on the amount of fishing it can do, and upping the number of turtles it can catch before triggering a fishery shut-down.

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff didn't take long to respond. He knows the issue well, having won the 2004 rule-tightening restrictions in a court victory. Achitoff found various instances in the new rules that run counter to existing federal law and wrapped his findings up in a court challenge filed in Honolulu. Hopefully a court will step in and help us bring these great creatures back from the brink.
 

Recently, some global warming skeptics have used a series of hacked emails to cast aspersions on the scientific consensus on man-made global warming. The hope, perhaps, is to gain support for a delusion that thrives in their fertile imaginations: that global warming is a hoax perpetuated by a clandestine network of global conspirators.

Some top stories from the week at Earthjustice…

Florida got some great news: A historic settlement on November 16 prompted the EPA to set limits for the widespread nutrient poisoning in Florida's waters, which triggers harmful algae blooms and threatens public health. This breakthrough decision could have implications for waterways nationwide.

The all-important Clean Air Act turned 19 on November 15. Hurray for breathing!

Alas, it didn't get a present from Mountain Coal. This Colorado company has long claimed that putting its methane emissions on the market would help save the atmosphere while bringing in extra cash. But last week it said "no thanks" when finally given that option. Why? The company makes some pretty questionable assumptions.

More light was shed on the coal industry by a powerful new film, which had its television premiere. Coal Country chronicles the destruction of mountaintop removal mining through the voices of activists, politicians, and coalfield residents in Appalachia.

A new report found that genetically engineered crops and pesticides go hand in hand. Compared to pesticide use in the absence of GE crops, farmers applied 318 million more pounds of pesticides over the last 13 years as a result of planting GE seeds.
 

I met Tom Graff in about 1970 or so. I was at the brand-new Friends of the Earth. Tom had come out from New York to open an office for the slightly older Environmental Defense Fund near the Berkeley campus. He immediately dove (pun intended) into the fractious, messy and endless battles over water in California, the place where, Mark Twain supposedly said, “water flows uphill toward money.”

The California Water Project had been built by then, a maze of canals and pumping stations to divert water from the wet north to the dry south and San Joaquin Valley. Not satisfied with what they had, big ag proposed a “peripheral canal” to route water from the Sacramento River around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a proposal Tom Graff called a rifle pointed at the heart of the Sacramento Valley, or words to that effect. The proposal was resoundingly defeated, in large part owing to Tom's efforts. He went on to help George Miller pass the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which belatedly guaranteed water for fish and wildlife.

Tom died the other day at the too-young age of 65. He leaves a legacy we can only admire and learn from—especially as a brand-new proposal for a kinder, gentler peripheral canal is likely to come bearing down on us soon and the CVPIA is under continuous attack.

Farewell, my friend, you are missed.

 

Earthjustice attorney David Henkin is giving the keynote address this month at the United Nations Environmental Program workshop in Okinawa on the military and the environment. Here's a glimpse of what he will discuss:

What kind of work does Earthjustice do in the Mid-Pacific office?

A heartening sight in my old Peace Corps village (in Turkey) was all the solar water heaters on top of the houses. It only makes sense, but then sensible things don't always prevail. Fritz Schumacher, coiner of the term 'appropriate technology' would be proud.

Less attractive was a trip up to the yayla—high-mountain pasture—where the villagers take their livestock to graze in the summer months. When I lived here and heard about the yayla I pictured the Sound of Music—lush green alpine meadows, leiderhosen and all that—but these pastures have been badly overgrazed and signs of erosion are everywhere. It's still wild and beautiful this time of year with most of the koyun (sheep) and inek (cattle) gone, but not the paradise I had thought.

Finally, on the way to an old abandoned monastery, we passed the site of a brand-new hydroelectric dam that will wipe out miles of trout streams, several houses, even a mosque. Think about that for a minute.

Earthjustice has begun tracking the Obama administration's progress in rolling back eight years of environmental assault by the Bush administration. We've created a chart that grades President Barack Obama on how well he's done. After reading the chart, come back to this blog post and provide your own comments. We'll be updating the report card as actions warrant.

 

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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.