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In 2011, the EPA is expected to propose the first-ever limits on global warming pollution from coal-fired power plants—good news, considering these pollution giants are responsible for a third of CO2 emissions in the United States. To the industry lobbyists and their mouthpieces in Congress who are resorting to all sorts of fear-mongering to smother these critical efforts: take heed—the American public isn't on your side.

A new poll from the Benenson Strategy Group, commissioned by NRDC, polled 1,401 registered voters and found that 60 percent support the regulation of global-warming gases from power plants and refineries, another significant source of such pollution. And in a vote of confidence for the EPA, 54 percent expressed confidence in the agency's ability to control the emissions.

Along with a suite of other pollution control rules the EPA is and will be pursuing, the forthcoming rules to limit global warming pollution from coal plants provide a tremendous opportunity to protect our health and planet while building a clean energy future. Those on the payroll of big polluters will try to keep us stuck in the past, but a vocal American public that demands strong action on global warming from the EPA and the Obama administration can help carry us forward.
 

Headlines in the last week trumpeted a decision by Xcel, Colorado's largest utility, to convert several old coal-fired power plants into natural gas plants.

The decision was hailed by some as a victory for the environment, since natural gas, when burned, results in fewer pollutants and greenhouse gases.  Some proclaimed the political power of coal on the wane in the West and natural gas ascendent.

This afternoon (7/29), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) smacked down climate deniers in the most diplomatic and thoughtful way possible.

After careful re-review of decades of research and scientific findings by the world's foremost academic and government scientists, the EPA told 10 groups who challenged its scientific finding that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming and endanger human health and welfare (in much gentler words):

<Today (Thur.), I attended a Town Hall meeting in a Senate office building on the need for climate change legislation. Accompanying me was our fantastic summer intern, Trevor Hill, who is here in DC sponging up the politics and legislative procedures within our fight to protect the people, places and wildlife on this planet for an entire summer before he returns to Carleton College in Northfield, MN.

Tomorrow (July 22), Don Blankenship, the notorious chairman and CEO of Massey Energy, speaks at the National Press Club. We'll be live blogging to make sure you all get the play-by-play -- which promises to be interesting at the very least if Blankenship's previous speaking engagements are any indicator (we live-blogged at his public debate with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., in January in Charleston, WV -- check it out here).

Update (7/22): On 7/22 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the forthcoming energy bill will no longer include the section that would address climate change and limit carbon emissions from power plants. The Senate, he said, will address climate change in a separate bill in the fall after August recess.

The Obama administration, having been thwarted in its attempts to declare a six-month moratorium on new deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday issued a new moratorium order, citing new information on the causes of the recent well blowout and other matters. According to a question-and-answer news release from the department:

"What are the differences between the May 28 deepwater drilling moratorium and the new deepwater drilling suspension?

<Update 7/9: The 5th Circuit Appeals Court decided not to intervene on an emergency basis - and reinstate the administration's moratorium on offshore drilling - unless deepwater drilling is actually going to resume, reports Patti Goldman, vice-president of litigation for Earthjustice. The shoe is now on the oil industry's foot. If they choose to resume drilling, they risk another quick trip to the 5th Circuit.>

<Update 7/8: A 3-panel appeals court has refused to reinstate a moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf of California.>

The immediate future of deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is at stake today in a federal appeals court, where Earthjustice and the Obama administration are arguing to reinstate a moratorium put in place after the BP oil well rupture. Oil industry advocates convinced a federal district court to lift the moratorium last month.

With oil gushing into the Gulf at an estimated 2.4 million gallons a day, our argument for the moratorium should be obvious—we can't afford this kind of risky drilling until the BP oil spill is fully quelled and we know exactly why this devastating incident occurred. We already know that the approval process for the BP well and others in the Gulf was corrupted by a too-cozy relationship between the oil industry and regulatory agencies, especially the Minerals Management Service.

Until the government can clean up its regulatory act, and the industry shows that it can clean up—and prevent—major oil spills, we will continue to argue against resumption of deep water drilling. And let's be clear—the moratorium only affects a small number of drilling operations in the Gulf. The vast majority continue to operate and are not affected by this court action.

If the appeals court refuses to lift the moratorium, the Interior Department said it will institute a revised, new moratorium in short order.

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