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Obama administration

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama made it clear—when it comes to the environment, we are at a crossroads. There is historic opportunity for us to lead the clean energy revolution that will transform our societies or watch as others claim the technologies, jobs and environmental benefits that will be its rewards.

Coal ash currently stored in ponds across the U.S. could flow continuosly over Niagara Falls for three days straight. The new Dallas Cowboys stadium couldn't hold all the coal ash in those ponds; in fact, you'd need 263 Dallas Cowboys stadiums to hold it all. We'd need to build 738 Empire State buildings to contain it all.

While it may seem obvious, especially with coal companies completely burying streams and routinely poisoning drinking water supplies, an article in the scientific journal Science shows clear scientific evidence that mountaintop removal mining destroys streams and poisons communities.

I remember my first thought when I read the papers on Dec. 23, the day after one of the biggest environmental disasters in our nation's history: "This is only the beginning."

The stories about the spill came out like the spill itself: slow at first, then in a huge, sudden avalanche of sad details. 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash from the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Power Plant burst through a dam near Harriman and spread over 300 acres of pristine shoreline along the Emory and Clinch Rivers.

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.

(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 tens of thousands of new oil and gas wells that have popped up in the U.S. over the last decade—especially in the Rocky Mountain states—have created lots of air pollution. Much of it comes from the engines used to pump and compress the oil and gas or from leaks around the wells and pipelines. This air pollution makes skies smoggier, hazier, more toxic to breathe and alters the climate.

In New Mexico, some gas wells produce hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs. At low levels, hydrogen sulfide can cause difficulty breathing and headaches. At high levels, it can be lethal.

In western Wyoming and metropolitan Denver, oil and gas drilling is linked to rising smog levels, haze in wilderness areas and national parks, and to climate change.

Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the Bush administration to force it to update the air pollution regulations with modern, state of the art technology to minimize the pollution. The Obama administration inherited this lawsuit and quickly recognized that Earthjustice was right. So they settled the case and have promised to do a fresh review with an eye towards getting newer, cleaner technology into the field.
 

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