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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.
 

(Editor's Note:  This file presents news and information from the Copenhagen climate change conference on Dec. 8, distilled from news outlet reports. Check for updates during the day.)

<Update>: Poorer countries are outraged and threatening a walkout from the conference because of a draft climate agreement that apparently favors the interests of the United States.

<Update>: Here's an angry, if novel, request from the Bolivian president -- industrialized nations should pay "reparations" for the unprecedented flooding his country is experiencing. He links the flooding to global warming and blames the rich countries for the greenhouse gas emissions that caused it. Today, at the conference, Bolivia called for those countries to set a carbon emissions cap of less than 350 ppm.

The New York Times put together this easy-glimpse look at what the major and poorer countries of the world promise—and want—at the conference. The Times also released a new scientific analysis, confirming that global warming is not slowing down. <Update>: Indeed, says The Washington Post, we are on track to have the warmest decade on record.

"Hopenhagen" is a coined term for a planet-wide eco-petition, but it's fast become a description for the positive mood sweeping the city of Copenhagen, and it's been picked up as an angle for various news treatments: "What Is Hope?", and The Los Angeles Times.

Lots of buzz came out of the Obama administration's announcement yesterday that greenhouse gases present a threat to the public health and therefore can be regulated. Here's one reflection by the Huffington Post.

 

 

(Update: As expected, today, EPA chief Lisa Jackson announced that greenhouse gases, including from vehicles, are a danger to public health that should be regulated. Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen immediately welcomed the announcement, commenting in part that "our nation must move quickly and efficiently to achieve the cuts in carbon dioxide and other global warming pollution needed to stave off catastrophic climate change." Read his full statement here.)

As the climate change conference convenes in Copenhagen, Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is set to declare today that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions are a danger to public health.

In April, the EPA released an endangerment finding, acknowledging that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. Jackson's latest announcement finalizes that initial action toward addressing global warming pollution under the Clean Air Act. At the time, we said:

The Obama administration has removed a road block in curbing pollution responsible for climate change and signaled a turn toward a clean energy future. We applaud this action, and welcome the President's leadership to overcome the greatest environmental challenge of our time.

(Update: Today, China announced that it, too, will pledge limits on greenhouse gas emissions.)

It's official -- President Obama will lead the U.S. delegation at the Copenhagen climate change conference, and he will promise the world a 17 percent decrease (from 2005 levels)  in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. His pledge mirrors the levels contained in climate change legislation being considered by Congress.

Although this will not improve chances of an actual treaty being reached at Copenhagen, the expectation is for a political agreement among the major nations. Such an agreement depends on what China brings to the conference, and that remains a mystery. China and the U.S. are the planet's two biggest contributors to global warming.

 

(Update: Energy lobbyists are hard at work in developed countries, pressing to make sure the Copenhagen conference doesn't harm the fossil fuel industry, according to an investigative report by the Center for Public Integrity. Check out the Center's interactive map of the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters.)

(Also: Here is a United Nation's report on what climate change is already doing to the earth and its inhabitants, along with a forecast of what's to come.)

Probably this week, President Obama will announce whether he will attend next month's international climate change conference in Copenhagen -- and what the U.S.will be offering up. The latest news scuttlebutt is that the U.S. delegation is set to propose greenhouse gas emissions limits similar to what Congress is considering.

No one is counting on a treaty to come from the conference, nor is there any hope that Congress will pass a climate change bill by then.

 

Even though a large group of polluters tried to derail it, Earthjustice won this week a historic settlement—with nationwide implications—that requires the Environmental Protection Agency to set legal limits for the widespread nutrient poisoning that triggers harmful algae blooms in Florida waters.

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