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Obama administration

The signs of greening are everywhere. Paris has thousands of bicycles for rent—with the first half hour free (Velolib, it's called), and there's hardly anywhere in the city you can't get to in a half-hour. There are bike lanes as well, though they're in the middle of the sidewalks, so you must be alert. Almost no bike riders wear helmets for some reason ; maybe it's the great health-care system. Cars in general are tiny, though there are way too many. Stores are full of « bio » (organic) products of all sorts.

The talk is all of Obama's Nobel prize, with people here as preplexed as everywhere else at the timing. Obama himself is wildly popular, seemingly with nearly everybody. It's quite refreshing not to be ashamed of being an American again after the past eight years' nightmare. We send the best and will try to write again (from Turkey next time) soon.
 

A lot of surprise—including from President Barack Obama himself—greeted today's announcement that he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. After all, he's only been in office nine months. But, the Nobel committee said it isn't achievement so much as the hope of achievement that Obama has brought to the world, especially when it comes to climate change:

"Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting."

This award could encourage Obama to actually lead the U.S. delegation two months from now when it heads to Cophenhagen for the world climate summit. Who knows, he might even arrive with something from Congress in his back pocket.

The Environmental Protection Agency has taken another positive step towards reining in the destructive practice of mountaintop removal mining.

Today, the EPA declared that all of the 79 permits it was reviewing would violate the Clean Water Act and must undergo more in-depth environmental assessment by both the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers. This is a welcome action that Earthjustice called for two weeks ago.

Now, the two agencies have 60 days to review each permit. We can't imagine that they can reach any other conclusion than that these mines will cause irreparable harm to the waterways, land and communities of Appalachia. The permits must be denied, and beyond that, the Obama administration should follow up by reinstating and enforcing clean water rules gutted by the Bush administration.

Imagine a day when expectant parents can paint their nurseries, stock them with playthings and baby supplies, and do it all with the security of knowing that each and every chemical in those products has been tested for health effects and found safe for their newborn.

Last night, the Obama administration got us one step closer to that shimmery non-toxic future.

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.

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.

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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.