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Obama administration

Update: On March 22, 2013, President Obama accepted Caitlin Halligan’s request to withdraw as a nominee to the D.C. Circuit. Senate Republicans had blocked a yes-or-no vote on Ms. Halligan’s nomination for more than two years. As the President emphasized in his statement, the D.C. Circuit “is considered the Nation’s second-highest court, but it now has more vacancies than any other circuit court.

Over the past four years, the federal halls of justice have been left partially hollow as the number of judicial vacancies in the federal courts continues to mount—due to foot-dragging on nominations and partisan filibuster once nominations are made. These vacancies hobble the courts’ ability to do their core work, which includes determining the fate of our most important environmental protections.

Over the past few decades—with the help of Congress—Big Oil and Gas successfully chipped away at our bedrock environmental laws, carving out special exemptions for the fossil fuel drilling industry. In 1987, when Congress decided to implement new standards to control stormwater runoff pollution under the Clean Water Act, oil and gas companies got a pass. And in 1990 when the Clean Air Act was expanded to allow for control of more toxic air pollutants, the same industry got another pass.

Shell announced that the company is hitting the pause button on oil exploration and drilling in the Arctic. Mother Nature graphically demonstrated this summer what conservation groups have been saying for more than a decade—the extreme weather and conditions of the Arctic, with its stormy, frozen seas make the Arctic environmentally treacherous for oil drilling.

Forty-one years ago, today, a dam holding 132 million gallons of toxic liquid coal waste ruptured high up in the mountains of West Virginia, loosing a tsunami-like death wave of coal waste and chemical sludge that destroyed 4,000 homes in 16 towns, injured more than 1,000 people, and killed 125. Seven bodies were never found. This remarkable Charleston Gazette series shares the stories of the people who were affected by this horrific tragedy.

Last week, President Obama demanded that Congress take action on climate change, or else he would.

But, after years of political gridlock on the climate issue, coupled with rising seas and worsening droughts, one thing is clear: the nation simply cannot afford to wait any longer to take action. Though Congress may eventually pull together and pass a climate bill, the president must not wait on that uncertain prospect. He must act now.

Thanks to a recent federal court decision, visitors to Utah’s public wild lands can continue to raft the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument without seeing oil derricks around the river’s bends.

They can continue to enjoy the outlook from Canyonlands National Park’s Grand View Point without drill rigs littering the landscape.

And they won’t be forced to see the formations at Arches National Park as gateways to increased carbon emissions and environmental disruption.

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