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February 13 was an amazing day in Florida. Wearing black to symbolize an oil spill, thousands of people took to the state's beaches in a massive "Hands Across the Sand" statewide protest opposing offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

We formed human chains to protect the state's famous white-sand beaches, and sent a message to our state Legislature that Floridians don't support oil drilling—especially in a state with an economy that runs on tourist business.

Some top stories from the last week at Earthjustice...

Sen. Lisa Murkowski seems determined to undermine the Clean Air Act, and has enlisted industry lobbyists in her quest. Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen discussed why it's critical to take action now to protect this important environmental law.

The days of rampant, indiscriminant oil and gas drilling on public lands are over, according to an announcement from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The BLM will develop and extend the environmental review processes for public lands drilling plans, something Earthjustice attorneys have advocated for years. 

The DOE just released new efficiency standards for Laundromat washing machines, but unfortunately they won't do enough to weed the least efficient from the market. Next time you take a trip to the Laundromat, try to find a front-loading machine, as these tend to waste less water and energy than top-loaders.

If you haven't heard much about the rare Pacific fisher, it might be its rarity after centuries of fur-trapping and logging in the Pacific northwest. Now, an Earthjustice lawsuit has helped make sure it's still eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Find out more about this mighty porcupine hunter in Monday Reads.

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.
 

Some top stories from the last week at Earthjustice...

The Copenhagen conference started off with a bang of optimism when the EPA announced that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health. The cooperative spirit quickly fizzled after a draft agreement surfaced that apparently favors the interests of the U.S. and other wealthy nations. There’s more news by the hour: Be sure to check out our daily reports from Copenhagen, and analysis by two attending Earthjustice attorneys, Erika Rosenthal and Martin Wagner.

All the buzz from the conference nearly drowned out a disturbing, and related, piece of news: Shell Oil was granted conditional approval to drill exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea. Earthjustice attorney Erik Grafe warned that the approvals outpace the science of what we know about Arctic waters.

On the same day that the EPA released its endangerment finding, Earthjustice challenged the agency on a toxin polluting the air in Appalachia, to the point where kids can’t play outside. It’s coal dust, and we think the coal plants that produce it should do something about it. 

Farm workers and their families will get some long-awaited help to deal with toxic pesticides poisoning the air around their homes and schools, thanks to a new EPA policy. Going forward, the EPA will assess the health risks posed by pesticide drift with the same standards by which pesticides in food are assessed. 

And finally, this week Earthjustice saved taxpayers $1.5 million!—and 4.3 million board-feet of old-growth forest in the Tongass to boot. This also means we kept a little C02 out of the atmosphere. Indeed, one of the least controversial ideas out of Copenhagen is also one of the simplest: don’t cut down trees.

"Putting lipstick on a pig" describes a PR tactic of making something bad look good. But, two Canadian companies have added a new twist to this old ploy—they've changed the name of the pig.

We're referring to the oil mining practices of EnCana Corp. and Cenovus Energy Inc. The companies employ a form of mining oil from Canadian tar sands that has a bad reputation for being highly destructive to the environment. To counter this, they are no longer using the phrases "tar sands" and "oil sands" in referring to their work. Now they describe themselves as conducting "enhanced oil projects."

Extracting oil from tar sands is one of the dirtiest, most polluting methods—and Earthjustice is challenging a pipeline that would daily bring nearly half a million barrels of oil obtained this way into the United States from Canada. No matter what you call it, there's no disguising its harmful impacts: the excessive greenhouse gas emissions, the vast amounts of water employed in mining, the multitude of toxins released into our air and water.

What a difference a year makes! Or maybe not.

Last year, the oil and gas industry and its supporters were spending tens of thousands of dollars in Colorado to attack some modest proposals to protect the state's property owners and public health from the natural gas boom that was consuming the western part of the state.

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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.