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public lands

On the Obama administration's second Earth Day, we can look back on some change we can believe in: oil and gas leases near national parks in Utah suspended, a glimmer of progress on slowing the destruction of rivers and streams in Appalachia by coal mines, the beginning of EPA's commitment to slow global warming from car tail pipes.

But 15 months in, the administration appears to have at least one glaring blind spot: how to reduce the environmental destruction from coal mining in the West - both on the ground and in the atmosphere. 

More than a decade ago, dedicated conservationists within and without the Forest Service began clamoring for a nation-wide policy to protect the last remnants of roadless lands across the National Forests. The rationales were many: providing solitude for wildlife, preventing wildfires (which occur most often near roads), protecting water supplies for cities and towns, and leaving the last scraps of land unharmed by the buldozer after a century of pressure from loggers, miners, and other development.

Some top stories from the past week at Earthjustice…

One result of burning coal is lots and lots of toxic coal ash. It's stored in hundreds of ponds across the U.S., and it can flood and devastate entire communities. Yesterday, Earthjustice joined more than 100 environmental groups in a Day of Action, urging the White House to finally call coal ash what it is: hazardous waste.

A heated debate over mountaintop removal coal mining last week drew huge crowds. The competitors: Don Blankenship, CEO of coal giant Massey Energy, and Waterkeeper founder Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. The reporter: Earthjustice Campaigns Director, Jared Saylor. The victor: Decide for yourself!

The same Massey Energy is one of several industry groups asking a federal appeals court to review (aka do away with) the EPA Clean Air Act endangerment finding. In defense of the finding, 16 states and New York City filed a motion last week to intervene in the case.

Glacier National Park is nearly 100 years old, and Monday Reads introduces us to a truly incredible photography project in celebration of its centennial birthday. Right next door on the U.S.-Canadian border lives the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, now threatened by mining plans in the nearby Flathead Valley. But there was hopeful news last week: Earthjustice encouraged an investigation that has resulted in a recommendation of a moratorium on mining and a conservation plan for this essential region.

Last year, the U.S. government started taking environmental protection seriously again, but as 2010 dawns, we continue to see political and economic interests preventing or stalling critical environmental solutions.

In the face of this opposition, this year Earthjustice is targeting key issues with our legal and advocacy work. Our focus is on three core priorities: building a clean energy future, protecting our natural heritage, and safeguarding our health.

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.

Interior Sec. Ken Salazar stepped up to the microphone this week and told the nation the days of drilling oil and gas everywhere on public lands are over. This is welcome news to Earthjustice attorneys who opposed many of the public lands oil and gas leases ramrodded through by the Bush/Cheney administration.

Salazar made clear that he, unlike his predecessors in the prior administration, understands some public lands, especially in the west, are special and should not be drilled.

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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.