One year ago in this column, I called on Environmental Protection Agency chief Stephen Johnson to resign for letting politics, not science, guide his agency's decisions. Nor was I alone—10,000 EPA employees were in open revolt for the same reason. Johnson was defying the Supreme Court's ruling that his agency should move forward on climate change and was refusing to approve California's forward-looking controls on climate-altering pollution.
The Latest On: U.S. Supreme Court
The lungs of America got two big breaks this week with court rulings that protect them from air pollution emitted by power plants, factories, and diesel trucks.
And there is a strong hint of more to come.
The Clean Water Act, despite being one of our nation's most potent environmental protection laws for three decades, has an Achilles' heel—a one-word weakness that the U.S. Supreme Court has expanded into an enormous loophole.
At a time when this country is finally emerging from eight Jurassic years, many Kansas legislators are determined to resurrect a 1,500 megawatt dinosaur of a power plant that their governor -- supported by two-thirds of her constituents -- vetoed three times last year.
A bunch of utility operators are still trying to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to let them pour poisonous mercury into the air - but after today, they are standing alone. The Obama administration said it is withdrawing its support, and in fact, wants the court to drop the case.
Label this a victory for Earthjustice, its clients, and those thousands of citizens eating mercury-contaminated fish and forced to breathe in all the toxic fumes that the Bush administration would allow. Over eight years, that amounted to 700,000 pounds of mercury and other toxic stuff. We sued to stop this awful practice and won, but Bush's lawyers partnered up with the utilities and appealed to the Supreme Court so that it could continue.
Now, if the Court agrees, we can start breathing easier.
Obama has quickly switched from the bump to the boot. All week he's been kicking over Bush-era dominoes, and today's was a whopper. The Environmental Protection Agency is starting to review its 2007 refusal to let California regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. The review affects 16 other states that also want to control emissions. It's a big deal that we've long been pushing for.
But, the biggest domino of all is still standing in the way of EPA really cracking down on greenhouse gases. We're talking about that shameful "Johnson memo" issued by the Bush-EPA administrator of the same name just before Obama took office. The memo told EPA employees to ignore CO2 - the single largest contributor to global warming. Without saying it, the memo also said: Ignore a Supreme Court ruling that authorizes EPA to control CO2.
What an irresistible target for a bump from Obama's boot.
Contradictory actions by the coal industry this week illustrate how treacherous the road is to a clean energy future for America.
On Tuesday, to our delight, developers of the proposed Highwood coal-fired power plant in Montana surrendered and announced that they would instead build natural gas and wind-powered generating plants. The credit for this should go to Earthjustice attorneys Abigail Dillen and Jenny Harbine, whose two years of legal action against the plant obviously paid off.
We haven’t gotten much good news out of the Environmental Protection Agency for eight years, but suddenly the news is huge... so big that it deserves an exclamation mark. Bear with me as I wend my way towards the punch line.
Earthjustice press secretary Raviya Ismail was at today’s (Jan. 12) U.S. Supreme Court hearing on whether the Clean Water Act allows Coeur Alaska’s Kensington Mine to fill Lower Slate Lake in Alaska with mining waste – killing all aquatic life. Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo argued to protect the lake. The high court decision, expected by June, could determine whether waterways throughout the nation may be likewise filled and killed. Here is Raviya’s report: