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Clean Water

An adult delta smelt.

The delta smelt is a fish that grows to no more than three inches in length, but over the years this threatened species has made big headlines in California’s dusty, water-rights battleground. One congressional representative, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), is even on record as calling the smelt a “stupid little fish” that doesn’t deserve water (see video below). Recently, the Supreme Court dismissed such narrow-minded claims by denying a Big Ag-led attack against the smelt.

A sign indicating water restrictions in California.

Northern California received a blessing of rain this past December. The storms may have knocked the lights out in half of San Francisco and taken down trees and flooded streets, but the state has needed this deluge like never before.

The rain is a welcome but only temporary respite from the serious water problems the Golden State faces. Even the downpours early in the month are just drops in the bucket as more than 90% of the state remains in severe drought.

An industrial hog farm

In early December, environmentalists and community members celebrated a rare win against industrial agriculture and federal malfeasance in Arkansas. In a court case brought by Earthjustice, U.S. District Judge Price Marshall issued a decision finding that federal agencies illegally guaranteed loans to C&H Hog Farms, a factory farm near the Buffalo National River, without first effectively evaluating the potential environmental impacts of this swine operation.

Diamantina River in Channel Country

In a remote part of Australia, in the state of Queensland, lies a vast area called Channel Country. Winding rivers with large water holes and multiple channels braid across wide floodplains in a remarkable arid landscape. But every now and then huge floods cause the rivers to overflow, transforming the landscape into verdant wetlands that provide vital habitat for waterbirds, fish, reptiles and mammals. 

The devastating coal ash spill at Kingston, TN in December 2008.

Last night on 60 Minutes, journalist Leslie Stahl made Lynn Good, the CEO of Duke Energy, look bad during an episode about coal ash—a byproduct of coal burning that’s dumped into mostly unlined and unmonitored ponds across the country.  

As Good tried to smile and defend the decades of delay in cleaning up coal ash sites by arguing that more study is needed, the veteran newswoman blew right through her smokescreen.

“Studying is code for stalling,” said Stahl.

polling station

I’m happy to report that we got a major, slam-dunk win for the environment down here in Florida in the mid-term elections.

A grassroots environmental initiative was the biggest winner on the statewide ballot, more popular than any other candidate or issue. By a whopping 75 percent majority, Floridians voted to add the Land and Water Conservation Amendment to our state Constitution. Florida now has what is believed to be the largest state-based conservation initiative in U.S. history.

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