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A humpback whale with newborn calf.

Which of the following issues do you think is important for the environmental movement?

  1. Protecting marine species, such as whales, dolphins and sea turtles
  2. Investing in a clean energy future and reducing U.S. dependence on fossil fuels
  3. Avoiding unnecessary risk of oil spills in our world’s oceans

Any choice indicates that you may find troubling a recent announcement from the Obama administration. This one’s a doozy—read on.

The Cheswick coal fire power plant in Springdale, PA.

Last month, we celebrated EPA's announcement that it is proposing first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the nation's biggest contributors to climate change.  After years of paralysis in Washington, there is a real prospect of national action on climate that will shrink the U.S. carbon footprint and set the stage for more productive international negotiations in Paris, where the president may now arrive with new leverage and even some moral authority for a change.

Chukchi Sea. (NASA / Kathryn Hansen)

The Department of the Interior today announced it is developing a new plan to govern offshore oil and gas drilling from 2017–2022. The agency is asking the public for information about all areas of the outer continental shelf to consider for oil leasing. One thing is clear already—the Department should not include oil leasing in the Arctic Ocean in any new plan. 

A new crack in a foundation in proximity to Inglewood Oil Field, CA

Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma aren't known for earthquakes, but that’s changing thanks to hydraulic fracking. Fracking-triggered earthquakes may become stronger and more frequent as the wastewater is injected underground, according to new research. Enormous amounts of wastewater are produced from the fracking process, and underground injection of wastewater is the most commonly used disposal technique. Each time a new well is fracked, the stakes grow higher.

Helen Holden Slottje, a winner of the 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize.

In 2010, Helen Holden Slottje, a lawyer in upstate New York pioneered a legal strategy to keep fracking out of communities using local zoning laws. She and her husband David spent the next four years going from town to town, sharing what they’d learned. Today, more than 170 communities in New York have fracking bans or moratoriums on the books.

Residents rally outside Berkeley City Hall to show opposition to a proposed crude by rail project.

Is volatile crude oil coming by rail to a town near me? For weeks, I’ve been asking myself that question as I kept hearing about the skyrocketing number of trains that are transporting potentially explosive types of crude throughout the U.S. to East and West Coast export facilities.

And I’m not alone.

Pressure cleaning rocks on intertidal zone in Alaska's Prince William Sound area.

Tragedy struck Prince William Sound in Alaska 25 years ago today when the Exxon Valdez ran aground, rupturing its hull and pouring nearly 11 million gallons of oil into the sound’s pristine waters.

The effects of that oil spill haunt the remote region to this day. Oil remains trapped between and under the boulders on beaches in the Gulf of Alaska. And thousands of gallons of Exxon Valdez oil lurk in beach sediments—still toxic and harmful to marine life.

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