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.
To avoid global warming’s worst impacts, we must build a clean energy future. Reducing demand through efficiency and increasing supply from renewable sources of power are cornerstones of the foundation. But these steps are obstructed by the political stranglehold of the fossil fuel industry. Earthjustice is using the law to help break our national reliance on fossil fuels, which we continue to extract, burn, and subsidize heavily with taxpayer money, despite the destructive impact on people and the planet.
In 2010, Earthjustice will maintain our focus on the cradle-to-grave impacts of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. We are challenging construction of new coal-fired power plants and working to reduce pollution from the existing fleet, which constitutes the largest source of global warming pollution in the U.S. And as Congress debates global warming legislation, we will advocate for a bill that doesn’t bow to the coal industry by weakening the Clean Air Act.
Burning coal isn’t the only problem. Mining coal and disposing of coal waste are also disastrous for nearby communities and the environment. We are dedicated to ending mountaintop removal mining—which Science magazine recently declared is destroying Appalachian resources and communities—and pushing for the first ever federal regulations of coal ash, the toxic waste that remains after coal is burned.
Before we can stop using fossil fuels, we must start using less of them. Energy efficiency is the cheapest and fastest way to accomplish this. We are continuing our legal advocacy to force the Department of Energy to set strong new efficiency standards for a household and commercial appliances that will eliminate the demand for dozens of new power plants.
We will also persevere in the work to protect our natural heritage, work that gave Earthjustice its start nearly 40 years ago. On top of the list are cases to bring our decade-long defense of the Roadless Rule to its rightful conclusion: full protection for all 58.5 million acres of roadless forest areas in the United States. In 2009, major progress towards this goal was won. This year, we hope to conclude the legal defense of the nationwide Roadless Rule while securing reinstated protections for Alaska’s verdant gem, the Tongass National Forest, and Idaho’s wild expanses of roadless forest.
Protecting these wild lands is one part of a new direction for the U.S. Forest Service, an agency that has primarily paid its bills by selling timber (at highly subsidized rates). To encourage a new course, we are using the courts and working with our allies to compel the Forest Service to manage all our national forests in ways that are consistent with science and that preserve their long-term value as intact ecosystems.
These forests and other public lands and waters are home to a remarkable array of wildlife, and our mission to protect gray wolves, grizzlies, whales, salmon, sea turtles, and other imperiled wildlife will also remain a major focus this year.
Another species in need of protection is us. To safeguard our health, we are going after toxic pollutants like mercury and lead that are released into the air by power plants, cement kilns, incinerators, and other industrial facilities. These and other air pollution targets are linked to high asthma rates, cancer, and damage to organs and the nervous system, particularly in the elderly and children.
Children also suffer immensely from exposure to pesticides, which drift onto nearby schoolyards and front lawns when sprayed on crops. We are working to reduce the impacts of these poisonous pesticide clouds on communities near industrial agriculture operations.
Finally, we are forcing manufacturers of household cleaning products to come clean themselves, by disclosing their ingredient mix so families can avoid unhealthy products. This case is part of a nationwide effort to reform our toxics laws to require that chemicals are tested for safety before they are used in the marketplace and that information about potential health effects is made available to the public.
Pursuing these goals will bring many challenges, but I am confident that our experienced and creative staff, armed with the tremendous help our supporters provide, will continue to win hard-fought victories for the environment and all who depend on it.