In less than a month, President Obama has tackled several items on a list of Six Easy Things that Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen set forth for the new administration last November.
1) Move towards reducing CO2 emissions under the Clean Air Act
One of the most significant actions came this week when the EPA said it would reconsider the infamous "Johnson memo" issued just before Obama took office by Bush’s EPA chief Stephen Johnson. The memo directed EPA staff to ignore regulation of CO2 even though the U.S. Supreme Court said EPA had the authority. Obama EPA chief Lisa Jackson said she is reconsidering that memo and will seek public comment.
Bottom Line: The EPA appears headed towards regulating CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Previously, the Obama EPA announced that it will also reconsider its denial — under Bush — of California’s request to set greenhouse gas emissions standards for motor vehicles. EPA plans to hold a public hearing on the issue in March.
Bottom Line: States eventually will be allowed to set their own emission standards.
2) Set energy efficiency standards to decrease energy consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
On February 2 the Obama administration issued a memorandum urging the Energy Department to promptly finalize energy efficiency standards for home and commercial appliances, a move targeting delays that have long plagued the program. The presidential memo seeks to ensure that DOE meets deadlines from past litigation and energy bills.
3) Call a time out on oil and gas exploration of the Arctic
Interior Secretary Salazar has called for a review of the proposed Bush administration’s 2010 to 2015 five-year Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas drilling plan. The proposed plan would open up more acreage in the Arctic and have more lease sales in Bristol Bay. Salazar’s announcement does not affect the oil and gas development projects Earthjustice is currently litigating but is a welcome signal the Obama administration may break with the direction of the Bush administration.
4) Restore the Endangered Species Act by reversing Bush proposals that weaken it
Representative Nick Rahall, a Democrat from West Virginia, announced plans to invoke the Congressional Review Act to overturn the bad Bush ESA rule.
We still are waiting to see how the Obama administration plans to deal with the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, adopted in 2001 to protect 58 million acres of our wildest remaining national forest lands. This forest protection rule is tied up in several different courts and we’ve called on the Obama administration to vigorously defend it.
We also are waiting to see what steps the new administration will take in restoring protections for America’s rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands — protections greatly diminished during the Bush/Cheney years. A significant step would be support of the Clean Water Restoration Act, a bill introduced in Congress to strengthen the Act after a series of troubling Supreme Court and EPA rulings.