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Articles from Terry Winckler

OR-10, a gray wolf.

California’s famous lone gray wolf – the first to set foot in the Golden State since his forebears were slaughtered to extinction nearly 100 years ago – has found love just across the border in Oregon, where biologists yesterday said they photographed his two pups peeking from a log.

This week the U.S. Supreme Court rebuffed industry by refusing to hear challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that carbon dioxide and other climate change pollutants endanger our health. The court also rejected attacks on carbon pollution limits for cars and trucks – limits that respond to the court’s 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v.

(UPDATE: A memorial for Phillip Berry will be held at 1 p.m., Friday, Oct. 11 at Shiloh Church, 3295 School St., Oakland, CA.)

The Earth has lost one of its greatest defenders, Phillip Berry, a founder of Earthjustice and former president of The Sierra Club. He died early Sunday.

Berry joined the club in 1950 when he was only 13 and the club had but 5,000 members. He came of age along with the environmental movement and played a guiding role as the club grew to its current membership of 2.3 million supporters.

A family of five is seeking asylum in New Zealand because, they say, climate change is making life too dangerous in their low-lying island homeland in the Kiribati islands. They are going to court later this month to argue their case as climate refugees.

New Zealand has twice refused to let the family stay because they aren’t political refugees, the usual reason people seek asylum in other countries.

(Editor's note: What does the federal government shutdown, starting today, mean to you? Tell us in the comments, and check out this news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.)

Because of the shutdown of the federal government caused by the lapse in appropriations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will suspend most programs and operations, including public access to all National Wildlife Refuges and all activities on refuge lands including hunting and fishing.

The Republican Party has a number of outspoken climate change deniers; so, it was a relief to open today's New York Times and read this headline: "A Republican Case for Climate Action."

I couldn't read the accompanying op-ed fast enough. Written by four former EPA administrators under Republican presidents, the article immediately said this:

It’s not the passing of Russell Train – who died Monday at 92 – that we remember, but the life he led as a powerful, humble, principled warrior for the Earth.

Mr. Train was chairman of the newly created White House Council on Environmental Quality before President Nixon picked him to be the second head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a role that fully launched his career as a conservationist, recalls Joan Mulhern, a colleague of mine who worked with this remarkable man to protect the Clean Water Act.

The world's largest prize for environmental action has been awarded to Caroline Cannon, an Inupiat leader and former president of the Native Village of Point Hope in Alaska. Cannon is the North American recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize, a major prize awarded annually to grassroots environmental heroes from the six inhabited continents.

Erik Grafe, an Earthjustice attorney in Alaska who has worked with the honoree, said she was richly deserving of the award.

<The Earthjustice office in Florida just released this statement on a major fish kill off the state's coastline>

It’s ironic that, on the very day the Florida Chamber announces it wants to fight limits on sewage, fertilizer and manure pollution, there’s a massive fish kill off Sarasota, Sanibel Island and Charlotte County caused by red tide—red tide that’s fueled by sewage, manure, and fertilizer pollution.

You decide. Check out this picture of Florida's waterways—choked with algae—and choose which of the following quotes best describes the photo. Both speakers were referring to attempts in the state legislature to keep the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the amount of nutrients flowing from utilities, industry and large-scale farms into Florida's waterways. The nutrients feed an explosion of algae.

I’ve spent half my life chasing salmon with rod in hand and heart in mouth, but it seems that I am the one who’s been hooked. Enchanted, perhaps, is a better way of describing my love of all things salmon; thus, at 8 p.m. this Sunday, you’ll find me riveted in front of a TV watching the PBS special, Salmon: Running The Gauntlet.

Coming from an Irish family and working for Earthjustice, I have an affection for green that is DNA-deep. But, I know the difference between the green of nature and the green of greed -- and nowhere is that difference so starkly obvious as in Florida. An explosion of green algae slime, fed by uncontrolled agricultural and sewage runoff, is taking over that state's famed waterways. It's murdering fish by the thousands, stinking up the air, fouling everything it touchs, and preventing recreation use.

Today—Earth Day—I was trying to figure out what kind of angle to write about, when I remembered a column I wrote last year, reflecting on the first Earth Day in 1970.

What struck me about that column is how it revealed that recycling, which we now take for granted as a cultural and financial institution, didn't exist on any kind of public scale just 41 years ago. The first Earth Day brought about this remarkable social change. Thus, in the spirit of recycling, I offer up last year's column, with its reflections on what it was like when it all began.

As oil and gas prices again climb in response to Middle East travails, the phrase “Drill, Baby, Drill” has re-entered the national conversation—but it’s President Obama who did the uttering this time. And it sounds like he means it.

Obama mentioned the mantra Tuesday night in a speech about energy independence that came across like the opening shot in his 2012 bid for reelection. Alluding to “D,B,D,” the president said this is no time to be caught up in meaningless rhetoric that stampedes us to nowhere.

Teabag by teabag, the anti-environment faction in the House of Representatives has filled its federal government spending bill with amendments that will cripple protections for our water, air, natural resources, wildlife and public health. 

Two monster storms are pounding different parts of the planet right now, and it looks like both could influence how people think about climate change. Since folks tend to think of it in terms of today’s weather, you can guess how both of these storms are likely to play. 

It's as close as our own backyards, as far away as the Arctic. It's affecting birds, boys, butterflies and bugs. Creeks are feeling it, and the oceans, too. It's here, it's now, and mostly it's caused by humans.

It's global warming and we have to take immediate, powerful counter measures to prevent massive planet-wide consequences, warns the federal government in a chilling report just released today.

Last November, as Barack Obama won the election, we recommended a list of "easy things" the new president could immediately do to cement his promises about being a pro-environment president. This is our second update on how he's doing.

Grins are breaking out in Colorado because of a court decision this week that stymies oil and gas drilling on New Mexico's Otero Mesa grasslands.

The 10th Circuit Court ruled that drilling could not proceed on the Mesa because the Bureau of Land Management violated the National Environmental Protection Act with its leasing plan. In short, the court said, the plan failed to consider impacts on habitat, species and water, and didn't look at alternatives.

(Update: check out the excellent editorial in the Durango Herald)

A significant number of Navajos were thrilled this week at the EPA’s decision to take back the permit it issued last year—under the Bush administration--for the massive coal-fired Desert Rock power plant.

The EPA said sufficient analysis had not been done to ensure protection of health and the environment.

The Kansas state legislature today gave final passage to a bill authorizing massive expansion of the Sunflower coal-fired power plant -- but there is unexpected good news in the vote ... it's 10 votes short of being veto-proof in the House.

This means that the promised veto from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is more likely than ever to survive. An earlier vote in the state House had a margin of only five votes. She is expected to veto the bill next week.

UPDATE: There was a lot of confusion and misinterpretation about Tuesday's announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency that it was reviewing mountaintop removal mining permits to assess their potential impact on the waterways and people of Appalachia. Only two permits have been questioned. Dozens are under review. And the EPA is signalling that many of those may not be held up for environmental reasons.

Earthjustice is preparing to sue the Obama administration over its stunning decision to withdraw protections from northern gray wolves.

Any day now, a notice of intent to sue will be filed, giving  Interior Sec. Ken Salazar just 60 days to rescind his wolf edict or face court action.

Salazar last week said he will strip the wolf of Endangered Species Act protections, in the process endorsing one of the most infamous Bush-era actions. As a result, gray wolves could be targeted by hunters in at least two states.

Interior Dept. Sec. Ken Salazar is turning his nose up at another one of Bush's "midnight regulations." This one has to do with leases for oil shale research and development in Colorado and Utah.

Salazar halted the lease sale process because it had terms that didn't pass "the smell test," he announced this week. Instead, he will start a new leasing process that includes 90 days of public comment.

This is clearly a move in the right direction by Salazar, who -- unlike Bush -- at least is taking time to kick the idea around. It's an idea that's worth a good kick. One of the dirtiest ways of getting energy, oil shale extraction has never been commercially proven. In a word, it stinks.

On the heels of last night’s speech by President Obama, the governor of Kansas is more resolute than ever in her opposition to the proposed Sunflower coal-fired power plant expansion. She vetoed pro-Sunflower legislation three times last year and is poised to do the same with a new bill coming to a vote tomorrow in the Legislature.

Faith and labor community leaders are joining the chorus for clean energy in Kansas, even as that state’s legislators stubbornly stick to the dirty, coal-fired power of the past

The United Steelworkers recently announced their support of the Kansas Blue Green Alliance, made up of environmental and trade groups that endorse development of wind energy as a non-polluting way to achieve jobs and general economic growth.

Also on board the clean train are numerous faith groups united as the Kansas Interfaith Power and Light. They see clean, sustainable energy as a way of practicing environmental stewardship.

A scientist with a cigarette lighter is providing the latest evidence of global warming's dramatic and swift impacts in the Arctic.

Four miles south of the Arctic Circle, Katey Walter has found that melting ice and permafrost are releasing vast amounts of methane -- a greenhouse gas 21 times worse than CO2 as a contributor to climate change.

To prove the point, Walter stoops down to melting pools and flicks her lighter to ignite methane flame jets 20 feet high. It's a "time bomb" that even slightly warmer temperatures could set off, she told the Los Angeles Times.

After cancelling oil and gas leases in Utah last week, Interior Sec. Ken Salazar is strongly hinting that he might do the same with a crown jewel of Colorado -- the Roan Plateau. The Roan is a rippling expanse of natural riches that rises dramatically 3,000 feet above a plain in the state's northwest quadrant.

The Roan was leased off for oil and gas exploitation last August despite massive public outcry from a remarkably diverse group of folks, including hunters and fishers, Republicans and Democrats, locals and people from across the country, and of course dedicated environmentalists. Salazar, then a U.S. senator from Colorado, was among those urging the Bureau of Land Management to not proceed with the lease sale.

Now, as boss of the BLM, Salazar is in position to put money where his mouth was last year -- $113 million in lease payments already divvied up between the state and feds. But it's a pittance compared to the priceless wilderness qualities that would be displaced by industrial drilling operations.

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.

In those cold days of last December -- as Bush feverishly tried to finish crippling the nation's environmental protections -- the new day promised by Obama seemed only a flicker at the end of an 8-year tunnel.

After today's news out of Utah, that flicker is looking more like a flare. Interior Sec. Ken Salazar announced the cancellation of oil and gas leases on 110,000 acres of public land abutting some of the West's purest wilderness. Aside from validating Earthjustice legal action challenging those leases, the cancellation could be interpreted as the first sign of Obama turning back the Bush tide.

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.

Just a few weeks ago, I stood with my two young sons in the Southern Sierra, gazing at the fortress walls of the Great Western Divide and marveling at how peaceful it seemed compared to 30 years before.

Those decades ago, I had come to this same spot as a newspaper reporter to write about the early struggles of the environmental movement - struggles that saved Mineral King from development, halted clearcutting on the national forest, created the Golden Trout Wilderness, and gave birth to Earthjustice.

Bill is a long-haul truck driver, plying his trade on the highways of middle America. In my last post about him, I told how he called Earthjustice from his truck, attacking environmentalists for bringing him, and America, to the point of economic ruin.

He ranted in my ear for 5 minutes about me being stupid and un-American for not letting oil companies drill us back to the days of cheap gas. Our national backyard, from Alaska to the coastlines of lower-48, is full of oil, he said – utterly exasperated at my inability to comprehend such common sense.

The voice mail caller accused me of being a Communist, anti-American, out-of-touch, and stupid. Worst of all, he spat out, I was an environmentalist.

Bill was furious, like hundreds of callers to Earthjustice in the last two months. Driven to call us by rabid, right-wing radio hosts and bloggers, most folks just wanted to rant about how we were driving up gas prices by opposing the obvious solution: drilling the coasts, drilling the Arctic, drilling wherever in America we can to free us from high gas prices and foreign potentates.