On this coming Monday - while the media are riveted by the upcoming inauguration - the fate of our nation’s waters will be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court will hear arguments in an Earthjustice case that has implications for rivers, lakes, and streams across the country.
The case concerns a gold mine north of Juneau, Alaska. The Army Corps of Engineers granted a permit for the mine to Coeur Alaska. One provision of the permit allows Coeur to deposit its mine tailings into Lower Slate Lake after raising the level of the lake by building a long earthen dam.
When a chemical maker or user gets new information about the possible health hazards of one of its products, it's supposed to tell the EPA. The EPA maintains a website that is supposed to make this information available to the public. But when reporters for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel took a look at some of these so-called Section 8(e) reports, here's what they found:
The San Francisco Chronicle (and many other papers) carries a weekly feature at the bottom of the weather page called Earthweek — a Diary of the Planet. It's often fascinating, with tiny snippets about oddments of weather, earthquakes, animals, and other events and phenomena. On Jan. 3, it was more like Earthyear, with a litany of scary blurbs followed by one that should inspire hope — or a chuckle or two.
We congratulate Ed Lewis, chairman of our Board of Trustees, for being honored with the prestigious Wilburforce Foundation Leadership Award. We all know how well-deserved this award is, recognizing Ed's conservation leadership not only with Earthjustice, but as board chair of TREC, as a key player in land conservation in the Northern Rockies, and as a consultant and advisor to many organizations.
The Wilburforce Foundation protects wildlife and wildlands in Western North America by supporting organizations and leaders advancing conservation solutions. The leadership award is one of a series of grants honoring individuals for exceptional leadership in the conservation movement. Ed—who by the way gave Earthjustice a $5,000 gift that comes with the award—is only the second representative of Earthjustice to win the award. Some years ago, our Vice President of Litigation Patti Goldman also was honored.
As we said in our last missive, the emerging Obama team, cabinet and otherwise, is looking very promising with a few question marks. The president-elect is said to enjoy having people of differing views around him and listening as they discuss their differences, which is a healthy attitude. The truth will out and all that.
In the arid West, water is life. And life may get a lot more difficult for the Colorado River - a major source of water for Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California - over the next few decades.
First, there's the double whammy of population growth and climate change, the first demanding more water from the river, and the second making it extremely likely that there will be less water for that population to drink, use to grow crops, etc.
Reaction from environmental groups to almost-president Obama's cabinet choices has been interesting. Most of the choices have been welcomed by most organizations (Carl Pope made incoming labor secretary Hilda Solis sound like a green Mother Theresa).
Reservations I've heard have been voiced about the National Security Advisor, General Jim Jones, who is said by some to be a climate change nonbeliever, but that's a bit outside the purview of his new job and he's wildly outnumbered by believers in the cabinet and the White House.
Even when fully complying with federal clean-air laws, refineries are nasty operations, spewing tons of hazardous pollutants into the air of neighboring communities. But under a regulatory loophole, refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities have been allowed to pollute even more during an equipment malfunction, or when shutting down and starting back up following a malfunction.
Maybe it's a good thing that Bush has kept Earthjustice so busy these last eight years, fending off unrelenting assaults on the environment. The experience is proving invaluable as we face, in these final weeks of the administration, a frantic effort to roll back some of the nation's most significant protections. We also are encountering a barrage of last-minute attempts to convert America's wild, public treasures into private, commercial commodities.