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.
A study in this month's "American Journal of Agricultural Economics" shows a significant correlation between rising numbers of factory farm animals and increased infant mortality. The study found that an increase of 100 million pounds of farm animal flesh meant 123 more infant deaths for every 100,000 babies born. That means our shift in the last half century away from sustainable family farms and toward highly concentrated factory farms has put our babies in jeopardy.
With a stroke of his pen today, President Obama endorsed a keystone element in Earthjustice's national push for energy efficiency.
Obama signed a presidential memorandum calling upon the Department of Energy to adopt energy efficiency standards for dozens of common household appliances. This marks a huge step towards the energy savings and independence he promised during the election, Obama said:
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.
When one hears the phrase "Boy Scout," one picture that comes to mind is a bunch of youngsters out in the woods, around a campfire, enjoying marshmallows as well as nature. One might assume that on top of "trustworthy," "obedient," and "brave," Boy Scouts might also put protection of the Great Outdoors among their values.
There's no doubt that many individual scout troops are doing important things for the youngsters involved, and that the volunteer parents who make the organization work are conscientious caring folks who are trying to help boys become responsible adults.
And any organization that needs money to keep its work going and that supprts a large bureaucracy like the Scouts is likely to have its problems. Heaven knows us folks in the Environmental Movement have been known to not always "be the change" we want to see in the world. (Please don't make fun of my gas guzzling hybrid SUV.)
The Scouts could use the airing of their dirty laundry to say "Whoops! We could do a lot better." Sadly, it seems the national headquarters of the BSA is choosing to hunker in its bunker, issuing a press statement that in part shoots the messenger: "We are extremely disappointed that [Scouts'] efforts have been portrayed in such a negative light."
That doesn't exactly seem like the "brave" response.
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.
After writing a blog item about the storied Mineral King valley, I crafted an essay about it for the High Country News. The news is that it is about to be declared America's newest wilderness. Here's how I started the HCN article:
"A half-million abandoned mines litter the American West, many dribbling poisons into rivers and streams. But after more than a century of healing, one such place is poised to become one of America's newest wilderness areas. It's a testament to the resilience of nature and the vision of the people who fought to preserve it."
When the history of our times is written, I bet the nomination of Sarah Palin for vice president will be seen as one of the more bizarre political aberrations in American history, which has already had plenty. One would think that the resounding repudiation she and Senator McCain suffered in the general election would have chastened both, but while the senator has been mostly dignified and supportive of the new administration, Gov. Palin rumbles along as if she should be taken seriously. I mean, what’s up with that?
Northern Californians have recently launched two grassroots efforts to oppose a proposed peripheral canal that would divert water from the Sacramento River and send it around the West's largest estuary to irrigate large industrial farms in the Central Valley and Southern California.
On January 17th, Water4Fish held a panel discussion at the International Sportsmen's Expo in Sacramento.
First the bad news. Over the last decade, hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies from all over the world have clearly established a direct link between dirty air and increased risk of death from lung disease. In 2002, for example, California state scientists estimated that microscopic particles of airborne soot from auto exhaust cause more than 9,300 deaths in the state each year. That's more Californians than die from AIDS, homicide and traffic accidents combined.