What's happened in Congress during the last two weeks on energy and drilling issues could send us several major steps backwards on the road to a clean and prosperous energy future.
As I write this, Congress—instead of passing measures to further increase fuel efficiency and reduce oil demand—is capitulating to the "drill, baby, drill" drumbeat. At midnight, two critical moratoriums will lapse: on offshore drilling and oil shale development in the West. At the same time, crucial tax incentives for wind and solar energy have yet to be renewed.
The phosphate mines in Florida are so damaging that their ugly scars on the planet can be clearly seen from space. Florida's public rivers, lakes, streams, and coastal waters pay the price for these corporate strip mines, year after year.
Attorney Monica Reimer in Earthjustice's Florida office has filed an important lawsuit that challenges federal approval for one of these mines near the beautiful Peace River outside Bradenton.
We found it curious when the DC-based National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) sued a local air pollution board in California. Why would a big national trade association care about a local air pollution rule?
Well it turns out, NAHB had hoped to stop "Indirect Source Review" rules from spreading to other jurisdictions across the nation.
Earthjustice has been accused of being many things, including preferring birds over people (which reminds me of a fine old quote. Charles Callison, a stalwart of the Audubon Society, was once asked whether he liked people or birds better. He said, "I like the people who like birds.").
I heard Al Gore on "NPR Science Friday" a few weeks back talking about what it would take to get us out of the climate catastrophe that's bearing down on us. The biggest single step, he said, would be to convert the entire U.S. vehicle fleet to electricity. He said that is possible within 10 years if we—industry and government in the main—mount an effort akin to what we did for World War II.
All well and good, but government and industry almost never move that fast.
Until now. The Wall Street-mortgage-Fannie-Freddie-Merrill-AIG-who's-next crisis has politicians, bureaucrats, and captains of industry moving faster than they ever have before, and we're about to see a $700 billion bailout that may not even work.
Just think if those same forces took the climate crisis seriously enough to do something similar on that score. We could turn the climate mess around in Al Gore's 10 years, easy. And everyone would be the better for it, including Wall Street.
On Wednesday, Congressman John Shadegg (R-Arizona) attacked Earthjustice in aWall Street Journal op-ed, and called on Congress to prevent environmental organizations from suing to prevent expansive offshore oil drilling. Here is the response from Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen.
Judge Clarence Brimmer of the federal district court in Wyoming must feel a bit under siege. He's doing battle with two other federal district court judges, one in San Francisco, the other in Washington, DC. Judges are encouraged to respect each other's opinions—it's called comity, otherwise known as courtesy or deference—and comity is taking a bit of a beating these days.
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.
A few weeks ago we wrote of a former Earthjustic law clerk, Jamie Saul, who was blackballed out of a job at the Department of Justice because he favored vigorous enforcement of environmental laws. Maybe blackballed is the wrong word—he applied for a job and didn't get it for reasons that were certainly improper and possibly illegal.
The DoJ looked into such hiring practices in the wake over the scandal over the firing of several U.S. attorneys for what sure look like political reasons. Turns out politics infected decisions involving more than U.S. attorneys.