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  • Emboldened by the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency asserts its authority as the nation's eco watchdog.

    In addition to the economic woes of the “noughts”—the years from 2000-2009—it was also a lawless era for environmental protection in the United States. Bush administration efforts at “dismantling safeguards, ignoring climate concerns, marginalizing sound science and catering to industries that endangered Americans’ health and natural heritage” meant our watchdog, the Environmental Protection Agency, was little more than an idle spectator to the carnage.

    Now, after its decade on the sidelines, it appears the sheriff is back in town.

    The EPA’s futility under Bush was no accident. Bush-appointee Stephen Johnson routinely rolled over to White House demands, allowing business concerns to trump sound science. He was a company man through and through, more noted for his loyalty and subserviance than for competence on the job.

    Those days are gone. The revitalized EPA, headed up by Obama-appointee Lisa Jackson, has begun cleaning up Bush-era dirty work.

    Just this week the EPA reversed its controversial 2008 decision on bisphenol-A (or BPA), which deemed the plastic common to food containers and plastic bottles safe for use. BPA has now been placed on a master list of “chemicals of concern.”

    Meanwhile, over in West Virginia, the EPA is halting, or at least severely restricting, a mountaintop mining operation in Logan County, West Virginia. To do so, it has to nullify a permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers—the body responsible for issuing mining permits. It’s a rare assertive step for the agency, which has used its veto power over potential sites only twelve times in the past, and never for a site already in operation.

    Justification for the intervention closely mirrors concerns raised in a scientific study earlier this year—namely, that the operation will adversely affect a local ecosystem with one of the highest levels of biodiversity in North America.

    “We see this as confirmation that they’re taking their responsibility...very, very seriously," said ecologist and Appalachian Voices Program Director Matthew Wasson.

    It’s not exactly a radical step—that the Environmental Protection Agency should take concrete steps to protect the environment—but it’s a damn good start. And with legislators reluctant to tackle climate change, the EPA may be our our best, and only, hope.

    Fortunately, it’s well-equipped for the task; the EPA has a new mandate to regulate carbon emissions, it has legal authority to require coal plants to reduce pollution, and the Obama administration has given it its badge back, so to speak.

    At last, the laws of the land are being given a shootin’ chance.

    - Lance Steagall

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    Obama's New Climate Change Strategy

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    The President remains committed to addressing climate change, will adopt piecemeal approach in 2011.

    Despite the failed attempts to pass sweeping climate change legislation, President Obama said he would would be willing to put the entire weight of his presidency on the issue. In a new interview with Rolling Stone magazine, the President said that he plans to address climate change in "chunks" starting next year. He said he will devote a massive amount of presidential power to the......read more

    U.S. Strengthens Offshore Drilling Laws

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    New measures aim to improve worker and environmental safety.

    NPR reports that the Obama administration released a new set of rules for offshore drilling operators that create tougher requirements for well design, cementing practices, blowout preventers, and employee training. In effect, the rules will improve the safety of drilling operators and lessen the chance of another disaster like the one in the Gulf. With the federal ban on offshore drilling in......read more

    Climate Bill Autopsy

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    In The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza dissects the failed attempt to legislate carbon emissions.

    In a widely distributed article in The New Yorker this week, Ryan Lizza documents the rise and fall of the climate bill introduced in the Senate by the “tripartisan” trio of John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham ("KLG"). In it, Lizza provides a fascinating and troubling account of the messy legislative process that killed the bill. Entitled "As the World Burns,"......read more

    No on Prop. 23

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    Stop dirty energy interests from interfering with California's plans for a green economy. Vote NO on Prop. 23.

    Four years ago, California passed a clean air law (AB 32) that holds polluters accountable and requires them to reduce air pollution that threatens human health and contributes to climate change. AB 23 has launched California to the forefront of the clean-tech industry, sparking innovation and clean energy businesses that are creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. Now, a coalition of......read more

    Tea Party Threatens Climate Legislation

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    Climate change doubt is an essential element of the Tea Party program.

    The 2010 midterm election campaigns are in full swing, and Democrats are in jeopardy of losing many seats in both the House and Senate. Many of these positions could be won by candidates supported by the Tea Party, which wants less government and views climate legislation as just another federal power grab. In Indiana, where Democratic Representative Baron P. Hill spoke in defense of his......read more

    Green Voting Guide

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    The 2010 elections are upon us. Here's how to vote with the Earth in mind.

    With 37 of the 100 seats in the Senate being contested and all 400 House seats up for grabs, the 2010 midterm election will mark a major shift in federal politics for the next two years. The environment — and particularly climate change — represents one of the most important issues at play. Here in California, there are several ballot measures in the gubernatorial election that have direct......read more

    Masks - Vote NO on Prop 23

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    Produced by SHFT, directed by Tony McGrath and Randal Kirk.

    If you haven't guessed by now, SHFT stands firmly behind killing Prop 23. Even though it's a California measure, the implications of this bill are felt all over the country. It will gut AB 32, the first comprehensive environmental state law that other states are poised to follow and that the federal environmental policy would be based on. So we've produced a series of PSAs and this......read more

    Doesn't Matter How You Get There

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    Just get there! This Tuesday, vote NO on Prop. 23. A SHFT PSA directed by Jonathan Glatzer.

    Our final PSA in the No on Prop. 23 campaign, Doesn't Matter How You Get There, is a poppy light hearted reminder in the old get-out-the-vote spirit. Jonathan Glatzer — who also directed our Men In Yellow spot for this campaign — played with environmentally conscious modes of transportation for Californian's on their way to the polls. The concept came from Jared Ficker, the man......read more

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