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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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    Leaked Document Exposes Obama's Climate Strategy

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    Confidential memo outlines key messages the Obama administration wants to convey at UN climate talks in Mexico in November.

    The Guardian has published the text a leaked document revealing the US government's increasingly controversial strategy in the global UN climate talks. The document was left on a European hotel computer and passed to the British newspaper. The text unveils the Obama's administration's hardline, "take it or leave it" approach to the agreement, signaling that the US intends......read more

    Earth Day: John Kerry on Climate Change Action

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    Environmental advocates and allies have achieved plenty since the first Earth Day forty years ago: the creation of the EPA, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, are just a few of the legislative highlights that come to mind. But, as John Kerry warned today, the U.S. has yet to confront the biggest environmental problem of today: climate change. In......read more

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    Move follows plastic bag prohibitions by several Californian cities.

    In a move Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called a "great victory for the environment," California will become the first US state to ban plastic bags. On Wednesday, state Assembly approved legislation prohibiting pharmacies and grocery, liquor and convenience stores from giving out plastic bags. Under the measure, shoppers who don't bring their own reusable bags to the store will......read more

    EPA Retains Power to Regulate Emissions

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    Senate decision gives boost to President Obama's plans for broader climate legislation.

    The U.S. Senate has rejected a proposed measure to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The rejected measure, tabled by oil-friendly Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski, would have rescinded the authority of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Nicknamed "the Dirty Air Act," the resolution would have passed......read more

    Bill Maher Slams BP

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    Bill unleashes -- the last item of New Rules - Thank you.

    When entertainment and environmental politics collide so beautifully, as they often do on Real Time, SHFT needs to share. Nobody does it better than Mr. Bill Maher. Not only does he take the piss out of the boneheads at BP who are "trying" to curtail this messs, but he frequently lands on answers that need to be seriously considered. Van Jones has been talking about the green economy......read more

    Where's the Outrage?

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    In the wake of environmental catastrophe, Jonathan Cohn wonders where the public push for clean energy is.

    On his new political blog at The New Republic, Jonathan Cohn looks into the policy implications of the Gulf oil spill, arguing that public pressure for clean energy legislation has been fairly muted in the aftermath of a massive environmental disaster. In the post, Cohn presents a persuasive argument that the lack of public action may limit the chances of pushing comprehensive legislation through......read more

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