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
It's tempting to attribute much of the recent dischord in North Africa and the Middle East to politics. And in the most direct sense, it's true. In Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and now Syria, the people have risen up against brutal and corrupt regimes. But dig a little deeper, and you find that the unrest is more broadly driven by drought and food shortages -- themselves linked to environmental shifts......read more
Here is the trailer for Last Call at the Oasis, the highly anticipated new documentary from Academy Award-winning director Jessica Yu. Inspired by Alex Prud'homme's book The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Fresh Water in the 21st Century, the film is a thorough examination ofthe global water crisis, with a focus on industrial and agricultural pollution in America and the drying of the Southwest. Last......read more
Americans care about the food we eat and feed our families, now more than ever. In the span of just a few weeks, "pink slime" became a consumer phenomenon, leading to the unprecedented rapid-fire removal of the product from major stores and schools, the closure of production plants and USDA approval of voluntary labeling. Talk about legislation through retail. It's not just ammonia in beef.......read more
The California Energy Commission today unanimously approved upgraded building energy efficiency standards that one commissioner called "the strongest in the nation." The new standards, which take effect Jan. 1, 2014, include a host of common-sense standards designed to save energy, from insulating hot-water pipes to making sure that air conditioner installations are inspected for sufficient air......read more
Poor plastic grocery bags. It must be hard to know that your time is coming to a close. And make no mistake, after L.A. councillors voted 13-1 to ban single use bags in the city, the end is nigh, indeed. L.A. is but the latest in a growing number of American cities and regions that are ditching single use plastic bags. But this time it's different. When Seattle, Portland, and San......read more
With the proportion of people living in urban centers at an all-time high--and national governments seemingly incapable of promoting the shift toward sustainability--cities are in the best position to implement solutions to big problems. NYC's billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg agrees, and he's putting his money where his mouth is. This week Mayor Bloomberg announced a new competition to......read more
Every year, around the world, almost one trillion dollars of subsidies is handed out to help the fossil fuel industry. Who came up with the crazy idea that the fossil fuel industry deserves our hard-earned money, no less in economic times of such harsh human consequence? We fire teachers, police and firemen in drastic budget cuts and yet, the fossil fuel industry can laugh all the way to the bank......read more
Van Jones is a lawyer and activist who is America's leading advocate for green jobs. He is a co-founder of three successful non-profit organizations: the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change and Green For All. Van's first book, The Green Collar Economy, is a clear-headed and optimistic discussion of the need for clean energy solutions to......read more