11 Good Decisions From the Obama Administration
Bald Eagle - saved by US Endangered Species Act. Image credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, ESA Bulletin 2007
Watching the decisions come out of the Obama Administration so far has been very exciting - they're serious about clean energy and protecting human health and the environment.
The Obama Administration made another in a round of good moves for the environment this week when the President said he will restore rules that require federal agencies like the Department of Transportation to consult with wildlife experts at Fish and Wildlife Services and the National Marine Fisheries Service before moving ahead with projects that could cause harm to endangered species.This week's decision on the Endangered Species Act restores a valuable and essential process; it shows that we should not just blindly push development without any regard to nearby wildlife and habitat that will be affected.
Like I said, this is just the latest in a string of excellent moves by this administration. I'd like to highlight some others as well (in no particular order).
-A Major Step Toward Regulating CO2 From Coal Plants: On February 17, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took the first step toward regulating carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. EPA, under the new leadership of Administrator Lisa Jackson, granted a petition from the Sierra Club and other groups calling for reconsideration of a memo issued by former EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson which sought to prohibit controls on global warming pollution from coal plants. EPA announced in a letter to the Sierra Club that it will publish a proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register and seek public comments on the decision in the near future.
-EPA Opposes Big Stone II Coal Plant in South Dakota: On January 23, the EPA overturned approval of this proposed coal-fired power plant. EPA's decision came after the state failed to require state-of-the-art pollution controls for the coal plant - controls that would address harmful soot, smog and global warming pollution. This decision showed that EPA is back to enforcing long-standing legal requirements fairly and consistently nationwide and that they're concerned about pollution and global warming.
-Review of Offshore Drilling Plans: On February 10, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the agency would start a new public review process for the 5-year offshore drilling plan set forth by the Bush administration in its last days in office. Citing lack of public review, Salazar opened a 180-day comment period in which citizens and stakeholders can weigh in on plans to open coastal areas to drilling. Salazar also called for review of renewable offshore energy like wind as part of the process.
-Interior Department Scraps Oil Shale Plans: On February 25, Interior Secretary Salazar announced that his department will not allow rush oil shale development in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Salazar said the oil shale leasing proposal issued by the Bush administration in January was flawed and that royalties to be paid by the oil industry were too low. The Department of Interior will now open a 90-day comment period allowing the public to weigh in on what oil shale research and development leases should contain.
The large amounts of energy needed to heat and process oil shale would increase the global warming emissions that contribute to climate change. Oil shale development also requires a great deal of water, a limited resource in the arid West.
-Canceling the Drilling Leases in Utah: On February 4, the Interior Department announced that it would cancel leases that would have allowed oil and gas drilling on more than 100,000 acres of Utah wild lands, much of it surrounding iconic treasures like Arches National Park. The Sierra Club and a coalition of environmental groups have been working since December to protect areas near Arches and Canyonlands national parks, Dinosaur National Monument, and rock art-rich Nine Mile Canyon from oil and gas drilling. Drilling near our precious national treasures should not be part of this country's energy future - we must protect these special places for future generations.
-Reconsidering the California Clean Car Waiver: On January 25, President Obama directed the EPA to review whether to grant California a waiver for its clean car law. In early February (at our Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference), EPA Administrator Jackson said that review would go into effect immediately (and the hearing is today). Fifteen states are waiting to implement this clean car law (including DC) and other states are poised to adopt it. We remain optimistic that after proper review, EPA will grant the waiver, which will give these states the green light to tackle global warming pollution from cars and light trucks.
-Announcement of New Fuel Economy Standards Coming Soon: The same day EPA announced it would reconsider the California clean cars waiver, President Obama also indicated that his Department of Transportation will issue new fuel economy standards in the coming months. These will be the first mandated increases in fuel economy for cars in decades.
-A Truly Beneficial and Green Economic Recovery Package: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will do much to boost our economy and create jobs. It includes such excellent goodies as:
$4.5 billion for repair of federal buildings for green energy efficiency
$11 billion for smart-grid related activities
$6.3 billion for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Grants
$5 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program
$2.5 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy research
$2 billion in grant funding for the manufacturing of advanced batteries systems and components and vehicle batteries that are produced in the United States
$1 billion for energy efficiency programs including alternative-fuel trucks and buses, transportation charging infrastructure, and smart and energy efficient appliances
$8.4 billion for investments in public transportation
$9.3 billion for investments in rail transportation, including Amtrak, Intercity and High Speed Rail
...and much, much more.
-A Budget Signaling a New Era on Energy and Climate: To back up the Economic Recovery package, the Obama Administration has also unveiled a budget full of great investments in clean energy and it includes revenues from the auction of carbon permits under a cap on global warming pollution in its long-term planning.
Carbon legislation is inevitable - we must make sure the revenues that it brings in are used in the correct manner.
-Yucca Mountain Funding Nixed: Another move for clean energy in the budget - the funding for Yucca Mountain has been eliminated. Nuclear power is not the way to go, as evidenced by uranium mining's terrible toll (including on numerous Native American tribes) and the dangerous toxic waste it produces.
I am very inspired by all of these actions. The Obama Administration is making great strides for the U.S. by showing that one can advance clean energy and fight global warming by valuing our land, our wildlife, our waterways and oceans, and our health.
Additional ESA posts on TreeHugger.
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