Here's That Change We Believed In
As Carl Pope wrote in a recent blog entry: "What a four weeks!" Congress and the Obama administration continue to deliver a steady stream of environmental milestones.
The best environmental good news came in response to economic bad news: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contains approximately $80 billion in funding for promoting energy efficiency, renewable energy, and higher-mileage cars.
Specifically, that means:
- $25 billion for energy efficiency
- $20 billion for renewable energy incentives
- $11 billion in grants and $6 billion in loans to modernize the electric grid and increase its capacity to deliver power generated by renewable sources, and
- $17.7 billion for mass transit, Amtrak, and high-speed rail.
The significance of this funding for putting America on the path to a clean-energy economy can't be overstated.
The Obama administration also checked off another item from the list of "Clean Slate" actions that the Sierra Club suggested before the inauguration, when EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson indicated that the agency will likely change course and begin regulating as pollutants the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. (Reconsidering an EPA clean-car waiver to California and other states was the first. See below.)
Then, just this week, a years-long stalemate on mercury emissions appears to have broken after the White House Council on Environmental Quality issued a statement saying, "The United States will play a leading role in working with other nations to craft a global, legally binding agreement that will prevent the spread of mercury into the environment."
Let's hope the good news keeps coming from Washington, D.C.
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Say "Cheese" for Clean Cars
On March 5, the EPA will hold a hearing in Washington, D.C. to consider granting California a waiver to implement clean-car standards that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from passenger cars and trucks.
Fourteen other states have adopted California's standards and are also waiting for the green light. These states cover 40 percent of the U.S. auto market. Enacting clean-car standards would make a huge dent in our global warming emissions.
While you may not be able to fly your private jet to the hearing, there's still a way for you to be in the room. Just take a picture of yourself, your family, or your friends holding car keys and email it to us. At the hearing we'll present 1,000s of photos with this message: EPA Holds the Keys to Clean Cars!
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Accolades for King Coal's Nemesis
Grist announced its 2008 Eco-Hero last week, and we're proud to say that voters gave a virtual high five to Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club's Move Beyond Coal campaign. Under Nilles's leadership, the campaign has beaten back 84 coal-fired power plants through grassroots activism, lawsuits, and getting the word out to financial backers that coal isn't as cheap as it looks -- and it's only going to get more expensive. It's become a movement that's picking up steam and, as Grist put it, "This victory for Nilles is really a victory for that movement, which has -- with very little help from the establishment or resources from big-money funders -- pulled off an amazing string of victories that is still going on."
You can watch Nilles talk about the campaign's strategy and successes by watching this video of a panel discussion during American Renewable Energy Day. And while one Grist commenter dubbed Nilles "an eco-hottie," we'll settle for "eco-hero."
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Polluting Smelter to Close for Good
The Sierra Club and community activists on both sides of the border celebrated when Arizona-based ASARCO announced this month that it will permanently close and demolish its El Paso copper smelter, which has been shuttered since 1999. According to Environmental Justice organizer Mariana Chew, the Sierra Club's point person in the smelter fight, "ASARCO says they are closing because of economic reasons...but the community pushed the federal government to act..."
The same day that ASARCO made its announcement, the EPA sent a letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality stating that crucial equipment was in need of repair and the smelter might not be able to comply with federal air-quality standards if it reopened as is. The Texas Commission had granted ASARCO an operating permit for the El Paso plant last year.
Get the full story in Scrapbook.
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