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Obama Boosts Fuel-economy Standards

In a sudden and welcome reversal of course on regulating U.S. vehicles' tremendous thirst for gas, this Tuesday President Barack Obama announced a plan to raise national gas-mileage standards for cars, trucks, and SUVs to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. The move, elevating standards above the administration's former goal of 35 mpg by 2020, came just more than a month after the Center for Biological Diversity sued to strike down the administration's gas-mileage standards for model year 2011: a measly 30.2 mpg for cars and 24.2 mpg for SUVs and pick-ups (both significantly lower than even the Bush administration had proposed for same year). Of course, in Europe and Japan, standards are at about 43.3 and 42.6 mpg, respectively, right now. China's standards are at 35.8.

"This is an important step forward in fulfilling the promise to make the United States a leader in the fight against global warming," said Brian Nowicki, the Center's California climate policy director. "But it is critical that we continue to push for more ambitious automobile standards; under today's proposal the U.S. fuel economy would still be lower in 2016 than China achieves today."

Learn more from msnbc.

Suit Challenges Ocean Acidification in Washington

In the first-ever lawsuit to address ocean acidification, last Thursday the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its failure to address the issue's impacts in Washington state waters. When the ocean absorbs CO2 spewed into our atmosphere, the water becomes more acidic -- to the detriment of marine creatures who need a certain water chemistry to build protective shells and skeletons, and harming pretty much every marine organism in the food chain. Already, scientists monitoring waters off Washington are reporting that this ocean acidification is hurting seawater quality and marine ecosystems; in fact, since 2000, the pH of Washington's coastal waters has declined (becoming more acidic) by 0.2 units -- violating the state's water-quality standard for pH. But Washington ignored our 2007 request to list its waters as "impaired" under the Clean Water Act, and this year EPA approved the state's deficient list of impaired waters. Our suit, in which we're represented by Crag Law Center, seeks to push the agency to amend Washington's impaired-waters list to include waters that are actually impaired.

Last month, in response to a Center petition, the agency began a public process to determine whether its grossly obsolete water-quality criteria should be updated to reflect the impacts of ocean acidification.

Read more in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Wal-Mart Whacked for Causing Global Warming

In a smiley-faced ending to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit against our nation's largest retailer, last Thursday a judge overturned the approval of a new Wal-Mart Supercenter near Joshua Tree National Park because the project wrote off the impacts of its greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental review for the proposed big-box store, which was to be sited in habitat for the threatened desert tortoise, attempted to avoid common-sense measures to reduce the project's carbon footprint, insisting that its estimated 7,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions was too paltry to warrant such measures under the state's premiere environmental statute, the California Environmental Quality Act. Besides rejecting Wal-Mart's finding that the project's climate impacts weren't significant, the court also ruled that its environmental study had neglected measures to reduce ozone and dust pollution and disregarded data that the Supercenter would lead to "urban decay," wiping out local businesses with its hideous corporate presence.

"Wal-Mart talks a lot about fighting global warming, but when it comes to actually taking action, it bent over backwards to avoid incorporating cost-effective features like solar panels to reduce its carbon footprint," said Center attorney Matt Vespa. "The enormous disconnect between Wal-Mart's stated environmental goals and its actions is classic greenwashing."

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

California Ordered to Reconsider Global Warming Threat to Pika

In response to a suit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity (represented by Earthjustice), a federal judge last week sent the California Fish and Game Commission back to the drawing board on its assessment of the plight of the American pika, a tiny mammal threatened by climate change. In 2007, we petitioned the Commission to protect the pika under the state's Endangered Species Act, and after it rejected our petition, we filed suit the next year. Last Friday, a judge issued a written order to the Commission invalidating its rejection of our petition and ordering it to think again about protecting the poor pika. Thanks to our efforts on the federal level, the species is already on its way toward protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

The American pika, adapted for the cold climate of mountain peaks in the U.S. West, is directly endangered by global warming because it can die when exposed to temperatures as low as 78 degrees Fahrenheit for just hours. Climate change exposes pikas to summer heat stress, lowers food availability, reduces food-gathering time, and decreases snow pack they need for winter insulation.

Read details in our press release, where you can also read the judge's order, and learn more about our campaign for the American pika.

Pacific Walrus Moves Toward Protection; Polar Bear Still Floundering

This Monday the tusked, blubbery, and highly imperiled Pacific walrus moved closer to Endangered Species Act protection when a federal judge approved a settlement between the Center for Biological Diversity and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service compelling the agency to decide on protections for the species. The Pacific walrus, whose scientific name translates to the amusing "tooth-walking seahorse," is not-so-entertainingly in danger as global warming melts the Arctic sea ice it needs for resting, breeding, raising young, and foraging activities. The Center petitioned to protect the pinniped in February 2008 and sued in December to force a response; now the feds must voice their first thoughts on protection this September, with a final decision due next year.

Even while the Pacific walrus's icy abode across its range is melting away, its habitat in the Chukchi Sea is being auctioned off to oil companies seeking to extract fossil fuels to further accelerate global warming and the melting of the Arctic -- imperiling not just the walrus but also the polar bear, ice seals, and other species. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is deciding how to deal with lawsuits (including the Center's) opposing Arctic oil drilling, but things aren't looking good, considering his recent refusal to reverse the Bush administration's rule sharply limiting protections for the polar bear. "Unfortunately for the walrus, the polar bear, and the entire Arctic ecosystem, Secretary Salazar seems more inclined to protect Big Oil than America's imperiled wildlife," said the Center's Rebecca Noblin.

Read more on the walrus in the Alaska Dispatch, read about the decision to retain the polar bear rule in JURIST, and tell Salazar to give the polar bear true protections.

Wildlife Refuge-destroying Power Line Bites the Arizona Dust

A massive power line that the Center for Biological Diversity has opposed for more than two years now -- which would have cut across Arizona's beautiful Kofa National Wildlife Refuge -- has finally been cancelled. A California energy company, Southern California Edison, recently abandoned its plan to build the Arizona portion of its Devers-Palo Verde No. 2 line. The line was designed to traverse 24 miles of the Kofa Refuge and would have caused hefty habitat loss and harm to species like the desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, common chuckwalla, banded Gila monster, desert rosy boa, and western burrowing owl. The Center and allies submitted comments on the power line's destructive nature, highlighting the wise conclusion of Kofa's refuge manager that the line would contradict the purpose of the wildlife refuge (as well as the mission of the entire national wildlife refuge system).

"This is a great day for Kofa's wildlife and for Arizona," said Center attorney Justin Augustine. "Our nation's wildlife refuges are just that: refuges. And massive, industrial-sized powerlines are clearly incompatible with wildlife conservation."

Read more in E & E News.

60 Groups Tell Congress to Work Harder for Bats

This Wednesday, the Center for Biological Diversity and a long list of other national and regional organizations sent a letter to members of Congress requesting increased funding for research on white-nose syndrome, a mysterious, fast-spreading, and fatal disease that has been affecting bats across the eastern United States. Since the disease first popped up two years ago near Albany, New York, an estimated million-plus bats have fallen victim, including the federally protected Indiana bat. Biologists are concerned the disease may next strike endangered Virginia big-eared and gray bats, both of which have very limited ranges and can't afford any more losses. Thankfully, after the Center for Biological Diversity and Heartwood petitioned to close off bat hibernation sites to help prevent the disease's spread, this spring the U.S. Forest Service announced it would close thousands of caves and abandoned mines on agency lands in 33 states in New England, the Midwest, and its southern region.

But much more needs doing, and bats are dying every day. Federal and state agencies must have more dollars to fund research, coordination, and management to understand, fight, and hopefully overcome white-nose syndrome so endangered bats don't die out forever.

Learn details in our press release, where you can also read the letter, and take action yourself before the end of the month.

Stephen Colbert, Jr., World's Most Famous Bald Eagle, Now Available as Free Endangered Species Ringtone

This week, the high-pitched but hard-hitting call of the world's most famous bald eagle, Stephen Colbert, Jr. (aka A-46), was immortalized as an endangered species ringtone on the Center for Biological Diversity's popular wildlife ringtone site, Named in honor of talk-show host Stephen Colbert, this prime specimen of our national bird was hatched three years ago as part of the San Francisco Zoo's Bald Eagle Recovery Program. He's been under Colbert Sr.'s wing since chickhood, when he first appeared on The Colbert Report as a beak poking out of an eggshell. Last winter he achieved a new level of fame when he was spotted and photographed near Klamath Falls, Oregon. Now, for the first time ever, he has kindly allowed the Center to appropriate his voice for all the world to hear.

Download it for your phone, along with the croaks, hoots, squeaks, and roars of almost 100 other amazing species -- which have already been downloaded by more than 290,000 people across the globe. And don't forget to check out our press release, where you can learn the details.

KierĂ¡n Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Stephen Colbert, Jr. (c) Mike Bush; exhaust pipe courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Steevven; elkhorn coral (c) John Easley/; Wal-mart courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Jared C. Benedict; American pika (c) Larry Master/; Pacific walrus courtesy USFWS; burrowing owl (c) William C. Gladish; Virginia big-eared bat courtesy USFWS; Stephen Colbert, Jr. (c) Jack Noller.

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