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EPA To Consider Ocean Acidification Limits

In response to a 2007 petition and anticipated lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, this week the Environmental Protection Agency finally agreed to address the problem of ocean acidification under the Clean Water Act. Aptly dubbed "global warming's evil twin," ocean acidification happens when the sea absorbs excess CO2 from the atmosphere, which lowers the water's pH, making it more acidic -- to the detriment of marine life. Among other problems, this ruinous sea change impairs the ability of some creatures, like corals and plankton, to build their protective shells, affecting every link in the ocean food chain. Already the oceans have seen a rise in acidity of about 30 percent; ocean acidification could erode away coral reefs within our lifetime.

Even though the Clean Water Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to regularly update water-quality standards, the criterion for water pH has stayed unchanged for more than 30 years. If the agency strengthens the pH criterion, U.S. states will have to limit pollution -- in this case, greenhouse gas emissions -- that "impairs" the quality of water bodies that fall below the standard.

Check out our press release and learn more about ocean acidification.

Center Takes Power-line Challenge to California Supreme Court

A month after the California Public Utilities Commission approved the controversial Sunrise Powerlink, one of the biggest transmission-line ventures ever proposed in the state, last Thursday the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the California Supreme Court to review the approval -- and hopefully quash it. In blatant violation of the state's premiere environmental protection and land-use law, the California Environmental Quality Act, the Commission failed to require that the 123-mile line be used for renewable energy and approved an environmentally detrimental southern route for the line -- straight through the Cleveland National Forest, protected reserves, and the habitat of rare species like the Hermes copper butterfly and arroyo toad. The Commission ignored a recommendation by one of its own commissioners to condition approval of the line on requiring the line to deliver renewable energy; it also ignored a recommendation by an administrative law judge to reject the line altogether (by far the best decision).

Said Ileene Anderson, the Center's public lands deserts director: "As approved by the Commission, the Sunrise Transmission Project would sacrifice sensitive public lands and vital habitat without any guarantee the line will be used to deliver clean energy."

Read more in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Things Looking Up For Polar Bear, Planet Under Obama

In the days since the inauguration of President Obama, the outlook for polar bears and the global climate has dramatically improved. For one thing, nine states -- including California, Oregon, New York, and Massachusetts -- have joined a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit to overturn the Bush administration's order prohibiting federal agencies from protecting polar bears from global warming through the Endangered Species Act. In addition, the Obama administration has ordered all federal agencies to consider settling lawsuits filed against Bush policies (many of which, ahem, were brought by the Center) instead of defending the bad actions in court. Hopefully our new president -- who's already pushing for enforcement of fuel-efficiency standards and a stimulus package that would help green energy -- will decide to reverse Bush's polar bear-killing policies.

Read about Obama's work for fuel efficiency in the Los Angeles Times and check out our polar bear Web page, where you can take action and watch our new, hard-hitting TV ads about saving the bear.

Tejon Ranch Seeks Permit to Harm Condor, 26 Other Rare Species

Starting the countdown to destroy prime habitat for the endangered California condor, last Friday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft plan that would allow the Tejon Ranch Company to harm the condor and 26 other rare species on Tejon Ranch, the largest swath of privately owned land in California. The poorly named "habitat conservation plan" would let the company slide past laws that make it illegal to injure, harass, and in some cases kill federally protected species in its move to build mega-developments on the condor's last bastion of wild habitat -- even as the company claims its developments won't hurt the condor. Tejon Ranch covers more than 270,000 acres of wilderness and contains not only federally protected condor habitat but also the convergence of four ecoregions, 23 known types of plant communities, and habitat for many other at-risk species, from the southwestern willow flycatcher to the western spadefoot toad.

The Center for Biological Diversity has been fighting to save Tejon for years, and we're determined to forever preserve the ranch as a state or national park. We certainly won't let the disastrous habitat conservation plan go through as written.

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

Massive Nevada Coal Plant Meets Massive Opposition

After the Bush-era Bureau of Land Management green-lighted the enormous White Pine Energy Station near Ely, Nevada, last Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity joined 10 other groups, represented by Earthjustice, to ask the Board of Land Appeals to reject the approval. If built, the White Pine project would be one of the most polluting coal-fired power plants in the western United States, annually spewing out about 12.88 million tons of CO2 -- not to mention letting other harmful pollutants, including mercury, sulfur dioxide, and fine soot, harm air quality in nearby Great Basin National Park. But when the Bureau analyzed the project, the agency disregarded its impacts on local residents' health, local water supplies, imperiled species, and the world's atmosphere, allowing the sale of 1,281 acres of public lands to accommodate the facility -- all at a time when momentum is building in Nevada for developing other, cleaner energy-production methods.

"America's top scientists have made it clear that continuing to burn coal will lead directly to climate catastrophe," said Center attorney Amy Atwood. "We need to scrap proposals for obsolete, dirty coal plants like White Pine and move toward a clean energy future."

Read more in the San José Mercury News.

Congressman Defends Grand Canyon From Bush Uranium-mining Rule

After the Bush administration repeatedly defied Congress' decision to protect the Grand Canyon from uranium development, Arizona Representative Raúl Grijalva re-introduced his 2008 Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act to withdraw 1 million acres of Grand Canyon-area public lands from new uranium claims, exploration, and mining. In recent years, thousands of new uranium claims have popped up on public lands south of the canyon, fueling widespread concern about radiological and heavy-metal contamination of water discharging into Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River. But last September, former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne ignored a June resolution by the House Natural Resources Committee to ban new uranium development on the same 1 million acres set aside in Rep. Grijalva's legislation -- forcing the Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, and Sierra Club to sue. In response to our suit, in December the Bush administration passed an 11th-hour rule eliminating Congress' authority to enact the uranium ban.

If Rep. Grijalva's re-introduced bill prevails, it will override Bush's hastily passed midnight regulation. "We're looking to Congress for permanent protections for the Grand Canyon," said the Center's public lands program director Taylor McKinnon. "Now is the time to act."

Get more from the Tucson Citizen and send Rep. Grijalva a personal hand-written thank-you card for protecting the Grand Canyon from uranium mining.

Coalition Challenges Coal Mine Threatening Environment, Culture

To save Arizona resources and wildlife, aid the atmosphere, and defend tribal wellbeing, last Thursday the Center for Biological Diversity and eight other groups appealed a Bush administration permit to re-open the controversial Black Mesa coal mine. During Bush's waning days, the Office of Surface Mining released a "Life-of-Mine" permit allowing Peabody Energy to consolidate two mines in northeastern Arizona into a single, 65,000-acre mine complex: the Black Mesa mine. Not only does the permit violate several laws; it would also let the mine pollute air and water, add to global warming, deplete groundwater, destroy species habitat, and devastate the cultural and physical health of Navajo (Diné) and Hopi people, whose religion focuses on nature's harmony -- and whose sole source of drinking water was depleted by the original mine. That mine was closed in 2005 due to pollution violations, but the new permit would allow continued mining -- along with the yearly extraction of 1,236 acre-feet of groundwater -- until 2025.

Peabody Energy doesn't seem to care at all about the destructive effects of its mining. In fact, the company is trying to dress up coal's dirty image with a new ad campaign depicting a "clean" and shiny lump of coal wearing sunglasses -- no joke. Since when does wearing sunglasses mean you're clean? In this case, we think it looks kind of shady. 

Get more on the mine from and check out Peabody's unbelievable ad.

Fuel Your Drive Toward Change With FUEL: The Film

After growing up amongst Louisiana's oil refineries and watching his own family suffer from pollution-related cancers, in 1997 activist and filmmaker Josh Tickell took off in his biodiesel-powered "Veggie Van" on an epic road trip to make the film that would win the 2008 Sundance Film Festival's Audience Award for Best Documentary. FUEL, with appearances by a huge cast of notables including Jimmy Carter, Willie Nelson, Julia Roberts, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., tracks the rise of Big Oil from Rockefeller's strategy to halt Ford's first ethanol cars to Dick Cheney's petrochemical company-sponsored legislation. But FUEL not only exposes America's debilitating addiction to oil -- it also describes a gamut of intriguing solutions to "repower America," offering hope for a sustainable, oil-independent future. It received 11 standing ovations at Sundance, was shortlisted for the Oscars, and earned the Writers Guild of America's nomination for best documentary writing.

Take it from Tickell himself: "What's astounding about this movie is the way it leaves you feeling -- hopeful, uplifted, and inspired." The FUEL team is building a national grassroots outreach campaign and wants you to help spread the word about the movie and what it stands for.

FUEL will debut in Los Angeles on Feb. 13 and in New York in March. Learn more about the film, watch a trailer, and see where it's playing here.

Get in the Know With the Center's Latest Biodiversity Briefing

Want to have the inside scoop on environmental politics and the latest goings-on at the Center for Biological Diversity? Well, now you can get it in a brand-new way. Last Thursday, executive director Kierán Suckling spoke with the Center's Leadership Circle in a phone briefing about the environmental outlook for the new Obama administration and the Center's campaign priorities. The conference call, one of our quarterly "Biodiversity Briefings," included an update on new agency appointments and answers to other questions from call participants. Listen to an audio recording of the first 24 minutes of the briefing here. For information about how you can join the Leadership Circle and be invited to participate in Biodiversity Briefings live when they happen, please contact Development Director Jennifer Shepherd at (520) 396-1135 or

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: elkhorn coral (c) Sean Nash; staghorn coral courtesy NOAA; Hermes copper butterfly (c) Douglas Aguillard; polar bears by Pete Spruance; California condor courtesy Arizona Department of Game and Fish; coal plant by Phillip J. Redman, USGS; Colorado River (c) Michelle Harrington; coal mine courtesy BLM; image courtesy FUEL; telephone courtesy Wikipedia.

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