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Permit Nixed for Massive Coal-fired Power Plant

In a triumph for the Center for Biological Diversity, the climate, and all air-breathing Kentuckians, last week the administration officially rejected the permit for a controversial Kentucky coal-fired power plant. Siding with four out of eight challenges brought by the Center and allies, the EPA has published an order telling the Tennessee Valley Authority to redo its operating permit for the Paradise plant, one of the most polluting power stations in the nation. Among other things, declared the order, the plant's permit failed to require proper pollution controls and monitoring for nitrogen oxide pollution, a precursor to smog. The plant burns more than 7 million tons of coal each year; last year, it spewed out more than 14 million tons of CO2. We petitioned to challenge the plant's permit in 2007, and after no reaction from the EPA, we sued last November.

Read more about the trouble for Paradise in The New York Times.

Climate Deadline Looming: Sign On to Letter to Fix Flawed Global Warming Bill Today

Climate change is occurring faster than scientists predicted -- but the latest climate legislation, passed by the House of Representatives in June, falls far short of what's needed to stop runaway global warming. As Newsweek science reporter Sharon Begley declared this week: "the energy/climate bill passed by the House of Representatives is so full of holes and escape hatches that it has barely a prayer of averting dangerous climate change." We have to do better. Life on earth depends on it.

The Senate will soon develop its own version of the bill, and the pundits are predicting it will weaken rather than strengthen the House version in order to garner votes from conservative Democrats and curry favor with greenhouse gas-spewing industries. The Center for Biological Diversity and its allies have crafted a letter which will soon be sent to the Senate and President asking that the grave flaws in the House bill be fixed. It asks legislators to cap CO2 levels at or below 350 parts per million, maintain the Clean Air Act's ability to regulate polluters, and remove loopholes through which greenhouse gases can spew.

More than 200 groups have signed on so far. If you represent an organization, please sign on by Friday by going here.

If you're an individual, your action is important, too -- sign our petition and find out other ways you can take action. Then read this scary climate change piece in Newsweek.

California Salamander to Net 74K Protected Acres

In response to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit against Bush-era corruption, this Tuesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service re-proposed to protect 74,223 acres of habitat for California tiger salamanders in Sonoma County. The yellow-striped California tiger salamander, with its mouth always spread in an apparent grin, didn't really have much to smile about -- especially in Sonoma County, where development threatens 95 percent of remaining salamander habitat. In 2002, thanks to hard work by the Center, the Sonoma County salamanders were protected under the Endangered Species Act, and soon after about 74,000 acres of protected habitat were first proposed for the deserving amphibian.  But three years later, science-tainting Bush administration officials made sure that proposal literally came to nothing. The salamander's protected acreage, and its chance at long-term survival, was slashed to zero.

Our lawsuit to earn the salamander habitat protections is part of the biggest endangered species act litigation action ever undertaken -- a Center campaign started in 2007 to protect 61 species and more than 8 million acres of habitat wrongly denied safeguards because of Bush administration political interference. So far, due to our work, the Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to rethink protection for the Mexican garter snake and redo habitat decisions for 20 species (including the salamander).

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Sage Grouse, Science Prevail Over Bush-era Meddling

The Center for Biological Diversity won another victory in our campaign against corruption this week when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to reconsider protecting the Gunnison's sage grouse. The highly imperiled prairie bird, famous for its marvelous mating rituals, has lost nearly 90 percent of its historic habitat. Yet in 2006, due to political meddling by former Interior Department official Julie MacDonald and others, the Fish and Wildlife Service declined to protect the bird. This Tuesday, settling a lawsuit by the Center and allies, the agency agreed to issue a new decision in favor of the bird -- and that decision can't come soon enough. Annual sage grouse counts reveal that the bird's plight is still worsening, with some populations reduced to fewer than 10 birds.

"If the agency makes a new decision based on science and not politics, our children and grandchildren may be able to see this iconic species in the wild," said Center attorney Amy Atwood. Let's hope our future generations aren't denied that chance.

Learn more from the Associated Press.

Forest Service Corrects Course on Off-road Plan

Last Thursday, thanks to a rapid burst of input from Center for Biological Diversity supporters, New Mexico's Carson National Forest agreed to accept public review of a new off-road vehicle management plan. Before the Center's call to action on the plan in late July, the Forest Service had shadily denied citizens access to environmental assessments of the plan -- the information necessary to know what's at risk in the forest. But after receiving more than 3,500 letters from you, the Service caved. Now, the assessments are slated for release to the public in mid-September. And the forest does need your voice: Currently, high road densities and off-road vehicle use in the Carson are damaging wildlife habitat, causing watershed damage and soil erosion, hurting trout streams, and leaving less quiet forest for non-motorized recreation. The Carson contains more than 86,000 acres of wilderness and houses river otters, lynx, elk, antelopes, black bears, mountain lions, and bighorn sheep.

"We commend the Carson National Forest for deciding to follow the law," said Center conservation advocate Cyndi Tuell. "The public has a right to understand and speak out against the damage that off-road vehicles cause to our public lands."

Read more in the Durango Herald.

Governator Bans Sucky Gold Mining in California

After work by the Center for Biological Diversity and a coalition of groups -- plus a flood of comments by all you readers -- this month, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill banning suction dredge mining. This destructive form of recreational gold mining sucks up gravel and sand from river bottoms, often polluting the water with mercury -- which is poisonous to endangered California fish like Coho salmon, Pacific lamprey, and green sturgeon. Last month, the state's Alameda Superior Court stopped new permits for the practice; now, it will be banned throughout the state until a full review and overhaul of the dredge-mining program is done.

Our gratitude to all who sent the Governator comments urging him to sign the bill. Largely thanks to you, suction dredge gold mining will no longer legally suck the life out of Golden State streams.

Read more in the San José Mercury News.

Warming-Threatened Bird Gets Cold Shoulder From Feds

In a blow to sound seabird science and a denial of the Center for Biological Diversity's petition, this Tuesday the Obama administration refused to grant protections to California's imperiled ashy storm petrel. The diminutive, smoke-gray coastal bird is endangered by climate change, ocean acidification, pollution, development, and other threats, and a recent study has found that it's taken a nose-dive in numbers over the last two decades. A single oil spill in the "right" place could decimate a large percentage of the bird's global population.

"Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is continuing a Bush-era approach of denying protections to species based on an incomplete and selective interpretation of the science," said Shaye Wolf (who, as a seabird biologist with the Center, should know). "The decision reads like a laundry list of excuses to avoid acting to protect the ashy storm petrel rather than a solid evaluation of the science."

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

On a Wing and a Prayer, Condor May Make Northwest Comeback

Northern California's Yurok tribe is using modern science in the first steps to restore one of the tribe's most ancient icons, the California condor, to its historic Northwest range. While the condor now has a scanty reintroduced population in parts of Arizona, Southern California, and Utah, no condors have yet been reintroduced to the Pacific Coast region, where it once soared over Lewis and Clark as they made their way west. The biggest obstacle to reintroduction is lead poisoning, which condors can contract after dining on carcasses shot by lead bullets -- and which the Yurok tribe is now testing for in local turkey vultures. The condor is sacred to the Yurok; said one tribal council member, "It can soar the highest, so we figured that was the one to get our prayers to heaven when we were asking for the world to be in balance." Ironically, the condor has been among the creatures suffering the most from human-caused imbalance. So besides needing prayers itself, it must have as much protection from lead poisoning as it can get.

The Center for Biological Diversity has been working to protect the condor from lead poisoning since 2004, when we first launched our Get the Lead Out campaign to require the use of nonlead ammunition in the condor's range. Thanks to our efforts, in 2007 a law was passed to do just that in the state of California. We've now launched a nationwide campaign to address all lead poisoning of all American wildlife.

Read more in the Merced Sun-Star.

Bring the Sting: Entomologist Inspires Happiness Case Study

Ever been stung by an insect and savored the experience? Entomologist and Center for Biological Diversity member Justin Schmidt certainly has -- on six continents, with more than 150 types of stingers. A veritable sting connoisseur, Schmidt mentally immerses himself in every encounter with the wrong end of a venomous bee, wasp, or ant he's studied. He's even created the "Justin O. Schmidt Pain Index," which rates each sting's level of pain, from one ("a tiny spark") to four ("absolutely debilitating"). Once evaluating a hornet's sting like a discerning wine taster, Schmidt described it as "rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door." The sting of a bullet ant in Brazil was less delightful but definitely interesting, leaving him "still quivering and screaming from . . . peristaltic waves of pain" 12 hours later.

The New York Times last week ran a feature on Schmidt, calling his work a case study in finding happiness -- that sense of well-being achieved when you're entirely caught up in the moment. And of course, besides appreciating the bullet ant's sting, Schmidt recognizes its crucial role in our world, excruciating-pain-inducing stinger and all.

Read The New York Times piece for yourself.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Gunnison sage grouse courtesy USGS; coal-fired power plant courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Adilettante; emperor penguin by Michael Van Woert, NOAA; California tiger salamander (c) Gary Nafis/; Gunnison sage grouse courtesy BLM; black bear (c) Robin Silver; Coho salmon by Ken and Mary Campbell, NPS; ashy storm petrel (c) Glen Tepke; California condor courtesy Arizona Game and Fish; hornet courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Richard Bartz under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike 2.5 license.

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