Lisa Jackson’s legacy at the Environmental Protection Agency

From The Guardian UK:

The lauded EPA chief departs an agency that has reasserted its regulatory authority. But her successor faces major challenges, Tuesday 1 January 2013

As Lisa Jackson gets ready to step down as head of the EPA shortly after the president’s inauguration later this month, she is being hailed by environmentalists for pushing through the toughest new air and water pollution rules in over two decades, and speaking out on climate change in an administration that has largely avoided confronting the issue head-on.

Jackson is admired even by some of her critics. Republican James M Inhofe of Oklahoma, a leading Senate opponent of environmental legislation, referred to the charming Jackson as “my favorite bureaucrat”.

But not everybody is sad to see the EPA administrator go. During the recent election campaign, Mitt Romney called for Jackson’s resignation, and some Republicans in Congress have accused her of waging a “war on coal“. Jackson’s EPA drafted regulations that limit mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. She also initiated a sweeping agency review of the impact of mountaintop removal in states like West Virginia and Kentucky, a practice that dumps raw mining waste into wetlands and streams.

Jackson, the nation’s first black EPA chief, grew up as the child of a postal worker in New Orleans. As a Louisiana native, she was the public face of the administration’s responses to the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf in 2010, hosting town meetings throughout the region to reassure residents of the government’s support.

Jackson often spoke about the fact that the nation’s poor frequently live in industrial zones where they suffer disproportionally from pollution of the air and water. The health impacts of pollution hit close to home for Jackson. She spoke publicly of the anguish she felt watching her infant son suffer from asthma, an illness associated with high levels of particulates in the air.

In a phone interview, Tom “Smitty” Smith, the Texas director of Public Citizen, told me that Jackson was the first EPA administrator in three decades to seek out the views of local environmentalists during her trips to Texas, and not just politicians and representatives of the oil industry. As a result of these meetings, Jackson closed loopholes in the permitting process which had allowed refineries on what Smith calls “the cancer coast” between Port Arthur and Corpus Christi to employ inferior pollution control technologies.

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Protest Tactics in a Warming World

From In These Times:

What will it take to push back climate change?

BY Eric Moll
December 31, 2012

On Nov. 16, 2012, an estimated 2,200 New Yorkers gathered at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan to hear’s plan to prevent catastrophic climate change. It was the 10th stop of a tour, called Do The Math, that traveled to 21 cities and featured founder Bill McKibben, author Naomi Klein and video testimonies from Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The main thrust? We must stop the fossil fuel industry from extracting and burning most of earth’s below-ground reserves.

“There’s a certain amount of carbon that [fossil fuel] companies have in their reserves underground, and that figure is five times more than the allowable limit of what we can put in the atmosphere before we hit extreme runaway climate change,” says Joshua Kahn Russell, national coordinator at
 Judging by several prolonged standing ovations, the audience at Hammerstein, still reeling from Hurricane Sandy, endorsed the presenters’ message. Though inured to unabashed optimism by too many years of false starts, bad compromises and slow progress, longtime activists are guardedly hopeful about the future of the movement.

This hope is in part thanks to the reverberations of Occupy Wall Street. When OWS emerged in the fall of 2011, it revitalized every sphere of American activism at the same time it was blurring the lines between different movements. “There’s a growing understanding that there’s a significant nexus between those industries that are creating—or manufacturing—climate change, your child’s asthma, poor working conditions through out the ‘developing world,’ and the financial collapse,” says Robert Gardner, who worked on Greenpeace’s anti-coal campaign. “Bank of America is foreclosing on people wholesale, but they’re also funding mountaintop removal mining.”

But while this broadening of the movement—through which environmental issues are also viewed as social justice and economic issues—has given environmentalists new reason to hope, it also presents established environmental organizations with new challenges. How to engage as many people as possible? Which strategies have a real chance to stop the fossil fuel industry, and which ones do not? And in a large and diverse movement, how do you ensure that people act strategically and efficiently?

What kinds of actions?

Potential tactics for climate activists fall along a wide spectrum. On one end are safe and legal options: petitions, electoral campaigning, legal obstruction, boycotts, strikes. Then there are peaceful tactics that fall into legal gray areas or unabashedly break the law: sit-ins, blockades, physical obstruction. At the far end is property destruction, sabotage and violence.

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Coveting Horns, Ruthless Smugglers’ Rings Put Rhinos in the Cross Hairs

Capital punishment for anyone involved it the trade in body parts from any endangered species.

From The New York Times:

Published: December 31, 2012

KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, South Africa — They definitely did not look like ordinary big-game hunters, the stream of slender young Thai women who showed up on the veld wearing tight bluejeans and sneakers.

But the rhinoceros carcasses kept piling up around them, and it was only after dozens of these hulking, relatively rare animals were dead and their precious horns sawed off that an extravagant scheme came to light.

The Thai women, it ends up, were not hunters at all. Many never even squeezed off a shot. Instead, they were prostitutes hired by a criminal syndicate based 6,000 miles away in Laos to exploit loopholes in big-game hunting rules and get its hands on as many rhino horns as possible — horns that are now worth more than gold.

“These girls had no idea what they were doing,” said Paul O’Sullivan, a private investigator in Johannesburg who helped crack the case. “They thought they were going on safari.”

The rhino horn rush has gotten so out of control that it has exploded into a worldwide criminal enterprise, drawing in a surreal cast of characters — not just Thai prostitutes, but also Irish gangsters, Vietnamese diplomats, Chinese scientists, veterinarians, copter pilots, antiques dealers and recently an American rodeo star looking for a quick buck who used Facebook to find some horns.

Driven by a common belief in Asia that ground-up rhino horns can cure cancer and other ills, the trade has also been embraced by criminal syndicates that normally traffic drugs and guns, but have branched into the underground animal parts business because it is seen as “low risk, high profit,” American officials say.

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