1. BREATHE EASIER
A state court recently stopped the construction of a new coal-fired power plant in south Georgia because of the developer’s failure to limit emissions of carbon dioxide. This is the first court decision in the country to deny a power plant permit because of carbon dioxide emissions, which the Supreme Court recently ruled as a global warming causing pollutant. The ruling is expected to have a sweeping effect over many new coal-fired power plants in development across the country: all new power plants will now have to consider their carbon dioxide emissions when applying for a permit.
2. SLOW-MOVING CHATTOOGA
American Whitewater has learned it will be another six months before the Sumter National Forest releases its new management plan, which will address the boating ban on the upper Chattooga River. In 2004, American Whitewater appealed the ban, which makes it illegal to boat the upper 21 miles of the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River. The U.S. Forest Service agreed with American Whitewater that the ban was in violation of the Wilderness Act and the Wild and Scenic River Act, and ordered the Sumter National Forest to come up with a new management plan. More than three years later, Sumter National Forest hasn’t released a management plan and the boating ban is still in effect. Sumter National Forest has been given a new deadline of December 31, 2008. Between now and then, they will release their environmental assessment and accept public comments before releasing their new management plan and a final decision on the boating ban.
3. RELAY FOR CLEAN AIR
Cyclists, runners, and walkers will participate in a 100-mile relay from Great Smoky Mountains National Park to downtown Asheville, N.C. on August 23 to promote clean air in the mountains. This year’s relay specifically targets the Cliffside coal-fired power plant being constructed in violation of federal air quality standards. The relay travels the Blue Ridge Parkway, where views are choked by air pollution during summer months. To participate in the relay, visit canarycoalition.org.
4. A WIN FOR WETLANDS
A federal court ruled against a potential tree harvest in south Georgia and set a new precedent for national wetlands protection. A private landowner wanted to clearcut a 60-acre spread of cypress, blackgum, and water tupelo trees on Cypress Lake near Statesboro. The intent was to open up lake access for homeowners and turn the trees into mulch. Two years ago the logging project was given the green light by the Army Corps of Engineers under the qualification of tree farming—a way to get around the rules of the Clean Water Act. The Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeeper filed suit against the Corps, and in June, a federal judge ruled that the one-time cutting would not constitute a tree farming operation, a decision that will make it harder for other operations trying to maneuver around the Clean Water Act.
5. FAST FOOD GOES ORGANIC
As more people get wise to what they put in their bodies, fast food offerings are starting to change. According to the National Restaurant Association 76 percent of adults are seeking healthier options in restaurants. In response to the trend, the D.C. area will soon get four Organic to Go locations. The fast food chain, which offers grab-and-go sandwiches and salads made from organic ingredients, has other outposts in Seattle, its home base, as well as throughout California, but this is their first venture to the East Coast.
6. CHENEY SLAMS WEST VIRGINIA
This time it wasn’t an accidental hunting shot to the face, but it was certainly a slap in the face to all West Virginians. At an awards dinner in June, Vice President Dick Cheney made an incest joke at the expense of Mountain State residents. Cheney has been researching his family history for his wife’s upcoming memoir, and he learned that his last name can be found on both his mother’s and father’s side of the family. When asked about this he said, “So I had Cheneys on both sides of the family and we don’t even live in West Virginia.” The comment upset longstanding Senator Robert Byrd, who responded, “Now that he or the Administration he represents no longer needs their vote, Mr. Cheney apparently feels that he is now free to mock and belittle the people of West Virginia.” Cheney has since apologized through a spokesperson.
7. OYSTER CRUNCH
Since 1994, the government has spent $58 million trying to revive the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay. But according to a report in The Washington Post, the bivalve restoration effort has been a failure, as there are currently fewer oysters in the Bay today than there were 14 years ago. The decline has been blamed on heavy harvesting and disease, as well as sediment and runoff from farm fields and suburban lawns choking what oysters are left.
8. CARVINS COVE CONSERVATION
The city of Roanoke made history when it donated 6,185 acres of Carvins Cove Natural Reserve to the Western Virginia Land Trust and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. The easement is being touted as the largest in the history of the Commonwealth. It is also the first time a city in Virginia has opted to permanently protect its major source of drinking water with a conservation easement. In addition to the water source, the conservation easement also protected miles of Appalachian Trail viewshed and a recreation area revered by hikers and mountain bikers.
9. PLUNDERING THE SOUTH ATLANTIC?
A moratorium currently prevents oil drilling off the Atlantic Coast, but President Bush recently lifted the executive portion of the ban. Congress would still have to authorize lifting the moratorium. Meanwhile, North Carolina Representative Sue Myrick (R) introduced the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act of 2008, which hopes to give states authority to allow drilling within 100 miles of their coast. A similar bill made it through the House in 2006 but was shot down in the Senate. Despite the rhetoric surrounding the proposal, analysts say that oil recovered from the South Atlantic would not significantly reduce gas prices or make an appreciable dent in our dependence on foreign oil. However, it would have drastic consequences for the region’s coastal tourism and sensitive coastal environment.