While Big Carbon is tying Congress in knots (with announcements from coal advocates that even the modest goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions to one percent below 1990 levels by 2020 are too ambitious, and that they will try to water down this goal on the House floor), the Obama administration -- and the rest of America -- continue to move.
Just this morning, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that only he, as Secretary, could approve any U.S. Forest Service projects that might be inconsistent with the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. While the job of placing a firm legal foundation underneath the wild-forest protections that the Clinton administration first promulgated in 2001 remains incomplete, Vilsack's order makes it clear that the Obama administration doesn't intend to let business as usual at the Forest Service threaten our remaining pristine public forests.
In announcing Sonia Sotomayor this week as his first Supreme Court Justice nominee, President Obama chose a judge with -- almost certainly -- the best environmental credentials of anyone nominated to the Supreme Court in the modern environmental era. (William O. Douglas being the strongest environmental voice on the Supreme Court in history.) Sotomayor, as a Second Circuit Judge, wrote a decision, later overturned by the Supreme Court, that the EPA was not permitted to use "cost-benefit" calculations to grant public utilities the right to continue to postpone installing equipment that would protect fisheries from power plant cooling-system intakes.
A few weeks ago, the Obama administration revoked Bush administration rules that cut government wildlife biologists out of the process of reviewing federal projects for their impact on endangered species.
And this month, the Administration has been going to the American people and asking them a simple question: "Should the EPA start cleaning up carbon dioxide pollution because it endangers our environment?" And in hearings in Seattle and Arlington, Va, the public response was an overwhelming "Yes, do it now!"
And this public demand for action on a green-energy recovery and a clean-energy future is not just showing up around Obama-administration initiatives. Idaho Power and Light just held its shareholder meeting, and 52 percent of the shareholders voted in favor of a resolution sponsored by As You Sow, an environmental shareholder action organization. The resolution called for the establishment of greenhouse-gas reduction goals and was the highest vote total ever for any shareholder resolution on climate change.
So Congress may still be bogged down in the fossil-fuel politics of the past -- but America is moving.