THE BLOG
02/27/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

What a Week for the Environment!

I spent inaugural week in DC, but the most interesting stuff happened after I left. Less than a week into the new administration, we can already see the Bush legacy unraveling. President Obama has restored the integrity of the Freedom of Information Act and is bringing the cleansing disinfectant of sunlight to Dick Cheney's Augean stables. And the global gag rule that crippled family planning assistance and increased abortions around the world has been canceled.

When the House marked up the economic recovery package, the critical changes needed to ensure that wind and solar entrepreneurs could make use of the tax credits even in today's tight credit markets were adopted with support from the new administration -- and with pressure from oilman-turned-renewable-energy-advocate T. Boone Pickens, who mobilized his 1.5 million-person army on behalf of the tax credits.

And in its first response after being freed from the lawlessness of the previous administration, the EPA broke eight years of Bush precedent and opposed a coal-fired power plant permit -- this one for the Big Stone II project in South Dakota. As Sierra Club "Beyond Coal" campaign director Bruce Nilles put it, "This is a new day."

Then on Saturday, in his remarks to the nation, the President himself laid out more exciting details on his economic recovery package:

"To accelerate the creation of a clean energy economy, we will double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy like wind, solar, and biofuels over the next three years. We'll begin to build a new electricity grid that lay down more than 3,000 miles of transmission lines to convey this new energy from coast to coast. We'll save taxpayers $2 billion a year by making 75% of federal buildings more energy efficient, and save the average working family $350 on their energy bills by weatherizing 2.5 million homes."

Finally, over the weekend, the news broke that President Obama will grant California and the 13 other states that have completed the process of adopting California's clean car standards the right to implement them. Another five states are well along into the process, so this means that soon 18 states will have gone ahead of Congress. And Obama has also announced that he will complete the process of setting federal standards that are very likely to be better than what Congress mandated as a minimum.

The California waiver was one of the four ingredients in the Sierra Club's "Clean Slate" package of the most important administrative actions the new President could take to break with the Bush administration. The other three -- regulations on coal-fired power plants, tough interim goals for a climate plan, and an end to lawless dumping of coal-mining waste in rivers and streams -- are still to be done, but let's thank the President for the first step and keep on urging the next three (action.sierraclub.org/cleanslate).

And just think -- we've got 1,450 more days to work with -- this is just the beginning.

I'm taking three weeks of vacation in a few days -- so you'll hear only occasionally from me -- but I'm leaving with a good feeling about the start we're off to and the change that's underway.