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10 Environmental Victories of 2012

For me, the holidays are a time to reflect on what we’ve achieved over the past year and look ahead to the challenges and possibilities the New Year holds in store. 2012 was a quite a year. Besides the obvious big story – the reelection of President Obama – here’s a list of my ten favorite stories of the year.

1. Coal Plant Retirements
The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign won scores of victories that will save lives, clean our air and water, and help solve the climate crisis. From the start of 2010 until now, we have helped seal the retirement of 126 coal plants, accounting for tens of thousands of megawatts of dirty energy that pollutes communities. Coal provided just 37 percent of our power this year, down from 50 percent just a few short years ago. In contrast, wind energy hit a historic milestone of 50,000 megawatts.

2. New Coal Protections
Despite the best attempts by coal lobbyists, the Environmental Protection Agency delivered the country’s first safeguards on mercury pollution and carbon limits for new power plants. Sierra Club supporters turned out in force at numerous public hearings and submitted over two million comments in support of these life-saving new standards.

3. I Love L.A.
The country’s second-largest city this past spring approved a 150 megawatt solar cash-back (a.k.a. “feed-in tariff”) program. The program will create an estimated 4,500 jobs, spur $500 million in economic development, and provide clean power for 34,000 homes. The city wrapped up the year by announcing a deal with Nevada’s Moapa Band of Paiutes to power 105,000 Los Angeles homes with solar.

4. Pacific Northwest
From Seattle to Spokane and Portland to Bellingham, tens of thousands of Pacific Northwesterners have appeared at public hearings and written decision-makers, opposing proposals to build a series of coal export terminals on the coast, transport the coal through Pacific Northwest communities in open train cars, and ship hundreds of millions of tons of coal per year to Asia. Working with the Power Past Coal coalition, business owners, health advocates, faith leaders, mayors, and families from all backgrounds, the Sierra Club has mobilized to defeat this crazy idea.

5. New CAFE Standards
In August, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced final fuel efficiency and climate standards for cars sold between 2017 and 2025 that would decrease greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 10 percent of today’s levels by 2030. It will save millions of barrels of oil every day. It was the single biggest action taken by any presidential administration to combat the climate crisis.
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