LEASE ON EARTH, GOODWILL TOWARD (OIL) MEN: Fifty-eight members of Congress have joined throngs of environmentalists in expressing outrage at the Bush administration's leasing of 148,000 acres of pristine Utah canyon lands to oil and gas prospectors last week. In a letter to President-elect Obama, the U.S. reps requested a post-Bush reversal, something that still rests with the courts; a federal judge has until Jan. 19 to decide whether to allow the lease sales to go through. (Source: ProPublica

ANTI-CLIMATIC: It's that time of year again: The same people who scoff at scientific connections between heat waves, hurricanes and global warming are energetically musing that this week's heavy snowfall proves global warming isn't happening. (Never mind last week's news that La Niña is cooling down 2008 — which is still between the seventh and 12th hottest year since 1880). Rather than breaking out the text books again, GOOD magazine offers a pithy, everyman's breakdown of why global warming climate change is bad. (Sources: National Geographic, The Washington Post, AP, The Boston Globe, National Review, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, The Baltimore Examiner, The New York Times, GOOD)

PIECES OF FLARE: The EPA has backed off its attempt to regulate new oil refineries' "flaring" — burning waste gases when starting or shutting down production — after facing pressure from industry lobbyists who complained the rule would be too expensive for oil companies such as Exxon Mobil. (Source: Bloomberg News)

MANAGED CAIR: The Clean Air Interstate Rule that a U.S. appeals court shuttered this summer is back in effect today, due to a ruling one environmentalist called a "holiday gift to breathers." The court shut down CAIR, which regulates interstate sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions, after ruling in July that the EPA had overstepped its authority, but was persuaded to leave the rule in effect until the Obama administration can concoct a compromise. (Source: Reuters)

PIANO LESSON: Architect Renzo Piano, who recently designed the greenovated California Academy of Sciences, shares his environmental philosophies with the Associated Press today. (Source: AP)

A TALE OF TWO ECO-CITIES: The Christian Science Monitor reports today of an eco-city's downfall in China, a country not normally known for being environmentally proactive. Dongtan, across the Yangtze River from Shanghai, was to be the sustainable, carbon-free home for 50,000 residents. But the new city's prospects seem to have crashed along with the career of Shanghai Mayor Chen Liangyu, who was involved in the project but was arrested on property-related fraud charges in 2006. In slightly happier eco-city news, TIME magazine reports from Kuzumaki, Japan, essentially the model for human sustainability. It generates 161 percent of its energy from renewable sources — montane windmills, cow dung, solar panels, wood chips — and thus has the luxury of selling some to neighbors. But falling oil prices and a declining population may increasingly obscure some of the city's luster. (Sources: CS Monitor, TIME

Russell McLendon

Last Call: 12/23
Early Christmas gifts: blizzards for global-warming skeptics, public lands and gas flares for oilmen, clean air for breathers, and a lump of coal for China.