SHE BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE: Lisa Jackson, Obama's pick to head the EPA, said at her confirmation hearing today that she would awaken the agency "from a deep and nightmarish sleep," and would make science its backbone once again. Critics have long complained that the Bush administration altered and silenced EPA scientists for political purposes. Jackson — a 15-year career EPA employee with chemical engineering degrees from Tulane and Princeton — told the senators she would run the agency with transparency and openness. (Sources: The New York Times, ABC News)

ASH AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE: Following the recent coal-ash spills that contaminated waterways in Tennessee and Alabama, there were signs today that calls to regulate the hundreds of similar ponds across the country could soon be answered. Lisa Jackson told her Senate confirmation panel that the Obama administration will immediately begin assessing the ponds, adding that the EPA will consider regulation — something Sen. Barbara Boxer has been calling for. And in the other chamber of Congress, West Virginia Rep. Nick Rahall introduced a bill that would direct the Interior Department to set the first-ever federal standards for such ponds. (Sources: The Huffington Post, The New York TimesThe Associated Press, The Knoxville News SentinelAP)

HARD OF HEARING: The confirmation hearing for Ray LaHood, tapped by Obama to head the U.S. Department of Transportation, was postponed today so senators could gather more background paperwork on him. The seven-term Illinois congressman reportedly has close ties to a Republican who was indicted in the Blagojevich scandal, and was also a big fan of earmarks last year. The committee may be scrutinizing LaHood more closely in light of the troubles of two other Obama appointees. In smoother cabinetry news, USDA secretary-designate Tom Vilsack sailed through his confirmation hearing. (Sources: The Washington Post, MSNBC, NY Times, The Miami Herald


PALIN AND WHALIN': The state of Alaska announced today it will sue to stop the federal government from listing beluga whales as a threatened species. Gov. Sarah Palin has previously explained that she's worried protecting the whales under the Endangered Species Act could hurt development projects in Alaska. (Source: AP)

GRAY AREA: The Bush administration will remove gray wolves from the federal endangered species list in the western Great Lakes and northern Rockies, the Interior Department announced today. But wolves in Wyoming will remain under federal jurisdiction because that state hasn't done enough to ensure their survival, the DOI said. (Source: AP)

SNOW JOKE: More than 600 million years ago, extreme global warming may have rescued the Earth from a planet-wide freeze, according to a Louisiana State University study. By examining oxygen trapped in ancient Arctic rocks, the scientists found evidence of atmospheric CO2 300 to 1,000 times higher than current levels. The Knight Science Journalism Tracker points out that the climate-change-skeptical Daily Telegraph fumbles the story, writing that the high levels of CO2 caused the "snowball Earth" effect. The U.K.'s Natural Environment Research Council criticizes the Telegraph story in a blog post. And while today's -40 degree temperatures may have felt like a snowball Earth, the planet should look something like this before global warming is a good thing. (Sources: National Geographic, Knight Science Journalism TrackerThe Daily TelegraphNERC)

Russell McLendon

Russell McLendon ( @russmclendon ) writes about humans and other wildlife.