Earthjustice news clips for the week of September 12, 2011
Photo courtesy of laffy4k
Associated Press – “Arctic Sea Ice Shrinks to Second Lowest Level”
Sept. 15, 2011 – Last week, scientists reported that Arctic sea ice melted to its second-lowest level since monitoring began more than 50 years ago. Earthjustice’s recent telepress conference on the issue brought together top scientists and NGOs to discuss the sea ice loss, ways that the loss of sea ice might relate to mid-latitude weather patterns, what the Arctic warming means for Greenland melt and rising sea levels, and the role that CO2 emissions and short-lived global warming pollutants like black carbon and methane play in causing ice melt; and where reductions of these pollutants can be made. Approximately 25 journalists called into the conference to hear such experts as Dr. Robert Dunbar, professor of Earth Sciences at Stanford University’s Center for Ocean Solutions; James Overland, research oceanographer with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and Dr. Walter Meier, Research Scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Earthjustice attorney Erika Rosenthal says the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice “is a powerful indicator of the rapid warming occurring throughout the Arctic….[which is] causing the extraordinary increase in the melting of glaciers and the Greenland Ice Sheet that led scientists earlier this year to project a sea level rise of between 0.9 and 1.6 meters by the end of the century. For low-lying communities from the Pacific Islands to Bangladesh to Florida this would be calamitous.” The news story has been picked up by the Associated Press and USA Today, and continues to make headlines in several national and local publications, including NPR and the Vancouver Sun.
Related Earthjustice Resources
Press Release: Second Highest Loss of Arctic Ice on Record
UnEarthed: Arctic Ice Melt Second Highest in Recorded History
Rolling Stone – “Environment: Ten Things Obama Must Do”
Sept. 14, 2011 – President Obama’s efforts to slow climate change may be hampered by congressional pushback, but there are still several actions he can take alone to cut carbon emissions and heal the planet. The latest issue of Rolling Stone highlights ten of these actions in its September issue. One of them involves making the coal industry clean up its mess by allowing the U.S. EPA to regulate coal ash – a byproduct of burning coal. Each year U.S. coal plants generate nearly 140 million tons of coal ash, a toxic sludge laced with arsenic, mercury and other chemicals. In 2008, this largely unregulated waste made headlines after a billion gallon coal ash spill near Kensington, Tennessee, sent sludge into a nearby river, destroyed homes, killed wildlife, and contaminated the soil and water. Three years later, coal ash is still largely unregulated, a fact that Obama could change by treating coal ash as hazardous waste and subjecting it to stricter standards.
Lisa Evans, a senior attorney at Earthjustice who has been involved in the fight over coal ash for more than a decade, told Rolling Stone, "Obama needs to tackle this issue head-on. Allowing the proposal to languish is harming communities where the ash is disposed, and it is harming the coal-ash recycling industry, which needs regulatory certainty about how this material will be handled in the future."
Related Earthjustice Resources:
UnEarthed Blog: Tr-Ash Talk
State of Failure: How States Fail to Protect Our Health and Drinking Water from Toxic Coal Ash
Campaign: Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives
St. Petersburg Times – “Protect Florida’s Waters, Not Polluters”
Sept. 14, 2011 – Toxic algae outbreaks continue to slime Florida’s waterways, with Old Tampa Bay and Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers as its latest victims. The algae outbreaks, caused by nitrogen and phosphorus loads from inadequately treated sewage, fertilizer and manure, can cause rashes, respiratory problems and even death. So far, the toxic algae has caused giant fish kills and several people to become sick, including U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla), who became “deathly sick” after swimming in a lake contaminated by toxic algae. Despite these health concerns, state regulators are considering regulations that are inadequate to protect public health.
Earthjustice attorney David Guest, who wrote the Times op-ed, had this to say about the Florida water issue: “It is critical that our state regulators protect the public, not the polluters. Tourism, fishing and boating are our economic lifeblood in Florida. When visitors come here and see dead fish and ‘No Swimming’ signs, they won't come back, and that affects our state budget and our jobs.”
Related Earthjustice Resources:
Water Warrior: An Interview with David Guest
Campaign: Clean Water for Florida
Associated Press – “Gas Pipeline Firm in Pa. Pulls Utility Application”
Sept. 13, 2011 – Laser Northeast Gathering Company recently announced that it will no longer seek public utility status for its 30-mile natural gas pipeline project, which will stretch from Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania to the Millennium Pipeline in New York. The Laser pipeline is just one of many pipelines being built in Pennsylvania in response to the Marcellus Shale gas drilling boom. Public utility status would have granted Laser the power to take private property without an owner's approval, but it also would have exposed the company to safety standards designed to protect health, safety and the environment.
Earthjustice attorney Megan Klein, who represented a concerned landowner in challenging the Laser application, said she wants Pennsylvania to take a holistic look at the pipelines, hoping that the commission and other state agencies see the Laser case as an opportunity to get involved in safety and environmental standards and inspections. She also noted that state standards could have prevented accidents like drilling mud spillages into a pristine stream in Susquehanna County had the pipeline been regulated.
Related Earthjustice Resources:
Press Release: PA Gas Pipeline Decision Reversed, Project Heads Back for More Hearings, Study
Case Description: Gas Pipeline Company’s Certificate of Public Convenience Challenged