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Molly Woodward's blog

Some top stories from the past week at Earthjustice…

One result of burning coal is lots and lots of toxic coal ash. It's stored in hundreds of ponds across the U.S., and it can flood and devastate entire communities. Yesterday, Earthjustice joined more than 100 environmental groups in a Day of Action, urging the White House to finally call coal ash what it is: hazardous waste.

A heated debate over mountaintop removal coal mining last week drew huge crowds. The competitors: Don Blankenship, CEO of coal giant Massey Energy, and Waterkeeper founder Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. The reporter: Earthjustice Campaigns Director, Jared Saylor. The victor: Decide for yourself!

The same Massey Energy is one of several industry groups asking a federal appeals court to review (aka do away with) the EPA Clean Air Act endangerment finding. In defense of the finding, 16 states and New York City filed a motion last week to intervene in the case.

Glacier National Park is nearly 100 years old, and Monday Reads introduces us to a truly incredible photography project in celebration of its centennial birthday. Right next door on the U.S.-Canadian border lives the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, now threatened by mining plans in the nearby Flathead Valley. But there was hopeful news last week: Earthjustice encouraged an investigation that has resulted in a recommendation of a moratorium on mining and a conservation plan for this essential region.

Some top stories from the past week at Earthjustice…

It’s a rainy week here in Oakland, as a storm system bestows California with some much-needed H2O. Our short supply of water has meant trouble for salmon. A new video by Salmon Water Now illuminates startling alliances between big agribusiness and the political interests controlling water and the fate of salmon in the San Francisco Bay Delta.

A wholly different marine creature in peril will get some help at last. The NMFS announced it will take measures to protect false killer whales from the commercial longline fishing industry, following years of Earthjustice litigation. Rarely seen by humans, false killer whales are close relations of dolphins.

Mercury pollution is a big problem for aquatic life (and people who eat fish), and a lot of it comes from medical waste incinerators. In September, the EPA set groundbreaking rules that significantly reduce air pollution from this source, but now these rules are being challenged in court. Earthjustice has intervened in the lawsuit.

And, the toxic green slime clogging Florida’s waterways might finally loosen its hold, thanks to a historic first step by the EPA to limit fertilizer, animal waste and sewage pollution in the state. While the proposed limits aren’t as stringent as they could be, they’re a big improvement.

Some top stories from the last week at Earthjustice...

Sen. Lisa Murkowski seems determined to undermine the Clean Air Act, and has enlisted industry lobbyists in her quest. Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen discussed why it's critical to take action now to protect this important environmental law.

The days of rampant, indiscriminant oil and gas drilling on public lands are over, according to an announcement from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The BLM will develop and extend the environmental review processes for public lands drilling plans, something Earthjustice attorneys have advocated for years. 

The DOE just released new efficiency standards for Laundromat washing machines, but unfortunately they won't do enough to weed the least efficient from the market. Next time you take a trip to the Laundromat, try to find a front-loading machine, as these tend to waste less water and energy than top-loaders.

If you haven't heard much about the rare Pacific fisher, it might be its rarity after centuries of fur-trapping and logging in the Pacific northwest. Now, an Earthjustice lawsuit has helped make sure it's still eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Find out more about this mighty porcupine hunter in Monday Reads.

Some top stories from the last two weeks at Earthjustice...

A full blue moon brought us into this new year and decade.  

Perhaps a new year will mean new policy for mountaintop removal mining. Thus far, the Obama Administration has continued to allow companies to destroy mountains, streams, and communities. Could a new article in Science help change its position?

 Many still wonder what exactly happened at the Copenhagen climate conference. Attorneys Martin Wagner and Erika Rosenthal reviewed what went down, the role Earthjustice played in the negotiations, and the way forward for climate progress.

The way forward for the PATH (Potomac-Appalachia Transmission Highline) project was successfully blocked with help from Earthjustice. Turns out the massive Big Coal transmission line simply isn’t needed to the degree its proponents claimed.

 America’s largest temperate rainforest, the majestic Tongass of Alaska, is a resource we do need. Earthjustice filed a lawsuit last week to protect the National Forest under the Roadless Rule. The Bush Administration “temporarily” exempted it back in 2006.

 Dec. 22 marked one year since the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Power Plant flooded 300 acres of shoreline, and more than 25 homes, with toxic coal ash.

 Reflecting on the changing environmental movement, Patti Goldman reviewed some of Earthjustice’s efforts over the past year to help people most impacted by environmental degradation.

Some top stories from the last week at Earthjustice...

The Copenhagen conference started off with a bang of optimism when the EPA announced that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health. The cooperative spirit quickly fizzled after a draft agreement surfaced that apparently favors the interests of the U.S. and other wealthy nations. There’s more news by the hour: Be sure to check out our daily reports from Copenhagen, and analysis by two attending Earthjustice attorneys, Erika Rosenthal and Martin Wagner.

All the buzz from the conference nearly drowned out a disturbing, and related, piece of news: Shell Oil was granted conditional approval to drill exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea. Earthjustice attorney Erik Grafe warned that the approvals outpace the science of what we know about Arctic waters.

On the same day that the EPA released its endangerment finding, Earthjustice challenged the agency on a toxin polluting the air in Appalachia, to the point where kids can’t play outside. It’s coal dust, and we think the coal plants that produce it should do something about it. 

Farm workers and their families will get some long-awaited help to deal with toxic pesticides poisoning the air around their homes and schools, thanks to a new EPA policy. Going forward, the EPA will assess the health risks posed by pesticide drift with the same standards by which pesticides in food are assessed. 

And finally, this week Earthjustice saved taxpayers $1.5 million!—and 4.3 million board-feet of old-growth forest in the Tongass to boot. This also means we kept a little C02 out of the atmosphere. Indeed, one of the least controversial ideas out of Copenhagen is also one of the simplest: don’t cut down trees.

Some top stories from the last two weeks at Earthjustice...

The Copenhagen Climate Conference begins next week. President Obama will lead the U.S. delegation, and in anticipation of the conference, the Dalai Lama spoke about the need for governments to put global priorities first.

Studies on the effects of global warming abound; few offer good news. Polar ice is thinner than previously thought, and polar bears are struggling more than ever to survive—only one of many species seriously threatened by climate change. 

Our addiction to coal-fired power is at the heart of global warming. And as we know, coal plants are responsible for much more destruction. Almost a year ago, 500 million gallons of toxic coal ash flooded 300 acres along Tennessee’s Emory River. Now, despite this disaster, some companies are claiming that the location and contents of their toxic coal ash ponds should be left a mystery. Earthjustice disagrees.

Other mysteries, however, are quite welcome—like lonely stones sailing quietly across the desert.

As the Copenhagen conference approaches, our instinct may be to let politicians resolve the planet’s fate. But we’re also realizing more and more that we can’t just rely on politicians. Each of us needs to cut our individual energy usage. Dramatically. Now.

I’m the first to say that cutting down on the pleasures and convenience of heat and electricity is hard. It’s too easy to put off my goals for another day, or to console myself about the ways I do conserve. What will it take to get us all really saving?

Some top stories from the week at Earthjustice…

Florida got some great news: A historic settlement on November 16 prompted the EPA to set limits for the widespread nutrient poisoning in Florida's waters, which triggers harmful algae blooms and threatens public health. This breakthrough decision could have implications for waterways nationwide.

The all-important Clean Air Act turned 19 on November 15. Hurray for breathing!

Alas, it didn't get a present from Mountain Coal. This Colorado company has long claimed that putting its methane emissions on the market would help save the atmosphere while bringing in extra cash. But last week it said "no thanks" when finally given that option. Why? The company makes some pretty questionable assumptions.

More light was shed on the coal industry by a powerful new film, which had its television premiere. Coal Country chronicles the destruction of mountaintop removal mining through the voices of activists, politicians, and coalfield residents in Appalachia.

A new report found that genetically engineered crops and pesticides go hand in hand. Compared to pesticide use in the absence of GE crops, farmers applied 318 million more pounds of pesticides over the last 13 years as a result of planting GE seeds.