unEARTHED, the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.

ABOUT EARTHJUSTICE'S BLOG

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

Learn more about Earthjustice.

View Sarah Burt's blog posts
24 September 2013, 10:16 AM
Judge rejects state's attempt to weaken air pollution controls
A cruiseship sails through Tracy Arm Fjord near Juneau, AK. (iStockphoto)

In a victory for cleaner air, a federal judge in Alaska threw out a lawsuit last week that the state of Alaska filed against the State Department and the EPA in an attempt to prevent the operation of new regulations to control pollution from ships.

Many communities along our coasts fail to meet federal air quality standards for sulfur oxides and particulate matter—pollutants that cause cardiovascular disease and lung cancer and are the leading cause of asthma in young children. Major contributors to this pollution are the large ocean-going ships that travel our nation’s waters and enter our ports, yet local governments are powerless to control this international source of pollution.

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View Jessica Lawrence's blog posts
23 September 2013, 3:18 PM
Recommendations from UN human rights expert
James Anaya is the United Nation's Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. (UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)

A longstanding goal of Earthjustice and the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) has been to sound alarms at the United Nations, in national courtrooms and in international fora such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights about environmental and human rights violations associated with mines and dams. Indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of such extractive and energy industries in their territories.

Last April, Earthjustice and AIDA provided evidence of these harms, as well as recommendations about how to avoid them, to U.N. indigenous rights expert James Anaya, who recently issued a report on extractive and energy industries and indigenous peoples.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
18 September 2013, 11:51 AM
EPA and DOE officials point to science as House officials stay in denial
The Capitol Building, observer of many a false debate. (Architect of the Capitol)

They say denial is not just a river in Egypt. Such is true for many House leaders at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee today on the Obama administration’s climate change agenda. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz had to endure the political grandstanding of the House's climate deniers, most of whom have accepted huge political donations from the oil and gas industry.

Here is how EPA Administrator McCarthy opened up her testimony:

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Based on the evidence, more than 97 percent of climate scientists are convinced that human caused climate change is occurring. If our changing climate goes unchecked, it will have devastating impacts on the United States and the planet. Reducing carbon pollution is critically important to the protection of Americans’ health and the environment upon which our economy depends.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
18 September 2013, 11:29 AM
Cleaner air starts with a button and ends with stronger pollution laws
Photo courtesy of epSos.de (Flickr)

Tired of breathing dirty air during your daily commute? Just turn on your car vent’s recirculation button, advises researchers from the University of Southern California. Their study found that pushing this little-used button—which typically shows an arrow with a car around it—can cut pollution levels by 80 percent as compared to pollution levels found out on the road.
 

View Adrian Martinez's blog posts
17 September 2013, 10:55 AM
Reports says 40% of state residents live near high-travel roads

A paper published last night in the Journal of Transportation Research Part D: Transport and the Environment identifies how many people are impacted by highway pollution in the United States. The paper finds that 19.3 percent of the U.S. population lives within 500 meters of a high volume road.

The findings are important for public health because regulators have been slow to remedy the ample scientific evidence demonstrating high levels of air pollutants near major roadways.

The research is all the more important in a place like California where the study found that 40 percent of the state’s population lives near high volume roads—the biggest percentage of any state. Yet, air regulators in California have been slow to take initial steps to place air monitors near heavily trafficked roadways.

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View David Guest's blog posts
17 September 2013, 9:45 AM
Toxic algae, caused by runoff, spreads widely into communities
Toxic algae outbreak at St. Johns River four years ago—the situation has not improved. (Florida Water Coalition)

This fall, as fluorescent green toxic algae continues to break out in front of pricey waterfront homes along South Florida’s Treasure Coast (north of Palm Beach), and around the southwest tourist meccas of Sanibel and Captiva Islands, there’s an explosion of citizen protest and lot of talk about moving the polluted water somewhere else, please.

What we need to talk about is cleaning the water up, not just moving it around. Our government has the power to do this, but instead, all that leaders suggest is more engineering to move the polluted swill from one place to another. It’s wrong-headed, and it needs to stop. They need to hold polluters accountable.

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View Kari Birdseye's blog posts
12 September 2013, 4:17 PM
$1.1 million fine for polluting the Arctic air
The climate impacts of drilling in the Arctic are enormous. (Florian Schulz / visionsofthewild.com)

The Environmental Protection Agency slapped Shell with a substantial $1.1 million fine for polluting the pristine air of the Arctic while exploring for oil during 2012.

That’s when Shell could NOT stay out of the news, making headlines with its drill ship breaking towing lines and slamming into rocky beaches. That’s when their oil containment/spill response equipment was “crushed like a beer can” according to officials, during testing before heading to the Arctic. That season was filled with mishap after mishap and it turns out that they weren’t just hurting their own reputation. They were fouling the air and risking damage to America’s Arctic.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
11 September 2013, 12:19 PM
High above this great nation, you can see the struggles we face
An airplane passes over Desolation Canyon, UT. (Ecoflight)

“If you want to see the places we’ve helped protect, ask for a window seat.”

So reads my favorite Earthjustice message, decorating airports across the country. It’s true: 35,000 feet is a great vantage to see the forests, mountains and river canyons that are intact, unroaded and resilient thanks to our legal work with many allies.

But on a recent flight, I also saw a different, far more disturbing picture: the ravages of fossil fuel extraction and burning. I took off from San Francisco bound for D.C. As we climbed over California, one of my favorite sights, the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains, was obscured by thick smoke—the result of massive fires brought on by drought and rising temperatures, increasingly common as fossil-fueled global warming settles in.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
11 September 2013, 11:52 AM
Power plants dump pollution into our water, but that could soon change
Patricia Schuba of Missouri. (Matt Roth)

Earlier this summer, I was talking to a colleague and friend in Missouri, Patricia Schuba. She lives only a few miles from the Show Me State’s biggest coal-fired power plant, Ameren Corporation’s Labadie Power Station.

She was preparing to come to Washington to testify before the EPA on a proposal to clean up toxic water pollution from power plants. But before she got on the plane, she had a meeting to attend in St. Louis where Ameren was proposing to build another 1,100-acre coal ash pond directly in the floodplain of the Missouri River.

“It never ends here in Missouri,” she said. “If they try and build another coal ash dump, we’re going to fight back. That’s something they don’t seem to understand. We’re never going to give up.”

Nearly 50,000 of you aren’t giving up either.

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View Chrissy Pepino's blog posts
10 September 2013, 4:14 PM
Haze from coal-fired power plants obscures our greatest national treasures
How much of Yosemite Valley will you be able to see on your next visit? (Chrissy Pepino / Earthjustice)

Drops of sunscreen-infused sweat sting your eyes as you climb towards the summit; a small price to pay for the panoramic views that lie ahead.

But after finally conquering every switchback, your view of far-stretching vistas is obscured, not by sweat, but by haze created by coal-fired power plants – a polluting problem that afflicts many of America’s 400 national parks.

Each year these parks attract more than 275 million visitors who, like you, expect awesome visual experiences, whether standing cliff-side at Angels Landing in Zion National Park, conquering the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, or gaping from the valley floor in Yosemite at Half Dome.

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