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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.

Last year, the U.S. government started taking environmental protection seriously again, but as 2010 dawns, we continue to see political and economic interests preventing or stalling critical environmental solutions.

In the face of this opposition, this year Earthjustice is targeting key issues with our legal and advocacy work. Our focus is on three core priorities: building a clean energy future, protecting our natural heritage, and safeguarding our health.

Proponents of an 895-megawatt coal-fired power plant expansion project in Holcomb, Kansas have resubmitted an application for an air permit. The first application was rejected by the state environmental agency in 2007 due to concerns over air and global warming pollution. This was the first coal plant air permit rejected on those grounds in the United States.

The tension has been building since the date was set last November. Ever since it was announced, skeptics clamored, "There's no way this is actually going to take place. Someone is going to back down." But they underestimated the raw emotion and high-voltage electricty surrounding this epic event.

I'm not talking about the next big boxing match, I'm talking about Thursday's (Jan. 21) debate between environmentalist Bobby Kennedy Jr. and Massey Coal Company chief Don Blankenship!

Updating a story from a few weeks ago, proposals for big new transmission lines that would bring coal plant energy from the Appalachia to the Eastern Seaboard are not standing up well when put under the microscope.

The largest of these projects, the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH), was recently put on ice when the proponents (two coal companies) were challenged to prove they were actually needed.

A few weeks ago Earthjustice filed a motion to intervene in a case in which the Medical Waste Institute and the Energy Recovery Council is challenging a toxic air pollution rule set forth by the EPA. The EPA has not always acted with the interest of public health and protecting the environment. But in many instances—including this one—they have. So we are joining the challenge to keep this rule intact.

The rule reduces emissions of mercury, dioxins, lead and other dangerous pollutants from medical waste incinerators by 393,000 pounds per year. Additionally, the rule mandates:

• A significant reduction in the amount of mercury that may be released from incinerators
• Enhanced testing of small, rural, medical waste incinerators, resulting in better enforcement in rural communities
• Significant reductions in dioxins, lead and other major pollutants, all of which will bring increased health benefits to communities hosting medical waste incinerators

These rules on toxic air pollution will save lives. So it's of utmost importance that this rule remain on the books.
 

Last November I blogged (blog isn't even a word and now it's a verb?) about the treadmill that Roundup and other agricultural chemicals represent. That is, no matter how slick your latest miracle chemical fix, nature will find a way around it, will evolve, in this case, better weeds to fend off the effects of the new poison.

Now a new study (heavy going unless you're a chemist), ironically funded by Monsanto itself, has confirmed the earlier findings. The Organic Center has translated the findings into English. It all seems to come down to the lesson that it's better to consider nature our friend and find ways to work cooperatively rather than think of nature as the enemy and find better ways to do battle.

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About the Earthjustice 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.