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 Bill Walker's blog posts
24 July 2009, 10:18 AM
Save the planet and billions of dollars with efficient appliances

Would you like to help the United States cut 158 million tons of global warming pollution a year? Thought so.

How about saving Americans $123 billion over the next 20 years?

Right again.

What if you could do both at the same time?

That's how much pollution we could cut and money we could save by adopting strong new national energy efficiency standards for common household and commercial appliances.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
23 July 2009, 10:51 AM
EPA says it will consider impact of Bush rule on low-income communities

Twenty-one citizens and experts testified June 30 at an Environmental Protection Agency public hearing about the impacts of living near hazardous waste sites. Among them was Sheila Holt-Orsted, a cancer survivor who's seen her mother, father, sister, cousins, aunts and uncles suffer from cancer and other illnesses believed to be caused by contamination from a Dixon County, Tennessee landfill.

Her father died in January 2007, stricken by prostrate and bone cancer, diabetes and hypertension. In 2003, Holt-Orsted was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. After several surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, she began looking for answers and didn't have to look far. Her family's farm was adjacent to the town landfill where toxic chemicals were dumped for years. Among the chemicals was trichloroethylene—a cancer-causing chemical and one of the most toxic agents known to man.

"No other community should have to experience a toxic legacy that has plagued my community," Holt-Orsted testified. "I urge EPA to protect the public's health and environment as RCRA intended it and to say no to this new rule. Get it right this time."

View John McManus's blog posts
22 July 2009, 3:55 PM
Agency favors dry land disposal method for mine tailings
Lower Slate Lake, after trees were stripped from around it for the mine

The Environmental Protection Agency is asking the Army Corps of Engineers to not immediately re-issue a permit for Kensington gold mine in Alaska, despite a Supreme Court ruling last month that upheld the now-expired permit.

In a letter to the Corps—and to the consternation of mine owner, Coeur d'Alene Mines Corporation—the EPA argued that a dry lands disposal plan favored by environmental groups is feasible and better for the environment. EPA estimates it would take 8 months to review and approve the plan, whereas Coeur wants to immediately start working on the mine.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
22 July 2009, 10:38 AM
Editorial backs up Earthjustice call to defend bill against coal lobby

The New York Times, in an editorial today, zeroed in on a coal loophole that must be fixed in the House version of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill.

Echoing comments by Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen, the Times called on the Senate to impose greenhouse gas emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants, which were deliberately excluded from those standards in the House bill. Because of what the Times called "wheeling and dealing," those plants—which are the dirtiest coal polluters—would not be subject to the Clean Air Act.

Legislation aimed at controlling climate change can't work if it doesn't control the biggest contributors to climate change. We all need to get this common sense-message across to senators who even now are being wheeled and dealed by coal industry lobbyists. To speak out, go to the Earthjustice action alert page. It's a quick, easy, and effective way of joining the debate.

View Bill Walker's blog posts
21 July 2009, 10:00 AM
Retail giant is showing leadership with its green initiatives

When it comes to the environment and sustainability, Wal-Mart has a lot to answer for. The chain sells a lot of plastic and stuff that comes in too much packaging. The stores are full of items that carry a large carbon footprint from being shipped halfway around the world. In many small towns, its big-box stores have forced local shops out of business.

But you have to give the world's biggest retailer credit for its green initiatives. Wal-Mart has been working to make its stores more energy-efficient, and recently anounced a major solar power initiative. When consumer concern rose about the health risks of BPA, a plastics softener found in baby bottles and formula packaging, Wal-Mart pulled all BPA-tainted products from the shelves. And now the company has announced plans to create a product labelling system that will give customers about the environmental and social impact of every item it sells. The New York Times reports:

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View Brian Smith's blog posts
17 July 2009, 4:54 PM
Earthjustice employees offer their views on biking to work

The new book Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities has been warmly received by the cycling community. Musician/artist/cyclist David Byrne called it, "...great ammunition for those of us who would like to see American cities become more bike-friendly" in his New York Times book review.

Author Jeff Mapes, senior political reporter at The Oregonian, told the crowd at a recent book reading in San Francisco that his identification as a cyclist came late in life, during the time when Portland, Oregon was becoming the Amsterdam of the United States. After riding to work through America's bike Mecca, Mapes would joke to his co-workers "I Lost 15 pounds Commuting to Work, Ask Me How." But it's no joke, as recent research suggests, not surprisingly, that walking or biking to work is linked with better fitness.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
16 July 2009, 3:35 PM
Massive coal lobby threatens nation's chance for a clean energy future

The Senate, perhaps inadvertently, has given the American public a chance to help counter a massive assault by the fossil fuel industry on our nation's best hope to fight climate change and forge a clean energy future—the American Climate and Energy Security Act.

The mission of ACES is historic and essential: drive the transition to a clean energy economy with millions of new jobs and dramatically reduce carbon emissions to avert the worst impacts of climate change. It could enable the United States to play a powerful leadership role in global climate negotiations later this year.

But, though well intentioned, the legislation suffered at the hands of fossil fuel lobbyists in its passage through the House of Representatives, and even its champions acknowledge that some of the concessions in the bill may hamper its effectiveness. Now, in the Senate, it faces even more attacks on its integrity from lobbyists led by coal.

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View Ted Zukoski's blog posts
16 July 2009, 3:21 PM
While Washington debates climate change, coal mining in the West gets a pass

For the past month, the klieg lights have been squarely focused on attempts inside the Beltway to cobble together compromise legislation to address global climate change (AKA the Waxman-Markey bill), and President Obama's commitment at the G-8 summit to keep the planet from heating up more than two degrees celsius.

Meanwhile, out here in the West, it's CO2-emitting business as usual, with the federal Bureau of Land Management this month proposing to lock in long term federal coal leases to giant mining firms. And not small amounts of coal either.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
16 July 2009, 10:32 AM
Only a few boos mar debut of powerful documentary on Appalachia coal

The email came late Wednesday afternoon, just three days before the July 11 premiere that's been planned for months. The South Charleston Museum in West Virginia, which had agreed to show the documentary, "Coal Country," was backing out because of "concerns" about security at the event. Threats of protests meant the museum didn't want to take part in showing a film that offers an unbiased and frank portrait of coal and its impact and history in Appalachia.

When executive producer Mari-Lynn Evans (who produced the powerful documentary "The Appalachians" for PBS in 2005) got the bad news about the South Charleston Museum, she immediately sent an email to the local activists helping plan the premiere. By Thursday morning, a flurry of phone calls, emails, conference calls and meetings were taking place in a mad rush to find an alternate location to show the film.

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View Kathleen Sutcliffe's blog posts
15 July 2009, 1:42 PM
EPA reveals locations—now it must actually regulate coal ash
A house destroyed by coal ash that spilled in December 2008 from the TVA containment pond.

It appears the old maxim "ask and you shall receive" is alive and well.

On June 18, a coalition of environmental groups, including Earthjustice, filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking the Environmental Protection Agency to make public a list of "high hazard" coal ash disposal sites across the country.

Eleven days later, we had the information in hand. The 44 sites were spread across 10 states as follows:

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