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More than two-thirds of fish tested by the federal government between 1998 and 2005 are contaminated by mercury at levels exceeding EPA standards according to a recent report.

Contamination is widespread, the report said, coming from various sources depending on geography. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury, although 59 of the 291 streams studied may have been affected by gold and mercury mining. The highest mercury levels were found in the south and southeast-North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana, while elevated levels were found in mining areas of the West and watersheds in the Northeast and Upper Midwest.

In 2008, Earthjustice successfully appealed an EPA rule favorable to industry which would have allowed dangerous levels of mercury to persist. We’re waiting for the Obama administration to make good on its promise to introduce new power plant emission regulations.

Things involving climate change are getting decidedly bizarre. The three-million-member U.S. Chamber of Commerce is demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency hold a trial—witnesses, cross-examination, the whole nine yards—to challenge climate science. The Chamber's purpose is to head off regulations that EPA may adopt based on an upcoming "finding" that CO2 emissions "endanger" human (Americans' in this case) health.

My friend Bill McKibben, climate campaigner extraordinaire (he blew the first public whistle with The End of Nature in the late 1980s) has been organizing internationally behind the notion that 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon in the atmosphere is the absolute limit of what the earth can tolerate. The IPCC—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—in its latest report two years ago, set the number at 450. The current carbon load in the atmosphere is about 370 ppm and rising.

McKibben's organization, 350.org, has been agitating for a lowering of the goal to 350 and on Aug. 25 got the welcome news that Chairman Rajendra Pachauri of the IPCC had given his personal endorsement to the 350 number. This, as Bill explained in an email, is a very big deal and governments everywhere should sit up, take notice, and get finally off their duffs.

Call it a no-brainer—today's decision by environmental and Native American groups to oppose a pipeline that would move the dirtiest oil on Earth into the United States from Canada.

Earthjustice attorney Sarah Burt, speaking on behalf of those groups, vowed to take legal action challenging the State Department for permitting the Alberta Clipper pipeline to carry Canadian tar sands oil from Alberta to Wisconsin.

"The State Department has rubber-stamped a project that will mean more air, water and global warming pollution, particularly in the communities near refineries that will process this dirty oil," Burt said.."The project’s environmental review fails to show how construction of the Alberta Clipper is in the national interest. We will go to court to make sure that all the impacts of this pipeline are considered."

 

What does it take to peel back the abstractions of email, press reports, and legal briefs and really see some of what is at stake in Earthjustice's work? It's as easy as getting away from the computer, out of airports, and off the interstate.

Over the last couple of weeks I was lucky enough to travel across the Great Plains and the Rockies. Everywhere I went, I saw our country wrestling with the big challenges of energy supply and climate change, biodiversity and wildlands protection, and the human consequences of poorly enforced environmental standards.

Concerned about mountaintop removal mining? Hungry for minute-to-minute coverage of all things coal? Looking to keep the August doldrums at bay by organizing your internet browser bookmarks?

If you answered 'yes' to any of the above questions, you need to click here. Bookmark the site. Read it daily.

If you look at a map showing a planned network of high-voltage power lines through West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia, you’ll notice something curious: they match up quite neatly with the region’s existing power plants.

The $1.9-billion Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) is a pet project of two of the country’s most powerful coal producers: American Electric Power and Allegheny Energy. And they don’t seem particularly interested in making room for their counterparts in the renewable energy business.

That didn’t seem quite fair to those of us at Earthjustice. So last month we went ahead and intervened in the project’s Virginia State proceedings, hoping to help clear a space at the table for renewable energy.

We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

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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.