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 Ted Zukoski's blog posts
21 June 2013, 1:20 PM
Obama’s climate actions sometimes at odds with his rhetoric
Alberta tar sands refining. (NRDC)

President Obama is good at bold words, and he’s delivered quite a few of them on the need for action on climate change in the last nine months. There was his speech upon being re-elected; his 2013 State of the Union (in which he promised to act unilaterally on climate change if Congress wouldn’t); and most recently his speech at the Brandenburg Gate in which he rightly labeled climate change “the global threat of our time.”

And the hyped action on climate change is almost here, with the New York Times reporting that the president may announce as soon as next week a three-pronged plan to:

  1. Put limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing and proposed power plants;
  2. Boost renewable energy development on public lands; and
  3. Mandate greater energy efficiency in buildings and equipment.

These three steps are overdue, but would have real benefits, and will require an expenditure of political capital from Mr. Obama. But he’s hardly gone all-in on climate change of late. On some very important climate issues, the president has instead displayed a penchant for ignoring the issue or dawdling on major decisions.

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
18 June 2013, 1:15 PM
Congressional Research Service decides new bill is foul play

In advance of an upcoming vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week, the nonpartisan think tank, Congressional Research Service (CRS), delivered a frank memorandum evaluating HR 2218, the latest effort by Rep. McKinley (R-WV) to prevent the EPA from completing its coal ash rule. CRS exposes HR 2218’s superficial “fixes,” concluding that the bill still fails to establish federal health and environmental standards and cannot guarantee nationwide protection from toxic contamination.

View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
14 June 2013, 3:47 PM
President Obama's energy mantra echoes the fossil fuel industry
Climate change increases the frequency of deadly wildfires. (U.S. Forest Service Region 5)

In recent weeks we have continued to experience extreme and destructive forest fires, droughts, and floods. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached new and dangerous levels.

Despite this, President Obama’s pledge to address climate change with meaningful actions has stalled. Since the stirring words of his Inauguration and State of the Union speeches, the EPA has missed its deadline for setting limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. Even simple, non-controversial actions like strengthening the efficiency standards for new refrigerators are marooned inside the White House. This failure to act is completely inconsistent with the president’s promise to lead on climate.

Equally troubling is the president’s continued support for expansive and extreme development of new fossil fuel sources. Drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean, fracking across our public lands, expanding coal mines for export to Asia, and importing dirty, carbon-intensive oil from Canada’s tar sands will all drive climate change to even more destructive levels and will destroy ecosystems and damage people’s health in the meantime.

37 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Kari Birdseye's blog posts
14 June 2013, 12:01 PM
Federal agency proposes handing protections to the states
The famed wolf OR-7.
(Richard Shinn / DFG)

If the Obama administration has its way, one of Oregon’s most popular travelers—OR-7—could be a goner. This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed eliminating federal endangered species listing for wolves across nearly the entire continental U.S., handing protections to the states. This is bad news for wolves since many states are more interested in catering to powerful hunting and ranching interests than protecting this species that hasn’t yet recovered.

OR-7, a male gray wolf born in Oregon, left his pack in September 2011 to cross state lines, perhaps seeking a mate. He captured the imagination of school children and wildlife enthusiasts throughout the country as they followed his path—tracked by a radio collar. He’s traveled through ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests, shrublands and woodlands and even crossed agricultural lands. He’s been caught on cameras planted in the wilderness.

Not one public sighting or run-in with ranchers or livestock has been reported. Nonetheless, OR-7—and untold numbers of other wolves—could be shot on sight if the FWS lifts federal protections.

21 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Chrissy Pepino's blog posts
13 June 2013, 10:47 AM
Cleaner fuels and cars mean cleaner air
Smog over Los Angeles, CA. (EPA)

“It's a scary moment to walk into a client's home or onto the freeway underpass where they live and see their 2-month old child struggling to breathe.”

Robin Kristufek has worked as a registered nurse in the Sacramento region for years. Her clients are not patients in hospital beds — but low income families and the homeless, whom she visits wherever they live. It's obvious to Robin that a disproportionate number of children living in poverty are afflicted with asthma and bronchitis — and some die of lung disease. Their health problems come from living near busy roads and freeways without trees or green spaces to help filter out particulates. They are forced to breathe in toxic pollution.

Clean Air Ambassador Robin Kristufek.

Clean Air Ambassador Robin Kristufek.
View Sean Helle's blog posts
11 June 2013, 2:59 PM
It's time the Senate does its job—so we can have that barbeque
A minority in the Senate led by Sen. Grassley is threatening to block up-or-down votes on the President’s D.C. Circuit nominees.

Given the shrill sounds rising from Washington these days, the news wasn’t easily heard:

After years of partisan obstruction and delay, the United States Senate confirmed a judge. To what’s widely regarded as our second-highest court. Unanimously. And last week, recognizing that the D.C. Circuit’s “judicial crisis” has yet to be cured, President Obama sent three more names down Pennsylvania Avenue—one for each of the court’s still-empty seats.

You’re wanting to convene a parade, I’m sure. Or a barbeque. Something bathed in red, white and blue. America works again! The Founders are beaming! The President’s done his job—and the Senate’s sure to follow!

I hate to be the one to tell you, but it’s not quite time for libations. Already, a minority in the Senate—led by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, Chuck Grassley—is threatening to block up-or-down votes on the President’s D.C. Circuit nominees. And so begins another Washington standoff.

2 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
11 June 2013, 12:58 PM
NJ Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s death a blow to all Americans
Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

There was a time that airline travel exposed passengers to a deadly peril: secondhand cigarette smoke. Not so for more than 25 years now, thanks to the dogged persistence of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who pushed for and successfully passed a smoking prohibition on flights which led to smoke-free workplaces and other areas.

Last week Sen. Lautenberg died after a long illness and Americans lost an unwavering champion who also went to bat for clean air, water and land. Sen. Lautenberg championed Superfund, passed vital laws that kept NJ’s drinking water clean, combatted climate change, and aimed to keep our communities, oceans and waterways clear from toxic waste. His passing is a blow to all of us.

One of Sen. Lautenberg’s final efforts was overhauling the weak and outdated Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. Lautenberg aimed to breathe new life into what he called “a long-dead statute” by proposing that the EPA be empowered to get tough on toxic chemicals. The senator spent nearly the last 10 years on this issue. Sen. Lautenberg said of the issue:

Chemical safety reform is not a Democratic or Republican issue; it is a common-sense issue.

1 Comment   /   Read more >>
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
11 June 2013, 10:11 AM
World's largest coal mining company is turning to solar energy
A solar array in Pondicherry, India. (ammusk)

You gotta love it when the world’s largest coal mining company turns to solar energy, as a way to cut costs and because it recognizes that fossil fuels are fast going away.

According to a published report, Coal India plans to install solar in its various operations around the country. A company document explains why:

India has an abundance of sunshine and the trend of depletion of fossil fuels is compelling energy planners to examine the feasibility of using renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, and so on.

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
07 June 2013, 12:55 PM
HR 2218 harms public health, environment

Reps. David McKinley (R-WV) and John Shimkus (R-IL) are on a mission to ram through an anti-public health, anti-public safety and anti-environmental coal ash bill.

After filing their trifecta on the evening of June 3, the House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy voted on June 6 to pass HR 2218, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013 (“CRRM”), a complicated bill designed to prevent the EPA from ever regulating coal ash.

View Chris Jordan-Bloch's blog posts
04 June 2013, 3:47 PM
Landmark law moves Nevada from coal to renewables

"It felt like I was waking up from a nightmare. I wasn't really sure what was true or false. I was confused. My heart was racing. I was excited. Maybe, I thought, this nightmare is over."

This is what Vickie Simmons remembers feeling when she first heard that the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant might be closing. Simmons is a leading member of the Moapa Band of Paiutes Health and Environmental Committee, and for years she and the rest of the Paiute tribe have lived in the shadow of Reid Gardner’s smokestacks and waste pits. They have paid incredible health costs and reaped little economic benefits.

But Simmons is right - the nightmare is ending.

 Photo of Vickie Simmons by Chris Jordan-Bloch

(Photo of Vickie Simmons by Chris Jordan-Bloch)

93 Comments   /   Read more >>