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 Jared Saylor's blog posts
31 March 2009, 11:59 AM
 

Today's congressional hearing on the Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash spill from last December in Harriman, TN, started out with opening remarks from Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) who said that it’s been "nearly a decade" since this committee held oversight hearings on the Tennessee Valley Authority. She also said the committee maybe plans to continue TVA oversight now every 30 to 60 days.

Minority committee leader Rep. John Boozman from Arkansas said, "New laws will not replace homes…and family treasures," but bet they will certainly do much to make sure that others who live near these coal ash sites don't have to lose their homes or valuable family treasures and heirlooms in another preventable spill.

Rep. Lincoln Davis, whose district is where the TVA spill happened, offered strong words for the committee, saying, "My constituents and the land they live on must be made whole again."

The Republicans seem to be pushing their talking points aggressively: while this particular spill is bad, this doesn't mean coal is bad and there shouldn't be talk of stopping coal burning. It seems like they're not quite able to see the forest for the trees, and despite the nature of this hearing (to find out what went wrong and how it can be prevented) some members just can't resist a small shot at those groups fighting for a cleaner environment.

Sarah McCoin, a Harriman, TN, resident said: "Harriman is now a toxic wasteland, and we urge that guidelines and laws are in place to make sure that this never happens again... residents are scared if they are being exposed... we are a community that hunts fishes and swims in the rivers and we need to be ensured that it is safe to be in the river... Harriman is home to people who rely on the fish for their meals... too many residents are experiencing respiratory problems... we desperately need to have testing for our community to find out if our children are being poisoned…we have been neglected. There are people who have been satisfied but there are many are not."

Strong words from someone who is living in and near this tragedy. Committee is on a break now for a floor vote. More to come later.

View Jared Saylor's blog posts
31 March 2009, 9:31 AM
 

You can do a lot in 100 days. But apparently if you're the Tennessee Valley Authority and you spilled a billion gallons of coal ash into the Emory River and surrounding communities, cleaning up your mess isn't one of them.

You'll recall that just three days before Christmas in 2008, a coal ash dump broke, spilling out 1 billion gallons of toxic-laden coal ash over 300 acres, finding its way into nearby streams and creeks, damaging over a dozen homes and putting an entire community at risk.

Well, April 1 is the 100th day since that spill. And while much has been accomplished and the important issue of coal ash disposal reached the front pages of many newspapers, there's still much left to be done to control and regulate this toxic waste.

View Bill Walker's blog posts
25 March 2009, 1:45 PM
 

The Colorado Senate has passed a package of regulations on oil and gas drilling that increases protections for drinking water, wildlife and natural resources. The rules, which will be signed by Gov. Bill Ritter in the next few days, are the strongest, most comprehensive regulations in the nation.

A key provision—and the most contentious—will require oil and gas companies to disclose to the state the toxic chemicals used in drilling. Hundreds of chemicals, dozens of them harmful to human health, are routinely injected into wells to increase production.

View Tom Turner's blog posts
25 March 2009, 12:07 PM
 

A couple of weeks ago we jumped the gun and announced that Mineral King, a lovely high-elevation valley in the southern Sierra Nevada in California, would be added to the National Wilderness System along with around 170 other areas totalling about two million acres. Last minute parliamentary tricks in the House kept it from happening then.

Today, under new rules, the House passed this monumental bill -- the greatest single expansion of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 15 years. President Obama is expected to quickly sign it into law.

Mineral King is especially close to our hearts because it was a lawsuit in the late 1960s challenging plans for a huge ski resort in the valley that gave birth to modern environmental law and to Earthjustice itself.

The King Lives! Long Live the King!

View Terry Winckler's blog posts
24 March 2009, 3:55 PM
 

UPDATE: There was a lot of confusion and misinterpretation about Tuesday's announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency that it was reviewing mountaintop removal mining permits to assess their potential impact on the waterways and people of Appalachia. Only two permits have been questioned. Dozens are under review. And the EPA is signalling that many of those may not be held up for environmental reasons.

This is nonetheless a first step towards what we have been petitioning -- and suing -- to have the federal government do. Just this month, nearly 25,000 Earthjustice supporters, along with many others across the nation, sent messages to the White House asking for a halt to this most-devastating method of coal mining.

View John McManus's blog posts
23 March 2009, 2:55 PM
 

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency took a giant step away from the path it was on under Bush by moving a step closer to finding that carbon dioxide from major global warming polluters threatens our health and well being.

The EPA proposal to the White House could result in national limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
19 March 2009, 12:40 PM
 

One year ago in this column, I called on Environmental Protection Agency chief Stephen Johnson to resign for letting politics, not science, guide his agency's decisions. Nor was I alone—10,000 EPA employees were in open revolt for the same reason. Johnson was defying the Supreme Court's ruling that his agency should move forward on climate change and was refusing to approve California's forward-looking controls on climate-altering pollution.

Today, I am calling on all Earthjustice supporters to join with me in thanking his successor, Lisa Jackson, for steering the EPA back on course with a string of good decisions, especially her action last week aimed at regulating one of the most toxic side effects of burning coal for power: coal ash.

33 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Ted Zukoski's blog posts
19 March 2009, 10:59 AM
 

We knew the proposed Red Cliff coal mine in western Colorado had a lot of problems.  It's no secret that coal is a dirty fuel.  On top of the predictable global warming impacts from burning the mined coal, this mine each year will spew thousands of tons of methane - a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than CO2 - into the atmosphere without controls.   It will require bulldozing in the Hunter Canyon proposed wilderness.  And it will degrade important habitat for deer and elk.

The project will likely also bring another unwelcome impact to Colorado's West Slope: smog (AKA ozone).  If you couldn't figure that out by reading the BLM's 1,000+ page environmental impact statement, there's a reason for that:  BLM didn't analyze the mine's ozone impacts.

1 Comment   /   Read more >>
View David Guest's blog posts
18 March 2009, 11:18 AM
 

Apparently, the sight of toxic algae blooms spreading across South Florida's public waterways last year wasn't enough to convince the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to do the right thing and toughen standards for nutrient pollution.

So on March 9, we filed suit in U.S. District Court to compel the EPA to set more protective pollution limits for Lake Okeechobee and its tributaries. Lake Okeechobee is the second-largest freshwater lake wholly within the continental United States, second only to Lake Michigan.

9 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Tom Turner's blog posts
17 March 2009, 11:53 AM
 

Quick—what country exports the most oil into the United States? Saudi Arabia? Venezuela? Iraq?

Nope. Canada. And the oil we get from our northern neighbor is about the most ridiculous energy bargain imaginable. Most of the stuff comes from vast deposits of tar sands in Alberta. Eventual emissions of CO2 are three times as much as from an equivalent amount of conventional crude oil. Mining the sands requires razing wide expanses of boreal forests and the peat soil beneath the trees, an inconvenient substance the industry sometimes calls "overburden." This is clearly disastrous for wildlife as well as for groundwater and air quality.

And now the capper—extraction of the tar sands and conversion to usable oil is so energy intensive that Canada is considering building nuclear plants to generate the electricity necessary to mine and refine the sands. This would be, according to a series of articles and links gathered by Grist magazine  (make sure to look at the photographs), the first time so-called "clean" nuclear electricity would be used to provide decidedly unclean fossil fuels to keep global warming rocketing along on track.

People really are nuts.