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 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 >>
View Chrissy Pepino's blog posts
04 June 2013, 11:44 AM
320 miles of smiles
Earthjustice team members enjoying the coastline.

A traditional road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway provides many “oohs” and “ahhs” along the majestic ocean, and for good reason. The turquoise water and rolling hills encourage exploration around every twist in the road. Yet, through a 320-mile bike journey, I’ve learned that all senses are heightened when on two wheels. Our dynamic team of four women joined Climate Ride, a charitable bike ride, in an effort to fight climate change. Every rider took on the rugged terrain of winding roads with one mission in our hearts: sustainability.

1 Comment   /   Read more >>
View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
17 May 2013, 9:35 AM
Ambassadors from every state arrive en masse to buttonhole congress reps
The grassroots campaign involved ambassadors from every state, plus D.C. and Puerto Rico.

A few days ago, a fierce army invaded Washington, D.C. to ask our representatives for something very simple: restore our right to breathe clean air.

This modest proposal came from more than 100 “clean air ambassadors” who know the cost of dirty air all too well. Take Hilton Kelley from Port Arthur, Texas, which is home to more than five large refineries, six chemical plants and an incinerator. In his community, one out of every five households has a child suffering from asthma and other contaminated-air-related illnesses. One day, after having moved away from his home town years ago, he looked in the mirror and asked himself, “If I’m not going to do anything about the conditions in Port Arthur, how can I expect anyone else to?”

5 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Doug Pflugh's blog posts
16 May 2013, 10:00 AM
Lawsuit seeks to protect San Pedro River from huge development
The upper reaches of the San Pedro River.  (Melanie Kay / Earthjustice)

Earthjustice has worked with our partners for more than a decade to sustain the San Pedro River of southern Arizona. Our attorneys have taken legal action—a series of cases challenging inappropriate groundwater depletions by the U.S. Army’s Fort Huachuca—to keep water in the river until a balance can be struck between the needs of the river and the local communities. While we have had success through the years, the San Pedro is unfortunately one of those places where the effort to achieve a lasting solution has been difficult.

Champions of the San Pedro now have a great opportunity to change that tide and secure meaningful protection for the river into the future. A challenge was filed this week to a 7,000-unit suburban development planned for the upper San Pedro valley which had been given the go-ahead by the state of Arizona. This development would be fueled by groundwater pumped from the San Pedro watershed and will, if built, drain the remaining flows from the river. The challenge seeks to deny the planned groundwater pumping, force the state to acknowledge the authority of water rights granted to the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area and, by doing so, keep the river alive.

14 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
15 May 2013, 7:51 AM
More than 100 clean air and water advocates gather in D.C.

When our elected officials continue standing in the way of clean air and water—it’s time to shake things up. Which is why more than 100 physicians, tribal and labor leaders, clergy, nurses and parents are in Washington, D.C., for a 3-day visit with Congress, united as 50 States United for Healthy Air.

This legion of clean air and water advocates are meeting with members of Congress to call for greater protections from smog, coal ash, carbon and other dangerous air pollutants.

It’s a big day for our lungs and our health.

View Doug Pflugh's blog posts
10 May 2013, 1:34 PM
Richly forested lands in W. Colorado could become industrial zone
The Thompson Divide is clearly a keystone of the region, the state and the West.  (EcoFlight)

There is no dispute that the Thompson Divide—a 220,000-acre forested wildland in western Colorado—is a special place. It comprises some of the most valuable and diverse mid-elevation forested landscapes in Colorado and includes the headwaters of streams that sustain the Crystal, Roaring Fork and North Fork valleys. Thompson Divide is a prized destination for recreationists and tourists, and supports a long tradition of ranching. Perhaps most importantly, with no fewer than nine roadless areas, the Divide includes the largest complex of non-Wilderness roadless lands left in Colorado. The Thompson Divide is clearly a keystone of the region, the state and the West.

The debate over the Thompson Divide focuses on its future: should it remain intact, providing the extraordinary ecological and economic values that have benefited local communities and wildlife for generations, or should it be transformed into an industrial zone to produce natural gas for the highest bidder?

6 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
03 May 2013, 11:00 AM
When the town's toilets flush, guess what ends up in African-American yards
Nine residents of Rochelle, GA are suing their city government for discharging the city's raw sewage onto their properties.

Alisa Coe and Bradley Marshall—attorneys in our Florida office—took off on a two-hour drive last month and ended up 60 years away in the rural Georgia town of Rochelle, where black people live on one side of a railroad track and whites on the other.

You’ve heard of this place if you pay attention to news; last weekend the national media was reporting on the local high school’s first interracial prom … ever.

But even as the media focused on the prom, Alisa and Bradley faced up to the town’s mayor and chief of police, who bullied the two attorneys as they investigated claims that the city’s sewer system routinely dumps raw sewage into the streets and yards of the black community (but not the white community). The mayor used his car to block the attorneys’ car when they drove into a black neighborhood, and then screamed and threatened them with arrest. The chief of police pulled up with his lights flashing and told the duo to call him before coming back to Rochelle.

Those fellas obviously didn’t know who they were messing with.

389 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Lisa Evans's blog posts
02 May 2013, 12:00 PM
Toxic coal ash found on school paths in Florida
Truckloads of the coal ash product EZBase were delivered to one Florida homeowner's property.  (Clean Water Action)

Recent sampling of paths constructed of coal ash near J.L. Wilkinson Elementary School in Middleburg, Florida reveal high levels of vanadium, a hazardous substance linked to cardiovascular disease and nervous system damage. Vanadium levels were up to seven times higher than levels deemed safe for residential soil by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Earthjustice sampled two paths near the school after concerns were raised that EZBase, a product made from toxic fly ash and bottom ash residuals at coal-burning power plants and marketed by Jacksonville Electric Authority, may have been used to construct paths near the elementary school.

Exposure to high levels of vanadium in the air can cause lung and cardiovascular damage. In addition, nausea, mild diarrhea and stomach cramps have been reported in people ingesting vanadium. Vanadium is classified as “possibly carcinogenic” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Children are particularly susceptible to impacts from toxic exposure due to low body mass and developing systems.

4 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Daniel Hubbell's blog posts
29 April 2013, 1:16 PM
Three stories from around the world
The 2013 Goldman Prize recipients.  (Courtesy of the Goldman Environmental Prize)

It is easy sometimes to feel like the problems of the world are just too large for any one person to tackle. Whether it is a global issue like climate change or more local struggles against ancient coal plants polluting the neighborhood, it feels like there are always powerful interests standing in the way. That’s why I am thankful for the Goldman Environmental Prize because it shows us just how incredible a difference one caring person can make.

Founded in 1989 by Richard and Rhoda Goldman, the Goldman prize recognizes those environmental heroes who have worked tirelessly to safeguard the environment and improve the lives of everyone in their communities. It offers a chance for those who have gone unsung for years to get the support they need to take their grassroots vision of change further, as these problems are often far too common. I had the good fortune to hear three of this year’s winners speak recently, and all of their stories are incredible.