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I am in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of Barack Obama and will be making blog reports once the ceremonies begin. This is an historic occasion for the nation and for anyone who cares about the environment, and it has special significance for me because of my early career in North Carolina, defending African-Americans against discrimination.

Full circle time, in a sense. The establishment of this organization was sparked, in part, by a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club in 1969, challenging a ski resort proposed for a valley in the Sierra Nevada called Mineral King. The club had no objection to skiing per se, but this was to be a humongous affair that would have completely overwhelmed the valley and its wildlife and largely wrecked it for hiking, camping, and backpacking.

Earthjustice press secretary Raviya Ismail was at today’s (Jan. 12) U.S. Supreme Court hearing on whether the Clean Water Act allows Coeur Alaska’s Kensington Mine to fill Lower Slate Lake in Alaska with mining waste – killing all aquatic life. Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo argued to protect the lake. The high court decision, expected by June, could determine whether waterways throughout the nation may be likewise filled and killed. Here is Raviya’s report:

This morning, the US. Supreme Court heard arguments from Earthjustice about why the Clean Water Act should not be interpreted to allow mining companies to dump mine wastes into our nation's streams, rivers and lakes. A mining company attorney told the court that an Alaskan lake would be better off in the long run after a mining company dumped its tailings into it, killing all the fish and most other life. Justice David Souter described that logic as "Orwellian." We will be blogging after the arguments are concluded. Read the entire transcript of today's Supreme Court hearing on the Clean Water Act.

On this coming Monday - while the media are riveted by the upcoming inauguration - the fate of our nation’s waters will be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court will hear arguments in an Earthjustice case that has implications for rivers, lakes, and streams across the country.

The case concerns a gold mine north of Juneau, Alaska. The Army Corps of Engineers granted a permit for the mine to Coeur Alaska. One provision of the permit allows Coeur to deposit its mine tailings into Lower Slate Lake after raising the level of the lake by building a long earthen dam.

When a chemical maker or user gets new information about the possible health hazards of one of its products, it's supposed to tell the EPA. The EPA maintains a website that is supposed to make this information available to the public. But when reporters for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel took a look at some of these so-called Section 8(e) reports, here's what they found:

The San Francisco Chronicle (and many other papers) carries a weekly feature at the bottom of the weather page called Earthweek — a Diary of the Planet. It's often fascinating, with tiny snippets about oddments of weather, earthquakes, animals, and other events and phenomena. On Jan. 3, it was more like Earthyear, with a litany of scary blurbs followed by one that should inspire hope — or a chuckle or two.

We congratulate Ed Lewis, chairman of our Board of Trustees, for being honored with the prestigious Wilburforce Foundation Leadership Award. We all know how well-deserved this award is, recognizing Ed's conservation leadership not only with Earthjustice, but as board chair of TREC, as a key player in land conservation in the Northern Rockies, and as a consultant and advisor to many organizations.

The Wilburforce Foundation protects wildlife and wildlands in Western North America by supporting organizations and leaders advancing conservation solutions. The leadership award is one of a series of grants honoring individuals for exceptional leadership in the conservation movement. Ed—who by the way gave Earthjustice a $5,000 gift that comes with the award—is only the second representative of Earthjustice to win the award. Some years ago, our Vice President of Litigation Patti Goldman also was honored.

As we said in our last missive, the emerging Obama team, cabinet and otherwise, is looking very promising with a few question marks. The president-elect is said to enjoy having people of differing views around him and listening as they discuss their differences, which is a healthy attitude. The truth will out and all that.

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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.