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 Tom Turner's blog posts
06 March 2014, 11:30 AM
Science be damned! Senator Session relies on opinion
(Meryll / Shutterstock)

Recently, John Holdren, science advisor to President Obama, said that the punishing droughts underway in California and the Colorado River basin are consistent with the mainstream understanding of the long-term effects of climate change.

Not surprisingly he was attacked by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who quoted a Colorado political scientist as follows: "Drought has 'for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U.S. over the last century.' Globally, 'there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years.' ”

View Tom Turner's blog posts
05 March 2014, 3:51 PM
New Ken Brower book re-stirs old controvery of Yosemite dam
Hetch Hetchy Valley, near Yosemite National Park's western border, (Photo courtesy of Nate Hill)

The number one story in California these days is the drought, which has revived water wars that never really go away here.

Which makes even more timely Ken Brower’s new book, Hetch Hetchy: Undoing a Great American Mistake. Hetch Hetchy is a valley in Yosemite National Park that was inundated by a reservoir in the 1920s to create a water source for San Francisco. At the time, it was the biggest environmental battle ever fought in the United States, filling the Congressional Record for weeks.

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View Jessica Hodge's blog posts
05 March 2014, 12:26 PM
Louisianans take action to find out what's happening with their dirty neighbors
Flaring at the Shell's refinery in Norco, Louisiana. (Photo courtesy of iWitness Pollution Map)

This guest blog post was written by Molly Brackin, with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade which works with communities overburdened by pollution.

Since 2000, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade has worked with communities throughout Louisiana that neighbor oil refineries and chemical plants.

Their mission is to support communities’ use of grassroots action to create informed, sustainable neighborhoods free from industrial pollution. The Bucket Brigade model is to equip communities most impacted by pollution with easy-to-use tools to monitor their environment and hold industry accountable.

Molly Brackin.

Molly Brackin is an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, where she serves as the Monitoring & Evaluation Associate. She holds a Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of New Orleans, where she specialized in hazard mitigation and disaster.

View Isaac Moriwake's blog posts
03 March 2014, 5:24 PM
Earthjustice seeks to finalize amount of flow needed for restoration
A diversion on Waiheʻe River.

Next week—almost 10 years after Earthjustice started its campaign to restore instream flows to “The Four Great Waters” on Maui—we are again going into legal battle to determine exactly how much more water will be restored.

Under modern Hawaiʻi law, the rivers and streams in question (collectively known as Nā Wai ʻEhā—“The Four Great Waters” of Waihe‘e, ʻĪao (traditionally Wailuku), Waiehu, and Waikapū) are a public trust; but since the sugar plantation era, two companies drained them dry for private profit.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
25 February 2014, 12:50 PM
Years of activism resulted in historic Clinton executive directive
President Clinton signs Executive Order 12898 in 1994. (EPA Photo)

In 1982, when I was a young lawyer in North Carolina, the state had to clean up miles of roadsides where toxic PCBs had been illegally dumped. The state decided to dispose of the toxic waste in a landfill which it proposed to place in a predominantly low-income African-American community in Warren County, far from where the clean-up was occurring. The decision sparked protests from the community, and activists from the broader civil rights world joined the fight.

That fight in Warren County crystallized for many in the environmental and civil rights communities a recognition of the pattern of subjecting communities of color and low-income communities with the environmental and public health burdens of our industrial society. From this seed and others like it, the environmental justice movement was born.

View Andrea Delgado's blog posts
24 February 2014, 5:09 PM
When it comes to farmworker protection, EPA proposal is out of touch
Farmworkers picking strawberries in Wayne County, NY. (Photo courtesy of Alina Diaz / Alianza Nacional de Campesinas)

After more than two decades, the Environmental Protection Agency announced revisions to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, an outdated standard intended to protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure.

While advocates welcomed signs of life in the Obama administration’s progress to provide stronger protections from pesticides for approximately 2 million farmworkers, the proposal raises questions about the EPA’s understanding of the population the WPS is meant to serve.

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
24 February 2014, 1:16 PM
Spills happen when there’s no incentive to comply with environmental rules
The toxic coal ash turned the Dan River gray for 20 miles east of the North Carolina border. (Photo courtesy of Waterkeeper Alliance)

Although the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources found Duke Energy in gross violation of the federal Clean Water Act, the state agency placed so little value on public health that they were willing to settle for a pittance—a penny per ton of toxic coal ash stored at Duke’s two illegally polluting plants. To rub ash into the wound, the agency didn’t even require Duke to stop the flow of arsenic, cadmium, chromium and other toxic metals from the millions of tons of coal ash at the plants, much less clean up the pollution. The state was willing to accept $99,000 in settlement with the utility giant.

Duke Energy can spare this chump change. The utility just announced a 50 percent increase in corporate profits in 2013, amounting to $2.6 billion per year for a company already valued at $50 billion. Duke’s $99,000 penalty was nothing—it’s like one of us, earning $50,000 a year, getting fined $1.90. Barely amounting to a library fine, this is no deterrent for the likes of Duke.

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View Maggie Caldwell's blog posts
24 February 2014, 12:28 PM
Notes from a trip to the San Francisco Bay Delta

 “The virgin California Delta was so vast wild and confusing—its sloughs meandered everywhere and led nowhere—that John C. Fremont lost a whole regiment in there for several days and some who ventured in just disappeared.A Dangerous Place, by Marc Reisner

At the Bay Delta's Steamboat Slough. (Brad Zweerink / Earthjustice)At the Bay Delta's Steamboat Slough.
(Photo by Brad Zweerink / Earthjustice)

My photographer and I ventured into the Delta region to go to the heart of the fight over who can claim rights to water in California during the worst drought in the state’s history.

The river towns we passed through—Courtland, Isleton, Rio Vista—don’t much resemble the labyrinthine delta that nearly devoured explorer John C. Fremont’s men in the mid-19th Century. The Bay Delta’s source waters—the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers—are dammed and diverted, its sloughs crisscrossed with drawbridges, and its marshes drained and planted with orchards and vineyards. Yet the Bay Delta, the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas, still retains a wildness to its character, serving as home to hundreds of species of plants and animals; some, like the Delta smelt, found nowhere else on Earth.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
20 February 2014, 11:00 AM
EPA announces rulemaking for Worker Protection Standard
Letitia Vargas, Mario Vargas and Myra Vargas (from left) walk to a meeting in the Hart Senate Office Building in July of 2013. Myra Vargas is speaking to Alexis Guild, Farmworker Justice's Migrant Health Policy Analyst. (Photo by Matt Roth / Earthjustice)

When Mario Vargas showed up at the Washington, D.C., offices of representatives from his home state of Ohio in July, he shared stories from farmworkers who are getting sick from pesticides. Joined by his daughter and girlfriend, they made the rounds talking about how it feels to inhale pesticides while pregnant, how farmworkers don’t know what their basic rights are, and how many workers are afraid to tell the truth about what is really going on in the fields.

Today Vargas, 44, and other farmworker advocates cheered the news that the weak and outdated Worker Protection Standard, which sets agricultural worker safety standards for pesticide use, will finally be updated. The Environmental Protection Agency announced that the new proposal will enter the Federal Register in early March, which is when public comment officially begins.

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View Jessica Hodge's blog posts
18 February 2014, 2:34 PM
"A Lethal Dose of Smoke And Mirrors: Going home for better or worse"
Kelley holds a picture of the air pollution in Port Arthur, TX. (Matt Roth / Earthjustice)

Taking his work to the next level, Clean Air Ambassador Hilton Kelley has completed a book, A Lethal Dose of Smoke And Mirrors: Going home for better or worse, that chronicles his decision to leave Hollywood and take on powerful industrial polluters in his hometown, Port Arthur, Texas. Hilton—the first African-American man to win the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize—tells how he single-handedly made great strides to improve the health and environment in Port Arthur.

A city of some 50,000 residents, Port Arthur is situated on Texas’ Gulf Coast and was once home to the largest network of oil refineries in the world. Residents are surrounded by oil refineries, chemical plants and a hazardous waste incinerator, and they suffer ill health effects from living with disproportionately high levels of toxic air, including cancer-causing chemical compounds.

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