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 Lisa Evans's blog posts
06 February 2014, 11:20 AM
Duke Energy dumps 8,000 pounds of arsenic into the Dan River
Aerial view of contamination of the Dan River. (Photo courtesy of Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins)

The EPA doesn’t need yet another reason to require the safe closure of the nation’s 1,070 coal ash ponds. But the massive leak of 82,000 tons of toxic coal ash from Duke Energy’s Dan River Power Station this week should set off a siren to wake our sleeping regulators.

Duke closed this North Carolina power plant in 2012, leaving its 58-year old, unlined coal ash pond containing about 100 million gallons of toxic ash open to the elements. The catastrophic spill should have been no surprise. The news comes just days after the EPA settled a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice and 11 other groups to finalize the first-ever federal protections from coal ash.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
31 January 2014, 2:13 PM
Climate change threatens grapes, salmon and other dining favorites
Photo by Udo Schröter (Flickr)

While much of the country digs itself out from piles of snow, wine growers in Napa Valley are losing sleep over the state’s current drought, brought on by a lack of rain and freakishly warm weather.

California’s drought could spell disaster for wine growers in the region, who rely on rain stored in rivers and reservoirs to water their vineyards. But the damage isn’t just limited to the state’s wine connoisseurs. According to the Wine Institute, an industry trade group, California wines accounted for 63 percent of the total 703 million gallons—both foreign and domestic—consumed in the U.S. in 2005, or roughly two out of every three bottles sold in the country. As climate change continues to heat up the southwest, wine aficionados across the nationmay have a harder time finding their favorite pinot or syrah.
 
Of course, wine is hardly the only item on the menu that will be affected by a lack of water. Lack of rain can also stress out salmon, which require plenty of water to survive their migration from the ocean to inland waterways. Dams and diversions on rivers have already badly damaged important salmon runs along the west coast and scientists have confirmed that increasingly dry conditions will only magnify that damage.
 

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
30 January 2014, 9:02 AM
The long wait is over: EPA agrees to finalize waste rule this year
A rally in Asheville, NC, calling for strong protections against coal ash contamination of waterways.

Late yesterday, the Department of Justice on behalf of the EPA lodged a consent decree with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that requires the EPA to publish a final rule addressing the disposal of coal ash by Dec. 19, 2014. The settlement came as a result of a lawsuit brought by 10 public interest groups and the Moapa Band of Paiutes against the EPA for its failure to review and revise its regulations pertaining to coal ash. The settlement does not dictate the content of the final regulation, but it confirms that the agency will finalize a rule by a date certain after years of delay.

If there has ever been a time to celebrate a victory on coal ash over the last three decades, today is the day.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
28 January 2014, 8:45 PM
President can't rely on fossil fuels to achieve climate change goals
President Obama delivers the 2014 State of the Union Address. (White House Photo)

(The following is a statement from Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen in response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address.)

We are encouraged that President Obama made climate change a centerpiece of his speech tonight. We applaud his commitment to facing this challenge, for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.

President Obama has taken courageous actions so far to back this commitment. His leadership in achieving strong clean car standards has been a huge accomplishment, and we are thrilled with his leadership in tackling carbon pollution from power plants, the nation’s largest source of climate change pollution. And tonight, the President went further and affirmed that we can’t allow destructive energy development on our pristine public lands.

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View Chrissy Pepino's blog posts
24 January 2014, 3:38 PM
California's driest year on record isn't stopping the oil industry
An oil rig in Shafter, CA. The state is facing sudden growth in oil drilling. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

With severe drought conditions predicted for winter, California's Gov. Brown is demanding that state agencies immediately scale back water consumption, while urging Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent. Yet, contrary to enforcing water conservation, Brown recently gave the ‘green light’ to fracking California’s Monterey Shale—a process that consumes vast quantities of water.

Oil tycoons see bags of money lying within the Monterey Shale, a geologic formation storing two-thirds of the nation’s shale oil reserves. As federal fracking regulations and environmental reviews stagger and fall in Congress, the oil industry is seizing the unregulated opportunity and breaking ground.

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View Doug Pflugh's blog posts
24 January 2014, 11:17 AM
Drought, diversions threaten Colorado, San Pedro and other rivers
The now-dry Colorado River delta branches into the Baja / Sonoran Desert, only 5 miles north of the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. (Pete McBride / USGS)

We’re less than a month in, but 2014 is already shaping up to be a tough year for rivers. Across the nation, from West Virginia to California, the headlines have been bleak. In the Rocky Mountain region, we’re gearing up for a long year defending the Colorado and San Pedro rivers.

Following recognition as America’s most endangered river in 2013, the Colorado River has become known nationwide for the unsustainable balance that exists between increasing diversions and declining flows. Much of the West has been built on a foundation of Colorado River water and millions of people in communities throughout the region depend on it on a daily basis. On-going regional drought and continued growth are now finally forcing water supply managers to accept that business as usual is no longer tenable and changes are coming to the basin.

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View Neil Gormley's blog posts
24 January 2014, 9:36 AM
Appeals court rejects company's request for premature mining
A West Virginia creek polluted by mining runoff. The Army Corps doesn’t dispute that mountaintop removal coal mining could be causing cancer, birth defects, and other serious diseases across Appalachia. (Mark Schmerling)

Earthjustice and its partners—Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Sierra Club, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, and the Appalachian Citizens Law Center—just won a small victory with potentially big implications.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction we won in September that saved miles of mountain streams from destruction at the proposed Stacy Branch mountaintop removal coal mine near Vicco, Kentucky. The corporation behind the mine, Leeco, Inc., asked the Sixth Circuit to let it start mining in the streams before the court issues a final decision on whether the mining is legal. That could have rendered the whole lawsuit moot. Yesterday, the court sided with us and said no.

View Kari Birdseye's blog posts
23 January 2014, 3:32 PM
Nine wolves already dead as Earthjustice goes to appeals court
Members of the Golden pack in the Frank Church Wilderness Area. (Photo courtesy of Hobbit Hill Films LLC)

Earthjustice took its ongoing fight to stop the killing of two wolf packs in central Idaho’s Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today. Earthjustice filed an emergency motion asking the Ninth Circuit to preserve the wolves and their vital contribution to the wilderness character of the largest forested wilderness in the lower-48 states.

A federal district court judge in Idaho rejected our request for an injunction to stop the program last Friday and we immediately initiated an appeal to the Ninth Circuit. The most recent available information indicates that a hunter-trapper hired by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has already killed nine wolves from the Golden Creek and Monumental Creek packs. Earthjustice is asking for a court injunction to stop the program before the remaining wolves in these two packs are killed.

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View Erik Grafe's blog posts
22 January 2014, 5:52 PM
Court denies offshore oil lease in the Chukchi Sea for the second time
A beluga whale surfaces in the Chukchi Sea. (Florian Schulz / visionsofthewild.com)

A court gave the Arctic great news today. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Department of the Interior violated the law when it sold offshore oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska, including the leases on which Royal Dutch Shell wants to drill. This is the second time a court has ruled against the Department’s decision to open this remarkable sea to offshore drilling.

The Court said the Department made arbitrary assumptions about development that may have low-balled the potential environmental impacts of the sale in violation of a bedrock environmental law and sent the decision back for the agency to reconsider.

The agency must now revise its analysis, disclose the full potential impacts of oil development in this fragile but dangerous environment, and reassess whether to allow oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea.

This is once again an opportunity to send a loud and clear message to the Obama administration—going to extremes to extract fossil fuels from such a fragile, important habitat and culturally rich area just doesn’t make sense. The Chukchi Sea is part of America’s Arctic Ocean north of Alaska. It is home to iconic species such as polar bears, walrus, beluga whales, bowhead whales, and seals. It is also home to vibrant Alaska Native communities that have depended for millennia on the ocean for their subsistence way of life.

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View Kari Birdseye's blog posts
17 January 2014, 2:08 PM
Seven wolves dead as Earthjustice seeks restraining order
Two members of Idaho's Golden wolf pack, which is targeted for extermination. (Hobbit Hill Films LLC)

Despite enacting the world’s first and best endangered species law, our hatred toward the wolf continues to loom large in some parts of this country. Consider Idaho, where the wolf lost its endangered species listing in 2011 and faces hostile measures.

During the past two weeks, Earthjustice has been in court asking a federal judge to halt Idaho's unprecedented program to kill two wolf packs deep within the largest forested wilderness area in the lower-48 states. These wolves live on federal land, miles and miles away from ranches and civilization. As of Friday, seven had been killed by a hunter-trapper hired by the state.

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