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 Marjorie Mulhall's blog posts
19 November 2013, 1:34 PM
Six ESA defenders honored by national environmental groups

Last week, Earthjustice and 20+ partner organizations hosted an event to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act and honor some of the most important champions of this visionary law.

On Dec. 28, 1973, Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together to pass the ESA—one of the most effective environmental laws ever enacted—with near-unanimous support. The Act was then signed into law by Republican President Richard Nixon.

The crowd at our anniversary event—held at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.—was comprised of members of Congress and their staff, federal wildlife agency staff, and representatives from environmental and conservation groups, among others.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
18 November 2013, 2:38 PM
Regulation law helps to protect Kaua'i citizens’ health and environment
Large crowds had gathered at the County Building in September, in support of the ordinance. (Photo courtesy of Pesticides on Kauai)

We were disappointed earlier this month when Kauaʻi Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. voted in line with corporate interests and vetoed a crucial pesticides regulation bill. But Kaua'i residents can rest assured that someone has their interests in mind; on Saturday, the Kauaʻi County Council voted 5–2 to override Mayor Carvalho’s veto of the bill. This is a huge victory for Kauaʻi, and breaks new ground in Hawaiʻi by curtailing the use of toxic chemicals to protect the health and well-being of the people.

The law will take effect in August. It will require users of large amounts of restricted-use pesticides—on Kauaʻi most of those users are the big producers of genetically engineered crops like BASF, Syngenta and DuPont Pioneer, which spray their fields far more frequently than do conventional farmers—to disclose the chemicals they spray. The measure also puts in place pesticide buffer zones around sensitive areas like waterways, nursing homes, residences and parks, and requires disclosure of where genetically modified crops are being grown.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
15 November 2013, 5:03 PM
As Thanksgiving nears, we have much to give thanks for
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean. (NASA)

The approach of Thanksgiving is a good time to step back from the fast pace of our fight to protect the Earth and its people, and reflect on the many reasons to be grateful. Please join me and share what’s on your gratitude list by leaving a comment at the end of this piece.

My personal list starts with being thankful for the millions of people in this country and around the world who are standing up to polluters and to government agencies that fail to do their jobs. Citizens in record numbers are educating one another, advocating for change and going to court to enforce the law in order to end climate pollution, habitat destruction and poisoning of communities. Without citizen enforcers, environmental damage would go unchecked.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
13 November 2013, 3:18 PM
Unregulated danger lurks in more than 1,400 coal ash sites
The massive coal ash spill in Tennessee in 2008. (TVA)

It was early October, but the trees were still a vibrant green. Fall had not yet arrived and winter was still a distant concern in Kingston, TN. Fishing boats and jet skis were tied to docks along the Clinch River, and even though it was a Thursday morning it was obvious that folks in this small community were already gearing up for weekend fun.

This was the scene a few weeks ago when I arrived in Kingston with a group of about 40 journalists and activists to tour the ongoing cleanup of one of the biggest environmental disasters in our nation’s history. Five years before at 1 a.m., Dec. 22, 2008, as the town slept, a coal ash dumpsite at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston power plant burst through a poorly constructed levee, releasing more than a billion gallons of toxic waste onto the sleeping town. A rumbling flood of contaminated waste rushed nearly six miles downstream. Donna Lisenby, of Waterkeeper Alliance, canoed down the rivers among giant “ashbergs,” 12-foot tall mounds of wet coal ash, as she tested waters shortly after the disaster.

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View Robin Cooley's blog posts
13 November 2013, 1:18 PM
Court strikes down BLM plan allowing thousands of miles of ORV routes
Factory Butte in southern Utah.
(Photo © Ray Bloxham / SUWA)

Signaling the end of an era in which off-road vehicles like ATVs and jeeps were allowed to run roughshod over public lands, a federal judge in Utah has struck down a Bureau of Land Management ORV plan for 2.1-million acres of central Utah.

Earthjustice attorneys and a coalition of conservation groups spent five years challenging the plan and were rewarded with a decision that unequivocally rejected BLM’s failure to protect wildlife habitat, streams and archaeological sites from ORV damage.

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View David Guest's blog posts
13 November 2013, 11:27 AM
Yet, industry group seeks to removed endangered species status
The manatee deaths have been linked to toxic algae outbreaks.
(David Hinkel / U.S. FWS)

I’m sad to report that 2013 has become the deadliest year ever for Florida’s endangered manatees.

So far this year, 769 manatees have died (Jan. 1 through Oct. 29), the largest annual manatee die-off in Florida since record-keeping began, according to the Save the Manatee Club.

“That means more than 15 percent of the estimated population of about 5,000 has already been killed, and as the year goes on the total will continue to climb,” environmental reporter Craig Pittman wrote in the Tampa Bay Times.

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View Ted Zukoski's blog posts
13 November 2013, 10:04 AM
Miners, drillers still have sights on remote, wild forest
The Pilot Knob roadless area in western Colorado. (Jim Ramey Photo)

Wouldn’t it be great if we could be done protecting Forest Service roadless areas because they were all protected? If you have followed the tortured history of President Clinton’s national Roadless Area Conservation Rule—which Earthjustice defended for more than a decade, with success—you’d be forgiven for thinking that 2001 rule settled the matter.

Sadly, the dead hand of the Bush administration—and the living hands of some inside the Forest Service who still don’t believe roadless areas should be protected—continue to have a grip on agency policy. First, a reminder on why it’s important to protect roadless lands.

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View Jessica Hodge's blog posts
12 November 2013, 4:07 PM
November is Oil Industry Accident Awareness Month in Louisiana
Over 6,000 people live within two miles of the Valero Refinery, in Meraux, LA. (Photo courtesy of Louisiana Bucket Brigade)

Six accidents a week and more than two-million pounds of air pollution are what Louisiana residents lived with in 2012—and they can expect more accidents and more pollution. Louisiana’s 17 refineries reported 327 accidents in 2012. The evidence is mounting that many refinery accidents are not being reported, and some of those reported are only due to community member’s forcing industry into the light.

That is why the Louisiana Bucket Brigade teamed up with the United Steelworkers and others to release the report Mission: Zero Accidents that draws attention to the dangerous conditions residents and workers are exposed to near Louisiana oil refineries. Refineries underreporting and providing little to know information on the majority of reported accidents leave workers and communities vulnerable.

View Sean Helle's blog posts
11 November 2013, 10:26 AM
First, a shutdown. Then, threats of default. Next up: the D.C. Circuit.
Three of the D.C. Circuit Court's 11 seats have been left vacant due to congressional obstruction. (DOJ)

Update: On November 12, 2013, Senate Republicans blocked an up-or-down vote on Professor Nina Pillard’s nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Once again, Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski were the only Republicans to oppose the filibuster. Professor Pillard is the third of President Obama’s D.C. Circuit nominees to be denied a vote in the Senate. Read Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen’s statement on the Senate Republicans’ continued obstruction.

There seemed reason to hope the fever would pass.

Six weeks ago, as October awoke, the my-way-or-your-kneecaps wing of the Grand Old Party decided it was time things got broken. The festivities began, of course, with the federal government, which was left bound and gagged by a long-dreamt shutdown. Then came the threats of global economic ruin. While those wielding bats talked principle, it soon proved pique. “We’re not going to be disrespected,” a House Republican proclaimed on the second day of the insurrection. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

Americans weren’t amused. When the dust finally settled, 59 percent of those surveyed held an “unfavorable impression” of “the political movement known as the tea party.” Sixty-three percent declared dislike for the Republican Party. And 75 percent—three of every four Americans—expressed dissatisfaction “with the way this country’s political system is working.”

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View Sarah Saylor's blog posts
08 November 2013, 1:08 PM
Citizens give EPA an earful at carbon pollution listening sessions
Hundreds spoke during the public listening sessions on carbon pollution controls. (Photo courtesy of Moms Clean Air Force)

At the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's listening session regarding carbon pollution controls from existing power plants, I put myself in EPA’s shoes and did some real listening. It turns out the list of what may be lost and what must be protected by such a rule is not as short as we sometimes make it in the name of expediency.

Hundreds of people spoke in Washington, D.C., and thousands have spoken at the 10 other listening sessions the EPA is conducting across the country. Below are just 55 reasons*—one for every state and territory in our nation—for the EPA to take bold strides when it comes to limiting carbon pollution:

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