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
22 November 2013, 4:58 PM
Two years after Elwha dam was torn down, the fish storm back
Chinook salmon spawn in Elwha River in September 2013. (NPS)

Two years ago, after a decades-long struggle that involved Native Americans, biologists, Earthjustice, and eventually Congress itself, engineers began to dismantle two century-old dams on the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. The river is only 70 miles long, but most of it is in the Olympic National Park, and so is in pretty good shape, having avoided the fate of other Pacific Coast streams, that have been badly damaged by logging.

A remnant population of salmon survived to spawn in the four miles of river between the downstream dam and Strait of Juan de Fuca. People hoped this would be a sufficient number—on the order of 4,000 fish—to recolonize the river above the dams, once the dams were gone, the result of the largest dam-removal operation ever undertaken in the U.S. Fish biologists predicted that runs on the Elwha should eventually reach nearly 400,000 fish annually, and this year it’s beginning to look as if they might be right. A veritable flood of all five species of Pacific salmon, plus seagoing steelhead trout, have found their way up the Elwha and its tributaries and found suitable spawning grounds—gravel beds where they lay and fertilize their eggs in depressions called redds. More salmon have returned over the past two months than at any time in at least 20 years.

2 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Jared Saylor's blog posts
21 November 2013, 12:22 PM
There's no such thing as "clean coal" in Alaska
Coal ash being used to fill a mined peat bog adjacent to Creamer's Field Wildlife Refuge. Fairbanks, AK. (Photo courtesy of Russ Maddox)

Alaska—the last frontier of untamed American wilderness. Unfortunately, it’s also home to dirty coal. The second part of our ongoing series about communities dealing with coal ash problems takes us far north where in Fairbanks four coal-fired power plants generate coal ash used as fill for nearby lowlands.

Russ Maddox, a 2013 Clean Air Ambassador and member of the Sierra Club Council of Leaders Executive Committee, Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance, and Alaska Youth for Environmental Action, lives in Seward, AK, which deals with the effects of coal exports and coal dust. In 2012, Russ wrote about the problems of coal ash in his community for unEarthed. But earlier this month, he published an opinion piece in the Alaska Dispatch on the inferiority of coal mined in Alaska and burned at Alaskan power plants.

Russ Maddox.

We’re pleased to share Russ’ opinion piece here and look forward to continue our work together with him and his community to establish federal safeguards for coal ash disposal:

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.

2 Comments   /   Read more >>
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.

44 Comments   /   Read more >>
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.

8 Comments   /   Read more >>
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.

132 Comments   /   Read more >>
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.