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 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.”

4 Comments   /   Read more >>
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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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
06 November 2013, 3:26 PM
New report talks trash about Michigan's ash
In Michigan, no regulations prohibit dangerous dumping of coal ash. (Clean Water Fund)

Clean Water Fund’s new report, Toxic Trash Exposed: Coal Ash Pollution in Michigan, reveals widespread damage from coal ash dumping in Michigan. The report discloses dozens of waterways and aquifers already poisoned and warns of statewide harm due to failure to impose reasonable safeguards on toxic dumping.

Clean Water Action released Toxic Trash Exposed on the second anniversary of the immense coal ash spill at the We Energies power plant in Oak Creek, WI, where 25,000 tons of coal ash spilled onto the lakeshore and into Lake Michigan. No one was hurt, but large boxcars tumbled like matchbox trucks in the melee. It could have killed anyone in its path.

View Michael Freeman's blog posts
06 November 2013, 3:00 PM
Strong support across the northern Front Range for halting fracking
Colorado residents have opposed the industrialization of their communities. (DOI)

TAKE ACTION, COLORADO! This week, the citizens of Longmont, Boulder, Fort Collins, Lafayette and Broomfield told the Governor to stand up to the oil & gas industry and protect our communities. Now, as state health officials are drafting new rules to regulate oil & gas emissions state-wide, you can join the call for stronger clean air rules.

Send a message to Governor Hickenlooper and tell him oil & gas emission rules should clamp down on leaks and keep smog-forming chemicals and methane—a powerful global warming pollutant—out of our air.


Residents of large and small communities across the northern Front Range area of Colorado voted Tuesday to halt fracking in their backyards.

These defeats for the oil and gas industry came after a campaign in which the industry outspent supporters of the measures by a 30–1 margin.

4 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
01 November 2013, 2:55 PM
Ordinance would provide safeguards against pesticide exposure
Large crowds had gathered at the County Building, in support of the ordinance. (Photo courtesy of Pesticides on Kauai)

Well, this is just a crying shame. After thousands of Kauaʻi residents came to show support for a popular and much-needed ordinance the County Council passed that would regulate pesticide spraying, including on the GMO crops so prevalent on Kauaʻi, you would think Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. would vote in line with his constituents. Not so. In a blow to Kauaʻi citizens concerned about exposure to dangerous pesticides and dust, yesterday Mayor Carvalho vetoed the crucial ordinance.

In a letter he states: "I do not make this decision lightly, and I know that it will be controversial. However, I believe it is the right thing to do given the circumstances before me.”

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View Kari Birdseye's blog posts
01 November 2013, 2:48 PM
Moves ahead despite past failures, warnings and a wrecked rig
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sat aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, AK, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island in January 2013. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.)

Shell Oil told investors this week that—after an embarrassing set of failures last year—it plans to go back into the icy Arctic waters in 2014. The announcement comes as a surprise given that CEOs of other Big Oil companies have been urging caution for month about returning to the area. And in fact, Shell has abandoned efforts to drill in the Beaufort Sea next summer.

At the same time, Shell says, it is seriously considering scrapping the drill rig Kulluk, which sits in a Singapore dry dock nursing battle wounds from a grounding off the coast of Alaska last year.

4 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Lisa Evans's blog posts
30 October 2013, 5:26 PM
What if EPA’s coal ash rule doesn’t close unlined lagoons?
The pollutants from these black-bottomed coal ash lagoons are real—and deadly. (Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.)

The utility industry is speaking with one voice. According to comments filed last month with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group (USWAG) is crying out for a coal ash rule that would allow forever-dumping of toxic waste in unlined, leaking and potentially unstable coal ash impoundments.

Each year, the coal industry saves boatloads of cash by dumping millions of tons of toxic waste in more than 1,000 lagoons, and they’d like to keep it that way. Wet dumping is the cheapest way, in the short-term, to dispose of toxic ash, but it is also the most dangerous. Terminating this dumping would require plants to close, stabilize and monitor coal ash lagoons that contain millions of tons of toxic waste and which have already poisoned underlying aquifers. To the coal industry, this is a frightening financial prospect.

View Charles McPhedran's blog posts
30 October 2013, 2:06 PM
Agency has an April deadline to rework standard
Little Stoney Man at Shenandoah National Park. (NPS)

On Tuesday, Oct, 22, the federal appeals court in Philadelphia gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency an April deadline for reworking its rule to limit haze pollution from Pennsylvania sources. This pollution reduces visibility and causes bad health effects at parks and wilderness areas.

Earthjustice, on behalf of the Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, and Clean Air Council, had sued the EPA over the Pennsylvania haze plan. Inadequate air pollution requirements for big polluters, including coal-fired power plants, degrade air quality at the Brigantine National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia, and other treasured public lands. This pollution harms human health, with children, pregnant women and seniors most vulnerable.

View Nailah Morgan's blog posts
28 October 2013, 11:11 AM
Research in Antarctic loses precious time during short season
A sundog frames the silhouette of a U.S. Antarctic Program participant near McMurdo Station. (Carlie Reum / NSF)

The federal government has finally ended its 16-day shutdown, and as workers return to their desks and tourists parade back into national parks, science is picking up the pieces and—in some cases—starting from scratch.

The National Science Foundation’s summer U.S. Antarctic Program came to a destructive halt as D.C. juggled with the budget crisis. The foundation suspended all activities not essential to human safety and preservation of property, leaving our understanding of the earth’s past and future to be held hostage by congress’ inability to function.

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View Sarah Burt's blog posts
25 October 2013, 2:53 PM
Earthjustice, AIDA target Mexico's failure to protect coastal ecosystems
Aerial view of Cabo Pulmo. (Sidartha Velázquez)

Earlier this month, the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) agreed to review a petition by Earthjustice and the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) asserting that Mexico is failing to enforce its environmental laws to protect coastal ecosystems in the Gulf of California from rampant tourism development.

The petition, submitted on behalf of 11 local and international conservation groups, calls for an investigation into Mexico’s unlawful approval of four “mega resorts” that threaten important mangrove, coral reef, and marine ecosystems in the Gulf of California.