Brian Smith's Blog Posts

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

Brian Smith's 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.

Brian Smith is a Campaign Manager who learned the importance of protecting healthy soil, clean water and the climate while growing up on a farm in the Central Valley. When Brian's not busy helping people to understand the interconnectedness between the planet and people, he enjoys exploring California's endless state parks, hunting for old punk rock records or pampering his cat, Angie. He's lived car-free for more than a decade and hopes to return to that lifestyle once his new knees are up (and running). Brian's wife Susan is a hospital chaplain and when they say goodbye in the morning, she says, "Save the planet." He replies, "Save the people."

View Brian Smith's blog posts
11 March 2011, 1:07 PM
Time to think twice about our priorities?

On a day when every resident of the Pacific Rim is grateful for advanced warning systems, we are reminded of the essential services that government agencies provide. Certainly, fishermen in California who got their boats out of the water this morning as the Japanese tsunami approached are grateful for those who work around-the-clock to protect lives and property.

But essential services now face the chopping block in Washington, DC.

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03 March 2011, 5:56 PM
The latest cluck from clean air "Chicken Littles"
The sky is falling again

The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association put out a press statement today. As they have for the last 40 years, the pollution lobby warns that stronger standards will cause massive disruption.

"It [new ozone standards] will have a great, and again potentially very negative, impact on the prospects for job creation and retention over the next decade. And its impact on American citizens – the motorists, truckers, farmers and families that drive our great nation – will be felt for years to come."

The NPRA advises the EPA to do nothing. Keep the old standard. They promise to develop cleaner fuels without new regulations.

Just a few problems with this line of argument.

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23 February 2011, 5:52 PM
Increased protections for our right to breathe
Earthjustice attorney Jim Pew has fought for these protections for over a decade.

The EPA today issued its final standard to protect Americans from the toxic air pollution emitted by industrial facilities like chemical plants, refineries and paper mills.

Across the country more than 200,000 industrial boilers, heaters and incinerators operated for decades nearly unregulated, though they are major contributors of toxic air pollutants like lead, arsenic, and acid gases. Today’s announcement will save thousands of lives, and prevent thousands of cases of asthma attacks, heart attacks and hospital visits.

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10 February 2011, 5:30 PM
New study challenges marketing campaign
Rod Bremby

A study released today by MSB Energy Associates calls into question claims that the new Sunflower coal-fired power plant expansion near Holcomb, Kansas will be the “cleanest” in the country.

Among the report’s findings:
- 669 coal-fired power generating units have lower emissions of particulate (soot) air pollution
- 321 coal-fired units have lower emissions of mercury
- 53 emit lower rates of sulfur dioxide, and
- 18 emit lower rates of nitrogen oxides

These findings are based on a controversial air permit approved by the Kansas Department of Health and the Environment in December 2010.

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07 February 2011, 5:06 PM
Rushed-through process finally gets scrutiny

Tom Gross, an official with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, is frustrated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Gross has been publicly complaining that EPA requirements to use the latest pollution-mitigating technologies are annoying. "The whole process was incredibly frustrating," Gross told the House Energy and Utilities Committee. "We told them a few words we can't repeat," reported the Lawrence-Journal World.

Late last week, the EPA issued a letter questioning KDHE’s air-quality permit issued in December, which will allow expansion of the coal-fired power plant by Sunflower Electric. The permit generated massive public opposition. For one thing, three-quarters of the new capacity, or 695 megawatts, would be reserved for use in Colorado while Kansans get all the pollution.

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28 January 2011, 4:56 PM
Three coal mines for sale

Finally admitting the unprofitably of turning coal into motor fuel, Chevron announced on Friday that it is getting out of the business.

Chevron will sell off three coal mines in Alabama, New Mexico and Wyoming. Together, those mines produced 10 million tons of coal in 2009.

The company sees the process as "10 to 15 years in the future" and made a strategic decision to focus on operations other than mining.

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14 January 2011, 5:19 PM
Controversial proposal back in the news

The proposed expansion of a coal-fired power plant near Holcomb, Kansas has been the center of controversy for several years. And now the issue is back in the news.

On Friday, Earthjustice attorney Amanda Goodin went to state court to challenge the recently granted air permit allowing the facility.

Our client, Kansas Sierra Club, believes the permit issued last month by the Kansas Department and Health and Environment did not do enough to regulate air pollution and that the process for approval was suspect, considering all the political influence well-documented by Kansas media.

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17 November 2010, 1:50 PM
Public descends on meeting to expose and oppose

The coal mining industry is developing plans to send massive amounts of U.S. coal to China. The move comes as coal companies see little room for growth domestically as concerns grow over climate impacts and local pollution.

The Australian mining giant Ambre Energy asked a Cowlitz County (WA) commission last night to approve a port project that would allow for the export of 5 million tons of coal annually, mostly to Asia.

Ambre Energy has plans to buy a mine and begin the export of coal from the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana.

Those opposed to Ambre Energy's plan view the project as a beachhead in a larger campaign that would build coal export facilities at numerous sites along the Columbia river and eventually other ports along the West Coast of the United States. At the Tuesday hearing in Cowlitz County, the vast majority of people testifying opposed the project.

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28 September 2010, 4:13 PM
Rallies in four cities call for TransAlta coal plant to clean up

Rev. Tim Phillips of Seattle's First Baptist Church speaks for a coal-free future in Washington.

Conservation, faith, and public-health organizations held rallies across the state of Washington today calling for the TransAlta coal plant near Centralia to clean up its act by 2015.

“This dirty, old coal plant has polluted the air of our cherished national parks and harmed our health for too long," said Janette Brimmer for Earthjustice. “On this Day of Action, let's redouble efforts to hold TransAlta accountable for its unsafe pollution affecting citizens and their children, and demand that it stop threatening our incredible natural resources.”

Learn more about Earthjustice work to clean up coal-fired power plants here.

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15 September 2010, 3:14 PM
Dramatic incident demonstrates need for cleaning up the air
Central Valley smog sunrise

The red flag was flying two weeks ago in the California city of Arvin—a warning to residents of the nation's smoggiest city to stay indoors away from the choking air. And that's just where many residents were during a public hearing by the Environmental Protection Agency into the area's smog conditions.

Even the EPA Region 9 administrator was there, listening intently to a stream of complaints about breathing conditions, when, suddenly, a little girl suffered an asthma attack and was rushed away for treatment.

There couldn't have been a more dramatic way to drive home why Earthjustice is marshalling legal efforts to get the air cleaned up in California's central valley.

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