David Lawlor's Blog Posts

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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.


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.

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13 December 2011, 11:55 AM
California, here he comes? His search for a mate goes viral
A wolf, but not OR7. There are no known photos of wolf OR7.(Photo: Galen Rowell)

There’s nothing like a good road trip—you grab a handful of your favorite CDs, some snacks, a sense of adventure, and you’re off! Cruising down the open road, wind blowing through your hair, eyeballing heretofore unknown terrain, wondering who the heck lives in that little shack beside the highway in the middle of nowhere.

That’s how we humans do a road trip. But if you want to learn what a real road trip looks like, then you need to follow the saga of a gray wolf known to Oregon officials simply as OR7. Sure, OR7 could have grabbed his favorite Howlin’ Wolf album, packed some elk jerky and brought along his map of eastern Oregon.

But this dude is hardcore.

2 Comments   /  
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08 December 2011, 10:44 AM
Columbia Riverkeeper outlines risks of coal export terminals in the Northwest
Coal train spewing black dust from its open boxcars, in a new video from Columbia Riverkeeper.

Would you want to live next door to a coal export terminal?

Wait, maybe that’s too vague of a question. Instead, let me ask you this…

Would you want mile-long coal trains traveling through your community 24 hours a day, seven days a week? Would you want your children exposed to noxious coal dust as it drifts through the air? Would you want to sacrifice the health of your community so that filthy rich corporations can ship coal to China where it will be burned in poorly regulated power plants and generate filthy air pollution?

Now let me ask you again: would you want to live next door to a coal export terminal?

I sure as hell wouldn’t.

Unfortunately, for residents of Oregon and Washington, the question of living next door to a coal export terminal isn’t merely a rhetorical debate exercise.

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01 December 2011, 5:07 PM
Ambre Energy’s move points to a second round in Northwest coal export fight

“This is a good company from Australia who is well funded, well banked, and they have bought a mine in Montana and have every intention to ship it to Asia. It's a great story.”
- Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer

Yes, governor, it’s a great story. It’s a story of air pollution, global warming and ruined landscapes. It’s a story of hazardous waste, poisoned water and destroyed communities. It’s a story of a 19th century technology wearing out its welcome well into the 21st century.

It’s the story of coal.

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21 September 2011, 3:10 PM
Earthjustice petitions to compel analysis of threat to wildlife
Whooping crane.

You can’t get something for nothing—there is always a trade-off, always a catch. In the case of Canada’s tar sands crude oil project, what’s being sacrificed in the name of the United States’ oil addiction are the lives of stoic woodland caribou and majestic whooping cranes.

Earthjustice filed a Pelly petition today with the U.S. Department of the Interior, asking Secretary Ken Salazar to investigate Canada’s destructive tar sands mining and examine how the mining is hampering international efforts to protect endangered and threatened species. The petition documents how tar sands mining and drilling in Alberta is harming threatened woodland caribou and at least 130 migratory bird species, including endangered whooping cranes.

The Pelly petition calls on Salazar to promptly investigate and determine whether tar sands activities are weakening treaties that protect endangered and threatened species. If Salazar’s investigation finds that tar sands activities are weakening those treaties, then he is required to report those conclusions to President Obama. The vast majority of Canada’s tar sands crude is exported to the United States.

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21 September 2011, 2:49 PM
Bills would eliminate pollution controls for boilers, cement plants
Cement kiln

Try this the next time you go camping at your favorite state or national park: dump into your campsite’s fire pit a few tires, a little plastic, a dash of chemical solvents and some random industrial waste—then strike a match and let the inferno begin.

Oh sure, you’ll be sending toxic pollutants into the air but, hey, when the ranger comes by and asks you if you’re crazy, just tell him that you’re taking your cue from the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Today, that committee passed two bills that, if signed into law, would rewrite the Clean Air Act and threaten the health of the American people.

3 Comments   /  
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20 September 2011, 12:44 PM
Shell secures permits to drill for oil in America's Arctic waters in 2012.
A Coast Guard crew conducts research in the Alaskan Arctic's waters in July 2011. Photo courtesy NASA/Kathryn Hansen

A massive oil spill announced this week off the coast of western Sweden feels like an ominous harbinger for America’s Arctic Ocean.

Just days following the spill near the Swedish island of Tjörn, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued air permits for Shell Oil’s plans to drill in the Alaskan Arctic in 2012. EPA issued the permits despite the fact that Shell’s oil spill response plan for the region’s icy, remote waters is totally inadequate.

Sweden’s disaster serves as a cautionary tale for America’s Arctic Ocean.

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16 September 2011, 12:15 PM
Global event encourages turning parking spots into temporary public spaces
S'more Park created in a parking space by PGA Design, a landscape architecture firm based in Oakland, Calif. The temporary park was constructed as part of the 7th Annual PARK(ing) Day.

Cars sure are important. I mean, we design our towns and cities—heck, our whole civilization—around their ubiquitous presence. We construct massive parking structures where cars live for temporary periods, have a whole dining subculture based on the automobile, and dot the sides of our city streets with parking spaces deemed so valuable as to demand a fee for their use.

That’s why what I saw when I strolled into work today was so refreshing.

Outside the front door of Earthjustice’s office in downtown Oakland, Calif., a bucolic camp site scene was occupying a space next to the curb and between two white lines painted on the street where I would normally spy a pickup truck or late-model sedan. There was a collection of tree stumps to sit down on, there were board games resting on a small table, and there was an actual campfire complete with s’more-preparation paraphernalia.

Happy PARK(ing) Day!

2 Comments   /  
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30 August 2011, 3:25 PM
Exxon signs $3.2 billion deal with Rosneft
Oil development in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Photo by Florian Schulz

Environmentalist author Chellis Glendinning’s 2002 work of nonfiction, Off the Map, is an indictment of maps and cartography. Glendinning asserts that maps have historically served as tools of conquest that define the territory which is to be exploited.

With that in mind, Exxon’s announcement on Monday that the company inked a deal to drill for oil in Russia’s Arctic waters should be of concern to every American and indeed every human on Earth. See, the thing is, Russia’s Arctic waters don’t stay put within the imaginary lines drawn on a map. So if there is an oil spill as a result of Exxon’s activities, the oil that leaks from the ocean floor will cross all sorts of these imaginary boundaries and threaten the overall health of the Arctic ecosystem.

The $3.2-billion deal between Exxon and Russia’s state-run Rosneft in turn gives the Russian company access to drill oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico and in Texas. A deal was in the works earlier this year between Rosneft and BP for the Arctic contract, but it fell through, opening the door for Exxon.

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28 August 2011, 5:00 PM
Earthjustice advocacy, litigation reveal dispersants’ dirty chemical secrets

<Updated in final paragraph>

Pop quiz: nearly 2 million gallons of chemicals are about to be dumped into the ocean where they will mix with oil gushing from a blown out well. Do you:

   A. Study beforehand the chemicals’ effects on marine life?
   B. Study beforehand the chemicals’ effects on humans?
   C. Study beforehand what will happen when the chemicals mix with the oil?
   D. Just dump the chemicals in mass quantities without sufficient knowledge of their toxicity or of how they will affect marine life and humans?

Well, following last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, answer D is exactly what happened.

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26 August 2011, 3:13 PM
Earthjustice continues to challenge tar sands development.
Alberta tar sands development. (Photo by EvolveLove/Flickr Creative Commons)

The U.S. Department of State today issued the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for the Keystone XL pipeline project, which would transport tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast. Despite the fact that the Alberta tar sands represent the second largest pool of carbon in the world, despite the fact that the tar sands activities threaten endangered species, and despite the high potential for leaks and spills, the State Department concluded that the 1,711-mile pipeline would have a minimal impact on the environment.

If you believe that the pipeline will have a “minimal impact” on the environment, then I’ve got some prime Florida swampland to sell you.

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