Doug Pflugh's Blog Posts

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Doug Pflugh'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.

Doug Pflugh is a Research Analyst in Earthjustice's Rocky Mountain office and GIS Coordinator for the organization at-large. He works on the full range of issues confronting the Four Corner states: climate change and energy development, public lands management, and river protection. Doug has lived and worked throughout the western U.S., and held previous careers in wilderness education and natural hazards planning. Denver is now his home but he is out in the mountains and deserts of southwest whenever possible. You may run into him skiing near a 10th Mountain Division hut or overtake him on a triathlon course. Follow Doug on Twitter at @dpflugh_ej

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12 February 2014, 5:35 PM
This week, the public gets to speak out on their state's air quality
A hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," site in Colorado. (Ecoflight)

Colorado has emerged as a western ground zero in the fracking boom, with more than 50,000 active wells in the state and 3,000 wells permitted annually on average in recent years. The state is struggling to deal with this staggering growth as well as the changing nature of the industry as operations have moved into communities along the Front Range.

This week, Colorado is poised to take a big step forward on protecting public health as the state considers significant revisions to the rules controlling the air quality impacts of oil and gas industry operations. Earthjustice and our partners will be there, urging the state to stand strong against an industry campaign to water down the rules.

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11 February 2014, 2:20 PM
Suit seeks to make Army help protect the river and its species
The upper reaches of the San Pedro River's ecosystem. (Melanie Kay / Earthjustice)

Two endangered species that call the San Pedro River in Southern Arizona home—the Huachuca water umbel and southwestern willow flycatcher –should have their long-term survival guaranteed under the Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, those species have waited in vain for that help while two federal agencies have dragged their feet.

A suit filed at the end of January by Earthjustice attorneys Melanie Kay and McCrystie Adams seeks to end that wait and compel the U.S. Army’s Fort Huachuca to coexist with the San Pedro and the plants and animals that are the original inhabitants of the valley.

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24 January 2014, 11:17 AM
Drought, diversions threaten Colorado, San Pedro and other rivers
The now-dry Colorado River delta branches into the Baja / Sonoran Desert, only 5 miles north of the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. (Pete McBride / USGS)

We’re less than a month in, but 2014 is already shaping up to be a tough year for rivers. Across the nation, from West Virginia to California, the headlines have been bleak. In the Rocky Mountain region, we’re gearing up for a long year defending the Colorado and San Pedro rivers.

Following recognition as America’s most endangered river in 2013, the Colorado River has become known nationwide for the unsustainable balance that exists between increasing diversions and declining flows. Much of the West has been built on a foundation of Colorado River water and millions of people in communities throughout the region depend on it on a daily basis. On-going regional drought and continued growth are now finally forcing water supply managers to accept that business as usual is no longer tenable and changes are coming to the basin.

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18 October 2013, 1:37 PM
Action prevents development leases in Utah's red rock country
Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah. The park is known for its impressive geological wonders. (Darren J. Bradley / Shutterstock)

It is rewarding to successfully wrap-up a case. This can be especially true when our work protects special places, preserving them for future generations. It is a pleasure to be able to point at a map and say, “Those are the places that were saved.”

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16 May 2013, 10:00 AM
Lawsuit seeks to protect San Pedro River from huge development
The upper reaches of the San Pedro River.  (Melanie Kay / Earthjustice)

Earthjustice has worked with our partners for more than a decade to sustain the San Pedro River of southern Arizona. Our attorneys have taken legal action—a series of cases challenging inappropriate groundwater depletions by the U.S. Army’s Fort Huachuca—to keep water in the river until a balance can be struck between the needs of the river and the local communities. While we have had success through the years, the San Pedro is unfortunately one of those places where the effort to achieve a lasting solution has been difficult.

Champions of the San Pedro now have a great opportunity to change that tide and secure meaningful protection for the river into the future. A challenge was filed this week to a 7,000-unit suburban development planned for the upper San Pedro valley which had been given the go-ahead by the state of Arizona. This development would be fueled by groundwater pumped from the San Pedro watershed and will, if built, drain the remaining flows from the river. The challenge seeks to deny the planned groundwater pumping, force the state to acknowledge the authority of water rights granted to the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area and, by doing so, keep the river alive.

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10 May 2013, 1:34 PM
Richly forested lands in W. Colorado could become industrial zone
The Thompson Divide is clearly a keystone of the region, the state and the West.  (EcoFlight)

There is no dispute that the Thompson Divide—a 220,000-acre forested wildland in western Colorado—is a special place. It comprises some of the most valuable and diverse mid-elevation forested landscapes in Colorado and includes the headwaters of streams that sustain the Crystal, Roaring Fork and North Fork valleys. Thompson Divide is a prized destination for recreationists and tourists, and supports a long tradition of ranching. Perhaps most importantly, with no fewer than nine roadless areas, the Divide includes the largest complex of non-Wilderness roadless lands left in Colorado. The Thompson Divide is clearly a keystone of the region, the state and the West.

The debate over the Thompson Divide focuses on its future: should it remain intact, providing the extraordinary ecological and economic values that have benefited local communities and wildlife for generations, or should it be transformed into an industrial zone to produce natural gas for the highest bidder?

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26 April 2013, 3:10 PM
Natural riches at stake in Colorado plateau area
The Roan Plateau has been ranked as one of the four most biologically rich areas in Colorado.  (Michael Freeman)

The Roan Plateau stands proudly above the Colorado River, an island of refuge in the sea of energy development that threatens to industrialize much of western Colorado. The Plateau contains more than 30 square miles of pristine wildlands and is one of the most biologically rich landscapes in Colorado. The Roan is undoubtedly better suited to be a refuge for wildlife, rare plants and big game than a maze of natural gas wells, pipelines and roads. It is truly a place that is too special to drill.

Earthjustice and our clients have fought for nearly five years to keep the Roan Plateau a wild place. That fight culminated in victory last year when federal Judge Marcia Krieger struck down a Bush-era Bureau of Land Management plan for extensive development on the plateau. The court directed the BLM to consider more protective approaches for managing this biological hotspot. The BLM is complying with that order and began a new environmental review process earlier this year.

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17 April 2013, 2:55 PM
Massive development could kill desert ribbon of life
Rich ecosystems flourish around the San Pedro River.  (Jeff Kennedy / USGS)

The upper San Pedro River valley in Arizona is the epitome of the Wild West. Open and arid, stretching north from Mexico and lying in the shadow of the rugged Huachuca Mountains, the valley looks much the same as it did more than a century ago when miners and settlers uneasily shared the land. It is a place where the long shadows at sunset bring visitors back to a long-past time.

Cutting across that mythic landscape is the treasure of the valley, the San Pedro River, last free-flowing river in the desert Southwest. A remnant of the formerly extensive network of desert riparian ecosystems, the river has dwindled in recent decades as development moved into the valley. And now the San Pedro may be drained to feed a proposed mega-development.

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17 April 2013, 12:20 PM
Unrestrained thirst puts Colorado atop American Rivers' threat list
Management of the Colorado River remains an engineering task that seeks to wring as much water as possible out of its banks. (David Morgan / iStockphoto)

The Colorado River has been called the lifeblood of the west; it defines our geography, sustains our fish and wildlife, feeds and powers our cities. Without it, our lives and heritage would be fundamentally different—which is why Earthjustice and the conservation community have fought for years to preserve and protect this great river.

But, the thirst for Colorado River water is proving too great.

Today, American Rivers, a national river conservation organization, named the Colorado its most endangered river for 2013. This dubious distinction was well earned as decades of damming, diversion and domestication have left the river that carves the Grand Canyon a ghost of its former self.

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21 May 2012, 2:00 PM
Water pipeline permit denied, Endangered river spared for now
The Green River has been listed as one of the "most endangered rivers" in the country. (NPS)

It’s been a tough spring for rivers in the Rocky Mountain West. After a winter that never really got started, the snow pack—our primary source for water in our rivers—is historically low in Colorado and throughout the region. Runoff from snow melt is sparse and came early, leaving behind disappointing river peak flows. The last time we were in this situation the river life suffered and it looks like we’re heading that way again.

Despite this dark outlook, we received some great news (along with some refreshing heavy spring rains) here in Denver last week—news that gives us hope for one of our favorite rivers, the Green.