Emily Enderle's Blog Posts

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Emily Enderle'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.


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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17 May 2012, 11:12 AM
Rep. McKinley's constituents call him out for standing with corporate interests
Little Blue Run Dam and reservoir, as viewed from the International Space Station, is the largest coal ash pond in the country. Materials suspended in the water give it a striking, turquoise color. (April 2002, NASA)

It’s inspiring to see the commitment of Rep. David McKinley’s constituents living in the shadow of First Energy’s behemoth 1,000-acre Little Blue Run waste dump continuing to speak the truth amid the lies flaunted by corporate interests. Steve and Annette Rhodes, life-long residents of West Virginia, describe the stark and unfortunate reality of living near a toxic coal ash dump and debunk the many falsehoods spouted by Rep. McKinley in their recent piece in The Hill, Rep McKinley We Live Here with the Coal Ash. They are also quite clear that the coal ash amendment (Title V of HR 4348) pushed by Rep. McKinley is an overzealous attempt to jam a controversial public health loophole into an unrelated transportation bill.

Rep. McKinley is a broken record when it comes to citing flawed industry reports and ignoring the public health and environmental impacts of his dangerous provision. He consistently turns a blind eye to repeated private and public requests for relief from his constituents who live in the shadows of the largest toxic coal ash pond in the U.S. His constituents have testified before Congress, been quoted in the WV press, national press and elsewhere complaining of contaminated water flowing onto their properties, noxious odors and tainted soil.

Chester, WV, where the Rhodes live, borders Little Blue Run. The dump holds approximately 20 billion gallons of toxic sludge and is held back by a 400-foot earthen dam—the tallest of its kind in the U.S. It straddles the border between West Virginia and Pennsylvania and looms over Ohio. It’s rated a high hazard dam by EPA and is expected to kill upwards of 50,000 people in Ohio if it were to fail. According to the EPA, contaminated water from Little Blue Run has been dousing properties at a volume equal to seven fire hoses and arsenic has been migrating into Marks Run, a local stream.

Little Blue Run straddles the border between West Virginia and Pennsylvania and looms over Ohio. The coal ash dump holds approximately 20 billion gallons of toxic sludge and is held back by a 400-foot earthen dam—the tallest of its kind in the U.S.

Little Blue Run is the largest coal ash pond in the US. It straddles the border between West Virginia and Pennsylvania and looms over Ohio. The coal ash dump is 1000 acres, holds approximately 20 billion gallons of toxic sludge and is held back by a 400-foot earthen dam—the tallest of its kind in the U.S.
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10 February 2012, 11:20 AM
One town’s Tr-“ash” is no one’s treasure

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been sitting on a proposed coal ash standard for nearly 15 months. Without environmental standards for protection from this toxic waste, 54 residents of Perry County, AL had little recourse but to file a civil rights complaint alleging discrimination against the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), citing them in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The complaint filed by accomplished environmental attorney David Ludder grows from collateral damage from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant coal ash spill. The spill, which was five times the volume of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, remains the largest environmental spill of any type in U.S. history and continues to devastate two communities in its aftermath.

Coal ash, the metal-laden waste after coal is burned, is often mixed with water and stored as sludge in enormous pits next to power plants. Large earthen dams, sometimes taller than 100 feet, hold back the sludge. As Christmas neared in 2008, an enormous pond burst, spilling 5.4 million cubic yards into the Harriman, TN community. It continues to be a huge mess for the residents of Harriman who don’t expect clean-up to be completed until 2014.

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21 October 2011, 10:48 AM
Pals of polluters vote to let coal ash poison our water supplies
Clean-up operations in the aftermath of the 2008 Kingston coal ash spill. (TVA)

On Friday, in a 267–144 vote, a majority of House members voted to keep allowing coal ash to pollute our drinking water. The passage of the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act (H.R. 2273) lets states choose to adopt a disposal standard less protective than those for household garbage.

The bill fails to protect communities from drinking water polluted by arsenic, hexavalent chromium and other cancer-causing chemicals or disasters like the TVA spill. It doesn’t even take the most basic step of eliminating wet disposal ponds, which both EPA’s proposed options include. Further, it doesn’t create a federally enforceable baseline standard and serves solely to establish a toothless regime that treats this ash with fewer protections than household garbage.

Under the leadership of Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), the GOP-controlled House has taken aim at public health and transparency, undermining the efforts of the EPA to use the best available science to complete their public rulemaking addressing coal ash.

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29 July 2011, 7:07 AM
H.R. 2584 compromises public health, esp. in environmental justice communities
Millions of Americans are already suffering from asthma. (Chris Jordan / Earthjustice)

The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, FY 2012 (H.R. 2584) is chock-full of riders that protect polluters, not people. This bill makes excessive budget cuts and policy decisions that compromise public health, especially the health of environmental justice communities already disproportionately impacted by pollution. The outrageous cuts have brought together more than 70 groups on a letter to outright oppose H.R.

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16 June 2011, 8:50 AM
Congressman’s district is home to largest coal ash pond
Rep. David McKinley

Here we go again.

Some of our elected leaders are once more maneuvering to block much-needed health protections against coal ash. Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) has sponsored a bill that would broadly remove federal authority for any regulation of coal ash ever. This bill, if enacted, also would conveniently protect his business interests. In April, Politico exposed Rep. McKinley’s business interest in ensuring that coal ash is not regulated. Rep McKinley owns the largest engineering firm in West Virginia and his company uses coal ash in concrete, as fill for roads and other uses.

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02 June 2011, 7:50 AM
Public Health Depends on Strong Power Plant Air Toxics and Coal Ash Standards

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency hosted hearings in Philadelphia, Chicago and Atlanta to hear public comments about their proposal to reduce mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants. If finalized, these health protections will reduce mercury and acid gas emissions by 91 percent, reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 55 percent, and capture toxic chemicals like arsenic and hexavalent chromium.

Where will this toxic soup of pollution end up? Unfortunately, in the toxic coal ash that has already poisoned more than 130 sites across the country. If the EPA doesn’t finalize a Subtitle C coal ash standard, which would designate coal ash a hazardous waste, with a timeline that coincides with cleaning up smokestacks, we’ll see an increased quantity and toxicity of the ash that will pose an even more egregious threat to public health.  

During their testimony last week, many community members who live in the shadows of coal-fired power plants pointed out that controlling power plant air emissions is only a partial fix to protecting people from the toxic pollution produced when burning coal. They live beneath the smokestacks and next to the coal ash dumps. Though the air standard will do wonders to improve air quality in the U.S., without Subtitle C regulation of coal ash, all that toxic gunk collected from the smokestacks will end up in our bodies through contaminated water and breathing in fugitive dust from improperly regulated coal ash disposal sites. 

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08 February 2011, 12:56 PM
Is this convenience too good to be true?
Emily at work.

(Editor's note: This is a cross post from Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.)

In this fast-paced world, who has time for ironing?

Not me. Between educating policy-makers on the need to protect Americans from toxic chemicals during the week and playing sports on the weekends, I barely have time to wash my clothes let alone iron them.

Not only is ironing time consuming, it somehow manages to be both futile and really scary at the same time. By the time I finish navigating that chrome-coated burn machine around the buttons, cuffs, and collars on my work shirts, about all I have to show for my efforts is a moderately less wrinkled shirt and a scalded forearm or two. Seriously, the bounce cycle on my dryer produces more consistent results.

Which is why when I discovered wrinkle-free (!) shirts, I thanked my lucky stars and quickly stocked my work wardrobe with multiple colors and styles of these perpetually pressed wonders.

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26 January 2011, 12:59 PM
Cost benefit analysis flawed
Sarah McCoin stands along Swan Pond Circle Road near the TVA Kingston Power Plant.

(This is the latest in a weekly series of 50 Tr-Ash Talk blogs discussing the dangers of coal ash. Earthjustice hopes that by December 2011, the third anniversary of the TVA coal ash spill, the EPA will release a coal ash rule establishing federally enforceable regulations ensuring the safe disposal of this toxic waste.)

Today, the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations heard Office of Management and Budget (OMB) official Cass Sunstein speak on the Obama Administration’s view of regulatory reform. Sunstein trumpeted the economic benefits of President Obama’s new Executive Order – Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review.

President Obama’s new executive order, publicly announced in a Wall Street Journal article is widely regarded as a giveaway to industry, providing a set of economic criteria to consider when developing, changing or repealing regulations. This reinforces the administration’s stance on weighing economic costs against public health benefits using techniques like cost-benefit analysis. Cost-benefit analysis attempts to monetize the actual impacts of regulations like missed school and work days due to sickness, deaths from cancer resulting from exposure to pollution as well as economic impacts. While this is theoretically a useful tool, the analysis has a long list of shortcomings that ultimately results in uncalculated, therefore unconsidered, harm to our health, environment and wallets. In the case of the coal ash rule, the analysis was grossly inaccurate, resulting in a cost figure more than 20 times the actual number ($23 billion vs. $1.5 billion).

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10 August 2010, 10:33 AM
Hormone-disrupting BPA free with purchase

I've got a chronic habit of holding onto receipts for the items I buy. Just in case a moment of clarity strikes and I realize I don't need that time-saving gadget or extraneous accessory after all.

But it turns out that as a woman of child-bearing age, this practice poses a greater danger to me than just encouraging indecisive shopping. New evidence suggests that these slips of paper we handle so often are coated in the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA)—putting each of us and our children, even those unborn, at risk. BPA is widely recognized as an endocrine disruptor (a substance that can alter how our hormones are regulated in our bodies). Reports from across the globe have stated that BPA can cause cancer, erectile dysfunction, and child development problems.

Flipping through the Global Times on a flight to Tibet from the Yunnan Province in China the other day, I came across an article reporting that pregnant women and many other people in Shanghai are no longer taking receipts from places like grocery stores and ATMs because of concerns about BPA. Women in the United States are doing the same.

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