Jared Saylor's Blog Posts

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Jared Saylor'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.

Learn more about Earthjustice.

Jared Saylor is Earthjustice’s Campaign Director who, as head coach of an all-star campaign team, goes beyond traditional media to fight for cleaner air and water. His environmental activism was inspired by his grandmothers—an asthmatic and a community organizer—who taught him that bad air means asthma, but it also means an opportunity to clean it up if enough people start yelling. Born in the SF Bay Area but now based in DC, Jared hopes one day that Fed-Ex offers same-day shipping for SF burritos. When he's not drumming in an accordion-based tuba rock band, he's teaching his daughter her Ps and Qs or relaxing with his wife, Sarah, a fellow Earthjustice employee.

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20 June 2012, 9:47 AM
McKinley offers motion testing House Democrats' concern for public health

It’s Groundhog Day in the House of Representatives. Once again, coal company allies are leading a charge to pass a symbolic vote that would reinforce their disdain for any plans to clean up coal ash ponds and landfills with federal minimum safeguards. But the symbolism has real-world impacts: nearly 200 coal ash sites have already contaminated nearby lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers with dangerous chemicals that cause cancer, organ damage and even death.

Representatives will vote on an arcane Motion to Instruct, which tells the 47 members of the House and Senate who are on the conference committee for a massive transportation bill package to include a bad amendment on coal ash. That amendment snuffs out any possibility for the EPA to set federal regulations for safe coal ash disposal and was attached to the version of the transportation bill the House passed last month.

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15 May 2012, 1:02 PM
Polar bears, walrus, sandpiper, 150 activists deliver comments to White House
Campaign Director Jared Saylor and Policy & Legislation intern Adriane Underwood carry letters from more than 50,000 Earthjustice supporters who support protecting the Arctic.

On a muggy Tuesday morning, two polar bears lumbered south on 17th Street in Washington D.C. A walrus waved at drivers honking their horns. A sandpiper flapped its wings as it passed food trucks and coffee shops. And, 40 representatives from more than a dozen environmental groups wore bright blue shirts emblazoned with the logo “SAVE THE ARCTIC.”

Paws, wings, shirts and all, they headed towards the White House with a few things to tell the president. Joined by a few hundred activists, they gathered to deliver more than one million comments from concerned citizens, asking President Obama to stop plans by Shell Oil to drill in the remote, fragile waters of the Arctic Ocean this summer.

Comments being delivered to the White House.

The waters of Alaska’s northern coast are home to threatened polar bears, endangered bowhead whales, walrus, seals, birds that range through every state in the Union. Drilling in these waters threatens these species and the vibrant indigenous Alaska Native culture that depends on a healthy Arctic Ocean, both already under stress from rapid climate change.
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24 April 2012, 6:09 AM
Conservative group ALEC would weaken coal ash standards
The 2008 coal ash spill in Kingston, TN, motivated the EPA to propose the first ever federal rules regarding safe disposal of coal ash in 2010. (TVA)

The New York Times reported over the weekend that Common Cause, a nonprofit watchdog group, was using thousands of documents it received to bolster a claim that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) violates its nonprofit status by practicing in state and federal lobbying. ALEC, which has been in the news lately, is a corporate funded conservative group composed of lobbyists and elected officials that often drafts and votes on legislative language on a variety of issues that undermine the health and safety of the American public. Their initiatives include measures to weaken labor and environmental laws, and most notoriously, "Stand Your Ground" laws, such as the one being used as a defense in the murder of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

It should come as no surprise then that ALEC also drafted and adopted a resolution pertaining to relaxed federal protections for coal ash.

Currently, no federal coal ash safeguards exist. A 2008 coal ash spill in Kingston, TN, motivated the EPA to propose the first ever federal rules regarding safe disposal of coal ash in 2010. After a lengthy public hearing process, those rules are still pending final approval.

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01 March 2012, 8:21 AM
Industry says studies about health impacts of chemicals should be confidential

It seems reasonable that if something were to cause us harm, we’d like to know about it—such as a faulty part in a car that would cause the brakes to fail. It’s the way we protect ourselves and our families, by avoiding those things that might cause us harm, or at least being made aware of the risks. Seems logical enough, right?

Unfortunately, some of the companies responsible for divulging this information don’t always use logic as their motivating factor. Case in point: The Toxic Substances Control Act, for all its weaknesses, calls for information about health and safety studies of chemicals used in many everyday products to be made public. For years companies have been claiming that the identity of the chemicals and other basic information in the studies should be kept secret. But recently, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new rules that would not allow companies to claim these studies as “Confidential Business Information,” which for too long has kept this information out of the public arena.

But industry isn’t going to comply quietly. In a white paper released Jan. 19, the American Chemistry Council makes sweeping assertions about the potential impact of the EPA’s policy, launching a broadside attack on the EPA’s ability to let the public know what these chemicals can do to our bodies and our environment.

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12 December 2011, 4:34 PM
Oil spill would be diastrous and there's no way to clean a spill up

It’s not easy to get the President’s attention. He’s a busy guy, and despite sending him thousands of comment letters and making hundreds of phone calls, he just doesn’t seem to understand that Americans don’t want oil drilling in the fragile waters of the Arctic Ocean. These waters are home to polar bears, walrus, bowhead whales and other endangered species. They provide bounty for Native subsistence communities. A spill in these waters would be an environmental disaster unlike any other. The nearest coast guard station is over a thousand miles away, and the frozen seas are battered with heavy winds and ice floes dozens of feet wide.

Well, we’re turning up the volume on our call for Arctic Ocean protections. This week, we’re running an ad in the New York Times and another in Politico, along with radio ads on local talk news stations in Washington, D.C. that ask President Obama, “Why would you allow unsafe drilling in the Arctic Ocean?”

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05 August 2011, 8:33 AM
Feds greenlight first offshore drilling plans in Arctic since Gulf spill

Last summer, we were captivated by a live video feed of oil spewing from a broken well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. The Deepwater Horizon disaster woke up America to the dangers of offshore oil drilling, and the government was quick to act.

Shortly after 11 workers lost their lives, the Obama administration shelved plans to drill for oil in America’s Arctic Ocean. If even a fraction of the 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico were to spill in the remote, fragile waters of the Arctic Ocean, the result would be devastating; there is no known technology to clean up oil spilled in these waters where 20-foot swells and huge chunks of ice are common.

But, clearly, those leassons have been unlearned.

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16 June 2011, 9:16 AM
New poll shows overwhelming support for EPA clean air standards
Smog over Los Angeles

It comes as no surprise: Americans overwhelmingly want clean air. We’re very pleased to see that our friends at the American Lung Association have concluded that 75 percent of American voters support the Environmental Protection Agency and their efforts to clean up smog pollution. The ALA released the results of a nationwide, bipartisan poll today that shows Americans really do want clean air and don’t believe that cleaning up smog pollution will impede economic recovery. Actually, most believe that clean air will create more jobs as a result fo clean air technologies and innovation.

The EPA has signaled plans to finalize smog limits in late July that could prevent up to 12,000 premature deaths, 2.5 million missed school or work days, 21,000 hospital and emergency room visits and 58,000 asthma attacks. The rule was to be finalized last year, but delays and attacks by polluters well-versed in spreading misinformation and inflammatory remarks pushed the EPA to hold off on protecting the public. If the opinion of Americans means anything, the agency will move swiftly to finalize the smog standard as they promised.

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17 May 2011, 2:06 PM
Protections against boiler pollution are put on hold after polluter pressure

Shame on the Environmental Protection Agency. Yesterday afternoon, the agency decided that it would postpone indefinitely a new health standard finalized a few months ago that would reduce toxic air pollution from industrial boilers. These small power plants are used at larger industrial facilities like oil refineries and chemical plants—more than 13,000 of them are in operation across the country. In the aggregate, they are among the worst emitters of mercury, chromium, lead, arsenic, dioxins and other hazardous air pollutants.

But rather than clean up their pollution, the EPA decided instead to cave to the polluters and some members of Congress who began ramping up the pressure during the mid-term elections. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Since December, the administration has slowed review and implementations of several closely watched regulations, including two affecting the powerful coal industry: ash disposal and mountaintop-removal mining.”

It seems to be politics as usual with this EPA. According to the agency’s own assessment, the projected pollution cuts from industrial boilers would have saved up to 6,500 lives every year, and outweighed the costs to industry by $22 billion to $54 billion annually. But the delay in implementing these pollution cuts will now cost 6,500 lives, 4,000 non-fatal heart attacks and 4,300 hospital and emergency room visits for every year that we wait.

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04 May 2011, 8:12 AM
One in 10 children, one in 12 adults suffer from asthma.
Courtesy Univ. of Maryland

Asthma Awareness Month kicked off with grim news. The New York Times reports today that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report that finds almost one in 12 Americans and one in 10 children are suffering the effects of asthma. The report showed that African-American children are most acutely affected, with nearly one in five afflicted, a significant increase from just 10 years ago when one in nine African-American children were diagnosed with asthma.

This sharp increase baffles researchers, but the numbers do not lie: more Americans are suffering from asthma than ever before. It’s likely that many reading this blog either suffer from asthma  or know a friend or family member who does. There are many triggers for an asthma attack, such as second-hand smoke, mold or dust. But, big polluters like cement kilns and power plants play a prominent role as well. These facilities pump tons of fine particulate pollution and smog into our air, worsening air quality, triggering asthma attacks and causing asthma to develop in the most vulnerable populations: our children.

The CDC reported that Midwest and Northeast states are suffering the highest incidences of asthma rates in the country.

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03 May 2011, 1:28 PM
Asthma affects more than 25 million Americans; some are in D.C. to talk about it
Alex and Tommy Allred, from Midlothian, TX.

Alex Allred and her family are surrounded by cement. Not concrete, which is made from cement, but the big industrial facilities that crush and heat limestone to make cement. She lives in Midlothian, TX, an area known locally as “The Cement Capital of Texas,” a distinction that Alex and her family cannot appreciate. Her son eight-year-old son, Tommy, has asthma. His visits to the hospital emergency room are too numerous to remember. His asthma attacks hit him like a tank, unexpected and relentless.

As Alex describes it: “One minute he’s running around like a normal little boy, and the next minute he’s on the floor of the car gasping for air as I fly down the road, trying to get him to the hospital as fast as I can.”

Alex and her family believe it was air pollution from the cement kilns and other big polluters in their neighborhood that caused Tommy’s asthma. He and Alex have written a short story about how the pollution affects his health, and in it he describes what an asthma attack feels like: “It is very scary and sometimes when you can’t breathe, you think you’re going to die. Then, when the attack is over, you feel like you have to go to bed.”

Today is World Asthma Day, and to celebrate, Alex is joining an unprecedented collection of doctors, faith and tribal leaders, nurses, social justice advocates and affected citizens who have come to Washington, D.C. as part of “50 States United for Healthy Air.”