Jared Saylor's Blog Posts

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

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.

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.

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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13 April 2011, 9:52 AM
Congress avoided a shutdown, but at what cost to protecting our air and water?

We avoided a government shutdown with last minute deals that seemed to please both parties. But as they often say here in Washington, D.C. “the devil is in the details.” And in this case, it’s an awfully vicious budget slashing devil that has emerged in those details.

According to the Wall Street Journal, (subscription required) even though the GOP didn’t get the big ticket budget cuts to major EPA efforts to curb global warming pollution, clean up mercury from cement kilns, and cut asthma-causing pollution from big industrial polluters like power plants and incinerators, they did get an overall reduction in the EPA’s budget by 16 percent from 2010 spending. That’s a major cut that will certainly hamper the agency’s ability to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink.

The Journal wrote:

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12 April 2011, 8:39 AM
Their message: delays on coal ash regulations are simply unacceptable!
Tennessee coal ash spill 2008. Photo courtesy United Mountain Defense.

Members of Congress are going to hear from coal ash activists this week. But it’s going to be more than just phone calls and emails; 45 citizens from nine states are flying to Washington D.C.  to tell their coal ash stories to elected representatives and administration officials.

It’s been nearly a year since the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the nation’s first federal standard for coal ash ponds and dumps. Their two-option plan would either regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste, ensuring strong protections and monitoring requirements, or regulate it as non-hazardous waste, leaving discretion up to the states and endangering the drinking water supplies for thousands of communities near these toxic dumps.

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05 April 2011, 12:55 PM
New ads in the D.C. region target attacks on Clean Air Act protections

House GOP members have been attacking clean air standards by pumping the stalled budget bill up with “riders” that remove the agency’s ability to clean up mercury, dioxins, arsenic and a host of other toxic chemicals from power plants, cement kilns, incinerators and the like.

But last week, a group called American Family Voices ran some compelling ads in the Washington, D.C. region targeting the value of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's efforts and the benefits of the Clean Air Act to get this pollution out of our lungs and out of the lungs of our children.

Here’s the ad:

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04 April 2011, 8:07 AM
ABC News tells how "Making Money Having Fun" destroyed Oklahoma town
Suella Hudson and her daughter (in picture) both died of cancer. Photo courtesy of Carlan Tapp.

Last week, coal ash coverage went national with a fine segment on ABC World News that told the story of residents in Bokoshe, OK, a small town with a very big coal ash problem. Only 450 folks live in Bokoshe, but as reporter Jim Sciutto discovered, many of them either have cancer or know someone who does.

One of the residents of Bokoshe  who was featured in the ABC story was kind enough to take a few moments to tell unEarthed about her experiences living near this toxic coal ash dump. As I wrote last week, the dump owner, a company called “Making Money Having Fun” is dumping nearly 80 truckloads of coal ash into an open pit every day. Bokoshe resident Susan Holmes—who lost both her sister and her mom to cancer—had this to say:

I applaud ABC News for taking the time to report our story here in Bokoshe. Small rural towns across the nation are considered inconsequential. We have become throwaway towns with throwaway people. The one comment made during our interviews that was not in the televised segment was that this is happening to small towns all over America, and our story is not unique. We were just blessed they chose us to interview.

At 81 years old, my mom insisted I contact ABC. I first wrote ABC over two years ago asking for an investigation. Did they come because of me? Probably not; it takes bigger and more important people to ask for them to get involved. I am just glad they listened. Those of us in Bokoshe are not stopping. We have a new pit that opened 5 miles west of town. For those that don’t know, my sister died of lung cancer in 2004 and my mom died of cancer New Year's Day this year. She knew before she died ABC News was coming. She just didn’t get to stay long enough to see it.

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29 March 2011, 11:23 AM
The story of Bokoshe, Oklahoma's fight against cancer, asthma and toxic coal ash

Bokoshe, Oklahoma has a population of 450 residents. It’s a small town carrying a heavy toxic burden. The nearby AES Shady Point power plant dumps its toxic coal ash waste into a mine pit just on the outskirts of town. Local residents have developed cancer, asthma and other illnesses, and many point to the coal ash dump as the cause. As one activist noted, “You have to look for somebody that’s not sick.”

Tonight, Diane Sawyer and her crew from ABC World News Tonight will tell the stories of these residents battling cancer and AES in a fight to clean up one of the most dangerous coal ash dumps in the country.

Coal ash from AES is mixed with water and dumped into the mine owned by the company, “Making Money Having Fun LLC.” Seriously. It’s called “Making Money Having Fun,” and it’s poisoning residents with toxic levels of arsenic, mercury, lead and other dangerous heavy metals. There really couldn’t be a more inappropriately named company in America, and I’d bet that the folks forced to breathe in this coal ash dust or drink it from their local water supplies aren’t having too much fun, or making any money either.

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16 March 2011, 12:38 PM
Cleaning up the air might actually be good for business

Today’s major announcement from the EPA to cut mercury and other toxic air pollution from hundreds of coal-fired power plants across the country was welcome news here at Earthjustice. For nearly 15 years, we’ve been fighting in the courts for cuts like these so that our communities and our children can breathe a little easier.

Turns out we’re not alone in celebrating. Major power providers Calpine Corporation, Constellation Energy, Exelon Corporation, PG&E Corporation, Public Service Enterprise Group, Inc., and Seattle City Light praised the EPA for it’s decision to regulate toxic pollutants like mercury, lead and arsenic.

“We support the EPA’s efforts to finalize the rule in order to reap the significant public health benefits as indicated by the Agency’s analysis,” the companies wrote in their joint statement. “There ought to be no further delay.”

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19 October 2010, 10:21 AM
Clean Air Act continues to be a bulwark of environmental law

Take a deep breath and say "Happy Birthday" to one of our nation's most successful environmental laws. The Clean Air Act turns 40 this year, and we should all be thankful for what this monumental law has accomplished.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the first 20 years alone of the Clean Air Act helped prevent:
• 205,000 premature deaths
• 672,000 cases of chronic bronchitis
• 21,000 cases of heart disease
• 843,000 asthma attacks
• 10 million lost I.Q. points in children, mostly by reducing lead in gasoline
• 18 million child respiratory illnesses

In 1990, a bipartisan Congress strengthened the Clean Air Act, adding requirements for the EPA to reduce a suite of toxic air pollutants like mercury, lead, benzene, arsenic, hydrochloric acid, dioxins, and PCBs, just to name a few.

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16 September 2010, 1:30 AM
Coal's waste is poisoning communities in 34 states
Flood of coal ash in Tennessee

Water and air in 34 states are being poisoned by the waste of coal-fired power plants—creating major health risks for children and adults—according to a report released today by Earthjustice and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The ground-breaking study connects the contamination occurring at hundreds of coal ash dumps and waste ponds across the country to health threats such as cancer, nerve damage and impairment of a child's ability to write, read and learn.

Contaminants leaking or being emitted from these sites include arsenic, which causes skin, bladder and lung cancer; lead, which damages the nervous system; boron, which attacks the testes, kidney and brain; and mercury, a neurotoxicant particularly harmful to a child's development.

Today's report, "Coal Ash: The Toxic Threat to Our Health and Environment" follows a report issued last month, by Earthjustice and other environmental groups, that revealed 39 contaminated coal ash sites in 21 states. Together, the two studies confirm that at least 137 sites in 34 states are leaking a variety of toxic contaminants into nearby air and drinking water supplies, posing significant health threats to those who drink the water or breath in fugitive coal dust.

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26 August 2010, 1:19 PM
Now nearly 140 coal ash sites have proven water pollution problems

Knowledge is king, and now we know more about the extent of damage coal ash sites across the country are causing to our drinking water. A new report issued today by Earthjustice, the Environmental Integrity Project and  Sierra Club offers data that documents water contaminated with arsenic and other heavy metals at 39 coal ash dumps in 21 states. The report released today builds on a similar report released in February by Earthjustice and EIP that found an additional 31 coal ash dump sites. Combined with the 67 sites the EPA already knows have contaminated water supplies, the total number of documented coal ash dumps that have contaminated water supplies climbs to 137 sites in 34 states.

The timing couldn't be better. Next Monday kicks off the first of seven public hearings the EPA is holding through September across the country on its proposal to regulate coal ash. The report released today sends a clear message: coal ash sites contaminate water supplies with arsenic and other dangerous heavy metals and we need federally enforceable safeguards to protect against this toxic threat.

The report authors dug through gigabytes of water quality monitoring data from state agencies across the country to pull together today's findings. The findings are unnerving:

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09 August 2010, 12:00 PM
After a decade of litigation and activism, EPA makes pollution cuts

One of the first issues I worked on when I started at Earthjustice in 2004 was a lawsuit we filed to compel the EPA to take action on mercury and other toxic air pollution from cement kilns. This was during the Bush years, and despite winning in court, the EPA did next to nothing to abide by the law and clean up the air for dozens of communities living around these big polluters.

Today, we all finally have reason to celebrate. After thousands of emails, dozens of press releases, phone calls, meetings and your support, the EPA announced plans that will cut more than 16,000 pounds of mercury from our nation's cement kilns every year, starting in 2013. The rule also cuts thousands of pounds of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride and other pollution, and promises to prevent up to 2,500 premature deaths each year.

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