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.

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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26 May 2009, 3:51 PM
 

Have you been following our Name That Fish contest? As part of our Cleaning Up Mercury, Protecting Our Health campaign, we just rechristened the Bluefin Tuna as “Blue Infection Tuna.” The timing couldn't be more perfect... a new Federal study was just released this month on the alarming mercury levels in tuna and other fish in the Pacific ocean.

YubaNet.com reports:

A landmark study by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and universities in the U.S. and Australia has, for the first time, documented how escalating mercury-laden air emissions, chiefly from coal-fired electrical power plants in Asia, are being transformed into methylmercury, a potent neurotoxin that is increasingly polluting the North Pacific Ocean and contaminating tuna, swordfish and other popular seafood.

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21 May 2009, 11:09 AM
 

Appalachia's mountains never seem to get a break. First, back in 2007, a district court judge ruled in favor of a lawsuit we brought on behalf of some West Virginia groups that stopped five mountaintop removal mining permits from going forward because of the permanent destruction they would have done to Appalachian streams and headwaters. It was a short-lived victory: the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision and the permits were moving forward again.

But then, the Obama EPA said it was going to review a slew of pending mountaintop removal mining permits that were awaiting the outcome of the court decision, and all were optimistic that the agency would put a halt on them and help prevent further stream and mountaintop destruction from happening. Appalachian groups hailed this decision, but again, victory was short-lived: just this month, the EPA said that despite having reviewed the permits (and despite mountaintop removal mining completely flattening entire mountain ranges and completely burying streams and headwaters) it was going to let 42 mountaintop removal mining permits proceed.

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08 May 2009, 8:58 AM
 

People around the Web and across the country are talking about our Cleaning Up Mercury, Protecting Our Health campaign to raise awareness about the serious health risks of mercury poisoning and to support the recent EPA proposal for cutting mercury pollution.

Here are some of the comments making the rounds:

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01 May 2009, 12:59 PM
 

We've told you about the dangers of eating mercury-contaminated fish. Today, the US Geological Survey released a comprehensive study linking the mercury emissions from smokestacks here in the US and abroad, and the contamination of fish like tuna and other marine life in the Pacific Ocean. According to the NY Times and Greenwire:

The study documents the formation in the North Pacific of methylmercury, a highly toxic form of mercury that rapidly accumulates in the food chain to levels that can cause serious health concerns for people who consume seafood. Scientists have known for some time that mercury deposited from the atmosphere can be transformed into methylmercury, but the study focuses on how that transformation occurs.

USGS showed that methylmercury is produced in mid-depth ocean waters by processes linked to "ocean rain." Algae, which are produced in sunlit waters near the surface, die quickly and rain downward to greater water depths. The settling algae are decomposed by bacteria and the interaction of this decomposition process in the presence of mercury results in the formation of methylmercury.

Many steps up the food chain later, predators like tuna receive methylmercury from the fish they consume, the study shows.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "This study gives us a better understanding of how dangerous levels of mercury move into our air, our water, and the food we eat, and shines new light on a major health threat to Americans and people all across the world."

Just last week, the EPA proposed significant cuts in cement kiln mercury emissions (up to 16,000 pounds a year), and we’re hopeful they will continue this leadership when they work to cut mercury from coal-fired power plants sometime in the future.

Mercury is a neurotoxin especially dangerous to young and unborn children, and women of childbearing age are often warned to limit their consumption of contaminated fish (like tuna, shark, walleye, or wild striped bass).

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29 April 2009, 12:45 PM
 

We've been seeing some great coverage of the EPA's plan to cut mercury from cement kilns. Lots of bloggers have taken notice. Here are a few posts about our mercury campaign from around the blogosphere:

Treehugger wrote:

I doubt if any other nation regulates mercury emissions from cement kilns the way USA is about to. USEPA's just-announced progress on this front took a decade of work, several lawsuits by activists, a new EPA Administrator willing to obey the law, and a new Congress that doesn't (yet) bow to lobbyists and interfere with EPA. With all that build-up, the new, final USEPA cement kiln mercury control regulation is indeed a "sea change."

The New York Times Green Inc. Blog said:

James Pew, a lawyer with Earthjustice, an environmental law firm that had sued the E.P.A. on behalf of the Sierra Club after the agency missed a 1997 deadline to issue new emissions rules for the cement industry, said, "It's a very toothy law that will force all cement plants to meet the highest standards of pollution control."

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21 April 2009, 10:32 AM
 

The EPA just proposed to cut mercury from cement kilns! I've been talking to you about cement kiln pollution since we started this blog, and Earthjustice has been focused on this issue for nearly a decade. Check out our updated campaign page to find out how you can help.

The EPA is asking for public comments, so we need to tell Administrator Lisa Jackson to stand strong and clean up this mercury mess. She's been doing a fantastic job, and we definitely want her to keep up the good work!

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08 April 2009, 10:13 AM
 

Question: When is dry cleaning actually dry?
Answer: Never. 

When you send your dry-clean-only clothes to the local dry cleaner (and believe me, I'm the first to admit I'm a stickler for nicely pressed shirts and pants) they use special machines and a toxic solvent called perchloroethylene to get your clothes clean.

That sickly sweet smell you notice when you take off the plastic covering? That's the residue of perchloroethylene, otherwise known as perc. Federal and state regulators say that over prolonged periods of time, perc may cause cancer, can damage your kidneys and liver, and will irritate your eyes, skin, and throat.

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31 March 2009, 1:56 PM
 

In the final witness panel, Tom Kilgore, president and CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority, said that they have posted information on their website.

But as mentioned earlier by Harriman resident Sarah McCoin, many of the residents simply don’t have ready access to the internet and to TVA’s website. Much like if a tree falls in the forest one wonders if it makes a sound, if there is information available on health impacts that doesn’t actually get to the residents who are most affected, does it really serve to protect?

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31 March 2009, 1:23 PM
 

After a break…the hearing resumed with testimony from Renee Victoria Hoyos, executive director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network, and from Dr. Avner Vengosh, professor of earth and ocean sciences at Duke University.

During questions from members of the committee (specifically Rep. Johnson), regarding particulate matter pollution, Dr. Vengosh said: "Inhalation of ash would definitely increase the health risk. Given the climate condition, and we had a lot of rainfall in the south until now, there hasn't been formation of particulate matter as of yet...For the current situation there hasn't been formation of dust that could affect health. However this could be changing very soon."

While breathing the coal ash dust might not pose an immediate threat, as the weather warms up and the rainfall dries out, coal ash dust could be a very serious problem.

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31 March 2009, 11:59 AM
 

Today's congressional hearing on the Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash spill from last December in Harriman, TN, started out with opening remarks from Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) who said that it’s been "nearly a decade" since this committee held oversight hearings on the Tennessee Valley Authority. She also said the committee maybe plans to continue TVA oversight now every 30 to 60 days.

Minority committee leader Rep. John Boozman from Arkansas said, "New laws will not replace homes…and family treasures," but bet they will certainly do much to make sure that others who live near these coal ash sites don't have to lose their homes or valuable family treasures and heirlooms in another preventable spill.

Rep. Lincoln Davis, whose district is where the TVA spill happened, offered strong words for the committee, saying, "My constituents and the land they live on must be made whole again."

The Republicans seem to be pushing their talking points aggressively: while this particular spill is bad, this doesn't mean coal is bad and there shouldn't be talk of stopping coal burning. It seems like they're not quite able to see the forest for the trees, and despite the nature of this hearing (to find out what went wrong and how it can be prevented) some members just can't resist a small shot at those groups fighting for a cleaner environment.

Sarah McCoin, a Harriman, TN, resident said: "Harriman is now a toxic wasteland, and we urge that guidelines and laws are in place to make sure that this never happens again... residents are scared if they are being exposed... we are a community that hunts fishes and swims in the rivers and we need to be ensured that it is safe to be in the river... Harriman is home to people who rely on the fish for their meals... too many residents are experiencing respiratory problems... we desperately need to have testing for our community to find out if our children are being poisoned…we have been neglected. There are people who have been satisfied but there are many are not."

Strong words from someone who is living in and near this tragedy. Committee is on a break now for a floor vote. More to come later.