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Jared Saylor's blog

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.

The New York Times reports via Greenwire that the Obama administration is making some legal maneuvers that could mean they are reconsidering health standards for smog pollution set by the Bush administration back in 2007. Earthjustice and the 60,000 of you who participated in our Adopt the Sky campaign told Bush that his approach ignored science and the law, setting a standard that fell short of what scientists recommended were safe levels to protect public health.

I know, I know, big surprise that the Bush administration let politics trump science and set a standard that did a terrible job of protecting public health and the environment, but that's why we sued them in court!

The Obama administration asked the court to "stall proceedings" on our lawsuit challenging the weak Bush standard in order to "determine whether to revise the controversial Bush-era standards," according to the Times story. Of course, we remain optimistic that the current EPA will listen to the recommendations of science and set a standard protective of public health.

With a stroke of his pen today, President Obama endorsed a keystone element in Earthjustice's national push for energy efficiency.

Obama signed a presidential memorandum calling upon the Department of Energy to adopt energy efficiency standards for dozens of common household appliances. This marks a huge step towards the energy savings and independence he promised during the election, Obama said:

A few months ago, we told you about the Lafarge cement kiln in Ravena, NY giving itself an environmental award, despite being the largest mercury polluter in the state. Well, it looks like Lafarge may actually reduce mercury emissions according to new plans to update their plant. Construction, however, won't even start until 2013.

Unfortunately, Lafarge doesn't seem to be doing this to be a good neighbor; they claim the decision came from "a broad set of business considerations." We definitely encourage cleaning up this plant, but the proof is in the pudding. As our attorney Keri Powell said, we'll continue to "make sure the pollution controls they install will be sufficiently protective."

Stay tuned for more updates on this kiln and our work to clean up mercury pollution across the nation.

...by giving themselves an environmental award, of course! note that the Lafarge press release touting their environmental award came out, according to the article, 6 months after they received the award. during that time we held two press conferences pounding on Lafarge for their mercury pollution, and this Albany Times Union reporter did a great story about how that cement kiln is the biggest mercury polluter in the state.

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