Jessica Knoblauch's Blog Posts

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Jessica Knoblauch'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.

Jessica Knoblauch is Earthjustice's Content Producer / Associate Editor and creator of the unEARTHED blog, "Friday Finds," which highlights some of the most remarkable or ridiculous eco news tidbits of the week. Jessica enjoys writing about environmental health issues and believes that putting toxic chemicals into our bodies and into our environment is generally unwise. In her free time, Jessica can often be found at the other end of the leash of her two dogs, Emma and Charlie, messing around in her garden, and eating fine Midwestern cuisine like deep-dish pizza, pork tenderloin sandwiches and, of course, corn.

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13 May 2011, 2:19 AM
Banning the bag, fracking's flammable water, biting back against palm oil
Coal industry-sponsored materials are making their way into school classrooms. Photo courtesy of Steve and Jemma Copley.

Coal company tries to brainwash school kids
Scholastic Inc., whose books and educational materials dominate the American classroom, is distributing fourth-grade curriculum materials paid for by the American Coal Foundation, reports the New York Times. Not surprisingly, the industry-funded class materials have drawn the ire of groups such as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Friends of the Earth, who argue that the one-sided curriculum conveniently leaves out coal’s environmental and human health impacts while failing to mention other useful, less polluting energy sources, like wind and solar. No word yet on whether the kids received a free inhaler to pair with their coal-friendly books and pamphlets.

Bagging bags becomes worldwide phenomenon
The U.S. may have been unable to pass meaningful climate legislation, but at least some communities have been successful in reducing their carbon footprint in other ways, like cutting down on plastic bags, reports National Geographic. Coast-to-coast and even internationally, cities like San Francisco and Washington, D.C. and entire countries like Italy have either banned plastic bags altogether or imposed taxes on the ubiquitous single-use sacks. The bans have resulted in a major drop in bag use, a big win for the environment since plastic bags clog storm drains, landfills and marine creatures’ bellies.

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28 April 2011, 3:41 PM
filthy biomass, Googling the environment, MIA oil
More than one million barrels of spilled oil is still unaccounted for in the Gulf.

Drilling more won’t make summer vacation cheaper
Summer is near, which means that trips to the beach and to baseball games, and a fresh round of “drill, baby, drill” are all just around the corner, but that last item won’t make the first two any cheaper to get to, reports CNN Money. That’s because even if we ramped up oil production, the amount would pale in comparison to worldwide consumption. In addition, OPEC would just cut production to offset the extra oil. As oil analyst Tom Kloza told CNN, “It's a simplistic way of looking for a solution that doesn't exist,” adding, “This drill drill drill thing is tired.” We agree.

One million barrels of BP oil still MIA
One year after the BP oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, more than a million barrels of oil remain lost at sea, reports Scientific American. Burning, dispersing, microbe-eating and evaporating have taken care of much of the oil, but it’s anyone’s guess where the rest of it is. Sadly though, one million barrels is just a drop in the bucket for the Gulf coast region, which experiences spills on a monthly, if not daily, basis. Find out how Earthjustice is working to hold these repeat offenders accountable.

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22 April 2011, 3:51 AM
Hint: It’s everywhere! Plus, meaty bugs and fresh air in Times Square
A recent study found that roughly one out of four packages of meat and poultry in the U.S. contained multidrug resistant staph. Photo courtesy of comprock (flickr).

Bacteria-resistant meat leaves beef lovers nauseated
A recent study found that nearly half of all beef, chicken, pork and turkey purchased at grocery stores across the country contained drug-resistant bacteria, reports Wired. Even worse, 52 percent of the meat contaminated with the common pathogen Staphylococcus aureus was resistant to at least three antibiotics commonly used by both doctors and vets, which means that “roughly one out of every four packages of meat and poultry across the United States contained multidrug resistant staph.” The researchers believe that the pathogens came from the livestock, which are routinely fed antibiotics to promote growth, but have the major downside of creating antibiotic resistant bacteria. This latest study is just one of many that have shed light on government’s flawed food safety system, which critics believe is in need of a major overhaul.  

Ditching cars in Times Square improves air quality
Back in the 1980s, Times Square was known for crime and prostitution. By the 1990s, after city officials cleaned up the place, it became a magnet for tourists and theatergoers enthralled with the bright lights of the big city. Now, thanks to NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC, Times Square may soon be known for its green attributes, like cleaner air and more public spaces. Grist reports that the city’s new pedestrian plazas—traffic-free areas throughout the square—are unsurprisingly, improving air quality. So far, nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide levels have gone down 63 and 41 percent, respectively. This latest measure makes it clear that New Yorkers feel they have a right to breathe. Do you?


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21 April 2011, 6:56 AM
Climate change is the single biggest threat to wolverines.
Attorney Tim Preso has spearheaded Earthjustice's efforts to protect the wolverine

(This is the fourth in a series of Q & A's on the Crown of the Continent, a 10-million-acre expanse of land in northern Montana and southern Canada. Earthjustice is currently working to protect several wild creatures in the Crown like the wolverine. To learn more about this wild place and how Earthjustice is working to protect it, check out our Crown web feature.)

EJ: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently listed wolverines as endangered, but they're still not being protected, correct?

TP: That's right. The FWS determined that although the species qualifies for listing under the Endangered Species Act that they were basically going to put wolverines in administrative limbo and not actually list them. Obviously we're not satisfied with that result and we're continuing to examine ways to move the wolverine up to the top of the list. The Crown of the Continent is one of the largest undeveloped landscapes remaining in our country and it's really the stronghold for wolverines in the lower-48 states. The wolverine only persists in places that are really and truly wild, and the Crown is the last place that they're remaining in any significant numbers.

EJ: Why did Earthjustice decide to focus on wolverine protections?

TP: There are a number of reasons. One is just that the wolverine has a lot of amazing characteristics that make it a particularly cool animal to work on. Wolverines are extremely tough and they live in extremely harsh environments at high elevations. When grizzly bears, which we think of as a tough animal, are sleeping in their hibernation dens for the winter, the wolverine is out there on those snow-blasted slopes trying to eke out a living, covering 160 square miles over some of the most rugged country in the lower 48 states. It takes a tremendously large landscape for them to find enough food to stay alive, so these animals need extremely large home ranges.

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20 April 2011, 4:42 AM
How citizens came together to protect the Rocky Mountain Front
Gene Sentz

(This is the third in a series of Q & A's on the Crown of the Continent, a 10-million acre expanse of land in northern Montana and southern Canada. Gene Sentz is co-founder of the Friends of the Rocky Mountain Front, one of the organizations whose activism resulted in the banning of oil and gas leasing in the Front. To learn more about this wild place and how Earthjustice is working to protect it, check out our Crown web feature. You can also check out Gene's amazing pictures of the Crown.)

EJ: You've been working to protect and preserve the Rocky Mountain Front for more than three decades. How did you first get involved?

GS: In the summer of 1977, there was an outfitters' meeting and the U.S. Forest Service was showing the projects that they were going to be involved with that year. One of the main projects was to lease everything on National Forest lands in the Rocky Mountain Front to oil and gas companies. Up until that time, there had been very little drilling on National Forest land at all. I just couldn’t believe that they were going to lease everything to drilling. That fall after hunting season, a bunch of us locals got together and eventually we talked the Forest Service into backing off of leasing. That was the first step.

EJ: In 2006, President Bush signed bi-partisan legislation that expanded and made permanent a 1997 moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on public lands along the Front. That was a huge victory and your organization was a big part of that, correct?

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19 April 2011, 4:39 AM
How climate change impacts the Crown of the Continent
Dan Fagre

(This is the second in a series of Q & A's on the Crown of the Continent, a 10-million-acre expanse of land in northern Montana and southern Canada. Dan Fagre is a research ecologist at the U.S. Geological Survey who has spent 15 years working to understand how climate change will affect mountain ecosystems like those found in the Crown. To learn more about this wild place and how Earthjustice is working to protect it, check out our Crown web feature.)

EJ: What changes have you seen in Glacier National Park since you first started?

DF: I was hired to start the climate change research program here in 1991. One of the first things that we did is look at Glacier National Park, specifically Grinnell Glacier, to monitor the impacts of climate change through time. So I've sort of had an intimate relationship with Grinnell in particular, and I've seen just without pulling out photographs or maps each year the changes that occur there. When we go up to monitor the size of the glacier we walk across rocks and land that has not been exposed to the atmosphere for probably 500 years because the glacier is retreating. So, in a sense, we're kind of the first people to walk on that in many hundreds of years since it was covered by ice.

EJ: How is a warmer climate impacting native species of the Crown?

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18 April 2011, 4:28 AM
Attorney talks about saving the Crown of the Continent
Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso.

(This is the first in a series of Q & A's on the Crown of the Continent, a 10-million-acre expanse of land that stretches from Northern Montana into Canada. Over the past decade, Tim Preso has spearheaded Earthjustice's work to protect this untouched wilderness. To learn more about the Crown and how Earthjustice is working to protect it, check out our Crown web feature.)

EJ: How did Earthjustice became involved in protecting the Crown?

TP: Our Northern Rockies office is focused on protecting some of the last big wild places remaining in the lower-48 states. The Crown of the Continent, which encompasses Glacier National Park in the United States and Waterton National Park in Canada, is one of the largest undeveloped landscapes remaining in our country. So for us it's a natural focal point, both to preserve wildlife and wild places and to preserve clean water that flows out of those wild places.

EJ: Most of the Crown is publicly owned. Does that affect how the area is protected?

TP: I think those protections are why we still have this amazing resource with all of this abundance of wildlife still with us today. There are large national park landscapes, there's the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, and there's also this surrounding landscape of national forest lands that are really the connective tissue between these larger park and wilderness blocks. If those are not intact, then the connecting corridors between those larger protected areas are not secure and the wildlife becomes fragmented.

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14 April 2011, 2:32 PM
Oil spill millionaires, Mary Jane's carbon footprint, food lab incompetence
Freeway pollution could give people Alzheimer's disease. Photo courtesy of rutlo (flickr)

Freeway pollution could make you forget you're in traffic
As if living next to the sound of constant honking wasn't enough, a recent study has linked freeway air pollution with brain damage, a finding that has health implications for those living near the nation's highways, reports the LA Times. The study's authors found that exposing mice to particle pollution thinner than a human hair caused the mice to develop brain damage related to memory loss and Alzheimer's disease, which suggests that "freeway pollution could have a profound effect on the development of neurons and brain health in children and young kids, especially those who attend schools built alongside freeways.” If you think kids shouldn't be breathing polluted air during daycare, tell the EPA to stop letting industry dirty our air.

"Spillionaires" cash in on BP oil tragedy
As the Gulf oil spill's one-year anniversary nears and dead dolphins covered in oil continue to wash up onshore, some people are busy cashing in big on the largest oil spill in U.S. history, reports ProPublica. Nicknamed "spillionaires," these people are busy cutting themselves a big piece of the BP cleanup pie—about $16 billion to date—with little to no documentation as to how they spent the money. Some local powerbrokers made out especially well, either by overcharging the oil company or using their influence to profit from BP claims money. In addition, the Associated Press recently reported that officials along the coast have gone on their own little shopping sprees, dropping "tens of millions of dollars" of BP's money on iPads, Tasers and shiny new SUVs, none of which are, of course, related to spill cleanup. Meanwhile, the real victims of the spill continue to be short-changed and the government has still does nothing to prevent this tragedy from happening again. This is one anniversary that won't be celebrated.

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08 April 2011, 4:51 AM
Congress for sale, radiated water, noisy pollution
In an effort to draw in new customers, some burial services are going green. Photo courtesy of Rob Shenk.

Consumers dying to snatch up wooly coffins
Eco-conscious consumers looking for a greener afterlife can now be buried in woolen coffins, reports Time magazine. Recently, a hundred-year-old family run mill in West Yorkshire, England, started making the wooly coffins in an effort to find new revenue sources amidst Britain's diminishing textile market. So far the company is doing pretty well with its lightweight, low impact coffins. Locally, it sells about 50 to 60 Natural Legacy coffins per month and has distribution centers set up in Finland, Holland, Germany and Australia. Best of all, wool is biodegradable, which means someone's last resting place could be both comfy and eco-friendly, though a bit on the scratchy side.

Koch congressional payouts put environment on layaway
This week, The Center for Public Integrity turned its investigative eyes onto the eyebrow-raising sums of money that Charles and David Koch, the diabolic duo of Koch Industries, use to lobby Congress and shape federal law. As owners of the country's second largest private corporation, the Koch brothers are able to spend millions of dollars on rolling back or preventing any government regulations they deem harmful to the corporation, including limits on toxic chemicals like dioxin, asbestos, formaldehyde and benzene. Koch has also shoved major cash donations into putting the kibosh on any legislation that will cut carbon emissions. Luckily, Earthjustice is working to beat back efforts by Koch and others to strip the EPA of its carbon-regulation authority. And now you can, too.

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01 April 2011, 10:53 AM
Nuclear money, devilish diseases, superbug crisis
Californians are eyeballing human waste as a possible source of energy. Photo courtesy of Matt Seppings.

California flushes carbon emissions down the toilet
The California Energy Commission has its head in the toilet, but surprisingly, that's a good thing. Human waste is a huge pollution problem in the U.S. In fact, Californians alone produced 661,000 dry metric tons of biosolids in 2009. But instead of getting rid of the waste by fertilizing crops and filling up landfills—which both pose major environmental problems—the commission recently granted a Bay Area solid waste company almost $1 million to convert biosolids into a "hydrogen-rich gas that could be used in fuel cells to generate electricity," reports Grist. Though the process hasn’t been proven, it could go a long way in adding renewable power to California's alternative energy portfolio. 

BP's environmental hits keep on coming
A recent study by cetacean researchers estimates that the number of whales and dolphins killed by the BP spill last spring could be much higher than previously thought, reports Mother Jones. Though the original count of marine mammal mortalities was approximately 101 dead whales, dolphins and porpoises as of November 2010, that number is misleading since it doesn't factor in the number of deaths that never make it to shore. To come to a more precise number, the researchers unearthed a bunch of historical records to determine whether carcass counts have previously been good indicators of total numbers of cetacean mortality. Sadly, they found that the actual body count only represented about 0.4 percent of total deaths, which indicates that the BP spill's death toll for dolphins and other cetaceans could number in the thousands. That, of course, is in addition to all the other damage that BP has caused, which Earthjustice is currently working to rectify in a number of spill-related lawsuits.

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