John McManus's Blog Posts

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

John McManus'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.

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30 September 2011, 11:39 AM
Earthjustice asks court to cancel lease of massive coal mine

Earlier this week, Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine went to court to argue that the state of Montana was legally required to consider steps to minimize the consequences of burning more than a half-a-billion tons of coal before leasing it to St. Louis-based Arch Coal, Inc. Earthjustice is representing the Montana Environmental Information Center and the Sierra Club in a lawsuit asking the court to cancel the lease so that the state may study options for minimizing or avoiding the environmental consequences of this massive strip mine.

Arch Coal also has leased coal on adjacent private lands, which combined with the state-leased coal, amount to 1.3 billion tons. If developed, the Otter Creek strip mine would be one of the largest coal mines in the country. Arch is making plans to ship at least a portion of this coal to Asia by way of west coast ports. Once burned, the coal will emit billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, not to mention mercury, lead and a host of other nasty byproducts.

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22 August 2011, 1:11 PM
Fish-killing dams on Elwha River about to be removed
Fish that would benefit from dams removal on Elwha

Next month, contractors will start removing two massive dams on the Elwha River which runs through Washington’s Olympic peninsula. It is expected to bring about the largest single increase of salmon habitat and population in the Northwest.

The dam removal caps efforts started more than 20 years ago by a local tribe and visionary activists with support from Earthjustice. The dams once provided power for a paper and pulp mill, but other sources will now provide the power.

As the river returns to its historical conditions, 392,000 fish will eventually reoccupy 70 miles of habitat now blocked by the dams. This compares to about 4,000 salmon the dammed river produces annually.

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20 June 2011, 1:44 PM
Intermittent nature of wind and solar power generation needs to be captured

An issue that has cropped up as the country moves towards more renewable energy generation is how best to store excess energy generated, say by wind mills during windy periods or solar panels during sunny periods. Energy storage in the form of industrial strength batteries and other technologies is coming, but such things aren’t yet installed where they’re needed.

Wind generators were forced to shut down recently in the windy gap cut by the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon because there is so much water flowing down the Columbia River right now generating electricity in dams that wind generators were told their power wasn’t needed. If energy storage was in place, the wind power could be saved for when it’s needed and doing so could help salmon by replacing power from the four increasingly obsolete, salmon-killing dams on the lower Snake River.

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16 June 2011, 11:43 AM
Judge deals them a setback in latest ruling
Sacramento River salmon

It’s hard to view the recent actions of some big agricultural operations in California’s San Joaquin Valley as anything but hostile to the state’s wildlife. Some of the biggest growers are refusing to take an overflowing allotment of irrigation water as enough and are cluttering up the court system with lawsuits aimed at wringing every last drop of water for themselves, no matter what damage that causes native fish species. 

The big growers went to court last week trying to force state and federal operators of water diversion pumps in the Sacramento/Bay delta to crank up to the max even though thousands of juvenile fall run king salmon have been killed at the pumps over the last few weeks. The young fish are trying to migrate from the rivers where they were born to the sea. The carnage at the pumps lead pump operators to ratchet back pumping. This infuriated water users but the judge refused to order more salmon killing, agreeing that federal law requires pump operators to take steps to protect t salmon runs that traverse the Sacramento/ Bay delta.
As the judge was ruling, a respected policy center released a new study showing that although the big growers moaned and groaned during the recent three year drought, most also found a way to keep the water coming and earned near record profits.   This happened while wildlife that lives in or migrates through the Sacramento/Bay delta suffered sharp declines due to lower than usual water flows.

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01 December 2010, 3:15 PM
As EPA drags heels, Earthjustice heads to court

Let's face it, the U.S. is awash in pesticides and some are quite deadly to America's wildlife.

The Environmental Protection Agency is the government group responsible for signing off on pesticides before they are allowed for use and is supposed to stop the really bad ones. In going about this task, the EPA historically only looked at the pesticide's effects on people and have done a poor job.

They've also ignored each pesticide's effects on wildlife.

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20 October 2010, 11:34 AM
Congressmen try legislative end runs around court ban on hunting

Since Earthjustice attorneys won a court decision in August ordering the federal government to once again extend Endangered Species Act protections to wolves in the northern Rockies, state governments have been busy trying to come up with ways to kill wolves anyway.

The court ruling meant that Idaho and Montana had to call off plans for wolf hunts this year. Montana tried changing the names of its hunt to "conservation hunt" in a bid to get federal blessing to kill endangered wolves. Idaho submitted its own wolf-killing proposal, which would remove all but a handful of wolves from Idaho's upper Clearwater basin.

While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected Montana's unlawful ploy, it is still pondering Idaho's plan. In another ominous development, Idaho recently announced it won't lift a finger to monitor or enforce existing protections for wolves, including anti-poaching laws. At the same time, a handful of Congressmen have announced plans to introduce legislation that would categorically eliminate federal protections for wolves—a species whose near-extinction in the lower-48 states provided one of Congress's motivations for adopting the Endangered Species Act in 1973.

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18 October 2010, 12:39 PM
PUC lets homeowners, businesses get paid for feeding the grid

European homeowners, especially those in Germany and Spain, may be ahead of America when it comes to switching over to rooftop solar electric panels, but Hawaii is on its way to catching up.

That's because the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission just this week ordered the biggest utility company in the islands to start paying homeowners and businesses with rooftop solar panels that are feeding electricity into the grid. This is good news for everyone.

Hawaii, though blessed with lots of sun and wind, still relies primarily on imported oil to run electrical generators. The utility tried to limit and stall the new program, claiming this rooftop electricity may be more than their overhead wires can handle. Its fears are overblown and cover up its reluctance to allow the people to control their own energy future, rather than rely on the utility as the only game in town.

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30 September 2010, 10:14 AM
Too little is known to allow unleashing of test-tube species
Gene-altered salmon

Last week the federal Food and Drug Administration held hearings to consider approval of a genetically engineered salmon containing unnaturally high levels of growth hormones. This creature has become widely known as the Frankenfish.

Creators of the Frankenfish, which grows much faster than natural fish, hope they'll get rich selling them for human consumption. But, what happens to those fish that escape the fork? Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that 60 of these fish released into a population of 60,000 wild salmon could "lead to the extinction of the wild population in less than 40 fish generations."

On the heels of the Frankenfish hearing comes a court ruling regarding the legality of planting and growing genetically modified sugar beets.

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02 September 2010, 1:00 PM
Grizzly protected, but not its food source

In September 2009 Earthjustice attorneys succeeded in winning a court case that forced the federal government to reinstate Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears living in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

The bears lost federal protection in 2007 in spite of a rapid decline in one of their main food sources, the seeds of whitebark pine trees. Whitebark pines are in decline due to warming temperature in the high altitudes of the Rocky Mountains where they grow.

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18 August 2010, 11:18 AM
Delta needs twice the fresh water that now flows through it
Central Valley Water Project canal transports water away from Delta

It's official, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which feeds into the West Coast's most important estuary, the San Francisco Bay, needs twice as much water as it's getting if the wetlands and wildlife are to survive.

The state's Water Resources Control Board staff recently issued a report confirming that water diversions are killing the Delta. They found that to restore balance, twice as much water needs to flow through the Delta and out to sea as currently happens in an average year.

The place was in great shape until politicians serving development and big agriculture interests decided to divert much of the Delta's water with giant pumps that send it to desert parts of the state. Now the delta is in a state of free fall ecological collapse.

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