John McManus's Blog Posts

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice 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.

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16 August 2010, 10:22 AM
Some water diverted to plantations put back in native streams
Waiehu stream

After years of essentially being drained dry and left for dead, two legendary streams on the Hawaiian island of Maui came back to life this week, thanks to the work of Earthjustice.

The streams were diverted over a hundred years ago to irrigate sugar cane and pineapple plantations. Over time sugar and pineapple have faded in the islands, succumbing to cheaper foreign competition. This freed up the water to restore the streams.

But the old plantation companies have other ideas. They want to develop the farmlands and bank and sell the diverted stream water. To them the water is the key to cashing in with McMansions, condos, resorts, and shopping centers, all fueled by "free" stream water.

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20 July 2010, 12:30 PM
Montana more than doubles number of wolves that may be killed

The state of Montana is planning to greatly increase the number of wolves hunters will be allowed to kill this fall. That is unless a federal judge rules in favor of an Earthjustice lawsuit intended to protect wolves.

Montana recently approved plans to allow hunters to kill 186 wolves, up from the 75 wolves allowed in last year's hunt. <Check out what the New York Times has to say!>

But hunters' plans may be stopped if U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy rules before the Sept. 4 start of the hunt and finds the federal government illegally removed wolves from the Endangered Species Act list in Montana and Idaho.

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28 June 2010, 3:47 PM
Earthjustice asks court to reinstate moratorium on offshore drilling
5th District Court of Appeals courtroom

While oil continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico from BP's blown-out well, a six-month offshore drilling moratorium imposed by the Obama administration is being argued in the courts.

Last week, oil industry groups got a New Orleans judge to issue an order blocking the moratorium. The administration is appealing that decision—assisted by the intervention of Earthjustice—at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Earthjustice and a number of conservation groups, had unsuccessfully argued alongside the Obama administration that the moratorium was appropriate in order to identify and fix problems that created the current oil spill.

Now, the state of Louisiana has jumped into the action at the appeals court to oppose the moratorium, never mind many of their finest wetlands are covered in oil and their fishermen and visitor industry workers are left high and dry.

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23 June 2010, 10:00 AM
Conservation groups will join government in trying to get it reinstated

Yesterday a federal district judge granted a request by oil industry groups and blocked a six month moratorium on new offshore oil drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico put in place by the Obama administration. The judge ruled that the administration moved too fast and overreacted when it decided to stop deep offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The administration enacted the moratorium in response to the explosion and fire that took the lives of 11 men and caused the worst American environmental disaster in modern times. A government review after the explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon showed that additional safeguards are necessary before more deepwater drilling is allowed. Even more are virtually certain to be required after completion of other ongoing investigations.

The six month moratorium only applies to 33 offshore drilling operations drilling in greater than 500 feet of water. Thousands of other offshore Gulf oil wells continue to pump oil and are not affected by the moratorium. The industry group that challenged the moratorium told the judge that it would suffer grievous economic losses while its CEO told investors that most of its vessels were hard at work in the cleanup and customer charters.

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04 May 2010, 6:56 AM
Fishermen cleaned up Exxon Valdez-spill that had idled them
Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez spill. Photo: USGS

It's hard to know how similar the Gulf spill is to the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, but there is at least one parallel: fishermen idled by a mess threatening their livelihood.

In March of 1989 fishermen were readying themselves for the herring fishing season. This would be followed a few months later by the salmon fishing season in a normal year. After the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef and spilled it's 11 million gallons of crude oil, nothing was normal.

Many, if not virtually all, of the fishermen in Prince William Sound were immediately put to work fighting the spreading oil. The fishermen knew their local waters like only local fishermen typically do. A shift in wind or tide might influence the spread of oil in ways only local knowledge could predict. The fishermen also knew how to handle heavy gear. They commonly set and retrieve long, weighted nets full of fish using state of the art hydraulic winches and other gear. This experience put them in good stead when they were asked to set, tow and retrieve oil containment booms to corral the oil.

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30 April 2010, 12:31 PM
Former reporter recalls how Exxon Valdez spill hurt wildlife
Clean-up effort during Exxon Valdez oil spill

(Earthjustice Media Director John McManus remembers what it was like covering the Exxon Valdez oil spill as a CNN journalist)

The oil now washing up on the Gulf Coast reminds me of the last big oil spill America lived through, the Exxon Valdez spill 21 years ago.

On March 24, 1989 a supertanker that had just topped with oil left the port of Valdez and crashed into a submerged rock reef in Alaska's Prince Williams Sound. Eleven million gallons of north slope crude oil gushed from the side of the ship into the Sound.

Authorities immediately discussed lighting it on fire. There was even talk of the military firing missiles at the oil slick to ignite it. But the fires never happened. Maybe it was too cold, being Alaska. Instead the oil washed up on the beaches, headlands, harbors, villages and rocks that ring this giant bay. Some of the oil washed out of the Sound and into the Gulf of Alaska, fouling beaches hundreds of miles away on Kodiak Island and beyond.

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19 April 2010, 11:27 AM
This is the critical time of year for the future of salmon populations

This time of year is when young salmon in California hitch a ride on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers out to the ocean—if they escape the massive pumps in the Delta. These pumps redirect the water and send it south to huge agricultural operations in the San Joaquin Valley - in the process the sucking in and killing salmon.

Earthjustice attorneys successfully challenged this practice and water managers were forced to limit water deliveries in order to reduce the destruction of salmon runs. The junior water rights holders in the valley filed lawsuits seeking to block the salmon protections.

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19 February 2010, 5:13 PM
Major ag operators push to pump more water

Thousands of jobs linked to the decline of Sacramento River salmon have been lost—but big agricultural interests in California are stepping up political efforts that may permanently extinguish salmon and the industries they support.

Even without this latest assault, the future of California's king salmon is in doubt. Salmon runs are at all time lows, due in large part to water pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta that suck baby salmon in and kill them. The water is going to agricultural operators south of San Francisco Bay—and now they want more.

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07 January 2010, 4:41 PM
Promises to emphasize science over 'categorical exemptions'

Interior Sec. Ken Salazar stepped up to the microphone this week and told the nation the days of drilling oil and gas everywhere on public lands are over. This is welcome news to Earthjustice attorneys who opposed many of the public lands oil and gas leases ramrodded through by the Bush/Cheney administration.

Salazar made clear that he, unlike his predecessors in the prior administration, understands some public lands, especially in the west, are special and should not be drilled.

Many of the new policies result from an Interior Department review of a 77-parcel Utah lease sale in December 2008. The review came after Earthjustice litigation stopped the sale and forced the cancellation of these leases. Salazar said the department will start requiring more detailed environmental reviews, provide increased opportunities for public input, and reduce a drilling fast track known as categorical exclusions.

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17 December 2009, 6:31 AM
Earthjustice immediately steps in to defend imperiled creatures

Commercial fishing for swordfish can be deadly for sea turtles that get hooked and often killed in the process. Turtles aren't the only unintended victims. Albatross, dolphins, whales, and sharks are often hooked and killed, too. The giant leatherback sea turtles, which currently cling to existence with shrinking numbers in the Pacific, are among the victims of greatest concern.

A major swordfish longline fishing fleet operates out of Hawai'i and ranges far and wide throughout the central Pacific, fishing the same waters where turtles travel. Federal regulations passed in 2004 tightened rules on how much the fleet could fish in an effort to reduce the bycatch of turtles.

In a move hard to comprehend, the federal government loosened these restrictions earlier this month, unleashing the fleet from any restrictions on the amount of fishing it can do, and upping the number of turtles it can catch before triggering a fishery shut-down.

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff didn't take long to respond. He knows the issue well, having won the 2004 rule-tightening restrictions in a court victory. Achitoff found various instances in the new rules that run counter to existing federal law and wrapped his findings up in a court challenge filed in Honolulu. Hopefully a court will step in and help us bring these great creatures back from the brink.