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Raviya Ismail's blog

A few weeks ago Earthjustice filed a motion to intervene in a case in which the Medical Waste Institute and the Energy Recovery Council is challenging a toxic air pollution rule set forth by the EPA. The EPA has not always acted with the interest of public health and protecting the environment. But in many instances—including this one—they have. So we are joining the challenge to keep this rule intact.

The rule reduces emissions of mercury, dioxins, lead and other dangerous pollutants from medical waste incinerators by 393,000 pounds per year. Additionally, the rule mandates:

• A significant reduction in the amount of mercury that may be released from incinerators
• Enhanced testing of small, rural, medical waste incinerators, resulting in better enforcement in rural communities
• Significant reductions in dioxins, lead and other major pollutants, all of which will bring increased health benefits to communities hosting medical waste incinerators

These rules on toxic air pollution will save lives. So it's of utmost importance that this rule remain on the books.
 

We had hoped and encouraged the Obama administration to streamline the standards for Laundromat clothes washers, advocating a single category standard for both front and top-loading washers. Not so. 

Today the Department of Energy released the latest standard, dividing these coin laundry machines into separate categories. Two separate standards leads to weak guidelines for top-loading machines—which typically use far more energy and water than front-loading washers. A single standard would have weeded the most inefficient top-loading machines from the market.

Manufacturers are already making top-loading residential washing machines that are as efficient as front-loading washers, and a uniform standard would have spurred manufacturers to sell these more efficient machines in the commercial market.

 

 
 
 

On the very same day that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared global warming pollution as a threat to human health, Earthjustice challenged the agency on an air pollution standard affecting folks in Appalachia.

Earthjustice, representing several clean air advocates, is calling on the agency to require coal preparation and processing plants to take any measures to limit the dangerous coal dust kicked up by trucks traveling on plant roads.

For Tim Bailey of Clinchfield, Virginia, a stronger standard could mean he and his family don't have to worry about all that coal dust near their home. It could also mean he doesn't have to set aside so much time a year to pressure wash coal dust from his property.

"Trucks from the prep plant kick up so much dust that a doctor has told me not to let my grandchildren play outside," said Bailey. "The EPA needs to put a stop to this so that we can enjoy our homes again."

(Update: As expected, today, EPA chief Lisa Jackson announced that greenhouse gases, including from vehicles, are a danger to public health that should be regulated. Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen immediately welcomed the announcement, commenting in part that "our nation must move quickly and efficiently to achieve the cuts in carbon dioxide and other global warming pollution needed to stave off catastrophic climate change." Read his full statement here.)

As the climate change conference convenes in Copenhagen, Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is set to declare today that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions are a danger to public health.

In April, the EPA released an endangerment finding, acknowledging that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. Jackson's latest announcement finalizes that initial action toward addressing global warming pollution under the Clean Air Act. At the time, we said:

The Obama administration has removed a road block in curbing pollution responsible for climate change and signaled a turn toward a clean energy future. We applaud this action, and welcome the President's leadership to overcome the greatest environmental challenge of our time.

It's not enough that Tennessee's Clinch River was devastated by a toxic spill that dumped 1 billion gallons of coal ash into its waters last December. Now the Tennessee Valley Authority wants to systematically pollute the river (which leads to the mighty Tennessee River) to the tune of one million gallons a day of toxic pollutants. We're talking dumping mercury, selenium and other chemicals into a river which the Tennessee Valley Authority is supposed to be protecting.

Folks living in the Gulf Coast—and near stinky PVC plants—rejoice! Earthjustice has reached a settlement agreement to have the EPA begin regulating toxins coming from these plants, which are responsible for pumping approximately 500,000 pounds of vinyl chloride—a known human carcinogen—and other toxins into the air. In spite of the documented effects of these cancer-causing chemicals, the PVC industry's air emissions have remained largely unregulated for decades.

Twenty-one citizens and experts testified June 30 at an Environmental Protection Agency public hearing about the impacts of living near hazardous waste sites. Among them was Sheila Holt-Orsted, a cancer survivor who's seen her mother, father, sister, cousins, aunts and uncles suffer from cancer and other illnesses believed to be caused by contamination from a Dixon County, Tennessee landfill.

Last week the U.S. Senate moved forward on important legislation that ensures our streams, lakes, rivers and wetlands remain clean and safe. By a vote of 12-7, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee advanced a compromise version of the Clean Water Restoration Act, important legislation that reinforces the scope of the Clean Water Act by guaranteeing that our nation's waterways are clean to swim and fish in and safe to drink.

Yesterday—10 weeks after a billion-gallon spill of coal ash in Tennessee—two U.S. senators challenged the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate disposal and storage of the toxic sludge.

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Thomas Carper (D-DE) submitted a resolution requesting rules "as quickly as possible" and calling on the Tennessee Valley Authority to "be a national leader in technological innovation, low-cost power and environmental stewardship." On Dec. 22, about 1 billion gallons of coal ash burst through a dam at the Tennessee Valley Authority site in Harriman, flooding more than 300 acres with toxic levels of arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium and boron.

Communities have been exposed to the toxic substance, which presents a cancer risk nine times greater than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Yet coal ash is severely under-regulated and exempt from safeguards required of even municipal waste landfills. Earthjustice is calling on the EPA to eventually prohibit the storage of wet coal ash sludge and instead, mandate dry disposal in monitored landfills or safe recycling of the material.

In a devastating blow to the mountains, streams and people of Appalachia, today, federal judges ruled in favor of a mountaintop removal mining case.

As a result, mining companies can conduct mountaintop removal mining operations without minimizing stream destruction or conducting adequate environmental reviews. The Appalachian community will now—more than ever—be dependent on President Barack Obama to fulfill his campaign pledge to stop this terrible practice. Earthjustice remains on the front lines of this struggle and will continue fighting to preserve our mountains and waters.

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About the Earthjustice 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.