Raviya Ismail's Blog Posts

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

Raviya Ismail'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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31 August 2011, 11:26 AM
Joliet residents protest outside congressman’s office
Residents protest outside Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger's office..

Illinois has the dubious distinction of being a state with one of the worst coal ash regulatory programs in the nation. But what is more outrageous is that no less than 11 Illinois congressmen are pushing to block the U.S. EPA from cleaning up coal ash in the state. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) is among them. That’s why when the Prairie Rivers Network and Environmental Integrity Project released a report detailing the risk of coal ash contamination in Illinois,  and in Rep. Kinzinger’s district in particular, more than three dozen Joliet, Illinois residents and members of Mt. Zion Baptist Church protested outside of Rep. Kinzinger’s office. 

Illinois not only was profiled in the EIP/Prairie Rivers Network report, it also was featured in an Earthjustice report that listed the top 12 states with the poorest state coal ash regulations. With 68 operating coal ash ponds and 15 retired ponds that still pose a danger, Illinois ranks first in the nation in the number of coal ash ponds. Only about a third of these ponds are lined.  The ponds threaten the health of Illinois communities because at least 10 power plants with active ponds have “high” to “very high” potential to contaminate a drinking water source, according to a 2010 Illinois EPA assessment.  In fact, the Illinois EPA has found pollution— the same chemicals commonly found in coal ash-- in groundwater at all 22 coal ash ponds evaluated by the state agency.

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29 August 2011, 1:13 PM
New standards for refrigerators and freezers will slash energy costs
The yellow Energy Guide labels tell consumers the estimated annual energy use and operating costs of new household appliances.

Thanks to action taken by the U.S. Department of Energy, American consumers are expected to save more than $21 billion (through 2043) on their utility bills as a result of new energy efficiency standards for home refrigerators and freezers. The new standards will improve the efficiency of these appliances by about 25 percent starting in 2014. An average American consumer is expected to save more than $200 in electricity bill savings over the lifetime of a typical refrigerator. Manufacturers, consumer groups and environmentalists, including Earthjustice, all worked together to come up with these new standards.

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17 August 2011, 10:37 AM
Twelve states lack any regulation of coal ash toxic waste
Aerial view of the 2008 TVA Kingston coal ash spill. (EPA)

Yes, we’re still waiting. And while we wait for comprehensive federal standards that regulate toxic coal ash, we have some more bad news about the state of states' coal ash disposal.

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13 July 2011, 8:08 AM
House GOP claims coal ash is OK in your backyard
Rep. David McKinley (R-WV)

Today we’re gearing up for a vote on H.R. 2273, which is Rep. David McKinley’s (R-WV) attempt to give coal companies a get-out-of-jail free card.

Yesterday, House leaders in the Committee on Energy and Commerce discussed the nature of the legislation, which included much spirited back-and-forth dialogue. Among the highlights (and lowlights):

After the author of the bill, Rep. McKinley, threw around these categorically false statements, such as the declaration that coal is “no more toxic than the earth in your front yard” or “no more hazardous than the soil in our back yard,” it seemed that some House leaders just about had enough.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) called the bill out for what it was: “It is a green-light pass for utility companies to dispose of their waste without regard to public health or the environment.”

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06 July 2011, 12:08 PM
Would freeze funds used by EPA to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste
House buried in Tennessee coal ash flood

We knew this was coming. After the drama this past winter we knew it was likely that the House had something else up their sleeves. Now this.

To break it down, both the Senate and the House must consider appropriations bills (that fund government agencies) and the House is up first. There are all types of anti-environmental goodies contained in this legislation. Coal ash is addressed in Section 434:

None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Environmental Protection Agency to develop, propose, finalize, implement, administer, or enforce any regulation that identifies or lists fossil fuel combustion waste as hazardous waste subject to regulation under subtitle C of the Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S.C. 6921 et seq.) or otherwise makes fossil fuel combustion waste subject to regulation under such subtitle. 

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29 June 2011, 10:46 AM
From Kentucky to Tennessee and West Virginia...
Massive clean-up operations in the aftermath of the 2008 Kingston coal ash spill. (TVA)

A round-up of coal ash in headlines this week:

As we wait for the mark-up to begin on Rep. David McKinley’s (R-WV) legislation that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency from using its authority to protect people from toxic coal ash waste, one group is mad as heck at the congressman’s effort to block these health safeguards. Activists – more than a dozen in all – picketed last week in front of Rep. McKinley’s office in Morgantown, W. Va. The protestors also sent a letter demanding the congressman withdraw the bill in question.

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24 June 2011, 8:10 AM
Oil refineries don’t want to reveal amount of air pollution they are producing

Oil refineries are by some estimates the second-largest industrial source of greenhouse gas emissions. They also are a major source of toxic air pollution, pumping benzene, toluene and hexane into our air. Benzene is a known carcinogen. Toluene can cause neurological harm when inhaled. And hexane causes severe harm when humans are continually exposed to it.

Thankfully, the Environmental Protection Agency is developing air pollution standards for the oil refineries after a settlement agreement reached last December in a case Earthjustice brought. But if industry has its way, these standards won’t see the light of day.

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10 June 2011, 9:03 AM
DOE strengthens standards for AC, furnaces and heat pumps

The Department of Energy today released stronger new energy efficiency standards for central AC units, furnaces and heat pumps. The new rules adopt levels recommended by a coalition of manufacturing, consumer and environmental groups, including Earthjustice, filed with the department in 2009.

Reflecting the varying climates found across the U.S., the rules set up standards tailored to regional conditions.  For example, the AC standards require the greatest efficiency improvements in units sold in warmer climates like Miami (40 percent less energy), while a new furnace in the North will have to use about 20 percent less energy than under the prior standards that were established in the late 1980s.

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07 June 2011, 1:16 PM
44 senators urge Obama to back off coal ash regulation
Claire McCaskill is among 44 senators calling for coal ash to be treated as a non-hazardous waste.

Okay, so we’ve established the hazards of coal ash. There is no doubt that arsenic, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, selenium and other toxic metals have no business in our drinking water. So why are 44 of our elected leaders calling on the Obama administration to treat coal ash as a NON-hazardous waste?

Let’s back up a bit: the Obama administration announced a few weeks ago that the coal ash rule will not see the light of day until at least 2012. The EPA had considered regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste after the December 2008 toxic coal ash spill  in Tennessee, which sent 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash slurry gushing into the Emory River and surrounding community. We realized there was continued industry pushback for the rule but were disheartened to learn that it would be delayed, given that there are at least 676 coal ash dams in 35 states, including 48 “high hazard” dams (similar to the Kingston TVA site) across the country. Failure of any of these likely would take human life. Another 136 “significant hazard” dams would cause substantial economic and environmental harm if they failed.

There is no refuting the fact that coal ash is toxic and should be kept away from communities.But some of our senators feel otherwise.

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11 May 2011, 12:50 PM
Angered by $33.3 billion in oil revenue and $4 billion in taxpayer handouts
Rep. Ed Markey

While the House GOP majority doggedly stood behind false claims of job creation and lowered prices at the gas pump to push through legislation (263-163) that would hasten the oil drilling permitting process, there are a few of our elected leaders who get it.

Representatives Edward Markey (D-MA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) called on their colleagues to take safety into account before approving H.R. 1229, and continually derided them for their Big Oil handouts. “Your policy is oil above all,” said a disgusted Markey, “everything else gets defunded.”

Markey and others against the legislation brought up Big Oil’s revenue in the most recent quarter – a staggering $33.3 billion. He also mentioned the $4 billion in tax breaks American consumers give to oil companies every year. “The Republicans think that’s not enough money,” he said.