Raviya Ismail's Blog Posts

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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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11 May 2011, 10:38 AM
Tennessee editorial details need for immediate federal protections
2008 coal ash spill in Tennessee

Another week, another voice calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to release federal coal ash rules. The drumbeat is getting louder, although it feels like the calls are falling on deaf ears. In this editorial by the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Tennessee paper says the EPA’s announcement that the rule might be delayed leaves much uncertainty for industry and communities about how to handle coal ash.

Just a few weeks ago, there was news that the EPA might delay the coal ash rule until the end of 2012 or 2013. As my colleague Lisa Evans details, the rule is already 30 years overdue. Recall that, Tennessee is the site of the Dec. 22, 2008 retention pond rupture, which sent 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash slurry gushing into Kingston and surrounding communities.The editorial goes on to say:

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04 May 2011, 9:17 AM
New York coal ash standard held up

As we wait for federal standards to regulate coal ash, it seems that some states are following suit with delays on their standards as well.

In Albany, the Environmental Conservation Commission announced plans to “carefully” examine an already long-delayed proposal to ban coal ash altogether (the federal proposal would regulate it as a hazardous waste) at its Ravena cement plant. This is mystifying for many reasons. The proposal has collected dust since October 2008 during the administration of former New York Gov. David Paterson. Current Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently resubmitted the proposal to the DEC for another review. Huh?

Jim Travers of the Selkirk Ravena Coeymans Against Pollution said in this article: “I don’t understand why it is being revisited by DEC, when it was DEC that pushed it up to the governor for action more than two years ago.”

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27 April 2011, 12:57 PM
Moves away from dangerous Bush-era loophole

On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a new guidance that will restore protections to waterways that are currently the dumping grounds for industrial polluters. The “Clean Water Framework” is a huge deal for the millions of Americans who depend on this water for drinking.

The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, but two muddied Supreme Court decisions in 2001 (SWANNC) and 2006 (Rapanos) removed safeguards for many of our nation’s water bodies. Basically, these rulings made it so that Clean Water Act protections would only be available for “navigable” water bodies – or waters that are significantly linked to such water bodies.
In a conference call with reporters, today, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the guidance would follow with a proposed rule and a comment period. She wouldn’t give a date for the proposed rule, but said she was really proud the EPA was moving in this direction.

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21 April 2011, 5:17 AM
Tennessee couple fights coal ash dump

Coal ash strikes again.

In this video by Sam Despeaux and Carly Calhoun titled “TVA At the Crossroads” (also check out “American Nightmare”), Lynn and Jean Gibson speak about living near a coal ash dump in Benton County, Tennessee. The area is some four hours from the site of the December 2008 TVA spill/disaster in Harriman, but it’s a testament to just how much of Tennessee has become a dumping ground for coal ash. The coal ash landfill in question is from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s New Johnsonville plant. And while the U.S. EPA is taking its time considering regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste, TVA is considering opening up more coal plants and coal ash landfills to host the coal combustion byproduct. This is not good.

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12 April 2011, 12:20 PM
Federal budget targets gray wolves and wild lands

It’s been a harrowing past few weeks (to say the least). The first jolt came Feb. 19, when House leaders approved a spending plan that slashed an array of environmental safeguards and pretty much gave polluter industries a free pass to continue using our air and water as their dumping grounds.

Amid the back and forth over the final spending legislation, the government came this close to a disastrous shut-down, with rumors that women’s reproductive rights and the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon emissions were on the bargaining table, but in the end, President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were able to stave off clean air and water attacks. The final budget will be voted on by congressional leaders in the next few days and cuts $38 billion.

But not all was won. In the 11th hour, House Speaker John Boehner and his Tea Party flank were able to slip a few anti-environmental attacks in there, among them one that will remove ESA protections for gray wolves.

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07 April 2011, 1:19 PM
DC Circuit Court rejects industry and state pushback of air rules

Amid the wrangling back and forth in Congress over our clean air protections, there is some good news for our air. This morning the DC Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an effort from industry groups and allied states  to suspend an EPA rule adopted last June that will limit dangerous sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants and factories. The court also denied attempts to delay implementation of this health protection. 

Exposure to sulfur dioxide is linked to asthma symptoms and respiratory illnesses, particularly in children, senior citizens and asthmatic patients. The EPA’s stronger standards will help prevent thousands of asthma attacks and hospital and emergency room visits. And since sulfur dioxide emissions transform into fine particles in the air, this standard will significantly reduce extremely harmful particulate matter pollution, saving thousands of lives.

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23 March 2011, 8:14 AM
Cancer-causing agent found in drinking wells in Madison, Wis.

A while back, we documented the threat of hexavalent chromium in drinking water and the fact that it leaches from coal ash disposal sites across the country. Sadly hexavalent chromium and coal ash share a headline again in this story out of Madison, Wisconsin.

The article details the results of a study that found hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, in 13 of 16 drinking water wells used by residents of Madison. The sources of Madison’s hexavelent chromium water tainting include lumber yards, gas stations, auto body shops, electrical stores, upholsterers and coal ash landfills.

The mention of coal ash is buried toward the end of the story, but the facts are startling. The story details that tons of coal ash from coal plants have been disposed of in landfills in Madison. Furthermore, coal ash was used extensively to fill marshes and city workers continually came across layers of coal ash while digging for street and other construction projects. The amount of chromium released by our nation’s coal-burning power plants is larger than all other industrial sources, according to the EPA.

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11 March 2011, 1:57 PM
Administrator Jackson Clearly Explains How EPA Cuts Will Harm Public

The questions came from all sides, but one in particular stood out: “How would HR 1 affect the EPA’s ability to protect the public?” asked Representative Henry Waxman, (D-Calif.)

During testimony before the U.S. House Energy and Power Subcommittee on the EPA’s budget, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson answered Waxman’s question: “We understand cuts have to happen but it’s part of my job to say, the core programs…are proven public health providers, they reduce premature deaths, reduce cancer…”

She went on to say that the riders in the House bill would tie EPA’s hands. Which is apparently what the House GOP majority is aiming to do.

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01 March 2011, 1:33 PM
Lifesaving total will increase to 230,000 in 2020

Despite the House GOP majority attempting to quash our clean air, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is serious about our right to breathe. Today, the agency released a report that champions the Clean Air Act as a lifesaver, health protector – and economic bolster. The report analyzed effects of the Clean Air Act on the economy, public health and the environment between 1990 and 2020.

The analysis finds that the benefits of the Clean Air Act will reach an estimated $2 trillion in 2020. In that year alone, 230,000 lives will be saved. The analysis concludes that the direct benefits of this important law significantly exceed costs to industry from installing air pollution controls.

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25 February 2011, 12:18 PM
North Carolina resident thanks Rep. Mike McIntyre in a letter
Rep. Mike McIntyre

<Correction: This item has been amended to show that Rep. McIntyre did not participate in the specific vote on the cement kiln rule.>


This week has been a welcome reprieve from the madness in the House of Representatives last week. Among the many environmental amendments passed in the House budget plan is one that blocks regulations of mercury and other air pollution emanating from cement plants. Despite the calm after the storm, we’ve got continued movement from folks on the ground to push against these ludicrous proposals.

Allie Sheffield of Topsail, North Carolina (among her many efforts has been a trip to Washington, DC recently to lobby her state congressional representatives) had another letter placed in a North Carolina newspaper. In her letter, she thanks Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC) for not voting on an amendment that would undo important cement kiln rules. He also voted against the entire House budget (one of 189 congressmen to do so).