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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18 February 2011, 1:52 PM
Raleigh News & Observer supportive of cement kiln rules
Cement kiln. Photo courtesy Sierra Club

This month, Earthjustice endured many attacks on clean air, including efforts to undo air protections that would slash mercury and other air pollution from cement kilns. In January Rep. John Carter (R-TX) began his protracted assault, starting with a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to kill these important safeguards.

Last night as the House continued its debate on their controversial budget plan, Rep. Carter successfully led the House GOP in a vote of 250 to 177 to dismantle the rules.

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18 February 2011, 12:17 PM
House majority environmental attacks continue today
The EPA is a main target of Republicans

Here is a quick update on the spending bill nonsense taking place in the U.S. House of Representatives:

Last night, as House leaders continued their marathon vote of their budget bill, they voted to dismantle a crucial set of air rules that would save up to 2,500 lives and slash mercury and other air pollution from cement kilns. These EPA health protections are supposed to take effect in 2013, and would cut cement plants’ mercury emissions by 92 percent and yield up to $18 billion in health benefits. Rep. John Carter (R-TX) sponsored the amendment, which is a continued attack from the Texas congressman beginning last month, when he introduced the Congressional Review Act to disable these air protections.

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04 February 2011, 1:50 PM
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson refutes colleague's attacks
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Let’s hear it for the champions of clean air!

We at Earthjustice have spent the past several weeks countering one clean air attack after another as several elected leaders have aligned themselves with dirty polluters. But there are some in Congress who are not thinking of lining industry’s pockets and instead thinking of protecting their constituents’ right to breathe.

Among them: Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) who in an editorial today takes on colleague Rep. John Carter (R-TX) for his attack on important air rules that would drastically cut the amount of mercury in the air.

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02 February 2011, 12:22 PM
Perchlorate and hex chromium on her list of offending chemicals

At a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to discuss clean drinking water, today, Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that the agency would be setting the first-ever standard to limit perchlorate in our water. Perchlorate is a toxic rocket fuel ingredient that is especially harmful to fetuses, babies and young children.

Jackson said between 5 and 17 million Americans are exposed to this chemical in their water. She also detailed the agency’s plan to protect Americans from hexavalent chromium leaking into tap water, which made headlines a few weeks ago after the Environmental Working Group testing water found the carcinogenic chemical in 31 out of 35 tested cities. This hearing is on the heels of a report Earthjustice and other groups released yesterday showing that several leaking coal ash sites also are contaminated with hexavalent chromium.

During the hearing, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) mentioned constituents in Prince George’s County who have had to boil their drinking water due to water main breaks. He also mentioned the report by Earthjustice, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Environmental Integrity Project, expressing further concern about the new link between coal ash and hexavalent chromium.

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27 January 2011, 1:13 PM
Replacement must have Harris' commitment to enforcing efficiency standards
Scott Blake Harris

We at Earthjustice are dismayed that a champion of energy efficiency, Scott Blake Harris, will be leaving his post at the U.S. Department of Energy. Harris, the department’s General Counsel, made the enforcement of energy efficiency standards for household appliances and commercial equipment a priority at DOE, and essentially built the department’s enforcement program from the ground up.

Harris came to the department in July 2009. Before then, there was zero enforcement of efficiency standards. His loss will be a big one at DOE, and his shoes large to fill.

Under his leadership, the department made significant progress on enforcement. DOE started a program to randomly select and review manufacturers’ compliance with certification requirements to ensure that appliances meet energy and water efficiency standards. In another huge leap toward energy efficiency, the department strengthened its ENERGY STAR labeling program by expanding testing of ENERGY STAR qualified products.

But that’s not all.

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18 January 2011, 4:29 PM
Low-income community rebels against proposed 15-story toxic coal ash landfill
TVA landfill full of coal ash

(This is the latest in a weekly series of 50 Tr-Ash Talk blogs discussing the dangers of coal ash. Earthjustice hopes that by December 2011, the third anniversary of the TVA coal ash spill, the EPA will release a coal ash rule establishing federally enforceable regulations ensuring the safe disposal of this toxic waste.)

The average home value in Round O, South Carolina, is just above $66K. The average household income is below $30K. And now, according to an article in a local newspaper, a power company plans on building a site to store toxic coal ash from its coal plant nearby.

Is it coincidental that these impoundments are often built near low-income communities? We think not. It’s a known phenomenon that low-income and people of color neighborhoods across the country face disproportionately high levels of air and water pollution and exposure to toxic waste and other health hazards because federal environmental laws often are not fairly enforced. And sadly, Round O, fits the profile.

While we wait on the EPA to release a federally enforceable coal ash rule that would ensure the safe disposal of this toxic waste, President Barack Obama has signed an executive order that aims to achieve "balance" in federal regulations -- between ensuring public health and safety and promoting economic growth.

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13 January 2011, 2:46 PM
Congresswoman circulates letter opposing resolution attacking cement rules

Last week, this time, Earthjustice was responding to news of a resolution introduced by Rep. John Carter (R-TX), seeking to block important clean air protections. Using the Congressional Review Act, Rep. Carter aims to undo protective health standards that will reduce mercury and other toxic emissions from cement plants. If successful, Rep. Carter's resolution would strip health protections from thousands of people who suffer from respiratory and other health ailments caused by cement plants' pollution.

But today, we’ve found an ally in Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL), who submitted a letter to her congressional colleagues disavowing this effort.

Rep. Schakowsky calls on her colleagues to oppose Carter's resolution, emphasizing this important point: "I urge you to protect children’s health…" Rep. Schakowsky's letter details the many health benefits of cleaning up polluting cement plants, including the prevention of 2,500 premature deaths and reduction of health care costs by as much as $18 billion every year.

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12 January 2011, 2:17 PM
Scientists Allege EPA Underestimated Risk

(The following is the first in a weekly series of 50 upcoming Tr-Ash Talk blogs discussing the dangers of coal ash. Earthjustice hopes that by December 2011, the third anniversary of the TVA coal ash spill, the EPA will release a coal ash rule establishing federally enforceable regulations ensuring the safe disposal of this toxic waste.)

Arsenic, one of the most potent poisons known to man, is found in coal ash. It is well documented that coal ash leaks dangerous quantities of arsenic to drinking water when dumped in unlined pits and ponds. In fact, in an EPA analysis the agency acknowledges that people living near unlined coal ash ponds can face as much as a one-in-50 chance of getting cancer from drinking water contaminated by arsenic. This risk is 2,000 times greater than the EPA’s goal for reducing cancer risk to one-in-100,000. Yet, four renowned arsenic experts found that this EPA risk assessment underestimates the risk of cancer from arsenic by a factor of over 17 times.

In a letter to EPA, medical toxicologist Dr. Michael Kosnett along with three senior scientists explain that the EPA relied on an outdated “cancer slope factor” (CSF) that is 17.3 times less than the updated CSF for arsenic. The scientists therefore recommend revision of the EPA’s risk estimates.

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11 January 2011, 3:17 PM
Predicts that this year no overfishing will happen
Herring school

Oceans scientist Steve Murawski has got some good news for our fishermen clients in New England: there may be more fish to catch next year. If you remember, many fishermen had to retire their nets because of too few fish.

In an Associated Press report, Murawski heralds the end of overfishing as a result of a new fishing management system in the Northeast. Last year, New England had 10 fishing stocks that were being overfished. Now, two-thirds into the current fishing year, aside from one stock, federal data show that New England fishermen are on target to catch fewer than the allotted number of fish.

"And this isn't just a decadal milestone, this is a century phenomenon," Murawski is quoted saying. The story continued that this trend "signals the coming of increasingly healthy stocks and better days for fishermen who've suffered financially."

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29 December 2010, 12:21 PM
EPA grossly inflates the cost of coal ash recycling

Just last week we marked the two-year anniversary of the Kingston, TN TVA coal ash spill. Today, Earthjustice, the Environmental Integrity Project and Stockholm Environment Institute’s U.S. Center have released an analysis of an analysis: basically the EPA overinflated (by 20 times!) the values for coal ash recycling. The EPA claims that coal ash recycling is worth more than $23 billion a year, but the government’s own data shows that this number is actually $1.5 billion. Apparently this inflated number is holding up coal ash regulations due to the fear that stricter standards will depress markets for coal-ash recycling.

Earthjustice and the other advocacy groups are fearful that the EPA will be intimidated into adopting weak coal ash rules (there are two being proposed) based on these inaccurate numbers. The discrepancy is due to many factors, including double counting pollution reductions and overstating emission levels from cement kilns. Here is what Earthjustice staff attorney Abbie Dillen had to say: