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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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04 December 2009, 12:41 PM
Programs enacted this decade will lead to significant emissions cuts

The Bush years—a seemingly endless era in which those concerned about the planet's fate found themselves arguing with a table, to appropriate the words of a silver-tongued Massachusetts congressman—aren't typically remembered for good efforts to combat global warming.

But a new report by Environment America—"America on the Move"—contends those lost years, thanks to states (not the Bush administration), may actually prove themselves a critical period in our national efforts to lower carbon pollution. The report estimates that states like California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and many others initiated programs during those years that will lead to a reduction of more than 500 million tons of global warming pollution by 2020.

The projected amount, approximately 7 percent of total domestic emissions in 2007, is no small thing, roughly equivalent to the collective annual emissions of more than 100 million cars.

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03 December 2009, 6:14 PM
California readies plan for adapting to effects of global warming

Recently, some global warming skeptics have used a series of hacked emails to cast aspersions on the scientific consensus on man-made global warming. The hope, perhaps, is to gain support for a delusion that thrives in their fertile imaginations: that global warming is a hoax perpetuated by a clandestine network of global conspirators. A number of reputable experts have thankfully stepped up to put the conspiracy theorists back in their place.

And back in reality, some pragmatists are moving forward with plans to adapt to the changes that global warming, very real indeed, will inevitably bring our way.

The California Natural Resources Agency just released the "2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy," which examines likely impacts on the Golden State from global warming, and how best to mitigate the damage. According to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who authorized the strategy in an executive order one year ago, California is the first state to officially adopt an adaptation strategy.

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10 November 2009, 11:54 AM
Says he may attend climate talks if progress can be made

After weeks of speculation from Al Gore and others, we have the first indication from President Obama himself that he may go to the Copenhagen climate conference. In an interview with Reuters, Obama said he will travel to Copenhagen if he feels there is a chance of progress:

If I am confident that all of the countries involved are bargaining in good faith and we are on the brink of a meaningful agreement and my presence in Copenhagen will make a difference in tipping us over the edge then certainly that's something that I will do.

President Obama's statement of intent may signal the beginning of increased pressure on the Senate from the White House to continue pushing climate legislation forward, even as the health care debate—which has eclipsed global warming recently—rages on. Last week, the Kerry-Boxer global warming bill was passed out of the Environment and Public Works committee by a vote of 11-1. No Republican committee members were present for the vote.

Your move, Congress.

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05 November 2009, 5:46 PM
Our political leaders need to put this country on a low-carbon diet

Bill McKibben, founder of the campaign, took to the pages of the latest Mother Jones to offer a great primer on the Copenhagen climate conference. McKibben's article is clear: the world needs to stabilize carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at 350 parts-per-million—the threshold of life on planet earth as we know it, according to scientists like James Hansen.

Problem is, the current atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is 387 ppm, which means we've already exceeded that threshold by a mile.

What on earth to do? The politically impossible. A simple statement in McKibben's article leapt off the page and grabbed my attention: Getting to 350 ppm "would require focusing the entire planet for a generation on the task of transitioning off fossil fuel…It would mean aiming for a solution, not an agreement." To many, that's a painful (perhaps unrealistic) argument, but that doesn't make it any less true.

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04 November 2009, 1:32 PM
From mountain top to ocean bottom, countries demonstrate concerns
The Maldives

Last month, in an effort to draw attention to the likelihood of being submerged by global warming’s rising seas, government ministers of the Maldives—an island nation that sits mere feet above sea level—convened a meeting underwater.

Officials strapped on scuba gear and dove 15 feet to the ocean floor to sign a document that called for sharp reductions in global carbon pollution. Their action speaks to a dire future for Maldivians—who are very much on the front lines of the fight against global warming—and is an urgent call to world leaders preparing for international negotiations at Copenhagen.

Now, the Nepali cabinet is joining the Maldives in their plea for global action. Cabinet members are planning to meet at the Mt. Everest base camp later this month to draw attention to the impact of melting glaciers in the Himalayas. These glaciers fill such major rivers in Asia as the Ganges and the Yangtze, which in turn support most of the continent’s inhabitants.

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02 November 2009, 1:13 PM
Former VP offers up his opinion on an Obama appearance in Copenhagen

Speculation abounds as to whether President Barack Obama will travel to Copenhagen this December to personally participate in international global warming negotiations, though many have expressed doubt about the likelihood (and value) of an Obama appearance without legislation from Congress in his back pocket.

Well, today, former veep and contrarian of conventional wisdom Al Gore told the German weekly magazine, Der Spiegel that he expects President Obama will indeed be there: "He hasn't told me that he will, and no one representing him has told me that he will. But I see the calendar, I see unfolding of events and I feel certain he will go."

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28 October 2009, 4:51 PM
Mountaintop removal mining begins at Coal River Mountain
Coal River Mountain as seen from nearby Kayford Mountain. Photo: Coal River Mountain Watch.

The halls of Congress are echoing this week with debate over proposed legislation to fight global warming—a fight that can't be won without addressing a primary cause of global warming: our dependence on coal. As the rumpus goes on there, a real-life battle between coal and the future of American energy has reached a pivotal moment in Appalachia.

In an effort to protect their familial homes and water resources, residents of West Virginia's Coal River Valley have long fought to prevent Coal River Mountain from being blown apart for the coal beneath it. Local groups like Coal River Mountain Watch, an Earthjustice client, have argued compellingly that the mountain is an ideal site for a wind power facility, which could make the region a model for sustainable, green economic growth.

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15 October 2009, 11:08 AM
Big drop in CO2 emissions points to future possibilities
Earthjustice is participating in Blog Action Day.

It's a rare thing to encounter good news regarding climate change. Which is exactly why a bit of hopeful writing from Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute caught my attention. Brown's post, titled "U.S. Headed for Massive Decline in Carbon Emissions," contends that the U.S. has entered a new energy era characterized by declining carbon emissions. Do tell, Lester.

"For years now, many members of Congress have insisted that cutting carbon emissions was difficult, if not impossible. It is not," writes Brown. Citing statistics from the Department of Energy, Brown shows that carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal, oil and natural gas are on track to decrease 9 percent by year's end from 2007 levels. Part of this decline is undoubtedly due to the Great Recession that we’re (hopefully) staggering out of. But Brown attributes some of this reduction to efficiency gains and renewables elbowing their way into the energy mix.

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02 October 2009, 12:28 PM
Photo exhibit illustrates oil industry's scarring of nature
"SOCAR Oil Fields #3, Baku, Azerbaijan, 2006." Copyright Edward Burtynsky, courtesy of Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto.

I first encountered Edward Burtynsky through the movie Manufactured Landscapes, a documentary on his photography in China. Like Koyaanisqatsi a generation ago, Burtynsky's work is a provocative meditation on nature's collision with society. His latest exhibit, Edward Burtynsky: Oil, which opens tomorrow at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, promises another chilling look into the industrial landscape.

Oil confronts petroleum's impact on our lives, from the wellhead's altered ground, to the asphalt snarl of our highways and the lots where tires are interred. Like much of Burtynksy's work, Oil's images elicit conflicting emotions, a result of the artist's cardinal skill: an ability to imbue the hideous with an odd beauty.

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24 September 2009, 2:14 PM
Senate abandons Alaskan senator's attempt to constrain EPA authority
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Just as world leaders convened in New York earlier this week for the U.N. Climate Conference, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was introducing an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have hogtied EPA's ability to regulate carbon pollution from power plants and other large industrial polluters.

Fortunately, the Senate just decided not to vote on Senator Murkowski's amendment.

Some major dominoes still have to fall before big carbon polluters like power plants are regulated under the Clean Air Act, but the jettisoning of Murkowski's amendment clears the way for EPA to continue its work in that direction.

Here's a thanks to the 12,000 Earthjustice supporters who earlier this week urged their senators to reject Murkowski's amendment and instead tackle climate change and carbon polluters head on.