Ted Zukoski's Blog Posts

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Ted Zukoski'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.

ABOUT EARTHJUSTICE'S 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.

Ted Zukoski is a Staff Attorney in Earthjustice's Rocky Mountain office who works to protect wilderness, roadless areas and the planet's climate on behalf of conservation groups in the Four Corners' states. Ted grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles at its smoggiest, but found a love of the outdoors amid the volcanoes, granite peaks and high mountain lakes of the Eastern Sierra. Firmly rooted in Colorado after almost 15 years on the East Coast, Ted heads to Utah's desert in the spring and to Rocky Mountain forests in the summer with his wife and two kids. When he's not writing Freedom of Information Act requests, he's reading too many books about World War II.

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14 January 2014, 4:07 PM
Add the Elk River chemical spill to coal's hidden costs
The true price of coal is paid through hospital bills and devastated communities. (Alexan2008 / iStock)

Did we really need another reason not to like coal as an energy source? Ready or not, we have one.

The standard list is already pretty long: Climate change from burning coal in power plants... Coal ash spills... Mountaintop removal and valley fills... Air pollution damaging lungs and polluting lakes... Roadless areas and rangeland bulldozed or blown up.

Now add to the list: chemical spills that make water undrinkable.

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13 November 2013, 10:04 AM
Miners, drillers still have sights on remote, wild forest
The Pilot Knob roadless area in western Colorado. (Jim Ramey Photo)

Wouldn’t it be great if we could be done protecting Forest Service roadless areas because they were all protected? If you have followed the tortured history of President Clinton’s national Roadless Area Conservation Rule—which Earthjustice defended for more than a decade, with success—you’d be forgiven for thinking that 2001 rule settled the matter.

Sadly, the dead hand of the Bush administration—and the living hands of some inside the Forest Service who still don’t believe roadless areas should be protected—continue to have a grip on agency policy. First, a reminder on why it’s important to protect roadless lands.

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27 August 2013, 10:07 AM
Industry, Colorado Gov. agree: drilling opponents are probably hypocrites
A refinery in Denver, CO. (NREL)

The oil and gas industry in Colorado has a new script to disparage efforts to move towards a clean energy future. And one of their friends—Colorado’s Gov. John Hickenlooper—appears to have gotten the memo about how to belittle those trying to limit the damaging impacts of dirty energy.

Take statements made two days apart by the president of the Colorado Petroleum Association and Gov. Hickenlooper. Both men responded to efforts to limit the damage caused by fossil fuels.

In an Aug. 22 article on National Geographic’s website, Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, derides those seeking a fracking ban in their community as hypocrites who are still using fossil fuels while trying to limit drilling. He also attacks the idea of a fracking ban as a hollow gesture that is merely “symbolic.”

So, industry’s response to the need to transition from fuel that’s poisoning the air, threatening our water and heating the planet is to attack opponents as ineffective hypocrites. Nice.

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21 June 2013, 1:20 PM
Obama’s climate actions sometimes at odds with his rhetoric
Alberta tar sands refining. (NRDC)

President Obama is good at bold words, and he’s delivered quite a few of them on the need for action on climate change in the last nine months. There was his speech upon being re-elected; his 2013 State of the Union (in which he promised to act unilaterally on climate change if Congress wouldn’t); and most recently his speech at the Brandenburg Gate in which he rightly labeled climate change “the global threat of our time.”

And the hyped action on climate change is almost here, with the New York Times reporting that the president may announce as soon as next week a three-pronged plan to:

  1. Put limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing and proposed power plants;
  2. Boost renewable energy development on public lands; and
  3. Mandate greater energy efficiency in buildings and equipment.

These three steps are overdue, but would have real benefits, and will require an expenditure of political capital from Mr. Obama. But he’s hardly gone all-in on climate change of late. On some very important climate issues, the president has instead displayed a penchant for ignoring the issue or dawdling on major decisions.

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18 April 2013, 10:02 AM
Feds, locals don't always have wildlife's best interests at heart
The imperiled Gunnison sage grouse. (FWS)

It's hard to know, sometimes, who to trust with America’s wildlife.

For the most part, wildlife is managed by individual states, which do some good science and issue tags for hunting licenses. They are also, theoretically, on the front lines of ensuring that wildlife species don’t get into such trouble that the federal government needs to step in under the auspices of the Endangered Species Act.

There is a constant tug-of-war between the locals and the feds, and it might be tempting to say those who love vibrant wildlife populations should favor one over the other.

But it’s not always easy to pick.

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15 March 2013, 9:46 AM
Drought highlights need for smart solutions to water demand in West
Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. The white bathtub ring will get bigger as water levels drop. (Photo: BuRec)

Winter in the Rockies is almost over. Almost, because April is still one of our snowiest months in Colorado. But even with a few days of snow last week, April would have to be pretty darned wet just to get this year’s snowpack up to average. As of March 15, snowpack in the watersheds that feed Lake Powell—which is just upstream of the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River behind the Glen Canyon Dam—was at less than 80 percent of average.

It’s so low, the National Park Service—which manages boating on the Lake as part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area—is spending a half-million of its sequester-reduced dollars to dredge a new channel for boats that would otherwise have to make a detour around new land that’s exposed as lake levels recede. The Bureau of Reclamation is predicting that inflows to Lake Powell this spring will be less than half of the 30-year average. In Denver, the water agency—which relies heavily on water grabbed from the Colorado River basin—is already warning it will put in place tough restrictions on lawn watering this summer to deal with the ongoing drought. His answer is, it could, as temperatures rise and water supplies dwindle due to global warming.

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13 February 2013, 3:57 PM
Obama can act on climate change by taking on a few western coal mines
Coal mining damage caused by West Elk Mine. (U.S. Forest Service)

In his State of the Union address, President Obama said some stirring things about climate change. Most dramatically, he urged Congress to take action and then said:

But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.

Well, if you want to act on climate change to protect future generations, Mr. President, I have a modest proposal: stop rubber-stamping coal mine expansions on federal lands in the western U.S.

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15 November 2012, 4:27 PM
Drilling near Denver is adding to the area's worsening smog problem
Denver smog. Brought to you in part by fracking.

Last week, supporters of the controversial drilling practice know as fracking held a rally in Denver. According to media reports, one booster drew laughs from the crowd when he said that fracking’s economic benefits would eventually "trickle down to attorneys [and] doctors."

Colorado doctors are probably already seeing increased business because of fracking, but not in a humorous way.

Oil and gas drilling is a contributor to ozone—better known as smog—on Colorado’s Front Range.

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19 October 2012, 5:03 AM
Forests will die someday, why shouldn't coal companies help them along?
Bear claw marks on aspen in the Sunset Trail Roadless Area. (Ted Zukoski / Earthjustice)

Coal companies have been blasting mountains, dumping waste rock into streams, and undermining private and public lands for more than a century. It’s apparently lucrative to do so.

But a recent filing by a coal company shows just how far they have drunk their own Kool-Aid (or coal ash?) in justifying the damage mining can cause.

The filing concerned Earthjustice’s efforts to protect the Sunset Roadless Area on the GMUG National Forest in western Colorado. The Sunset area is a landscape of pine, fir, and aspen stands, dotted with wet meadows and beaver ponds.

It provides habitat for black bear and the imperiled lynx, elk and goshawk. And it’s darned pretty, with the peak of Mount Gunnison in the West Elk Wilderness looming to the east.

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13 September 2012, 8:54 PM
Appeals court will hear arguments Wednesday in state's war on wildlands
Salt Creek, Canyonlands National Park. The state of Utah hopes to turn the creek into a highway. Ted Zukoski photo.

Canyonlands National Park—which contains some of the planet's most fantastic desert scenery and, paradoxically, two of the West's mightiest rivers—just celebrated its 48th birthday.

The state of Utah is working to drive a knife into the heart of the park before it reaches 49.

The state and its ally, San Juan County, Utah, contend that Salt Creek, one of the few permanent streams in the park, is a "constructed highway" that the state—not the Park Service—can manage.

They plan to manage this stream not to protect its rich habitat for wildlife, but instead as a playground for Jeeps and SUVs, relying on a repealed, 19th Century law known as "R.S. 2477."

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