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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18 August 2010, 9:48 AM
Even when it seems King Coal loses, does the environment win?
A coal mine methane well carved into national forest land, Colorado. Ted Zukoski photo.

Headlines in the last week trumpeted a decision by Xcel, Colorado's largest utility, to convert several old coal-fired power plants into natural gas plants.

The decision was hailed by some as a victory for the environment, since natural gas, when burned, results in fewer pollutants and greenhouse gases.  Some proclaimed the political power of coal on the wane in the West and natural gas ascendent.

That's the soundbite.  The real story is more complicated. First, before we all run to embrace natural gas as the savior for clean air and a less warm climate, let's remember what natural gas is doing to our lands.

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05 August 2010, 5:00 AM
They are coming for us on...BICYCLES

Hey, watermelon!  Yeah, you.  Green on the outside, and commie pinko on the inside.  We're on to you.  

We found out about your latest evil plan dictated by your UN masters.  No, not the one to tax us to death for carbon.  And not the one to infringe our liberties by telling us we can't use toxic chemicals in our homes if we want to.  Something even more insidious.  

You want to force God-fearing Americans to sit on uncomfortable seats.  And get sweaty.  And wear silly helmets.  You're part of the international conspiracy to promote ... BICYCLE RIDING!

Don't believe this is real?  Then you haven't been listening to Dan Maes, a major party candidate for governor in Colorado.

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31 July 2010, 7:19 AM
National Forest ski areas to become year-round amusement parks?
White River National Forest, CO - Ted Zukoski photo

America's National Forests, like most public lands, have long been used to generate private sector profit.  Logging, mining, oil and gas, and livestock grazing generate cash for companies and individuals, usually at the expense of wildlife habitat, clean water and low-impact recreation.

The ski industry also feeds at the public trough.  More than 100 ski areas are located on National Forest land, running the gamut from small family operations to the mega-resort corporations like Vail Resorts and Intrawest. 

But lately the pickings haven't been rich enough for the industry's taste. Ski areas want to draw paying customers when there's no snow on the ground.

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04 May 2010, 8:21 PM
Disaster reminds us of the importance of protecting the planet
Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Dish. Photo: Trey Ratcliff

One of my favorite bloggers, Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic, has a short, sweet meditation on the meaning of BP's huge oil spill in the Gulf. It's worth a full read. I don't always agree with Mr. Sullivan, but I always admire his thoughtful attempt to navigate through the issues of our time. His post asks the big questions. It ends:

These wounds, these temperatures, these destructive weather patterns are symptoms of a planet in distress. At some point, those of us who see our relationship to the natural world as something more than mere economicsas something sacred—need to face up to the fact that our civilization is not taking this sacredness seriously enough. When do we ask ourselves: by what right do humans believe we can despoil the earth for every other species with impunity? By what self-love have we granted ourselves not just dominion over the earth but wanton exploitation of its every treasure?

Is there no point at which we can say: this is enough? 

At what point indeed?

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26 April 2010, 10:19 AM
Beetle-killed forests not the problem some officials think
Pine beetles killed these Colorado trees

In a hearing room on Capitol Hill last week, science met politics. And science appears to have come out on the short end.

The hearing heard testimony on a bill from Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) whose stated purpose is to lessen fire risk supposedly caused by millions of dead trees killed by pine beetles. The bill is intended to protect homes and watersheds in forested areas of the West. It would require the Forest Service to identify areas where beetle kill was causing a "current or future increased risk of catastrophic wildland fire," and would exempt logging in those areas from some environmental protection laws.

The problem, though, is that the science shows this bill is a solution in search of a problem.

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19 April 2010, 12:57 PM
Recent decisions help coal mines at expense of climate, Colorado wildlands
The Obama Administration is proposing to OK well pads like this one in the West Elk roadless area. Photo (c) Ted Zukoski.

On the Obama administration's second Earth Day, we can look back on some change we can believe in: oil and gas leases near national parks in Utah suspended, a glimmer of progress on slowing the destruction of rivers and streams in Appalachia by coal mines, the beginning of EPA's commitment to slow global warming from car tail pipes.

But 15 months in, the administration appears to have at least one glaring blind spot: how to reduce the environmental destruction from coal mining in the West - both on the ground and in the atmosphere. 

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21 February 2010, 3:09 PM
March brings Roadless Rule's day in court, but threats loom
Dome Peak Roadless Area, Colorado - Photo (c) Ted Zukoski

More than a decade ago, dedicated conservationists within and without the Forest Service began clamoring for a nation-wide policy to protect the last remnants of roadless lands across the National Forests. The rationales were many: providing solitude for wildlife, preventing wildfires (which occur most often near roads), protecting water supplies for cities and towns, and leaving the last scraps of land unharmed by the buldozer after a century of pressure from loggers, miners, and other development.

And after the most comprehensive public input process in the history of American government—more than a million comments from members of the public, hundreds of hearings and open houses, a comprehensive environmental review—President Bill Clinton signed the "Roadless Rule" into law with just a week remaining in his term. The rule proteced 58 million acres of America's last unroaded lands from auction, bulldozing and commercial logging.

But the Roadless Rule immediately came under assault. George W. Bush and the logging lobbyists he hired to run forest policy promptly set about dismantling the rule. And even before the rule had been signed, anti-environmental interests had filed the first of a barrage of lawsuits aimed at taking down the rule.

The rule had its defenders, however. Conservation groups, represented by my Earthjustice colleagues Jim Angell, Kristen Boyles, Tim Preso, Tom Waldo and others, fought off the attacks in court. And, for the most part, they won. Thanks to them, when the Bush Administration finally packed its bags, the Roadless Rule was bloodied but very much alive.

And now, nearly a decade after it was adopted, the Roadless Rule will celebrate another red letter day.

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20 January 2010, 10:22 AM
Oil shale boosters' claims still don't hold water
Wyoming badlands on the block for oil shale. (c) Erik Molvar. Used with permission.

Why should we develop oil shale? Or, more precisely, what are the best arguments for scraping tens of thousands of acres of public land and using billions of gallons of scarce water and uncounted gigawatts of electricity to bake oil from rocks? 

Jeremy Boak, of the Colorado School of Mines, has two answers. Both are wrong. 

Some background on Mr. Boak. He's director of Mines' Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research, cutely known as "COSTAR." As the school proudly announced when COSTAR was born, the center "is funded by three major oil companies, Total Exploration and Production, Shell Exploration and Production, and ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company." So you see who he has to please.

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17 December 2009, 12:27 PM
In green flip-flop, company says it will use nature friendly chemicals

One of the biggest changes in natural gas drilling in the last decade has been the use of hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking") to free gas from captured rock. The practice involves pumping huge amounts of water and a chemical cocktail downhole into rock sometimes two miles deep.

The practice is prevalent - and controversial. The key to the controversy is what's in the soup the drilling companies are pumping underground. Drilling companies generally refuse to say. That means the public has no idea what toxins are in the stuff. And those toxins could eventually migrate into aquifers used for drinking water by millions.

In Wyoming, for example, EPA is concerned that "at least three water wells contain a chemical used" in fracking. And in Durango, an emergency room nurse suffered organ failure after treating a gas field worker covered in chemicals presumed to be fracking fluid. The gas company wouldn't say what was in the goop covering the worker.

What do gas companies have to fear from disclosure of fracking fluid ingredients?

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15 December 2009, 10:13 AM
But is a Colorado senator trying to breathe new life into a bad idea?

On November 5, 2009, something happened in Colorado that hasn't happened in a long, long time: the U.S. Forest Service rejected a proposal to turn a natural area into ski runs and a magnet for private land development.  The natural area is Snodgrass Mountain, which includes inventoried roadless lands, beautiful aspen stands, raptor habitat, and open space.  

Snodgrass rises just north of Mount Crested Butte, the company town whose reason for being is the Crested Butte ski resort to the south.  (The old mining-turned-tourist town of Crested Butte is a few miles further down the road.)  The resort has had its eye on Snodgrass for years. 

And for just as long, local conservationists have been trying to protect America's public lands on Snodgrass from being turned into a site for clearcut runs and lift towers.  Snodgrass is beloved as open space on the edge of development, as a place to hike, mountain bike and ride horses, and as wildlife habitat.

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