Terry Winckler's Blog Posts

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

Terry Winckler'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.

Terry Winckler is Earthjustice's Editor and resident wordsmith who edits and produces our blog, online monthly newsletter and quarterly print magazine. His appreciation for all that is wild began as a child when he would spend countless hours outdoors, gazing at fireflies on soft summer nights, or listening to his father's tales of the vast primeval forest in Canada's North Woods. Terry's heroes include saints, do-gooders, champions of the underdog, free spirits and nature lovers. In his free time, he enjoys engaging with his spouse and children, eating fistfuls of peppermint stick ice cream and spinning a good yarn.

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27 July 2010, 12:36 PM
Lots of spilled oil remains, but out of reach of clean up crews
Oil skimmers in Gulf of Mexico

<Update 7/27: Oil spilled from BP's Gulf well is rapidly evaporating and/or being eaten by microbes, probably ending any danger that it will hitch a ride on currents around Florida and onto the East Coast, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency. But huge undersea volumes of it remain - as do horrific environmental problems.>

Don't look now, but oil from BP's blown-out well is getting harder to find. ABC News reports that oil skimmers just two weeks ago were scooping up 25,000 gallons of oily water per day, but last Thursday captured only 200 gallons.

Of course, skimmers are literally only skimming the surface of an oil spill problem that still lurks deep underwater across a vast expanse of the Gulf. Consider that most of the 200-million gallons of oil, which gushed unchecked for nearly three months, never made it to the surface and when it did was bombed by more than a million gallons of toxic dispersants. In addition, the crude has been whipped apart by storms, tides and currents. Much has been eaten by microbes.

What's left, in the mile-deep zone between source of leakage and the surface is a situation never quite faced before. As ABC concludes:

Experts stress that even though there's less and less oil as time goes on, there's still plenty around the spill site. And in the long term, no one knows what the impact of those hundreds of millions of gallons will be, deep in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

 

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27 July 2010, 12:27 PM
Failure to pass climate change legislation is intolerable

Today supporters of clean energy and climate legislation released the following statement on the Senate's failure to address a clean energy and climate policy:

As we witness the worst industry-caused environmental catastrophe in our history, the deadliest coal mining disaster in 40 years, and sweat through the hottest first 6 months of any year on record, there's never been a more urgent time to move forward with a clean energy and climate policy.

There's no doubt that big oil, big coal, their army of lobbyists and their partners in Congress are cheering the obstruction that blocked Senate action on clean energy and climate legislation. Their cheers are cheers for China taking the lead in clean energy jobs, the Middle East getting more of our money, and America getting more pollution and fewer jobs.

At every opportunity, a minority of senators who are in the pocket of America's largest polluters in the coal and oil industries chose obstruction over working together to solve America's energy and national security challenges. As a result of their actions, the big polluters will continue to reap record profits at the expense of Americans.

As we look forward, one thing is clear: the Senate's job is not done. They must use every opportunity available to address clean energy and climate reform by working to limit carbon pollution and invest in new clean energy sources that are made in America, including protecting the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to crack down on polluters.

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26 July 2010, 7:10 AM
Grab the mirror—it's truth and consequences time on Earth

Ouch! I just woke up on the wrong side of the computer and rolled over onto the point Thomas Friedman makes about who is to blame for the Senate's failure to pass legislation that addresses climate change and our fatal attraction to oil.

We are all to blame, he concludes—Democrats, Republicans, environmentalists, deniers. The Etc. list is long and inclusive. In fact, the list is just as long as those who will suffer when the consequences of climate change come to roost.

The ultimate conclusion: "Do not mess with Mother Nature (she always wins)." Read the whole trenchant truth here. <Update 7/26: And while you're at it, here's another entrance to the guilt highway aimed at the Obama administration.>

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21 July 2010, 4:16 PM
Senate bill would greatly improve testing and use of chemicals

<Editor's Note: Our newest blogger, Earthjustice attorney Marianne Engelman-Lados, compiled this report.>

The response to the oil spill in the Gulf has exposed fundamental flaws in the current system for regulating the use of chemical dispersants. Since April 20, when the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded, BP has added nearly two million gallons of dispersants to the waters of the Gulf.

BP's use of dispersant is unprecedented—not only in volume but also because it is being applied under the surface of the water, at the source of the leak. Yet the potential health and environmental effects of the use of the dispersant are not well understood.

Last week, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Gulf Restoration Network and the Florida Wildlife Federation to force EPA to release health and safety information related to dispersants. This information is crucial for residents and workers who may be exposed to the dispersant and, also, for researchers.

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09 July 2010, 10:10 AM
Nothing is too strange when oil is forecast
Navy blimp is oil spill eye in the sky

Whoever would have thought that Florida would be issuing daily oil forecasts as if they were predicting weather? Check out today's advisory from the state governor's office:

Forecasts are for winds and currents to move oil in the Gulf of Mexico westward and projections are Escambia County beaches will remain largely oil free for the next several days.

After 81 days of continuous oil flow into the Gulf from BP's blown out well, this wee statement symbolizes the new norm for people who must accept the spilled oil as a routine part of their lives. It's much worse of course for Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, whose residents are forced into hand-to-hand combat with the invading oil. Some pretty exotic solutions are just now coming to their aid:

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08 July 2010, 11:39 AM
We can't risk another oil spill like BP's

<Update 7/9: The 5th Circuit Appeals Court decided not to intervene on an emergency basis - and reinstate the administration's moratorium on offshore drilling - unless deepwater drilling is actually going to resume, reports Patti Goldman, vice-president of litigation for Earthjustice. The shoe is now on the oil industry's foot. If they choose to resume drilling, they risk another quick trip to the 5th Circuit.>

<Update 7/8: A 3-panel appeals court has refused to reinstate a moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf of California.>

The immediate future of deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is at stake today in a federal appeals court, where Earthjustice and the Obama administration are arguing to reinstate a moratorium put in place after the BP oil well rupture. Oil industry advocates convinced a federal district court to lift the moratorium last month.

With oil gushing into the Gulf at an estimated 2.4 million gallons a day, our argument for the moratorium should be obvious—we can't afford this kind of risky drilling until the BP oil spill is fully quelled and we know exactly why this devastating incident occurred. We already know that the approval process for the BP well and others in the Gulf was corrupted by a too-cozy relationship between the oil industry and regulatory agencies, especially the Minerals Management Service.

Until the government can clean up its regulatory act, and the industry shows that it can clean up—and prevent—major oil spills, we will continue to argue against resumption of deep water drilling. And let's be clear—the moratorium only affects a small number of drilling operations in the Gulf. The vast majority continue to operate and are not affected by this court action.

If the appeals court refuses to lift the moratorium, the Interior Department said it will institute a revised, new moratorium in short order.

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07 July 2010, 7:34 AM
Report clears top scientists of being dishonest about their science

Remember "Climategate"—the scandal over leaked emails that thrilled global warming-deniers and helped derail the Copenhagen climate summit last year? Well, it turns out that it was nothing more than a dust up over human relations and had nothing to do with the science that supports the existence of climate change.

A report by an independent panel has found that the scientists caught up in the scandal are guilty of being overly possessive about their information, but the information itself is sound.

The entire issue erupted over hundreds of leaked email exchanges by top climate scientists at one of the world's major climate change resarch centers, the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit. As the Associated Press describes it:

The messages captured researchers speaking in scathing terms about their critics, discussing ways to stonewall skeptics of man-made climate change, and talking about how to freeze opponents out of peer-reviewed journals.

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06 July 2010, 7:00 AM
Fish and Wildlife Service failed to see any real danger

It's hard to imagine—as we watch birds, turtles, dolphins and other animals struggle and die in the oil from BP's blown-out well—that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported just three years ago that drilling in the Gulf of Mexico posed little risk to animal life.

A memo to that effect, unveiled by the New York Times and reported by AP, was sent by the agency to the Minerals Management Service as part of its assessment of various Gulf drilling operations, including the Deepwater Horizon operation that blew out April 20. Oil from the well continues gushing at an estimated 2.4 million gallons a day.

We long have known that the MMS was too friendly with the oil industry—a fact that came to public light when the BP spill occurred and led to federal investigations and a shakeup of the agency. But, it is especially troubling to find how willing the FWS was to endorse MMS's flawed oversight. The FWS is, after all, the one agency whose mission is to protect our endangered and threatened wildlife.

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01 July 2010, 10:20 AM
Earthjustice demanded ingredient information, will seek expert opinions
Dispersant sprayed in Gulf of Mexico

<Update 7/1: EPA has released results of its first round of chemical testing of dispersants used in the Gulf. The report downplays toxicity, but as scientist/blogger Richard Denison points out - the report offers little new information and still leaves unresolved the bigger questions, such as what toxicity occurs when dispersants and oil combine, and what happens when that highly dispersed oil/dispersant brew is spread across vast areas and throughout the water column.>

<Update: A month after promising to test the toxicity of dispersants used against the Gulf oil spill, the EPA has yet to complete those tests - meanwhile more than 1.4 million gallons have been dumped in the Gulf with unmeasured consequences, reports Mother Jones. EPA's position is that the dispersants are less toxic than the oil, but that raises the question: are we just adding to the total toxicity of the spill?

<Update: Check out the latest information on the toxic potential of ingredients in oil dispersants>

The government wouldn't dare let a doctor give out an experimental drug without years of extensive testing, yet it has allowed British Petroleum to flood the Gulf of Mexico with more than a million gallons of a secret chemical compound in an untested experiment on human communities, hundreds of animal species, and myriad ecological systems.

We're talking about Corexit and other dispersants, made up of classified chemicals and spread over and injected into Gulf waters to break up BP's oil spill. The spill alone is in many ways unmatched in human history, scientists say, and because of dispersants may be wreaking special devastation in the Gulf. Aside from the fact that dispersants never before have been used on such a vast scale, we have been forced to guess at the danger they pose because BP and the dispersants' manufacturer refused to reveal the ingredients.

Today, after Earthjustice demanded the information through a Freedom of Information Act request, the Environmental Protection Agency finally provided a list of what's in these chemical compounds. Now, we can turn to experts to assess their danger. Our clients, the Gulf Restoration Network and Florida Wildlife Federation, who have long worked to protect the Gulf, must know what is happening to its rich fisheries, sea turtles, birds, and entire ecosystem.

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01 July 2010, 8:11 AM
With 140-million gallons of oil in the water, monster skimmer is needed

<Update 7/6: High seas have disrupted testing of the "A Whale" oil skimmer, the Coast Guard reports.>

<Update 7/1: Speaking of whales, a number of whale sharks have been spotted in the oil spill area, which is particularly bad for them, as they are plankton eaters—meaning they sieve the oil-laden waters. The species is among six described as most threatened by the spill, according to AOL. Other species listed are sea turtles, bluefin tuna, sperm whales, dolphins and brown pelicans.>

A record described as "notorious" in a USA Today headline is being reached today in the Gulf of Mexico as BP's oil spill tops the estimated 140-million-gallon mark. The previous record Gulf spill was 139 million gallons in the 1979 spill off Mexico's coast—but it took a year of gushing to get there. BP's spill has been gushing from its blown-out well since April 20 at up to 2.4 million gallons a day.

Even as that unhappy record is being achieved, the federal government has brought on scene the latest attempt to clean up the oil. A monster skimmer ship—3 1/2 football fields long and 10 stories high and named the "A Whale"—chugged in today, especially equipped to skim as much as 21 million gallons of oiled water per day—if the EPA gives the go ahead. The ship has never been tested.