Tom Turner's Blog Posts

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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.

Tom Turner is an Editor-at-Large and unofficial Earthjustice guru after having been at the organization for more than 25 years. A lifelong resident of Berkeley, he is most passionate about Earthjustice's maiden issue, wilderness preservation, which he believes no longer gets the attention it deserves. Over the past two decades, Tom has told the captivating, influential stories of Earthjustice's work in three books and countless articles that have no doubt inspired the masses. When he's not bleeding ink, Tom enjoys watching baseball, playing jazz and umpiring Little League games. His favorite place in the world is, to quote John Muir, "Any place that is wild."

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01 April 2009, 9:37 AM
 

Two million acres of new wilderness, miles of new scenic rivers, the withdrawal of land in the Wyoming Range and elsewhere, all signed into law by President Obama (it still feels really good to type that) just in time for my birthday. The bill, a so-called omnibus, was a patchwork of nearly 170 separate bills, many of which had been kicking around for quite a while.

I only wish they had added one more: A bill to codify the Roadless Rule of 2001.

That rule, as I’ve reported to stultifying distraction over the past eight long years, set out to keep roads and chainsaws out of 58.5 million acres of national forest land throughout the country.

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25 March 2009, 12:07 PM
 

A couple of weeks ago we jumped the gun and announced that Mineral King, a lovely high-elevation valley in the southern Sierra Nevada in California, would be added to the National Wilderness System along with around 170 other areas totalling about two million acres. Last minute parliamentary tricks in the House kept it from happening then.

Today, under new rules, the House passed this monumental bill -- the greatest single expansion of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 15 years. President Obama is expected to quickly sign it into law.

Mineral King is especially close to our hearts because it was a lawsuit in the late 1960s challenging plans for a huge ski resort in the valley that gave birth to modern environmental law and to Earthjustice itself.

The King Lives! Long Live the King!

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17 March 2009, 11:53 AM
 

Quick—what country exports the most oil into the United States? Saudi Arabia? Venezuela? Iraq?

Nope. Canada. And the oil we get from our northern neighbor is about the most ridiculous energy bargain imaginable. Most of the stuff comes from vast deposits of tar sands in Alberta. Eventual emissions of CO2 are three times as much as from an equivalent amount of conventional crude oil. Mining the sands requires razing wide expanses of boreal forests and the peat soil beneath the trees, an inconvenient substance the industry sometimes calls "overburden." This is clearly disastrous for wildlife as well as for groundwater and air quality.

And now the capper—extraction of the tar sands and conversion to usable oil is so energy intensive that Canada is considering building nuclear plants to generate the electricity necessary to mine and refine the sands. This would be, according to a series of articles and links gathered by Grist magazine  (make sure to look at the photographs), the first time so-called "clean" nuclear electricity would be used to provide decidedly unclean fossil fuels to keep global warming rocketing along on track.

People really are nuts.

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12 March 2009, 2:15 PM
 

That yellow you see is egg on our face.

A few weeks back, the Senate passed a bill providing for a two-million acre expansion of the National Wilderness Preservation System, and we all cheered. It was a umbrella bill that encompassed some 170 smaller bills, many of which had been pending for years.

One small part was Mineral King Valley in the Sierra Nevada, which was, in many ways, the birthplace of environmental law and Earthjustice. We blogged, op-edited, and pitched the story far and wide. An op-ed was circulated by High Country News. A story was commissioned by American Lawyer magazine, another by Sierra, the Sierra Club's journal.

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03 March 2009, 3:13 PM
 

The Obama administration signalled today that it is rescinding a last-minute rule change by the Bush administration that eliminated a requirement that executive agencies (the Forest Service, for example) must consult with scientific experts in the Fish and Wildlife Service or NOAA when a project may affect protected species. When Bush instituted the change last December, Earthjustice immediately challenged the rule change in federal court.

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03 March 2009, 3:07 PM
 

I just received notice that Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, has put a hold on the nominations of John Holdren  to be Science Advisor in the White House and Jane Lubchenko, who is slated to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. According to anonymous sources quoted by the Washington Post, the senator has no objection to these individuals but wants to force senators to focus their attention on some matter having to do with Cuba.

I have no opinion one way or another about Sen. Menendez, but I have a very strong feeling that both these individuals should be confirmed instantly. There’s an endless amount of work to do, and both are supremely qualified to do it.

If you go to the senator's website, there’s a form to fill out for comments. Give him a piece of your mind.

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25 February 2009, 8:24 AM
 

Order "Roadless Rules" at www.islandpress.org/roadlessrules. On the checkout page type in RR09 (that’s a zero, not a capital O) for a 25 percent discount.

As longtime readers of this screed know all too well, I’ve been obsessed by the Roadless Rule for a long time. The trigger for this was when several states, the timber industry, a few counties, some off-road vehicle interests, and an Indian tribe challenged the rule in court.

So far, nothing unusual. We intervened on behalf of a wide variety of environmental groups. Still hardly front-page news.

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12 February 2009, 11:06 AM
 

One of my favorite memories is of being in Brighton, England, in June 1985 when the International Whaling Commission, after a struggle that lasted well over a decade, adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling, to last for at least five years. It has lasted for almost 24 years, but now seems in jeopardy of being fatally watered down.

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07 February 2009, 5:53 AM
 

I never know whether to dignify irrational wing-nut attacks on environmentalists in general and specific organizations in particular by mentioning them in print, but the latest is so over the top that I can't resist.

Something called the Capital Research Center recently published a screed titled, "EarthJustice [sic] Legal Defense Fund [sic]: How Environmentalism Weakens U.S. National Security."

First off, it's a sloppy piece of work, getting our name wrong two different ways, saying that we have 150 lawyers and lobbyists (it's around half that), and saying that we're active "in many state capitals." Not so, though I wish we were.

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03 February 2009, 5:56 PM
 

After writing a blog item about the storied Mineral King valley, I crafted an essay about it for the High Country News. The news is that it is about to be declared America's newest wilderness. Here's how I started the HCN article:

"A half-million abandoned mines litter the American West, many dribbling poisons into rivers and streams. But after more than a century of healing, one such place is poised to become one of America's newest wilderness areas. It's a testament to the resilience of nature and the vision of the people who fought to preserve it."

Read the full HCN story.