Tom Turner's Blog Posts

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Tom Turner'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.

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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24 October 2008, 4:00 AM
 

So the fate of the Roadless Rule is now in the hands of three judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, at least its immediate fate, following a hearing this week in San Francisco.

The Forest Service, represented by the Justice Department, wants the three judges to overturn a Sept. 2006 decision that found the rule the Bush administration cooked up to replace the original rule illegal.

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16 October 2008, 6:08 AM
 

The late Dan Luten was sneakily brilliant, somewhat iconoclastic, and possibly a maverick had that word not been so debased lately. In his fifties, he left a job as a chemist with Shell Oil to teach geography at Cal and became deeply involved in conservation. He served on the board of Friends of the Earth, which is how I got to know him pretty well.

One bon mot he tossed off that stuck with me was, "The country does not exist to serve its economy."

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14 October 2008, 6:00 AM
 

Chevron has long been a leader in image advertising, spending an immense amount of money on print and television ads explaining to the public just how utterly wonderful the company is. Years ago, their tag line was "People Do," in answer to rhetorical questions like, "Do people really care what happens to our precious wetlands? People do." These tended to appear when the company was angling for permission to drill wells in sensitive marshes.

Well, the company is back with a series that is running on public tv (I keep seeing them right before The News Hour), where they'd rather not be called ads, I guess.

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09 October 2008, 6:00 AM
 

Another story the other day, this time from the San Jose Mercury News, showing the perils of importing predators to control pests.

This time it's the mosquitofish, a guppy-sized fellow, brought into California from the East Coast in the 1920s to control, you guessed it, mosquitoes. The fish are voracious—can eat 500 mosquito larvae in a day. This is very good, especially since West Nile virus hit the state in 1999. Mosquitofish have helped keep the virus, which is frequently carried by birds and then transmitted by mosquitoes that bite the birds, in relative check.

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07 October 2008, 10:37 AM
 

It's not all that often that front-rank political leaders call for civil disobedience, but that's just what Al Gore did in New York on September 24 at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. "I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration," the ex-veep and planetary crusader said, "to loud applause," according to Reuters.

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24 September 2008, 6:11 AM
 

Earthjustice has been accused of being many things, including preferring birds over people (which reminds me of a fine old quote. Charles Callison, a stalwart of the Audubon Society, was once asked whether he liked people or birds better. He said, "I like the people who like birds.").

We've been called elitist. We've been accused of having little sympathy for working people. And we're not the only ones. The entire environmental movement is regularly derided by its opponents as secretly planning to destroy the economy and to lock up the great outdoors for its own private pleasure.

Just last week, we were attacked by name in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, accused of filing scores of lawsuits in a simple and effective effort to block offshore drilling and make people miserable. In case you missed it, I commend Trip's commentary on this subject. The article itself is here.

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22 September 2008, 2:57 PM
 

I heard Al Gore on "NPR Science Friday" a few weeks back talking about what it would take to get us out of the climate catastrophe that's bearing down on us. The biggest single step, he said, would be to convert the entire U.S. vehicle fleet to electricity. He said that is possible within 10 years if we—industry and government in the main—mount an effort akin to what we did for World War II.

All well and good, but government and industry almost never move that fast.

Until now. The Wall Street-mortgage-Fannie-Freddie-Merrill-AIG-who's-next crisis has politicians, bureaucrats, and captains of industry moving faster than they ever have before, and we're about to see a $700 billion bailout that may not even work.

Just think if those same forces took the climate crisis seriously enough to do something similar on that score. We could turn the climate mess around in Al Gore's 10 years, easy. And everyone would be the better for it, including Wall Street.

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17 September 2008, 4:47 PM
 

Judge Clarence Brimmer of the federal district court in Wyoming must feel a bit under siege. He's doing battle with two other federal district court judges, one in San Francisco, the other in Washington, DC. Judges are encouraged to respect each other's opinions—it's called comity, otherwise known as courtesy or deference—and comity is taking a bit of a beating these days.

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03 September 2008, 2:46 PM
 

A few weeks ago we wrote of a former Earthjustic law clerk, Jamie Saul, who was blackballed out of a job at the Department of Justice because he favored vigorous enforcement of environmental laws. Maybe blackballed is the wrong word—he applied for a job and didn't get it for reasons that were certainly improper and possibly illegal.

The DoJ looked into such hiring practices in the wake over the scandal over the firing of several U.S. attorneys for what sure look like political reasons. Turns out politics infected decisions involving more than U.S. attorneys.

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27 August 2008, 4:44 PM
 

Congressional Republicans, led by former congressman Richard Pombo, tried in vain for years to gut the Endangered Species Act. They were thwarted largely because the law is so popular with the public.

Now the Bush crowd is trying to do by fiat what it couldn't accomplish in the legislative arena: rewrite the rules.