Posts tagged: Climate and Energy

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Climate and Energy


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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.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
18 January 2013, 4:21 PM
The silence is broken, now is the time to act

On Monday, President Obama’s inauguration will officially mark the beginning of his second term, and with it his second chance at finally taking strong action on one of the most important issues of our time, climate change.

Two months ago, on the night of his re-election and in front of an audience hopeful to move forward on so many issues, the president brought climate change back to the forefront of the nation’s mind by listing it as a top priority for his second term. Now, President Obama must go beyond the mere mention of the issue and use his bully pulpit to make the connection between carbon pollution and extreme weather. Just as Franklin Delano Roosevelt used his first inaugural address to declare war on the Great Depression, Obama must use his own confirmation to declare war on another societal ill that threatens to destroy life as we know it.

Of course, the president’s rhetoric will mean nothing if it is not backed by concrete actions in the next four years. And the time for action couldn’t be more urgent.

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View Kari Birdseye's blog posts
18 January 2013, 4:05 PM
Industry not ready for offshore drilling in treacherous waters
Shell drill rig grounded near Kokiak Island. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter)

As Royal Dutch Shell continues to make perfectly clear, industry is not prepared to safely explore for oil in the pristine waters of America’s Arctic. Shell’s Arctic operations have been called the “gold standard” of the oil industry and if this is the best they’ve got, the industry is not Arctic ready.

Beyond the arguments of the Arctic being a harsh, dangerous, infrastructure-less environment, the question remains, does it make economic sense to drill for oil in this remote region now for barrels of oil in 10 years? In 12 years, cars will be averaging 54.5 mpg. Energy efficiency and a growing renewable fuel market are also making headway. U.S. oil production hit its highest level in 20 years in 2012 and it is projected to increase an additional 14 percent this year—without the extreme oil of the Arctic. In 10 years, will Americans need the extreme oil of the Arctic that Shell is so desperately seeking?

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View Kathleen Sutcliffe's blog posts
18 January 2013, 11:21 AM
Earthjustice attorneys in court to expose industry secrets
Tap water is lit on fire, as seen in the fracking documentary Gasland.

New uncovered documents show that fracking company Range Resources persuaded the Environmental Protection Agency to drop its investigation into water contamination of a Texas home—in spite of the fact that preliminary testing showed that the company could have been responsible for cancer causing benzene and flammable methane in the family’s drinking water.

Take the time to read this very well-reported exclusive from Associated Press. It’s nothing short of infuriating to hear how industry and regulators colluded and hid the truth from this family—and the American public. From the AP article:

For Steve Lipsky, the EPA decision seemed to ignore the dangers in his well, which he says contains so much methane that the gas in water pouring out of a garden hose can be ignited.

"I just can't believe that an agency that knows the truth about something like that, or has evidence like this, wouldn't use it," said Lipsky, who fears he will have to abandon his dream home in an upscale neighborhood of Weatherford.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
10 January 2013, 12:02 PM
Plus: New FDA food rules and record-breaking heat waves
A collection of plastic washed up along a beach San Francisco, Calif. (Kevin Krejci / Flickr)

Tiny plastics clog the world’s oceans
By now we all know about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—a giant mess of trash in the ocean—but in turns out that the world’s oceans are also full of tiny plastics, reports CNN. These so-called microplastics are used in everyday products like exfoliating face soaps and hand cleansers to give you that just-scrubbed feeling without taking a Brillo Pad™ to your face. But despite their tiny nature, microplastics may be wreaking havoc on marine life that unsuspectingly swallow these plastic bits floating in the ocean. One 2008 study even found that these tiny particles can hang out in the bodies of mussels for almost two months, though scientists don’t know yet if they cause any harm (mostly because of a lack of research on the issue). And, because they stick around the environment for a long time and can’t easily be dredged out, the plastic pollution problem is only going to get worse. According to one researcher, there has been a 100-fold increase in plastic garbage over the last 40 years. Personal product companies like Unilever are responding to the problem by phasing out the use of microplastics as a scrub material in its products. So, you may soon have to find another way to get your scrub on.

FDA takes bite out of food illnesses with proposed rules
After years of deadly outbreaks from contaminated spinach, peanut butter and other foods, the Food and Drug Administration recently proposed sweeping food safety rules to prevent contamination of the nation’s food, reports the LA Times. Each year, a shockingly high number of people fall ill from a food-borne illness—about one in six Americans—and of the people who get sick, 3,000 die. Historically, the FDA’s approach to food safety has been to wait until there’s a problem and then scramble to fix it. Now, in order to stem the tide of foodborne illnesses before they occur, the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act will take a more preventative approach by stepping up federal audits of food facilities and establishing science-based, minimum standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables. Though the Act is the most sweeping reform of FDA’s food safety authority in more than 70 years, the rules, unfortunately, won’t come any time soon since large farms have more than two years to comply with the final rules once they’re published and small farms have even longer. Bon appétit!

View Jessica Ennis's blog posts
08 January 2013, 5:04 PM
Salazar announces 60-day investigation
Kulluk, grounded off the coast of Alaska on Jan. 3, 2012.  (U.S. Coast Guard)

Today, the Department of the Interior announced a 60-day assessment of the 2012 drilling program in the Arctic Ocean.

Earthjustice legislative representative Jessica Ennis issued this statement:

A review of Arctic Ocean drilling is the only reasonable option, given the continuous parade of mistakes in Shell’s operations. However, that review must be thorough, independent and cannot pre-judge the outcome.

Critically, the outcome of the investigation should not be pre-ordained. We are troubled by the administration’s statement announcing the review alongside their commitment to drilling in frontier areas when Shell’s exploration for oil in Arctic federal waters continues on a parade of errors. The 2012 Arctic drilling season was characterized by mistakes. Just about everything that could go wrong, short of an oil spill, has gone wrong during Shell’s program.

Among the mistakes, Shell lost control of its drillship the Noble Discoverer, the same ship that is now under investigation by the Coast Guard Investigative Service. Its other drillship, the Kulluk, began 2013 grounded near a remote Alaskan island after losing its tow lines. Previously, its oil spill containment dome failed its sea trial “crushed like a beer can” in placid waters off Washington state.

These failures are the subject of the investigation just announced.

The secretary should not place an arbitrary 60-day time limit on the review. A robust investigation should begin, without a deadline, and not be complete until the cause of each problem is found. And Arctic Ocean drilling should be halted in the meantime. The administration must take a step back and take a hard look at 2012 operations before making any decisions regarding not only how but whether drilling in the Arctic Ocean should proceed.

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View Brian Smith's blog posts
08 January 2013, 12:15 PM
Australia swelters as coal industry industry brags
It's hot in Australia. (Stephen Mitchell)

This week, our friends down under are experiencing climate chaos up close and personal.

Australia is enduring a record heat wave that is causing massive forest fires and unprecedented public health issues.

The situation has become so bad that the weather service was forced to add to add additional colors to the heat map to capture temperatures up to 54 degrees Celsius (129°F).

Hobet mine.

A recent heat map of Australia, with the new colors.  (AUS Bureau of Meteorology)
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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
04 January 2013, 4:53 PM
Obama must halt dangerous, misguided operations in Arctic Ocean
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, AK, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island, Jan. 2, 2013. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.)

With one Arctic drill rig shipwrecked on an Alaskan island and the other reportedly under criminal investigation for possibly “operating with serious safety and pollution control problems,” oil giant Royal Dutch Shell is doing a pretty thorough job at proving the quest for oil in the pristine waters of America’s Arctic is just too dangerous, too dirty, and too damaging. The week’s events also prove once again that the U.S. Department of Interior should not have approved drilling in the most remote, dangerous place on the planet. It’s past time for the plug to be pulled on this operation.

The cone-shaped drill rig Kulluk sat in 30 to 40 feet of water along the rocky beach of Sitkalidak Island for the entire week and 18 crew members were evacuated by U.S Coast Guard helicopters. A cast of more than 500 salvage experts is working feverishly to stabilize and rescue the rig.  Further, after delays leaving the Arctic Ocean as winter closed in, Shell reported made its decision to move the rig, which does not have a propulsion system and requires towboats to haul it around, from the port of Dutch Harbor south of Alaska to avoid having to pay Alaska state taxes.

View Jonathan Wiener's blog posts
04 January 2013, 10:53 AM
Online shoppers should more easily find energy efficiency information

If you are one of the millions of American consumers who shop or browse online for major appliances and would like to know the environmental impact your new purchase will have, we’ve got some good news. The Federal Trade Commission has finally updated its newly named Energy Labeling Rule to make it easier for you to compare models and to know the energy consumption (and operating cost) of new products.

Under the old rule, consumers had to fish around in unlikely places and hope to get lucky looking for this information. Now retailers will display it right next to the product photo and purchase price (like in the example at left), and manufacturers will also make it available on their own websites.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
03 January 2013, 5:35 PM
Plus: Oregano immunity, recycling for couples, NorCal coastal protections
Photo courtesy of Scott Beale (flickr)

Climate change could flood Facebook, Google by 2050
Facebook can't be brought down by angry fans irritated with its privacy policy and data mining tendencies, but it could be swept away by climate change- induced sea level rise, reports Climate Wire. Though much of the California coastline is at risk, Silicon Valley is especially vulnerable since the land it sits on is between 3 and 10 feet below sea level. According to a draft study from the Army Corps of Engineers, an extreme storm coupled with higher seas could put the valley, along with nearby homes and businesses, under water. Despite the dire predictions, for now Silicon Valley inhabitants seem content with delaying any climate change action, a sentiment that world leaders are mimicking. Unfortunately, a recent study has found that delaying carbon cuts until 2020 will make dealing with climate change far more expensive than tackling it now, reports Reuters. And, delaying action also significantly reduces the chance of meeting an U.N. agreed-upon limit of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, which is the limit many scientists agree we must adhere to in order to avoid the most damaging effects of catastrophic climate change. So far, temperatures have risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius since we first started emitting carbon in massive quantities. While governments and industries dawdle, find out how Earthjustice is taking action to stop climate change, before it’s too late.

View Neil Gormley's blog posts
03 January 2013, 3:26 PM
Why this destructive practice is holding Appalachia back
Satellite imagery of the massive Hobet mine. September 20, 2012. (NASA's Earth Observatory)

Last month, Earthjustice Associate Attorney Neil Gormley took a trip to West Virginia to visit partners and clients and to see the effects of mountaintop removal mining first-hand. As he explains in this unEarthed entry, his visit prompted questions about the relationship between this destructive practice and regional poverty.

The Hobet mining complex is one of the largest mountaintop removal surface mines in the country. It was my destination last month when I took off from Charleston’s Yeager Airport in a four-seater Cessna, courtesy of Earthjustice’s partners at SouthWings.

Neil Gromley.Neil, on board the SouthWings plane.

Hobet is huge. Between current and past mining, it spans more than 15 square miles. At the time of my visit, miners were operating a dragline, an earth-moving machine so enormous it dwarfed the 240-ton dump trucks. The destruction is impossible to miss from above. Yet the mine is barely visible from the state highway that runs along its eastern perimeter. It’s shielded from view by a tall ridgeline, sparing most passers-by the eyesore.

Hobet mine.

Aerial view of the Hobet mine.  (Neil Gormley / Earthjustice via Southwings)