Posts tagged: 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.

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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 Brian Smith's blog posts
07 January 2010, 1:00 PM
Coal plant pollutes parks and wilderness areas

The single biggest air polluter in the entire state of Washington is the state's one and only coal-fired power plant. The operating permit for the coal plant, which is in Centralia, was recently renewed without needed upgrades to protect the air and the people living nearby who breathe it. Earthjustice attorney Janette Brimmer has been working hard to get the permit pulled back and updated with better pollution standards to clean up the air.

Brimmer told a state board that the 40 year old coal burner has no controls for greenhouse gases and mercury and no additional controls for nitrogen oxide, the source of haze that limits visibility in national parks and wilderness areas. She said the permit should be revoked and reworked to address the air pollution spewing from the plant.

See how one TV station covered the hearing (video after the jump) or read what the Olympian newspaper had to say.

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View Patti Goldman's blog posts
05 January 2010, 12:16 PM
EPA chief's sentiments supported by Earthjustice actions

The new Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, is on a mission to change the face of environmentalism. 

She speaks as a daughter whose mother was flooded out of the 9th Ward by Hurricane Katrina and who “can now make as compelling an argument as any wetlands expert about the need to protect and preserve wetlands.”  She speaks as a mother of a son with asthma who may not be able to go outside when ozone levels are high.

And she especially wants to broaden the conversation to make room for low-income and communities of color disproportionately burdened by pollution and to make environmental issues relevant to every-day Americans.

A main message from several of Lisa Jackson’s speeches  -- that many people care deeply about our environment, but do not call themselves environmentalists -- made me reflect on Earthjustice’s work to improve the health and quality of life of those most impacted by environmentally degrading activities.

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View Tom Turner's blog posts
04 January 2010, 3:37 PM
Big Coal abandons its PATH to power

 "The problem is, of course, that not only is economics bankrupt but it has always been nothing more than politics in disguise ... economics is a form of brain damage."—Hazel Henderson

This lively little snippet came to mind the other day when we got news that the PATH project—that's Potomac-Appalachia Transmission Highline—a massive boondoggle that would have served Big Coal to the detriment of the burgeoning green-power industry (and to the detriment of the places it would have passed through) had gone off the rails.

The project's undoing, at least for now, were demand projections. The promoters of the plan had wildly overestimated the need for the line in the future, and experts rounded up by PATH opponents (Abbie Dillen of Earthjustice is their lawyer) pointed out the fact. PATH folded its tent.

A similar scenario recently played out in Florida, where promoters of a huge new coal plant also caved in when their projections were shown to be, shall we say, optimistic (that plant now will be solar instead of coal-fired). David Guest and Monica Reimer of Earthjustice were the lawyers on that one.

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View Martin Wagner's blog posts
23 December 2009, 9:27 AM
What really happened inside the climate conference—and what's next

(Editor's note: Earthjustice attorneys Martin Wagner and Erika Rosenthal are back from two weeks of long hours and hard work deep inside the world climate conference at Copenhagen. In their final report, Martin goes behind the headlines to describe and explain how the conference really worked and why it shouldn't be dismissed as a failure. Amid the disappointments, there was progress, he says, and opportunities that must be seized.)

Erika and I are back from Copenhagen, and have finally gotten a few hours' sleep, so it's time to review what happened there, and to think about the work ahead. Let's start with what happened.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
21 December 2009, 1:31 PM
Dec. 22 will be a day residents in Harriman will never forget

I remember my first thought when I read the papers on Dec. 23, the day after one of the biggest environmental disasters in our nation's history: "This is only the beginning."

The stories about the spill came out like the spill itself: slow at first, then in a huge, sudden avalanche of sad details. 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash from the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Power Plant burst through a dam near Harriman and spread over 300 acres of pristine shoreline along the Emory and Clinch Rivers.

The spill damaged 23 homes and completely destroyed three.  This was enough coal ash to fill up nearly four Empire State Buildings; this much coal ash would flow over Niagara Falls for 24 minutes straight. Luckily, no one was physcially injured, but the emotional toll was immense.

Just 19 days later, 10,000 gallons were released from a pond at TVA's Widows Creek Power Plant in northeastern Alabama. A month after the Tennessee spill, Congress got involved with hearings and rhetoric about how we needed to clean up this mess and make sure it never happens again. But then on March 9, 2009, another spill occurred.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
21 December 2009, 12:10 PM
Conference generally seen as failure, but it may help Obama

It's possible, suggests some media outlets, that the United Nations isn't set up to produce the powerful, binding commitment among nations needed to fight global warming. Their proof lies in the shattered hopes of the two-week Copenhagen climate conference that ended Saturday with an agreement so weak that nations are bound only to "take note" of it.

To underscore the agreement's fragility, carbon markets in Europe were slumping today, and analysts were pessimistic about the near-term future.

But, while the conference produced little more on the world stage than agenda items for future international negotiations, The New York Times believes it may have given President Barack Obama a boost at home with climate legislation in Congress. Bloomberg chimes in with a similar take.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
18 December 2009, 5:36 PM
Senators try to stop EPA from reducing global warming pollution
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Photo by AFP.

Today, as world leaders, led by President Obama, struggled deep into the night on a plan to fight climate change, a handful of U.S. senators at home were trying to sabotage U.S. climate action. In league with long-time climate science deniers in Congress, they launched an effort to keep the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Led by Alaska's Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), this politically motivated attack targets an "endangerment finding" announced by the EPA on Dec. 7. Sen. Murkowski, aided by Sen. Lindsay Graham and others, are trying to pass a resolution that would nullify this finding.

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View Erika Rosenthal's blog posts
18 December 2009, 8:46 AM
In the final hours at Copenhagen, depth of crisis is daunting

(Editor's Note: Earthjustice attorney Erika Rosenthal is blogging from the climate conference in Copenhagen. Here is her report from the night of Dec. 17.)

Sometime late in the marathon high level segment of the COP, the environment minister of the Central African Republic took the floor and said: “The catastrophe is at our door.” He allied his country with the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and insisted the world must limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees and CO2 concentrations to 350ppm “for our survival.” “Two degrees and 450 ppm,” he said, “are unrealistic.” He meant it is unrealistic to expect that the countries of Africa will survive 2 degrees warming. But the literal reading of his words is also true. 

Just a few hours ago a leaked U.N. document revealed that the UNFCCC secretariat was fully aware that the emissions cuts on the table so far at the Copenhagen climate change summit would still result in temperature rise an average 3 degrees Celsius. (“Average” is critical—the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average; Africa too is warming faster than the global mean.)   Some experts say it’s likely to be even worse—closer to 4 degrees Celsius and 550 ppm. 

What is on the table so far, as we head into the final hours? The developed countries are offering to cut emissions by an aggregate 18 percent below 1990 levels. (This figure takes into account climate leaders, like Norway, that have pledged 40% reductions, and countries like the US that have pledged only 4% reductions.)  Some major emitting developing countries have pledged reductions in “carbon intensity.” But if the economy of China, for example, continues to grow, its pledge to cut energy intensity by 40 to 45 percent will result in an increase in its emissions. 

What does it add up to?

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
18 December 2009, 8:00 AM
Highlights from the climate change conference on Dec. 18

(Editor's Note: This file presents news and information from the Copenhagen climate change conference on Dec. 18, distilled from news outlet reports. We will be updating developments during the day.)

<Update>: What is described as a 'meaningful agreement' was announced by the U.S., but is far from the powerful end result that most had hoped for.

<Update>: An agreement has been reached in Copenhagen on a plan to combat climate change, The Los Angeles Times is reporting. President Obama has scheduled a press conference.

<Update>: The BBC says President Obama and other national leaders are meeting deep into the Copenhagen night to create some kind of agreement as this final day of the conference -- wrapped in confusion and consternation - nears its end. Reuters reports that the Chinese premier accepted Obama's offer to continue meeting today to achieve some kind of bilateral agreement. The New York Times'  headline is, "Heading Into Overtime."

<Update>: This news alert from AP: A third draft climate agreement being considered by world leaders at the U.N. summit in Copenhagen has introduced greenhouse gas emissions targets for both industrialized and developing countries. The document, titled the Copenhagen Accord, says rich countries should reduce their greenhouse emissions by at least 80 percent by the year 2050.

<Update>: Here's how the Philippine Daily Inquirer summed up President Obama's speech this morning to the conference: "He came, he saw, he didn’t conquer. The most anticipated event of the entire two-week-long climate change conference in this icy Danish capital was U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech, which many negotiators hoped would drive the newly re-started talks to a successful conclusion. Instead, it may have had the opposite effect." The China Daily had its own news analysis of the speech.

"Transparency" may be a synonym for failure at Copenhagen if China continues to refuse to allow verification of its emissions control efforts, reports AP. Despite last minute meetings with President Obama at Copenhagen, China apparently isn't giving in. Any hopes for a meaningful political agreement from the conference are pegged to an agreement between the U.S. and China. Meanwhile, leaders of more than 100 countries are in Copenhagen, many expressing frustration at the stalled progress.

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View Molly Woodward's blog posts
17 December 2009, 3:19 PM
Coal-fired power plants, oil and gas drilling, sea turtles in peril

Some top stories from the last week at Earthjustice...

On this final day of the Copenhagen conference, our daily report and attending attorneys Martin Wagner and Erika Rosenthal will keep you apprised of the latest. Check for updates during the day at unEarthed.

The EPA's endangerment finding (now under assault by a GOP senator) was one of the biggest pieces of news from the conference. But Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen warned that existing coal-fired power plants (responsible for a third of U.S. global warming pollution) could escape regulation.

This week, Earthjustice also responded to the second Arctic drilling permit granted to Shell Oil over the span of the Copenhagen conference, this time to drill in the Beaufort sea.

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