Posts tagged: Health and Toxics

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Health and Toxics


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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 Lisa Evans's blog posts
01 February 2011, 12:36 PM
Dangerous Form of Chromium Unregulated in Coal Ash
TVA coal ash spill. Photo courtesy Ohiocitizen.org

(Barb Gottlieb of Physicians for Social Responsibility contributed to this report.)

Just three weeks ago, after a study found chromium, a toxic heavy metal, in tap water in 31 of 35 U.S. cities tested, the Environmental Protection Agency issued new guidelines recommending that all public water utilities test their drinking water for hexavalent chromium or Cr(VI). But, EPA’s well-placed concern for protection of public health has a dangerous blind spot. While government regulators express concern for small quantities of the cancer-causing substance in our water, they are ignoring one of the largest sources of the hazardous chemical—coal combustion waste (or coal ash) from the nation’s coal burning power plants.

A new report by Earthjustice, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Environmental Integrity Project documents the threat to health from chromium VI leaching from coal ash disposal sites across the country. Our report is timely, as today the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is holding an oversight hearing on the threat to the nation’s drinking water from hexavalent chromium and other contaminants.

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
28 January 2011, 5:50 PM
Senators introduce bills to weaken environmental protections
Sen. Barrasso, friend of big polluters

(A powerful faction in the new Congress has allied with industry to weaken our nation’s most basic environmental laws. Earthjustice will report on this expected barrage of legislative attacks as they occur.)

<<<Update 6 p.m., Monday, Jan. 31: Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller has introduced his own “Dirty Air Act.” Like Sen. Barrasso's bill (see below), Sen. Rockefeller's bill blocks the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to limit carbon dioxide emissions for two more years.

In 2007, in its landmark Massachusetts v. EPA decision, the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are covered by the Clean Air Act. The Environmental Protection Agency is required to regulate them if found to endanger public health and welfare. The EPA made such a finding in 2009, relying on decades of evidence, research by hundreds of the world's leading scientists, and numerous other sources.>>>

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
27 January 2011, 1:04 PM
Twelve bad men, Gasland spotlight, green spies
Polar bears use ice floes, which are rapidly melting due to climate change, to search for food. Photo courtesy of Florian Schulz.

Polar bear swims hundreds of miles in effort to survive
In a testament to the rapidly deteriorating conditions that polar bears face in a changing climate, researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey recently discovered a polar bear that swam nonstop for more than 200 hours and 400 miles, reports the BBC. The epic journey in the Beaufort sea was most likely necessary due to an increase in melting sea ice, which polar bears travel on to hunt prey. In addition to losing 22 percent of her body fat during the journey, the mama polar bear also lost something that's truly irreplaceable, her baby cub. Check out Earthjustice's Irreplaceable campaign to find out how these Arctic symbols and others are being impacted by climate change.

Rolling Stone profiles the climate change dirty dozen
What do Sarah Palin, Bjørn Lomborg and Fred Upton (R-MI) have in common besides a penchant for making grandstanding remarks? They're also three of 12 people blocking progress on global warming, reports Rolling Stone. Some of the dozen's tactics include: attacking the EPA, giving reputable climate scientists the third degree, spreading disinformation about global warming and just plain lying to the American public. Unfortunately, their laughable efforts to mislead us are actually being taken seriously by some, and in the process risking all of our future.
 

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View Kathleen Sutcliffe's blog posts
27 January 2011, 11:10 AM
Fracking travels from the little screen to the big screen and back again
Josh Fox's critically acclaimed documentary GASLAND was nominated this week for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.

I don’t want to jinx anything, but we’re positively thrilled to see GASLAND—the truth-telling/irreverent film about toxic gas drilling—get an Oscar nod for best documentary. If you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for? It’s readily available on DVD. And there are more and more community screenings being organized every week.

Apparently industry’s none too happy about the Academy Award nomination. And, as you can tell from this indulging piece in the New York Times, they’re pretty unembarrassed about coming across as total spoilsports.

Well, if I was an oil and gas executive, I’d be peeved too. The ugly truth about this controversial form of gas drilling—known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”—has been getting lots of screen time, from Josh Fox’s critically acclaimed documentary to an episode on the popular CBS crime show CSI.

View Emily Enderle's blog posts
26 January 2011, 12:59 PM
Cost benefit analysis flawed
Sarah McCoin stands along Swan Pond Circle Road near the TVA Kingston Power Plant.

(This is the latest in a weekly series of 50 Tr-Ash Talk blogs discussing the dangers of coal ash. Earthjustice hopes that by December 2011, the third anniversary of the TVA coal ash spill, the EPA will release a coal ash rule establishing federally enforceable regulations ensuring the safe disposal of this toxic waste.)

Today, the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations heard Office of Management and Budget (OMB) official Cass Sunstein speak on the Obama Administration’s view of regulatory reform. Sunstein trumpeted the economic benefits of President Obama’s new Executive Order – Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review.

President Obama’s new executive order, publicly announced in a Wall Street Journal article is widely regarded as a giveaway to industry, providing a set of economic criteria to consider when developing, changing or repealing regulations. This reinforces the administration’s stance on weighing economic costs against public health benefits using techniques like cost-benefit analysis. Cost-benefit analysis attempts to monetize the actual impacts of regulations like missed school and work days due to sickness, deaths from cancer resulting from exposure to pollution as well as economic impacts. While this is theoretically a useful tool, the analysis has a long list of shortcomings that ultimately results in uncalculated, therefore unconsidered, harm to our health, environment and wallets. In the case of the coal ash rule, the analysis was grossly inaccurate, resulting in a cost figure more than 20 times the actual number ($23 billion vs. $1.5 billion).

View Liz Judge's blog posts
26 January 2011, 10:44 AM
But is our idea of "clean energy" the same?

Last night in his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama rightly spoke about the importance of growing a clean energy economy. Dedicating a chunk of his speech to the promise of the clean energy sector of the economy and the necessity for us as a nation to invest in this sector, the president issued a promise to America's scientists and engineers: If they innovate and come up with clean energy solutions, our government will invest in them and scale them up.

The president called this the "Sputnik moment" of our time. With that analogy, he hit it out of the ballpark. Our ability to invest in and dedicate ourselves to the clean energy economy of the future will guarantee our nation the global edge. It will make us world leaders, and it will guarantee Americans jobs and job security for decades to come. The president tackled this potential in his speech with inspiration and wisdom.

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View Shirley Hao's blog posts
25 January 2011, 12:43 PM
Potty-training comes to CAFOs
For pig use only, please.
(Photo: raedunn)

As anyone who has been “lucky” enough to pass by a factory farm can attest, Confined Animal Factory Operations (or CAFOs) bring a certain...fragrance to the surrounding environs. It doesn’t matter if you’re downwind or up—the stench is inescapable.

The problem (of which there are many, when speaking of CAFOs), is poop. Lots of it. Large factory farms pack animals numbering in the thousands into very close quarters, all generating a lot of stinky waste, all around themselves. Day in, day out. All that accumulated waste doesn’t just smell bad; it’s literally toxic—to the animals’ health and to ours.

From southern Taiwan comes an approach every parent would nod their head knowingly to: potty training.

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
21 January 2011, 12:48 PM
Movement to stop the destruction picks up after historic EPA action on MTR
A photo mosaic of the late Judy Bonds, a crusader to stop MTR, made up of 650 Earthjustice photo submissions.

Yesterday, The New York Times published an excellent editorial on mountaintop removal mining in support of the EPA's decision to veto the water pollution permit for the largest proposed mine in West Virginia, Arch Coal's Spruce No. 1 mine.

It issues a strong reproach of the antics of certain friends of coal in Congress:

The mine received a final permit from the Army Corps of Engineers in 2007. The E.P.A. has long had the power to veto such permits but has used it only once before. This decision provoked predictably outraged responses from industry and its political friends, including West Virginia’s two Democratic senators, John Rockefeller IV and Joe Manchin III, a former governor ...

Arch Coal has vowed a court fight, which Mr. Manchin says he will support. A far better use of their energies would be to find a less destructive way to mine coal.

This moral reinforcement comes after a monumental and whirlwind week in the movement to stop mountaintop removal mining.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
21 January 2011, 10:35 AM
Canned mercury, dirty Apples, pollution-seeking sweatshirts
Protesters against hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale. Photo courtesy of Marcellus Protest.

Celebrity disses hydraulic fracturing
Forget traipsing around a creepy island with Leonardo DiCaprio. Actor Mark Ruffalo recently went on a much more daring crusade in his latest roll as a passionate environmental advocate speaking out against the practice of hydraulic fracturing, according to HuffPo. After attending an NYC event called "Fracking and Its Effects: A Panel Discussion," Ruffalo told HuffPo in an exclusive interview that risky technologies like fracking will lead to "greater degradation…and greater catastrophes," urging people to speak out on the issue. Visit Earthjustice's Web site to see how you can help put the brakes on fracking.

High-tech sweatshirt detects air pollution
A pair of NYU grad students with a flair for combining fashion and science have created a high-tech sweatshirt that features an image of pink lungs whose veins turn blue after coming in contact with air pollution, reports the NY Daily News. A tiny carbon monoxide sensor embedded in the shirt can pick up air pollutants from a range of sources, like cars and second-hand smoke. At $60 a pop, it's unlikely that the shirts will be mass produced any time soon, but in the meantime the shirts make quite the fashion statement.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
18 January 2011, 4:29 PM
Low-income community rebels against proposed 15-story toxic coal ash landfill
TVA landfill full of coal ash

(This is the latest in a weekly series of 50 Tr-Ash Talk blogs discussing the dangers of coal ash. Earthjustice hopes that by December 2011, the third anniversary of the TVA coal ash spill, the EPA will release a coal ash rule establishing federally enforceable regulations ensuring the safe disposal of this toxic waste.)

The average home value in Round O, South Carolina, is just above $66K. The average household income is below $30K. And now, according to an article in a local newspaper, a power company plans on building a site to store toxic coal ash from its coal plant nearby.

Is it coincidental that these impoundments are often built near low-income communities? We think not. It’s a known phenomenon that low-income and people of color neighborhoods across the country face disproportionately high levels of air and water pollution and exposure to toxic waste and other health hazards because federal environmental laws often are not fairly enforced. And sadly, Round O, fits the profile.

While we wait on the EPA to release a federally enforceable coal ash rule that would ensure the safe disposal of this toxic waste, President Barack Obama has signed an executive order that aims to achieve "balance" in federal regulations -- between ensuring public health and safety and promoting economic growth.

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