Posts tagged: Health and Toxics

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

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 Jared Saylor's blog posts
17 December 2009, 1:25 PM
EPA backs off coal ash plans; industry pressure a likely cause

While we still had hopes to see the first ever coal ash regulations by the end of this year, it seems the EPA might be taking a bit more time before they release their long-awaited proposal. The EPA announced today that, despite repeated claims, it won't be issuing regulations for coal ash ponds by 2010.

It hasn't been an easy road for EPA so far. The power industry has used fear mongering and misinformation to pressure EPA to hold off on regulating one of the nation's biggest wastes, coal ash. Coal ash ponds have poisoned communities and destroyed the environment for decades. It wasn't until a spill in Harriman, Tennessee last December that the agency and the nation recognized the toxic threat at nearly 600 coal ash ponds across the country.

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View Ted Zukoski's blog posts
17 December 2009, 12:27 PM
In green flip-flop, company says it will use nature friendly chemicals

One of the biggest changes in natural gas drilling in the last decade has been the use of hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking") to free gas from captured rock. The practice involves pumping huge amounts of water and a chemical cocktail downhole into rock sometimes two miles deep.

The practice is prevalent - and controversial. The key to the controversy is what's in the soup the drilling companies are pumping underground. Drilling companies generally refuse to say. That means the public has no idea what toxins are in the stuff. And those toxins could eventually migrate into aquifers used for drinking water by millions.

In Wyoming, for example, EPA is concerned that "at least three water wells contain a chemical used" in fracking. And in Durango, an emergency room nurse suffered organ failure after treating a gas field worker covered in chemicals presumed to be fracking fluid. The gas company wouldn't say what was in the goop covering the worker.

What do gas companies have to fear from disclosure of fracking fluid ingredients?

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View John McManus's blog posts
16 December 2009, 12:07 PM
Administration settles Earthjustice suit over air pollution
Photo: BLM

The tens of thousands of new oil and gas wells that have popped up in the U.S. over the last decade—especially in the Rocky Mountain states—have created lots of air pollution. Much of it comes from the engines used to pump and compress the oil and gas or from leaks around the wells and pipelines. This air pollution makes skies smoggier, hazier, more toxic to breathe and alters the climate.

In New Mexico, some gas wells produce hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs. At low levels, hydrogen sulfide can cause difficulty breathing and headaches. At high levels, it can be lethal.

In western Wyoming and metropolitan Denver, oil and gas drilling is linked to rising smog levels, haze in wilderness areas and national parks, and to climate change.

Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the Bush administration to force it to update the air pollution regulations with modern, state of the art technology to minimize the pollution. The Obama administration inherited this lawsuit and quickly recognized that Earthjustice was right. So they settled the case and have promised to do a fresh review with an eye towards getting newer, cleaner technology into the field.
 

View Molly Woodward's blog posts
10 December 2009, 4:40 PM
Copenhagen, the Chukchi Sea, Clean Air, Trees

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

The Copenhagen conference started off with a bang of optimism when the EPA announced that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health. The cooperative spirit quickly fizzled after a draft agreement surfaced that apparently favors the interests of the U.S. and other wealthy nations. There’s more news by the hour: Be sure to check out our daily reports from Copenhagen, and analysis by two attending Earthjustice attorneys, Erika Rosenthal and Martin Wagner.

All the buzz from the conference nearly drowned out a disturbing, and related, piece of news: Shell Oil was granted conditional approval to drill exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea. Earthjustice attorney Erik Grafe warned that the approvals outpace the science of what we know about Arctic waters.

On the same day that the EPA released its endangerment finding, Earthjustice challenged the agency on a toxin polluting the air in Appalachia, to the point where kids can’t play outside. It’s coal dust, and we think the coal plants that produce it should do something about it. 

Farm workers and their families will get some long-awaited help to deal with toxic pesticides poisoning the air around their homes and schools, thanks to a new EPA policy. Going forward, the EPA will assess the health risks posed by pesticide drift with the same standards by which pesticides in food are assessed. 

And finally, this week Earthjustice saved taxpayers $1.5 million!and 4.3 million board-feet of old-growth forest in the Tongass to boot. This also means we kept a little C02 out of the atmosphere. Indeed, one of the least controversial ideas out of Copenhagen is also one of the simplest: don’t cut down trees.

View Patti Goldman's blog posts
09 December 2009, 3:14 PM
New policy aims to correct decades of wrongdoings

Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency put itself on a path to right several wrongs of the past decades done to this nation's farmworkers and their families.

EPA announced a new policy that will apply the same science in assessing risks to workers and their families as it uses to protect children generally from pesticides in our food. In 1996, Congress mandated that EPA protect children from the risks posed by the combined exposure to pesticides in our foods, drinking water and environment. Congress also directed EPA to account for children's special vulnerabilities to toxic pesticides and gaps in our knowledge about their full risks.

EPA reviewed thousands of pesticides under these standards, but it carved out exceptions for some of the most vulnerable children—children who go with their parents in the fields and children who are exposed to pesticides that drift into their homes, schools, day care centers, and playfields.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
08 December 2009, 12:41 PM
Earthjustice asks EPA to limit hazard linked to coal truck traffic

On the very same day that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared global warming pollution as a threat to human health, Earthjustice challenged the agency on an air pollution standard affecting folks in Appalachia.

Earthjustice, representing several clean air advocates, is calling on the agency to require coal preparation and processing plants to take any measures to limit the dangerous coal dust kicked up by trucks traveling on plant roads.

For Tim Bailey of Clinchfield, Virginia, a stronger standard could mean he and his family don't have to worry about all that coal dust near their home. It could also mean he doesn't have to set aside so much time a year to pressure wash coal dust from his property.

"Trucks from the prep plant kick up so much dust that a doctor has told me not to let my grandchildren play outside," said Bailey. "The EPA needs to put a stop to this so that we can enjoy our homes again."

View Molly Woodward's blog posts
04 December 2009, 10:10 AM
Copenhagen, Climate Change, Coal

Some top stories from the last two weeks at Earthjustice...

The Copenhagen Climate Conference begins next week. President Obama will lead the U.S. delegation, and in anticipation of the conference, the Dalai Lama spoke about the need for governments to put global priorities first.

Studies on the effects of global warming abound; few offer good news. Polar ice is thinner than previously thought, and polar bears are struggling more than ever to surviveonly one of many species seriously threatened by climate change. 

Our addiction to coal-fired power is at the heart of global warming. And as we know, coal plants are responsible for much more destruction. Almost a year ago, 500 million gallons of toxic coal ash flooded 300 acres along Tennessee’s Emory River. Now, despite this disaster, some companies are claiming that the location and contents of their toxic coal ash ponds should be left a mystery. Earthjustice disagrees.

Other mysteries, however, are quite welcomelike lonely stones sailing quietly across the desert.

View Jared Saylor's blog posts
03 December 2009, 9:14 AM
EPA dumps Bush-era rule that allowed unfettered hazardous waste burning

The Bush Years: Sounds like an afternoon special, right? Unfortunately it was a reality we remember all too well.

As President Bush prepared to leave office, his cronies at EPA pushed for a slew of bad rulemakings that favored polluters at the cost of public health and the environment. This came as no surprise back then, and Earthjustice and others did a wonderful job of fighting back and defeating many of these "midnight rulemakings," as they were often called.

One particularly egregious rule, known as the Emissions Comparable Fuels rule, allowed industries to burn up to 100,000 tons of hazardous waste without any federal hazardous waste protections.

View Brian Smith's blog posts
02 December 2009, 5:33 PM
Industry thinks so, but Earthjustice disagrees

Almost one year ago, a dyke holding back the 40-acre coal ash pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant broke, releasing more than 500 million gallons of toxic coal ash. The sludge (six feet deep in some places) spread out over 400 acres, damaged 12 homes, and wrecked a train. It was the largest human-induced environmental disaster since Chernobyl.

For the last year, Earthjustice and our partners have worked to reveal the location and contents of toxic coal ash ponds around the United States. We have had some notable success.

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View Kathleen Sutcliffe's blog posts
18 November 2009, 12:29 PM
What we're doing to protect kids from pesticides

Luis Medellin and his three little sisters—aged 5, 9 and 12—live in the middle of an orange grove in Lindsay, CA—a small farming town in California's Central Valley. During the growing season, Luis and his sisters are awakened several times a week by the sickly smell of nighttime pesticide spraying. What follows is worse: searing headaches, nausea, vomiting.

The Medellin family's story is not unique. From apple orchards in Washington to potato fields in Florida, poisonous pesticide 'clouds' plague the people who live nearby—posing a particular risk to the young children of the nation's farm workers, many of whom live in industry housing at the field's edge.

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