Posts tagged: air

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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 Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
30 March 2012, 1:16 AM
Fracking gags, exploding urine, climate change truths
More droughts are just one of the things we can expect with a climate-changed world. (photo by jczart)

Climate scientists warn that Earth’s tipping points are at the tipping point
Recently, climate scientists announced that this is the last decade to cut carbon emissions significantly or there’s no going back on global warming, reports Reuters. And they’re not just talking about freak heat waves and threats to Cherry Blossom festivals. Though estimates differ, the world’s temperature is expected to rise by six degrees Celsius by 2100 if we keep doing “business as usual” in terms of emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases. That increase, in turn, is expected to melt polar ice sheets, which greatly assist in keeping the climate livable. Other tipping points that we’re close to crossing include the loss of rainforests and melting of permafrost—which both store vast amounts of carbon and could change from carbon sinks to carbon emitters if humanity doesn’t get its act together, and soon. In other words, it’s the end of the world as we know it. There’s no way to feel fine about that.

Pennsylvania doctors with fracking info get gagged
Fracking uses millions of gallons of toxic chemicals that could harm human health, but doctors in Pennsylvania aren’t allowed to tell their patients about them, reports Mother Jones. According to a new law that’s been deemed a gag rule by its detractors, though doctors in Pennsylvania are allowed to see information about fracking chemicals—unlike the general public in the rest of the U.S.—they can’t share any of that information with their patients, even those who have been exposed to a hazardous chemical from fracking. The new provision, which was quietly slipped in near the end of the debate about the law, is just another in a long line of favors given to the oil and gas drilling industry over the past few years. Others include a fracking exemption from the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory and another exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act. It seems that, at least when it comes to fracking, the more secrets you have to hide, the more exemptions you crave. Find out how Earthjustice is working to uncover those secrets.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
22 March 2012, 11:42 AM
Gas price lies, “safe” fracking water, BPA bans
Dirty air, not eating all those chips, may cause obesity, so munch on! (Photo courtesy of loop_oh)

Forget Fritos: Air pollution may be making people fat
Sure, it’s got nothing on the much-hyped “Paleo Diet,” but a new theory that air pollution may be making us fat could provide one more bullet in the never-ending arsenal of dieting ticks and trips that people can use to lose weight. According to Discovery News, just as the oceans are becoming more acidic as they sequester more carbon dioxide, studies show that our blood becomes more acidic when we breathe in CO2-laden air, even just for a few weeks. But though higher acidity in the ocean means weaker coral reefs and shell-covered creatures, a drop in pH in our brains acts much differently by making appetite-related neurons fire more frequently, which could result in us eating more, sleeping less and, eventually, gaining more weight. Though the theory hasn’t yet been heavily tested, previous studies have shown that the issue of obesity goes far beyond cutting calories and exercising more. And, even if the theory doesn’t pan out, clean air is definitely tied to a whole host of other great health benefits, like not dying early, so take a deep breath!

History shows that “drill, baby, drill” mentality doesn’t lower gas prices
The commonly held notion that more domestic drilling leads to lower U.S. gas prices is completely false, reports the Associated Press, which came to the conclusion after analyzing more than three decades’ of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production. Though both political parties are guilty of using the "drill, baby, drill" mentality to link higher gas prices to an "unfriendly" domestic drilling policy, the facts tell an entirely different tale. For example, since February 2009 we’ve increased oil production by 15 percent (yes, during the Obama presidency, which is supposedly extremely unfriendly to domestic energy production), yet between 2009 and 2012 prices at the pump spiked by more than a dollar during that time. The reason, much to Americans’ dismay, is that since oil is a global commodity, neither the U.S. nor our president has much say in determining the price of gasoline. We do, however, have a say in how much gas we use, which means that the only real way to decrease the amount that we pay at the pump is to, simply, use less gas by driving more gas-efficient cars and taking public transit, to name just a few examples.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
21 March 2012, 3:26 PM
New public survey shows broad support for clean air standards

Breathing isn’t just a physiological necessity, relegated to the unconscious functioning of our reptilian brains. It’s actually quite popular. Darn popular!

I imagine that’s so because not all breathing is created equal. There’s the satisfying lungful of sweet, clean air (I hope we have all had that experience). And there’s the cough-inducing, eye-watering, lung-busting inhalation of dirty air. Sadly, far too many people are intimately familiar with this latter experience—which may help to explain why clean air is so popular. It’s in short supply in a lot of places where people live and breathe.

Sixty-six percent of voters nationally strongly support action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to curb smog, mercury and other dangerous air pollution, according to new public opinion research released today.

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View Stephanie Maddin's blog posts
21 March 2012, 9:29 AM
In the Senate, public health is up for debate

That coal- and oil-fired power plants are big air polluters is beyond question—they emit hundreds of thousands of tons of hazardous air pollution (mercury, lead, acid gases, e.g.), far more than any other industrial polluter. And yet, many in Congress question whether we should do anything about this major threat to public health. The debate took center stage yesterday in a subcommittee hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Sen. John Barrasso said that the costs and real benefits of cleaning up toxic air pollution from power plants are unknown. This is an incredible statement considering that extensive analysis by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has shown substantial benefits from cleaning up power plants: the prevention of up to 11,000 premature deaths, 130,000 asthma attacks and 5,000 heart attacks every year. The benefits of reducing power plant pollution could reach $90 billion each year, 9 times the cost.

Barrasso's colleague, Sen. Lamar Alexander, had a different take. He acknowledged the damage that mercury and other toxics pose to fetal development and the health of other vulnerable populations. He also conceded that power plants have evaded clean air standards for more than a decade and that the country needs to "get on with it and do it!" He then, ironically, suggested a blanket 6-year compliance timeline, which Gina McCarthy, EPA's Deputy Administrator, strongly opposed. She argued that delaying the standards any longer will severely compromise the health benefits for the American public.

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View David Lawlor's blog posts
28 February 2012, 10:37 AM
Columbia River facility would ship 44 million tons of coal annually

They’re baaack!

The shipping and logistics company Millennium Bulk Terminals last week filed applications for federal, state and county permits to build a coal export terminal in Longview, Wash. Last year, Millennium withdrew its permit applications to build a coal export facility in Longview after Earthjustice attorneys uncovered internal company memos discussing secret plans to exponentially expand the facility’s capacity once the terminal was constructed.

The uncovered memos left Millennium with a public relations black eye and resulted in the departure of the company’s chief executive officer. Millennium’s initial proposal publicly stated the terminal’s shipping capacity at 5 million tons per year, although the company’s internal documents revealed plans to expand the capacity to 60 million tons annually. Now, Millennium’s new project proposes shipping 44 million tons of coal annually to Asia via Longview.

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View Erika Rosenthal's blog posts
16 February 2012, 3:22 PM
Controlling methane, soot and others can reduce warming by a third
Black soot on snow (NASA)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, announced a program, Climate and Clean Air Coalition, today to reduce methane, soot and other pollutants. The United States is jumpstarting the program by contributing $12 million over the next two years.

"By focusing on these pollutants, how to reduce them and, where possible, to use them for energy, people will see results," Clinton said at a news conference today in Washington D.C.

So-called short-lived pollutants like black carbon (soot), methane and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) account for more than one-third of global warming. They are key to reducing warming in the near term because they stay in the atmosphere for only weeks or a few years, compared to carbon dioxide which remains in the atmosphere for centuries.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
10 February 2012, 2:11 AM
Chemical list limbo, idle air pollution laws, green coup
Photo courtesy of Calgary Reviews.

McDonald’s takes pink slime goop out of burgers
It’s official: The next time you have a Big Mac craving, you no longer have to worry about your burger being loaded with pink goo, reports MSNBC. Recently, McDonald’s announced that it is no longer using ammonium hydroxide, an anti-microbrial agent that, when used on inedible scrap meat, turns into a pink slime that’s the basis for your burger. Though the USDA maintains that ammonium hydroxide is “generally recognized as safe,” food safety experts and television celebrity chef Jamie Oliver disagree, arguing that “taking a product that would be sold in the cheapest form for dogs and making it 'fit' for humans” is “shocking.” Not long after Oliver’s show on ammonia-treated beef, McDonald’s announced that it would stop using lean beef trimmings—aka scrap meat—treated with ammonia in its burgers (though McDonald's maintains that the show had nothing to do with its decision). If the idea of pink slime in your burgers doesn’t make you gag, take a look at McDonalds' ridiculous new “farm to fork” video campaign and see if you can hold that burger down.

Check out Jamie Oliver's episode on pink slime: (note: not for the faint of heart)

View David Lawlor's blog posts
08 February 2012, 6:26 AM
Existing coal terminals illustrate what’s at stake in Washington and Oregon
(Shutterstock)

Each time a new coal export terminal is proposed at a Pacific Northwest port, industry promises to take appropriate measures to protect the surrounding environment and community from the terminal’s inherent pollution. The harmful effects of coal dust blowing into communities from enormous coal piles and trains carrying coal in open boxcars while spewing coal dust will be mitigated, terminal investors tell the public. All environmental and health issues will be taken care of, the project’s backers’ contend—there’s nothing to worry about, just let industry handle everything.

But actions speak louder than words. Case in point: Australia.

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View David Lawlor's blog posts
03 February 2012, 1:48 PM
Earthjustice challenges permit for largest estuary dredging project in state history
Coos Bay, Oregon. (Brian Burger/Creative Commons)

A new battle has emerged in the fight over proposed coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest.

The Oregon Department of State Lands recently issued a permit allowing the Port of Coos Bay to conduct the largest dredging project in an estuary in state history. The permit allows for dredging of the first 1.75 million cubic yards (mcy) of a 5.6-mcy project.

The reason for the massive dredging effort: Coos Bay—a town of about 16,000 people on the remote southern Oregon coast—has been targeted for construction of a coal export terminal and a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility.

Earthjustice, representing a coalition of local residents, grassroots environmental, and clean-energy groups, in early January filed an appeal of the Oregon Department of State Lands’ decision to green light the $100 million project. While the “multi-purpose” dredging permit was initially sought to develop an LNG import terminal, the Port of Coos Bay recently entered into a confidential agreement with an undisclosed coal export company seeking to send coal overseas to Asia, and LNG backers have changed their plans to now export domestic gas instead.

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View Brian Smith's blog posts
02 February 2012, 10:03 AM
Taxpayers took a bath with Kansas plant

While much has been made of the $535 million loan guarantee made to the failed Solyndra Corporation in 2009 to encourage alternative energy, you may have missed the court decision this week, halting expansion plans for a Kansas coal plant facing similar problems.

The ruling underscores how deadbeat coal plants can be even more costly for taxpayers.

Back in 1980, Sunflower Generation Corporation in Kansas received $543 million in federal loans and loan guarantees (taxpayer money). Like Solyndra, they were not able to pay that money back. So they arranged deals with the federal government to “restructure” the loans, multiple times. Sunflower was unable to repay taxpayers due to financial strain related to over-built Holcomb I, the existing coal plant Sunflower owns.

Sunflower now charges ahead with plans for an even bigger facility. The proposed multi-billion dollar, 895-megawatt coal-fired power plant expansion is designed to serve the western grid through a deal with Colorado-based Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. Kansas gets the pollution, Colorado gets most of the power.

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