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
27 January 2012, 2:36 AM
Green seas, climate change horticulture, mercury meddles with melody
Photo courtesy of AJC1

Conspiracy theorists descend on Florida climate change plan
Plans to prepare for rising sea levels and other climate change affects in south Florida are being attacked by conspiracy theorists who believe climate change is a hoax perpetuated by a group of “progressive elites” who want to raise taxes, reports the Sun Sentinel. Though the majority of comments on the draft Southeast Florida Regional Climate Action Plan came from government agencies and nonprofits that want to improve the plan, a small faction of conspiracy theorists are bent on taking it down, but that doesn't mean policymakers will listen. Said John Van Leer, associate professor of meteorology and physical oceanography at the University of Miami, “A lot of people believe the earth is 5,600 years old. A lot of people believe the human landing on the moon was staged in a Hollywood studio…but that doesn't mean we should base public policy on that." Meanwhile, other states like Hawaii are moving forward on bills to prepare their states for sea level rise. Whether those bills will sink or swim under climate climate change conspiracies remains to be seen.

Clean seas could boost economies’ green
It turns out that oceans that don't have heaps of garbage patches in them don’t just look better, they also make more money for the world economy, reports Reuters. A recent report by the United Nations Environment Program found that pollution from events like oil spills and chemical dumps, coupled with rampant over-fishing, have heavily damaged the oceans’ productivity and health. Add to that the fact that the oceans have acidified more in the last 200 years than the previous 21,000 years and it’s clear that the oceans and its critters need some help from its land-based brethren. In order to clean up oceans, the report recommends "key steps for ‘greening’ the seas across areas” like tourism, fishing and deep-sea mining. Though greening the sea may be costly upfront, the long-term benefits include a $50-billion boost to the economy each year just by restoring fish stocks and reducing fishing capacity. Find out more about how Earthjustice is working to clean up the deep blue sea and why the high value of the oceans is crystal clear.

View Shirley Hao's blog posts
23 January 2012, 6:01 PM
When PM2.5 levels got 'crazy bad'
Beijing is under all that smog... somewhere... A sight for sore lungs. (William Veerbeek)

Just in time to ring in the Year of the Dragon, a few days ago, Beijing’s infamously murky air gained a long-awaited official index: real-time measurements of the city’s PM2.5 levels.

PM2.5 (also known as soot) are microscopic particulate matter that contribute to the pea soup miasma of air pollution we can all do without. Diesel vehicles and coal-fired power plants are among the biggest sources of this type of pollution. Far from just causing thick layers of unsightly brown haze, PM2.5 is so small that it can worm its way past the body’s natural ability to expel foreign particles, lodging deep within the lungs and causing serious cardiovascular and respiratory harm—and even early death.

Up until last Saturday, the Beijing government only provided measurements of PM10, relatively larger particles which pose less of a threat to human health. Parties interested in the more informative PM2.5 levels relied on @BeijingAir, the mechanized roof-top resident of the U.S. Embassy who has been diligently tweeting PM2.5 and ozone levels at hourly intervals for several years.

View Liz Judge's blog posts
19 January 2012, 3:34 PM
The story of one woman's fight to save her homeland

To date, mountaintop removal coal mining has buried more than 2,500 miles of streams and leveled an area of Appalachia bigger than the state of Delaware. Perhaps even scarier than the outright wasteland it leaves are the health impacts it levels against the people of Appalachia. More than 19 peer-reviewed health studies detail these problems--from significantly higher rates of birth defects in areas of mountaintop removal mining to higher rates of major diseases like cancer and lung disease.

In spite of all of this, coal companies and their lobbyists are pushing for more than 100 new permits for mountaintop removal mine in Appalachia. President Obama and his administration showed a strong commitment to the law and science when the EPA vetoed one of the largest mountaintop removal mines ever proposed: Spruce No. 1 Mine in West Virginia. But citizens throughout Appalachia are still left unprotected.

One of those residents is Donna Branham, of Mingo County, West Virginia. She’s already been through the nightmares of mountaintop removal mining, and now she could watch it happen to her daughter’s family as well.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
19 January 2012, 12:50 PM
Olympic air challenge, Nemo’s CO2 problem, NYC trashes trash
Bacon cheeseburger (Like_the_Grand_Canyon)

Ag industry takes beef with Americans eating less meat
Americans are eating less meat, which means the U.S. obsession with double-bacon cheeseburgers and chicken-fried sandwiches may one day be a thing of the past, reports Grist. According to the USDA, beef, chicken and pork sales are all down, prompting the meat industry to accuse the U.S. government of being anti-meat by “wag[ing] a war on protein.” This claim, though meaty, is full of holes considering that the U.S. gives the agriculture industry a number of economic freebies to support meat consumption in the form of farm subsidies, lax regulations and school lunch programs fueled by surplus chicken supplies. The real reasons that Americans aren’t eating as much meat are much more multi-faceted and include everything from cutting grocery bill costs and eating healthier to preserving the environment by lessoning carbon footprints. What’s your beef with that?    

Olympic athletes race against London’s air quality
London’s habitually bad air quality may negatively affect Olympic athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer, reports The Independent. Since the European Union’s limits for particulate matter—extremely small particles of smoke, soot, metals and other chemical compounds emitted from sources like power plants, factories, and diesel trucks—were first put in place a few years back, London has continually exceeded its limits, potentially putting people at risk of negative human health affects like lung and heart disease. Athletes, especially, are at risk due to their need to inhale large amounts of oxygen, which unfortunately also means inhaling unsafe quantities of particulates, nitrogen dioxide and ozone that could give them chest pains and decrease their lung capacity. Though the city has introduced long-term air quality improvement measures in London, currently there is no short term plan to clear the air before July, when the Olympic games begin.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
06 January 2012, 7:20 AM
Natural gas guessing games, green hog waste, melting mountains
Under current guidelines, pigs and other farm animals are routinely given drugs. (friendsoffamilyfarmers)

FDA gives “okay” to continue drugging livestock
Farmers can continue giving healthy cows, pigs and other livestock routine doses of penicillin and tetracyclines—two commonly used antibiotics—even though the practice threatens public health, reports Forbes. The Food and Drug Administration’s decision to no longer consider withdrawing approval of the common practice comes after years of meat and produce recalls that have been contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and sickened many. It also comes after the agency’s own guidance showed that drugging animals who aren’t sick is, simply put, a bad idea. No doubt, consumer advocacy groups were disappointed in the government’s decision; however, the FDA’s decision wasn’t all bad. It did decide to ban the indiscriminate use of another class of antibiotics called cephalosporins in healthy animals, citing concerns over the growing threat of cephalospins-resistant bacterial infections found in people. Too bad that cephalosporins account for a tiny and rapidly shrinking percentage of overall antibiotic use on factory farms, as Mother Jones recently pointed out. Nice try, FDA.

Natural gas bonanza claims based on dicey guessing games
Mainstream media reports of a 100-year natural gas supply lying beneath our feet is largely based on hypothetical speculation, reports Slate. Recently, the online magazine found that of 2,170 trillion cubic feet (tcf) estimated to lie beneath U.S. lands, only 273 tcfs--or 12 percent of the total amount--are “proved reserves,” meaning that they actually exist and are commercially viable to drill. That leaves us with only about 11 year’s worth of proven natural gas reserves, not 100 years, as the industry claims. The idea that there's another almost 2,000 tcfs of natural gas out there is considered to be either “probable,” “possible,” or “speculative.” Speculative, by the way, means “based on conjecture or incomplete facts or information,” according to the Encarta Dictionary. Another word for speculative is “risky” or “hypothetical.” As Slate so aptly points out, “By the same logic, you can claim to be a multibillionaire, including all your ‘probable, possible, and speculative resources.’” Just one more thing to consider before we risk our health and environment to drill another well with “speculative” reserves.

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
06 January 2012, 4:16 AM
The no-brainer decisions the president must make this year

President Obama won the White House on a platform of hope and change – promising an end to dirty corporate influence over our political system and a beginning to an era in which our energy choices lead us to a clean, sustainable future, or at least don’t kill us or make us sick.

So far, the president’s performance has been mixed – with some deliveries on the promise and some disappointments. His last year, whether in office or in his first term, will be crucial in righting his spotty record and making good on his campaign promises to the American people.

Leading up to his fourth year in office, and making sure the new year got off to a good start with supporters, he handed the country a solid. His EPA, led by Administrator Lisa Jackson, finalized a strong rule to protect Americans from mercury poisoning and toxic air pollution from power plants.

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View Martin Wagner's blog posts
29 December 2011, 10:39 AM
It's time for U.S. to stop opposing regulations

Emissions from aircraft are a substantial contributor to global warming. Taking into account greenhouse gas emissions, the warming effect of contrails and aviation-induced cirrus clouds, and anticipated growth in air traffic, scientists estimate that aircraft could be responsible for as much as 10 percent of human-caused global warming by 2050. So, of course the airlines are working hard to reduce these emissions, right?

Wrong. For more than a decade, the industry-influenced International Civil Aviation Organization has rejected calls to regulate greenhouse gas pollution from aircraft. Finally, fed up with inaction at the international level, Europe decided to lead the way to a solution.

Under a European regulation to go into effect in 2012, flights into or out of European airports will have to account for their contribution to global warming, and will have to buy permits for emissions exceeding 85 percent of historical amounts (if they reduce their emissions enough, they can sell their excess permits for a profit).

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
23 December 2011, 3:41 PM
Coal plant pollution limits point to brighter future

The historic victory for clean air announced a few days ago—limits on the mercury, arsenic and other toxic emissions from coal plants—has been a long time coming. Congress called for these limits in 1990, but the coal power industry got to work undermining them straight away. As a result, instead of getting the breath of fresh air promised by Congress, Americans living in the shadow of a smokestack have been getting daily lungfuls of toxic air for 21 years.

It took determined litigation and public advocacy to break through the politics and industry's obstruction—the victory achieved on December 21, 2011 is the culmination of those long, hard years of fighting. Earthjustice got involved in the legal fight in 1994 and Jim Pew, a staff attorney in our Washington, D.C. office, has been dedicated to the cause for more than a decade, successfully arguing against attempts by the Bush administration to give power plants a pass.

This short video features Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan, neighbors—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a smokestack and the specter of a plume. Check it out, and if you feel moved to send a thank you to President Obama for issuing protections to cut down on the pollution coming from this bad industrial neighbors, you can do so here.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
21 December 2011, 1:52 PM
In new video, Obama explains how critical clean air protections are

The White House recently posted a video of President Obama discussing the new clean air protections that his administration released today to limit mercury, arsenic and other air toxic emissions from power plants. The President's words underscore how momentous this occasion is. The fight for these protections is more than two decades old. Earthjustice entered it in 1994 and has been pushing hard ever since. Check out the video below.

View Chris Jordan-Bloch's blog posts
21 December 2011, 12:02 PM
For many Americans, historic EPA protection is shining light
Marti Blake points out the window at her neighbor

"It's like hell. Living in hell," says Marti Blake, when asked about being neighbors with a coal-fired power plant. "It's filthy, it's dirty, it's noisy, it's unhealthy."

For the past 21 years, Blake has lived across the street from the Cheswick Generating Station in Springdale, PA. A family situation left her trying to find a place quickly, and a simple brick home in the small town only 20 minutes from Pittsburgh seemed fine.

"I've regretted that decision ever since, because I've felt sick for the last 20 years," says Blake, who is on medication for a slew of symptoms that include coughing, sinus infections and headaches. Blake attributes these symptoms to the dirty neighbor across the street. Who else in the neighborhood, after all, has a 750-foot tall smoke stack that is spewing out toxic smoke around the clock?

Marti Blake

A portrait of Marti Blake is paired with the reflection in her living room window.