Posts tagged: air

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog


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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.


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
01 July 2011, 6:52 AM
Extreme weather, germy pillows, feminine mice
A recent Greenpeace investigation found that dirty energy companies have been financing a prominent climate change denier. Photo courtesy of L.C.Nøttaasen.

Climate change skeptic awash in oily money
A Greenpeace investigation has found that climate change denier Dr. Willie Soon, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, has received more than $1 million in payment from major U.S. oil and coal companies over the past decade, reports the Guardian. Though Dr. Soon denies that any group influenced his studies, the fact that every new grant he has received since 2002 has been from oil or coal interests has raised more than a few eyebrows. Kert Davies, a research director at Greenpeace, summed it up well by saying, "A campaign of climate change denial has been waged for over 20 years by big oil and big coal. Scientists like Dr. Soon, who take fossil fuel money and pretend to be independent scientists, are pawns."

So who are some of the benefactors shoving money into the good doctor's coffer? None other than ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute and the Koch brothers. That's right. In addition to doing some behind-the-scenes fundraising for a number of Republicans who sit on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, many of whom have vowed to restrict the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Charles G Koch Foundation gave Soon two grants that ran about $175,000 in 2005/2006 and again in 2010, according to the Guardian. Apparently when it comes to pushing an anti-environmental agenda, the Koch brothers are going all in.

America’s pocketbook weathered by climate change
It’s no doubt that 2011 has been a year of extreme weather (and the year’s barely half over). All of those tornadoes, floods and droughts have taken an emotional toll on all Americans, especially those hardest hit by these events. Not surprisingly, this flood of record bad weather has also take a significant economic toll, reports Time. According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, extreme weather costs the U.S. about $485 billion per year, which adds up to almost 4 percent of the country’s GDP. And, as we continue to release more carbon emissions into the atmosphere, the weather will only get worse and the cost to repair more steep. As the author notes, “If a broken planet isn't enough to mobilize us, a flat-broke country ought to be.” Find out how Earthjustice is encouraging the use of the cleanest, cheapest and most available source of energy to help weather this inevitable storm.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
24 June 2011, 10:43 AM
On public health protections, administration wants us to play the waiting game

Imagine two tiny figures perched on a politician's shoulders—one scientific, the other political.

The scientist whispers in the politician's ear: "You can save 6,500 lives every year with these health protections!"

The tiny politician counters, "You can save those lives, but who will save you from the powerful industry lobbyists outside your door?"

So with an election approaching, the right thing to do—pursuing environmental policy that will save lives, not placate industry—becomes the thing that isn't done. And the tiny scientist is brushed off. New evidence of that approach came today.

View Brian Smith's blog posts
23 June 2011, 1:04 PM
Decision delayed three times for periods now totaling almost a year
A smoggy day in Los Angeles.

When Lisa Jackson took the reins as administration of the Environmental Protection Agency, she issued a memo to staff stating that:

"Science must be the compass guiding our environmental protection decisions. We cannot make the best decisions unless we have confidence in the integrity of the science on which we rely. Therefore, it is my promise that scientific integrity will be the backbone of my leadership of the Agency."

While she does seem serious about this commitment, and has made some great decisions, the question now is whether the White House will let her do her job. A big test is coming with the adoption of new health standards on ground level-ozone (smog).

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View Brian Smith's blog posts
21 June 2011, 1:52 PM
"This is not how government is supposed to work"

Americans are worried about their government. We imagine backroom deals are cut, fates are foretold and the little guy always gets shafted because powerful interests own the cops.

Recent events in Kansas prove these fears can be spot-on.

The Kansas City Star has unearthed emails showing the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), the agency responsible for enforcing the federal Clean Air Act, had an “improper relationship” with an air permit applicant.

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
20 June 2011, 4:55 PM
High court affirms EPA authority

Today, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling once again affirmed the Environmental Protection Agency as the most rightful and authorized regulator of climate change pollution in the land.

While some in Congress have been trying to take this power away from the EPA, and have been attempting to block EPA controls on climate change pollution, the Supreme Court today ruled that the EPA -- not the Supreme Court, not states and not Congress -- is "best suited to serve as primary regulator of greenhouse gas emissions."

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
17 June 2011, 5:19 AM
Formaldehyde fess up, climate change symptoms, eco bag attack
The FDA recently released new restrictions for sunscreen manufacturers. Photo courtesy of earthly delights.

New sunscreen rules keep consumers from getting burned
After 30 years of sitting in the sun, this week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced new rules for sunscreen that help protect consumers from misleading claims, reports the New York Times. One of the rules requires “broad spectrum” sunscreens to protect against both UVA and UVB rays, which both cause cancer. A second rule bans sunscreen manufacturers from using the term “waterproof” or “sweatproof” as both of those claims are, well, false. Instead, manufacturers can specify the amount of time that sunscreen is water-resistant. Though other questions remain, such as the safety of nanoparticles in sunscreen, it’s nice to see that proper skin protection finally gets its day in the sun.

House of Representatives throws GE salmon off dinner table
Recently, the House voted to keep genetically engineered salmon out of U.S. waters by prohibiting the FDA from approving the fish for human consumption, reports the Associated Press. Made by AquaBounty, the salmon is engineered to grow twice as fast as the natural version. Though that sounds tasty on the surface, critics argue that the so-called “frankenfish” could cause allergies in humans and infiltrate—and eventually decimate—the wild salmon population, an argument that has garnered support from both sides of the political spectrum. This past May, Earthjustice petitioned the FDA to consider the environmental risks of GE salmon before approving its sale.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
16 June 2011, 3:23 PM
Controversial air loophole encourages dangerous waste burning

Not all burning is bad. For example, campfires rule—when they are done sensitively. I don't mean with tenderness, but rather with attention paid to the ecosystem and the importance of the fallen wood within it. Those fires bring light, heat and comfort to our small corners of the wild.

But in other corners of the world, bad burning reigns, and the Obama administration has given it a new throne. The Obama Environmental Protection Agency is making the unprecedented assertion that burning industrial waste as a fuel—akin to coal or natural gas—is a form of recycling. This Bush-era line of logic will allow and in fact incentivize burning of industrial waste—things like scrap plastics, used chemicals and industrial sludges—in around 185,000 unregulated boilers across the country. These pieces of equipment aren't subject to pollution controls, air monitoring, or reporting requirements.

Should companies choose to burn waste in one of these boilers—and no doubt many will, as it will be a cheap way to make their waste go away—nearby communities will face increased emissions of mercury, benzene, dioxins and other hazardous air pollutants, and worse yet, they most likely won't even know it. Industry has pressed long and hard for such a gift, but the Obama administration is the first to give it so freely. Today, Earthjustice filed suit against the EPA to challenge this egregious loophole.

View Jared Saylor's blog posts
16 June 2011, 9:16 AM
New poll shows overwhelming support for EPA clean air standards
Smog over Los Angeles

It comes as no surprise: Americans overwhelmingly want clean air. We’re very pleased to see that our friends at the American Lung Association have concluded that 75 percent of American voters support the Environmental Protection Agency and their efforts to clean up smog pollution. The ALA released the results of a nationwide, bipartisan poll today that shows Americans really do want clean air and don’t believe that cleaning up smog pollution will impede economic recovery. Actually, most believe that clean air will create more jobs as a result fo clean air technologies and innovation.

The EPA has signaled plans to finalize smog limits in late July that could prevent up to 12,000 premature deaths, 2.5 million missed school or work days, 21,000 hospital and emergency room visits and 58,000 asthma attacks. The rule was to be finalized last year, but delays and attacks by polluters well-versed in spreading misinformation and inflammatory remarks pushed the EPA to hold off on protecting the public. If the opinion of Americans means anything, the agency will move swiftly to finalize the smog standard as they promised.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
15 June 2011, 3:25 PM
Sarah Bucic, props in hand, defends right to breathe before Congress

Last month, Sarah Bucic—a nurse from Delaware—went to Washington, D.C. as part of the "50 States United for Healthy Air" event to defend the right to breathe clean air. Today, she went back to do it again.

Midway through her testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sarah—who testified on behalf of the American Nurses Association—pulled out a straw and held it up. It was skinny, the kind you might use to stir your coffee or tea—a toothpick passed through one end would more likely get stuck than fall through the other side.

Air doesn't fare much better. During an asthma attack, Sarah said, a person's airway constricts to roughly the size of that straw. In nursing school, she and her classmates were instructed to pinch their noses and breathe only through the straw to simulate what an attack feels like. Her demonstration was a powerful moment.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
13 June 2011, 4:29 PM
Coal plant giants shoot unhealthy pollution across state lines

In the world of professional basketball, height is good. Look no further than Dirk Nowitzki, the 7-foot Dallas Maverick whose combination of stature, speed and shooting ability was a decisive factor in his team's championship victory over the Miami Heat last night. Go Mavs.

In the world of coal plant smokestacks, however, height is bad. The Government Accountability Office (GAO)—Congress's investigative arm—isn't winning any championships, but it did hit a big shot with recent findings that tall smokestacks are one reason air pollution is readily blown across state lines.

Interstate air pollution is an important issue because states bear individual responsibility for meeting federal air quality standards. If a state is doing its best to control air pollution sources within its borders but still failing to meet federal standards because bad air is drifting in from another state, well, I imagine that state would be as mad as Lebron James was after last night's loss.

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