Posts tagged: climate change

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 David Lawlor's blog posts
18 May 2012, 3:15 PM
Earthjustice calls for environmental review of proposed projects
Trains transport coal to export terminals in open cars, a mile-and-a-half long. (Shutterstock)

(Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of blog posts by the author on issues related to proposed coal exporting from the Northwest.)

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."

—John Muir

We are often reminded—perhaps nowhere more profoundly than in nature—that life does not persist solely of its own volition. When we look closer, we invariably find that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In German, the phenomenon is called gestalt—the notion of the unified whole.

This is the proper lens through which to analyze the increasingly controversial issue of coal export in the Pacific Northwest. With domestic demand for coal waning in the United States, coal companies seek to ship as much coal as possible from Montana and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin to emerging Asian economies. Thus, there are six coal export terminal projects currently proposed for Pacific Northwest ports: Longview, Wash.; Bellingham, Wash.; Grays Harbor, Wash.; Coos Bay, Ore.; the Kinder Morgan terminal at Port of St. Helens, Ore.; and the Ambre Energy project with facilities at the Port of Morrow and the Port of St. Helens, Ore.

An environmental analysis examining each project in piecemeal fashion would not address the overall cumulative impacts to the region’s environmental health and quality of life. The cumulative impacts of the proposed coal export terminals would be significant:

View Erika Rosenthal's blog posts
18 May 2012, 2:42 PM
Environmental groups urge Obama to attend Rio+20 summit

Twenty-two environmental organizations including Earthjustice, representing more than 5 million Americans, sent a letter to President Obama on Friday, urging him to lead the U.S. delegation at the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June and be a strong advocate for action on clean energy, environmental rights and healthy oceans.

More than 130 heads of state and government leaders are expected to attend. Like the first Earth Summit in Rio 20 years ago, this gathering will help set the international agenda on environment and sustainability for the next 20 years.

The Earth Summit presents a rare opportunity for the global community to ratchet up action on issues like healthy oceans in the face of new challenges like ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is thought by many to be the greatest threat to marine ecology in this century, and is squarely on the agenda at Rio+20. Coral reefs—the nurseries of the sea—along with the shelled creatures that form the base of the marine food web are among the species and ecosystems most vulnerable to acidification.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
15 May 2012, 1:02 PM
Polar bears, walrus, sandpiper, 150 activists deliver comments to White House
Campaign Director Jared Saylor and Policy & Legislation intern Adriane Underwood carry letters from more than 50,000 Earthjustice supporters who support protecting the Arctic.

On a muggy Tuesday morning, two polar bears lumbered south on 17th Street in Washington D.C. A walrus waved at drivers honking their horns. A sandpiper flapped its wings as it passed food trucks and coffee shops. And, 40 representatives from more than a dozen environmental groups wore bright blue shirts emblazoned with the logo “SAVE THE ARCTIC.”

Paws, wings, shirts and all, they headed towards the White House with a few things to tell the president. Joined by a few hundred activists, they gathered to deliver more than one million comments from concerned citizens, asking President Obama to stop plans by Shell Oil to drill in the remote, fragile waters of the Arctic Ocean this summer.

Comments being delivered to the White House.

The waters of Alaska’s northern coast are home to threatened polar bears, endangered bowhead whales, walrus, seals, birds that range through every state in the Union. Drilling in these waters threatens these species and the vibrant indigenous Alaska Native culture that depends on a healthy Arctic Ocean, both already under stress from rapid climate change.
View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
24 April 2012, 11:22 AM
Join more than 600,000 opposing industrial coal plant pollution
680,000 comments, being hand-delivered to the EPA. Earthjustice Legislative Representative Sarah Saylor (left) carries more than 50,000 comments from Earthjustice supporters.

When you've got food poisoning, what's the last thing on earth you want? A heaping plate of the offending dish, right? Well—new, dirty coal plants are to the planet what shrimp scampi is to a roiling belly.

Industrial carbon pollution from coal plants is making us sick, driving climate change, and intensifying the smog-filled air that triggers asthma attacks in children and seniors. But in late March, the Environmental Protection Agency aimed to settle stomachs when it released clean air standards to curb this dangerous pollution from new plants.

Already, 680,000 people have submitted public comments in support of these precedent-setting protections. The comments were delivered directly to the EPA earlier today, but do not fear if you haven't weighed in yet. We're just getting started.

Comments being delivered to the EPA.

Representatives from many groups, including Earthjustice, carry public comments to the EPA's headquarters. Warmer temperatures intensify smog pollution and its health impacts on Americans, including more asthma attacks in children and seniors.
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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
06 April 2012, 12:42 PM
Dumping ship, passing the food safety buck, flame retardant flameout
Say bye-bye to pancakes and waffles covered in maple syrup (little blue hen)

Climate change ruins breakfast for everyone
This year’s early arrival of spring is devastating maple production, which generate the most sap when freezing nights follow cool days, reports the Washington Post. Typically a month-long season, maple syrup producers who rely on traditional taps and buckets saw their maple season cut dramatically this year, which means less maple production . One producer only came up with about 40 gallons of syrup when her typical haul is 300. Another family in Wisconsin, which usually collects about 400 gallons of syrup, ended up with only 165 gallons this year. Though, as Grist points out, the heat wave that we’re having now could easily be followed by a cold snap next year, climate change is expected to cause more global weirding like freakishly warmer temperatures, so it’s time to start stocking up on real maple syrup now...or resign yourself to the artificial tastes of Aunt Jemima’s and Mrs. Butterworth.

Ships still dumping pollution despite government crackdown
Over the past 10 years, the Department of Justice has fined ship operators more than $200 million for illegal ship dumping, yet the violations may just be the tip of the iceberg, reports iWatch News. Under federal and international law, ships are required to properly dispose of oily wastewater and sludge, but that costs money and time, so instead ships sometime dump their waste directly into the water using so-called “magic pipes,” which can be detached and easily rerouted when inspectors come by. Though the federal government has stepped up efforts to crack down on polluters by, in part, rewarding whistleblowers with six-figure digits and hunting for magic pipes, there's more work to be done to keep waste out of ocean waters. Last June, Earthjustice successfully defended Alaskans’ right to rein in wastewater dumping from cruise ships, which dump an estimated 148 million gallons of wastewater laced with partially-treated sewage, heavy metals and toxic chemicals like flame retardants into Alaska’s pristine waters every year.

4 Comments   /  
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 Marty Hayden's blog posts
27 March 2012, 11:49 AM
Part of ongoing effort to curb pollution causing global warming

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed historic new standards to limit industrial carbon pollution from new coal-fired power plants, which is a critical step to protect the health of American children and families. 

Successful advocacy before the courts made today’s landmark action possible. On April 2, 2007 the Supreme Court in the Massachusetts v. EPA case made a precedent-setting ruling which that led to regulation of industrial carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act. Earthjustice represented the Sierra Club, and our attorney Howard Fox argued the case before the DC Circuit Court.

EPA’s proposal applies to power plants built in the future. The proposed rule will require any new power plant to average no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt of electricity produced. Most existing U.S. coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt. More from the EPA on today’s announcement can be found here.

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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 Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
15 March 2012, 12:23 PM
Dog-gone oil spill cleanups, coastal city wipeouts, leaded bullets
Is your baby getting its daily dose of hormone-disrupting chemicals? (photo courtesy of pfly)

Low chemical doses may have big health effects
A recent finding that tiny doses of certain hormone-altering chemicals can lead to harmful health effects could lead to a paradigm shift in the way that regulators evaluate a chemical’s harmfulness, reports Environmental Health News. Traditionally, toxicologists and regulators have evaluated the toxicity of a chemical by following the common adage, “The dose makes the poison,” which means that some chemicals can be harmful at high doses but perfectly fine at lower doses. However, this latest research has flipped that theory on its head by finding that some chemicals, especially those with hormonal properties like bisphenol A (BPA), can actually have a more harmful effect on people at low, rather than high, doses. Considering that BPA is found in everything from baby bottles to soup cans, the new study has implications not only for scientists and regulators, but for the people who are exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis.

Arctic oil spill cleanup methods go to the dogs
Norwegian researchers are experimenting with using dogs to sniff out oil spills in the harsh Arctic environment, reports the UK Guardian. So far the super-sniffing dogs, a dachshund and two border colliers, have been able to detect the scent of oil up to three miles downwind of a spill. Though impressive, the oil sniffing dogs experiment has largely been derided as a last ditch option for cleaning up oil in an area where “we do not have adequate science and technology…particularly in ice,” said Marilyn Heiman, a director of PEW’s US Arctic Program. Though Shell doesn’t plan to deploy oil-sniffing dogs to the Arctic anytime soon, its existing “plan” to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic if one were to occur is scarily inadequate and is based on very unrealistic assumptions, says Earthjustice attorney Erik Grafe, who added, “The fact is, there simply is no way to adequately respond to an oil spill in the Beaufort Sea—it is too remote, icy, stormy, dark, and foggy. Shell’s plan needs to acknowledge the difficulties of the region, not assume them away.” 

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
09 March 2012, 10:46 AM
Toxic ships, BPA-free soup, bicycle buses
Photo courtesy of fox_kiyo

U.S. schools buying McDonald’s pink slime rejects
It’s baaaaack. Last month, burger enthusiasts rejoiced after McDonald’s announced that it would no longer be using ammonium hydroxide, an anti-microbrial agent that, when used on inedible scrap meat turns into a pink slime, as the basis for their burgers. But they may have sighed in relief a little prematurely, according to the Washington Post, which recently reported that the “USDA, schools and school districts plan to buy the treated beef…for the national school-lunch program in coming months.” Though the FDA considers ammonium hydroxide as “generally recognized as safe,” food safety advocates and parents beg to differ and have called on the government to stop feeding children beef scraps that were previously destined for pet food. In addition to the moral and health implications of feeding our kids dog food, the anti-bacterial treatment doesn’t seem to be all that effective. According to a 2009 NYT piece, E. coli and salmonella pathogens have been found dozens of times in meat from Beef Products Inc., the company from which the USDA and schools are planning to buy the ammonium hydroxide-treated meat.

Navy dumps old, toxic ships into ocean for target practice
The Navy’s ship dumping program is polluting the ocean and scrapping much-needed recycling jobs, reports the Associated Press. For years, the Navy has been dumping its old ships into the ocean as part of a program known as “Sinkex," short for sinking exercises. Though the Navy has found ship-dumping to be an inexpensive way to send its ghost ships to the grave, the problem is that the massive boats are loaded with toxic chemicals like PCBs, asbestos, lead and mercury that may contaminate the water and local fish populations. In fact, new data from a study in Florida supports the conclusion that PCBs, dumped during ship sinking exercises, are leaching from the sunken vessels and are entering the marine food chain, making nearby fish unsafe for human consumption. Late last year, Earthjustice sued the EPA for its ongoing failure to regulate the ship-sinking program, arguing that the agency is “legally required to keep dangerous chemicals like PCBs out of our oceans.” In addition to trashing the ocean, the ship-sinking program takes away recycling jobs that could stimulate local economies and squanders natural resources.

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