Posts tagged: coal

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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 Sarah Saylor's blog posts
06 March 2014, 6:13 PM
Passes wrongheaded bill to stop EPA action on climate change
(USDA Photo)

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Polluter Protection Act (H.R. 3826). This bill stops the EPA from setting modest, sensible limits for climate change pollution and allows big polluters to continue to freely dump unlimited carbon pollution at the expense of public health.

When the EPA proposed its new rule to bring the worst of the worst climate polluters in this country under control and for the first time hold them accountable, more than 4 million public comments were submitted in support of this move. Yet, in its 144th vote this Congress against public health, the House turned against those public comments and voted to handcuff the EPA. In an era of climate change, it can be hard to understand why our Congress would pass a bill that flies in the face of overwhelming science and reason.

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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
24 February 2014, 1:16 PM
Spills happen when there’s no incentive to comply with environmental rules
The toxic coal ash turned the Dan River gray for 20 miles east of the North Carolina border. (Photo courtesy of Waterkeeper Alliance)

Although the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources found Duke Energy in gross violation of the federal Clean Water Act, the state agency placed so little value on public health that they were willing to settle for a pittance—a penny per ton of toxic coal ash stored at Duke’s two illegally polluting plants. To rub ash into the wound, the agency didn’t even require Duke to stop the flow of arsenic, cadmium, chromium and other toxic metals from the millions of tons of coal ash at the plants, much less clean up the pollution. The state was willing to accept $99,000 in settlement with the utility giant.

Duke Energy can spare this chump change. The utility just announced a 50 percent increase in corporate profits in 2013, amounting to $2.6 billion per year for a company already valued at $50 billion. Duke’s $99,000 penalty was nothing—it’s like one of us, earning $50,000 a year, getting fined $1.90. Barely amounting to a library fine, this is no deterrent for the likes of Duke.

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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
06 February 2014, 11:20 AM
Duke Energy dumps 8,000 pounds of arsenic into the Dan River
Aerial view of contamination of the Dan River. (Photo courtesy of Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins)

The EPA doesn’t need yet another reason to require the safe closure of the nation’s 1,070 coal ash ponds. But the massive leak of 82,000 tons of toxic coal ash from Duke Energy’s Dan River Power Station this week should set off a siren to wake our sleeping regulators.

Duke closed this North Carolina power plant in 2012, leaving its 58-year old, unlined coal ash pond containing about 100 million gallons of toxic ash open to the elements. The catastrophic spill should have been no surprise. The news comes just days after the EPA settled a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice and 11 other groups to finalize the first-ever federal protections from coal ash.

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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
30 January 2014, 9:02 AM
The long wait is over: EPA agrees to finalize waste rule this year
A rally in Asheville, NC, calling for strong protections against coal ash contamination of waterways.

Late yesterday, the Department of Justice on behalf of the EPA lodged a consent decree with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that requires the EPA to publish a final rule addressing the disposal of coal ash by Dec. 19, 2014. The settlement came as a result of a lawsuit brought by 10 public interest groups and the Moapa Band of Paiutes against the EPA for its failure to review and revise its regulations pertaining to coal ash. The settlement does not dictate the content of the final regulation, but it confirms that the agency will finalize a rule by a date certain after years of delay.

If there has ever been a time to celebrate a victory on coal ash over the last three decades, today is the day.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
28 January 2014, 8:45 PM
President can't rely on fossil fuels to achieve climate change goals
President Obama delivers the 2014 State of the Union Address. (White House Photo)

(The following is a statement from Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen in response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address.)

We are encouraged that President Obama made climate change a centerpiece of his speech tonight. We applaud his commitment to facing this challenge, for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.

President Obama has taken courageous actions so far to back this commitment. His leadership in achieving strong clean car standards has been a huge accomplishment, and we are thrilled with his leadership in tackling carbon pollution from power plants, the nation’s largest source of climate change pollution. And tonight, the President went further and affirmed that we can’t allow destructive energy development on our pristine public lands.

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View Neil Gormley's blog posts
24 January 2014, 9:36 AM
Appeals court rejects company's request for premature mining
A West Virginia creek polluted by mining runoff. The Army Corps doesn’t dispute that mountaintop removal coal mining could be causing cancer, birth defects, and other serious diseases across Appalachia. (Mark Schmerling)

Earthjustice and its partners—Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Sierra Club, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, and the Appalachian Citizens Law Center—just won a small victory with potentially big implications.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction we won in September that saved miles of mountain streams from destruction at the proposed Stacy Branch mountaintop removal coal mine near Vicco, Kentucky. The corporation behind the mine, Leeco, Inc., asked the Sixth Circuit to let it start mining in the streams before the court issues a final decision on whether the mining is legal. That could have rendered the whole lawsuit moot. Yesterday, the court sided with us and said no.

View Ted Zukoski's blog posts
14 January 2014, 4:07 PM
Add the Elk River chemical spill to coal's hidden costs
The true price of coal is paid through hospital bills and devastated communities. (Alexan2008 / iStock)

Did we really need another reason not to like coal as an energy source? Ready or not, we have one.

The standard list is already pretty long: Climate change from burning coal in power plants... Coal ash spills... Mountaintop removal and valley fills... Air pollution damaging lungs and polluting lakes... Roadless areas and rangeland bulldozed or blown up.

Now add to the list: chemical spills that make water undrinkable.

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
13 January 2014, 9:46 AM
Overdue rules would ensure polluters pay and prevent the next big spill
The state capitol building in Charleston, WV. (Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock)

In 1980, when Love Canal and Times Beach still dominated headlines, Congress passed Superfund, a bipartisan bill requiring polluters to pay for the cleanup of their toxic messes. Over the last 30 years, Superfund has been responsible for the investigation and cleanup of thousands of toxic sites.

Yet EPA’s 30-year failure to comply with one important provision of Superfund imperils our health and pocketbooks. Superfund contained a mandate that the nation’s most dangerous industries maintain financial assurance (insurance or bonding) to guarantee that polluters would have adequate funds to clean up their spills. The mandate would also provide industries with a financial incentive for safe management of dangerous chemicals. The Act required EPA to begin establishing such requirements no later than 1985.

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View Suma Peesapati's blog posts
31 December 2013, 10:03 AM
The journey towards a clean energy future in New Mexico
The Four Corners Power Plant has been operating without modern pollution controls for the past fifty years. (Photo courtesy of Ecoflight)

Arizona Public Service Company officially announced yesterday that it will retire Units 1, 2, and 3 of the Four Corners Power Plant by January 1, 2014 and install long-overdue pollution controls on the plant’s remaining two units by July 31, 2018.

Built before the Clean Air Act was enacted, this coal plant has been operating without modern pollution controls for the past fifty years. Uncontrolled pollution from this plant threatens the health of its Navajo neighbors and mars visibility in surrounding national parks, including the iconic Grand Canyon. Retirement of three of the plant’s units is an important step forward for environmental justice, protection of public lands, and our ongoing struggle against climate change.

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View Shannon Fisk's blog posts
24 December 2013, 7:25 AM
Coal plants need to retire for the benefit of public health
The costliness of coal becomes more evident once you factor in the significant damage that it does to public health. (Photo by TVA)

This piece was originally published in EarthShare’s blog, one of Earthjustice’s partner groups working toward connecting people and workplaces with effective ways to support critical environmental causes. This featured Q&A reveals the answers about our reliance on coal.

Q: Why is coal such a dangerous source of energy?

A: For more than a century, coal has been used as a primary source of energy for electricity generation, steel production and cement manufacturing. But each step associated with energy generation from coal threatens our environment and our health.

Mining coal destroys entire ecosystems. In Appalachia, the practice of mountaintop removal mining is common, and entire mountaintops are blown apart to get at thin seams of coal. The rubble is dumped into nearby valleys, poisoning headwaters that provide drinking water for millions of Americans. As coal is burned in power plants, it produces mercury and arsenic as well as other chemicals that combine to form smog, soot, and acid rain, causing 13,200 premature deaths every year. This toxic air pollution can also impair development in children and cause cancer and other health problems.