Posts tagged: coal

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
18 November 2011, 3:17 PM
Fake farmers, BPA thanks, flooding NYC
The CIA has a secret about climate change. Photo courtesy of AJC1.

CIA shouldn’t be keeping secrets about climate change
A new report by a U.S. government agency known as the Defense Science Board says that the CIA needs to stop being so secret about its climate change research, reports the UK Guardian. Though climate denialism in government seems to be all the rage these days, the CIA has seen the invisible ink on the wall -- that climate change is happening -- and has decided to start preparing for it. Enter the CIA’s Climate Center, established in 2009 to gather intelligence on climate change and its potential national security implications. Unfortunately, in typical CIA fashion, the agency has so far refused to disclose its valuable data to the public or even other government agencies, which could go a long way in preparing the nation for the inevitable destabilization that will occur in around the world as sea levels rise and fresh water resources dry up.

Fake “farmers” abound at local farmers’ markets
The next time you visit your local farmers’ market you may want to keep an eye out for unscrupulous vendors masquerading as local farmers, reports E: The Environmental Magazine. As the popularity of farmers’ has surged, so have the number of markets, from less than 2,0000 in 1994 to more than 7,000 in 2011. Though greater access to farmers’ markets is a good thing, the increased access has also left the door wide open to non-local, corporate vendors looking to cash in on the typically higher priced goods. In response to these fakers, some markets have begun adopting strict regulations to ensure that their farmers are the real deal. Before paying $2 for a local, organic Red Delicious apple, shoppers should look into the screening practices of their own farmers’ markets to find out whether they’re getting the real deal.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
17 November 2011, 3:38 PM
EPA's clean-up of toxic air pollution remains unfulfilled
Not only will clean air standards have a tremendous impact on the health of the American public, they will also create thousands of new utility jobs.
(Chris Jordan / Earthjustice)

In 1990, Congress gave the Environmental Protection Agency a very important homework assignment: protect the American public from mercury, lead, benzene, dioxins and other invisible toxic air pollutants, because what we can't see can hurt us.

Twenty-one years later, these dangerous pollutants are still pouring forth in large quantities from smokestacks across the country. Some of the nation's biggest polluters—cement kilns, industrial boilers and coal-fired power plants—are going to have to cut down on their toxic pollution as the Clean Air Act requires, have yet to do so.

In many cases, the reason is that the EPA has time and again failed to turn in its homework—critical clean air standards that require industries to install pollution controls that are readily available and affordable. Pressure and opposition from industry has routinely been a roadblock. In this way, polluting industries and their allies in Congress have played the part of the dog, scarfing the standards that would cause dirty industries to clean up their facilities. But even when the EPA has turned in clean air standards to clean up polluters, more often than not they are covered in industry's slobber—watered down and full of loopholes that benefit polluters.

3 Comments   /  
View Kari Birdseye's blog posts
11 November 2011, 3:37 PM
Earthjustice’s Abigail Dillen speaks in the park

There was more than the usual lurking going on Thursday afternoon in Lurker Park in East Hanover, New Jersey. More than 50 people turned out to protest the Obama administration’s fast-tracking of a proposed electrical power line that would bring coal-fired power to New Jersey. The protesters say we should be using less, not more, coal-fired power and new information now shows that clean energy solutions can keep the lights on in New Jersey.

The proposed power line, called the Susquehanna Roseland line, will run right through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The power line would connect coal plants in Pennsylvania to consumers in New Jersey. Earthjustice attorney Abigail Dillen was at the rally and, in this video, spoke to why conservation groups and local officials are opposing the project.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
01 November 2011, 11:25 AM
Coal ash spills into Lake Michigan near Milwaukee power plant
Coal ash spill into Lake Michigan

We’re closing in on the 3-year anniversary of the TVA coal ash disaster and there are still no federal regulations in place protecting us from coal ash. And now, another spill: in Oak Creek, Wisconsin a bluff collapsed, sending coal ash and debris from We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant into Lake Michigan.

Writing this off as a “freak accident” or “mudslide” is a dangerous err in judgment. Coal ash has toxic levels of arsenic, hexavalent chromium, mercury, lead and other chemicals. Would you want that in your drinking water? No, and sadly, that is a reality to people who live near these sites in Wisconsin.

We’re still waiting on details from this spill (how many tons of coal ash, how far does it extend, etc.) and there are many questions. Maureen Wolff lives a mile from the power plant and walked to the shoreline shortly after the incident. She saw the dark color of the debris and wondered if it was coal ash.

“All this is going along the coast line and they’re telling people all it is is just a few trailers and possibly some tools. No one is saying what exactly is in it,” she is quoted saying in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

1 Comment   /  
View Liz Judge's blog posts
26 October 2011, 3:09 PM
Office of Surface Mining merged into Bureau of Land Management
OSMRE's accomplishment to date

Today Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a major agency reshuffling that will affect how the government enforces laws on mountaintop removal and surface coal mining.  He will fold the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) into another Department of Interior subdivision, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

OSMRE is the agency that oversees the enforcement of the nation's surface coal mining laws, and BLM is the agency that oversees the federal government's management of public lands. Most mountaintop removal mining happens on private lands, not public lands, in Appalachia.

Press coverage of the agency reshuffle managed to ask an important question: Will this make a difference in the enforcement of coal mining laws? Will this change the landscape at all? 

2 Comments   /  
View Emily Enderle's blog posts
21 October 2011, 10:48 AM
Pals of polluters vote to let coal ash poison our water supplies
Clean-up operations in the aftermath of the 2008 Kingston coal ash spill. (TVA)

On Friday, in a 267–144 vote, a majority of House members voted to keep allowing coal ash to pollute our drinking water. The passage of the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act (H.R. 2273) lets states choose to adopt a disposal standard less protective than those for household garbage.

The bill fails to protect communities from drinking water polluted by arsenic, hexavalent chromium and other cancer-causing chemicals or disasters like the TVA spill. It doesn’t even take the most basic step of eliminating wet disposal ponds, which both EPA’s proposed options include. Further, it doesn’t create a federally enforceable baseline standard and serves solely to establish a toothless regime that treats this ash with fewer protections than household garbage.

Under the leadership of Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), the GOP-controlled House has taken aim at public health and transparency, undermining the efforts of the EPA to use the best available science to complete their public rulemaking addressing coal ash.

View Stephanie Maddin's blog posts
20 October 2011, 10:02 AM
Sick citizens and ravaged environment equal healthy economy?
Rep. Eric Cantor (VA-7)

This week, President Obama has conducted a bus tour through my home state of Virginia and North Carolina. The tour focused on job creation and the state of our economy.

Unfortunately, Republican leadership in Congress thinks weakening our clean air and water protections is the foundation of economic renewal.

Since returning from August recess, the House of Representatives has passed some of the most anti-environmental and anti-public health legislation in its history. These bills—which indefinitely delay air pollution standards for power plants, industrial boilers/incinerators and cement plants—passed as key provisions in Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s “Jobs Agenda.”

2 Comments   /  
View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
14 October 2011, 1:44 PM
Political weakness keeps them polluting 30+ years too long

Across the nation, old coal-fired power plants are gasping for their last breath, having survived long past their prime because of political favors and weak government regulations. They would have died decades ago if not for a fateful policy compromise in the late 1970s that exempted existing power plants from new air quality standards in the Clean Air Act.

The compromise was based on a prediction that the plants would be retired soon, but instead it gave them a whole new lease on life, with a free pass to pollute for another 30 plus years. And until recently, there was no end in sight.

These plants continue to cough up toxic pollutants like mercury, lead and arsenic into the air. They are by far the biggest producers of the power sector’s pollution, forcing millions of Americans to seek their own life support – in the form of respirators and inhalers – just to get through each day without an asthma attack.

40 Comments   /  
View Ted Zukoski's blog posts
13 October 2011, 10:24 AM
Before Colorado Gov. Cheerleads Coal Mines, He Should Help Clean Them
A hillside bulldozed for a coal mine methane drainage well, western Colorado. Photo By Ted Zukoski

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper took a feel-good tour of a Colorado coal mine this week, bolstering his corporate-friendly cred in the southern part of the state.

He talked about how great it was that the mine could co-exist with wildlife, and joked about the high-paying jobs. And for all of you self-serving Prius owners who call coal by its other name—One Of The Dirtiest Fuels On The Planet ™—Hickenlooper wanted to remind you:

"We all use electricity, we all drive vehicles so we have to play our role in getting the energy, whether it's coal or natural gas. We all have to figure out how to get it safely and efficiently and in a way that it benefits the community around it. That's what they are trying to do here."

Music to the ears of those running the New Elk Mine, the subject of the tour, which is digging out metallurgic coal in an area that has seen mining for decades. And you have to appreciate job creation in tough economic times. But Hickenlooper omitted some interesting facts about the New Elk Mine. For example:

4 Comments   /  
View Joshua Ulan Galperin's blog posts
07 October 2011, 7:35 AM
Next week House preparing to tie EPA's hands
Kingston coal ash spill. (TVA)

East Tennessee is not known for its population of environmental activists, but last fall hundreds of people turned up in Knoxville to ask the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt a special waste designation for coal ash. Support for EPA’s public health and environmental safeguard is strong here because the 2008 Kingston coal ash disaster occurred in our backyard, making the danger of toxic coal ash blatantly clear.

Experts at the EPA have now spent years reviewing data related to the dangers of coal ash, and they have listened to the opinions and ideas of citizens, including those here in East Tennessee.  Shockingly, even while the EPA reviews the opinions of hundreds of thousands of citizens, anti-environmental crusaders in the United States House of Representatives are preparing to undermine these voices as well as the expertise of the EPA.

Next week the House of Representatives is preparing to vote on H.R. 2273, a bill that would prohibit comprehensive federal oversight of coal ash. H.R. 2273 is a gift to coal companies at the expense of public health and the environment.