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.

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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 Jared Saylor's blog posts
11 September 2009, 2:30 PM
EPA plans more scientific and legal scrutiny on 79 new mining permits
Photo: OVEC

The last year has been a roller coaster ride for mountaintop removal. Despite a loss in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in February (which we're now appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court), the U.S. Senate was taking up the fight with some public hearings back in March. In April, we thought the EPA was going to put the brakes on some mountaintop removal mining permits, but then in May, it was a sad day for Appalachia when the EPA approved more mining permits.

Well today, we've got some reason to cheer. The EPA announced today plans to hold 79 pending mountaintop removal mining permits for further environmental review, offering a reprieve for the coalfield residents in Appalachia living near these sites. The news comes as part of a "Memorandum of Understanding" the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers signed earlier this year. The two agencies agreed to work together to review pending permits, and today's announcement sets the EPA and the Corps on a path towards closer scrutiny of these permits that is based on science and the law.

View Bill Karpowicz's blog posts
27 August 2009, 9:18 AM
Toxin found in every fish tested in 291 streams

More than two-thirds of fish tested by the federal government between 1998 and 2005 are contaminated by mercury at levels exceeding EPA standards according to a recent report.

Contamination is widespread, the report said, coming from various sources depending on geography. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury, although 59 of the 291 streams studied may have been affected by gold and mercury mining. The highest mercury levels were found in the south and southeast-North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana, while elevated levels were found in mining areas of the West and watersheds in the Northeast and Upper Midwest.

In 2008, Earthjustice successfully appealed an EPA rule favorable to industry which would have allowed dangerous levels of mercury to persist. We’re waiting for the Obama administration to make good on its promise to introduce new power plant emission regulations.

View Tom Turner's blog posts
25 August 2009, 11:25 AM
Number refers to tolerable concentration of carbon in the atmosphere

My friend Bill McKibben, climate campaigner extraordinaire (he blew the first public whistle with The End of Nature in the late 1980s) has been organizing internationally behind the notion that 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon in the atmosphere is the absolute limit of what the earth can tolerate. The IPCC—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—in its latest report two years ago, set the number at 450. The current carbon load in the atmosphere is about 370 ppm and rising.

McKibben's organization, 350.org, has been agitating for a lowering of the goal to 350 and on Aug. 25 got the welcome news that Chairman Rajendra Pachauri of the IPCC had given his personal endorsement to the 350 number. This, as Bill explained in an email, is a very big deal and governments everywhere should sit up, take notice, and get finally off their duffs.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
21 August 2009, 10:34 AM
Clean coal wishful thinkers part ways with disgraced lobbying firm

Thanks, but no thanks. So said the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) to the black-sheep lobby shop Bonner & Associates, which was caught sending forged letters opposing the Waxman-Markey bill to three members of Congress. In the wake of this scandal, first reported by the Charlottesville Daily Progress back in late-July, it seems ACCCE is making the wise decision to relieve Bonner from its employ

But as others have noted, ACCCE is no innocent actor in this story. They were made aware of the forgeries on June 24, 2009 by the Hawthorn Group, an ACCCE client that hired Bonner & Associates on ACCCE's behalf to reach out to local groups in the districts of key members of Congress.

View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
19 August 2009, 4:24 PM
Earthjustice president sees firsthand environmental bests and worsts
Wind power parts enroute

What does it take to peel back the abstractions of email, press reports, and legal briefs and really see some of what is at stake in Earthjustice's work? It's as easy as getting away from the computer, out of airports, and off the interstate.

Over the last couple of weeks I was lucky enough to travel across the Great Plains and the Rockies. Everywhere I went, I saw our country wrestling with the big challenges of energy supply and climate change, biodiversity and wildlands protection, and the human consequences of poorly enforced environmental standards.

Signs of change in our energy economy are everywhere. Across Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, I kept running into wide-load 18 wheelers hauling giant pieces of wind towers to the sites of new wind farms. One of the truck drivers told me that the towers were made in Texas. Some of the small towns practically had to shut down their main streets to let the rigs through.

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View Kathleen Sutcliffe's blog posts
19 August 2009, 3:06 PM
Power lines to the people don't serve clean energy sources
Power transmission lines. Photo: Department of Energy

If you look at a map showing a planned network of high-voltage power lines through West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia, you’ll notice something curious: they match up quite neatly with the region’s existing power plants.

The $1.9-billion Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) is a pet project of two of the country’s most powerful coal producers: American Electric Power and Allegheny Energy. And they don’t seem particularly interested in making room for their counterparts in the renewable energy business.

That didn’t seem quite fair to those of us at Earthjustice. So last month we went ahead and intervened in the project’s Virginia State proceedings, hoping to help clear a space at the table for renewable energy.

We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
18 August 2009, 4:17 PM
New fraudulent letters opposing the climate bill revealed

The scandal involving a D.C. lobbying firm called Bonner & Associates that sent forged letters opposing the climate bill to members of Congress continues to grow. A number of blogs are covering a press release from Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) that states five new forged letters were uncovered as part of a congressional investigation launched shortly after reports of the first batch of forged letters surfaced.

The recently discovered letters, sent to three Democratic representatives—Tom Perriello (D-VA), Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA) and Christopher Carney (D-PA)—were purportedly from senior citizen centers and expressed concern that fixed-income seniors would be hurt by rate increases as a result of the climate bill. 

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
12 August 2009, 12:21 PM
Although public favors bill, Senate is consumed with health care

If the latest Zogby poll is right, Americans have taken a green flip-flop in favor of Congress acting on climate change. The poll says 65 percent of us feel that way, and even believe that jobs growth is tied to clean energy investment.

Most politicians guide their votes on the basis of public opinion, so this would seem a good omen for the climate legislation passed earlier by the House into Senate hands. The "American Clean Energy and Security Act" is in part based on the premise of creating economic growth by fighting global warming.

Trouble is, the Senate is too fixated on health care reform right now to feel any wind shift on climate change. Nor is the Obama administration able to take quality time off from that ruckus to rouse action on ACES. It's supposed to be taken up early next month, but most political wags think it is on a slow, slow track. The hoped-for December deadline for a full Senate vote is in jeopardy.

View Terry Winckler's blog posts
03 August 2009, 2:02 PM
Government has right to force environmental review, says legal action

A troublesome new chapter has opened in the matter of Sunflower Electric's attempt to more than double the electrical output at its existing coal-fired plant in Holcomb, Kansas.

After digging through 10,000 pages of documents, Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman discovered that Sunflower in the past had defaulted on its debt service payments to the federal government, and that as a consequence the federal government now has effective oversight over Sunflower's business decisions, including the attempted expansion of its existing plant.

That means that you and I and all other American taxpayers have a major stake in how that plant performs, financially and environmentally. We have long known that the expansion was a thoroughly bad idea because of the enormous amounts of greenhouse gases it would produce for decades. The revelation of Sunflower's indebtedness to the public could be a key to stopping the expansion.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
30 July 2009, 1:27 PM
They knew about the threat for 20 years, but did nothing
Tennessee coal ash spill site

It’s been seven months since a billion gallons of coal ash burst through a failed construction dike in Harriman, Tennessee, covering 300 acres, destroying homes, flooding properties and poisoning rivers and wells. According to a recently released report, it was a disaster waiting to happen.

The Inspector General for the Tennessee Valley Authority, which owns the Kingston Fossil Plant and its accompanying coal ash impoundment, reported this week that TVA “has failed for more than 20 years to heed warnings” that might have prevented this spill from happening. This revelation, revealed at the third congressional hearing since the spill, shows that TVA ignored repeated warnings from its own workers in 1985 and again in 2004 that the coal ash site was a public health hazard.

And there’s more:

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