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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 Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
15 November 2013, 5:03 PM
As Thanksgiving nears, we have much to give thanks for
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean. (NASA)

The approach of Thanksgiving is a good time to step back from the fast pace of our fight to protect the Earth and its people, and reflect on the many reasons to be grateful. Please join me and share what’s on your gratitude list by leaving a comment at the end of this piece.

My personal list starts with being thankful for the millions of people in this country and around the world who are standing up to polluters and to government agencies that fail to do their jobs. Citizens in record numbers are educating one another, advocating for change and going to court to enforce the law in order to end climate pollution, habitat destruction and poisoning of communities. Without citizen enforcers, environmental damage would go unchecked.

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View Sean Helle's blog posts
11 November 2013, 10:26 AM
First, a shutdown. Then, threats of default. Next up: the D.C. Circuit.
Three of the D.C. Circuit Court's 11 seats have been left vacant due to congressional obstruction. (DOJ)

Update: On November 12, 2013, Senate Republicans blocked an up-or-down vote on Professor Nina Pillard’s nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Once again, Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski were the only Republicans to oppose the filibuster. Professor Pillard is the third of President Obama’s D.C. Circuit nominees to be denied a vote in the Senate. Read Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen’s statement on the Senate Republicans’ continued obstruction.

There seemed reason to hope the fever would pass.

Six weeks ago, as October awoke, the my-way-or-your-kneecaps wing of the Grand Old Party decided it was time things got broken. The festivities began, of course, with the federal government, which was left bound and gagged by a long-dreamt shutdown. Then came the threats of global economic ruin. While those wielding bats talked principle, it soon proved pique. “We’re not going to be disrespected,” a House Republican proclaimed on the second day of the insurrection. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

Americans weren’t amused. When the dust finally settled, 59 percent of those surveyed held an “unfavorable impression” of “the political movement known as the tea party.” Sixty-three percent declared dislike for the Republican Party. And 75 percent—three of every four Americans—expressed dissatisfaction “with the way this country’s political system is working.”

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View Nailah Morgan's blog posts
28 October 2013, 11:11 AM
Research in Antarctic loses precious time during short season
A sundog frames the silhouette of a U.S. Antarctic Program participant near McMurdo Station. (Carlie Reum / NSF)

The federal government has finally ended its 16-day shutdown, and as workers return to their desks and tourists parade back into national parks, science is picking up the pieces and—in some cases—starting from scratch.

The National Science Foundation’s summer U.S. Antarctic Program came to a destructive halt as D.C. juggled with the budget crisis. The foundation suspended all activities not essential to human safety and preservation of property, leaving our understanding of the earth’s past and future to be held hostage by congress’ inability to function.

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View Andrea Delgado's blog posts
18 October 2013, 9:18 AM
Congress and the White House reach bipartisan budget compromise

On Wednesday night, with less than two hours before the country defaulted on its debts, Congress ended the standoff that shut the government down for 16 days, kept countless federal workers without work or pay, and left anyone watching disheartened by partisan antics. In the end, it amounted to Congress deciding to do its job and allowing others to do the same.

Budget compromise vote count. (Source: NYT)

Source: New York Times. See the Senate and House vote breakdown

Did the extreme right in Congress get what they wanted out of this theater and was it worth holding workers’ and families’ budgets hostage and taking us to the brink of default? The House had prepared a wish list of deeply harmful energy, environment and public health policy riders that got sidelined by its attack on Obamacare.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
10 October 2013, 11:42 AM
For our economy and communities, we must live by the budget
Mountaintop removal mining is devastating communities in Appalachia. The drive to drill and mine anywhere, by whatever extreme means, is a disastrous substitute for a coherent American energy policy. (Chris Jordan-Bloch)

The following blog post by Trip Van Noppen originally ran on the Huffington Post on October 8, 2013.

The most damning and decisive report yet on humankind's contribution to climate change was delivered by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change little more than a week ago. The report, the most precise yet thanks to advances in scientific monitoring, confirms that climate change impacts are outpacing previous projections for ocean warming, the rate of glacial ice melt in the arctic, and sea level rise. But the biggest takeaway of the report is the unprecedented step it takes in setting a carbon budget.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
01 October 2013, 10:09 AM
National wildlife refuges closed until funding is restored
National parks, like refuges and other public lands, are closed during the government shutdown. (National Parks Conservation Association)

(Editor's note: What does the federal government shutdown, starting today, mean to you? Tell us in the comments, and check out this news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.)

Because of the shutdown of the federal government caused by the lapse in appropriations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will suspend most programs and operations, including public access to all National Wildlife Refuges and all activities on refuge lands including hunting and fishing.

"Closing off public access to our national wildlife refuges and public lands is the last thing we want to do, but is consistent with operations called for during a government shutdown” said Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe. “This is difficult news for the families, birdwatchers, hunters and anglers, and recreationists who enjoy the great outdoors on the refuges—as well as for the many local businesses who depend on the tourism and outdoor recreation economy they generate. I think it’s most difficult for the thousands of furloughed Service employees who are impacted in carrying out their mission to protect our nation’s resources and providing for their families.”

View Andrea Delgado's blog posts
26 September 2013, 9:46 AM
Hazelton coal ash and intolerance create poisonous stew
Proximity and exposure to coal ash poses many risks.

In northeast Pennsylvania, about an hour northwest of Allentown, lies Hazleton, a city with the dubious reputation of enacting ordinances that fueled ethnic tensions and anti-immigrant sentiment.

In 2008, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) pointed to Hazelton’s policies for fostering an environment conducive to hate after Luis Ramirez, a young father of two, was beaten to death in a town 17 miles away. The incident prompted the involvement of the U.S. Department of Justice and led to federal hate crime charges for the attackers along with indictments of extortion, misconduct and obstruction of justice for the police officers involved in the investigation.

Hazleton’s population is nearly 40-percent Latino; yet Rep. Lou Barletta, its congressman and former mayor, is notorious for championing anti-immigrant policies. Most recently, he is known for publicly dissuading the GOP from courting Latinos or providing a path to citizenship, alleging that the majority are undocumented, “low-skilled” and uneducated. Tell that to the more than 50 million Latinos in the U.S., 75 percent of whom are U.S. citizens.

Intolerance is toxic and fragmenting, undermining the integration and safety of immigrants looking to make America their home like generations before them. Community leaders and organizations such as the Hazleton Integration Project are working to foster tolerance and shed the city’s shameful past. But another toxic hazard looms over Hazleton, threatening the well-being of the burgeoning Latino population and the city as a whole.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
18 September 2013, 11:51 AM
EPA and DOE officials point to science as House officials stay in denial
The Capitol Building, observer of many a false debate. (Architect of the Capitol)

They say denial is not just a river in Egypt. Such is true for many House leaders at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee today on the Obama administration’s climate change agenda. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz had to endure the political grandstanding of the House's climate deniers, most of whom have accepted huge political donations from the oil and gas industry.

Here is how EPA Administrator McCarthy opened up her testimony:

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Based on the evidence, more than 97 percent of climate scientists are convinced that human caused climate change is occurring. If our changing climate goes unchecked, it will have devastating impacts on the United States and the planet. Reducing carbon pollution is critically important to the protection of Americans’ health and the environment upon which our economy depends.

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View Debra Mayfield's blog posts
15 August 2013, 12:19 PM
Citizen soldiers talk, unite ... and triumph

With some members of Congress doing less to protect the health and welfare of their constituents and more for the interests of industry, it’s easy for us ordinary folks to get disillusioned and throw in the towel. But then we turn towards the faces of our children, neighbors, parents and friends struggling with asthma from industrial pollution and tail pipe emissions. We see the lakes and rivers we swam and fished in as kids decimated and our drinking water supplies poisoned by poorly regulated and inadequately maintained coal ash disposal sites.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
01 August 2013, 2:03 PM
Among them, specific protections to most vulnerable populations
Sen. Boxer chairs the Senate EPW Committee.

Yes, there are tons of chemicals we as Americans are exposed to on a daily basis that are dangerous and harmful to our health. Thankfully, some elected officials understand this concern.

Wednesday, after she convened a hearing in the Environment and Public Works Committee, Chairman Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said:

Now that we have concluded our in-depth hearing, it is very clear that certain principles must be the center piece of any toxic chemical reform bill moving forward.

The hearing discussed various legislative fixes to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), including the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013, a bipartisan bill introduced by Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and the late Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). While Earthjustice applauded the monumental introduction of the Chemical Safety Improvement Act, we also stated that we couldn’t support it unless critical clarifications and changes are adopted.