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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.

ABOUT EARTHJUSTICE'S BLOG

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 Liz Judge's blog posts
19 June 2012, 11:13 AM
Congress finally addresses community health emergency in Appalachia
Mountaintop removal mining devastates the landscape, turning areas that should be lush with forests and wildlife into barren moonscapes. (OVEC)

Big news today in our fight to end destructive mountaintop removal mining: 13 congressional leaders joined to introduce legislation to protect communities and families from the dangerous health effects of our nation's most extreme form of coal mining—mountaintop removal mining.

The Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act is the first federal legislation to address the human health effects of mountaintop removal mining. More than 20 peer-reviewed scientific studies show significantly elevated birth defect rates, early mortality rates, cancer rates, and major disease rates in areas of mountaintop removal mining. There is truly a public health emergency, and these studies point the blame to mountaintop removal mining.

This bill aims to protect communities and address this health emergency: It would require the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct thorough health studies on the human impacts of mountaintop removal, and until it is proven that this form of mining is not killing, harming, or sickening families, children, and people across Appalachia, it would place a hold on all new mining permits.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
18 June 2012, 3:50 PM
Bill is dangerous scheme to exempt power plants from clean air laws

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is spearheading an egregious effort in the Senate to exempt the nation's worst air polluters from the Clean Air Act. He is floating a resolution that would block recently finalized limits on the amounts of mercury, arsenic and other health-damaging pollutants that coal- and oil-fired power plants can emit. It's up for a vote on Wednesday.

Today, thankfully, the White House indicated that it will veto Inhofe's dirty air disaster if it manages to pass the Senate.

The senator, shockingly, has described the benefits of these landmark protections as "negligible." But there's nothing negligible about the prevention of up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,600 heart attacks and 130,000 childhood asthma attacks every year.

View Liz Judge's blog posts
04 June 2012, 11:28 AM
Stories and inspiration from the fight to end mountaintop removal mining

Over our years of working to stop mountaintop removal mining, we at Earthjustice have met so many brave and dedicated people fighting for their communities, mountains and waters. In 2010, Earthjustice launched our “Mountain Heroes” campaign to share their inspiring stories and show that this is not just a fight for the environment—it’s a fight for justice and a fight to save communities, families and Appalachian culture.

Through this campaign, we shared the stories of a few true heroes and created a public photo petition, asking the public to share their own stories—and tell us why they want to save mountains, protect clean water, and fight for justice in Appalachia.

What we got back was astounding and inspiring.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
18 May 2012, 4:00 PM
Some of the above are fossil fuels -- and they aren't clean

Sometimes an all-in strategy can tarnish the entire package.

Take for example President Obama’s recent decision to tout an “all-of-the-above” approach to achieving energy independence and lowering gas prices. It’s a catchy, feel-good campaign slogan perfect for banners and sound bites, but it’s a hollow energy strategy. Worse yet, it opens America up for destructive practices by painting the administration into a fossil-fuel corner.

Recently, House Republicans seized on Obama’s vulnerable position by successfully insisting that the administration add “clean coal” to its energy policy website. Never mind that coal is dirty at every step of the process, from mining to burning to disposing of the waste. It’s also the source of 99 percent of mercury from the U.S. power sector and the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S.

Even the coal industry knows that coal is dirty, which is why it has tried desperately to rebrand its baby as “clean coal,” an oxymoron at its finest. The lynch-pin of “clean coal,” carbon sequestration, is wildly expensive and doesn’t address local pollution problems.

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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
20 April 2012, 10:54 AM
House panders to Big Coal, allowing risks of spills and poisoning
A cloud of highly toxic coal ash is seen blowing like a sandstorm straight at the homes on the Moapa River Reservation, one of many communities across the country at risk from unregulated coal ash dump sites. (Photo by Moapa Band of Paiutes)

The House’s embrace of David McKinley’s (R-WV) amendment and its attachment to the transportation bill is nothing short of a deadly betrayal of public health. This measure ensures that the nation’s dangerous and leaking coal ash ponds and landfills will continue to operate indefinitely without regulation or federal oversight. If it passes the Senate, it may be the most effective protection of Big Coal ever enacted by Congress.

Clearly such protection is at the expense of thousands of communities where toxic coal ash is dumped into drinking water, stacked high above towns, and blown into the lungs of children. The House has conveniently forgotten the largest toxic waste spill in U.S. history, which occurred in 2008 when a coal ash pond collapsed onto a riverside town in Kingston, TN, sweeping away houses and permanently destroying a community.

Instead of addressing the nationwide problem, the House amendment prevents the EPA from regulating coal ash and setting minimum standards for safe disposal. As a result, disposal of banana peels and other household trash would be more stringently regulated in the U.S. than the dumping of toxic ash.

View Stephanie Maddin's blog posts
21 March 2012, 9:29 AM
In the Senate, public health is up for debate

That coal- and oil-fired power plants are big air polluters is beyond question—they emit hundreds of thousands of tons of hazardous air pollution (mercury, lead, acid gases, e.g.), far more than any other industrial polluter. And yet, many in Congress question whether we should do anything about this major threat to public health. The debate took center stage yesterday in a subcommittee hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Sen. John Barrasso said that the costs and real benefits of cleaning up toxic air pollution from power plants are unknown. This is an incredible statement considering that extensive analysis by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has shown substantial benefits from cleaning up power plants: the prevention of up to 11,000 premature deaths, 130,000 asthma attacks and 5,000 heart attacks every year. The benefits of reducing power plant pollution could reach $90 billion each year, 9 times the cost.

Barrasso's colleague, Sen. Lamar Alexander, had a different take. He acknowledged the damage that mercury and other toxics pose to fetal development and the health of other vulnerable populations. He also conceded that power plants have evaded clean air standards for more than a decade and that the country needs to "get on with it and do it!" He then, ironically, suggested a blanket 6-year compliance timeline, which Gina McCarthy, EPA's Deputy Administrator, strongly opposed. She argued that delaying the standards any longer will severely compromise the health benefits for the American public.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
02 March 2012, 11:15 AM
Google oceans, cutting oil subsidies, beach-bound tsunami debris
(Photo courtesy of B Rosen)

The Lorax peddles SUVs to elementary kids
The main character from Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax,” a book that has long been considered a timeless screed on the environmental perils of overconsumption, is now being used to hawk gas-guzzling SUVs to school children, reports the Washington Post. In the book, the Lorax speaks for the trees against the greedy Once-ler. But recently, the fuzzy character showed up at Alexandria’s James K. Polk Elementary School, encouraging kids to persuade their parents to take a test drive of a Mazda SUV. In exchange, kids could help raise money for other schools’ libraries and qualify for a sweepstakes entry. At the event, a Mazda rep defended the move, arguing that the eco-friendly Lorax would like the new SUVs, which have “really good environmentally friendly technologies,” like getting 35 miles per gallon. Yikes!  (If that's considered "good" gas mileage, I'd hate to know what's poor gas mileage.) Luckily, not all the kids were taken in by the greenwashed marketing pitch. For example, when a group of kids walked past the car and started excitedly yelling, “Lorax car!” , one student quietly pointed out that the Lorax doesn’t even drive a car.

Google takes its street view to the oceans
Ocean enthusiasts who are terrified of the water can now take a virtual swim among parrotfish, coral reefs and other sea creatures, all without getting wet, thanks to a new Google venture that brings Google Street View to the oceans, reports the Wall Street Journal. Partnering with oceanographers and the international insurance company Catlin Group Limited, the program will give ocean access to anyone with a computer. It will also allow scientists to track data such as migration patterns, sea turtle populations and the health of the Great Barrier Reef, which, among other reefs, is under constant threat from climate change. As with other environmental programs like wilderness treks and farm-to-school initiatives, the hope is that Google Oceans will inspire people to protect the ocean environment, which are under threat from overfishing, habitat loss, pollution and now climate change.
 

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
13 January 2012, 12:22 PM
The oceans' acid test, playing with wildfire, raising a glass to climate change
Napa Valley vineyards in autumn. (tibchris)

Transit riders run over by reduced tax breaks
Thanks to a lack of action by Congress before the holidays, mass transit commuters will have to pay an additional $550 in taxes this year, reports the New York Times, while those who commute by car will benefit from an increase in pre-tax benefit for monthly parking. In addition to encouraging the number of cars with single occupants, the move will no doubt clog already congested streets and increase carbon emissions. It also takes a jab at people who, for the most part, already deal with enough aggravation (think late bus arrivals, screaming babies and the person who insists on practically sitting on your lap despite the availability of other seats.) Maybe when Congress gets back in session, they’ll consider making the tax benefit, at the very least, apply equally to car and transit users.

Acidic oceans threaten entire food chain
Sharks are already stressed by the public’s taste for shark fin soup and warmer weather meddling with their dating habits. Now it looks like they will have to add acidic oceans to their list of worries. Increasingly acidic waters thin the shells of their main food source, tiny marine creatures, reports MSN. But it’s not just sharks that rely on these species for food. Virtually every creature from salmon to seals to even humans will be affected, thanks to a little thing we like to call the marine food web. Scientists already know that as oceans absorb more carbon, the waters acidify, which makes living conditions very uncomfortable for any animal with a shell, and creates food scarcity for everyone else. Add this to the already overwhelming threats of pollution, habitat loss and overfishing, and it’s clear to see that the oceans—and the people who work to save them-- including Earthjustice—have their work cut out just trying to keep their heads above water. 

View Liz Judge's blog posts
06 January 2012, 4:16 AM
The no-brainer decisions the president must make this year

President Obama won the White House on a platform of hope and change – promising an end to dirty corporate influence over our political system and a beginning to an era in which our energy choices lead us to a clean, sustainable future, or at least don’t kill us or make us sick.

So far, the president’s performance has been mixed – with some deliveries on the promise and some disappointments. His last year, whether in office or in his first term, will be crucial in righting his spotty record and making good on his campaign promises to the American people.

Leading up to his fourth year in office, and making sure the new year got off to a good start with supporters, he handed the country a solid. His EPA, led by Administrator Lisa Jackson, finalized a strong rule to protect Americans from mercury poisoning and toxic air pollution from power plants.

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View Chris Jordan-Bloch's blog posts
21 December 2011, 12:02 PM
For many Americans, historic EPA protection is shining light
Marti Blake points out the window at her neighbor

"It's like hell. Living in hell," says Marti Blake, when asked about being neighbors with a coal-fired power plant. "It's filthy, it's dirty, it's noisy, it's unhealthy."

For the past 21 years, Blake has lived across the street from the Cheswick Generating Station in Springdale, PA. A family situation left her trying to find a place quickly, and a simple brick home in the small town only 20 minutes from Pittsburgh seemed fine.

"I've regretted that decision ever since, because I've felt sick for the last 20 years," says Blake, who is on medication for a slew of symptoms that include coughing, sinus infections and headaches. Blake attributes these symptoms to the dirty neighbor across the street. Who else in the neighborhood, after all, has a 750-foot tall smoke stack that is spewing out toxic smoke around the clock?

Marti Blake

A portrait of Marti Blake is paired with the reflection in her living room window.