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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 Sam Edmondson's blog posts
21 December 2011, 10:31 AM
Protections to scrub coal plants' toxic emissions proposed after years of delay

To all who wondered what gift the Obama administration is giving the American public for the holidays: it's clean air.

The administration just announced the first-ever clean air protections against the nation's dirtiest polluters—coal-fired power plants. This is one of the most significant developments in the history of environmental protections and the 40-year old Clean Air Act.

Earthjustice has been a big part of this fight for more than a decade—our litigation helped cut through the politics and intense pressure from industry to scuttle these important protections. Today, we're proud that those years of work have resulted in a major victory for the health of the American public. We're also proud that nearly 50,000 Earthjustice supporters made their voices heard in a call for these protections and the right to breathe.

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View Marty Hayden's blog posts
16 December 2011, 4:31 PM
Arctic rider snuck into year-end funding legislation
(Florian Schulz /visionsofthewild.com)

It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about the great big man in the red suit and last-minute Christmas shopping.

I’m talking about the House GOP majority trying to deliver on their year-long assault on environmental and public health protections in the last two bills that will be passed by Congress this year.

The first is the omnibus spending bill that was passed by the House and Senate today. For the past two weeks, the GOP House Leadership and Appropriations Chairs have had a priority list of anti-environmental policy riders they had to have in any final spending bill. Some of those at the top of the list included blocking measures to require the clean up of industrial boilers and incinerators, cement kilns and power plants, and attempts to railroad Clean Water Act protections for streams, rivers and lakes. Removing protections for gray wolves in Wyoming and the Midwest were also on the list.

Thanks to the efforts of the White House, and Senate and House Democrats, none of these anti-environmental riders will become law in the final spending bill. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the Arctic. A last-minute, backroom deal tacked on a measure that excludes oil companies from complying with Clean Air Act protections in the Arctic.

View Liz Judge's blog posts
22 November 2011, 4:16 PM
So this is what you mean by EPA's "War on coal" and EPA's "job-killing regulations"?
The jig is up: New data shows coal mining regulations are creating jobs, not killing them.

A little-covered news item from Nov. 18 bears much more attention. The Charleston Gazette's Ken Ward reported on some new data that blows the top off two years of coal industry lies and spin: Obama's so-called "job-killing regulations" and "war on coal" are not actually killing jobs, they are CREATING JOBS! We've been saying it all along, but here's the proof.

Since the Obama administration has taken initial steps to crack down on the coal industry's rampant pollution, which is contaminating waters and air across the nation, exposing families and communities to carcinogenic and poisonous toxic pollution, coal mining jobs have increased. By 10 percent! Since Obama's EPA began increasing mountaintop-removal-related protections on streams and waters!

View Liz Judge's blog posts
14 November 2011, 2:17 PM
Will the Senate defeat a Dirty Water Amendment this week?
The Barrasso/Heller Dirty Water Amendment would wipe out pollution limits for streams, brooks, wetlands, lakes and other waters in every state.

From early morning tadpole pursuits to sunset creek walks, my summer days started and ended in the creek that ran behind my home. My dad built a bridge across the creek, but for our neighborhood gang of rascals, well, there was no use for such bridges when we could splash and wade right through that water. Whether we were forging the stream or sitting cross-legged in it with our heads above the water, exploding with impish giggles, this creek was as much our home as our bedrooms 50 yards away. And when we outgrew the shallow waters of our backyard creek, my siblings and I took our energies to nearby Lake Erie, where we swam in deeper, more mysterious waters.

Many people have memories of swimming, fishing, wading, visiting, or skipping rocks in waters during their youth—whether those ran through their hometowns or were the destinations of family travels. That these waters were safe for recreation—or even drinking water—was no accident. Our nation’s Clean Water Act is the force that has allowed us to fish and swim and sip our water without ill consequences.

But today, the Clean Water Act and 59 percent of our nation’s streams and headwaters are in peril. The danger facing our nation’s waters, along with all the little kids who want to play in them, has arrived in an amendment by Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Dean Heller (R-NV).

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
09 November 2011, 11:03 AM
The 99 percent are marching against a path of unsustainability
The Occupy protests center around issues of corporate greed and government ineptitude.

It’s not every day that you see a “stop police brutality” sign coupled with signs about protecting the environment, but that was the scene I came upon last week while attending an Occupy Oakland.

If you’ve been paying any attention to the Occupy Wall Street movement that now spans100 U.S. cities, you know that many Americans are tired of corporate greed and government ineptitude. Though there’s no central voice for this people-powered movement, one recurring theme is the backlash against unregulated big businesses. Wall Street bankers are obvious targets, but the public’s aggravation extends further to corporate entities that put profit above people and the environment.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
01 November 2011, 1:24 PM
The economy needs regulation to get going
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)

Today, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)—that's "Ice-uh" for those unfamiliar with the congressman—ran a hearing in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about pollution from coal-fired power plants. The hearing unfolded roughly as expected, with one side—repped by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli—arguing that clean air standards are job-killers, and the other side—repped by Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe—countering that the tremendous health benefits of reducing toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants vastly outweigh the costs.

Now, enter Dr. Josh Bivens, the third witness at the hearing, who laid out an economic argument worth mentioning here, as it provided some refreshing clarity. Dr. Bivens, who works at the Economic Policy Institute, argued that now is precisely the time that we should be regulating big toxic polluters like the coal-fired power industry.

Because of the Great Recession, rather than spending their cash reserves on job-creating investments, big industries are just sitting on them. This is called a liquidity trap. Bivens argued that government regulations—e.g. clean air standards—are a great way to get these companies to start spending those reserves. In other words, the money that industry spends to comply with clean air standards will actually be highly beneficial for the economy. Factor in the substantial health benefits that accrue to the public when dirty coal plants install pollution control technology to control their toxic air emissions, and these clean air standards look even more like a no-brainer.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
25 October 2011, 2:08 PM
Congress hides behind weak economic numbers
Lisa Heinzerling

In the back and forth between climate skeptics and conservationists, we’ve clearly got two things on our side (although many of our foes would argue this): science and the law.

This point was clearly delineated during a panel discussing the congressional attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency (and the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act) at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Miami last week.

“Those rules are required by law,” said Lisa Heinzerling, a Georgetown law professor who is a former EPA official and most notably argued the landmark Massachusetts v. EPA Supreme Court case.

Heinzerling was referring to several EPA rules that GOP lawmakers have taken aim at, among them one that would rein in pollution from cement plants, and another rule to curb pollution from industrial boilers.

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 Sam Edmondson's blog posts
14 October 2011, 2:45 PM
House of Reps steers country toward the rocks

Somewhere along the road from their home districts to their offices in Washington, D.C., our Congressional representatives got their wires crossed. The American public sent them forth with a mandate to run the country, but instead, they're ruining it.

Toward the end of September, the House passed the first piece of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) Toxic Agenda: H.R. 2401, the so-called TRAIN Act—an absolute wreck of public policy. It ties to the tracks and threatens to run over two clean air standards that would prevent up to 51,000 premature deaths every year and generate $420 billion in annual economic benefits by cleaning up dirty coal plants.

Does America support Cantor's agenda? Do we want to board a crazy train bound for a future of dirty air, more disease and shorter lives? The answer, not surprisingly, is No. NO.

Recent polling shows that 75 percent of voters—including 62 percent of Cantor's party—think that the Environmental Protection Agency, not Congress, should make decisions about clean air standards. Large majorities are also against delaying (67 percent) or blocking (76 percent) the clean air standards that Cantor's TRAIN wreck is colliding with.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
14 October 2011, 11:33 AM
Earthjustice President Denounces Vote in Congress
The House has passed legislation that would prevent the EPA from strongly regulating coal ash.

Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen is strongly denouncing a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives today, passing H.R. 2273, which would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from strongly regulating coal ash:

"Nearly three years after the tragic spill of more than 1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash in Kingston, Tennessee, it’s obvious that federally enforceable safeguards for the disposal of this toxic waste are long overdue. In fact, 267 members of the House of Representatives have taken the disturbing step of moving us even further away from this important public safety goal.