Posts tagged: Department of Interior

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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 Ted Zukoski's blog posts
18 August 2010, 9:48 AM
Even when it seems King Coal loses, does the environment win?
A coal mine methane well carved into national forest land, Colorado. Ted Zukoski photo.

Headlines in the last week trumpeted a decision by Xcel, Colorado's largest utility, to convert several old coal-fired power plants into natural gas plants.

The decision was hailed by some as a victory for the environment, since natural gas, when burned, results in fewer pollutants and greenhouse gases.  Some proclaimed the political power of coal on the wane in the West and natural gas ascendent.

That's the soundbite.  The real story is more complicated. First, before we all run to embrace natural gas as the savior for clean air and a less warm climate, let's remember what natural gas is doing to our lands.

8 Comments   /  
View Tom Turner's blog posts
13 July 2010, 11:31 AM
Secretary Salazar issues new rule, hoping to persuade the judge
Sec. Ken Salazar

The Obama administration, having been thwarted in its attempts to declare a six-month moratorium on new deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday issued a new moratorium order, citing new information on the causes of the recent well blowout and other matters. According to a question-and-answer news release from the department:

"What are the differences between the May 28 deepwater drilling moratorium and the new deepwater drilling suspension?

"Like the deepwater drilling moratorium lifted by the District Court on June 22, the deepwater drilling suspensions ordered today apply to most deepwater drilling activities and could last through November 30. The suspensions ordered today, however, are the product of a new decision by the Secretary and new evidence regarding safety concerns, blowout containment shortcomings within the industry, and spill response capabilities that are strained by the BP oil spill.

5 Comments   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
08 July 2010, 11:39 AM
We can't risk another oil spill like BP's

<Update 7/9: The 5th Circuit Appeals Court decided not to intervene on an emergency basis - and reinstate the administration's moratorium on offshore drilling - unless deepwater drilling is actually going to resume, reports Patti Goldman, vice-president of litigation for Earthjustice. The shoe is now on the oil industry's foot. If they choose to resume drilling, they risk another quick trip to the 5th Circuit.>

<Update 7/8: A 3-panel appeals court has refused to reinstate a moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf of California.>

The immediate future of deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is at stake today in a federal appeals court, where Earthjustice and the Obama administration are arguing to reinstate a moratorium put in place after the BP oil well rupture. Oil industry advocates convinced a federal district court to lift the moratorium last month.

With oil gushing into the Gulf at an estimated 2.4 million gallons a day, our argument for the moratorium should be obvious—we can't afford this kind of risky drilling until the BP oil spill is fully quelled and we know exactly why this devastating incident occurred. We already know that the approval process for the BP well and others in the Gulf was corrupted by a too-cozy relationship between the oil industry and regulatory agencies, especially the Minerals Management Service.

Until the government can clean up its regulatory act, and the industry shows that it can clean up—and prevent—major oil spills, we will continue to argue against resumption of deep water drilling. And let's be clear—the moratorium only affects a small number of drilling operations in the Gulf. The vast majority continue to operate and are not affected by this court action.

If the appeals court refuses to lift the moratorium, the Interior Department said it will institute a revised, new moratorium in short order.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
11 June 2010, 4:32 PM
Hazardous waste exemption, oil dispersants, BP goes Orwellian

Some top stories from the past week at Earthjustice…

This week, Earthjustice scored a big victory for our lungs with the announcement that the EPA is finally abandoning a dangerous rule—granted by the Bush administration—that would permit the unregulated burning of hazardous waste.

BP's latest effort to clean up its soiled image took it into even murkier waters after the oil giant recently began buying search terms like "oil spill" on Google and Yahoo search engines so that the company's official web site would be the first link to appear on a search page.

Amidst a vote on Sen. Murkowski's (R-AK) resolution to bail out big polluters, Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen called on the Senate to put aside partisan politics and protect the American people by voting against this bill. Thankfully, the Senate has voted 53-47 against the bill.

Campaign manager Brian Smith reported on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's recent announcement of a memorandum of understanding to establish the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium, which has the goal of tapping into the estimated 1 million megawatts of potential wind power that exists off the east coast.

Earthjustice was curious to know just what's in all of those chemical dispersants that we're dropping into the Gulf of Mexico by the millions of gallons, so we filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get more information. Here's what we found (hint: it's not good).

View Brian Smith's blog posts
09 June 2010, 10:16 AM
States signing on
Offshore wind farm in Denmark. Photo: NOAA

While the Obama administration continues to search for a productive response to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, this tidbit of news crossed our desks.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today announced a memorandum of understanding which will establish the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium.

While still in the development stage, the agreement includes Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. The newly created Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will oversee offshore renewable energy development and be based in Virginia.

4 Comments   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
20 May 2010, 7:53 AM
The U.S. and governments worldwide must end marriage to oil industry
Salazar, in New Orleans before Gulf spill, announces expedited oil leasing

<Update: The EPA is finally hearing, and acting on, concerns about toxic dispersants used by BP in breaking up its Gulf oil spill. EPA today ordered BP to choose a less-harmful form of dispersant. More than 600,000 gallons have been sprayed by BP to date.>

<Update: BP said today it is collecting 5,000 barrels of oil each day from its Gulf spill—equaling the total amount BP has claimed is leaking—and yet, oil continues to gush from the well. Starting tonight, BP said it will start providing a live video feed from the leaking well at this web site.>

Great question to Interior Sec. Ken Salazar this morning on ABC TV: why can't we get exact numbers for how much oil is spilling from the Gulf of Mexico oil well?

Answer: We're trying, and will start looking beyond what British Petroleum tells us.

Conclusion: No one knows, so whose numbers are we to trust—the 5,000 barrels per day guesstimated by BP, and which the government has endorsed? Or, maybe those of independent scientists who think the spill is 10 or 12 times bigger? Today, for the first time, Salazar promised to do some independent surveying.

View Terry Winckler's blog posts
19 May 2010, 3:34 PM
Salazar divides MMS into three bureaus
Heavy oil now in coastal marshes. Courtesy National Geographic

Exposed by the Gulf oil spill disaster as a conflict-ridden friend of oil companies it was supposed to regulate, the federal Minerals Management Service died today—dismantled by Interior Sec. Ken Salazar, who's obviously feeling the heat of eight congressional hearings and an angry president.

The MMS, corrupted by the sum of its dual roles to collect royalties from oil companies it oversees, was split into three separate agencies: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and Office of Natural Resources Revenue.

Unfortunately, the split comes too late for the Gulf of Mexico, which is reeling from millions of gallons of oil loosed into it by a British Petroleum offshore drilling scheme that MMS approved on assurances from BP that the chances of a big spill were insignificant and that, at any rate, BP could handle anything that happened.

It still isn't too late for the Arctic Ocean, however, whose sensitive offshore waters are to be drilled this summer by Shell Oil under an inadequate plan also approved by the MMS. At this point, only President Obama and/or Sec. Salazar can keep this from happening.

3 Comments   /  
View Jared Saylor's blog posts
19 May 2010, 12:21 PM
National ad campaign urges Obama to pause for more science on Arctic

Today, we joined a broad coaltion of groups to run full page ads in the Washington Post and the New York Times that call upon President Obama to stop drilling in the Arctic Ocean planned for this summer.

The ads are sponsored by Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Alaska Wilderness League, the World Wildlife Fund, Pacific Environment, Audubon, Oceana, and The Wilderness Society. The ads say:

2 Comments   /  
View Shirley Hao's blog posts
14 May 2010, 5:05 PM
Photos worth more—much more—than a thousand words

The Arctic has invaded Seattle. And Berkeley. And Venice. (Venice, California, not the Italian city of gondolas.)

Fortunately, this is not to say that the next Ice Age has unexpectedly crept up on us while we were preoccupied with this whole climate change debacle. Rather, wildlife photographer Florian Schulz and his partner Emil Herrera-Schulz have succeeded in bringing the Arctic to us, in one stunning photograph after another:

Towards the end of June, caribou start to form larger herds on the coastal plains north of the Brooks Range. With warmer temperatures the tundra brings both lush green growth and hordes of mosquitoes. Arctic Refuge, Alaskan Arctic. Florian Schulz /

Towards the end of June, caribou start to form larger herds on the coastal plains north of the Brooks Range. With warmer temperatures the tundra brings both lush green growth and hordes of mosquitoes. Arctic Refuge, Alaskan Arctic. Florian Schulz /
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
07 May 2010, 10:25 AM
Agency let BP take major drilling risk without backup plan
Photo: MMS

As British Petroleum tries desperately to cap the oil gushing from its exploded drill rig in the Gulf of Mexico, information continues to leak out about the too-cozy relationship BP and the oil industry have with federal oversight agencies—especially the Minerals Management Service.

MMS regulates, and issues permits for, offshore oil drilling. It is supposed to make sure oil companies are prepared to handle spills, but as The Associated Press is reporting, a rule change two years ago by MMS let BP avoid filing a plan dealing with the kind of blowout/spill pouring into Gulf waters at a daily rate of 200,000+ gallons.

Former Earthjustice attorney Robert Wiygul, now an environmental lawyer in Mississippi, told AP:

The lack of a blowout scenario "is kind of an outrageous omission, because you're drilling in extremely deep waters, where by definition you're looking for very large reservoirs to justify the cost.

"If the MMS was allowing companies to drill in this ultra-deep situation without a blowout scenario, then it seems clear they weren't doing the job they were tasked with," he said.

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