Posts tagged: environmental justice

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

environmental justice


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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 Abby Rubinson's blog posts
04 April 2014, 3:45 PM
Indigenous people had no voice in losing their land to dam
Ngöbe indigenous people are protesting a dam that will displace their homes. (Earthjustice Photo)

“It’s been two months,” Ngöbe indigenous leader Weni Bagama told me this week, describing the Ngöbe indigenous community members who are camping alongside the banks of the Tabasará River. They are there in protest of the Barro Blanco dam, which will flood indigenous Ngöbe families—including Ms. Bagama’s—from their land. Aside from homes, a school, and cultural sites, this land of lush, leafy vegetation provides their primary source of food.

These families are concerned about their future if the dam is built. Yet they never had a chance to raise these concerns to their government, even though international law prohibits forced relocation of indigenous peoples without their consent. The Panamanian government approved the Barro Blanco project without consulting these Ngöbe communities.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
28 March 2014, 11:41 AM
Concerned communities fight back
Vice Mayor Linda Maio, joined by Mayor Tom Bates and Council member Darryl Moore, speaks out in support of resident opposition to a proposed crude by rail project. (Mauricio Castillo / Earthjustice)

Is crude by rail coming to a town near me?

For weeks, I’ve been asking myself that question as I kept hearing about the skyrocketing number of trains that are transporting crude oil throughout the U.S. to east and west coast export facilities.

And I’m not alone.

This week, I attended a protest by my fellow neighbors in Berkeley, California, to stop crude by rail shipments coming through our town. The crude oil boom is brought on by fracking in North Dakota and drilling in Canada’s Alberta tar sands. Both forms of crude are hazardous—Bakken shale crude from North Dakota is highly flammable and tar sands oil is extremely corrosive and also difficult to clean up.

Not surprisingly, once people hear how explosive and dangerous this crude can be when spilled, they really don’t want it traveling through their main streets…or anywhere else. But travel it does. Hundreds of miles, in fact, through rural towns and along main streets, along densely populated areas like Chicago and Albany, and even inside windswept and vulnerable wild lands like Montana’s Glacier National Park.

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View Will Rostov's blog posts
14 March 2014, 8:25 AM
Groups challenge law restricting power plant review
New natural gas power plants are among the largest new stationary sources of air pollution in California. (CA DOJ)

Today we filed an appeal challenging a California law that severely restricts the public’s ability to dispute the California Energy Commission’s green-lighting of new power plants. As a general rule, the public may seek judicial review for most state agency decisions in the trial courts. This process serves as a critical tool in efforts to protect the environment from harmful state agency decision-making.

Under current law, however, once the California Energy Commission permits a natural gas power plant, the public’s only recourse is to appeal the Commission’s decision to the California Supreme Court, the state’s highest court. This avenue is fundamentally different from challenges the public may bring to nearly every other type of state agency decision-making, which are typically appealed to a trial court or in some instances to a court of appeal.

The problem with this procedure lies in the fact that the state’s highest court has the power to dismiss challenges to power plant location or “siting” approvals without hearing the cases at all, and without giving any explanation. In fact, since 2001, the state’s Supreme Court has rejected every challenge to a power plant siting decision under the law at issue. Put simply, the California high court refuses to hear these cases.

View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
25 February 2014, 12:50 PM
Years of activism resulted in historic Clinton executive directive
President Clinton signs Executive Order 12898 in 1994. (EPA Photo)

In 1982, when I was a young lawyer in North Carolina, the state had to clean up miles of roadsides where toxic PCBs had been illegally dumped. The state decided to dispose of the toxic waste in a landfill which it proposed to place in a predominantly low-income African-American community in Warren County, far from where the clean-up was occurring. The decision sparked protests from the community, and activists from the broader civil rights world joined the fight.

That fight in Warren County crystallized for many in the environmental and civil rights communities a recognition of the pattern of subjecting communities of color and low-income communities with the environmental and public health burdens of our industrial society. From this seed and others like it, the environmental justice movement was born.

View Andrea Delgado's blog posts
24 February 2014, 5:09 PM
When it comes to farmworker protection, EPA proposal is out of touch
Farmworkers picking strawberries in Wayne County, NY. (Photo courtesy of Alina Diaz / Alianza Nacional de Campesinas)

After more than two decades, the Environmental Protection Agency announced revisions to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, an outdated standard intended to protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure.

While advocates welcomed signs of life in the Obama administration’s progress to provide stronger protections from pesticides for approximately 2 million farmworkers, the proposal raises questions about the EPA’s understanding of the population the WPS is meant to serve.

View Jessica Hodge's blog posts
18 February 2014, 2:34 PM
"A Lethal Dose of Smoke And Mirrors: Going home for better or worse"
Kelley holds a picture of the air pollution in Port Arthur, TX. (Matt Roth / Earthjustice)

Taking his work to the next level, Clean Air Ambassador Hilton Kelley has completed a book, A Lethal Dose of Smoke And Mirrors: Going home for better or worse, that chronicles his decision to leave Hollywood and take on powerful industrial polluters in his hometown, Port Arthur, Texas. Hilton—the first African-American man to win the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize—tells how he single-handedly made great strides to improve the health and environment in Port Arthur.

A city of some 50,000 residents, Port Arthur is situated on Texas’ Gulf Coast and was once home to the largest network of oil refineries in the world. Residents are surrounded by oil refineries, chemical plants and a hazardous waste incinerator, and they suffer ill health effects from living with disproportionately high levels of toxic air, including cancer-causing chemical compounds.

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View Tom Turner's blog posts
14 February 2014, 1:15 PM
Volatile rail traffic greatly increases explosion, toxic pollution risks
The fireball that followed the derailment and explosion of two trains, one carrying Bakken crude oil, on December 30, 2013, outside Casselton, ND. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration)

Maybe you've seen the riveting photographs of fireballs and burning houses and oiled and blackened streams and marshes. Train cars carrying crude oil have been derailing and exploding with frightening frequency lately, in Canada and North Dakota and Alabama and Philadelphia.

There are fears that Albany, capital of the great state of New York, may be next in line.

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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
06 February 2014, 11:20 AM
Duke Energy dumps 8,000 pounds of arsenic into the Dan River
Aerial view of contamination of the Dan River. (Photo courtesy of Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins)

The EPA doesn’t need yet another reason to require the safe closure of the nation’s 1,070 coal ash ponds. But the massive leak of 82,000 tons of toxic coal ash from Duke Energy’s Dan River Power Station this week should set off a siren to wake our sleeping regulators.

Duke closed this North Carolina power plant in 2012, leaving its 58-year old, unlined coal ash pond containing about 100 million gallons of toxic ash open to the elements. The catastrophic spill should have been no surprise. The news comes just days after the EPA settled a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice and 11 other groups to finalize the first-ever federal protections from coal ash.

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View Suma Peesapati's blog posts
31 December 2013, 10:03 AM
The journey towards a clean energy future in New Mexico
The Four Corners Power Plant has been operating without modern pollution controls for the past fifty years. (Photo courtesy of Ecoflight)

Arizona Public Service Company officially announced yesterday that it will retire Units 1, 2, and 3 of the Four Corners Power Plant by January 1, 2014 and install long-overdue pollution controls on the plant’s remaining two units by July 31, 2018.

Built before the Clean Air Act was enacted, this coal plant has been operating without modern pollution controls for the past fifty years. Uncontrolled pollution from this plant threatens the health of its Navajo neighbors and mars visibility in surrounding national parks, including the iconic Grand Canyon. Retirement of three of the plant’s units is an important step forward for environmental justice, protection of public lands, and our ongoing struggle against climate change.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
23 December 2013, 3:27 PM
Our litigation forces protections where political leaders fail us
Many environmental and public health safeguards still await approval, more than a year after the election. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The White House “systematically” delayed finalizing a host of environmental and public health safeguards for political reasons before the 2012 election, reported The Washington Post last February. With many of these rules still awaiting approvals more than a year after the election, the Post recently revisited its investigation into the politics of continued White House delays.

The latest article, by Juliet Eilperin, delves into the findings of a new independent report that concludes President Obama’s White House has injected new layers of White House intervention, politics, and control over basic federal agency duties and regulations. Among the hostages of this political slowdown are Environmental Protection Agency responsibilities to protect the public from toxic coal ash waste, cement factories and other industrial facilities, and smog.

While some in Washington, D.C., would see these environmental rules as opportunity for politicking and power play, elsewhere in the nation, communities and families are feeling the pain of delay.