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 Debra Mayfield's blog posts
23 December 2013, 10:04 AM
Harriman, TN residents are not the only ones dealing with legacy of the spill
Esther Calhoun is one of many community members who are fighting for health protections to be enforced at the Arrowhead Landfill. (Photo by Chris Jordan-Bloch)

It’s been five years, but hard to forget: On December 22, 2008, just after midnight, the town of Harriman, Tennessee woke to the flood of more than one billion gallons of toxic coal ash sludge that burst through an earthen dam on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant. It was one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history—its volume 101 times larger than that of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. One resident described the boom of the breach as something supernatural, like the sound of the end of the world. The disaster damaged or destroyed two dozen homes, destroyed power lines, washed out roads, ruptured a major gas line and water main, and killed thousands of fish and other wildlife.

Harriman residents were dealing with a monumental disaster. But in the long saga of cleanup and recovery, they weren’t the only ones dealing with the legacy of this spill.

Flash forward to 2010. Only a small percentage of the ash had been cleaned up, and residents of Harriman were losing patience. Though local papers reported that TVA had considered keeping the coal ash within state lines, with the approval of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), they chose to move the 4 million cubic yards of poisonous ash across state lines and dump it at the Arrowhead Landfill in Perry County Alabama, a county that is 68 percent African American, according to the 2010 Census and one of the poorest in that state.

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View Sarah Saylor's blog posts
08 November 2013, 1:08 PM
Citizens give EPA an earful at carbon pollution listening sessions
Hundreds spoke during the public listening sessions on carbon pollution controls. (Photo courtesy of Moms Clean Air Force)

At the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's listening session regarding carbon pollution controls from existing power plants, I put myself in EPA’s shoes and did some real listening. It turns out the list of what may be lost and what must be protected by such a rule is not as short as we sometimes make it in the name of expediency.

Hundreds of people spoke in Washington, D.C., and thousands have spoken at the 10 other listening sessions the EPA is conducting across the country. Below are just 55 reasons*—one for every state and territory in our nation—for the EPA to take bold strides when it comes to limiting carbon pollution:

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
21 October 2013, 5:44 PM
Joins in encouraging mayor to allow ordinance to become law
Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety are prepared to defend the bill if any companies challenge it in court.  (Toa55 / Shutterstock)

It took the Kauaʻi County Council 19 hours to decide to pass, by a vote of 6–1, a controversial ordinance that would restrict the use of pesticides near sensitive areas by companies developing GMO crops, and require them to disclose the chemicals they use and the engineered crops they are growing.

And while Kauaʻi Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. must approve the ordinance for it to become law, Earthjustice Attorney Paul Achitoff and George Kimbrell, senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety, sent a letter to the mayor urging him to approve the legislation. The letter states that both lawyers are prepared to intervene on behalf of community groups to defend the bill if any companies challenge the bill in court.

View Kristen Boyles's blog posts
01 October 2013, 7:13 AM
More than 10 years of court fights rids fields of deadly pesticide
Blueberries were among the crops that saw the last remaining uses of the pesticide AZM. (Braker / Flickr)

Finally. Yesterday—Sept. 30—was the last day that the highly toxic pesticide AZM could be used in the United States. This pesticide, originally developed as a nerve gas, has been poisoning people, particularly farmworkers, and insects for decades.

AZM disrupts the nervous system and causes a range of temporarily debilitating responses—splitting headache, nausea, vomiting, uncontrollable sweats, blurry vision, dizziness, unconsciousness—and even such grave long-term effects as paralysis, and death.

It took more than 10 years of farmworker activism and legal proceedings to rid our country of this neurotoxic insecticide. AZM was last legally used on apples, cherries, pears, blueberries and parsley, with the highest uses occurring in Washington, Oregon, California, Michigan, and New York.

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View Jessica Lawrence's blog posts
23 September 2013, 3:18 PM
Recommendations from UN human rights expert
James Anaya is the United Nation's Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. (UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)

A longstanding goal of Earthjustice and the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) has been to sound alarms at the United Nations, in national courtrooms and in international fora such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights about environmental and human rights violations associated with mines and dams. Indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of such extractive and energy industries in their territories.

Last April, Earthjustice and AIDA provided evidence of these harms, as well as recommendations about how to avoid them, to U.N. indigenous rights expert James Anaya, who recently issued a report on extractive and energy industries and indigenous peoples.

View Adrian Martinez's blog posts
17 September 2013, 10:55 AM
Reports says 40% of state residents live near high-travel roads

A paper published last night in the Journal of Transportation Research Part D: Transport and the Environment identifies how many people are impacted by highway pollution in the United States. The paper finds that 19.3 percent of the U.S. population lives within 500 meters of a high volume road.

The findings are important for public health because regulators have been slow to remedy the ample scientific evidence demonstrating high levels of air pollutants near major roadways.

The research is all the more important in a place like California where the study found that 40 percent of the state’s population lives near high volume roads—the biggest percentage of any state. Yet, air regulators in California have been slow to take initial steps to place air monitors near heavily trafficked roadways.

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View Adrian Martinez's blog posts
28 August 2013, 3:32 PM
Plans for urban growth must address community impacts
The Port of Oakland, the fifth busiest container port in the country, is adjacent to community neighborhoods.  (Esther Dyson)

Last week, my colleagues in San Francisco filed a lawsuit against Plan Bay Area on behalf of Sierra Club along with Communities for a Better Environment. Plan Bay Area is the master transportation plan for the San Francisco Bay region. It’s an important plan because of its far-reaching scope covering transportation planning through 2040.

In another part of California last week, Jamie Holter, a transportation analyst, wrote an L.A. Times op-ed calling on people in Los Angeles to treat every day like “Carmageddon.” Holter made the point that the data he crunches shows that when there is a will, there is a way to change the way we move throughout our cities.

It is no coincidence that transportation issues receive so much attention in the nation’s first- and third-most congested cities, Los Angeles and San Francisco respectively. We are at a critical crossroads for the health of the planet and the health of our communities. There are no better metropolitan regions to lead a transformation than Los Angeles and San Francisco. California’s strong efforts to combat harmful climate pollution make these two large urban centers the perfect places to advance a modern vision for transportation.

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View Marty Hayden's blog posts
19 July 2013, 2:59 PM
Gina McCarthy chosen to protect our air, land, water
Gina McCarthy is our nation's new EPA Administrator. (EPA)

The partisan antics of a few in the Senate finally halted to allow confirmation of a new and well-qualified Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy.

This Senate confirmation means that, finally, after months of political obstruction by the Congressional friends of big polluters, we have a new administrator to deliver the public health and environmental protections that we all deserve. And, boy, does she have her work cut out.

Thank you for the phone calls you made to push for this confirmation and the letters you wrote to back these polluter cronies down off their agenda to block any and all progress in cleaning up our nation’s energy landscape, our waters, our air, and combating climate change.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
15 July 2013, 5:31 AM
Farmworkers from across the nation come to D.C. to secure safeguards from toxic pesticides
A cropduster sprays chemicals over agricultural fields. (Brian Brown Images)

This is the first in a two part series on protections for farmworkers from pesticides.

Read part two, Farmworker Mother To EPA: We Deserve Protections, and the accompanying special feature, Pesticides: The Workplace Hazard The EPA Is Ignoring.

 

If the apples in your local store are bug-free because of pesticides, then you might ask who the pesticides hurt before the apples left the farm. That’s because many pesticides are toxic enough to seriously harm the humans who work in the orchards.

A growing number of Americans recognize the hazards of toxic chemicals and as a result have reduced their consumption of produce grown with pesticides to protect their family’s health. But while U.S. consumers are finding ways to protect themselves, far too little is being done to protect farmworkers, who are on the frontlines of exposure to high levels of toxic pesticides.

To address this urgent need, this week farmworkers from across the nation are meeting in Washington, D.C. with their members of Congress to call for stronger protections from hazardous pesticides. These farmworkers and their allies seek to strengthen the Worker Protection Standard under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, a set of outdated safeguards the Environmental Protection Agency has failed to revise for more than 20 years despite overwhelming evidence of their inadequacy.

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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
07 June 2013, 12:55 PM
HR 2218 harms public health, environment

Reps. David McKinley (R-WV) and John Shimkus (R-IL) are on a mission to ram through an anti-public health, anti-public safety and anti-environmental coal ash bill.

After filing their trifecta on the evening of June 3, the House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy voted on June 6 to pass HR 2218, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013 (“CRRM”), a complicated bill designed to prevent the EPA from ever regulating coal ash.