Posts tagged: environmental justice

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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 Chris Jordan-Bloch's blog posts
04 June 2013, 3:47 PM
Landmark law moves Nevada from coal to renewables

"It felt like I was waking up from a nightmare. I wasn't really sure what was true or false. I was confused. My heart was racing. I was excited. Maybe, I thought, this nightmare is over."

This is what Vickie Simmons remembers feeling when she first heard that the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant might be closing. Simmons is a leading member of the Moapa Band of Paiutes Health and Environmental Committee, and for years she and the rest of the Paiute tribe have lived in the shadow of Reid Gardner’s smokestacks and waste pits. They have paid incredible health costs and reaped little economic benefits.

But Simmons is right - the nightmare is ending.

 Photo of Vickie Simmons by Chris Jordan-Bloch

(Photo of Vickie Simmons by Chris Jordan-Bloch)

93 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
17 May 2013, 9:35 AM
Ambassadors from every state arrive en masse to buttonhole congress reps
The grassroots campaign involved ambassadors from every state, plus D.C. and Puerto Rico.

A few days ago, a fierce army invaded Washington, D.C. to ask our representatives for something very simple: restore our right to breathe clean air.

This modest proposal came from more than 100 “clean air ambassadors” who know the cost of dirty air all too well. Take Hilton Kelley from Port Arthur, Texas, which is home to more than five large refineries, six chemical plants and an incinerator. In his community, one out of every five households has a child suffering from asthma and other contaminated-air-related illnesses. One day, after having moved away from his home town years ago, he looked in the mirror and asked himself, “If I’m not going to do anything about the conditions in Port Arthur, how can I expect anyone else to?”

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
03 May 2013, 11:00 AM
When the town's toilets flush, guess what ends up in African-American yards
Nine residents of Rochelle, GA are suing their city government for discharging the city's raw sewage onto their properties.

Alisa Coe and Bradley Marshall—attorneys in our Florida office—took off on a two-hour drive last month and ended up 60 years away in the rural Georgia town of Rochelle, where black people live on one side of a railroad track and whites on the other.

You’ve heard of this place if you pay attention to news; last weekend the national media was reporting on the local high school’s first interracial prom … ever.

But even as the media focused on the prom, Alisa and Bradley faced up to the town’s mayor and chief of police, who bullied the two attorneys as they investigated claims that the city’s sewer system routinely dumps raw sewage into the streets and yards of the black community (but not the white community). The mayor used his car to block the attorneys’ car when they drove into a black neighborhood, and then screamed and threatened them with arrest. The chief of police pulled up with his lights flashing and told the duo to call him before coming back to Rochelle.

Those fellas obviously didn’t know who they were messing with.

389 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Daniel Hubbell's blog posts
29 April 2013, 1:16 PM
Three stories from around the world
The 2013 Goldman Prize recipients.  (Courtesy of the Goldman Environmental Prize)

It is easy sometimes to feel like the problems of the world are just too large for any one person to tackle. Whether it is a global issue like climate change or more local struggles against ancient coal plants polluting the neighborhood, it feels like there are always powerful interests standing in the way. That’s why I am thankful for the Goldman Environmental Prize because it shows us just how incredible a difference one caring person can make.

Founded in 1989 by Richard and Rhoda Goldman, the Goldman prize recognizes those environmental heroes who have worked tirelessly to safeguard the environment and improve the lives of everyone in their communities. It offers a chance for those who have gone unsung for years to get the support they need to take their grassroots vision of change further, as these problems are often far too common. I had the good fortune to hear three of this year’s winners speak recently, and all of their stories are incredible.

View Liz Judge's blog posts
24 April 2013, 9:48 AM
Unanimous panel of judges rule for EPA in coal industry lawsuit

Great news!

Yesterday, citizens in Appalachia celebrated a huge victory in their fight to protect their families and communities from harmful mountaintop removal mining. In a sharp 15-page ruling, a panel of three Republican-appointed judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously upheld the Environment Protection Agency’s veto of the permit for the Spruce No. 1 mine, the largest proposed mountaintop removal mine in West Virginia. Earthjustice, along with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, represented a handful of community and citizen groups in this case.

This court decision comes after 15 years of court challenges by community groups whose members were in fallout zone of the proposed mine. It’s a precedent-setting decision and historic: The Spruce Mine permit is the first mountaintop removal mining permit ever challenged in courts.

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View Andrea Delgado's blog posts
29 March 2013, 2:26 PM
Injustices plague farmworkers while administration turns a blind eye
Cesar E. Chavez warned about the perils of pesticides. (Joel Levine)

The agriculture industry relies heavily on the use of pesticides, which are highly toxic chemicals that farmworkers and surrounding communities are frequently exposed to through simply doing their jobs or living near agricultural sites. Pesticides enter the body through inhalation and penetration of the skin. The latest statistics indicate that in 2007, 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides were used in the United States, and 80 percent were destined for agriculture. Among these, 33 million pounds were organophosphates, a particularly pernicious class of pesticides that are the most frequent culprits of acute poisonings of farmworkers.

Our nation’s farmworkers live and work at ground zero for pesticide exposure.  In a 1989 speech before Pacific Lutheran University, Cesar E. Chavez, a beloved labor and civil rights leader and an indefatigable voice for farmworkers, warned about the perils of pesticides and called on the nation to recognize the challenges that plague farmworkers, such as fighting for higher wages and improved working conditions. We’d be ignoring a greater evil if we failed to protect them from “systematic poisoning through the reckless use of agricultural toxics.”  In raising the urgency to protect farmworkers, their families and surrounding rural communities from pesticides, he shared stories of workers collapsing and dying after entering recently sprayed fields, children with birth defects and neurological problems and cancer. Meanwhile, workers were repeatedly told that the pesticides they were frequently exposed to were merely plant “medicine” they need not fear.  

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
15 March 2013, 3:45 PM
Politics have kept key federal court judgeships vacant
Four of the D.C. Circuit Court's 11 seats have been left vacant due to congressional obstruction. (DOJ)

Over the past four years, the federal halls of justice have been left partially hollow as the number of judicial vacancies in the federal courts continues to mount—due to foot-dragging on nominations and partisan filibuster once nominations are made. These vacancies hobble the courts’ ability to do their core work, which includes determining the fate of our most important environmental protections.

Take, for example, President Obama’s nomination of Caitlin Halligan for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In 2010, the president nominated Halligan, praising her “excellence and unwavering integrity,” yet two years later the Senate has twice refused to confirm her to this environmentally critical court. Halligan, a distinguished litigator who has argued five cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, is well-qualified for a seat on the D.C. Circuit. Yet despite bipartisan support and several high profile endorsements from law enforcement organizations and leaders, last week Halligan was forced to suffer through a second politically motivated filibuster that Senate GOP’s justified by willfully misrepresenting her record.

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View Daniel Hubbell's blog posts
27 February 2013, 7:42 AM
Mercury and Air Toxics Standards under industry attack
68% of African Americans live within 30 miles of coal fired power plants, our nation's worst toxic polluters.

Even in today’s divided political climate, taking a stance against mercury and arsenic in our air does not seem like it should be controversial. The gasses, along with other known toxics like chromium, cadmium and selenium are among 84 known air pollutants emitted every year by coal and oil fired power plants.

They have cost us dearly, resulting in as many as 11,000 premature deaths, 5,000 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks annually. If we talk about the economy, these pollutants are responsible for 540,000 missed days of work. All this in addition to the terrible havoc these pollutants wreak on ecosystems.

It isn’t like this is a new problem, either. When the Clean Air Act was amended in 1990 it called for new Mercury Air Toxic Standards. A decade overdue, these standards have finally arrived to help us prevent such unnecessary suffering and pain. This is hardly an unprecedented step; the changes were based on protections many power plants had already enacted. All of this makes the barrage of lawsuits industry is filing to delay or dismantle these new standards more perplexing.

Against these legal assaults we are proud to stand alongside the NAACP and 16 other national and state medical, civil rights, environmental, public health and clean air groups.

View Liz Judge's blog posts
26 February 2013, 10:23 AM
Not enough change since historic disaster
The Buffalo Creek disaster destroyed 4,000 homes in 16 towns.  (WV Div. of Culture & History)

Forty-one years ago, today, a dam holding 132 million gallons of toxic liquid coal waste ruptured high up in the mountains of West Virginia, loosing a tsunami-like death wave of coal waste and chemical sludge that destroyed 4,000 homes in 16 towns, injured more than 1,000 people, and killed 125. Seven bodies were never found. This remarkable Charleston Gazette series shares the stories of the people who were affected by this horrific tragedy.

The Buffalo Creek disaster was one of the deadliest floods in American history, but unlike natural floods, it was a man-made disaster caused by corporate negligence, regulatory agency corruption and failure, and an ill-begotten idea of industrial waste disposal. Today, many of the circumstances that led to that disaster still persist, but sludge dams are several times larger. 

View Angela Garrone's blog posts
12 February 2013, 12:30 PM
Equips communities on how to take on coal burning

Note from Lisa Evans: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) last week released the "Coal Blooded Action Toolkit," which is a companion to its report, Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People, published jointly by the NAACP and Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and the Indigenous Environmental Network last November.

The 2012 report found low-income communities and communities of color are more likely to suffer the damaging effects caused by coal plant operations, including the disposal of toxic coal ash. Expressly designed for grassroots communities, the Coal Blooded Action Toolkit is a step-by-step guide on how to take action to address pollution from coal fired power plants, covering investigation, raising community awareness, litigation, direct action and much more. It is essential reading for those who care about protecting communities from toxic pollution and defending civil and human rights violated by the burning of coal.

The following Tr-Ash Talk guest post is written by Angela Garrone, Southeast Energy Research Attorney for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy:

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), in conjunction with Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and the Indigenous Environmental Network, released a report analyzing sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in conjunction with demographic factors, including race, income and population density. The report, entitled “Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People,” demonstrates the urgent need for community action focused on shutting down coal plants located in low-income communities and communities of color.