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 Neil Gormley's blog posts
03 January 2013, 3:26 PM
Why this destructive practice is holding Appalachia back
Satellite imagery of the massive Hobet mine. September 20, 2012. (NASA's Earth Observatory)

Last month, Earthjustice Associate Attorney Neil Gormley took a trip to West Virginia to visit partners and clients and to see the effects of mountaintop removal mining first-hand. As he explains in this unEarthed entry, his visit prompted questions about the relationship between this destructive practice and regional poverty.

The Hobet mining complex is one of the largest mountaintop removal surface mines in the country. It was my destination last month when I took off from Charleston’s Yeager Airport in a four-seater Cessna, courtesy of Earthjustice’s partners at SouthWings.

Neil Gromley.Neil, on board the SouthWings plane.

Hobet is huge. Between current and past mining, it spans more than 15 square miles. At the time of my visit, miners were operating a dragline, an earth-moving machine so enormous it dwarfed the 240-ton dump trucks. The destruction is impossible to miss from above. Yet the mine is barely visible from the state highway that runs along its eastern perimeter. It’s shielded from view by a tall ridgeline, sparing most passers-by the eyesore.

Hobet mine.

Aerial view of the Hobet mine.  (Neil Gormley / Earthjustice via Southwings)
View Lisa Evans's blog posts
30 December 2012, 9:20 PM
But EPA must not leave the job half done
Outgoing EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.  (The National Academy of Sciences)

During her four-year tenure as administrator of the EPA, Lisa Jackson was a true champion for public health and environmental justice.

One of her greatest legacies is the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, a rule that will help Americans breathe a little easier since it sharply limits the amount of mercury and other toxic metals that can be emitted by coal-fired power plants. The rule finally requires the capture of mercury, arsenic, hexavalent chromium, nickel, selenium and other heavy metals at the plant smokestacks.

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View Maria Beloborodova's blog posts
27 December 2012, 10:00 AM
Readers were most inspired by stories of the wild
Two of the first five calves born at Ft. Peck Indian reservation this year. (Bill Campbell)

Blog posts about Earth's magnificent places and creatures were the most popular themes for unEarthed readers in 2012. By far the most-read post concerned Arctic drilling, followed by reports of bison being restored and wolves losing protection. Not shown in our top 10 blog posts, below, are the delightful tales of curious critters painted in words by our own Shirley Hao. Posts written years ago by Shirley are still being discovered and read by thousands of people every year.

And, now, for your enjoyment, we present our most-read posts of 2012:

View Stephanie Maddin's blog posts
24 December 2012, 11:49 AM
Health of thousands put on hold by weak agency action
Alexandra Allred. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

“…My son's school would be named in a USA Today report as being in the upper 1 percent of the most toxic schools in the nation—the same school I butted heads with cement plant executives about being under the toxic plumes while children were at recess.”

– Alex Allred,
50 States United Clean Air Ambassador from Texas

We are taught as children to play fair and to follow the rules. Apparently, everyone doesn’t get the same life lessons. For communities in the shadow of cement plant pollution, the rules of engagement seem to change when it comes to Clean Air Act protections. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency decided to both weaken and delay an already overdue standard to clean up toxic cement plant emissions.

The decision was legally indefensible with a federal court requesting small technical changes to the standard. These plants emit dangerous levels mercury, lead, dioxin, benzene and fine particulate matter (soot) and are responsible for up to 2,500 premature deaths each year.

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View Stephanie Maddin's blog posts
14 December 2012, 4:56 PM
Rule will save up to thousands of lives
Soot is composed of tiny microscopic particles that penetrate deep within the lungs often triggering respiratory harm and even premature death. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

No one likes to breathe dirty and polluted air. Unfortunately, for some communities there may be little to no choice.

But today, the EPA took a step in the right direction to clean up soot pollution and protect millions of Americans forced to breathe dirty air. Administrator Lisa Jackson announced a tightened standard that will limit soot pollution in many major metropolitan areas across the country, cleaning up the smokestacks and tailpipes that belch out this dirty pollution.

The current standard, set in 1997, is outdated, prompting our legal action against the EPA. Last year, we partnered with the American Nurses Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Hip Hop Caucus, and the National Council of Churches to collectively call on Congress and federal regulators to protect citizens from preventable air pollution. This effort, dubbed 50 States United for Healthy Air educated stakeholders on the need for strong clean air protections for all Americans. Thankfully, some voices on Capitol Hill got the message and called on the EPA to set forth strong soot standards.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
04 December 2012, 3:36 PM
Disproportionate burden of coal plant emissions placed on such communities

The results of a comprehensive study investigating the impacts of living near 378 coal plants in the United States have found that people of color and low-income communities are disproportionately more burdened by this pollution than any other segment of the population. Coal Blooded was pulled together by the NAACP, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and the Indigenous Environmental Network.

View Daniel Hubbell's blog posts
20 November 2012, 2:37 PM
Cancer-causing chemical threatens lungs of many
Chromium plating facilities emit high levels of the carcinogen into local communities.  (Neal Sanche)

Chromium shows up in surprising places in modern society—most notably on car bumpers and furniture to improve how they look. Too often, the facilities that do this kind of plating put the carcinogen hexavalent chromium into the air in local communities where they operate.

The highly toxic chemical was made infamous by Erin Brockovich’s work on a California case where hexavalent chromium leaked into a town’s drinking water. The case resulted in action against Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which settled for several hundred million dollars. Yet that case has hardly been the only incident, or the only way, that hexavalent chromium from these facilities can affect people’s health.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
16 November 2012, 1:09 PM
4 years after the Tennessee coal ash spill, problems continue to grow
Aerial view of the devastating 2008 coal ash disaster in Tennessee. (TVA)

Four years ago, a small Tennessee town woke up to a nightmare. A nearby coal ash pond that held back more than a billion gallons of toxic waste collapsed, sending a flood of ash and dirt right through their doors. In the weeks and months that followed, an entire nation began to see the magnitude of the coal ash threat.

Cleaning up the Clinch River near Kingston, TN, continues. Just last week, the Tennessee Valley Authority—the owners of the coal ash dam that burst—announced plans to let nature take its course in removing the remaining half a million tons of ash.  Coal ash activist, Watauga Riverkeeper and Earthjustice client Donna Lisenby summed it up best: "Five hundred cubic yards is enough coal ash to fill a football field almost 94 feet high from end zone to end zone. Coal ash contains arsenic, lead, chromium and many other toxic pollutants. Leaving that much ash in the river system to combine with all the other legacy pollutants just increases the total pollutant load."

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
16 November 2012, 12:54 PM
Historic agreement signals beginning of end for tragic mining practice

Yesterday, one of the nation’s top coal companies, Patriot Coal, announced that it is getting out of the business of mountaintop removal mining. The decision comes out of a settlement with several Appalachian community groupsWest Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Sierra Club, represented by Appalachian Mountain Advocates—requiring Patriot to clean up toxic selenium pollution running off into streams and rivers from two mountaintop removal sites in West Virginia.

This news marks the beginning of the end of mountaintop removal mining. This is the first time a coal company is publicly acknowledging community impacts of this destructive and extreme form of mining. Now, it's up to all of us to finish the job and demand that our nation's leaders in the White House and in Congress end mountaintop removal before coal companies do more damage. They shouldn't be left to their own timelines: We need to work to end this sooner.

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
12 November 2012, 9:26 AM
Without a clean energy future, more Sandys could be the future
Homes damaged by superstorm Sandy. (FEMA)

While for many in the country, thoughts of Hurricane Sandy are being replaced by thoughts of the election, football, or the Thanksgiving holiday, for the tens of thousands of people in New York and New Jersey, survival and their families' well-being are still the urgent thoughts.

Two weeks after the storm, more than 68,000 people in the path of superstorm Sandy were still without power. Eighty-five died during Sandy and many are still suffering from the total loss of their homes and belongings, lack of food, heat, clothes, gas and more. At the worst point, the Long Island Power Authority reported that 8.5 million homes and businesses in the region were powerless. Gas rationing took over in the New York city area, and a blustery, snowy nor’easter storm left many shivering to stay warm without heat.

The tremendous costs of Sandy are still growing. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo estimated that Sandy will cost the state of New York $33 billion. New Jersey’s best estimates approach $50 billion. All combined, Sandy was the second most costly storm in U.S. history, just behind Katrina. The area affected by Sandy produces fully one-fifth of our nation’s GDP, so the economic implications of this storm have yet to be fully realized. It’s clearly in our entire nation’s best interest to do everything we can to get this region up and running and back to business as quickly as possible.

To deny that Sandy was intensified because of climate change would be to deny science. Rising ocean temperatures and sea levels make storms like Sandy more powerful and disastrous.

An aerial view of Breezy Point and Long Beach, NY, Nov. 12, 2012. (U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley / Department of Defense)

An aerial view of Breezy Point and Long Beach, NY, Nov. 12, 2012.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley / Department of Defense)