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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.

ABOUT EARTHJUSTICE'S BLOG

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 Liz Judge's blog posts
08 August 2012, 1:00 PM
Some love stories captured on video

She said, “Do you cheat on me?”
He said, “Sure I do.”

“Do I know her?"
“Sure you do.”

“Is she pretty?”
“Most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

“What’s her name?”
He said, “Kayford Mountain, prettiest lady I ever met.”

This is the story of a man who fell in love with a mountain and his struggle to keep it and all mountains from being destroyed by coal mining.

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View Kelsey Oliver's blog posts
03 August 2012, 2:02 PM
Cousteau legacy aids fight against mountaintop removal mining
Alexandra Cousteau.

One of the biggest threats to water in Appalachia is mountaintop removal. Entire communities have had their water poisoned by runoff from mountaintop removal sites. Says Alexandra Cousteau:

For this reason, I unequivocally extend my support to promoting the discussion on the dangers of mountaintop removal and raising awareness of its devastating impacts not only on the environment—but also the communities downstream.

Mountaintop removal has gained notoriety for contaminating precious water resources. Mountain Hero Junior Walk has talked about how the blasting of mountains contaminated his family’s water; we also saw Amber Whittington write in her story, “I didn’t fully comprehend the effects of mountaintop removal until it got to the water in our home. I would open up the tap, and I would see the water. It would have an orange tint and a horrible smell, like rotten eggs.”

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
01 August 2012, 6:19 AM
Environmental, health groups support two health protections
Newborns are especially vulnerable to the toxic flame retardant chemical PBDE. (Image of child via Shutterstock)

Last week we spoke about the weaknesses in the current law protecting Americans from toxic chemicals. Today we submitted comments to EPA urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to move forward with health protections that would regulate polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) which are a group of toxic flame retardants. The health-protective actions we are urging EPA to take would impose some of the most stringent restrictions permitted under the Toxic Substances Control Act, the flawed and obsolete statute that ties EPA’s hands in trying to ensure the safety of the chemicals that are produced and used in this country. The comments were prepared with Environmental Defense Fund on behalf of 33 other groups

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
27 July 2012, 1:18 AM
Plus: London smog, EPA’s petrified politics, grocery bill blues
Greenland's ice melt from July 8th (left image) to July 12 (right image). Photo courtesy of NASA

Greenland's record ice melt blows scientists’ beakers
The ice melt happening in Greenland right now is one for the record books, reports the UK Guardian. In fact, it’s so dramatic that even the scientists who have been staring at Greenland’s ice melt for decades were so surprised at just how fast the ice is melting that they thought they made a mistake in their data. They didn't. One group of researchers even had to rebuild their research camp after the snow and ice melted beneath their feet. Within a four-day period, the area of melting ice in Greenland increased from approximately 40 percent of the ice sheet surface to 97 percent. Typically, only about half of Greenland’s ice sheet melts during the summer. The unprecedented ice melt doesn’t bode well for those living near sea level, like, say, the almost four million Americans that live within just a few feet of high tide

London smog may send athletes sprinting for inhalers
As the Olympics in London heats up, the world’s best athletes are gearing up with top-notch running shoes, high-performance energy drinks...and their best inhalers, reports the UK Guardian. Health experts are warning that London’s forecast temperature of hot weather and easterly winds this week may result in a deadly combination that spikes smog pollution in the area, triggering breathing problems and scratchy throats. Also known as ground level ozone, smog is formed when sunlight reacts with oxygen and pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, which spews out of vehicle tailpipes and industry smokestacks. Though physicians often recommend that people reduce physical activity during really smoggy days, that’s not really an option for speedy, air-sucking Olympic athletes. Last fall, President Obama withdrew the EPA’s new smog standard, which would have tightened air toxics regulations and saved thousands of lives each year. Though the president cited economic concerns as the reason for his decision, it’s unclear whether he considered the economic impact of putting a smog-filled damper on the Olympics. As for the non-athletes attending the games this year who’d like to know when air pollution spikes, don’t worry. There’s an app for that.
 

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
24 July 2012, 1:11 PM
Chemicals aren't dangerous unless proven so
Firefighters are often exposed to a “chemical cocktail” of emissions from flame retardant chemicals. (BLS)

At a Senate hearing, today, about the EPA's authority to control exposures to toxic chemicals, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Cali.) wondered aloud: what would Americans say if asked whether they thought products containing poisonous chemicals are tested before being sold.

Most probably think there is a system in place to protect them from such products before they make their way into homes and bodies, Boxer guessed. “That a chemical has to be proven safe before it is used."

But that is not the case, she said. “In actuality, the EPA has to prove that it is unsafe.”

At an oversight hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, discussion focused on chemical flame retardants as a prime example of what is wrong with the federal law that regulates chemicals. The committee heard from an EPA official, a mother and legislator, scientist, San Francisco firefighter and talking heads for industry.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
20 July 2012, 12:23 PM
Emotional testimony strikes a poignant chord
Parents, kids, doctors, community members and health advocates attended the EPA hearing in Sacramento, speaking in favor of strong limits on soot.
(Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

"This morning's testimony was so moving, I wish I'd had tissues with me," said one speaker. "It never occurred to me that I would need them at an EPA public hearing."

And yet, I saw more than a few tear-stained cheeks when Lydia Rojas recounted the heartbreaking story of how her 15-year-old daughter lost her life because of a severe asthma attack. Fighting back her own tears, Rojas asked the Environmental Protection Agency officials present to do everything in their power to ensure that strong limits are placed on the amount of fine particle pollution—a.k.a. soot—that's in our air.

The room was packed when I arrived at the public hearing in downtown Sacramento—the second of only two such events across the country focused on EPA's recent proposal to further limit emissions of deadly air pollution. The first hearing happened on Tuesday in Philadelphia.

Over the course of the day, dozens of parents, kids, doctors, community members and health advocates spoke in favor of strong limits on soot. Jose Hernandez, a high-school football player and runner from Fresno, told the EPA panel how the winter-air gets thick with pollution, making practice difficult. In addition to his own shortness of breath, he notices difficulties related to dirty air in members of the youth soccer team that he coaches. "I want to make sure that when I have kids, they have every opportunity for a healthy future," he said. "We need to clean up the air so my child can live up to his or her fullest potential." (See a photo slideshow of the public hearing.)

Paul Cort speaks at the EPA hearing. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

Earthjustice attorney Paul Cort: "The thing that sticks with you most about the hearing today are the stories from people who are describing how air pollution affects them personally." (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)
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View Liz Judge's blog posts
20 July 2012, 8:38 AM
Stand with this literary giant and become a Mountain Hero, too

Fighting against mountaintop removal, this week we’re proud to announce the support of an incredibly strong woman: writer and activist Terry Tempest Williams. We know our supporters care deeply about the welfare of animals in the wild, and saw this vividly on our Facebook page when we highlighted the animals of Appalachia in a photo album on Facebook.

The Appalachian Mountains contain some of the richest assortment of wildlife in the country, from white-tailed deer to great horned owls. When these mountains are blown up by coal mining, not only are we losing the beautiful landscape, we are also destroying the habitat of the wildlife that make their home in Appalachia.

Following her own passion for wildlife, Williams has written on the lives of a clan of endangered prairie dogs, showing how they are the creators of “the most sophisticated animal language decoded so far.” Respect for life in all its myriad forms is a topic she argues for with sensitivity and detail.

View Kari Birdseye's blog posts
18 July 2012, 4:16 PM
Shell’s latest Arctic blunder
Noble Discoverer being towed away from land on July 14. (Photo courtesy of Kristjan Laxfoss)

U.S. Coast Guard divers are now on the way to Dutch Harbor, Alaska to inspect the 571-foot drill rig Noble Discoverer, which is scheduled to drill three exploratory wells in the American Arctic waters of the Chukchi Sea as early as August. The locals say it ran aground in the harbor in broad daylight on Saturday and took pictures to prove it. Shell Oil Co. says otherwise; it “lost its moorings and came close to the coast.” We’ll have to wait and see what the Coast Guard has to say about reasons for the mistake.

The company that can’t keep a ship in safely anchored in a harbor (in four-foot seas!) has had a tough couple of weeks. First the company told the federal government it based its nearshore and shoreline oil spill cleanup equipment on the “assumption” that the company will be able to recover 90 percent of any oil spill in the water, which helped get approval of the spill plans. Later Shell took it back and said it only expected to “encounter” 90 percent of the oil spilled, whatever that means. Then Shell asked the Coast Guard to let the company back out of its commitment to have its oil spill containment barge, the “Arctic Challenger,” meet the 100-year storm-worthy standard and instead drop to the less-stringent 10-year storm standard. And just last week, Shell said whoops, it can’t meet the air pollution standards imposed by it Clean Air Act permit and asked the federal government to lower them …

View Chris Jordan-Bloch's blog posts
13 July 2012, 11:01 AM
News report investigates coal ash pollution in Moapa
A cloud of coal ash looms in Moapa, NV. Photo: Chris Jordan-Bloch/Earthjustice

For years, white ash has been blowing across the desert from the Reid Gardner Power Plant right into the homes on the Moapa Paiute Indian Reservation. The Paiutes claim that this ashthe waste from the power plant—is making them sick. The power plant claims that the Paiutes are wrong. This week, a 3-part investigative series from KSNV, the NBC station in Las Vegas, examines the situation in Moapa from three sides. The Paiutes and the power plant each get their sayas does science.

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View Kelsey Oliver's blog posts
09 July 2012, 11:42 AM
Mountain Heroes are my inspiration

With the Fourth of July comes a resurgence of patriotism, fireworks, and tasty BBQs, but also the opportunity to reflect on what makes America so great. Here at Earthjustice, we like to think that part of what makes this nation so great are its mountains, our “purple mountain majesties,” and the uniquely American history embedded in those slopes and valleys.

As part of honoring America’s mountains, this week’s featured Mountain Hero is Iraq war veteran Jonathan Gensler, a former officer and native of West Virginia.

In his story, Jonathan reconnects the history of America to its mountains:

The battlefield at Blair, spread across the ridgelines slated for destruction, is the site of the momentous coal miner uprising that launched our nation’s workers’ rights movement and remains the largest violent uprising in our nation’s history since the Civil War. The importance of this site goes far beyond Logan County and is pivotal in understanding and remembering the struggles of our forefathers to give working men and women basic rights—a history the coal industry would also like us to forget.

Jonathan Gensler.

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