Posts tagged: Environmental Protection Agency

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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.


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
02 February 2012, 3:34 PM
Nothing compares to wetlands in terms of dollars saved, disasters prevented

In addition to being Groundhog Day, Feb. 2 is World Wetlands Day. Say what? An international day to celebrate swamps? If you’re scratching your head wondering why in the world we’d throw a party for swamps (and bogs and marshes and fens and floodplains and other wet, buggy places), here’s why:

Wetlands protect us. They’re our best buffer from floods and storms, better than any levees we could ever build -- after all, an acre of wetland can store 1–1.5 million gallons of floodwater. They are also our best pollution filter, absorbing the nasty stuff we can't drink and easing the workload for our man-made drinking water sanitation systems. And they keep our ecosystems alive, providing healthy habitats and resting places to the birds, critters and plants we need in order to continue to thrive in our own environment, wherever that may be.

Great thinkers all the whole world over recognized this more than 40 years ago when they came together in the Iranian city of Ramsar and signed a global treaty called the Ramsar Convention to protect the planet’s invaluable wetlands.

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View John McManus's blog posts
27 January 2012, 2:32 PM
Whales, other creatures imperiled by Navy's insensitivity
Grey whales are among the creatures threatened by sonar testing.

Environmental groups and some Indian tribes, represented by Earthjustice, have gone to court to get the U.S. Navy to change the way it trains off the West Coast to avoid harming whales, dolphins and porpoises.

The Navy currently has a permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service, allowing it to train from Northern California to the Canadian border. In its training, the Navy uses all kinds of weapon and surveillance tools, including mid-frequency sonar. This is super high-powered sonar blasts used to “see” underwater. The sound waves bounce off objects like the seafloor or enemy subs and the echo is picked up and read by the Navy ships.

The problem is that the high-powered underwater sound blasts can harass, injure or kill whales, dolphins and porpoises, which are already extremely sensitive to sound. These animals send and receive sound waves to “see” and communicate underwater. Their ability to pick up sound is so good that some whales can hear each other under water hundreds of miles apart.

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View Shirley Hao's blog posts
23 January 2012, 6:01 PM
When PM2.5 levels got 'crazy bad'
Beijing is under all that smog... somewhere... A sight for sore lungs. (William Veerbeek)

Just in time to ring in the Year of the Dragon, a few days ago, Beijing’s infamously murky air gained a long-awaited official index: real-time measurements of the city’s PM2.5 levels.

PM2.5 (also known as soot) are microscopic particulate matter that contribute to the pea soup miasma of air pollution we can all do without. Diesel vehicles and coal-fired power plants are among the biggest sources of this type of pollution. Far from just causing thick layers of unsightly brown haze, PM2.5 is so small that it can worm its way past the body’s natural ability to expel foreign particles, lodging deep within the lungs and causing serious cardiovascular and respiratory harm—and even early death.

Up until last Saturday, the Beijing government only provided measurements of PM10, relatively larger particles which pose less of a threat to human health. Parties interested in the more informative PM2.5 levels relied on @BeijingAir, the mechanized roof-top resident of the U.S. Embassy who has been diligently tweeting PM2.5 and ozone levels at hourly intervals for several years.

View Liz Judge's blog posts
19 January 2012, 3:34 PM
The story of one woman's fight to save her homeland

To date, mountaintop removal coal mining has buried more than 2,500 miles of streams and leveled an area of Appalachia bigger than the state of Delaware. Perhaps even scarier than the outright wasteland it leaves are the health impacts it levels against the people of Appalachia. More than 19 peer-reviewed health studies detail these problems--from significantly higher rates of birth defects in areas of mountaintop removal mining to higher rates of major diseases like cancer and lung disease.

In spite of all of this, coal companies and their lobbyists are pushing for more than 100 new permits for mountaintop removal mine in Appalachia. President Obama and his administration showed a strong commitment to the law and science when the EPA vetoed one of the largest mountaintop removal mines ever proposed: Spruce No. 1 Mine in West Virginia. But citizens throughout Appalachia are still left unprotected.

One of those residents is Donna Branham, of Mingo County, West Virginia. She’s already been through the nightmares of mountaintop removal mining, and now she could watch it happen to her daughter’s family as well.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
19 January 2012, 12:50 PM
Olympic air challenge, Nemo’s CO2 problem, NYC trashes trash
Bacon cheeseburger (Like_the_Grand_Canyon)

Ag industry takes beef with Americans eating less meat
Americans are eating less meat, which means the U.S. obsession with double-bacon cheeseburgers and chicken-fried sandwiches may one day be a thing of the past, reports Grist. According to the USDA, beef, chicken and pork sales are all down, prompting the meat industry to accuse the U.S. government of being anti-meat by “wag[ing] a war on protein.” This claim, though meaty, is full of holes considering that the U.S. gives the agriculture industry a number of economic freebies to support meat consumption in the form of farm subsidies, lax regulations and school lunch programs fueled by surplus chicken supplies. The real reasons that Americans aren’t eating as much meat are much more multi-faceted and include everything from cutting grocery bill costs and eating healthier to preserving the environment by lessoning carbon footprints. What’s your beef with that?    

Olympic athletes race against London’s air quality
London’s habitually bad air quality may negatively affect Olympic athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer, reports The Independent. Since the European Union’s limits for particulate matter—extremely small particles of smoke, soot, metals and other chemical compounds emitted from sources like power plants, factories, and diesel trucks—were first put in place a few years back, London has continually exceeded its limits, potentially putting people at risk of negative human health affects like lung and heart disease. Athletes, especially, are at risk due to their need to inhale large amounts of oxygen, which unfortunately also means inhaling unsafe quantities of particulates, nitrogen dioxide and ozone that could give them chest pains and decrease their lung capacity. Though the city has introduced long-term air quality improvement measures in London, currently there is no short term plan to clear the air before July, when the Olympic games begin.

View Liz Judge's blog posts
06 January 2012, 4:16 AM
The no-brainer decisions the president must make this year

President Obama won the White House on a platform of hope and change – promising an end to dirty corporate influence over our political system and a beginning to an era in which our energy choices lead us to a clean, sustainable future, or at least don’t kill us or make us sick.

So far, the president’s performance has been mixed – with some deliveries on the promise and some disappointments. His last year, whether in office or in his first term, will be crucial in righting his spotty record and making good on his campaign promises to the American people.

Leading up to his fourth year in office, and making sure the new year got off to a good start with supporters, he handed the country a solid. His EPA, led by Administrator Lisa Jackson, finalized a strong rule to protect Americans from mercury poisoning and toxic air pollution from power plants.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
23 December 2011, 3:41 PM
Coal plant pollution limits point to brighter future

The historic victory for clean air announced a few days ago—limits on the mercury, arsenic and other toxic emissions from coal plants—has been a long time coming. Congress called for these limits in 1990, but the coal power industry got to work undermining them straight away. As a result, instead of getting the breath of fresh air promised by Congress, Americans living in the shadow of a smokestack have been getting daily lungfuls of toxic air for 21 years.

It took determined litigation and public advocacy to break through the politics and industry's obstruction—the victory achieved on December 21, 2011 is the culmination of those long, hard years of fighting. Earthjustice got involved in the legal fight in 1994 and Jim Pew, a staff attorney in our Washington, D.C. office, has been dedicated to the cause for more than a decade, successfully arguing against attempts by the Bush administration to give power plants a pass.

This short video features Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan, neighbors—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a smokestack and the specter of a plume. Check it out, and if you feel moved to send a thank you to President Obama for issuing protections to cut down on the pollution coming from this bad industrial neighbors, you can do so here.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
22 December 2011, 1:12 PM
Facebook “likes” sustainability, McDonald’s goes locavore, Seattle bans bags
The corn rootworm is taking a bite out of Monsanto's bottom line. (Purdue University)

Pesticide-resistant bugs eat Monsanto’s crops, lies & profits
Monsanto is taking a page from George Orwell's 1984 with the recent release of an EPA report that chides the biotech company for not adequately monitoring its pesticide-resistant crops, reports Mother Jones. According to the agency’s report, a pesky bug known as corn rootworm is rising up and decimating corn fields in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Nebraska. Unfortunately for Monsanto and its farmers, the insect is targeting Monsanto’s Bt corn, which is engineered precisely to resist rootworm. The problem of pesticide resistance is a well-known issue amongst those in the ag and business world these days. In fact, Earthjustice is suing the USDA for failing to adequately asses the environmental and economic impacts of Monsanto's RoundUp Ready crops. But despite evidence to the contrary, Monsanto continues to deny that its products propagate pesticide-resistant bugs and weeds, all while promoting new genetically engineered seeds designed to “fix” the very problem that it won’t admit it created. That is some clever doublespeak indeed.

Greenpeace successfully prompts Facebook to “like” clean energy
After two years of prodding by Greenpeace, Facebook has announced that it will move away from dirty coal and power its operations using clean, sustainable energy, reports the UK Guardian. According to a Greenpeace report, more than half of Facebook’s electricity is powered by coal. That’s bad news for the climate and for clean air, considering that coal plants are the nation’s worst toxic air polluters (though that could change thanks to a recent Earthjustice victory wherein the EPA set the nation’s first-ever toxic air pollution limits for power plants.) In the meantime, though, moving off coal is a great first step to greening one of the most popular social networking sites out there. Now we just need to keep a close eye on Facebook to make sure it lives up to its largely vague green promises.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
21 December 2011, 1:52 PM
In new video, Obama explains how critical clean air protections are

The White House recently posted a video of President Obama discussing the new clean air protections that his administration released today to limit mercury, arsenic and other air toxic emissions from power plants. The President's words underscore how momentous this occasion is. The fight for these protections is more than two decades old. Earthjustice entered it in 1994 and has been pushing hard ever since. Check out the video below.

View Chris Jordan-Bloch's blog posts
21 December 2011, 12:02 PM
For many Americans, historic EPA protection is shining light
Marti Blake points out the window at her neighbor

"It's like hell. Living in hell," says Marti Blake, when asked about being neighbors with a coal-fired power plant. "It's filthy, it's dirty, it's noisy, it's unhealthy."

For the past 21 years, Blake has lived across the street from the Cheswick Generating Station in Springdale, PA. A family situation left her trying to find a place quickly, and a simple brick home in the small town only 20 minutes from Pittsburgh seemed fine.

"I've regretted that decision ever since, because I've felt sick for the last 20 years," says Blake, who is on medication for a slew of symptoms that include coughing, sinus infections and headaches. Blake attributes these symptoms to the dirty neighbor across the street. Who else in the neighborhood, after all, has a 750-foot tall smoke stack that is spewing out toxic smoke around the clock?

Marti Blake

A portrait of Marti Blake is paired with the reflection in her living room window.