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Environmental Protection Agency

Flaring at a oil refinery.

This guest blog post was written by Molly Brackin of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an environmental health and justice organization. Since 2000, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade has worked with communities throughout Louisiana that neighbor oil refineries and chemical plants, and are overburdened by pollution. Their mission is to support communities’ use of grassroots action to create informed, sustainable neighborhoods free from industrial pollution.

Farmworkers pick strawberries in Wayne County, NY.

After more than two decades, the Environmental Protection Agency announced revisions to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, an outdated standard intended to protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure.

While advocates welcomed signs of life in the Obama administration’s progress to provide stronger protections from pesticides for approximately 2 million farmworkers, the proposal raises questions about the EPA’s understanding of the population the WPS is meant to serve.

The toxic coal ash turned the Dan River gray for 20 miles east of the North Carolina border.

Although the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources found Duke Energy in gross violation of the federal Clean Water Act, the state agency placed so little value on public health that they were willing to settle for a pittance—a penny per ton of toxic coal ash stored at Duke’s two illegally polluting plants. To rub ash into the wound, the agency didn’t even require Duke to stop the flow of arsenic, cadmium, chromium and other toxic metals from the millions of tons of coal ash at the plants, much less clean up the pollution.

Mario Vargas, a farmworker organizer from Ohio, his daughter Myra Vargas (middle), and Alexis Guild of Farmworker Justice walk past the U.S. Capitol in July of 2013, as they head to a meeting in the Hart Senate Office Building.

When Mario Vargas showed up at the Washington, D.C., offices of representatives from his home state of Ohio in July, he shared stories from farmworkers who are getting sick from pesticides. Joined by his daughter and girlfriend, they made the rounds talking about how it feels to inhale pesticides while pregnant, how farmworkers don’t know what their basic rights are, and how many workers are afraid to tell the truth about what is really going on in the fields.

Let’s put this news item in the Yet-Another-Crazy-Florida-Thing-We-Swear-We-Didn’t-Make-Up file.

Florida, the state with water pollution so severe that multitudes of fish, dolphins, seabirds and manatees are washing up dead, has now taken bold legal action.

But it isn’t action to clean up Florida waters. No, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Gov. Rick Scott have filed legal action to block pollution cleanup of Chesapeake Bay.

I’m sure many questions come into your mind, namely, “Huh?”

The EPA doesn’t need yet another reason to require the safe closure of the nation’s 1,070 coal ash ponds. But the massive leak of 82,000 tons of toxic coal ash from Duke Energy’s Dan River Power Station this week should set off a siren to wake our sleeping regulators.

Moapa Band of Paiutes Tribal Chairman William Anderson holds a photo of the Reid Gardner Power Station.

Late yesterday, the Department of Justice on behalf of the EPA lodged a consent decree with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that requires the EPA to publish a final rule addressing the disposal of coal ash by Dec. 19, 2014. The settlement came as a result of a lawsuit brought by 10 public interest groups and the Moapa Band of Paiutes against the EPA for its failure to review and revise its regulations pertaining to coal ash.

The now-dry Colorado River delta branches into the Baja / Sonoran Desert, only 5 miles north of the Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

We’re less than a month in, but 2014 is already shaping up to be a tough year for rivers. Across the nation, from West Virginia to California, the headlines have been bleak. In the Rocky Mountain region, we’re gearing up for a long year defending the Colorado and San Pedro rivers.

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