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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 Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
28 March 2014, 11:41 AM
Concerned communities fight back
Vice Mayor Linda Maio, joined by Mayor Tom Bates and Council member Darryl Moore, speaks out in support of resident opposition to a proposed crude by rail project. (Mauricio Castillo / Earthjustice)

Is crude by rail coming to a town near me?

For weeks, I’ve been asking myself that question as I kept hearing about the skyrocketing number of trains that are transporting crude oil throughout the U.S. to east and west coast export facilities.

And I’m not alone.

This week, I attended a protest by my fellow neighbors in Berkeley, California, to stop crude by rail shipments coming through our town. The crude oil boom is brought on by fracking in North Dakota and drilling in Canada’s Alberta tar sands. Both forms of crude are hazardous—Bakken shale crude from North Dakota is highly flammable and tar sands oil is extremely corrosive and also difficult to clean up.

Not surprisingly, once people hear how explosive and dangerous this crude can be when spilled, they really don’t want it traveling through their main streets…or anywhere else. But travel it does. Hundreds of miles, in fact, through rural towns and along main streets, along densely populated areas like Chicago and Albany, and even inside windswept and vulnerable wild lands like Montana’s Glacier National Park.

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View Adrian Martinez's blog posts
20 March 2014, 2:20 PM
Lancaster citizens fear air pollutants will harm children's health
Ozone pollution causes premature death, asthma attacks and other breathing problems. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

A proposal for a large—570-megawatt—gas-fired power plant is pitting two Southern California cities against each other, and has aroused citizens worried about air quality and their children's health. Members of Desert Citizens Against Pollution are suing to challenge the plant’s approval.

The plant would be sited in Palmdale on the border of Lancaster.

Lancaster has generally opposed this project because of health concerns related to significant emissions that would go into its neighborhoods. The city also questions the need for this power plant, which it claims could thwart efforts to promote renewable energy like solar and wind developments. On the flip side, Palmdale has been really supportive of this project.

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View Will Rostov's blog posts
14 March 2014, 8:25 AM
Groups challenge law restricting power plant review
New natural gas power plants are among the largest new stationary sources of air pollution in California. (CA DOJ)

Today we filed an appeal challenging a California law that severely restricts the public’s ability to dispute the California Energy Commission’s green-lighting of new power plants. As a general rule, the public may seek judicial review for most state agency decisions in the trial courts. This process serves as a critical tool in efforts to protect the environment from harmful state agency decision-making.

Under current law, however, once the California Energy Commission permits a natural gas power plant, the public’s only recourse is to appeal the Commission’s decision to the California Supreme Court, the state’s highest court. This avenue is fundamentally different from challenges the public may bring to nearly every other type of state agency decision-making, which are typically appealed to a trial court or in some instances to a court of appeal.

The problem with this procedure lies in the fact that the state’s highest court has the power to dismiss challenges to power plant location or “siting” approvals without hearing the cases at all, and without giving any explanation. In fact, since 2001, the state’s Supreme Court has rejected every challenge to a power plant siting decision under the law at issue. Put simply, the California high court refuses to hear these cases.

View Sarah Saylor's blog posts
06 March 2014, 6:13 PM
Passes wrongheaded bill to stop EPA action on climate change
(USDA Photo)

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Polluter Protection Act (H.R. 3826). This bill stops the EPA from setting modest, sensible limits for climate change pollution and allows big polluters to continue to freely dump unlimited carbon pollution at the expense of public health.

When the EPA proposed its new rule to bring the worst of the worst climate polluters in this country under control and for the first time hold them accountable, more than 4 million public comments were submitted in support of this move. Yet, in its 144th vote this Congress against public health, the House turned against those public comments and voted to handcuff the EPA. In an era of climate change, it can be hard to understand why our Congress would pass a bill that flies in the face of overwhelming science and reason.

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View Doug Pflugh's blog posts
12 February 2014, 5:35 PM
This week, the public gets to speak out on their state's air quality
A hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," site in Colorado. (Ecoflight)

Colorado has emerged as a western ground zero in the fracking boom, with more than 50,000 active wells in the state and 3,000 wells permitted annually on average in recent years. The state is struggling to deal with this staggering growth as well as the changing nature of the industry as operations have moved into communities along the Front Range.

This week, Colorado is poised to take a big step forward on protecting public health as the state considers significant revisions to the rules controlling the air quality impacts of oil and gas industry operations. Earthjustice and our partners will be there, urging the state to stand strong against an industry campaign to water down the rules.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
28 January 2014, 8:45 PM
President can't rely on fossil fuels to achieve climate change goals
President Obama delivers the 2014 State of the Union Address. (White House Photo)

(The following is a statement from Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen in response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address.)

We are encouraged that President Obama made climate change a centerpiece of his speech tonight. We applaud his commitment to facing this challenge, for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.

President Obama has taken courageous actions so far to back this commitment. His leadership in achieving strong clean car standards has been a huge accomplishment, and we are thrilled with his leadership in tackling carbon pollution from power plants, the nation’s largest source of climate change pollution. And tonight, the President went further and affirmed that we can’t allow destructive energy development on our pristine public lands.

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View Erik Grafe's blog posts
22 January 2014, 5:52 PM
Court denies offshore oil lease in the Chukchi Sea for the second time
A beluga whale surfaces in the Chukchi Sea. (Florian Schulz / visionsofthewild.com)

A court gave the Arctic great news today. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Department of the Interior violated the law when it sold offshore oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska, including the leases on which Royal Dutch Shell wants to drill. This is the second time a court has ruled against the Department’s decision to open this remarkable sea to offshore drilling.

The Court said the Department made arbitrary assumptions about development that may have low-balled the potential environmental impacts of the sale in violation of a bedrock environmental law and sent the decision back for the agency to reconsider.

The agency must now revise its analysis, disclose the full potential impacts of oil development in this fragile but dangerous environment, and reassess whether to allow oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea.

This is once again an opportunity to send a loud and clear message to the Obama administration—going to extremes to extract fossil fuels from such a fragile, important habitat and culturally rich area just doesn’t make sense. The Chukchi Sea is part of America’s Arctic Ocean north of Alaska. It is home to iconic species such as polar bears, walrus, beluga whales, bowhead whales, and seals. It is also home to vibrant Alaska Native communities that have depended for millennia on the ocean for their subsistence way of life.

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View Tom Turner's blog posts
16 January 2014, 12:17 PM
Pennsylvania Supreme Court latest to uphold municipal rights
A sign indicates the growing tension between agricultural communities and gas companies. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

In mid-December the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found Act 13 is unconstitutional. This is a law that allowed state government to override local communities’ zoning decisions to limit hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The decision stems from a lawsuit by seven Pennsylvania municipalities, a doctor and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. Earthjustice submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, representing 22 organizations, including Marcellus Protest, Lehigh Valley Gas Truth and Berks Gas Truth.

Other state courts are facing this issue, too. Earlier in 2013, two New York state courts ruled in favor of towns that have limited industrial gas development through local zoning. Earthjustice is representing the Town of Dryden, one of the New York towns. The Ohio Supreme Court is considering a similar case, in which Earthjustice submitted a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of health professionals.

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View Abigail Dillen's blog posts
14 October 2013, 2:18 PM
Strong power plant carbon limits are critical for tackling climate change
EPA is now taking the next step to control pollution from new power plants. (Calin Tatu / Shutterstock)

This op-ed originally ran on October 11, 2013, on LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cements the urgency for U.S. leaders to move boldly and quickly on climate change, and the most logical place to start is the nation's fleet of power plants.

Recently, when the Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, groups involved with climate change cheered the announcement. Cleaning up power plants is an essential first step to addressing climate change and its effects, from superstorms to catastrophic fire seasons. Power plants are by far the biggest carbon polluters in the country, accounting for 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. There is no excuse for building any new, dirty plants without carbon pollution controls.

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View Ted Zukoski's blog posts
27 August 2013, 10:07 AM
Industry, Colorado Gov. agree: drilling opponents are probably hypocrites
A refinery in Denver, CO. (NREL)

The oil and gas industry in Colorado has a new script to disparage efforts to move towards a clean energy future. And one of their friends—Colorado’s Gov. John Hickenlooper—appears to have gotten the memo about how to belittle those trying to limit the damaging impacts of dirty energy.

Take statements made two days apart by the president of the Colorado Petroleum Association and Gov. Hickenlooper. Both men responded to efforts to limit the damage caused by fossil fuels.

In an Aug. 22 article on National Geographic’s website, Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, derides those seeking a fracking ban in their community as hypocrites who are still using fossil fuels while trying to limit drilling. He also attacks the idea of a fracking ban as a hollow gesture that is merely “symbolic.”

So, industry’s response to the need to transition from fuel that’s poisoning the air, threatening our water and heating the planet is to attack opponents as ineffective hypocrites. Nice.