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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 Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
24 June 2011, 2:33 PM
Natural gas doesn't deserve squeaky clean image

Follow along as I walk us up the steep learning curve about natural gas that Earthjustice, the environmental community and the nation are navigating. The curve suddenly steepened a few years ago when natural gas advocates started promoting their fuel as a refreshing alternative to coal and oil, and a bridge to a clean energy future.

If we have learned anything along the way, it is this: the clean reputation of natural gas is good PR, but lousy science.
 
For decades, Earthjustice has worked to protect special places on our public lands from being pockmarked by gas development. Our litigation has helped protect such treasures as the Wyoming Range south of the Tetons, Otero Mesa in southern New Mexico, the Roan Plateau in western Colorado, and some of the spectacular red rock country near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah.
 
Despite some improvements by the Obama administration in leasing and drilling policies, we are forced to keep fighting some of these battles. We’ve come to know that gas development can fragment wildlife habitat and industrialize a pristine landscape, and we’ve worked on federal and state rules to reduce those impacts.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
24 June 2011, 12:25 PM
Oceanic catastrophe, mythological creatures, oil baron payback
Haul from a dumpster dive in Sweden. Photo courtesy of sigurdas.

Dumpster diver documentary details discard diet
Americans need to stop tossing out more of half of their food and start donating it, reports dumpster diver Jeremy Seifert in Grist. Seifert, who’s been diving into dumpsters and pulling out edible food for several years, recently created a documentary detailing our wasteful society and the dumpster diving culture. In the article, he also calls on the progressive grocery store chain Trader Joes to end food waste by donating soon-to-expire foods to homeless shelters rather than tossing them. Making sustainable food choices not only helps feed the more than one-in-eight Americans dependent on food stamps, it also helps the environment by cutting down on water use and methane emitted by rotting food. So, dive in!

Report finds oceans under attack
The world may be on the verge of the sixth mass extinction with the oceans serving as ground zero, reports Reuters. According to the International Programme on the State of the Ocean, coral reefs are dying, low-oxygen dead zones are spreading and fish populations are collapsing worldwide thanks to climate change, over-fishing, pollution and habitat destruction. Though many of these issues are all too familiar to the scientific community, the magnitude and direness of the situation managed to shock even the ocean experts who created the report. In the report, the authors issue a dire warning: "Unless action is taken now, the consequences of our activities are at a high risk of causing ….the next globally significant extinction event in the ocean.” Find out how Earthjustice is working in the courts to protect our vital oceans.

View Tom Turner's blog posts
07 June 2011, 3:04 PM
Fresno Board of Supervisors rejects a nuclear-power proposal

The Fresno, California, Board of Supervisors has decided not to endorse a proposal by the Fresno Nuclear Energy Group to build a “Clean Energy Park,” outside town. The park would boast two big, 1,600-megawatt, French-made reactors, a solar-thermal plant, and a water desalination facility.

The account in the Fresno Business Journal doesn’t mention Japan or Fukushima explicitly, but the shadow in the background is unmistakable. And it must send shivers down the backs of people promoting a nuclear renaissance as the cure for global warming—especially as Germany has recently decided to stop building new reactors and to retire existing plants as replacement power comes on-line. Japan is clearly rethinking its commitment to nuclear power as well.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
13 May 2011, 2:19 AM
Banning the bag, fracking's flammable water, biting back against palm oil
Coal industry-sponsored materials are making their way into school classrooms. Photo courtesy of Steve and Jemma Copley.

Coal company tries to brainwash school kids
Scholastic Inc., whose books and educational materials dominate the American classroom, is distributing fourth-grade curriculum materials paid for by the American Coal Foundation, reports the New York Times. Not surprisingly, the industry-funded class materials have drawn the ire of groups such as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Friends of the Earth, who argue that the one-sided curriculum conveniently leaves out coal’s environmental and human health impacts while failing to mention other useful, less polluting energy sources, like wind and solar. No word yet on whether the kids received a free inhaler to pair with their coal-friendly books and pamphlets.

Bagging bags becomes worldwide phenomenon
The U.S. may have been unable to pass meaningful climate legislation, but at least some communities have been successful in reducing their carbon footprint in other ways, like cutting down on plastic bags, reports National Geographic. Coast-to-coast and even internationally, cities like San Francisco and Washington, D.C. and entire countries like Italy have either banned plastic bags altogether or imposed taxes on the ubiquitous single-use sacks. The bans have resulted in a major drop in bag use, a big win for the environment since plastic bags clog storm drains, landfills and marine creatures’ bellies.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
28 April 2011, 3:41 PM
filthy biomass, Googling the environment, MIA oil
More than one million barrels of spilled oil is still unaccounted for in the Gulf.

Drilling more won’t make summer vacation cheaper
Summer is near, which means that trips to the beach and to baseball games, and a fresh round of “drill, baby, drill” are all just around the corner, but that last item won’t make the first two any cheaper to get to, reports CNN Money. That’s because even if we ramped up oil production, the amount would pale in comparison to worldwide consumption. In addition, OPEC would just cut production to offset the extra oil. As oil analyst Tom Kloza told CNN, “It's a simplistic way of looking for a solution that doesn't exist,” adding, “This drill drill drill thing is tired.” We agree.

One million barrels of BP oil still MIA
One year after the BP oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, more than a million barrels of oil remain lost at sea, reports Scientific American. Burning, dispersing, microbe-eating and evaporating have taken care of much of the oil, but it’s anyone’s guess where the rest of it is. Sadly though, one million barrels is just a drop in the bucket for the Gulf coast region, which experiences spills on a monthly, if not daily, basis. Find out how Earthjustice is working to hold these repeat offenders accountable.

View Josh Fox's blog posts
22 April 2011, 6:40 AM
Plus fractivist nightlife, GASLAND 2 spoilers, and more haikus

(This week, in connection with the launch of our campaign Fracking Gone Wrong: Finding a Better Way, we’ve invited some of the movement’s most prominent advocates to guest blog  Today's guest blogger is Josh Fox, an Oscar-nominated director whose award-winning documentary GASLAND has helped ignite a national outcry against the dangers of the controversial gas drilling technique known as fracking. His hometown in Pennsylvania is directly in the path of a gas drilling rush sweeping the Northeast. Since releasing the film, Fox has traveled across the country and around the world screening the film and inspiring audiences to join the fight against fracking. GASLAND is being shown on HBO and is also available on DVD. If you haven’t already seen it, it truly is a must-watch film.)

Summertime is just around the corner. What's one of your favorite summer memories of your hometown of Milanville, PA?
Josh Fox: Running up and down Calkins Creek over and over again all day. Looking under rocks for the crayfish that are hiding under there. Waiting for the trout to emerge from a pool of cloudy water, just to spy on them.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
20 April 2011, 3:39 PM
Ambitious, ill-prepared petroleum industry eyes the Gulf, the Arctic, the heartland

One year ago, the BP oil spill had just started turning the Gulf of Mexico's blue waters to the color of rust. Triggered on April 20, 2010 by a well-rig explosion that killed 11 people, the spill would gush more than 200 million gallons of crude oil—the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

Before the well was finally capped three months later, untold numbers of birds, dolphins, sea turtles and other wildlife had perished in the muck, or possibly from the chemicals used to disperse it. Along the Gulf coast, communities suffered as tourism dropped and fishing seasons closed. Anxiety soared amid debates over the spill's price tag—including who would pay for it. While it is undeniable that the spill has caused and will continue to cause massive damage to Gulf ecosystems and communities, we won't understand the full impact for years.

One thing, however, is clear: the BP spill brought more to the surface than just crude oil. It exposed a culture of corruption in the federal agency tasked with issuing and overseeing permits to drill for oil in our nation's coastal waters. The Minerals Management Service systematically disregarded bedrock environmental protections by granting the oil industry exemptions to these laws and allowing BP and other companies to drill without concrete plans to clean up oil in the event of a large spill. This helps explain why it took BP a full three months—and numerous failed attempts—to cap the well. It simply wasn't prepared.

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View TXsharon's blog posts
20 April 2011, 10:38 AM
How natural gas drilling in Texas threatens public health and safety

(This week, in connection with the launch of our campaign Fracking Gone Wrong: Finding a Better Way, we’ve invited some of the movement’s most prominent advocates to guest blog. Today's guest blogger is Sharon Wilson, aka TXsharon, a blogger and an organizer with Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project. Earthjustice has worked for years alongside EARTHWORKS OGAP in Colorado, New York, Pennsylvania and other drilling states.)

Howdy, I am Sharon Wilson but most people know me as TXsharon, author of the blog, Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS that focuses on drilling issues locally, statewide, nationally and even globally. My involvement started when I noticed alarming things happening to the countryside near my property in Wise County, Texas—a smelly pit here, a smoking rig there, and leaky pipes and hoses that ended up in flowing creeks. I wrote letters to the paper, talked to neighbors and blogged as a guest until I finally started my own blog.

In 2008, my friend Don Young, founder of Fort Worth Can Do!, and I called EARTHWORKS’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project for help in reining in the out of control and largely unregulated drilling in North Texas. Shortly after an initial tour and meetings with key OGAP staff, we founded Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project (see industry’s reaction HERE). In January 2010, I became the part-time Texas organizer.

Over the years, I have collected stories and documentation of the havoc that uncontrolled and virtually unregulated drilling and fracking are wreaking on the health and safety of the people of North Texas. I chose four of those stories, developed them into case studies and presented them in October 2010 to the EPA in North Carolina. In December, I traveled a long way from Texas and presented them in Washington, D.C.

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View David Lawlor's blog posts
18 April 2011, 2:22 PM
Tax breaks help make oil and gas artificially “cheap” energy sources
The natural gas industry gets so many tax breaks you'd think the Marcellus Shale deposit was located in the Cayman Islands.

Break out the streamers and the party hats—it’s Tax Day! Of course the overachievers filed their taxes months ago, but no doubt a few folks are frantically sifting through piles of paper at this very moment trying to locate that wayward W-2.

Either way, every year millions of Americans file their taxes and pay their fair share to keep our country running. But for many companies, including those in the oil and gas industries, ducking the taxman has become par for the course.

From avoiding state severance taxes (more on that in a minute) to reaping the benefits of an industry-friendly federal tax code, America’s oil and gas industry benefits from subsidies that increase the federal debt. These tax breaks help make oil and gas artificially “cheap” energy sources, while you and I foot the bill for the industries’ pollution.

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View Mark Ruffalo's blog posts
15 April 2011, 4:44 PM
Oscar-nominated actor discusses his fracktivism
Fracking rig in Pennsylvania. Photo by Chris Jordan/Earthjustice

[This week, in honor of the launch of Earthjustice's campaign Fracking Gone Wrong: Finding a Better Way, we've invited some of the movement's most prominent advocates to guest blog.

Our first guest blogger is Mark Ruffalo, an Oscar-nominated actor who is fighting to protect water. He lives in New York's Catskill Mountains—directly in the path of a gas drilling rush sweeping the Northeast. In February, he traveled to Washington, D.C. to educate members of Congress on the dangers of the gas drilling technique known as fracking.]

Congratulations on your Academy Award nomination. What's the story behind the blue pin you wore at the awards?
Mark Ruffalo: The blue pin I was wearing was for Water Defense. It is an organization that I am involved with that aims to celebrate the sanctity of our water and at the same time to educate people on where it is under attack by energy extraction and industrialization. As our energy extraction methods are becoming more desperate, clean water will be sacrificed more and more.

You've helped make fracktivism sexy. Why'd you join the fight?
Mark: I was moved to step into the fight against hydraulic fracturing when I went to Dimock, PA and saw how their wells had been destroyed. I saw how crass and arrogant the companies who destroyed them acted toward their victims—refusing to take responsibility for the wrongs they had done. I saw that the local and state and federal government agencies that have been put in place to keep these kinds of things from happening were either apathetic or corrupt. I felt it was the right thing to stand up and say ‘No.’ I had seen something so clearly wrong and knew I would be less of a man if I didn't fight for what I know is right.

Mark Ruffalo.

Oscar-nominated actor, Mark Ruffalo.

How many glasses of water do you drink a day?
Mark: Many. I don't really drink much else other than water. Except for a beer or two or something a little stiffer at the end of a day.

How about your favorite form of water-based recreation?
Mark: My favorite water based recreation is a tie between my new found love of fly fishing. Or my old love of surfing.

Advice for the aspiring fracktivist?
Mark: We haven't been carried this far to be dropped. If you are losing hope then you are not doing enough. There are very few things in life that you get to be part of that are bigger than you. Fighting for the health of our air and water, fighting against those who would gladly pollute our natural resources simply to make a buck is worth a great deal. You can measure your decency as a human being today by not being complicit in the destruction of our fellow human beings and their health.

Well put. (More tips can be found here.) Favorite movie of all-time?
Mark: My favorite movie of all time is On The Waterfront, starring Marlon Brando

Good choice. You’ve been compared to a young Brando. In the spirit of melding art and advocacy, will you compose a haiku on why people should join the fight against fracking?

Mark:
Walk into the day
Make it known that you are here
Stand for your water!

Come out and speak up
Water is under attack
The fish and frogs watch

There is no waiting
He who hesitates is lost
The stream is dying

That’s three haikus—very generous! Thanks so much for your time and for your work on this issue! And readers, don't forget to check out our campaign page!

Links:
Water Defense
 

 

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