Posts tagged: Obama administration

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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.

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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
14 October 2011, 1:44 PM
Political weakness keeps them polluting 30+ years too long

Across the nation, old coal-fired power plants are gasping for their last breath, having survived long past their prime because of political favors and weak government regulations. They would have died decades ago if not for a fateful policy compromise in the late 1970s that exempted existing power plants from new air quality standards in the Clean Air Act.

The compromise was based on a prediction that the plants would be retired soon, but instead it gave them a whole new lease on life, with a free pass to pollute for another 30 plus years. And until recently, there was no end in sight.

These plants continue to cough up toxic pollutants like mercury, lead and arsenic into the air. They are by far the biggest producers of the power sector’s pollution, forcing millions of Americans to seek their own life support – in the form of respirators and inhalers – just to get through each day without an asthma attack.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
12 October 2011, 1:45 PM
Breathing turns out to be a bipartisan business

The title of this post isn't a revelation. If it's surprising at all, it's only because there is one highly visible place where it just isn't true: Congress.

The Republican leadership is working hard to make the legislative branch of our government a kind of Bermuda triangle where clean air standards disappear mysteriously down a smokestack never to be seen again. For example, the House of Representatives last week voted 262 to 161 to outright exempt cement kilns—one of the largest sources of mercury pollution in the nation—from the Clean Air Act.

If the bill in question (H.R. 2681) were to become law, it would ensure that between 900 and 2,500 people die preventable deaths due to air pollution every year. Thousands more would suffer from asthma and heart attacks, cases of bronchitis and other respiratory distress. Despite these unconscionable impacts to the public's health, only two Republicans in the entire House opposed the bill—less than 1 percent of all House Republicans.

OK. So supposing that members of Congress are actually the direct representatives of the people, do you think that less than 1 percent of registered Republican voters in the U.S. support clean air protections? Absolutely not!

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
04 October 2011, 1:59 PM
Dirty burning bills up for a vote this week

Quick! Somebody tell Tipper Gore that "clean air" and "public health" are now considered dirty words. Well, at least in the U.S. House of Representatives. If the House had a swear jar, I'd bet such utterances would be as punishable as your garden variety expletives.

Here's why: The House is voting this week on two bills that will trample clean air and public health if passed. H.R. 2250 and H.R. 2681 exempt industrial boilers, incinerators and cement plants from the Clean Air Act and actually encourage many such facilities to burn industrial garbage—think tires, scrap plastics, used chemicals and other waste—without controlling, monitoring or reporting the air pollution that results.

Imagine if you came home from work one day to find your neighbor setting fire to a heap of garbage in the backyard, fumes drifting over the fence into your yard and your home. You'd be outraged, no doubt, and rightfully so. Should the reaction be any different if the neighbor just happens to be a cement plant, a chemical plant or some other big industrial facility?

View Liz Judge's blog posts
30 September 2011, 8:46 AM
Here are the videos and statements they don't want you to see
Maria Gunnoe: "When the coal industry destroys Appalachia’s water it’s said to be in the best interest of our homeland security."

“They are blowing up my homeland,” said West Virginia coalfield resident Maria Gunnoe on Monday morning, in her sworn testimony on the impacts of mountaintop removal mining before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.

I feel the vibrations of the core driller in the floors of my home; and the impacts of the blasting near my home are horrendous. This is absolutely against everything that America stands for.

When someone destroys water in a foreign country it is called an act of war. When the coal industry destroys Appalachia’s water it’s said to be in the best interest of our homeland security.

My nephew reminds me of what surface mining looks like from a child’s eyes. As we were driving through our community, he looks up and says, ‘Aunt Sissy, what is wrong with these people? Don’t they know we live down here?’ I had to be honest with him and say, ‘Yes, they know. They just simply don’t care.’

Maria’s powerful and moving testimony was a part of the House Subcommittee’s field hearing in West Virginia entitled “Jobs at Risk: Community Impacts of the Obama Administration’s Effort to Rewrite the Stream Buffer Zone Rule.”

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
30 September 2011, 12:17 AM
Clean air haters, Yellowstone meltdown, killer cantaloupe
Photo courtesy of sk8geek

Monsanto’s new broccoli designed to fight company’s own environmental pollution
Perhaps dismayed by the public’s outcry to genetically engineered (GE) crops and their environmental effects, last October America’s favorite biotech company, Monsanto, released a non-GE product that combines two different types of broccoli to create a sort of super broccoli that’s chock-full of nutrients, reports Grist. The problem, of course, is that broccoli is already considered a super food. According to the USDA, one medium stalk provides 200 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C, 16 percent of recommended dietary fiber, and 10 percent of recommended vitamin A in the form of betacarotene. Broccoli also contains folate, potassium and several other minerals, providing 6 percent of daily calcium and 4 percent of daily iron needs. Heck, it can even prevent cancer. Talk about fixing something that ain't broken.

In addition to silly redundancy, Monsanto’s desire to provide a vegetable that helps “maintain your body’s defenses against the damage of environmental pollutants and free radicals,” is just plain ironic, as Grist cleverly points out, considering that the company’s cash cow—herbicides—have been shown to cause some of the very illnesses that eating broccoli can prevent. If selling a product that causes illness and then turning around and selling another product to prevent that illness seems, well, wrong, then it won’t be much of a surprise to find out the rest of Monsanto’s seedy past.

Climate change threatens Yellowstone National Park
Within the next century, Yellowstone National Park may be as hot as the LA suburbs thanks to climate change, reports Reuters. A recent study by Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and Greater Yellowstone Coalition found that warming in Yellowstone, one of the world’s last largely intact ecosystems, is likely to increase wildfires, kill large swaths of trees and damage areas vital to grizzly bears and other threatened species. And, as a vacation hotspot for tourists, failing to reverse the warming trend could put a dent in the region $700 million annual tourism economy. Despite the dismal predictions, the good news is that there’s still time to make choices that will influence how climate change effects Yellowstone, like preserving wildlife corridors and increasing resilience to damaged habitats. Earthjustice is working hard on both of these fronts in the Crown of the Continent, a 10-million-acre expanse of land that encompasses some of the largest blocks of wilderness in the contiguous United States, including Yellowstone. See for yourself what we’re protecting
 

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
24 September 2011, 8:13 PM
Earthjustice will defend fragile environment, Native communities
Caribou form large herds on the coastal plains north of the Brooks Range, one of the most splendid stretches of wilderness left in America. Arctic Refuge, Alaska. (Florian Schulz / visionsofthewild.com)

The Palmyra Atoll is a tropical coral reef island in the heart of the Pacific Ocean. It’s warm, tiny and far from the vast, frigid Arctic. And yet these distant, disparate places are as alike in one sense as any two places on Earth.

Each is an early victim of humankind’s addiction to fossil fuels and our constantly affirmed determination to stay addicted.

Like other low-lying communities around the world, the Palmyra Atoll, only a few feet from sea level, is quietly disappearing under rising ocean waters. As the Arctic melts—at a near-record pace—the ocean is warming and expanding. These islands and their inhabitants are literally at the water’s edge of global climate disaster.

But, while the evidence of global warming is clear and the science overwhelming, the unwillingness of nations to address this shared problem is perplexing. Even the Obama administration has taken actions that keep us tethered to the oil dependency that contributes so much to climate change.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
19 September 2011, 2:52 PM
Earthjustice news clips for the week of September 12, 2011
Photo courtesy of laffy4k

Associated Press – “Arctic Sea Ice Shrinks to Second Lowest Level
Sept. 15, 2011 – Last week, scientists reported that Arctic sea ice melted to its second-lowest level since monitoring began more than 50 years ago. Earthjustice’s recent telepress conference on the issue brought together top scientists and NGOs to discuss the sea ice loss, ways that the loss of sea ice might relate to mid-latitude weather patterns, what the Arctic warming means for Greenland melt and rising sea levels, and the role that CO2 emissions and short-lived global warming pollutants like black carbon and methane play in causing ice melt; and where reductions of these pollutants can be made. Approximately 25 journalists called into the conference to hear such experts as Dr. Robert Dunbar, professor of Earth Sciences at Stanford University’s Center for Ocean Solutions; James Overland, research oceanographer with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and Dr. Walter Meier, Research Scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder. 

Earthjustice attorney Erika Rosenthal says the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice “is a powerful indicator of the rapid warming occurring throughout the Arctic….[which is] causing the extraordinary increase in the melting of glaciers and the Greenland Ice Sheet that led scientists earlier this year to project a sea level rise of between 0.9 and 1.6 meters by the end of the century. For low-lying communities from the Pacific Islands to Bangladesh to Florida this would be calamitous.” The news story has been picked up by the Associated Press and USA Today, and continues to make headlines in several national and local publications, including NPR and the Vancouver Sun.
 
Additional coverage:
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/arctic-sea-ice-shrinks-lowest-level-14528576
http://www.usatoday.com/weather/climate/story/2011-09-15/hot-summer-record/50419070/1
http://www.npr.org/2011/09/16/140516890/arctic-ice-hits-near-record-low-threatening-wildlife
http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Going+going+Arctic+cover+nears+record+lows/5371781/story.html
 
Related Earthjustice Resources
Press Release: Second Highest Loss of Arctic Ice on Record
UnEarthed: Arctic Ice Melt Second Highest in Recorded History

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
19 September 2011, 2:10 PM
EJ90 brings you the latest news in Earthjustice litigation
Photo courtesy of derrickkwa

Hello, unEarthed readers! I’d like to introduce you to a new Earthjustice production designed to keep you up-to-date on the latest Earthjustice litigation news. It’s a podcast called EJ90. And the best part is that it’s only 90 seconds, so you can quickly get updates on wildlife protection, natural resource conservation, and environmental health and safety news, all before you start your day. You can also subscribe to EJ90 on iTunes and make it part of your daily podcast listening routine. 

So far, EJ90 has covered everything from Arctic drilling to Obama’s decision to undermine the EPA’s ozone standards.  Here’s a roundup of the latest EJ90 podcasts:

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
09 September 2011, 4:33 AM
Dalai Lama displeasure, nature’s sunscreen, lice treatment overkill
Bankers on Wall Street may be driving up gas prices. Photo courtesy of epicharmus

Wall Street speculation increases gas prices
Subscribers to the “drill, baby, drill” mantra may want to set their sights on bankers rather than environmentalists as the culprits driving up gas prices, reports Mother Jones. According to confidential regulatory data first leaked to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Wall Street speculators that hold investments in millions of barrels of oil helped artificially raise the price of gas to $4 per gallon in 2008. To put a stop to that practice, Sanders recently introduced legislation that would “set firm speculation rules for crude oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and heating oil” designed to “diminish, eliminate or prevent excessive speculation,” reports Mother Jones. Of course, if passed the legislation will do nothing to stem the tide of all of the external costs of gas consumption—like increased asthma attacks and carbon pollution—but at the very least it will put a bee in the bankers’ bonnet of dubious business practices.

Coral could be key to sunscreen pill
In just a few years, sun worshippers tired of slathering sunscreen all over their pasty bodies before heading to the beach may be able instead to pop a pill that comes straight from the ocean, reports Mother Nature Network. Scientists have long known that coral reefs, which need sun for photosynthesis, make their own sunscreen to protect themselves against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Better yet, the fish that feed on the coral also get the sunscreen benefits. Recently, researchers at King’s College London cracked the code on the amazing genetic and biochemical processes behind this sunscreen compound and eventually hope to create a synthetic version of this compound for humans. Says project leader Dr. Paul Long, “We are very close to being able to reproduce this compound in the lab, and if all goes well we would expect to test it within the next two years.” Surf’s up! 

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View David Lawlor's blog posts
28 August 2011, 5:00 PM
Earthjustice advocacy, litigation reveal dispersants’ dirty chemical secrets

<Updated in final paragraph>

Pop quiz: nearly 2 million gallons of chemicals are about to be dumped into the ocean where they will mix with oil gushing from a blown out well. Do you:

   A. Study beforehand the chemicals’ effects on marine life?
   B. Study beforehand the chemicals’ effects on humans?
   C. Study beforehand what will happen when the chemicals mix with the oil?
   D. Just dump the chemicals in mass quantities without sufficient knowledge of their toxicity or of how they will affect marine life and humans?

Well, following last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, answer D is exactly what happened.

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