Posts tagged: Obama administration

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

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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 Tom Turner's blog posts
13 July 2010, 11:31 AM
Secretary Salazar issues new rule, hoping to persuade the judge
Sec. Ken Salazar

The Obama administration, having been thwarted in its attempts to declare a six-month moratorium on new deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday issued a new moratorium order, citing new information on the causes of the recent well blowout and other matters. According to a question-and-answer news release from the department:

"What are the differences between the May 28 deepwater drilling moratorium and the new deepwater drilling suspension?

"Like the deepwater drilling moratorium lifted by the District Court on June 22, the deepwater drilling suspensions ordered today apply to most deepwater drilling activities and could last through November 30. The suspensions ordered today, however, are the product of a new decision by the Secretary and new evidence regarding safety concerns, blowout containment shortcomings within the industry, and spill response capabilities that are strained by the BP oil spill.

5 Comments   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
08 July 2010, 11:39 AM
We can't risk another oil spill like BP's

<Update 7/9: The 5th Circuit Appeals Court decided not to intervene on an emergency basis - and reinstate the administration's moratorium on offshore drilling - unless deepwater drilling is actually going to resume, reports Patti Goldman, vice-president of litigation for Earthjustice. The shoe is now on the oil industry's foot. If they choose to resume drilling, they risk another quick trip to the 5th Circuit.>

<Update 7/8: A 3-panel appeals court has refused to reinstate a moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf of California.>

The immediate future of deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is at stake today in a federal appeals court, where Earthjustice and the Obama administration are arguing to reinstate a moratorium put in place after the BP oil well rupture. Oil industry advocates convinced a federal district court to lift the moratorium last month.

With oil gushing into the Gulf at an estimated 2.4 million gallons a day, our argument for the moratorium should be obvious—we can't afford this kind of risky drilling until the BP oil spill is fully quelled and we know exactly why this devastating incident occurred. We already know that the approval process for the BP well and others in the Gulf was corrupted by a too-cozy relationship between the oil industry and regulatory agencies, especially the Minerals Management Service.

Until the government can clean up its regulatory act, and the industry shows that it can clean up—and prevent—major oil spills, we will continue to argue against resumption of deep water drilling. And let's be clear—the moratorium only affects a small number of drilling operations in the Gulf. The vast majority continue to operate and are not affected by this court action.

If the appeals court refuses to lift the moratorium, the Interior Department said it will institute a revised, new moratorium in short order.

View Terry Winckler's blog posts
01 July 2010, 10:20 AM
Earthjustice demanded ingredient information, will seek expert opinions
Dispersant sprayed in Gulf of Mexico

<Update 7/1: EPA has released results of its first round of chemical testing of dispersants used in the Gulf. The report downplays toxicity, but as scientist/blogger Richard Denison points out - the report offers little new information and still leaves unresolved the bigger questions, such as what toxicity occurs when dispersants and oil combine, and what happens when that highly dispersed oil/dispersant brew is spread across vast areas and throughout the water column.>

<Update: A month after promising to test the toxicity of dispersants used against the Gulf oil spill, the EPA has yet to complete those tests - meanwhile more than 1.4 million gallons have been dumped in the Gulf with unmeasured consequences, reports Mother Jones. EPA's position is that the dispersants are less toxic than the oil, but that raises the question: are we just adding to the total toxicity of the spill?

<Update: Check out the latest information on the toxic potential of ingredients in oil dispersants>

The government wouldn't dare let a doctor give out an experimental drug without years of extensive testing, yet it has allowed British Petroleum to flood the Gulf of Mexico with more than a million gallons of a secret chemical compound in an untested experiment on human communities, hundreds of animal species, and myriad ecological systems.

We're talking about Corexit and other dispersants, made up of classified chemicals and spread over and injected into Gulf waters to break up BP's oil spill. The spill alone is in many ways unmatched in human history, scientists say, and because of dispersants may be wreaking special devastation in the Gulf. Aside from the fact that dispersants never before have been used on such a vast scale, we have been forced to guess at the danger they pose because BP and the dispersants' manufacturer refused to reveal the ingredients.

Today, after Earthjustice demanded the information through a Freedom of Information Act request, the Environmental Protection Agency finally provided a list of what's in these chemical compounds. Now, we can turn to experts to assess their danger. Our clients, the Gulf Restoration Network and Florida Wildlife Federation, who have long worked to protect the Gulf, must know what is happening to its rich fisheries, sea turtles, birds, and entire ecosystem.

37 Comments   /  
View Liz Judge's blog posts
29 June 2010, 2:55 PM
A sad state of affairs or a rallying call for the Senate?

This morning, the president met with a bipartisan group of 23 key Senate leaders on the state of climate change and energy legislation in the Senate.

The meeting, originally scheduled for last Thursday, was delayed because of the Rolling Stone drama surrounding Gen. Stanley McChrystal last week and the resulting political fallout. To many of us who have watched our national climate and energy policy take a back seat for weeks, months, years, administrations and decades, the delay may have hit a sore spot. Maybe it seemed like the umpteenth delay in a process that is so sorely delayed already.

So when the White House announced that meeting would take place today, many of us watched with bated breath. We know the sands are falling through the hour glass on this opportunity to guarantee a clean-energy future for our nation. We feel the pressure; we see the midterm elections approaching. We see Republican senators who used to be champions of clean energy and climate change legislation (McCain and Graham, anyone?) turn their backs on this issue for political positioning. And we see an oil crisis in the Gulf every day that oh-so-painfully highlights our need for a new, clean energy policy.

All of this indicates the need for even stronger leadership from the Obama Administration and Senate leaders to get us where we need to be as a nation.

2 Comments   /  
View John McManus's blog posts
28 June 2010, 3:47 PM
Earthjustice asks court to reinstate moratorium on offshore drilling
5th District Court of Appeals courtroom

While oil continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico from BP's blown-out well, a six-month offshore drilling moratorium imposed by the Obama administration is being argued in the courts.

Last week, oil industry groups got a New Orleans judge to issue an order blocking the moratorium. The administration is appealing that decision—assisted by the intervention of Earthjustice—at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Earthjustice and a number of conservation groups, had unsuccessfully argued alongside the Obama administration that the moratorium was appropriate in order to identify and fix problems that created the current oil spill.

Now, the state of Louisiana has jumped into the action at the appeals court to oppose the moratorium, never mind many of their finest wetlands are covered in oil and their fishermen and visitor industry workers are left high and dry.

View John McManus's blog posts
23 June 2010, 10:00 AM
Conservation groups will join government in trying to get it reinstated

Yesterday a federal district judge granted a request by oil industry groups and blocked a six month moratorium on new offshore oil drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico put in place by the Obama administration. The judge ruled that the administration moved too fast and overreacted when it decided to stop deep offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The administration enacted the moratorium in response to the explosion and fire that took the lives of 11 men and caused the worst American environmental disaster in modern times. A government review after the explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon showed that additional safeguards are necessary before more deepwater drilling is allowed. Even more are virtually certain to be required after completion of other ongoing investigations.

The six month moratorium only applies to 33 offshore drilling operations drilling in greater than 500 feet of water. Thousands of other offshore Gulf oil wells continue to pump oil and are not affected by the moratorium. The industry group that challenged the moratorium told the judge that it would suffer grievous economic losses while its CEO told investors that most of its vessels were hard at work in the cleanup and customer charters.

2 Comments   /  
View Liz Judge's blog posts
18 June 2010, 9:41 AM
Fast-track approach to mountain destruction is suspended
Kayford Mountain in West Virginia - photo by Vivian Stockman, courtesy of Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

Yesterday the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it is suspending the use of nationwide permits for mountaintop removal coal mining.

Under U.S. law, companies who wish to engage in mountaintop removal mining—this is, to use explosives to blow off the top of mountains to get to the coal underneath, and then dispose of the rubble in streams and waterways—need to get a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to do so. This permit is actually a Clean Water Act permit, and the granting of it holds that a company is abiding by the Clean Water Act, the cornerstone of water protection in the United States, and is following its requirements when it dumps its mining waste in the valley streams and waterways.

In 1982, the Army Corps of engineers established a nationwide permit (NWA Permit 21) for mountaintop removal mining operations, most of which are in Appalachia. This was a generalized, fast-track process that waived the Clean Water Act permit application for companies and automatically granted them permits. Instead of applying and going through a normal permitting process that assesses each company's impact on the waterways and streams, this Corps permit acted as a blind rubber stamp, outright allowing companies to engage in mountaintop-removal mining without proving that Clean Water Act requirements will indeed be met.

1 Comment   /  
View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
17 June 2010, 10:46 AM
President Obama must turn words into action on clean energy

"The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now."

President Obama's words, delivered from the Oval Office on Tuesday night, read like a clear call for national unity as we gather strength to turn the corner to a new, better America. But at this point, they are only words. What we need is action.

Americans are clamoring for it: 71 percent think President Obama and Congress should make the development of clean energy sources a high priority. Based on his speech—"The one approach I will not accept is inaction"—the president appears to be among those numbers. But ultimately, Obama needs to follow his own decree.

The president must outline in far greater detail the clean energy future he says we must embrace, and then he needs to demand that Congress implement. Saying we need that future "even if we're unsure exactly what that looks like" and "even if we don't yet know precisely how we're going to get there" is merely mincing words.

44 Comments   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
15 June 2010, 4:10 PM
This is a live blogging report as the president speaks from Oval Office

<Update at 6:05> The Atlanta Constitution expressed disappointment that President Obama "squandered" his "crisis moment." The president mentioned the moon-shot of another generation, but the Constitution said he failed to make one of his own.

A more evenhanded assessment came from The Washington Post, as it wondered whether the president had "turned a corner" with his speech. The New York Times said it was vague on content.

<Update at 5:50> For those of us looking for something drastically different or dramatic from President Obama in tonight's speech, there was little. He did stand strong in pushing for his energy bill, but gave no clue whether it would morph or not morph from being a climate bill. Energy tax or price on carbon? Not a word.  Here is his strongest statement after calling out for comprehensive energy legislation:

The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.

The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.

<Update at 5:30> In a speech as short in length as it was broad in reach, President Obama vowed to take on BP and make the company compensate its many Gulf coast oil spill victims; restore the Gulf coast; set up regulatory assurances that this kind of spill will never happen again by making the government a watchdog of the oil industry; and put the country on course to a clean energy future. There are few details to pull from the speech and little that hasn't already been reported on the president's programs.

6 Comments   /  
View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
11 June 2010, 4:32 PM
Hazardous waste exemption, oil dispersants, BP goes Orwellian

Some top stories from the past week at Earthjustice…

This week, Earthjustice scored a big victory for our lungs with the announcement that the EPA is finally abandoning a dangerous rule—granted by the Bush administration—that would permit the unregulated burning of hazardous waste.

BP's latest effort to clean up its soiled image took it into even murkier waters after the oil giant recently began buying search terms like "oil spill" on Google and Yahoo search engines so that the company's official web site would be the first link to appear on a search page.

Amidst a vote on Sen. Murkowski's (R-AK) resolution to bail out big polluters, Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen called on the Senate to put aside partisan politics and protect the American people by voting against this bill. Thankfully, the Senate has voted 53-47 against the bill.

Campaign manager Brian Smith reported on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's recent announcement of a memorandum of understanding to establish the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium, which has the goal of tapping into the estimated 1 million megawatts of potential wind power that exists off the east coast.

Earthjustice was curious to know just what's in all of those chemical dispersants that we're dropping into the Gulf of Mexico by the millions of gallons, so we filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get more information. Here's what we found (hint: it's not good).