Posts tagged: Obama administration

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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 Jared Saylor's blog posts
21 December 2009, 1:31 PM
Dec. 22 will be a day residents in Harriman will never forget

I remember my first thought when I read the papers on Dec. 23, the day after one of the biggest environmental disasters in our nation's history: "This is only the beginning."

The stories about the spill came out like the spill itself: slow at first, then in a huge, sudden avalanche of sad details. 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash from the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Power Plant burst through a dam near Harriman and spread over 300 acres of pristine shoreline along the Emory and Clinch Rivers.

The spill damaged 23 homes and completely destroyed three.  This was enough coal ash to fill up nearly four Empire State Buildings; this much coal ash would flow over Niagara Falls for 24 minutes straight. Luckily, no one was physcially injured, but the emotional toll was immense.

Just 19 days later, 10,000 gallons were released from a pond at TVA's Widows Creek Power Plant in northeastern Alabama. A month after the Tennessee spill, Congress got involved with hearings and rhetoric about how we needed to clean up this mess and make sure it never happens again. But then on March 9, 2009, another spill occurred.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
18 December 2009, 5:36 PM
Senators try to stop EPA from reducing global warming pollution
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Photo by AFP.

Today, as world leaders, led by President Obama, struggled deep into the night on a plan to fight climate change, a handful of U.S. senators at home were trying to sabotage U.S. climate action. In league with long-time climate science deniers in Congress, they launched an effort to keep the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Led by Alaska's Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), this politically motivated attack targets an "endangerment finding" announced by the EPA on Dec. 7. Sen. Murkowski, aided by Sen. Lindsay Graham and others, are trying to pass a resolution that would nullify this finding.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
17 December 2009, 1:25 PM
EPA backs off coal ash plans; industry pressure a likely cause

While we still had hopes to see the first ever coal ash regulations by the end of this year, it seems the EPA might be taking a bit more time before they release their long-awaited proposal. The EPA announced today that, despite repeated claims, it won't be issuing regulations for coal ash ponds by 2010.

It hasn't been an easy road for EPA so far. The power industry has used fear mongering and misinformation to pressure EPA to hold off on regulating one of the nation's biggest wastes, coal ash. Coal ash ponds have poisoned communities and destroyed the environment for decades. It wasn't until a spill in Harriman, Tennessee last December that the agency and the nation recognized the toxic threat at nearly 600 coal ash ponds across the country.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
17 December 2009, 7:54 AM
Highlights from the climate change conference on Dec. 16

(Editor's Note: This file presents news and information from the Copenhagen climate change conference on Dec. 17, distilled from news outlet reports. Check for updates during the day.)

<Update>: A leaked draft document at Copenhagen suggests that the political agreement being forged will allow the planet's temperature to rise so high that disastrous consequences will result.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
16 December 2009, 4:06 PM
U.S. leadership on global warming threatened by compromise in Congress
A coal-fired power plant.

Becoming a grandfather is cause for celebration, unless you're a coal-fired power plant.

Coal plants that predate the Clean Air Act have become the mules of air pollution—set in their ways and not liable to change. Exploiting their "grandfathered" status, these coal plants have refused to implement technologies that are currently available to reduce pollution.

Now, Congress seems determined to let these dinosaurs off the hook all over again.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency's recent Clean Air Act endangerment finding prescribes a strong antidote to global warming pollution—a fact President Obama will surely highlight tomorrow on the final day of climate negotiations in Copenhagen—a political compromise over coal plants threatens to bind EPA's hands just as it begins to act.

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View John McManus's blog posts
16 December 2009, 12:07 PM
Administration settles Earthjustice suit over air pollution
Photo: BLM

The tens of thousands of new oil and gas wells that have popped up in the U.S. over the last decade—especially in the Rocky Mountain states—have created lots of air pollution. Much of it comes from the engines used to pump and compress the oil and gas or from leaks around the wells and pipelines. This air pollution makes skies smoggier, hazier, more toxic to breathe and alters the climate.

In New Mexico, some gas wells produce hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs. At low levels, hydrogen sulfide can cause difficulty breathing and headaches. At high levels, it can be lethal.

In western Wyoming and metropolitan Denver, oil and gas drilling is linked to rising smog levels, haze in wilderness areas and national parks, and to climate change.

Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the Bush administration to force it to update the air pollution regulations with modern, state of the art technology to minimize the pollution. The Obama administration inherited this lawsuit and quickly recognized that Earthjustice was right. So they settled the case and have promised to do a fresh review with an eye towards getting newer, cleaner technology into the field.
 

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
10 December 2009, 5:19 PM
Senators release framework for global warming legislation
Photo by AP

The Senate's Three Amigos—Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Kerry (D-MA), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT)—today released their framework for tackling global warming, our planetary El Guapo. The 5-page document lays out some broad principles for a Senate bill but is slim on specifics.

Crystal clear, however, is the senators' desire for a market-based system (i.e. one in which supply and demand reigns) rather than a system of government regulation: "Monday's endangerment finding by the EPA underscores the importance of Congressional action to address greenhouse gas emissions before the EPA moves unilaterally."

The endangerment finding—which makes possible the regulation of global warming pollution through the Clean Air Act—is a bitter pill to most business groups and industries, whose spokespeople quickly fired off "economy killer" statements when the finding was announced.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
08 December 2009, 4:56 PM
Feds grant approval despite obvious threats to fragile area

Some ominous news about the Arctic from the Obama administration almost escaped attention yesterday, amid Copenhagen climate conference hoopla and the EPA's determination that greenhouse gases are a public health hazard.

Sec. of Interior Ken Salazar announced that Shell Oil Co. has been granted conditional approval by the Minerals Management Agency to drill three exploratory wells next year in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast. Approval comes even though the government has yet to resolve legal problems with a Bush-era five year leasing plan opening vast areas of the Arctic Ocean seabed to oil and gas activities.

Reading between the lines, Salazar sounded a bit too positive about what the drilling means:

By approving this exploration plan, we are taking a cautious but deliberate step toward developing additional information on the Chukchi Sea.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
08 December 2009, 9:14 AM
Highlights from the climate change conference on Tuesday, Dec. 8

(Editor's Note:  This file presents news and information from the Copenhagen climate change conference on Dec. 8, distilled from news outlet reports. Check for updates during the day.)

<Update>: Poorer countries are outraged and threatening a walkout from the conference because of a draft climate agreement that apparently favors the interests of the United States.

<Update>: Here's an angry, if novel, request from the Bolivian president -- industrialized nations should pay "reparations" for the unprecedented flooding his country is experiencing. He links the flooding to global warming and blames the rich countries for the greenhouse gas emissions that caused it. Today, at the conference, Bolivia called for those countries to set a carbon emissions cap of less than 350 ppm.

The New York Times put together this easy-glimpse look at what the major and poorer countries of the world promise—and want—at the conference. The Times also released a new scientific analysis, confirming that global warming is not slowing down. <Update>: Indeed, says The Washington Post, we are on track to have the warmest decade on record.

"Hopenhagen" is a coined term for a planet-wide eco-petition, but it's fast become a description for the positive mood sweeping the city of Copenhagen, and it's been picked up as an angle for various news treatments: "What Is Hope?", and The Los Angeles Times.

Lots of buzz came out of the Obama administration's announcement yesterday that greenhouse gases present a threat to the public health and therefore can be regulated. Here's one reflection by the Huffington Post.

 

 

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
07 December 2009, 9:56 AM
EPA chief to declare emissions a danger to public health

(Update: As expected, today, EPA chief Lisa Jackson announced that greenhouse gases, including from vehicles, are a danger to public health that should be regulated. Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen immediately welcomed the announcement, commenting in part that "our nation must move quickly and efficiently to achieve the cuts in carbon dioxide and other global warming pollution needed to stave off catastrophic climate change." Read his full statement here.)

As the climate change conference convenes in Copenhagen, Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is set to declare today that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions are a danger to public health.

In April, the EPA released an endangerment finding, acknowledging that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. Jackson's latest announcement finalizes that initial action toward addressing global warming pollution under the Clean Air Act. At the time, we said:

The Obama administration has removed a road block in curbing pollution responsible for climate change and signaled a turn toward a clean energy future. We applaud this action, and welcome the President's leadership to overcome the greatest environmental challenge of our time.