Posts tagged: oceans

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 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.

14 Comments   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
20 April 2011, 3:19 PM
Earthjustice continues its work with deepwater permits and dispersants

Earthjustice continues to be engaged with the consequences of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a year after it occurred:

  • On Tuesday (April 26), our attorneys will be in oral arguments in the 5th District Federal Court, New Orleans, in our legal challenges to five new deepwater exploration permits, and one shallow water permit.
  • An ongoing oil spill response plan case challenges the BP response plan, which claimed it could recover almost 500,000 barrels a day (it actually took three months to stop the spill of over 200 million gallons).
  • We are intervenors in a deepwater drilling moratorium case.
  • We are preparing to litigate with Shell over its permit application for a deepwater drilling rig in the Gulf. It proposes to drill in a high-pressure oil formation similar to what BP drilled in.
  • We are seeking disclosure of ingredients in oil dispersants, such as were used in the Gulf oil spill a year ago. Our goal is to determine how toxic these dispersants are.
2 Comments   /  
View David Guest's blog posts
20 April 2011, 2:01 PM
Don't believe the tourism promoters - tar and oil still haunt coastline
President Obama could still find tar balls today on Gulf coast beaches, as he did a year ago (pictured here).

A year after BP’s oil spill devastated the Gulf of Mexico, we are analyzing the cleanup efforts and, sadly, find them both paltry and embarrassing.

The U.S. Coast Guard has issued an unbelievably bogus report that says that no further remedial action is needed to clean up BP’s massive mess. Huh? The tourist boosters don’t like to say it, but this oil is not gone, not by a long shot. It exists in floating mats in the ocean, on the floor of the Gulf, and underneath the sand on countless beaches. 

Earthjustice has filed a petition on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation under the federal Data Quality Act which challenges the Coast Guard’s ridiculous claim that no further cleanup is needed. The Coast Guard made its claim in a document called a Net Environmental Benefit Analysis (“NEBA”), which is the government’s method to “evaluate the tradeoffs related to spill response and cleanup techniques,” and to determine how best to strike a balance between “enough” cleanup and “too much” cleanup.

3 Comments   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
15 April 2011, 4:02 PM
We've got a plan, sez Shell, on anniversary of Gulf oil spill
Imagine this in case of an Arctic oil spill

Just one year after the nation's worst oil spill, Shell Oil is reaffirming its plans to drill the Arctic Ocean next year. While that's not exactly breaking news, what is new is Shell's announcement of an oil spill containment plan designed especially for the Arctic Ocean environment. Here's that plan as described in the Wall Street Journal:

Shell said it has a three-tier, Arctic oil-spill response system consisting of an on-site oil-spill response fleet, near-shore barges and oil-spill response vessels, and onshore oil-spill response teams staged across the North Slope of Alaska that in the event of a blowout or spill could be ready to respond within one hour.

1 Comment   /  
View Shirley Hao's blog posts
04 April 2011, 3:57 PM
A sunken steel behemoth provides refuge and life ... or not?

You know those humongous shipping containers that traverse the world in smog polluting ships?

Shipping containers. Photo: Dorothy / Flickr.

Shipping containers, packed full o' goodies. (Dorothy / Flickr)

Yeah, those. Guess how many go overboard every year. A couple dozen? A few hundred? Try 10,000. Whether it’s due to storms, careless stowing, or an obesity of fellow cargo, these lost containers evidently decided at some point that the great blue yonder was a far better cry than for whatever port they were destined, and took a lurch into watery oblivion.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
01 April 2011, 10:53 AM
Nuclear money, devilish diseases, superbug crisis
Californians are eyeballing human waste as a possible source of energy. Photo courtesy of Matt Seppings.

California flushes carbon emissions down the toilet
The California Energy Commission has its head in the toilet, but surprisingly, that's a good thing. Human waste is a huge pollution problem in the U.S. In fact, Californians alone produced 661,000 dry metric tons of biosolids in 2009. But instead of getting rid of the waste by fertilizing crops and filling up landfills—which both pose major environmental problems—the commission recently granted a Bay Area solid waste company almost $1 million to convert biosolids into a "hydrogen-rich gas that could be used in fuel cells to generate electricity," reports Grist. Though the process hasn’t been proven, it could go a long way in adding renewable power to California's alternative energy portfolio. 

BP's environmental hits keep on coming
A recent study by cetacean researchers estimates that the number of whales and dolphins killed by the BP spill last spring could be much higher than previously thought, reports Mother Jones. Though the original count of marine mammal mortalities was approximately 101 dead whales, dolphins and porpoises as of November 2010, that number is misleading since it doesn't factor in the number of deaths that never make it to shore. To come to a more precise number, the researchers unearthed a bunch of historical records to determine whether carcass counts have previously been good indicators of total numbers of cetacean mortality. Sadly, they found that the actual body count only represented about 0.4 percent of total deaths, which indicates that the BP spill's death toll for dolphins and other cetaceans could number in the thousands. That, of course, is in addition to all the other damage that BP has caused, which Earthjustice is currently working to rectify in a number of spill-related lawsuits.

1 Comment   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
31 March 2011, 5:56 AM
One year after Gulf oil spill, he calls for expansion of drilling

As oil and gas prices again climb in response to Middle East travails, the phrase “Drill, Baby, Drill” has re-entered the national conversation—but it’s President Obama who did the uttering this time. And it sounds like he means it.

Obama mentioned the mantra Tuesday night in a speech about energy independence that came across like the opening shot in his 2012 bid for reelection. Alluding to “D,B,D,” the president said this is no time to be caught up in meaningless rhetoric that stampedes us to nowhere.

We have to end our national addiction to oil, he warned, giving environmentalists brief hope that he was pushing a clean energy agenda. But, before environmentalists could start feeling too warm and fuzzy, the president made clear that he meant… foreign oil. Curing that particular addiction, sez the prez, means we must start drilling domestically—offshore, onshore, in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, too. The Alaska mention stirred some hope among drilling enthusiasts there about the potential for drilling the Arctic.

Just one year after the worst human-caused oil spill in our history, Obama said we’ve learned our lessons and it’s time to start applying them—with deepwater drilling rigs. And, right on cue Wednesday, Shell Oil was celebrating its receipt of the first new deepwater oil drilling permit in the Gulf of Mexico since the BP oil spill.

4 Comments   /  
View Shirley Hao's blog posts
22 March 2011, 2:08 PM
Albatross refuge braves tsunami waves
Laysan albatross chick, washed over by tsunami wave. (Photo: Pete Leary / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Several hours after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami struck northern Japan, towering waves raced west across the Pacific, engulfing the three tiny islands of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

A mere three days earlier, Midway Atoll had been heralding the latest wildlife celebrity to woo human audiences: Wisdom. Not only was she the oldest known wild bird in the United States (“a coyly conservative 60”, who was banded as a breeding adult in 1956), Wisdom was—yet again—a proud albatross mum, having raised at least thirty youngsters throughout her lifetime.

By the early hours of March 12, four successive waves had overrun the low lying refuge, a famed nesting ground for nearly the entire world’s population of Laysan albatrosses, as well as important habitat for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and the Hawaiian green turtle. In the aftermath, biologists and volunteers dug out more than 300 birds who were trapped in the debris. Thousands more are thought to have been buried alive in their underground nests. Officials estimate that more than 20 percent of this year’s albatross population have been killed—including 110,000 Laysan and black-footed albatross chicks and 2,000 adults—as a result of the tsunami and two severe winter storms that had preceded it.

2 Comments   /  
View Liz Judge's blog posts
18 February 2011, 4:15 PM
House lawmakers continue to slash essential protections for the American public

As I write this, members of the House of Representatives continue to debate and move their way through votes on hundreds of amendments to the chamber's government spending bill. The voting and debate has been a marathon process, stretching from morning through late at night for the last three days, and looks to carry on until late tonight or tomorrow.

Once the amendments are voted on and settled, the whole House will cast a final vote on the entire bill package with all the passed amendments. Then the Senate takes its turn, crafting a spending bill of its own. The two chambers must then confer and agree on one bill that funds the federal government by March 4 -- or the government must shut down until its spending and funding sources are settled.

The amendments that the House is currently considering are wide-ranging. They aim to cut government spending by cutting the funding streams of hundreds of government programs. So, instead of ending those programs through legislation and appropriate voting, many members of the House are seeking to delete the programs by wiping out the funds that keep them going.

View Patti Goldman's blog posts
17 February 2011, 6:45 AM
Amendments target wildlife, water, air, public health, natural resources

Forty years of environmental progress is under attack today by a vote in the House of Representative on a stop-gap funding measure to keep the federal government running.

Unfortunately, that measure—called a continuing resolution—is loaded with amendments and provisions that would slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, and seeks to override the rule of law at every turn.

These so-called  “riders” could not pass on their own merits, so their sponsors hope they will ride the coat-tails of this must-pass budget bill. Like fleas, they come with the dog, only these are far more than irritants. They would overturn court decisions that we have obtained to stop illegal behavior and force federal agencies to comply with the law.

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