Posts tagged: science

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.

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.

Learn more about Earthjustice.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
11 November 2010, 2:08 PM
Strange bedfellows, cheesy marketing schemes, hot dog humans
Starving grizzly bears are increasingly clashing with humans over food. Image courtesy of stock.xchng

Enviros and drillers become fracking bedfellows in regulator debate
New York's Department of Environmental Conservation is so ill-prepared to regulate gas drilling in the state that both the gas industry and environmental organizations agree that the department should be re-staffed, according to an investigation by the DC Bureau. That, in addition to a number of other environmental challenges that gas drilling presents, should make for quite a fracking mess for New York's next governor, Andrew Cuomo, when he arrives in the office on Jan. 1.

Department of Agriculture takes the cheese
Fast food chains like Domino's Pizza and Taco Bell are piling cheese onto their products to boost consumer sales, all at the urging of the USDA, according to a recent New York Times piece. The agency's marketing creation, Dairy Management, charged with "vigorously promoting" dairy products, has been working with businesses to increase American cheese consumption by creating cheese-strosities like the Domino's Wisconsin, a pizza that comes with six cheeses on top and two stuffed in the crust. Apparently the agency didn't get its own memo, which found that when it comes causing obesity and heart disease, the cheese stands alone.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
05 November 2010, 1:49 PM
Compostable Canadians, childish owl snatchers, mainframe mind games
Owls are being targeted by Harry Potter fans in India. Photo courtesy of stock.xchng

BP's negligence could prove to be explosive, again
Maintenance of BP's Alaska operations is woefully neglected, according to an internal maintenance document reported on by ProPublica. The document shows that almost 150 BP pipelines on Alaska's North Slope got an F from the company and that many of the pipes are "worn to within a few thousandths of an inch of bursting." Based on this most recent report, it's not hard to see why Earthjustice is working to keep BP and others from drilling even more in the Arctic.

FritoLay Canada bites back at complaining consumers
Last month, amid consumer backlash and 50,000 plus Facebook fans who couldn't hear anything over a noisy SunChips compostable bag, SunChips owner Frito Lay buried its compostable chip bag, replacing it with the original, everlasting bag. But Frito Lay Canada stood its ground, according to Grist, launching a consumer awareness program that includes an offer for free earplugs, which is good news for those who can't hear the environmental concerns of an unrecyclable bag over their own self-interest.

View David Lawlor's blog posts
27 October 2010, 11:42 AM
Study says hydraulic fracturing of Marcellus shale pollutes water

Bombs, nuclear power plants and groundwater. What do they all have in common? Well, according to a new study published by the University at Buffalo (UB), the answer could soon be uranium.  

The study conducted by UB geologist Tracy Bank shows that hydraulic fracture drilling, or fracking, in the Marcellus shale deposit on the East Coast of the United States will result in the pollution of groundwater with uranium. Bank found that naturally occurring uranium trapped in Marcellus shale is released into groundwater following hydraulic fracturing, a practice of pumping high-pressured water and chemicals into rock formations to break up and release elements; in this case, natural gas.

Explains Bank:

"We found that the uranium and the hydrocarbons are in the same physical space...that they are not just physically—but also chemically—bound. That led me to believe that uranium in solution could be more of an issue because the process of drilling to extract the hydrocarbons could start mobilizing the metals as well, forcing them into the soluble phase and causing them to move around."

Bank’s hypothesis proved correct once samples of Marcellus shale were tested in the laboratory. The implications of the study are significant.Polluting groundwater with uranium, a toxic metal and radioactive element, could cause serious human health impacts if the uranium made its way into municipal drinking water systems or emitted toxic radon gas near communities.

It seems the oil and gas drilling industry would rather not acknowledge the water pollution associated with hydraulic fracturing. Which is why Earthjustice is fighting on Capitol Hill to close a loophole exempting the industry from the Safe Drinking Water Act, challenging backroom deals between government regulators and the oil and gas industry, and fighting for the strongest possible regulations to protect clean air and water supplies.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
15 October 2010, 12:39 PM
Bug warfare, cutting prostitution, BPA blues, civil servant car shares
It turns out airplane emissions will kill you before airplane crashes. Photo courtesy of Stock.Xchng

Humans won't fly high on airplane emissions

View Tom Turner's blog posts
21 September 2010, 12:29 PM
He proposes that we say "global climate disruption" not global warming
John Holdren, with President Obama.

In a speech in Oslo on September 6, John Holdren, President Obama's science advisor, suggested that 'global warming' be replaced by 'global climate disruption' as a more accurate expression. As The New York Times reported it, "changes to the climate are rapid when viewed in terms of the capacity of society and ecosystems to adjust; the impact is distributed unevenly; and the outcome will be overwhelmingly negative for most of the globe." Global warming implies slow changes that might even be benign.

Holdren (an old friend of mine and one of the smartest people in the universe) has long been a lightning rod for the right wing climate deniers owing largely to his long association with the population biologist Paul Ehrlich, with whom he wrote several books. Following Dr. Holdren's speech, the right blogosphere immediately accused the administration of playing politics, of trying to "rebrand" the subject preparatory to another push for a climate bill next year. The administration denied there's any rebranding going on.

I'm no expert, but John's suggestion makes good sense to me.

View Shirley Hao's blog posts
16 August 2010, 12:27 PM
“Making ocean life count”

On dry land, the U.S. Census Bureau is tidily wrapping up work on the Great 2010 Census of Humans (and coming in nicely under budget, at that). Meanwhile, out in the seven seas, a different kind of census—wetter, wider and most surely wilder—is also coming to a much-anticipated conclusion.

Ten years in the making, the spectacular Census of Marine Life is assembling the first ever catalog of all sea-faring residents, uncovering far more personal details than your census form ever dared to ask: where these species live and vacation, their numbers (historical, present and trending), the roles they play in the ecosystem, and more.

Earlier this month, COML scientists released a sneak preview of their findings, a roll call of salty friends from 25 key ocean areas, ranging from the intimidating:

Imagine living in the sea where it is permanently dark, cold, and food is hard to find. For many animals at depth it may be weeks to months between meals. If you find something to eat, you have to hang on to it. This is why so many deep-sea fishes have lots of big teeth. This dragonfish even has teeth on its tongue! They would be terrifying animals if they weren't the size of a banana. (c) Dr. Julian Finn, Museum Victoria.

Imagine living in the sea where it is permanently dark, cold, and food is hard to find. For many animals at depth it may be weeks to months between meals. If you find something to eat, you have to hang on to it. This is why so many deep-sea fishes have lots of big teeth. This dragonfish even has teeth on its tongue! They would be terrifying animals if they weren’t the size of a banana. © Dr. Julian Finn, Museum Victoria.

…to the many-legged:

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
05 August 2010, 3:57 PM
Bill McKibben calls for truth and a new movement to pass climate legislation
350.org cofounder Bill McKibben says it's time to change tactics in the global warming fight. Photo courtesy of 350.org.

If you're ticked off about the Senate's failure to vote on, much less pass, climate legislation this summer, you're not alone. Climate activist Bill McKibben recently published a provocative op-ed on TomDispatch that reflects the anger and disappointment felt by many Americans eager to keep the planet from melting.

McKibben, like many others, has been sounding the alarm on global warming for decades, yet in many ways we're no closer to preventing a global climate catastrophe now than we were in 1988 when James Hansen first testified to Congress that global warming was already underway.

Now that climate change legislation has once again been shelved, where do we go from here? McKibben offers a few intriguing answers to this question in his latest article. He argues that the time to endlessly pander to the industries and legislators intent on weakening the climate bill just to get something passed is done, over, finito. That strategy obviously didn't work, so let's try a new one.

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
03 August 2010, 2:07 PM
Army Corps and EPA to follow core legal requirements in MTR mine permitting

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have announced a major step to help prevent the destruction caused by mountaintop removal mining. In a rare joint guidance, the two agencies agreed to improve the process for permitting mountaintop removal mines.

Although it doesn't solve the problem of mountaintop removal mining, this new direction will make it much harder for coal mining companies to use Appalachian waterways as dumping grounds for their mining waste.

For 30 years, the Corps of Engineers allowed mining companies to completely bury streams with the rubble from their mountaintop mining explosions on the condition that they replace the stream with a manmade stream. In reality, this was a death sentence for healthy streams and entire ecosystems.

Here's how it happened: mining companies exploded the tops off of hundreds of mountains and dumped the waste into streams, burying more than 2,000 miles of vital Appalachian waterways. They claimed to replace the "structure" of those streams with drainage ditches as their permits required. Trouble is, science tell us that you can't just dig a ditch and create a living, healthy stream.

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View Jim McCarthy's blog posts
23 July 2010, 10:29 AM
Water must be restored to avoid major damage to fish, wildlife
Sacramento River salmon

California's delta is being sucked into oblivion by big agriculture and Southern California, and its fish and wildlife will suffer permanent harm if water diversions aren't reduced, a new report warns <Read the full report here>.

Yesterday, the staff of California's State Water Control Resources Board released their recommendations identifying the freshwater flows needed to support wildlife and ecosystems in the West Coast's most important estuary. The Stockton Record immediately seized on the report in a columnist's scathing attack on the state itself:

This is big. This is not some environmental group saying Delta fish need more water. This is not a scientific panel easy to ignore. This is the state of California itself. The very state that brutally exploited the Delta, from its dam-it-up mentality of the 20th Century to the send-it-south policy persisting to this day.

The recommendations -- to dramatically increase flows to the delta - mirror calls for more water by fish biologists and other scientists who have studied the problem for years. The report also supports the findings of two recent court-ordered federal plans - won by Earthjustice attorneys - calling for increased flows to prevent the extinction of protected fish species. Indeed, some of the state recommendations exceed those required in the federal plans.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
22 July 2010, 12:08 PM
Chlorpyrifos is in same chemical family as Nazi nerve agents

<Update: Read the San Francisco Chronicle story on this issue.>

Terri Carawan's health problems began in 1984, soon after the spraying started. Her skin became inflamed and her burning, itching eyes were nearly swollen shut with fluid. Despite tremendous fatigue, she struggled with sleeplessness.

It turns out that the telephone company where Terri worked as an operator had recently hired a pest control service to deal with lice and other insects in the building. Every month, they sprayed a pesticide called chlorpyrifos throughout the premises, including on the switchboard Terri operated.

In one of my first cases as a young lawyer, I represented Terri after her exposure to chlorpyrifos, recovering her medical expenses and lost wages and getting the spraying stopped. More than a quarter century later, while most indoor uses of chlorpyrifos have been banned due to risks to human health, the pesticide is still sprayed liberally—nearly 10 million pounds per year—on corn, oranges, and other crops in fields and orchards across the United States.

Today, I am proud that Earthjustice, along with NRDC and Pesticide Action Network, is filing suit to get this dangerous pesticide banned for good.

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