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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 David Lawlor's blog posts
11 June 2012, 10:48 AM
Earthjustice’s campaign to ban fungicide will protect future generations
(Shutterstock)

Many of our legal team’s victories in defense of the environment or human health have lasting impacts that will be felt by future generations. But a new study from Washington State University suggests that our successful legal campaign to end the use of the dangerous agricultural fungicide vinclozolin will indeed pay dividends for years to come.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
08 June 2012, 11:13 AM
Plus: fatty flame retardants and debris tsunamis
Great Barrier Reef. (Shutterstock)

Coal project kept out of Great Barrier Reef
This week, Australian environment minister Tony Burke put a stop to a billion dollar coal project that could have negatively impacted the Great Barrier Reef, reports CorpWatch. The world’s largest coral ecosystem, the Great Barrier Reef contains an abundance of marine life, is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, and provides a major boost to the Australian economy. The massive coal project—the first of several proposed coal projects—would have increased the likelihood of damage to the delicate reef ecosystem by expanding the number of ship journeys occurring near the reef. Though Burke’s decision is a big win for the environment, many of the ocean’s reefs still face other environmental stressors like pollution and ocean acidification, which could alter their very existence. Currently, Earthjustice is working to reduce ocean stressors to help protect coral reefs and the millions of creatures (including us) that depend on them.

Flame retardants may be making you fat
Flame retardants are back in the news again, and this time they’re being tied to obesity, anxiety and developmental problems, reports the Chicago Tribune. According to new research, small doses of flame retardants can disrupt the endocrine system by altering levels of thyroid hormones, among other effects. Given that the average American baby is born with the highest recorded levels of flame retardants among infants in the world, the recent study is raising concern amongst researchers and parents alike. And though flame retardants have been widely touted as lifesavers for preventing household fires, research by government and independent scientists has found that they actually provide no meaningful protection from furniture fires. Find out more in the Chicago Tribune’s special report, “Playing with Fire.”

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
01 June 2012, 1:53 PM
Fukushima fish, two-faced corporations, corn sugar fail
(Photo courtesy of fortherock)

Taking a hike may boost your brainpower
Spending time outside doesn’t just make you happier and calm your frazzled nerves, reports the Wall Street Journal. It can also improve creativity. According to a yet-to-be-published paper by University of Kansas researchers, a group of hikers that spent four days in the woods outperformed another set of hikers that had yet to hit the trails on a standard creativity test. This wasn’t just a meager boost in creativity, though. The test results showed a nearly 50 percent increase in performance from the hikers who were already on the trails. In addition to boosting creativity, previous studies have shown time spent in nature (or even having a window that looks out into a grassy area) can improve everything from short-term memory to how you handle life’s major challenges.

 Fukushima fish swim their way to California waters
U.S. scientists recently announced that Bluefin tuna contaminated with low levels of radiation from last year’s Fukushima meltdown were found along the California coast five months after the disaster, reports Mother Jones. The finding comes on the heels of Japan’s own announcement that it’s preparing to restart one of the nation’s nuclear plants, which were idled after the Fukushima meltdown. Despite the stigma that radioactive fish will no doubt entail, the scientists maintain that radiation levels found in the fish is lower than what occurs naturally in the environment and therefore doesn’t pose a risk to human health. Unfortunately, these days radiation isn’t the only contaminant that people have to worry about when ordering a tuna fish sandwich. Many fish, including Bluefin tuna, also contain mercury, a toxic chemical linked to impaired neurological development and having other harmful effects. But unlike nuclear radiation pollution, which tends to happen only when there’s a meltdown, mercury is willingly created every day by industrial sources like coal-fired power plants. Find out how we're shutting them down and cleaning them up.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
02 May 2012, 10:46 AM
As asthma awareness month begins, ozone season looms
Smog makes some kids sing the blues when "School's Out" (the memorable Alice Cooper tune)

“School’s out for summer!”

When I was growing up, Alice Cooper’s 1972 hit usually infiltrated my head sometime around the beginning of May, looped incessantly, and hit a feverish crescendo in the few minutes before the final bell released us to summer break. Now, many years later, a very different line completes the couplet in my head.

“Ozone is a bummer!”

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
16 April 2012, 12:09 PM
GMOs and BPA get a kiss, while green chemistry gets the boot
Photo courtesy of healthserviceglasses (flickr)

EPA disses green chemistry program
Recently, the EPA pulled the rug out from under a green chemistry grant program without any explanation and little notice, reports Environmental Health News. The program, which planned to bring together experts in many fields to design a new generation of green chemicals that are less toxic to people and the environment, would provide $20-million towards the research of green chemistry. It was nixed just weeks before the deadline for proposals, a move that no doubt annoyed the researchers who worked for months on the program. Though the EPA says it may pick back up the program in the future, the recently burned scientists are, not surprisingly, skeptical as to whether that will ever actually happen.

FDA says BPA is A-Okay
The Food and Drug Administration won’t ban bisphenol-A (BPA) anytime soon, despite several studies that have linked the chemical’s exposure to a wide range of ailments, from obesity to cancer and even to changes in behavior, reports Grist. According to the FDA, there’s still not enough evidence to deem BPA a threat. And the fact that the chemical, which is found in up to 90 percent of the human population, may be potentially harmful doesn’t mean we should ban it. After all, what would soup companies, baby bottle manufacturers and other industries do without their precious BPA? It’s not like there are other alternatives out there that are safer and cost-effective, right? Wrong.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
06 April 2012, 12:42 PM
Dumping ship, passing the food safety buck, flame retardant flameout
Say bye-bye to pancakes and waffles covered in maple syrup (little blue hen)

Climate change ruins breakfast for everyone
This year’s early arrival of spring is devastating maple production, which generate the most sap when freezing nights follow cool days, reports the Washington Post. Typically a month-long season, maple syrup producers who rely on traditional taps and buckets saw their maple season cut dramatically this year, which means less maple production . One producer only came up with about 40 gallons of syrup when her typical haul is 300. Another family in Wisconsin, which usually collects about 400 gallons of syrup, ended up with only 165 gallons this year. Though, as Grist points out, the heat wave that we’re having now could easily be followed by a cold snap next year, climate change is expected to cause more global weirding like freakishly warmer temperatures, so it’s time to start stocking up on real maple syrup now...or resign yourself to the artificial tastes of Aunt Jemima’s and Mrs. Butterworth.

Ships still dumping pollution despite government crackdown
Over the past 10 years, the Department of Justice has fined ship operators more than $200 million for illegal ship dumping, yet the violations may just be the tip of the iceberg, reports iWatch News. Under federal and international law, ships are required to properly dispose of oily wastewater and sludge, but that costs money and time, so instead ships sometime dump their waste directly into the water using so-called “magic pipes,” which can be detached and easily rerouted when inspectors come by. Though the federal government has stepped up efforts to crack down on polluters by, in part, rewarding whistleblowers with six-figure digits and hunting for magic pipes, there's more work to be done to keep waste out of ocean waters. Last June, Earthjustice successfully defended Alaskans’ right to rein in wastewater dumping from cruise ships, which dump an estimated 148 million gallons of wastewater laced with partially-treated sewage, heavy metals and toxic chemicals like flame retardants into Alaska’s pristine waters every year.

4 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Liz Judge's blog posts
26 March 2012, 3:41 PM
Citizens vow to fight harder against mountaintop removal mining
Mountaintop removal mining

[Updated 4.6.12]   A federal district court judge overruled the Environmental Protection Agency's veto of the proposed Spruce No. 1 Mine in West Virginia, a case in which Earthjustice and partners and clients in West Virginia were granted amicus curiae.

The court ruling came as heartbreaking news for our partners in West Virginia and across Appalachia, who have been fighting to protect their communities from this proposed mine (and mountaintop removal mining in general) in the courts for more than a decade. The Spruce No. 1 mine would be the largest mountaintop removal mine in West Virginia, and one the largest in all of Appalachia.

Like all mountaintop removal mines, it is likely to inflict a slew of health hazards on nearby communities, as well as shake their homes and cause costly property damage. The Spruce mine would also bury and destroy seven miles of vital streams and decimate more than 2,000 mountain acres, razing 3.5 square miles of mountaintop forests and dumping 110 million cubic yards of toxic mining waste into waters and valleys an area already suffering from the impacts of mountaintop removal mining.

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View David Lawlor's blog posts
21 March 2012, 10:55 AM
Earthjustice lawsuit pressures agro-chemical company to pull the plug on toxic fumigant methyl iodide
Photo: USDA

Do you like to eat strawberries grown without cancer-causing fumigants? You do! Well then, have I got some news for you!

Last night, Arysta LifeScience, the producer of the toxic fumigant methyl iodide (sold under the sunny corporate nomenclature “Midas”) announced it is pulling its product—designed for use primarily in strawberry fields—off the U.S. market. The announcement comes as the California Superior Court was about to issue its decision in an Earthjustice lawsuit aimed at stopping the use of the dangerous chemical.

“All Americans are safer today because of the removal of the cancer-causing farm chemical methyl iodide,” said Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie, who argued the case in court. “American agriculture can be highly productive without having to use chemicals like methyl iodide that threaten not only those who work in our fields, but also anyone who lives within miles of them, with cancer. This is a chemical that never should have been allowed in the first place and we’re thankful that our combined efforts resulted in the chemical company pulling this dangerous compound off the American market.”

View Shirley Hao's blog posts
13 February 2012, 3:15 PM
Oil pipelines + caribou = lots of baby caribou? One fishy equation
Baby caribou: "Pipelines make us do what?" Utukok Uplands, Western Arctic, Alaska (Florian Schulz / visionsofthewild.com)

Oil drilling in Alaska is good for the caribou! At least it is, according to Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX).

When it comes to getting in the mood for love, endangered tortoises have skilled wildlife biologists doubling as matchmakers, while giant pandas have panda porn. Alaskan caribou? The Trans-Alaska oil pipeline, naturally.

In a House committee meeting on oil drilling in Alaska, Rep. Gohmert, with nary a grin or chuckle (though the same couldn’t be said for his fellow committee members), waxed heartfelt on how the oil pipeline has spiced up Alaskan caribou love life—and why we must clearly, for the love of the animal, ensure we continue caribou date night by drilling more and keeping that oil flowing. An excerpt from his plea for the caribou:

And then they found out that actually, caribou, when they wanted to date, liked how warm the pipeline was, and so when they wanted to go on a date, they’d invite each other to head over to the pipeline …

So my real concern now, when people are talking about cutting off the potential flow of oil through the pipeline, and under the agreement, if the oil stops flowing through the pipeline, then it would have to be removed. My concern is, do we need a study to see how adversely the caribou would be affected if that warm oil ever quit flowing through the pipeline?

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View Buck Parker's blog posts
09 February 2012, 1:16 PM
President may be open to Shell promises it can clean up oil spill

On backing down, backing away, and backing into a corner . . .

President Obama’s statement, “I will not back down from making sure an oil company can contain the kind of oil spill we saw in the Gulf two years ago,” was one the more awkward sentences in his State of the Union speech, and not just syntactically.

The president had to use that particular construction, however, because he could not say what he should have and maybe even wanted to say: that he will not allow drilling in our coastal waters until he has such assurances. He couldn’t say that for the simple reason that his administration continues to approve oil drilling in the outer continental shelf almost as if the Gulf oil spill had never taken place.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska.