EJ90 is a ninety second podcast exploring the latest news in Earthjustice litigation. Tune in every Friday to hear updates on wildlife protection, natural resource conservation and environmental health and safety news that affects you.
Jessica Knoblauch: A contributor to Earthjustice's online and print publications, Jessica can also be heard interviewing Earthjustice attorneys and clients on EJ90 's companion podcast, Down To Earth.
Transcript: This week, conservation groups led by Earthjustice joined the fight to ban super toxic rat poisons that have been linked to the poisonings of wildlife, pets and even children. Known as second-generation anticoagulants, these highly toxic rodenticides interfere with blood clotting, causing the victim to bleed to death.
In 2008, the federal EPA ordered companies to re-formulate their products and to stop marketing the most toxic rodenticides on the consumer market in order to reduce accidental poisonings.
Though most rodenticide manufacturers have been quick to comply, the British-based multinational company known as Reckitt Benckiser continues to stall on meeting the EPA’s updated standards. Meanwhile, these toxic poisons continue to cause gruesome deaths in hawks, owls, eagles and other raptors, as well as in dogs and cats.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie:
“EPA is trying to protect wildlife and children from the damaging effects of rat poison. But D-CON’s manufacturer, Reckitt Benckiser, insists on putting profits before protecting people and wildlife. We will do everything we can to support EPA’s decision to ban these poisons."
Transcript:This week, nearly one and a half million people strongly objected to a proposal currently before the Food and Drug Administration that approves genetically engineered salmon.
Earthjustice, together with Friends of the Earth, Food and Water Watch and the Center for Food Safety, also oppose the FDA’s approval of GE salmon based on the agency’s failure to seriously consider the risks that GE salmon pose to the natural environment.
Here’s Earthjustice press secretary Raviya Ismail:
“This application is the first of its kind, and precedent-setting. It is imperative that FDA not ignore the public’s repeated calls for the careful, comprehensive, timely, and open environmental review that is promised by law."
So far, more than 2,500 grocery stores have committed to not sell GE seafood if it is approved and 260 chefs across the country have signed on to a letter by Chefs Collaborative objecting to the transgenic fish. A variety of other groups have also voiced their opposition, including several indigenous groups and hundreds of fisheries and fishermen’s organizations.
Transcript:This week, a new report shows that a number of sea life in the Gulf of Mexico are suffering from deformities and other illnesses that may be linked to the chemical dispersants used during the BP oil spill.
Nearly 2 million gallons of chemical dispersants were dumped into Gulf waters during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, despite a lack of knowledge about the health and environmental effects of these chemicals.
Since then, Earthjustice, together with Toxipedia Consulting Services, has found that five of the 57 dispersant ingredients eligible for use during the spill have been linked to cancer.
Currently, Earthjustice is pushing the federal EPA to fulfill its responsibility to analyze the safety of dispersants and ensure that they will only be used in another oil spill disaster if they are less toxic than oil alone.
In addition, Earthjustice is working to obtain critical information about oil drilling and oil spill response plans in another area targeted for drilling, America’s Arctic Ocean.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Marianne Engelman Lado:
“This week marks the anniversary of one of our nation’s most tragic environmental disasters. When it comes to oil spills, whether in the Gulf of Mexico or in remote areas like America’s Arctic Ocean, the testing of chemical dispersants just can’t be done in the moment of the disaster. It has to be done ahead of time to avoid the chaos we witnessed during the disaster response to the Deepwater Horizon spill."
Transcript: Recent studies have found that sea turtles are highly contaminated with industrial chemicals and pesticides, which may be threatening their ability to survive.
Though no one knows the extent to which sea turtles in the wild are harmed by these chemicals, some have been shown to impair the immune system and may make sea turtles more vulnerable to thyroid, liver and neurological damage.
In addition to toxic chemicals, sea turtles are threatened by destructive human practices like longline fishing, which hooks, entangles and drowns unsuspecting turtles on lines up to sixty miles long. Over the last few decades, hunting, egg collection and marine debris have also contributed to their decline.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff, whose litigation against the National Marine Fisheries Service has resulted in stronger protections for loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles from longline fishing, and is now back in court challenging a rule that allows more sea turtles to be caught:
“Sea turtles have been swimming the oceans since the time of dinosaurs, yet today these ancient and resilient creatures are facing extinction. Endangered sea turtles face a long uphill battle to recovery, and they need more protection from harmful activities, not less."
Transcript: A recent study provides new evidence that many of the nation’s commercial fish stocks are finally on the rebound after decades of overfishing, thanks to stock rebuilding requirements that were added to federal fisheries law in 1996.
So far, two-thirds of monitored fish populations have fully rebounded or shown significant progress towards recovery. And, rebuilt populations of stocks like summer flounder and Pacific cod are also fueling economic recovery in the commercial and recreational fishing sectors.
The news is not all good, however, with continued trouble evident in South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and New England waters where overfishing of stocks like cod and flounder continue. As a result, the need for even deeper cuts in catch has led to heavy political pressure on Congress and government regulators to roll back fisheries laws and take other actions that threaten recovery.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Roger Fleming, whose litigation and advocacy work helped push through recently enacted enforceable catch limits in New England fisheries:
“It has been a long fight to try to regain control of the New England groundfish fishery. But we are finally turning the corner and are rebuilding fish populations. Still, some parts of the industry are pressuring regulators to take actions that will undermine this progress. So we must do everything possible to strengthen their resolve to stand by the tough decisions they’ve made, so we can again have sustainable fish populations and a sustainable fishery."
Transcript: According to recent studies, climate change may cause storms like Hurricane Katrina to more frequently reach our coastlines. And, for every degree Celsius that the globe warms, the likelihood of storm intensities and storm occurrences will increase up to sevenfold.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice, which is leading the fight against climate change by reducing carbon emissions caused by dirty energy like coal, oil and gas and by promoting a renewable energy future.
“The crux of global warming begins with where our energy comes from. By retiring coal plants and encouraging a clean energy future, we can work together to slow the consequences of a warming planet. We also need strong leadership from President Obama and his administration to implement bold policies that will transition us away from dirty carbon-intensive energy sources like tar sands and coal and toward low-carbon, renewable energy sources.”
Last October, Hurricane Sandy, the deadliest and most destructive tropical cyclone of the 2012 season, caused billions of dollars in damage. The storm also killed more than 100 people and left millions without power.
Transcript: Recently, scientists confirmed that both domesticated and wild bees have been dying off in droves, a collapse that may soon result in fewer watermelons, almonds, blueberries and other produce around the country.
Known as “colony collapse disorder,” some scientists say that the great bee die-off may be caused by the use of pesticides, which can be harmful to both wild and domestic bees.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Janette Brimmer, who has been working on pesticide issues and the environment for more than a decade, most recently to protect children in agricultural areas from pesticide drift:
“Not only are pesticides harmful to farmworkers, but they can also be harmful to bees that are necessary to agriculture. That’s what the recent science is emphasizing. Bees are critical to many food crops and to healthy ecosystems, and bees are just one indication of how pesticides can have a negative impact on our lives. We know that crops can still be very highly productive without the use of harmful pesticides, which at the same time will keep people and entire ecosystems safer.”
Each year, nearly one billion pounds of pesticides are sprayed into fields and orchards around the country.
Transcript: Recently, the National Marine Fisheries Service confirmed that a false killer whale sustained fatal injuries in January after being hooked by a longline tuna fishing boat.
Under a new Fisheries Service protection plan, prompted by Earthjustice litigation, longline fisheries are required to use weaker hooks and stronger fishing lines designed to reduce the number of false killer whale injuries and deaths.
Unfortunately, due to repeated foot-dragging by the federal Fisheries Service, those requirements didn’t go into effect until February.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney David Henkin, who for a decade has been working with wildlife groups to protect false killer whales:
“The fatal hooking of a false killer whale less than a month into 2013 should be a wake-up call to longline fishers that they need to put the protection plan into effect immediately. Had the Fisheries Service acted sooner, as Congress intended, this latest tragedy likely could have been avoided.”
According to the Fisheries Service’s latest analysis, longline fishing is decimating the false killer whale population around the main Hawaiian Islands at nearly twice the rate that the population can sustain.
Transcript: This week, two leading Congress members introduced legislation that will help fight the growing health crisis of antibiotic resistance by providing more information on antibiotics given to animals raised for food.
The bill would require drug manufacturers and large-scale livestock producers to obtain and provide better information to the federal government on the type and amount of drugs used in animal feed.
According to the FDA, a full 80 percent of the U.S. supply of antibiotics is used on animals raised for food. Studies have linked the widespread use of antibiotics in livestock to drug-resistant bacteria that can wind up on people’s dinner tables.
“The burden of the pollution from these facilities is borne by the communities who are unfortunate enough to live near them and by the environment. As a society, we are paying too high of a price for maintaining factory farms. Requiring large-scale livestock producers to disclose the amount and type of drugs they’re feeding their animals is a good first step.”
Transcript: Recently, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced that every single megawatt of new electricity capacity added to the grid in the U.S. last month was renewable. In addition, the amount of wind and solar added in January was greater than the amount of coal and natural gas added one year ago.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Isaac Moriwake, who is currently working to enable more residents and businesses to install solar energy systems:
“By adding more renewable energy to the grid, the U.S. is paving the way to a clean energy future that will simultaneously grow the American economy while stopping the advance of climate change.”
Currently, Hawaiʻi and California are successfully leading the way in renewable energy integration, and Earthjustice continues to encourage utility companies to use clean energy technology. In 2012, almost half of all new electricity generating capacity added in the U.S. was renewable. And, with aggressive renewable integration goals set for 2020, this number is projected to increase in several states.
Transcript: This week, the state of New York hired a geologist who has former ties to a gas drilling company to study the correlation between fracking and earthquakes.
The new hire raises concerns that the state’s study may be tainted by research that’s biased by a financial conflict of interest.
Here’s Earthjustice Managing Attorney Deborah Goldberg, who is currently representing the town of Dryden, New York, in defending the town’s right to limit oil and gas development within its borders:
“The natural gas boom is just an uncontrolled experiment unless scientific assessments include all risk factors and consequences. The state of New York needs to increase transparency and be honest with the public, and that begins with hiring truly independent scientists. As fracking regulations continue to be assessed, impartial science is absolutely critical.”
Fracking, which involves forcing millions of gallons of water laced with toxic chemicals into the ground to release oil and gas, has been linked to a recent rise in earthquakes. Some U.S. states, including Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado, have experienced a significant rise in seismic activity over the last few years alongside a boom in fracking.
Transcript: This week, the Obama administration is proposing to allow the Navy to harm marine mammals more than 30 million times during military training exercises along both coasts of the United States and in Hawaiʻi.
According to proposed rules from the National Marine Fisheries Service that begin in January 2014, the Navy would be allowed to triple the number of deaths, injuries or disruptions of marine mammals over a five year period.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda, who is representing a coalition of conservation and American Indian groups who are seeking greater protectionfor Pacific Northwest marine sanctuaries and other areas where marine mammals concentrate to feed, mate, or raise their young:
“The Fisheries Service fell down on the job and failed to require the Navy to take reasonable and effective actions to protect them. These training exercises will harm dozens of protected species of marine mammals—Southern Resident killer whales, blue whales, humpback whales, dolphins, and porpoises—through the use of high-intensity mid-frequency sonar.”
The Navy’s primary mitigation relies on spotting marine life at the surface, but those techniques can miss more than 90 percent of the whales and other mammals in the area.
Transcript: This week, environmental groups asked a Wyoming judge to uphold the state’s requirement that the oil and gas industry disclose chemical ingredients used for hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
In 2010, Wyoming became the first state in the nation to require fracking operators to disclose the identity of fracking chemicals, which are linked to serious health effects like tremors, dizziness and even cancer.
Despite the new regulations, the agency responsible for overseeing the permitting process for oil and gas drilling has kept information about more than 190 different fracking chemicals from landowners.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, who is representing the Powder River Basin Resource Council and three other groups in defending landowners’ right to know about toxic fracking chemicals that may be leaching into their wells:
“Landowners who want to determine whether hydraulic fracturing chemicals are polluting their water don’t know what to test for when the industry hides information about the chemicals it’s using. It’s a black box. That’s the reason so many landowners are concerned.”
The case could set a broad legal precedent—as the states of Texas, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Montana, and Michigan all have fracking chemical disclosure regulations similar to Wyoming’s on the books.
Transcript: This week, a superior court judge ruled for the first time that an industrial poultry farm that uses fans to blow feathers, excrement and other pollutants into nearby waters may be required to clean up those pollutants under the Clean Water Act.
The poultry farm, known as Rose Acre, is the largest industrial egg farm in North Carolina, housing nearly four million egg-laying hens. Like other confined animal feeding operations, otherwise known as CAFOs, Rose Acre creates massive amounts of waste that when blown into the air by ventilation fans, contaminates nearby waterways with fecal bacteria, ammonia, nitrogen, phosphorous and other contaminants.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Hannah Chang, who is representing several North Carolina conservation groups in challenging the farm’s refusal to be regulated under the Clean Water Act:
“We’re happy that the Court recognized that the State does have the authority to regulate the water pollution caused by this massive factory farm. At the upcoming trial, we’ll rely on the strong evidence we have that the Rose Acre facility is polluting nearby waters and damaging the fragile ecosystems of the neighboring National Wildlife Refuge.”
According to a 2008 study, CAFOs produce about twice as much manure as is generated by the entire U.S. population, yet little regulation for CAFOs currently exists.
Transcript: Recently, Atlantic Coast fisheries regulators voted to put in place the first ever coast wide limits on menhaden, a small, oily fish that serves a critical role in the ocean ecosystem.
Often referred to as “the most important fish in the sea,” the Atlantic menhaden is an essential food source for seabirds, whales and game fish like the striped bass.
Over the past three decades, the menhaden population has collapsed due to overfishing by one company, Omega Protein, which grinds up the fish to make a variety of products like fish oil supplements and chicken feed.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Roger Fleming, who along with Earthjustice attorney Erica Fuller has been working with recreational anglers, coastal business owners, scientists and conservationists to reduce Omega’s take:
“Despite the self-interested claims of the Omega Corporation, this action will benefit everyone involved. Growing menhaden populations will benefit the species in the ecosystem that need them as food, the fishermen who need them as bait, and even Omega, who will have a sustainable supply to grind up and feed to chickens for years to come.”
Scientists say that new limits are a good first step in ensuring the survival of the entire East Coast marine food web.
Transcript: This week, Earthjustice said goodbye to Joan Mulhern, a dear friend and colleague who passed away last week at the age of 51.
As Earthjustice’s senior legislative counsel, Joan tirelessly fought to stop water pollution and end mountaintop removal mining.
Colleagues have described her as a “tireless advocate for the underdog in every situation” who “tenaciously stood up to powerful interests that threatened the environment and operated on a seemingly endless reservoir of courage.”
Here’s Joan at a congressional hearing testifying against the practice of mountaintop removal mining:
“It is impossible to overstate the harmful effects of mountaintop removal on the surrounding environment and communities. Not only are the waters buried under tons of rubble, the forested mountains become barren moonscapes. Mining complexes can be ten or even twenty square miles in size. The communities below these massive operations are devastated. People are forced from their homes by blasting, by dust, noise, flying rocks and the degradation of stream and well water. Life near mountaintop removal operations become so unbearable that generations-old communities are forced to move away.”
Joan, who was fighting a long-term illness, is survived by three siblings.
Transcript: This week, a coalition of environmental and public health groups called on California regulators to end the use of super toxic rat poisons that have been linked to the poisonings of wildlife, pets and even children. These highly toxic rodenticides—known as second-generation anticoagulants—work by interfering with blood clotting, resulting in uncontrollable bleeding that leads to death.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie:
"Foxes, owls, bobcats, hawks—pretty much any animal that will eat a mouse is at risk of being poisoned. And the numbers are just staggering. Typically over three quarters of the animals analyzed in a given study test positive for rodenticides. We have a genuine crisis on our hands, but the solution is relatively simple. We need to take these products off the market and use safer alternatives."
Second generation anticoagulants are especially hazardous and persist for a long time in body tissues. As a result, predators or scavengers like hawks, owls, foxes and mountain lions that feed on poisoned rodents are then also poisoned.
Despite the threat these poisons present, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation has ignored repeated requests to regulate them for more than a decade.
Transcript: A new study has found that chemical dispersants used during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill may make oil 52 times more toxic to marine life.
During the 2010 spill, more than two million gallons of oil dispersants were dumped into the Gulf of Mexico, despite concerns that the dispersants had not been thoroughly tested for health and environmental effects. Following the spill, Earthjustice sued the EPA to obtain more information about the chemicals, some of which were later found to be carcinogenic and toxic to aquatic life.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Marianne Engelman Lado:
"More and more information is emerging that casts real doubt on claims that dispersants are effective and safe for people and wildlife. We have called upon the EPA to revamp the way that it is looking at dispersants to make sure that the use of these chemicals after an oil spill doesn’t make things worse instead of better."
Last month, the U.S. government banned BP from new federal contracts over its “lack of business integrity” in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, which is the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.
Transcript: A chemical company has put the final nail in the coffin for methyl iodide, a cancer-causing pesticide that scientists have called “one of the most toxic chemicals on earth.”
The company’s request to pull federal registration for methyl iodide, which follows an Earthjustice petition asking EPA to ban the fumigant, ensures that the dangerous chemical will not be used anywhere in the country.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie, who represented a coalition of groups and farm workers in petitioning the EPA:
"Methyl iodide is now officially history, and good riddance! In the United States of America, we can grow good, affordable food without putting lives at risk. Methyl iodide might be useful in the laboratory for growing cancer cells in a petri dish, but it had no place in agriculture."
Last March, methyl iodide’s manufacturer suspended sales of methyl iodide nationally after Earthjustice brought suit in California, where the state had approved the chemical’s use on strawberry fields at rates up to 100 pounds per acre.
Currently, researchers are working to develop or identify alternatives to methyl iodide that aren’t harmful to people or the environment.
Transcript: Recently, a coalition of conservation groups from the United States and Canada urged the Canadian government to reject the expansion of a mine that will dig up one of the most toxic fossil fuels on the planet, tar sands oil.
According to a recent report, the proposed mine expansion will aggravate harms to habitat of threatened woodland caribou and more than a hundred migratory bird species, including endangered whooping cranes.
The coalition’s letter comes after the submission of a similar petition to the U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, asking him to investigate Canada’s destructive tar sands mining and examine how the mining is hampering U.S. efforts to protect endangered and threatened species.
More than a year later, Secretary Salazar has still not responded to the groups’ petition, arguing that he cannot move forward without a response from Canada.
As a result, the coalition is now raising these issues directly with the Canadian government.
Here’s Earthjustice research analyst Jessica Lawrence, who has studied the latest science on tar sands impact:
"Tar sands mining in Canada is destroying huge areas of forests and wetlands and releasing toxic pollutants that poison wildlife. This harms migratory birds and woodland caribou that are protected by international treaty. Earthjustice and others are asking Canada to reject the proposed mine because of the cumulative impacts that it will have on habitat. We’re also asking the U.S. Secretary of Interior to investigate the impacts of tar sands mining on internationally protected species and present those findings to President Obama."
Transcript: This week, as the east coast starts on a long road to recovery after Hurricane Sandy, we're reminded of the devastating effects that climate change could mean for our coastal cities.
Though no one extreme weather event can be blamed on climate change, scientists have long warned that rising sea levels, coupled with warmer oceans and warmer air temperatures, increases the danger of extreme weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes and droughts.
Here’s Martin Wagner, head of the global warming practice group at Earthjustice, which is working to reduce the impacts of climate change.
"The lesson of Sandy is that climate change has come home. No longer can we pretend that climate change affects only the polar bears, or the poor people in Bangladesh or Haiti or the Arctic. Climate change has come home, and we must defend our home.
"We must take strong action now to replace coal-fired power plants and tar sands oil with energy conservation, solar panels and wind turbines. We must establish limits on global warming pollution from automobiles, ships and aircraft. We must build green jobs to protect our children’s future.
"The best tribute to those who have lost their homes or their lives to Sandy is to dedicate ourselves to a clean energy economy that will reduce the likelihood of these storms in the future.”
In 2009, the U.S. EPA found that greenhouse gas pollution endangers the welfare of current and future generations through adverse impacts such as weather-related injuries and deaths, damage to roads and other infrastructure, and flooding.
Transcript: Recently, the state of Pennsylvania introduced a policy that delays warning the public about potential water contamination from oil and gas development.
Previously, the state's environmental regulators issued contamination warnings directly to the public based on samples by water quality experts.
Now, under the new policy, the public is not warned about potentially harmful contamination until after senior management is notified, which will delay warning the public about water pollution and potentially make field inspectors reluctant to report such findings.
Here’s Kathleen Sutcliffe, campaign manager at Earthjustice, which is representing a coalition of groups that are calling on the state to reverse the new policy:
"When water supplies are polluted, the public should be warned immediately so that affected residents can take steps to protect themselves. They should not have to wait until after the news has passed through several layers of bureaucracy and political interference."
Currently, Pennsylvania is in the midst of an unprecedented gas drilling rush that has brought troubling reports of poisoned drinking water, mysterious animal deaths and industrial explosions.
The state's new policy was announced in an internal memo without giving the public notice or an opportunity to comment.
Transcript: This week, the Wyoming wolf hunt season officially began, opening up most of the state to unlimited killing, trapping and even gassing of endangered wolves and their pups.
In August, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it was eliminating federal protections for Wyoming wolves and handing wolf management over to the state after intense political pressure from Wyoming officials.
Currently Wyoming, which has set a new low for extreme anti-wolf laws, allows aerial gunning of wolves and killing wolf pups in their den. It also allows unrestricted killing of wolves if they are found to be ‘harassing’ livestock or domestic animals, even if wolves are intentionally baited into the conflict.
In September, Earthjustice notified the government that it will sue to win reinstatement of federal Endangered Species Act protections for Wyoming wolves to ensure that there are adequate laws in place to guarantee the species’ recovery.
Here’s Earthjustice Managing Attorney Tim Preso:
"The howl of the wolf defines the Northern Rockies as a truly wild place. The wolves are the living symbol of wildness and wilderness. It’s also an apex predator that plays a critical role in the ecological system of this region. I wouldn’t want to live in a world that isn’t wild enough to sustain wolves. And I suspect a lot of people feel the same way. That’s why we’ve fought so hard to bring wolves back from the brink of extinction and secure their recovery. We want to make sure that the Northern Rockies remains a place where the wolf still howls."
To learn more about our work on this issue and to find out how you can help stop wolf hunting in Wyoming, check out earthjustice.org/wyomingwolves. And subscribe to EJ90 on iTunes for more environmental news that affects you.
Transcript: This week, a coalition of powerful senators joined the growing call to take new Arctic oil leasing off the table until the government can ensure that the area’s fragile and abundant marine resources will be protected.
Senators Jeff Merkely, Dick Durbin, Barbara Boxer and others sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asking him to postpone opening new areas of the Arctic Ocean for leasing until at least 2017.
In the letter, the Senators point out that with the area’s hurricane-force storms, sub-zero temperatures and months-long darkness, stopping a blown-out oil well in the Arctic Ocean could be impossible. In addition, the nearest Coast Guard station is 1,000 miles away and there are almost no boats or harbors there.
Here’s Earthjustice Policy Associate Jessica Ennis:
"Requesting that sound science be considered before opening such a pristine place like the Arctic for additional oil and gas leasing is smart leadership. We thank these six senators for recognizing the importance of stewardship of this region."
Transcript: Last month, Arctic sea ice melted to its lowest level on record, an event that indicates humans may be running out of time in averting large-scale global climate disaster.
Because the Arctic acts as the world’s “air conditioner,” a drastic reduction in sea ice is expected to result in more extreme weather as the loss of ice adds more heat and moisture to the climate.
On Wednesday, scientists and conservation groups gathered for a press teleconference to discuss the record-breaking sea ice melt as well as actions that can be taken to slow the warming.
Though rising carbon dioxide levels are primarily responsible for these warming trends, reductions of so-called short-lived climate pollutants such as methane, ozone and black carbon could also have a significant impact on slowing warming rates across the Arctic.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Erika Rosenthal, who has worked extensively on promoting policy and legislation that reduces black carbon emissions:
"Sea level rise projections vary, but policymakers from Dade County, Florida to New York City are all planning for a rise of three to five feet this century. And the situation is even more extreme for some of the small island developing states where sea levels are projected to rise twice as fast as the global average.
"Clearly this summer showed us that time is running out. We deeply hope that policymakers will treat the news of the rapidly rate of melting in the Arctic this summer as a call to action to take urgent and immediate steps to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants."
Transcript: Recently, a California court approved a statewide plan to apply harmful and untested pesticides to control a pest that has not been proven to harm crops in California. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) justified its plan based on unsubstantiated claims that the light brown apple moth harms crops and native plants.
Currently, the apple moth program allows the state to apply pesticides at any time and without any further environmental review. Earthjustice is representing a coalition of health and environmental organizations who challenged the agency’s failure to disclose or accurately describe all the harms caused by applying pesticides throughout the state.
In 2007, conservation groups asked EPA to ban the toxic pesticide. Five years later, the EPA is still sitting on its hands.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Erin Tobin:
"The agency’s plans to apply pesticides throughout California to control a moth that has little to no impact on agriculture are misguided at best. Unfortunately, the burden is now on the public to protect themselves from chemicals that CDFA has not shown are necessary, much less effective."
In 2007, concerns about health and environmental impacts of the program were elevated after hundreds of people reported illnesses during an emergency spraying to eradicate the moth.
Transcript: Last week, researchers released a study that shows exposure to a pesticide commonly used on U.S. farms harms children’s brain development—and it harms boys more than girls.
The farm insecticide chlorpyrifos is among a class of pesticides initially developed for World War II-era chemical warfare. Though the EPA banned the residential use of the pesticide in 2001, farmworkers and their children, and families living in rural communities, are still being exposed to this dangerous pesticide.
In 2007, conservation groups asked EPA to ban the toxic pesticide. Five years later, the EPA is still sitting on its hands.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles, who represents farmworkers and conservation groups in asking the EPA to ban the pesticide:
"What this study shows is clearly this poison harms children. It has no place in our fields or near homes, schools and daycares. We asked EPA to ban this poison. We asked in 2007. And today we are in court because the agency has not responded, let alone begun the process to outlaw this chemical."
In the meantime, Earthjustice has asked the EPA to at least adopt no-spray buffer zones around homes, schools, parks and daycare centers for the most dangerous pesticides.
Transcript: This week, a coalition of conservation, wildlife and public health groups led by Earthjustice sued the U.S. EPA for failing to determine the safety of chemicals used in oil spill cleanups.
In 2010, nearly 2 million gallons of oil dispersants were dumped into the Gulf of Mexico during the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, despite little knowledge of their toxic effects. Since then, the EPA has failed to require any sort of comprehensive testing of oil dispersants. It has also failed to put forward any regulations that identify the waters in which dispersants can be used safely or quantities that are safe.
Here’s attorney Marianne Engelman Lado, who is leading Earthjustice’s efforts to ensure that chemicals used in oil spill cleanup are safe for both people and the environment:
"Inadequate information about the toxicity of dispersants created tremendous uncertainty and anxiety during the Deepwater Horizon disaster. We brought this litigation to prevent dispersants from being used if they would expose people and the environment to an even more toxic brew than oil alone."
So far, residents across the Gulf have sent more than 5,000 petitions to the EPA, urging them to create a new rule that will guarantee that dispersants will be used safely in the next disaster.
Transcript: Hawaiʻi’s commercial longline fishing industry has long threatened the survival of the area’s false killer whales. And now, the government has the data to prove it.
Recently, the National Marine Fisheries Service confirmed that false killer whales are being killed by Hawaiʻi-based longline fisheries at unsustainable rates.
When the fishing fleet catches yellowfin tuna and other fish on its hooks, false killer whales are attracted to this all-you-can-eat buffet and are often wounded or killed by the gear. Typical injuries include dorsal fin damage, leaving the whales unable to swim, gather food or reproduce. Whales can also get tangled in the long fishing lines and drown.
Currently, false killer whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In June, Earthjustice sued the federal National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to implement a plan to protect the endangered species.
Attorney David Henkin leads Earthjustice’s efforts to protect false killer whales in Hawaiʻi.
"If we are to have any hope of saving Hawaiʻi’s false killer whales, it’s time for the Fisheries Service to stop making excuses and to start complying with its legal obligation to protect these animals. These are intelligent mammals that don’t deserve to be indiscriminately killed in order to put a tuna fish sandwich together."
Transcript: The giant sequoias of Yosemite National Park will continue to remain protected thanks to a court decision that puts public interests above private gain.
Recently, a federal appeals court in California upheld a ruling that says a land developer does not have a right to bulldoze roads through Yosemite in order to connect its property to a state highway.
In 2007, the developer sued the National Park Service for not allowing the roads, arguing that a 19th century mining law known as RS 2477 permitted the development. The developer wanted the roads to provide easier access for a private resort it hoped to build along the western boundary of Yosemite National Park.
George Torgun, an attorney for Earthjustice, represented the Sierra Club and other environmental groups in the case:
"The RS 2477 claims were the most troubling ones because we are seeing those types of claims popping up around the west. Private property owners, off-road vehicle users have been claiming that they have the right to build new roads through national parks and national monuments. We got involved in this case because the magnificent resources of Yosemite National Park were at issue."
Each year, millions of people visit Yosemite, one of the nation’s crown jewel national parks, to witness its incredible and unmatched natural beauty.
Transcript: It’s already difficult for consumers to avoid sweets that contain genetically-modified ingredients, which are found in a majority of packaged foods. Now it could get harder thanks to a government decision allowing unrestricted planting of GMO sugar beets.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the genetically modified sugar beets in spite of legal challenges from environmental and conservation groups led by Earthjustice. Earthjustice sued the agency, pointing out that genetically modified beets use more toxic herbicides, which in turn leads to herbicide-resistant super weeds.
GMO crops may also contaminate non-genetically engineered crops like Swiss chard and table beets. Despite the government’s latest decision approving the modified beets, two lawsuits challenging them are yet to be decided.
Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff leads Earthjustice’s efforts to regulate both genetically modified sugar beets and genetically modified alfalfa:
"Genetically modified crops are a danger to the environment. They’re designed to withstand a bombardment of highly toxic weed killers that pollute the environment and lead to creation of super weeds, which in turn force growers to switch to even more toxic herbicides.
"It’s a toxic spiral that only gets worse. GMO crops also threaten farmers’ livelihoods and consumer choice by contaminating organic and conventional foods, and they concentrate the control over our food supply in the hands of a few corporations.”
Transcript: This week, Californians from across the state spoke out against weak regulations on a deadly air pollutant that harms America’s most vulnerable populations, including kids and the elderly.
Commonly known as soot, this airborne mixture of tiny particles is a major cause of premature death. Currently, California leads the nation in the number of most polluted cities for both year-round and short-term soot pollution.
On Thursday, the U.S. EPA held a public hearing on its proposed soot standards, which were prompted by an Earthjustice lawsuit.
(Audio of public chanting: “What do we want? Less soot. When do we want it? Now!")
Unfortunately, the EPA’s long overdue standards are currently not strong enough to protect public health.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Paul Cort, who represented health and conservation groups in a successful lawsuit that forced the EPA to issue this rule:
"The thing that sticks with you most about the hearing today are the stories from people who are describing how air pollution affects them personally. There was one woman who testified today who told the story of her 15-year-old daughter who died of an asthma attack. I think too often when we think about air pollution, we don’t think about what that suffering is really like and that people are dying from an inability to breathe. And often we focus on these numbers and we sort of forget that there are lives that are attached to this.
"We did our own analysis and we estimated that if EPA adopted the standards that we’re advocating for, that could save over 35,000 lives a year. Again, it’s a number, but those are real people, real lives, and what we heard today were some of those stories. And that is powerful stuff, and it’s important for EPA to hear. It brings it home. It reminds them of why these decisions matter. And I don’t think you can help avoid feeling the power of those kinds of testimonials.”
Transcript: This week, as Shell’s drill rigs head for the Arctic, a coalition of conservation organizations led by Earthjustice is suing the federal government for approving the oil company’s inadequate oil spill response plans.
Currently, Shell’s plans to prepare and respond to a major oil spill caused by drilling in America’s Arctic Ocean rely on optimistic and unfounded assumptions that ignore the realities of Arctic conditions.
For example, the plans are based on the assumption that Shell will clean up more than 90 percent of any spilled oil, even though less than 10 percent of spilled oil was recovered after the Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez spills.
Both of those spills occurred in relatively favorable weather conditions. The Arctic’s harsh weather, high seas, darkness and wind, however, may make even that level of cleanup impossible.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney Holly Harris, who filed the lawsuit:
"This case is the first of its kind. It will set the stage for the future of oil spill prevention and response in the Arctic Ocean. An offshore oil spill in the Arctic threatens dire circumstances because it would occur more than a thousand miles from the nearest Coast Guard station in one of the harshest and most remote environments in the world."
Transcript: Recently, the U.S. EPA released information revealing the existence of hundreds of previously unknown coal ash dumps nationwide.
Coal ash, a toxic byproduct of burning coal that’s filled with cancerous pollutants like arsenic, mercury and chromium, is dumped into unlined and unmonitored landfills and ponds across the country.
The EPA’s new data reveals that there are at least 451 more coal ash ponds than previously acknowledged, increasing the total number of coal ash ponds to more than 1,000.
Here’s Earthjustice attorney and coal ash expert Lisa Evans:
"The health threat from toxic coal ash continues to grow. The data today reveal that coal ash is being disposed in hundreds of dumps that are not fit to contain hazardous chemicals. This increased danger underscores the need for EPA to act now to protect public health."
In 2008, more than 1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash burst through a waste pond in Tennessee, destroying nearby homes, poisoning rivers and contaminating residential areas. Since that spill, the EPA has promised to issue federally enforceable standards for coal ash, but has failed so far in doing so.
In April, environmental and public health groups represented by Earthjustice sued the EPA to force the agency to make good on that promise.
Transcript: This week, a federal appeals court delivered a big win for science and public health by upholding the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.
In a landmark decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected challenges to EPA actions that limit carbon pollution and other harmful emissions from cars, trucks, power plants and various other polluters.
The EPA introduced rules curbing greenhouse gases after a landmark 2007 Supreme Court ruling that held that the gases, which threaten public health and the environment, could be regulated as pollutants under the Clean Air Act.
Here's Earthjustice attorney Howard Fox, part of the legal team that opposed the suits against EPA's rules:
"This is a welcome decision in favor of clean air for our kids and families—and against big polluters. Scientists have found that burning fossil fuels like coal is strongly linked to global warming. Rising temperatures have many impacts—for example, worsening smog that triggers asthma attacks and other lung ailments. We hope this decision reinforces EPA's resolve to move forward with additional standards to limit carbon pollution."
In the U.S., vehicles, power plants and industries such as oil refining account for the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
Transcript: This week, California Governor Jerry Brown took a big step towards reducing exposure to a family of toxic chemicals that have been linked to cancer, neurological deficits and reduced fertility.
Flame retardants, found in everything from high chairs to couches, have been in use in the U.S. for decades. They recently came under scrutiny after a Chicago Tribune investigation revealed that in addition to their toxicity, flame retardants manufacturers manipulated science to conceal the fact that flame retardants are ineffective at fire prevention.
Brown's decision to revamp California's flammability standard, which effectively mandates the use of flame retardant chemicals, will benefit consumers nationwide because many manufacturers apply his state's standard to products sold across the country.
Here's Eve Gartner, an attorney at Earthjustice, which is working to improve regulations for toxic chemicals such as flame retardants:
"Toxic chemicals used as flame retardants are hazardous to both people and the environment. California's outdated flammability standard is responsible for the fact that the majority of furniture in this country is embedded with toxic chemicals that actually do nothing to improve fire safety. Governor Brown's recent decision to revamp California's flammability standard is a great first step in addressing this global health concern."
Transcript: This week, the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization joined a lawsuit to defend new air pollution standards from dirty industry attacks.
The NAACP, represented by Earthjustice, recently joined a coalition of public health and environmental groups in defending the EPA's new mercury and air toxics standards.
The new standards, which are already a decade overdue, limit emissions of highly toxic air pollutants like mercury, arsenic, and lead emitted by coal- and oil-fired power plants. People of color and low-income communities are disproportionately exposed to pollution from coal-fired power plants, which are the leading source of human-created mercury emissions.
"We are delighted that the NAACP has joined Earthjustice's effort along with our other clients to uphold the EPA's landmark mercury and air toxics standards for power plants. Together, we're committed to a future where all Americans, regardless of their race or their economic status, will have access to clean air and drinkable water.
"It is particularly gratifying to me, being with Earthjustice for the past year and a half, to see this new client come on board. While growing up in Virginia Beach, VA, I was once the president of my NAACP city-wide youth council, so I'm encouraged by their commitment to social justice and seeing that go into the environmental arena is particularly encouraging."
Last year, the NAACP passed a resolution highlighting the civil rights issues related to clean air, citing the fact that almost 70 percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. In addition, African American families making $50,000 per year are more likely to live next to a toxic facility than a white American family making only $15,000 per year.
Transcript: Recently, the first ever genetically engineered animal that has yet to be approved for human consumption got a little closer to appearing on Americans' dinner plates. The so-called "frankenfish" is a genetically modified Atlantic salmon that grows to full size in half the time of a normal Atlantic salmon.
The modified salmon is opposed by a bipartisan coalition of environmental groups and Republican legislators who are concerned about the salmon's environmental and economic impacts. Recently, the Senate voted down a measure that would require more testing of genetically engineered salmon before it's introduced in the U.S.
Earthjustice has called on the FDA to respond to a citizen petition that requested that the agency assess the full range of environmental and ecological risks associated with the salmon.
"We filed this citizen petition to ensure that the FDA conducts a careful, comprehensive, and open review of the many significant environmental risk questions raised by this first-of-its-kind application. It is unacceptable that a full year has now passed and yet we still have no answers and absolutely no insight into the agency's consideration of these risks."
In 2010, when the FDA first announced its intent to approve the application for the engineered salmon, the public sent more than 400,000 comments in opposition.
Transcript: This week, a legal battle continues between a local town in upstate New York and a billionaire-owned gas company over whether the town should allow fracking, a controversial form of gas drilling.
In September, a privately held, out-of-state gas drilling company sued the town of Dryden after the town board unanimously approved a change to its zoning rules to clarify that gas development is prohibited within its borders.
In February, a state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the town, a decision that the gas company quickly appealed. The case is now at the appellate court where the town is being represented by Earthjustice.
"The Town of Dryden has a very strong case. The court has ruled that localities retain their longstanding power to regulate land use in their communities. We'll do everything we can to ensure this victory stands."
On Tuesday, the gas company was scheduled to file its brief in the lawsuit, but the brief was not filed and the court will not automatically dismiss the appeal for several months. The brief, if and when it's filed, will try to explain why an out-of-state company should be allowed to overrule the local town's zoning laws and dictate how land is used within the town's borders.
Transcript: This week, 22 organizations, including Earthjustice, sent a letter to President Obama urging him to attend the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June.
Like the first Earth Summit that took place in Rio 20 years ago, this gathering will help set the international agenda on environment and sustainability for the next 20 years.
Some of the topics that will be discussed include increasing renewable energy, reducing carbon pollution from power plants and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. The summit will also focus on building healthy ocean ecosystems with stepped-up action to reduce pollution, overfishing and acidification.
Here's Earthjustice attorney Erika Rosenthal, who will be attending the Earth Summit along with Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen.
"Healthy oceans are a top priority for the Earthjustice team at Rio+20. The Earth Summit presents a rare opportunity for the global community to ratchet up concerted international action to build marine resilience in the face of new challenges like ocean acidification."
Currently, Earthjustice is working to build ocean ecosystem resilience by reducing local stressors such as pollution, overfishing and habitat loss. Earthjustice is also working to support the Pacific Small Island Developing States, who have been champions for international action to build marine resilience to ocean acidification.
Transcript: Recently, the U.S. EPA announced its decision to defend its veto one of the nation's largest proposed mountaintop removal coal mines, the Spruce No. 1 Mine.
Last week, the EPA filed court papers indicating that it plans to appeal a judge's ruling that overturned the agency's veto of the Spruce Mine. The EPA vetoed the permit for the Spruce Mine because of its devastating impact on Appalachian waters and the communities that rely on them.
After the district court overturned the veto of the Spruce permit, nearly 33,000 Earthjustice supporters sent messages to the EPA urging it to appeal the case, a request that the administration decided to listen to.
Here's Earthjustice campaign manager Liz Judge, who has worked extensively to raise awareness about the destructiveness of mountaintop removal mining:
"The EPA's appeal of this case comes as tremendous news. It's a signal to us and to the American public that the EPA is pressing forward in its commitment to enforce the 40-year-old Clean Water Act. It's a signal that the EPA is persevering in its dedication to protecting the waters and communities of Appalachia. And it's a signal that the EPA is not buckling to the pressure of a powerful and influential coal industry. "
The initial case against the gas companies was brought by a Pennsylvania family whose health quickly deteriorated after they were surrounded by natural gas wells and processing facilities. Shortly after the fracking operations began, the family started suffering from unexplained headaches, nosebleeds, burning eyes and sore throats.
Transcript: Recently, doctors, scientists and researchers lent their support to newspapers fighting for access to information that could shed light on the health impacts of fracking, a controversial form of gas development.
The newspapers are seeking to overturn a court's decision to seal the record in a case in which a Pennsylvania family sued several gas companies over health impacts related to air and water pollution from nearby natural gas development operations. The natural gas companies are fighting to keep the records out of the public eye.
Represented by Earthjustice, the group filed a friend of the court brief supporting the newspapers. Here's Earthjustice attorney Matthew Gerhart, who filed the brief on behalf of the group:
"Understanding and preventing any health risks from gas development depends on public access to information on the industry. The gas industry should spend less time trying to conceal information and more time disclosing information necessary to understand the true risks of fracking and gas development."
The initial case against the gas companies was brought by a Pennsylvania family whose health quickly deteriorated after they were surrounded by natural gas wells and processing facilities. Shortly after the fracking operations began, the family started suffering from unexplained headaches, nosebleeds, burning eyes and sore throats.
Transcript: This week, the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to block new Clean Water Act policies that will protect the waters of the United States.
Last year, the EPA issued the new policies to restore Clean Water Act safeguards that were in place for decades but put in jeopardy by two bad Bush administration rules that left millions of miles of streams and acres of wetlands unprotected.
Here's Earthjustice Senior Legislative Counsel Joan Mulhern, who has worked on clean water issues for more than a decade:
"Clean water is critical to healthy communities and public welfare. Our waters are where our families swim, where we fish and where we get our drinking water. And yet, polluters and their friends in Congress are trying to block the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency from protecting the nation's streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands from harmful pollution."
Though opponents of the EPA's new policies have long argued that restoring Clean Water Act protections will hurt jobs, businesses and the economy, studies have shown that healthy rivers and lakes actually enhance the economic value of neighboring homes, businesses and communities. According to the American Sportfishing Association, angling alone generates $125 billion in annual economic activity and supports more than 1 million jobs across the U.S.
Transcript: Recently, a Pennsylvania court delayed the implementation of a new state law that lets the oil and gas industry decide whether land within municipal borders will be used for fracking, a controversial form of gas development.
Seven municipalities, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and a physician concerned about fracking chemical disclosure issues challenged the constitutionality of the state law. The court also ruled that existing zoning provisions pertaining to oil and gas development can remain on the books until they are challenged and found invalid.
Earlier this year in New York State, courts twice ruled in favor of towns that have banned industrial gas development within their borders. Pennsylvania's high court also recognized the right of localities to enact local zoning laws, but the state law overrode the court decision.
Here's Deborah Goldberg, the managing attorney in Earthjustice's Northeast office, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief and presented oral argument in one of the New York cases:
"For the third time in as many months, state courts have recognized that local municipalities have rights that must be respected when industrial activities are proposed for their communities. This is terrific news, not only for the people of Pennsylvania, but for communities across the country trying to defend their way of life from destructive gas development."
Transcript: This week, environmental and public health groups represented by Earthjustice sued the EPA to force the agency to update its standards for coal ash, a toxic byproduct of burning coal.
Every day, power plants generate over 400,000 tons of toxic coal ash. Most of this waste, which is filled with carcinogenic pollutants like arsenic, mercury and chromium, is dumped into unlined and unmonitored landfills and ponds.
Currently, there are more than 1,000 poorly regulated coal ash dumps across America. And nearly 200 of these sites have contaminated nearby groundwater supplies.
"The numbers of coal ash ponds and landfills that are contaminating water supplies continues to grow, yet nearby communities still do not have effective federal protection. It is well past time the EPA acts on promises made years ago to protect the nation from coal ash contamination and life-threatening coal ash ponds."
In December 2008, more than 1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash sludge burst through a waste pond in Tennessee, destroying nearby homes, poisoning rivers and contaminating residential areas. Since that spill, the EPA has promised to issue federally enforceable standards for coal ash, but has failed so far in doing so. The recent Earthjustice lawsuit is intended to make good on that promise.
Transcript: This week, scientists and environmentalists working to reduce harmful air pollution and slow climate change are praising the release of the EPA's new black carbon report.
Black carbon, a primary component of soot, is known as a short-lived climate pollutant because it only stays in the atmosphere for a few days or weeks. Because of this, reducing black carbon emissions is an effective rapid response to curb global warming in the near term by slowing melting in the Arctic ice sheets as well as snow pack and permafrost in the American west.
Here's Earthjustice attorney Erika Rosenthal, who has worked extensively on promoting policy and legislation that reduces black carbon emissions:
"Science tells us that we have a limited window of opportunity to reduce emissions of black carbon and other short-lived climate pollutants like methane if we're to slow the rate of warming and melting in sensitive regions like the Arctic, the Himalayas, and western mountain ranges here in the U.S., as well as to have any chance at keeping global temperature rise at 2°C or less.
"This report gives us a unique opportunity to provide greater leadership to the international community and to take more action here to reduce black carbon particulate emissions to protect health and to slow climate change. It's really a win-win for public health and climate."
The EPA's report is a good first step to mitigating black carbon emissions, but many say that there is more work to be done to achieve effective black carbon reductions that will slow global warming.
Transcript: This week, the U.S. EPA took a landmark step towards protecting Americans' health by proposing standards that will limit greenhouse gas emissions from new coal-fired power plants.
The proposed rules require new power plants to average no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon pollution per megawatt of electricity produced. Since most existing U.S. coal plants emit about 1,700 pounds of carbon dioxide, this means that any new coal-fired power plant must be significantly cleaner under the new rules.
Though the EPA's new standards are a great first step in cleaning up dirty coal plants, unfortunately the rules don't apply to the approximately 300 existing power plants around the country. These plants are by far the biggest producers of the power sector's pollution, which causes increased asthma, heart problems, hospital visits and premature death.
"We really applaud President Obama and EPA Administrator Jackson for proposing these landmark standards. We urge the administration to also begin the process of developing new standards to address carbon pollution from existing coal plants."
Currently Earthjustice is working to close loopholes and retire dozens of the old plants while cleaning up those that continue to operate.
To learn more about our work on this issue and to encourage the EPA to finalize these life-saving standards, check out earthjustice.org/action. And subscribe to EJ90 on iTunes for more environmental news that affects you.
Transcript: This week, strawberry lovers rejoiced with the announcement that a cancer-causing pesticide slated for use on strawberries and other crops was pulled off the market.
Methyl iodide, a highly toxic fumigant, was pulled off of the shelves by its maker, Arysta LifeScience, after years of opposition by pesticide watchdogs and farmworkers concerned about the known carcinogen's use on farmland.
Scientists have called methyl iodide "one of the most toxic chemicals on earth." In fact, the chemical is so carcinogenic that scientists have used it for years to induce cancer in lab tissue.
In 2011, Earthjustice sued California for approving the hazardous pesticide, which was to be used on thousands of acres of California strawberries at rates of up to 100 pounds per acre. Currently, more than 85 percent of the nation's strawberries are grown in the state.
Here's Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie, who represented a coalition of farmworkers, community advocates and environmental health organizations in court:
"The news that methyl iodide will no longer be used in the United States is something that all Americans can celebrate. We can grow healthy and affordable food without toxic chemicals that are capable of poisoning not only the folks who work in the fields but also nearby communities. Methyl iodide is a pesticide that never should have been approved in the first place."
Transcript: This week, a U.S. District Court handed down a decision that will help shape future fisheries management across the nation.
In April 2011, Earthjustice challenged the National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to protect sea herring, river herring and shad from overfishing.
Also known as forage fish, these species are the basis of the ocean food web and are a key food source for cod, striped bass, tuna, killer whales and countless other marine creatures.
Over the last two decades, fish species like river herring have declined by more than 90 percent due in significant part to industrial trawlers, giant ships that clear-cut the ocean floor.
The court's ruling, which found that the government must protect Atlantic river herring and shad, makes it clear that federal fisheries management must shift to a more ecosystem-based approach that considers the health of both predator species and their prey.
"The industrial midwater trawl fishery is simply unsustainable. Without adequate protections in place, New England commercial and recreational fishermen are losing businesses and a way of life that they've worked their whole lives for. Now federal fisheries managers will be required to protect fish at the bottom of the food chain, and this will lead to healthier oceans, rivers, and fisheries for everyone."
Transcript: This week, environmental groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to get the lead out of aviation gas.
Though lead has been phased out of automobiles for more than 15 years, the planes that many of us use to fly around the world still burn gas that's loaded with lead.
Earthjustice filed the suit on behalf of environmental group Friends of the Earth after the EPA ignored the group's six-year-old request to regulate lead emissions from aircraft under the Clean Air Act.
"Given concerns about the impact of lead on public health, EPA's failure to take timely action on Friends of the Earth's petition is inexcusable. We are simply asking the EPA to move more quickly and definitively in establishing regulations that would protect millions from ill health caused by the known toxic effects of lead."
Aviation is the single largest source of lead emissions in the U.S. and poses a significant threat to public health, especially in communities located near airports where aircraft use leaded aviation gas.
According to a recent study, children living within a third of a mile of an airport where planes use leaded gas have higher blood lead levels than other children.
Even at extremely low doses, lead is toxic humans, wildlife and the environment.
Transcript: This week, politics trumped science after the House of Representatives passed a bill that overrides a bipartisan, court-approved settlement to restore the San Joaquin River in California.
Among other things, the bill would toss out the 2009 San Joaquin River Restoration Agreement, the largest river restoration project in U.S. history, in order to placate industrial agriculture and commercial water interests.
For years, Earthjustice has worked to restore the San Joaquin River, which quenches the thirst of millions of Californians, is a haven for fish and wildlife, and is home to salmon runs that sustain fishing ports along a thousand miles of coastline.
"This bill is a blatant attempt to boost corporate profits for some of the world's wealthiest agribusinesses and to wipe out important environmental protections that this bill's supporters never liked. The changes proposed by Big Ag will result in more species going extinct, including species like Pacific salmon that are critical to the economies of West Coast states."
Passed with strong Republican support and against the wishes of the vast majority of California Democratic House members, the bill is also opposed by the state of California and California's two Senators, as well as commercial and recreational fishing associations, environmental groups, water districts, and many others.
Transcript: This week, environmental group Friends of the Earth sued the State Department to find out whether it is letting lobbyists' personal connections to Hillary Clinton or President Obama bias the government's decision on the Keystone XL, a pipeline that would pump dirty tar sands crude from Canada to U.S. refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.
The suit, filed by Earthjustice, is intended to gain access to communications between the department and a broad web of lobbyists known to have campaign ties to Clinton or Obama.
Though last month President Obama rejected the permit for Keystone XL, since then, TransCanada—the company that seeks to build the pipeline—has been forging full-speed ahead on a new permit, and lobbyists are keeping the pressure on the State Department to approve the project.
"The billions of oil dollars backing this pipeline should not interfere with government transparency. The public has a right to know how our government is making decisions that have potentially grave consequences for our environment."
This recent suit was prompted by a similar fact-finding lawsuit filed in 2011 against the State Department, which revealed an inappropriately cozy relationship between a TransCanada lobbyist and State Department officials.
Transcript: This week, a federal appeals court once again upheld a national rule that will protect nearly 50 million acres of America's most pristine public forest lands.
The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule has been under attack by logging and resource extraction interests, certain states and the Bush administration since it was first introduced.
The court's decision marks another milestone in Earthjustice's 13 year legal effort to protect roughly a third of our national forests and nearly 2 percent of the U.S. land base.
The announcement also comes on the heels of a U.S. Forest [Service] decision to block the expansion of the West Elk coal mine, which would have intruded upon roadless forest areas in Colorado.
Last year, Earthjustice challenged the mine expansion, which threatens forest habitat for elk, lynx, black bears and other wildlife next to the West Elk Wilderness.
Here's Earthjustice attorney Ted Zukoski, who has helped defend roadless areas in Colorado:
"This is a great result for the Sunset Roadless Area, which lies nestled under a 12,700 foot peak at Mt. Gunnison. And what this decision does is really a stay of execution for this area and we really hope that the Forest Service will take the opportunity of this decision to protect these roadless lands, rather than hand them over to one of America's largest coal companies."
Transcript: This week, we're taking a look at industrial power plants, which are privately run facilities that provide heat and electricity to major industrial operations like chemical plants and oil refineries.
Also known as "boilers," industrial power plants burn large quantities of coal and other dirty fuels, and many are poorly controlled for their toxic pollution. In 2010 alone, the dirtiest of these facilities released more than 160 million pounds of toxic air pollutants like mercury, lead, benzene and acid gases.
For more than a decade, Earthjustice has been working to reduce health threats from industrial power plant pollution. In 2011, after Earthjustice litigation forced a court-ordered deadline, the EPA issued revised Clean Air Act emission standards for industrial power plants.
Here's Earthjustice attorney Jim Pew: "EPA's new standards are not perfect, but they will save thousands of lives every year and they will prevent tens of thousands of heart attacks and asthma attacks by finally bringing the pollution from these extraordinarily dirty industrial power plants under control."
Currently, Earthjustice is fighting efforts by polluter industries to weaken the EPA's new standards, or eliminate them altogether.
Transcript: This week, a congressional committee hearing led by politicians friendly to the oil and gas industry went from anti-science to anti-First Amendment.
On Wednesday, members of the House Science Subcommittee on Energy and Environment refused to allow an ABC news crew and the documentary filmmaker Josh Fox to videotape a hearing on groundwater contamination linked to fracking in Pavillion, Wyoming.
A controversial form of gas development, hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—involves blasting millions of gallons of toxic water into the ground to force oil and gas from deep inside the earth.
Here's Earthjustice legislative associate Jessica Ennis: "For far too long, the oil and gas industry has operated under a shroud of secrecy. Industry-beholden politicians now seem determined to extend that secrecy to committee activities."
In other news, this week conservation groups sued the National Marine Fisheries Service to seek greater protections for coral reefs by stopping the overfishing of parrotfish, a species that plays a key role in keeping coral reefs healthy by eating algae off of the reefs.
The lawsuit, filed by Earthjustice, asserts that the government's authorization of targeted fishing for parrotfish poses a risk to both elkhorn and staghorn corals, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
To learn more about how Earthjustice is working to protect coral and other marine species, check out earthjustice.org/oceans. And subscribe to EJ90 on iTunes for more environmental news that affects you.
Transcript: This week, conservation groups filed suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to protect thousands of whales, dolphins and other marine mammals from U.S. Navy warfare training exercises along the West Coast.
The Navy's training activities include air-to-surface bombing exercises and extensive testing for several new weapons systems, which can harm marine mammals, primarily as a result of harassment through exposure to sonar.
The Navy's mid-frequency sonar has been implicated in mass strandings of marine mammals in the Bahamas, Greece, the Canary Islands, and Spain, among other places.
The lawsuit, filed by Earthjustice, calls on the Fisheries Service to mitigate anticipated harm to marine mammals and biologically critical areas within the training range.
Here's Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles: "It's a big ocean and there's room for both military training and protection for whales and dolphins. It's also an increasingly loud ocean, and we brought this lawsuit because the Fisheries Service failed to protect marine life from harmful increases in noise."
In other news, the Obama administration recently revealed its long-term plans to manage the country's expansive National Forest system, which is the single largest source of drinking water in the United States. Though the new rules are a positive step towards managing the forest and its waters in a holistic and sustainable way, only time will tell whether its standards are truly effective.
Transcript: This week, the Obama administration rejected a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed 1700-mile project that would have unlocked one of the most toxic fossil fuels on the planet: tar sands oil.
Opponents of the pipeline argue that production of tar sands pollutes water resources and destroys pristine lands. Tar sands also have a 20 percent higher carbon footprint than conventional oil.
Earthjustice is working to protect vulnerable habitats and endangered creatures like whooping cranes that are currently being harmed by Alberta's existing tar sands mines.
In other news, this week environmental health groups announced their intent to sue the EPA to force the release of long-awaited public health protections against coal ash, a toxic byproduct of coal-burning power plants.
For nearly two years, the EPA has delayed the first-ever federal regulations for coal ash despite growing evidence that coal ash poisons groundwater supplies and poses a significant threat to public health.
Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the EPA is legally required to ensure that safeguards are up-to-date to address threats posed by wastes.
Here's Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans: "Politics and pressure from corporate lobbyists are delaying much-needed health protections from coal ash. The EPA must act quickly to set strong, federally enforceable safeguards against this toxic menace."
Transcript: This week, the Obama administration finalized a decision to protect one million acres of public land around Grand Canyon National Park from new uranium mining. The new rule establishes a 20-year ban on both new uranium mining and mining of current claims.
Uranium pollution, which contains toxic and radioactive materials, already plagues the Grand Canyon and surrounding areas. But the ban will protect Grand Canyon's springs and creeks as well as imperiled species like the humpback chub from future uranium-mining pollution. It will also protect tourism-related jobs and drinking water for millions downstream.
Because dozens of new mines threaten to industrialize iconic and regionally sacred wildlands, destroy wildlife habitat, and permanently pollute or deplete aquifers, conservationists, scientists, tribal and local governments and businesses have all voiced support for the new protections.
"This is a really important victory for the planet. U.S. aircraft emissions account for nearly half of worldwide carbon dioxide from aircraft and that amount is expected to triple by the middle of the century.
"The Grand Canyon is really one of the wonders of the world and it's an icon of the American West. Secretary Salazar did exactly the right thing. So we applaud the Obama administration for taking this bold action, and, more than that, we stand ready to defend the Obama administration's decision in court from ill-considered attacks by the uranium industry."
In 2009, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued a two-year order banning new mining claims around the world-famous national park. The Obama administration's announcement this week makes the ban both final and long-term.
Transcript: This week, Europe's highest court upheld a new European law that cuts carbon emissions from airplanes. The European Union Aviation Directive is the world's only mandatory program to address aviation emissions. It went into effect on January 1, 2012.
The new regulation holds airlines accountable for their emissions associated with commercial flights into or out of EU airports.
Aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions and could be responsible for as much as 10% of human-caused global warming by 2050. Unfortunately, U.S. airlines and the Obama administration are opposed to the new rule.
Here's Martin Wagner, a managing attorney at Earthjustice, which intervened in the European Court to defend the new law:
"This is a really important victory for the planet. U.S. aircraft emissions account for nearly half of worldwide carbon dioxide from aircraft and that amount is expected to triple by the middle of the century.
"Now, with the European decision, the airline industry should pressure the U.S. government to level the playing field by imposing equivalent restrictions on aircraft pollution in the United States. That would be good for the U.S. airline industry and, more importantly, it would be good for the planet."
So how much will the new rules actually cost U.S. passengers? So far, only a few dollars.
Delta Airlines recently added a $3 surcharge each way on fares for trips from the U.S. to Europe to help offset the new costs. Despite its small price tag, the new rule will cut emissions equal to taking 30 million cars off the road each year.
Transcript: This week, the EPA made history by setting the first-ever toxic air pollution limits for our nation's biggest polluters, coal-fired power plants.
These important safeguards, more than twenty years in the making, will save tens of thousands of lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks each year by cutting emissions of mercury, arsenic, and other hazardous pollutants by more than 90 percent. The new rules will also force polluting coal plants to clean up or shut down, helping to pave the way to a clean, healthy, and prosperous energy economy.
Here's Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew, who has led the charge for more than a decade on cleaning up coal plants:
"America is getting the gift of clean air this holiday season. We applaud the President for issuing these vital Clean Air Act protections that will save up to 11,000 lives each year by ensuring that the dirtiest power plants in the nation install available control technology to clean up the dangerous pollutants that sicken entire communities."
This historic accomplishment was brought about thanks to a strong Clean Air Act, years of unyielding litigation by Earthjustice to enforce that law, an unprecedented outpouring of public support, and an administration willing to stand up to the coal and utility lobbies. Years from now, President Obama's momentous decision is sure to be looked upon as a pivotal moment in our long transition from dirty fossil fuels to a sustainable energy economy.
To learn more about our clean air campaign, and to thank President Obama for standing up to the nation's biggest polluters, check out earthjustice.org/cleanair. And subscribe to EJ90 on iTunes for more environmental news that affects you.
Transcript: This week, Colorado adopted a new rule that requires full disclosure of the substances used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process that involves blasting millions of gallons of chemically-treated water into the ground to force oil and gas from deep inside the earth.
The original rule proposal would have made it easier for fracking companies to shield toxic chemicals from public view by declaring them trade secrets, with virtually no questions asked. Under the new rule, however, companies must justify and certify their trade secret claims under penalty of perjury. The rule also makes it easier for citizens to legally challenge companies' trade secret claims.
Earthjustice's Denver office was actively involved in shaping the fracking rule, one of the strongest in the country. Here's Earthjustice Attorney Michael Freeman:
"This rule is an important first step forward that should provide Coloradans with the information they need to ensure that their drinking water is safe. The conservation community didn't get everything it wanted with this rule, but Colorado's disclosure requirements will provide a good foundation to ensure that hydraulic fracturing is done safely in this state."
While the volume of chemicals in any single fracking operation may be small, the fluids used in fracking can contain chemicals that are highly toxic. In fact, seventy-eight percent of known fracking chemicals are associated with serious short-term health effects such as burning eyes, rashes, vomiting and dizziness.
The new rule comes on the heels of a recent EPA finding that fracking led directly to contaminated drinking water in a small Wyoming town. This contradicts the industry's oft-repeated claim that there have been zero confirmed instances of contaminated drinking water from the process.
To learn more about how Earthjustice is using the courts to fight fracking in Colorado and elsewhere, check out earthjustice.org/fracking. And subscribe to EJ90 on iTunes for more environmental news that affects you.
Transcript: Yesterday, the EPA announced that the controversial form of gas development known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, played a role in contaminating a Wyoming community's drinking water.
The EPA's findings contradict the industry's often cited claim that there have been zero confirmed instances of contaminated drinking water from fracking.
Little is known about the many of the chemicals used in fracking, which involves blasting millions of gallons of water treated with toxic chemicals into the ground to extract oil and gas. And what is known is sobering. Seventy-eight percent of known fracking chemicals are associated with serious short-term health effects such as burning eyes, rashes, dizziness and vomiting.
The agency began investigating water quality concerns in private drinking water wells three years ago in response to complaints of foul taste and odor problems in the water. Along with a fracking-fueled gas rush have come troubling reports of poisoned drinking water, polluted air, mysterious animal deaths and sick families.
The following is a statement from Earthjustice Policy Associate Jessica Ennis:
"With this finding by the Environmental Protection Agency, we can confirm what residents of the gasfields have been saying all along: the chemicals used in fracking can indeed migrate into groundwater and, in fact, they have. This lays an oil and gas industry myth to rest once and for all."
Transcript: Recently, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Endangered Species Act protections for Yellowstone's iconic grizzly bears. The court ruled that the bears need ESA protection until the federal government can determine how the bears will survive the loss of high-fat seeds from whitebark pine, a key food source for grizzlies.
Warming temperatures have allowed mountain pine beetles to kill whitebark pine trees at alarming rates. Historically, in years when whitebark pine failed to produce large crops of seeds, Yellowstone grizzly bears gave birth to fewer cubs. Fewer seeds also mean that the bears seek foods elsewhere, resulting in increased encounters with people and, subsequently, higher mortality rates.
Here's Earthjustice Managing Attorney Doug Honnold, who's been working on this issue for more than a decade:
"The science says that in the Yellowstone ecosystem whitebark pine drives grizzly bear reproductive and mortality rates, so the appeals court rightly rejected the government's efforts to ignore the loss of whitebark pine. If we want to protect the grizzlies of Yellowstone, we have to confront squarely the loss of whitebark pine."
The court's recent decision secures protections for hundreds of threatened grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
Though they're still a long way from recovery, as Yellowstone grizzlies settle into their dens for a long winter's nap, this most recent court ruling ensures that they can hibernate in peace. In fact, the Yellowstone grizzlies are just one of the many species that are now better protected thanks to recent court victories. To learn more about what Earthjustice is thankful for, check out our Thanksgiving message at earthjustice.org/thanksgiving. And subscribe to EJ90 on iTunes for more environmental news that affects you.
Transcript: This week, several groups represented by Earthjustice asked the EPA to strengthen long overdue pesticide protections for farmworkers.
The petition seeks to eliminate an unfair standard that provides fewer workplace protections against pesticide exposures for farmworkers than for workers using hazardous chemicals in non-agricultural sectors.
The health and safety of most American workers falls under the jurisdiction of OSHA and the USDA.
However, farmworkers must rely on EPA standards, which are far more lenient than OSHA rules.
According to many scientific studies, a significant number of farmworkers are sickened from pesticides.
On average, for every 100,000 agricultural workers, nearly 60 experience poisoning, illness or injury from pesticides each year.
As a result of increased long-term exposures, farmworkers and their children are at risk of developing serious chronic health problems such as cancer, brain damage and Parkinson's disease.
Despite the overwhelming evidence, the EPA has not effectively updated worker protections for almost 20 years.
Here's Eve Gartner, lead attorney for Earthjustice:
"Most American workers enjoy workplace protections created by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but that's not the case for farmworkers. Farmworkers get second class treatment and this exposes them to high levels of extremely dangerous pesticides on the job. This is not only unhealthy but fundamentally unfair. We must speak up for the very people who help to put the food on our tables. Their work is integral to our daily lives. For this reason any further delay in providing basic protections to these workers is just unacceptable."
The EPA expects to publish proposed revisions to its worker protection standards early next year.
The groups' recommendations for those revisions focus on three key protections that would afford stronger safety measures for agricultural fieldworkers who handle and apply pesticides.
Transcript: This week, the EPA released new data that found a threefold increase in the number of hazardous coal ash ponds in the U.S.
Coal ash ponds are unlined pits that hold millions of tons of liquid coal ash, a toxic byproduct of burning coal.
Just this past Monday, a major coal ash spill occurred on the shores of Lake Michigan, which serves as a source of drinking water for more than 40 million people.
Experts estimate that about twenty five hundred cubic yards of ash, or enough to fill about 200 dump trucks, may have reached the water.
In 2008, a coal ash spill in Tennessee unleashed more than a billion gallons of toxic sludge, flooding three hundred acres, destroying dozens of homes, and totaling cleanup costs of more than one billion dollars.
The EPA continues to stall on plans to release the first-ever coal ash regulations, while the House tries to block the EPA from regulating coal ash at all.
Here's Lisa Evans, Senior Administrative Counsel at Earthjustice:
"How many spills are going to have to occur before Congress and EPA acknowledge the very real dangers? This is not some ‘freak accident.' For a century, billions of tons coal ash has been buried, piled and ponded without regulation and without consideration of the consequences. Coal ash ponds are threatening hundreds of communities and their drinking water, but the current approach in Congress is to turn their backs and walk away."
Despite government foot dragging, the Wisconsin spill has, at the very least, caught the eyes of the media.
Earlier this week, Rachel Maddow devoted an entire segment of her show to the issue, mocking the industry's oft-repeated claim that coal ash is not a hazardous material, even though it contains arsenic and lead. Maddow also pointed out that survivors of the 2008 Tennessee spill were recently told that it would take up to four years to clean up the coal ash spill. Originally, the estimate was four weeks.
Only time will tell how long it takes to clean up the coal ash mess in Lake Michigan.
Transcript: Last week, a federal court reinstated a landmark ruling that secured critical protections for nearly 50 million acres of pristine national forests.
The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule protects wild national forests and grasslands from new road building, logging and development.
It is considered one of the most far-reaching conservation initiatives ever, providing critical habitat for grizzly bears, wolves and wild salmon.
Once passed, the rule came under relentless attack by logging and resource extraction interests, a few conservative state governments, and the Bush administration.
Over the past thirteen years, Earthjustice and its allies have defended the rule on behalf of the vast majority of citizens who rely upon these pristine lands for recreation.
Recently, that long battle came to an end after the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver unanimously upheld the rule.
Here's Patti Goldman, Earthjustice's Vice President of Litigation:
"Fighting this battle has meant more than a dozen lawsuits, including four appeals. At least that many Earthjustice attorneys spent thousands and thousands of hours responding to spurious industry claims and defending the rule when the Bush administration did not want to do so. Reading the Tenth Circuit's decision has made so proud to be part of the Earthjustice team."
Now that the Roadless Rule is protected, all eyes are on the Obama administration to support and enforce the rule as the law of the land.
Doing so means protecting national forests in Alaska and Idaho whose roadless area protections are still under attack.
During his speech, Secretary Salazar covered such environmental topics as the BP oil spill and oil and gas regulations, as well as the need for more conservation programs in the U.S.
Specifically, Salazar highlighted President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative, which tasks various government agencies with developing a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda that addresses pressing environmental challenges to America's public places.
Each year we lose approximately 1.6 million acres of our working farms, ranches and forests to development and fragmentation. And, many of our lakes, coasts, rivers and streams are polluted and beach closures occur frequently.
The initiative's premise is built on the idea that lasting conservation efforts should come from the American people. It calls for a grassroots approach to protecting our lands and waters from environmental problems like development and fragmentation, unsustainable use, pollution and climate change impacts.
In his speech, Salazar touched on just a few of the efforts of industry, nonprofits, individuals and others to help share in the responsibility to conserve and restore the environment.
Here's Interior Secretary Salazar:
"What's happening in the rivers of America, what's happening in the Dakota grasslands and the Flint Hills of Kansas … and what's happening right here in the Everglades, which you will see tomorrow, is nothing short of a revolution on behalf of conservation
"President Barack Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative, which we launched last year, is empowering and encouraging and supporting these local efforts because we know what is making a difference and it's making a difference on the ground."
One conservation effort underway is the effort to protect public lands and wildlife in the Crown of the Continent, a ten million acre expanse of land in northwest Montana that's one of the wildest places left in the lower-48 states.
Currently, Earthjustice has several legal cases working to preserve the Crown, including efforts to protect the area's threatened wolverine population.
Check out earthjustice.org/crown to learn more about our work in this area, and check out EJ90 on iTunes for more environmental news that affects you.
Transcript: This week, a recent report found that new federal regulations for coal ash, a hazardous byproduct of burning coal, could create as many as 28,000 new jobs per year. The report, authored by Frank Ackerman of Tufts University, directly refutes industry and congressional claims that regulating coal ash would kill jobs.
Currently, the EPA is considering regulating coal ash, which contains arsenic, lead and mercury and has been found to be more radioactive than nuclear waste.
To date, researchers have identified many health hazards associated with coal ash disposal sites. For example, one study found that drinking water from wells near a certain type of coal ash waste site can create a one-in-50 chance of getting cancer from arsenic in the water.
Despite these threats, Congress is currently considering a bill that would prevent the EPA from protecting Americans from the hazardous effects of coal ash. The Obama Administration, however, recently announced that it strongly opposes congressional efforts to scrap coal ash protections.
Here's Earthjustice coal ash expert Lisa Evans:
"While the coal ash world burns, House Republicans and their cronies are tuning their fiddles and ignoring the obvious. Coal ash is poisoning our communities. The White House recognizes this and strongly opposes the House effort that would ignore cancer threats, the creation of 28,000 new jobs every year and the protection of our drinking water."
In other news, Earthjustice recently sued the Obama Administration for rejecting stronger ozone standards. Scientists say that these standards are needed to save lives and prevent thousands of hospital visits.
The EPA proposed the stronger standards almost two years ago, but last month President Obama directed the EPA to drop the proposal. According to leading medical organizations, rejection of the protective standards leaves tens of thousands of Americans at risk of suffering serious health impacts.
The suit was filed on Tuesday on behalf of public health and conservation groups.
Transcript: Yesterday, a coalition of Alaska Native and conservation groups, led by Earthjustice, challenged the Obama administration's decision to allow offshore oil drilling in the Beaufort Sea in America's Arctic Ocean.
After the devastating Deepwater Horizon spill, the Obama administration wisely delayed plans by Shell Oil to drill in the Arctic. But this August, the administration reversed course by approving Shell's plans to start drilling in the Beaufort Sea as early as this summer.
Research suggests that a spill in the Arctic Ocean would devastate polar bears, bowhead whales and other marine mammals and would severely affect Native communities, which have thrived in this region for generations.
Here's Earthjustice Campaign Director Jared Saylor:
"Allowing Shell to drill in the Arctic's icy waters when it has no credible cleanup plan for an oil spill isn't just irresponsible. It's unrealistic and, frankly, insulting."
A report on the most recent drill for oil spills in the Beaufort Sea, which took place more than 10 years ago, described mechanical cleanup in icy conditions as a "failure." To date, nothing has changed since that report.
In addition, a recent report by the U.S. Geological Survey makes clear that basic scientific information about nearly every aspect of the Arctic Ocean ecosystem is missing. This lack of data makes it impossible to adequately assess the risks and impacts of drilling to wildlife and to people in the Arctic. And, as a result, it makes it impossible to make informed, science-based decisions.
Transcript: This Saturday, hundreds, or even thousands, of people will gather to celebrate the removal of the Elwha River Dams, two large fish killing dams that block salmon from most of their historic spawning habitat.
Twenty years ago, local tribal members and visionary activists, together with legal support from Earthjustice, began an undertaking for the dams' removal, the largest in U.S. history.
Experts say that removing the two massive dams on the Elwha River, which runs through Washington state's Olympic peninsula, is considered one of the most promising acts of salmon habitat restoration in the region and the nation.
Once the Elwha's waters flow free, experts predict that the river's salmon population will swell from their current number of about 3,000 to nearly 400,000 fish spawning annually by 2039.
The river also is expected to be especially important as climate change reduces habitat for salmon elsewhere.
Here's Earthjustice attorney Todd True:
"What will happen on the Elwha River with the dams coming down is the restoration of a historic wild river salmon run on that river that once produced one hundred pound salmon, phenomenal fish. Behind that story is a story of enforcing our environmental laws, citizen activists taking the years that were necessary to pursue enforcement of those laws and the real change that enforcing our environmental laws can ultimately bring about."
Conservationists hope that the removal of the Elwha dams may inspire other restoration projects across the country.
Demolition and removal of the dams should take approximately three years and eventually will allow the 45-mile Elwha River to run free once again.
Transcript: Last week, President Obama undermined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to clean up deadly smog in our air.
In 2008, weak national standards for ozone—the primary ingredient in smog—were adopted by the Bush administration, standards that the EPA's own scientists said would not protect public health.
Thousands of lives and tens of thousands of cases of asthma were at stake, so Earthjustice sued the EPA on behalf of several clean air advocacy groups.
However, before the court ruled on our challenge, the incoming Obama administration promised to revise the standard to better protect public health. As a result, Earthjustice put its litigation on hold and waited for action from the administration.
Unfortunately, last week the President caved to pressure from big business and dirty industry. He rejected the EPA's proposed improvement on the standard and asked the agency to reconsider and in essence to do nothing until 2013.
"Last week, President Obama tried the yank the rug out from under years of work by Earthjustice and our clients and allies to clean up deadly smog in the air across the United States. But despite this decision, the President's action doesn't take anything away from our litigation. Instead, it demonstrates why court action is necessary to make meaningful progress toward clean air for all."
In other news, Earthjustice recently released a report on the potential health effects of oil dispersants used during clean up in the aftermath of the BP oil spill.
The report found that of 57 chemical ingredients found in dispersants eligible for use during the disaster, 5 are associated with cancer, 11 are suspected or potential respiratory toxins or irritants and 10 are suspected kidney toxins.
The report's alarming findings demonstrate the need for more research on these toxic chemicals before they're used in the field.
Transcript: This week, a major new poll found that a majority of Appalachian voters oppose mountaintop removal mining.
Often described as "strip mining on steroids," mountaintop removal involves blowing the tops off of mountains in order to extract coal.
In some of the strongest and most surprising data, the poll reveals intense support in the heart of Appalachia for fully enforcing and even increasing clean water protections to combat the negative impacts of mountaintop removal. For example, seventy-five percent of Republican voters and sixty-eight percent of Tea Party supporters said that they support increasing Clean Water Act protections for the practice.
Here's Earthjustice campaign manager Liz Judge:
"The people in this region are making it clear that they recognize the threats that mountaintop removal presents to their health, their lives, their families, their homes and their communities. We're hoping that this poll is a wake-up call for elected officials. It's time for them to stop representing the will of the coal industry and special interests and start representing the will of the public."
In other news, Earthjustice recently filed a brief in the Kansas Supreme Court seeking to overturn an air pollution permit that was granted to Sunflower Electric to build a new coal-fired power plant in Kansas.
The coal plant has been the subject of a multi-year controversy after being denied a permit in the fall of 2007. In 2010, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued a new permit to Sunflower.
The proposed plant will send most of its power to Colorado and most of its air pollution, including mercury, arsenic and other toxics, into the lungs of Kansans.
Transcript: Last week, the U.S. Department of the Interior took a dangerous and disappointing leap towards drilling in the fragile waters of America's Arctic Ocean. Federal regulators recently approved a plan by Shell Oil to drill in the Beaufort Sea of the Arctic Ocean, which would allow drilling to begin as early as summer 2012.
Unfortunately, Shell's drilling risks a major oil spill, and neither Shell nor the government have proven that they could respond adequately to such a catastrophe.
Here's Holly Harris, a member of Earthjustice's Arctic legal team:
"This is a disaster waiting to happen, but still the government is moving forward with Arctic Ocean drilling. Scientific integrity and government accountability have taken their familiar back seat to oil company profits and power. This decision to disregard science and gamble with a region that is crucial to endangered bowhead whales, polar bears and other marine wildlife, and that Native subsistence communities rely upon so heavily, is inexcusable."
Among other concerns, Shell's plan assumes that it can recover an unprecedented 95 percent of oil spilled in Arctic waters using booms and skimmers. However, these same tactics only recovered about 8 percent of oil after the Exxon Valdez spill, and only 5 percent of oil after the BP oil spill.
In addition, Shell's oil spill strategy only plans for a "worst case" spill in relatively warm and ice-free August conditions, even though Shell plans to drill through October when ice, darkness and bad weather prevail in the Arctic.