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Articles from Liz Judge

honeybee

Bees do more than just produce honey, which is why Earthjustice is in court fighting for the survival of the bees, the beekeeping industry—and our nation’s food supply.

Recently the oil giant BP placed full-page ads* in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal pitying itself as the real victim in the aftermath of the Gulf Spill. BP claims it is being targeted by “unscrupulous trial lawyers” representing “thousands of claimants that suffered no losses” that “smell big bucks and want a piece of the action.”

Forty-one years ago, today, a dam holding 132 million gallons of toxic liquid coal waste ruptured high up in the mountains of West Virginia, loosing a tsunami-like death wave of coal waste and chemical sludge that destroyed 4,000 homes in 16 towns, injured more than 1,000 people, and killed 125. Seven bodies were never found. A remarkable <i>Charleston Gazette</i> series shares the stories of the people who were affected by this horrific tragedy.

While for many in the country, thoughts of Hurricane Sandy are being replaced by thoughts of the election, football, or the Thanksgiving holiday, for the tens of thousands of people in New York and New Jersey, survival and their families' well-being are still the urgent thoughts.

You know that creek in your backyard, or the river or lake near your town? Have any idea what kind of condition it is in, or how polluted it is?

Most people probably don't  -- up until now, it hasn't been very easy to get this information. But to help people find out about the condition of their local waterways, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, yesterday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched a supercool new app for your computer or mobile device that allows you to learn about the quality of the waters near you.

Growing up just outside of Cleveland, Ohio, my siblings and cousins and I spent our summers swimming in Lake Erie. The water looked clear enough, and though I remember hearing about the invasion of zebra mussels, our greatest worries were the imagined creatures in the deep. We didn't know that just a few years before, the lake was popularly deemed “dead" because of the pollution it received from surrounding industries.

The Mountain Heroes photo petition.

Today's the day that we deliver our Mountain Heroes photo petition to the Obama administration! This massive photo petition is historic—it includes photos and personal messages and stories from more than 13,500 people across the country who wrote to President Obama and his administration for an end to mountaintop removal mining. It's the largest photo petition ever to be delivered to the president, and it's all about ending the nation's most destructive mining practice, protecting Appalachian families and communities, and standing up for clean water, healthy communities, environmental justice, and beautiful mountains and wildlife.

Larry Gibson, watching the sun set over a decimated Kayford Mountain.

Last night, we got devastating news. Larry Gibson, our close friend, partner, ally and comrade in the work to end mountaintop removal mining and secure justice for communities across Appalachia, had passed away of a heart attack. Larry was more than a friend and partner, he was our hero and our inspiration.

The next artist is My Morning Jacket, a band from Louisville, KY. They have been outspoken environmental advocates for many years, working hard with partners such as Rock The Earth to educate their fans and concert-goers about critical environmental issues, and have played at festivals such as the Forecastle Festival, which promotes sustainability and conservation. In 2010, lead singer and guitarist Jim James collaborated with other Kentucky musicians to release Dear Companion, an album that draws attention to the problems caused by mountaintop removal coal mining. It’s amazing to have him join our Mountain Hero cause!

Daryl Hannah is best known as an actor in films such as Splash, Blade Runner, Roxanne, Wall Street, and Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2. But outside of the studio, she is a vocal environmental activist who dedicates herself to raising awareness of climate change, sustainable farming energy solutions, and of course, mountaintop removal.

Fighting against mountaintop removal, this week we’re proud to announce the support of an incredibly strong woman: writer and activist Terry Tempest Williams. We know our supporters care deeply about the welfare of animals in the wild, and saw this vividly on our Facebook page when we highlighted the animals of Appalachia in a photo album on Facebook.

Junior Walk is not a celebrity. He grew up in Whitesville, West Virginia, born into a family of coal miners and workers. When he was just a kid, the water in his family's home became contaminated with coal slurry. Though it was blood-red and smelled like sulfur, Junior, who was just a child at the time, thought that was normal. Surrounded by neighbors who all eventually dealt with the same contamination.

"I thought that's what water did," said Junior, "It just went bad."

As we were working on our new campaign ("Mountain Heroes") to stop mountaintop removal coal mining, many of the folks who shared their stories told us they felt bashful about being called "heroes."

In our society today, when we talk about a hero many of us imagine a caped figure flying through the sky, lifting up buses, halting runaway trains, and saving the masses from crushing catastrophes or evil villains.

Be a Mountain Hero.

Over our years of working to stop mountaintop removal mining, we at Earthjustice have met so many brave and dedicated people fighting for their communities, mountains and waters. In 2010, Earthjustice launched our “Mountain Heroes” campaign to share their inspiring stories and show that this is not just a fight for the environment—it’s a fight for justice and a fight to save communities, families and Appalachian culture.

Through this campaign, we shared the stories of a few true heroes and created a public photo petition, asking the public to share their own stories—and tell us why they want to save mountains, protect clean water, and fight for justice in Appalachia.

What we got back was astounding and inspiring.

A bipartisan bill is coming up for a vote in the Tennessee state legislature tomorrow (Feb. 29) that would ban surface mining and mountaintop removal mining at altitudes above 2,000 feet in the state.

This legislation would ensure that the most scenic vistas are protected for residents and visitors instead of being razed.

In addition to being Groundhog Day, Feb. 2 is World Wetlands Day. Say what? An international day to celebrate swamps? If you’re scratching your head wondering why in the world we’d throw a party for swamps (and bogs and marshes and fens and floodplains and other wet, buggy places), here’s why:

President Obama won the White House on a platform of hope and change – promising an end to dirty corporate influence over our political system and a beginning to an era in which our energy choices lead us to a clean, sustainable future, or at least don’t kill us or make us sick.

So far, the president’s performance has been mixed – with some deliveries on the promise and some disappointments. His last year, whether in office or in his first term, will be crucial in righting his spotty record and making good on his campaign promises to the American people.

A little-covered news item from Nov. 18 bears much more attention. The Charleston Gazette's Ken Ward reported on some new data that blows the top off two years of coal industry lies and spin: Obama's so-called "job-killing regulations" and "war on coal" are not actually killing jobs, they are CREATING JOBS! We've been saying it all along, but here's the proof.

From early morning tadpole pursuits to sunset creek walks, my summer days started and ended in the creek that ran behind my home. My dad built a bridge across the creek, but for our neighborhood gang of rascals, well, there was no use for such bridges when we could splash and wade right through that water. Whether we were forging the stream or sitting cross-legged in it with our heads above the water, exploding with impish giggles, this creek was as much our home as our bedrooms 50 yards away.

Today Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a major agency reshuffling that will affect how the government enforces laws on mountaintop removal and surface coal mining.  He will fold the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) into another Department of Interior subdivision, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Recently, thanks to a nonprofit flight operation called SouthWings, I had the opportunity to fly in a small airplane over a mountaintop removal coal mining site in West Virginia.

We flew over the Hobet mountaintop removal mining site, which measures to more than 20 square miles of demolition, and though I will try to put what I saw into words, it can only really be understood through the eyes. So I'm sharing a few photos that illustrate a scale of destruction that words cannot convey.

“They are blowing up my homeland,” said West Virginia coalfield resident Maria Gunnoe on Monday morning, in her sworn testimony on the impacts of mountaintop removal mining before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.

I feel the vibrations of the core driller in the floors of my home; and the impacts of the blasting near my home are horrendous. This is absolutely against everything that America stands for.

We all deserve to breathe clean air, but the House of Representatives today acted as if our air doesn't need to be quite so clean.

A major new scientific study shows significantly higher rates of birth defects in areas of heavy mountaintop removal mining, even after controlling for a range of other contributing factors. The study found that living near a mountaintop removal site poses a much greater risk to unborn babies than smoking during pregnancy. More than double the risk!

The 112th Session of the House of Representatives is at it again, doing what they do best: writing legislation to strike and block the clean air and clean water laws that keep us alive and healthy.

It was a dark day in the House of Representatives, today, as the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure passed a bill that would flush away decades of water safeguards and protections, along with our powerful federal system for ensuring that any waters in this country are safe to drink, fish, and swim in.

This week more than 600 concerned citizens will participate in the largest mass mobilization against mountaintop removal mining that this country has ever seen, Appalachia Rising: The March on Blair Mountain.

The buzz is heightening. The Sundance official selection documentary The Last Mountain is arriving at theaters across America beginning this weekend in Washington, DC, and New York City. Throughout June, it will open in 18 other cities, bringing this film -- on the frightening effects of destructive mountaintop removal mining-- to the biggest metropolitan markets in the nation.

On Thursday morning, the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, will begin a two-part hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) policies on mountaintop removal mining. The committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) is calling the hearings “EPA Mining Policies: Assault on Appalachian Jobs – Part I and Part II.

Well, it's true that here on a blog, the currency is words. We're supposed to tell stories through our prose. But today I'm going to go easy on the blog and yield the storytelling to a small collection of witty, beautiful, foot-stomping and surreal art by people who are mastering other mediums to talk about mountaintop removal mining:

[Update: Amid hurried negotiations late Friday to avoid a government shutdown, House sources indicated that a possible deal has been reached to prevent weakening the government's regulation of mountaintop removal mining and climate change emissions. The uncertainty of this deal makes it all the more important for citizens to contact the White House and their congressional representatives to demand hands off of the Environmental Protection Agency.]

The Senate just voted to reject four—count 'em 1-2-3-4—bad amendments that would strangle and block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from being able to limit dangerous carbon dioxide pollution from the nation's biggest polluters.

These Dirty Air Acts went down in the upper chamber today because enough of the Senate still obviously believes that the well-being, future and health of Americans are more important than corporate special interests.

Protecting our national forests is essential for the future of our nation. Tom Waldo, who joined Earthjustice in 1989 and is a staff attorney in the Juneau, Alaska office, discusses his work protecting our forests.

The Senate votes tomorrow on four pieces of legislation that all aim to block or delay Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action to reduce the carbon dioxide pollution of the nation's biggest polluters. These polluters have convinced their friends in Congress to author a wave of bills exempting them from strong air pollution limits—they are the Dirty Air Acts we've been warning you about for months.

As I write this, the Senate is debating an amendment to a small business bill that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions from the nation's biggest polluters.

On Tuesday, in a hearing in the House, representatives wrestled over whether they should accept the volumes of science produced by every major U.S. scientific and research institution that say that climate change is happening and our industrial carbon dioxide emissions are contributing to it.

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

(A powerful faction in the new Congress has allied with industry to weaken our nation’s most basic environmental laws. Earthjustice will report on this expected barrage of legislative attacks as they occur.)

<<<Update 6 p.m., Monday, Jan. 31: Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller has introduced his own “Dirty Air Act.” Like Sen. Barrasso's bill (see below), Sen. Rockefeller's bill blocks the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to limit carbon dioxide emissions for two more years.

Last night in his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama rightly spoke about the importance of growing a clean energy economy. Dedicating a chunk of his speech to the promise of the clean energy sector of the economy and the necessity for us as a nation to invest in this sector, the president issued a promise to America's scientists and engineers: If they innovate and come up with clean energy solutions, our government will invest in them and scale them up.

Only three days after Republicans took over the House of Representatives, Americans are at risk of losing critical, life-saving pollution protections. Since they took their seats in the 112th Congress, some elected representatives have made shooting down or slowing down these protective pollution controls their top priority.

Last night we lost a true hero, Judy Bonds of Marfork, West Virginia. Judy—the executive director of Coal River Mountain Watch, Goldman Prize recipient, and friend and partner of Earthjustice—was a courageous leader in the fight to protect Americans and future generations from the poisonous pollution and destruction of mountaintop removal mining.