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Coal ash has contaminated the Vermilion River in Illinois. Eco-Justice Collaborative / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Jessica A. Knoblauch

Summers in the Midwest are great for outdoor activities like growing your garden or cooling off in one of the area's many lakes and streams. But some waters aren't as clean as they should be.

That's in part because coal companies have long buried toxic waste known as coal ash near many of the Midwest's iconic waterways, including Lake Michigan. Though coal ash dumps can leak harmful chemicals like arsenic and cadmium into nearby waters, regulators have done little to address these toxic sites. As a result, the Midwest is now littered with coal ash dumps, with Illinois containing the most leaking sites in the country.

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Homes in Washington, DC's Brookland neighborhood were condemned to clear room for a highway in the 1960s. The community fought back. Brig Cabe / DC Public Library

By Teju Adisa-Farrar & Raul Garcia

In the summer of 1969 a banner hung over a set of condemned homes in what was then the predominantly black and brown Brookland neighborhood in Washington, DC. It read, "White man's roads through black men's homes."

Earlier in the year, the District attempted to condemn the houses to make space for a proposed freeway. The plans proposed a 10-lane freeway, a behemoth of a project that would divide the nation's capital end-to-end and sever iconic Black neighborhoods like Shaw and the U Street Corridor from the rest of the city.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Maria Gunnoe Flight, courtesy of southwings.org

By Julia Conley

Green groups on Saturday celebrated the latest federal ruling aimed at preventing President Donald Trump from rolling back environmental regulations that were put in place by his predecessor.

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Flooding at Duke Energy's H.F. Lee Energy Complex in Goldsboro, North Carolina on Oct. 10, 2016 after Hurricane Maria. Travis Graves, Lower Neuse Riverkeeper

By Emilie Karrick Surrusco

The toxic mess left behind from burning coal is a growing, nationwide problem. But we're seeing that state governments can be convinced to do the right thing and clean it up. Recently, North Carolina joined its neighboring state to become a trendsetter in the proper disposal of coal ash waste.

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The San Miguel Power Plant, the groundwater beneath a family ranch is contaminated with at least 12 pollutants leaking from coal ash dumps at concentrations more than 100 times above safe levels. Ari Phillips, Environmental Integrity Project

An examination of monitoring data available for the first time concludes that 91 percent of U.S. coal-fired power plants with monitoring data are contaminating groundwater with unsafe levels of toxic pollutants.

The study by the Environmental Integrity Project, with assistance from Earthjustice, used industry data that became available to the public for the first time in 2018 because of requirements in federal coal ash regulations issued in 2015.

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The Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas is near four Superfund sites. Don Barrett / Flickr

A site that the Trump administration proposed as a migrant detention center for unaccompanied children is contaminated with several pollutants that could harm the children's health, a report released by EarthJustice on Tuesday found.

In June 2018, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that the government was preparing to house unaccompanied children at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, as Reuters reported. However, EarthJustice said that the base was near four Superfund sites.

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Chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate that comes from the same chemical family as sarin nerve gas, is used on foods such as strawberries. bluecinema / Getty Images

Health and labor organizations will have to argue again in court that chlorpyrifos, a brain-damaging pesticide, must be banned from all food uses, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday. The decision comes four months after Andrew Wheeler's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked the court to rehear the case either by the three-judge panel that originally banned chlorpyrifos in 2018, or by a panel of 11 judges.

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The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area in Arizona is a biodiversity hotspot. Bureau of Land Management

Conservation groups filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' approval of a permit that allows a huge master-planned sprawl development project near Benson, Arizona to proceed. The Villages at Vigneto would transform 12,167 acres of largely undeveloped habitat into 28,000 residences, 3 million square feet of commercial space, four golf courses, fountains, lakes and a resort.

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Mother and cub in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge near Kaktovik, on the north slope of Alaska. cheryl strahl / Flickr

By Rebecca Bowe

Send an army of industry workers into remote polar bear territory in the dead of winter, and things are not going to end well.

Yet that's just what the Trump administration would open the door to as it prepares for oil and gas drilling and moves to authorize seismic testing, a precursor to drilling in the Arctic Refuge.

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Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt at a meeting regarding the Colorado River on Sept. 27, 2017. Bureau of Reclamation

By Emilie Karrick Surrusco

As 2019 begins, it's out with the old and in with the same old, same old. Scandal-ridden Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke released a brief farewell letter Wednesday in red marker. With Zinke's successor not yet named, David Bernhardt becomes acting secretary. The move swaps out one political insider closely aligned with deep-pocketed special interests for another.

Bernhardt, who became deputy secretary of the Department of Interior in August 2017, is "a walking conflict of interest" who served as the Interior Department's top lawyer under George W. Bush—and went on to a lucrative career as a legal adviser for timber companies, mining companies and oil and gas interests. Since returning to the Interior Department under Trump, he has quietly implemented policy decisions that benefit his former corporate polluter clients.

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The planned Liberty Project is an artificial gravel island to allow oil drilling in the Arctic. Hilcorp / BOEM

Conservation groups are suing the Trump administration to halt construction of a controversial oil production facility in Alaska's Beaufort Sea, the first offshore oil drilling development in federal Arctic waters.

Hilcorp Alaska received the green light from the Interior Department in October to build the Liberty Project, a nine-acre artificial drilling island and 5.6-mile underwater pipeline, which environmentalists warn could risk oil spills in the ecologically sensitive area, threaten Arctic communities and put local wildlife including polar bears at risk.

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