Bruce Nilles

Bruce Nilles is the Deputy Conservation Director of the Sierra Club and former director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, the largest component of Sierra Club's new Climate Recovery Partnerships. The Beyond Coal Campaign is working to reduce America's over reliance on coal, slash coal's contribution to global warming and other pollution woes, end destructive mining, and secure massive investments in clean energy alternatives. Bruce joined the Sierra Club in 2002. He previously worked as a staff attorney for Earthjustice's San Francisco office, and during the Clinton Administration as Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division in Washington D.C. He received his J.D. and B.S. degrees from the University of Wisconsin.

Coal Ash, A Rancher's View

The Environmental Protection Agency is in the middle of a series of public hearings at sites around the country to gather input on new protections from toxic coal ash. This week’s blog post comes from Sierra Club Apprentice Jenny Kordick. – After watching a deer refuse to drink water from a reservoir on a hot summer day last August, Colstrip, Montana area ranchers knew something was wrong. The water, found to contain toxic levels of sulfates, was traced back to a coal ash dump. Coal ash contamination in Colstrip, Montana dates back nearly 30 years. Colstrip sits on one of …

Fighting Coal Ash, Bureaucracy and Confusion

As I have mentioned on this blog before, the Environmental Protection Agency is currently holding public hearings at sites around the country to hear your input on draft regulations for the disposal of toxic coal ash. This week’s blog post comes from Sierra Student Coalition Apprentice Margaret Hoerath, who writes about an activist who travelled to the coal ash hearing in Virginia earlier this week. — “This is a bureaucratic mini-Katrina because FEMA doesn’t know what’s going on here,” said James McGrath, a citizen from Giles County in Southwest Virginia, where a coal ash disposal site is located. Coal ash …

New report reveals widespread toxic coal ash contamination

Power industry lobbyist Jim Roewer: “Wasn’t a problem.” Leslie Stahl: “Well, it was a problem, but we just didn’t know it.” This excerpt from a recent 60 Minutes story on toxic coal waste sums up the current trouble with the millions of tons of toxic ash left over each year from burning coal for energy.  While scientists and experts know, and have known for years that coal ash is full of harmful pollution that can cause cancer and other serious illnesses, the issue flew largely under the radar until the massive TVA disaster. Even now nobody, including the EPA, has a full …

The Reign of King Coal is Ending

by Bruce Nilles, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign Contrary to the impression you may have been left with after reading a recent Associated Press piece about the future (or lack thereof) of coal in this country, the reign of “King Coal” is ending. Though the AP piece makes some good points (specifically, noting that “the process [for producing electricity from coal] has changed little since Thomas Edison built the first plant in 1882” and that even after $3.4 billion in stimulus spending, there is currently “no way of capturing carbon” from coal-fired power plants), the idea that …

Burning Coal + Hot Days = Unhealthy Air Warnings

Yesterday and today are code orange unhealthy air alert days in the Washington, DC, region where I live. The 95+ degree temperatures and excessive ground-level ozone create extremely unhealthy air – especially for kids, senior citizens, and people with pre-existing health conditions. These aren’t the first days this summer where we’ve had these warnings, and I know that the Washington, DC, region is not alone in its unhealthy air warnings. Temperatures are soaring across the U.S. – and while one major source of air pollution is vehicles, the other major cause is burning coal for energy. And with this comes …

Take Action: Some In Congress Spreading Misinformation About Coal Ash

Coal ash contains numerous poisonous chemicals, including arsenic, selenium, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, boron, thallium, and aluminum. So why are some members of Congress wanting to block action from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson that would protect people from toxic coal ash? It’s true – 139 House members and 36 Senators either signed onto letters asking as much, or wrote their own letters (links to the letters are farther down in this post). What’s worse is that the letters are full of misleading information and inaccuracies about the public health risks of coal ash. Coal-fired power plants produce …

Game Changer: EPA Asserts Tar Sands Pipeline Environmental Analysis is Inadequate

This post was co-written by Lena Moffitt, Washington Representative for the Sierra Club Dirty Fuels Campaign. This week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) blasted the State Department’s draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline – asserting that the EIS is “woefully deficient” because “the Draft EIS does not provide the scope or detail of analysis necessary to fully inform decision makers and the public, and we recommend that additional information and analysis be provided.” The Keystone XL is a massive pipeline designed to carry tar sands oil from Canada into the U.S., and we’ve long …

Big Cities Want Big Changes in Energy

Today I’ll focus on yet another community suffering from coal’s pollution – but this community is a little bit larger, and it’s on the front end of an emerging trend. The city is Chicago and it’s starting what could be a national movement to clean up dirty energy in the inner city. Some of our oldest and dirtiest coal plants are located in major cities across the U.S.; and they are often located in areas with other major pollution sources, exposing residents of these densely populated areas to higher levels of harmful pollution than their neighbors. What’s happening now in …

Ashley Judd is Doing the Right Thing

My colleague, Sierra Club Conservation Director Sarah Hodgdon, just wrote this excellent piece on Ashley Judd and I wanted to share it here: Actress Ashley Judd has recently been the target of some very harsh criticism and language from the coal industry in Appalachia. This is not surprising behavior from the coal industry, since Big Coal often resorts to personal attacks when they feel like their dirty, dangerous, expensive way of life is threatened. This harsh language and attacks are coming in response to Judd’s June speech at the National Press Club where she railed against mountaintop removal coal mining …

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