15 episodes

We discuss important environmental issues in the news and investigative reports by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Environmental Integrity Project.

Environmental Integrity Project Environmental Integrity Podcast

    • News
    • 5.0 • 2 Ratings

We discuss important environmental issues in the news and investigative reports by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Environmental Integrity Project.

    The Civil Rights Fight Against Deadly Air Pollution

    The Civil Rights Fight Against Deadly Air Pollution

    John Beard is a former Exxon Mobil oil refinery operator and firefighter from Port Arthur, Texas. Like his father before him, he labored his whole life in the refineries that surround this struggling city on the Gulf Coast east of Houston. When Beard finally retired after 38 years in 2017, he decided to make a radical change. He devoted himself, full time, to fighting against the air pollution, chemical threats, climate change and coastal flooding caused by the fossil fuel industry that he saw devastating the lower-income, mostly African-American community where he grew up. Working with the Environmental Integrity Project and Lone Star Legal Aid, he recently succeeded in petitioning the Biden EPA to launch an investigation of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for allegedly violating the civil rights of Port Arthur residents by allowing a petroleum processing plant owned by billionaire William Koch to release tons of potentially deadly sulfur dioxide air pollution every year without any modern pollution control equipment.

    • 23 min
    Frequent Pollution Violations by Maryland’s Poultry Industry, But Few Penalties

    Frequent Pollution Violations by Maryland’s Poultry Industry, But Few Penalties

    Bruce Ivins is no snowflake. He’s a 62-year-old welder and lifelong farmer who grew up amid the cattle, chickens, and tractors on his family’s farm near Centreville on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

    But then his neighbor built two industrial-sized chicken houses next door, and he filed a complaint with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) because he could not tolerate the clouds of ammonia, dust, and feathers from the operation’s exhaust fans. But MDE took any action against the poultry operation next door. “Where were the people from MDE? … Someone dropped the ball on this,” Ivins complained.

    He is not alone in being concerned about the lack of enforcement or oversight of the poultry industry by MDE. An investigation by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) of more than 5,000 pages of MDE inspection reports shows that 84 percent of Maryland poultry farms inspected by the state between 2017 and 2020 failed water pollution control permit requirements. But only about two percent of the poultry operations – or four total facilities, out of the 153 that failed inspections – were ever penalized by the state for breaking the terms of their pollution control permits.

    • 15 min
    Talking Trash About Climate Change

    Talking Trash About Climate Change

    When most people think about greenhouse gas emissions, they think about gas-guzzling vehicles and coal-fired power plants. They don’t talk trash. That’s not the case with Environmental Integrity Project attorneys Ryan Maher and Leah Kelly. They recently authored a ground-breaking investigative report that revealed that Maryland’s landfills are releasing four times more methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the official state estimates. When EIP’s report, “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Maryland’s Landfills,” was released, the Maryland Department of the Environment immediately issued a statement confirming the report’s conclusions and correcting the state’s greenhouse gas inventory. Across the country, researchers are finding far higher than anticipated methane emissions from municipal landfills and their decaying food waste – and the issue is stirring government action. Maryland is now holding a series of public meetings as it looks to issue new regulations to better control methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from dumps. We take a road trip out to one of Maryland’s largest landfills – Baltimore’s Quarantine Road landfill – with Maher and Kelly to get down into the nitty gritty about calculating greenhouse gas emissions from waste – a major global issue.

    • 10 min
    A Look at Biden's Pick to Run EPA, Michael Regan, and the Challenges he Faces

    A Look at Biden's Pick to Run EPA, Michael Regan, and the Challenges he Faces

    President-Elect Joe Biden has picked North Carolina’s top environmental regulator, Michael Regan, as his choice to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. How has Regan performed in his job as Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality? And what challenges will he face rebuilding an EPA devastated by deregulation, staffing cuts, and control by industry lobbyists during the Trump Administration? We interview three experts: Derb Carter, Director of the North Carolina office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, who has extensive first-hand knowledge of Regan’s track record in North Carolina; Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former Director of Civil Enforcement at EPA, who has insights into how to get the EPA back on track; and Betsy Southerland, former Director of Science and Technology in EPA’s Office of Water.

    • 19 min
    Talking Covid and the Future of Environmental Justice with Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali

    Talking Covid and the Future of Environmental Justice with Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali

    As the incoming Biden Administration makes plans for its environmental agenda over the next four years, we interview a national leader in the environmental justice movement about how the White House can prioritize protecting minority and lower-income communities that have long been neglected. Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali, a Vice President the National Wildlife Federation, worked for 24 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency until March of 2017, when he resigned because the Trump Administration wanted to eliminate EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, which Dr. Ali helped to create. He started working on social justice issues at the age of 16, joining EPA’s efforts as a student. Dr. Ali talks about the need to tackle COVID-19 as a justice issue and broadly expand the scope of federal efforts to reduce air pollution and improve water quality not only in urban neighborhoods, but also rural areas across the U.S. According to news reports, Dr. Ali is among those being considered for a high-level environmental role in the Biden Administration, perhaps directing the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

    • 16 min
    A Family's Battle for Life Against an Oil Refinery

    A Family's Battle for Life Against an Oil Refinery

    Charlie Reeves grew up in public housing in South Philadelphia near the oldest and largest oil refinery on the East Coast, the Point Breeze Refinery, later owned by Sunoco and then Philadelphia Energy Solutions. Back in the 1970s, his father led public protests at City Hall and Sunoco headquarters over what he was convinced was toxic air pollution from the plant that was harming his family’s health. But authorities dismissed the protests and assured the neighborhood that everything was fine. Those reassurances didn’t ring true – especially when Charlie, his mother, and several neighbors were diagnosed with cancer, and Charlie’s mother died. But the neighborhood could not do anything to stop the refinery, because they had no evidence. Finally, the refinery closed on June 21, 2019, when a massive explosion and fire at the plant sent a fireball into the sky and rattled windows for miles around.

    To Charlie Reeves, the most devastating fact was what he learned six months later, when the Environmental Integrity Project, working with NBC National News, revealed that air pollution monitors ringing the refinery had registered benzene – a known carcinogen — at the plant’s fence lines at concentrations averaging more than five times the federal limit (EPA’s “action level” for benzene) for an entire year. That meant that local residents like the Reeves family could have been exposed to excessive cancer risks for a long time – including months after the explosion, and potentially months or years before the fire. Charlie is determined to use the new benzene air monitoring data collected by the Environmental Integrity Project to fight for environmental justice for his lower-income neighborhood. Southwest Philadelphia is one of 13 communities across the country that face potential cancer risks from excessive benzene air pollution detected at the fencelines of nearby oil refineries, according to EPA data produced for the first time in 2019 because of a lawsuit filed by the Environmental Integrity Project and allies to help protect communities in Texas and Louisiana.

    • 26 min

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