Jessica A. Knoblauch


United States

I'm a senior staff writer at Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law organization that sues polluters who threaten our health and the environment. Previously, I worked as an editorial assistant at a national environmental publication called Plenty, and as a freelance journalist. My stories have appeared in Grist, Scientific American, Environmental Health News and Earth Island Journal, among other publications. I write stories about people and places that inspire me--and that I hope will inspire others.

Timeline: Defending America's Arctic

Earthjustice has been advocating against drilling in the Arctic for more than a decade. Here's how we got to where we are today.

Why Do Gray Whales Keep Dying?

Beginning this spring, dozens of Northern Pacific gray whales began washing up all along the West Coast, their charcoal-colored bodies appearing on beaches from Baja California, Mexico, to Washington State. So far, 70 gray whales have washed ashore and scientists say dead, stranded gray whales are turning up at the highest rate in almost two decades.

Landmark Coal Ash Bill Signals Hope for Midwest Communities

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.

Fireflies' Glow Could Soon Be Extinguished by Human Actions

Say goodbye to one of the dreamiest things about childhood. In the Midwest, fireflies are dying off. For many Americans, it's hard to imagine summer nights without the magical glow of dozens of bioluminescent bodies fluttering above the grasses and fields, and lighting up the dark skies above.

Bees and Beekeepers Feel the Sting of Trump Administration's Anti-Science Efforts

Longtime beekeeper Jeff Anderson, owner of California-Minnesota Honey Farms, says the picture is even grimmer if you look at bee losses across the entire year, particularly when farmers are spraying pesticides. It's not just bees that are suffering, he says. Beekeepers are also feeling the sting of the Trump administration's anti-bee and anti-science efforts.

Ignored and Infuriated, Pawnee Stop Illegal Fracking Plans on Tribal Lands

It was a typical summer day in 2015 when Walter Echo-Hawk, a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, discovered fracking operations near his home on Pawnee lands about 55 miles west of Tulsa. After stumbling upon a work crew surveying for a proposed pipeline, Echo-Hawk called the oil company responsible to find out more information.

The Green New Deal and the Fight for Survival

The way they're similar is largely around the size of the project. We're not talking about a singular policy, like a carbon tax. We're talking about an umbrella of policies over decades that would move our country to a 100 percent renewable energy economy.


Happy Cows and Tighty-Whitey Tests: Welcome to the Future of Farming

Farmer and rancher Seth Watkins is a numbers guy-but with dirt under his fingernails and a heart as golden as the corn cobs on his 3,200-acre farm in southwest Iowa. In 1998, after years of using conventional farming practices that prioritized maximizing production over everything else, he had a simple yet profound revelation: Cows should eat grass and calves should drink milk.

How Two Women Teamed Up to Take on the Chemical Industry-and Won

In the early 2000s, scientist Arlene Blum set out on a quest to reduce the amount of flame retardants in homes across America. Research showed that these chemicals-found in many consumer products-are harmful to people and don't protect us against most household fires. Armed with science, Blum rallied others to her side.

Secrets in the Ash

Barb Deardorff and other residents of Wheatfield, Ind., are concerned about coal ash contamination from a nearby power plant. Alex Garcia for Earthjustice For as long as she can remember - and even before then - the silver-colored smokestacks of the Schahfer coal plant in Wheatfield, Indiana, have cast a shadow over Barb Deardorff's life.

Turning the Tide on Gas Plants

The days following President Trump's election in 2016 were a turning point for many. Lilian Bello was no exception. At that time, Bello was a student at Hueneme High in Oxnard, Calif., a diverse community along the iconic Central Coast that's also known as one of the strawberry capitals of the world.

Climate Change Forces Quinault Tribe to Seek Higher Ground

There's nothing more powerful than the ocean. Tribal member Larry Ralston is reminded of that simple fact every time he visits the 23 miles of foggy, windswept coastline on the Quinault Indian Nation reservation. As a child, Ralston spent hours playing football along the wide expanse of rocky beach on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state.

A Fossil Fuel Company Tried to Put a Dirty Gas Plant on a Beautiful Coastline. It Failed.

This week, the city of Oxnard, California, became known for being more than just one of the strawberry capitals of the world. The coastal town, which lies between the more affluent cities of Santa Barbara and Malibu, recently closed the last chapter of a four-year-long fight to shut down a short-sighted proposal to build a hulking natural gas plant on its wide, sandy beaches.

Island Revival: Water Returns to Hawaii's People

As Big Sugar plantations release their grip on the islands, local and Native Hawaiian communities are reclaiming their water rights and restoring their deep-rooted ties to the land.

Court Victory Signals Hope for Communities Threatened by Toxic Coal Ash

Danville, Illinois, is a small industrial Midwest city hoping to transform its image from " the cheapest place to live in America" to a popular recreational tourism destination. The centerpiece of that tourism plan is the Vermilion River, a 74-mile-long tributary that runs through the city's downtown and the nearby Kickapoo State Park.

Why Patagonia Joined the National Monuments Fight

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended today that the Trump administration shrink the size of Bears Ears National Monument. If Trump follows Zinke's recommendation, the fight to protect Bears Ears will move to the courts. Retail outfitter Patagonia stepped into the legal arena in April, when the company threatened to sue Trump over his order to review-and possibly repeal-national monument designations over the past 20 years.

Grizzlies 'Saved His Life' and Now He Fights To Save Theirs

After naturalist and author Doug Peacock served two tours as a Green Beret medic in Vietnam, he went into the American wilderness to confront his demons. There, he closely observed grizzlies across the west-an experience he says "saved his life."

Local Activists Put a Cork in Dangerous Gas Storage Proposal in New York's Wine Country

"Do you still have that bottle of champagne? Well, get ready to put it on ice!" After almost a decade of fighting a dangerous proposal to fill two underground salt caverns with explosive liquid petroleum gas (propane and butane) in upstate New York, Joseph Campbell and Yvonne Taylor knew it was time to celebrate when they first heard those words from Earthjustice attorney Deborah Goldberg earlier this month.

The Battle for Seattle

Early on a crisp Saturday morning in May, hundreds of people in kayaks, canoes and other vessels gather along the shore near downtown Seattle and let out a war whoop: "Shell No!" Then, banging their paddles in chorus, the self-described "kayaktivists" launch into Puget Sound's chilly waters and head toward the Polar Pioneer, a massive drilling rig owned by Shell Oil.

Pesticides in Paradise

Genetically engineered crops testing in Hawai'i has reinvigorated a larger debate over whether communities should have a say in what happens within their own borders. Malia Chun and a community of activists along with council member Gary Hooser and Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff work for protections from the environmental and health threats intrinsic to this kind of industry.

Firefighters Turn Up The Heat On Flame Retardants

Flame retardants are among more than 80,000 chemicals on the market that have not been adequately tested for health and safety. They have received increased scrutiny for their potential health impacts on firefighters, as well as on the general public.

MNN - Mother Nature Network
Not the last straw: Homes made from straw bales make a comeback

After carpenter ants literally ate Philip Higgs' studio in Boulder, Colo., he decided to rebuild anew - only this time, with straw. "I wanted to build something that was going to be efficient and use passive solar techniques so that it wouldn't use a lot of energy," says Higgs.

Too Sacred To Drill

For more than 10,000 years, the Badger-Two Medicine area near Glacier National Park in Montana has provided strength, subsistence and cultural identity for members of the Blackfeet Nation. The Blackfeet believe that their people were created among the mountains and springs that rise from where Badger Creek and the Two Medicine River trace their headwaters. But the Blackfeet aren’t the only ones who value the region. The oil and gas industry also have their eyes on the area—and for more than...

Earth Island Journal
Silver Bullet or Tiny Terror?

Nanotechnology promises to clean up some of the most polluted places in the United States. But uncertainties about the technology's effects have some people worried about creating and unleashing a new kind of contaminant.

Environmental Health News
The environmental toll of plastics

From cell phones and computers to bicycle helmets and hospital IV bags, plastic has molded society in many ways that make life both easier and safer. But the synthetic material also has left harmful imprints on the environment and perhaps human health, according to a new compilation of articles authored by more than 60 scientists from around the world.

Environmental Health News
Food may contain environmental estrogens

A discovery that two commonly used food additives are estrogenic has led scientists to suspect that many ingredients added to the food supply may be capable of altering hormones. More than 3,000 preservatives, flavorings, colors and other ingredients are added to food in the United States, and none of them are required to undergo testing for estrogenic activity, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Crown of the Continent: Taming the Wild West

Deep within the northern Rocky Mountains, grizzly bears rest sleepily in cozy dens in the dead of winter. Meanwhile, a much smaller, bear-like creature is busy covering vast swaths of snow-blasted slopes, searching for scraps of corpses and bones of other, lesser creatures that have succumbed to the hardships of a mountain ecosystem.

MNN - Mother Nature Network
Bowling green in Brooklyn

Entrepreneur Charley Ryan has his eye on the ball. As co-founder of Brooklyn Bowl, a 23,000-square-foot bowling alley/concert hall/eatery that recently opened in the hip area of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Ryan knew he wanted the place to be about more than just laminated lanes and striped bowling pins.

Fracking Runs Afoul of Hometown, U.S.A.

It's easy to understand why leaders and citizens in Cooperstown, NY, rose up to protect their town against fracking—and towns across America are following suit.

Pacific NW landowners team up to market forest offsets

Courtesy Ecotrust's sbeebe via Flickr Though most people probably think of national parks when they think of forests, more than half of the 750 million acres of forestland in the United States is actually privately owned, much of it by individuals and families, according to the American Forest Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy organization.

Plenty Magazine
The hot and splicey debate over GMOs

If you ate today, chances are you consumed a genetically modified organism (GMO). A GMO is a living organism-be it animal or vegetable-whose genes have been tinkered with by scientists in the hopes of somehow improving that organism. People often don't know that they're eating a genetically modified food because most don't taste, look, or smell much different than conventional foods.

MNN - Mother Nature Network
Cowpooling, or how to save money by buying 700 pounds of meat with your friends

Picture a meat eating, bone sucking, finger-licking carnivore - not exactly the face of an environmentalist, right? But a new crop of meat eaters are greening their eating habits by demanding to know the face of their food in a quest for better quality meat that not only tastes better, but also comes from humanely treated animals.

What You Don't Know Can Kill You

What's clear, colorless and may cause cancer? If it were up to the chemical industry, you might never know that the answer is styrene. It doesn't matter that it's found in thousands of consumer products like fiberglass and food containers, or that you smell it every time you open a fresh can of paint.

MNN - Mother Nature Network
Entrepreneur creates soap from food grease

A few years back, Marshall Dostal had an explosive problem. Drums of glycerin, a byproduct of turning waste grease into biofuel, had piled up in his garage in Pasadena, Calif. Dostal was using the fuel to fill up his 1984 Mercedes 300D, which he had converted to run on biodiesel.

EJ Magazine
Use With Caution

More than 20,000 substances have been added to the list of chemicals used in household cleaning products over the past 30 years, and the government is doing little to regulate them. Meanwhile, indoor air quality continues to degrade — possibly increasing rates of illnesses from nausea to childhood cancer. What’s a consumer to do?

Environmenta Health News
Thousands of kids exposed to dangerous liquid mercury in schools, homes.

When children encounter long-forgotten stashes of liquid mercury, schools have to shut down for days or weeks and the toxic trail left in classrooms, buses, homes and communities costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up. Found in many old science labs and used in some cultural ceremonies, mercury triggered more than 37,000 calls to U.S.

EJ Magazine
Beauty Biohazard

Putting on make-up is supposed to be about improving a look, but some make-up may have ugly effects.

EJ Magazine
(Fresh) Food Fight

Farm to school may be a recipe for success,but barriers prevent these programs from taking hold.

MNN - Mother Nature Network
To meat or not to meat

Jonathan Safran Foer's new book, Eating Animals (Little, Brown and Company, $25.99), isn't your typical case for vegetarianism. But that's a good thing, because really, who reads those books besides people who have already made up their minds to relinquish meat?

MNN - Mother Nature Network
'Power Trip: From Oil Wells to Solar Cells'

It's rare these days to find a pro-clean energy book that doesn't just fill every page with oil and gas bashing rhetoric, but that's just one of the reasons that environmental journalist Amanda Little's first book, Power Trip: From Oil Wells to Solar Cells - Our Ride to the Renewable Energy Future (Harper, $25.99), is essential reading for anyone concerned about the coming energy crisis, no matter their environmental beliefs.

Dying Reefs

In 1940, when John Steinbeck sailed along the coast of Baja California, collecting marine specimens, he rounded the tip of Baja and discovered Cabo Pulmo-the largest living coral reef in western North America and the jewel of the Gulf of California.

Stormy Waters

Earthjustice’s ocean litigation is working to broaden the federal government's fragmented approach by taking a more holistic view of the ocean ecosystem, a crucial tactic in buffering the ocean against the impacts of a changing environment.


What The 2018 Election Results Mean For The Environment

The likelihood that Congress will pass comprehensive new climate legislation in 2019 is slim, given Republican control of the Senate. However, there are lots of climate-related bills that can and will move, such as measures in the House designed to remove barriers to clean energy, to improve energy efficiency, etc.

What You Should Know About Florida's Red and Green Slime Crisis

The red tide organism, Karenia brevis or K. brevis, produces toxins that can affect the central nervous system of fish and other vertebrate species who ingest them, causing them to die. Environmental impacts include massive fish kills; marine mammal, sea turtle and sea bird mortalities; and impacts on benthic communities including sea grass and coral community die-offs.

Breaking Down Toxic PFAS

For far too long, communities have been left in the dark when PFAs have contaminated their environment. Several states are taking the lead on protecting people from PFAS. Washington state, for example, has bans set to take effect on PFAS from firefighting foams and food packaging, while New York has restricted state agencies from purchasing food containers that include PFAS.


Dusky Sharks Win as Courts Tire of Trump Antics

Silencing scientists. Barring the public from the legal process. Even lying to the court. These shenanigans wouldn't seem out of place as plot points in a John Grisham paperback. But the Trump administration's determination to favor corporate polluters over the people means these narrative twists and turns have jumped off the page and now appear regularly inside the White House, among regulatory agencies, and on Capitol Hill.

Orcas are Dying, But a New River Restoration Plan Could Save Them

Southern Resident orcas are struggling for their lives. Spanning Puget Sound and the waters around the islands and shores of Washington state and British Columbia, Canada, the endangered species has shrunk to a perilous 75 over the last few decades. But there is hope for the species.

Court Ruling Aids Wolves' Return to California

Update, 3/6/19 : The Trump administration has announced a plan to strip Endangered Species Act protections from wolves across almost all of the lower 48. Urge your governor to oppose this attack! Original post, 2/13/19 : The wanderer known as "Journey" is a lone wolf no more.

Trump Regulators Gave Oil Industry a Pass to Injure Whales, and We're Fighting Back

Recently, Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) blasted a Trump official with an air horn. During a House committee hearing on the environmental impact of seismic airgun testing, the official claimed the practice isn't disruptive to marine animals. That's when Cunningham pulled out his air horn - a device 16,000 times quieter than the seismic guns.

The FDA Dumps Its Recipe for Disaster

Ever wonder what "artificial flavor" means when you look at the list of ingredients on a packaged food? In some cases, it means chemicals that are known to cause cancer in animals and could cause cancer in humans. For years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed food manufacturers to use seven such flavor additives.

Along With Flooding, Hurricane Florence Unleashes Toxic Coal Ash

As Hurricane Florence floods the Carolinas, a long-buried coal industry secret is rising to the surface. Across the country, giant pits filled with millions of tons of coal ash - a toxic byproduct of burning coal - are leaking. And in the storm-pummeled Southeast, the toxic waste is spreading with the floodwaters.

Out for Blood: Legislators Escalate Their War on Wolves

One dead wolf, every three hours. That's how quickly a dozen wolves were shot and killed during the first 40 hours of Wyoming's inaugural wolf hunt last fall. The state-sanctioned hunt began after Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for Wyoming wolves were removed in April 2017, much to the dismay of scientists and groups like Earthjustice.

The Next Battle in the Fight to Stop Dirty Pipelines

Recently, a federal district judge found that a 162-mile long crude oil pipeline known as the Bayou Bridge would "irreparably harm" the Atchafalaya Basin-one of the nation's cultural and ecological crown jewels-and temporarily shut it down.

Why Hurricane Florence Could Become a Public Health Crisis

People in the southeastern U.S. are facing life threatening winds and rains from Hurricane Florence. Less obvious, but also of great concern, is the public health threat posed by a variety of contaminated sites located around the region.

Government Agency Nixes Coal Photo on Public Lands Website After Public Outcry

The Trump administration just got a harsh reminder just how strongly Americans feel about protecting public lands. A few days ago, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which oversees millions acres of public land under the Department of the Interior, swapped its homepage image of a beautiful park to a massive pile of coal at a mine in Wyoming.

In First for Consumer Safety, Federal Commission Moves to Ban Entire Class of Toxic Flame Retardants

A recent, groundbreaking decision by the Consumer Product Safety Commission may signal a major shift in how consumer products are regulated to keep us safe from toxic chemicals. For the first time ever, federal regulators have called for banning an entire class of flame retardants used in consumer products that don't protect against fires but do cause harmful effects in humans.

Judges to EPA: Get the Lead Out (on Protecting Children's Brains)

After dragging its heels for almost two decades, the EPA was recently ordered by a court to update its standards on allowable lead levels in paint and dust, which are some of the most common causes of lead poisoning in children in the U.S.

Trump's Consumer Advocate Nominee Often Fights Consumers

Most people probably don't think or hear much about the Consumer Product Safety Commission-that is, unless their Samsung Galaxy Note 7 ignites or loose blade pieces from their Cuisinart end up chipping their teeth.

5 Ways EPA Budget Cuts Affect You

President Trump is no fan of a clean environment-a fact that is becoming all the more clear as he proposes a wide range of bills meant to water down or gut regulations that protect our environment and public health.

EPA's Message to the Public: Stop Talking Because We're Not Listening

Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans was preparing to leave her house for an evening workout last month when her phone rang with a call from the Environmental Protection Agency. She took the call, curious about why the agency would be contacting her at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night.

Wildlife Refuges Are No Place for a Bee-Killing Pesticide

Wildlife refuges are meant to be just that-places carefully managed to allow animals and plants to flourish. Certainly, they're no place for toxic pesticides, especially in a state that is usually a leader on environmental issues.

We're Suing the Trump Administration for Delaying Protections Against Methane. Again.

Earthjustice is suing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today over its decision to delay regulations on methane, a major greenhouse gas. Delays of critical environmental protections have become a familiar tactic from federal agencies, as the Trump administration takes marching orders from polluting industries that want to unravel Obama-era regulations.

New Tests Reveal 15 out of 15 of Indiana's Coal Ash Sites Are Leaking

As a writer for Earthjustice, I often tell stories about people from across the country who inspire me with their tales of going up against all odds and billion-dollar corporations to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from environmental harm. Occasionally, the stories I tell hit closer to home.

Earthjustice wins 16-year-long battle to protect 50 million acres of forests

A decades-long fight over a landmark rule protecting wild forests nationwide took another successful-and possibly final-turn last week after a U.S. district court threw out a last-ditch attack by the state of Alaska against the Roadless Rule. Adopted in the closing days of the Clinton administration, the Roadless Rule prohibits most logging and road construction in roadless areas of national forests.

Your Dog and Cat's Food Container Bags May Be Coated with Toxic Chemicals

Every pet owner knows the consequences of feeding their dog or cat too many table scraps. Your pet gets fat, and your daily pet poop patrol suddenly smells a lot worse. But even the healthiest kibble and snacks can be harmful if they're packaged in bags lined with potentially toxic chemicals.

Judge to FDA: The Government Must Pull Aside Curtain on GE Salmon

Recently, a U.S. District Court judge took the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to task for withholding government documents related to the agency's approval of genetically engineered (GE) salmon. The judge's decision is a big win for public transparency, but it's also a small step toward finally doing a proper evaluation of the risks posed by GE animals-which could one day end up on our dinner plates.

Saving the Original Christmas Trees

As people across the country decorate their Christmas trees, some of their oldest-remaining ancestors are at risk of being chopped down.

MNN - Mother Nature Network
What is dry cask nuclear waste storage?

Q. My question has to do with Yucca Mountain, which is proposed to be the nation's first nuclear waste dump site. Building the site is now supposed to cost taxpayers $32 billion more than was originally estimated, so a lot of Utah residents I know are understandably upset about the increased price tag, and insisting that storing nuclear waste on site in "dry cask" storage would be safer and more effective.

Keeping the Wolverine Wild

Earthjustice is once again fighting to protect the wolverine, a tough-as-nails creature that’s nevertheless extremely vulnerable to climate change and development.

MNN - Mother Nature Network
Recyclebank rewards recyclers

Recycling is a lot like working out - you know you should do it, but at the end of a long Monday when the dirty dishes are piled up in the sink and the couch never looked so inviting, if often gets pushed back to Tuesday, or Wednesday, or... never.

The Scoop on Ice

The Obama administration just delivered another blow to Arctic drilling. What’s next in the fight to protect one of our nation’s most pristine ecosystems?

MNN - Mother Nature Network
Sky sprockets in flight

Every greenie loves wind turbines for their clean, renewable power, but some folks think the massive metal poles muddy pristine landscapes. Enter the latest tech being tested: flying turbines. Unlike their traditional counterparts, which are stuck in the soil, floating turbines are tethered to the ground by cables and hover up to 30,000 feet in the air.

Plenty Magazine
Stealing Gas

After her tank was mysteriously depleted, the author arrived at the only solution: ditching her car. (Sort of.)

Lady Liberty Takes a Dive

The Statue of Liberty’s torch-bearing arm may become a distress signal as sea levels rise.