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Clean Air Ambassador: Ashley Sanders

I want an Environmental Protection Agency that is so effective that I would know it existed just by looking outside.

When I was very little, I was troubled by something I didn't understand: winter arrived in the Salt Lake valley with it a light gray, soupy air that sank over everything and made it impossible to see more than five feet in front of you. I didn't like it but I didn't know what it was; I thought it was just one of the facts of winter. As a result, I didn't talk much about how sad it made me, because I thought we were all supposed to deal with it. But it stressed me out a lot and occupied a lot of my thoughts.

Finally, in school we learned about pollution. Our teacher told us that it was the same stuff that hung over our city in January, and that it was caused by humans. I was shocked. "You mean we caused this?" I asked. "You mean it isn't normal?" My teacher looked sad that I didn't know.

In that same class, we drew pictures of what we thought the future would look like. Kids used black crayons to draw dirty skies. Lots of pictures had people with masks on. When my teacher asked why, the kids said: "Because in the future the air will be so dirty that we will have to wear protective bubbles around our heads."

Just last February, I was on the bus at a stoplight. I looked next to me and saw a woman on a bike. The air was thick and gray. She was wearing a bright pink gas mask. I realized the future we'd predicted was now.

Rio Tinto's Kennecott copper plant produces a third of the total pollution in Salt Lake valley--by far the largest industrial polluter and looking right now to expand. Kennecott's pollution kills hundreds of people every year, but the company refuses to care, still burning coal to fuel its operations and trying to accelerate its mining to make even more profit at all of our expense. The pollution causes asthma in kids, depression in adults, and premature death for the elderly.

I want the Obama administration to know that the current Environmental Protection Agency standards and enforcement basically indicate that a company's obscene profit margins are more important than the people's right to live and be healthy and happy. The EPA must be strengthened, not gutted, and regulation needs to be enforced. We need a truly democratic system that allows people to decide what is healthy and right for their communities. The current system allows disgusting amounts of pollution into our air because it favors wealth over health. When I look at the winter sky in Salt Lake, I would never guess that the EPA existed. I want an EPA that is so effective that I would know it existed just by looking outside.
 

Ambassador Audio: 
Ambassador Group Affiliation: 
Utah Moms for Clean Air
Ambassador Profession: 
Community Organizer