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Air Pollution Price Tag—Our Health or Their Wealth

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
18 August 2010, 1:56 PM
EPA prepares move against those who pollute at our expense

Too often in the last two decades, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has gnawed big polluters like a toothless tiger. But 20 years after Congress endowed the agency with new tools to protect people from dangerous air pollution, the EPA is finally preparing to bite down hard.

The EPA is expected to finalize over the next few years a series of pollution control rules that could cut global warming pollution, improve air quality and protect the health of millions of Americans. But only if the agency gets it right—and big polluters will be fighting to make sure it doesn't.

This is especially true in the case of coal-fired power plants, which are targeted by many of the forthcoming rules. The coal and utility industries have retained an army of lobbyists and congressional champions to kill pollution controls and convince the American public that burning massive amounts of coal and protecting the environment aren't mutually exclusive.

But they are.

Coal-fired power plants are the largest industrial source of mercury and global warming pollution in the nation. They also are major sources of pollution that leads to smog and the contamination of water by heavy metals. Getting these facilities to follow the law and clean up will require an engaged public, so we'll be calling on you—our supporters—many times between now and the end of 2012 to join us in advocating for strong rules.

The EPA is under a court-ordered deadline to issue rules by March 2011 that will limit emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants from coal-fired power plants. Also in 2011, the agency is expected to adopt limits on global warming pollution from coal-fired power plants. This critical rule is perhaps the best way to reduce the impacts of global warming and clear the way for a clean energy future. Fierce opposition to this rule is expected from industry, some members of Congress, and even some within the Obama administration.

Already moving along are rules to cut ozone pollution and regulate coal ash, the toxic material that remains after coal is burned. Tens of thousands of Earthjustice supporters have contacted the EPA about these proposals, and we will continue to alert you of ways to voice your opinions on these important proposals.

Recent good news demonstrates that our advocacy has paid off. Earlier this month, the EPA released final rules to slash emissions of mercury, particulate matter, acid gases and other dangerous pollutants from cement kilns. The projected benefits of these pollution cuts outweigh the costs to industry by as much as 19 to 1. Despite industry's shrill, fear-mongering response, the new rules' positive impact on people and the environment is undeniable.

Securing strong final rules took serious work. After initial rules to clean up cement kilns were proposed in May 2009, the main trade group for the cement industry pushed hard to weaken them. But Earthjustice and its allies mobilized a large response as well. Supporters attended public hearings, sent thousands of emails, made phone calls and urged the EPA to stand strong.

We'll need to organize similar efforts for all of the upcoming rules, because big polluters certainly haven't lost their touch. Mouthpieces for industry have expertly cajoled and threatened their way out of complying with the Clean Air Act before. That won't change because change does not benefit the polluter.

Year after year, industry benefits financially from lax control while we get stuck with the bill: asthma, heart attacks, birth defects, cancer and other serious ailments. Moreover, the entire planet faces the specter of uncontrolled climate change, for which the aforementioned industries, particularly coal-fired power plants, are culpable.

The EPA's upcoming rules can help correct this imbalance. It is the responsibility of all concerned citizens to ensure that the agency's efforts are all bite so that big polluters aren't allowed to slip away again.

course... for a little cash. We have payment plans. I read a statistical report on the lifespan of civilizations throughout recorded history. 200 years was the average. Then let the fighting begin.It is after-all, all about me.and my wealth.... Let's do it globally, and consume the whole planet.!! Yeah!! Why,...... there's money in it....for a few. But this time, time is short or even nonexistent. This time even you billionaires can't pay your way out. But you could if you spend it for humanity. Nameste, Odin

Wow ,I just read some thoughts you guys had , some I of which I thought were interesting, such as the human population issue. Yes we are headed towards 7 million, but people are dying everyday too.! Seriously though, pollution is simply man made, and without politics, and greed it doesn't have to exist ! I read that the planet could sustain 10 billion, but that poverty and pollution...meaning.... War too...would have to be elliminated. I read this article in a science mag. saying that we can actually with new exchangeble parts ,even skin that grows right on us, live to be 1,000 years ! That sounds crazy, but they said getting people to live that long would not be the problem, where to put us all would be !
So regardless they realized that no matter what the future brings getting off this planet, and colounizing the Universe is most likely where we are headed.
So we must figure out the pollution problem 100 %, and that the polluters will have to develope clean energy, because we can't travel in space with pollutions and disease.
Now if all that sounds crazy the only other alternative would be for us to grow the hell up, stop letting wacko businessmen run our world ,clean-up our act, Educate, and take better care of ourselves, like we all know we can ! For every pollution problem there is a sollution.For some reason our own Goverment is not protecting us. That is one of Goverments primary objectives, and what they all Swear an Oathe to,. So we must get a Judicial Sytsem ,like Earth Justice and keep taking them to Court ,but I think Jail sentences should be given out to Agents that don't protect their section, where people are getting Cancer, and dying ! When a life is taken because of the direct, or indirect acts of an individual, or individuals, and everyone is aware of this taking place, and why, and where, it is taking place, then the laws of the land need to be enforced.Lobbing and paying money to influence a Govermental official to do such bodily harm as Cancer must be a Crime ! If it isn't ,it is .If for some greedy reason, it hasn't been written out clear enough, then that is what Goverment is for. People keep screaming we need less goverment, what we need is a "functioning" & "within the law" goverment without LOBBING ! sorry to yell ! But whomever allowed that krapt to get so far out of hand, has done this Country and the World a great diservice ! Whatever path we choose I hope that Greater Heads Prevail, it's the only way we will survive. Wouldn't it be silly for us to have been given the gift of intellect, and to then scquander it all away, and for the Homo Sapian to last less then any other species that walked the Earth !

so good,i like this!

Thank you for your continued efforts and successes in protecting our environment. The EPA is providing "traveling hearings"on the Pollution Transportation (Atlanta's hearing is 9/1 @ Renaissance Atlanta Downtown, starting at 9 a.m.). I started the vast document that the EPA has on their website and was unfortunately "overwhelmed". Atlanta has had 13+ Orange Code Days, a few Red Code Days and even a near Purple. Southern Company loves burning that coal! Cartersville has a plant northwest of Atlanta and if you check out NOAA's site, on the Air Quality tab, the red blob is the plant (it has four towers, I believe). Hey, but they are working on capping one of the towers. Georgia also loves it's diesel fueled vehicles too! When the majority of your elected officials are funded by Southern Company, forget having a proper conversation about Air Quality...I know because I've tried in vain. Georgians need all the help we can again...THANK YOU! P.S. I am a member of Earth Justice & Sierra Club.

Thanks, Earth Justice. The large sources of pollution need to be worked on but so do the small sources. LA has determined that fireplaces burning wood in their city are 4 times more polluting together than a coal power plant, for pm, and 3,000 times worse for global warming. I am glad you are acting on my request to have congress regulate woodburning with the Carbon Black Soot bill. The easiest way is to ban woodburning. We can start with the worst offenders first and then keep going after more like we did with cigarettes by going after the tobacco companies selling cigarettes and then second hand smoke. If you do this, health will improve, health costs will go down, and global warming will be decreased. The Earth really does need a good law firm like yours and people helping you out.

I really wish politicians would not succumb to pressure and money issues, and listen to those who are out to protect all of us by protecting our environment, and all other life in it. If you think about what is really important, it is not money. It is life, liberty, health (including spiritual and all other aspects), knowledge, love through service, the pursuit of happiness, and being good stewards over all we have been given. WE NEED TO PROTECT OURSELVES FROM THOSE WHO SACRIFICE WHAT IS GOOD FOR MONETARY REASONS. Money is only necessary to do good in the world and provide for our needs. It is to bless our lives with growth and development of our talents. It is to bring beauty and all GOOD things into the world and take care of our world and everything in it. If we do the above, then we are rich, others around us are blessed, and nobody or nothing gets hurt. "Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves." May we all live that way.

The real problem that no one wants to discuss or address is the growing human population. That's why we need more power plants, and more chemicals sprayed on crops to feed the new humans that are born every second. Check out the world population clock websites and you will see that the human population is around 6.9 BILLION! According to a researcher at Cornell University, the earth can only adequately feed and support 2 billion humans without suffering consequences like destruction of biodiversity, starvation and disease. Our country is growing by leaps and yet our government wants to give tax breaks to families so they will have more children to support Wall Street and keep the economy growing!

Island Queen is so right. Human reproduction rates assure us that it is the fate of humanity that famine & lack of access to potable water are absolutely certain to get worse. Overcrowded urban slums will certainly increase in population, but probably not much in size since they are only surrounded by--what else?--more city, & this means extreme squalor is the wave of the future. And the more people live in poverty, the more they seem to want to have more children, I guess as a way of assuring that at least some of them survive. This, folks, is the future of humanity on earth. In no way do I want to depress anyone. This scenario is simply the truth.

I am ashamed to be an American. Where, the government keeps telling us everything is fine .The TV commercials tell us we must consume. While the Lawyers tell us to sue, and the drug companies inform us of the disease of the week...but they have a cure... for a little cash. Oh ' girls' & 'boys' have you seen the latest in cosmetic surgery it will,well make you beautiful of course... for a little cash. We have payment plans.
I read a statistical report on the lifespan of civilizations throughout recorded history. 200 years was the average. Then let the fighting begin.It is after-all, all about me.and my wealth.... Let's do it globally, and consume the whole planet.!! Yeah!! Why,...... there's money in it....for a few.
But this time, time is short or even nonexistent. This time even you billionaires can't pay your way out.
But you could if you spend it for humanity.

I am heartened by those who predict that after the decline of humans, the planet earth will recover.
I prize the earth's creation more than man's.

I now view the Bible as a poor example, it gives us a punitive and mean God, not the one that Jesus revealed. Much of the Bible is filled with vindictiveness, just as man has copied.

Few comments mention making the developers of energy pay for their damage/ or its cleanup...
before selling anything for profit. Have the tax or penalty come first...then the developers may make profit. If that requirement deters them, so be it.

Wow! You guys are really saying it. This is why, the way government operates must end. You'll see more Health issues, Environmental issues that will be threatened.

I recently had to leave a job at an airline due to reactions to air quality both on the ground and in the air. A hotbed of respiratory illnesses. TCP's, benzene and carbons are primary and it has been known for decades. No protection, no caution, no warning posted. No agency mandates. Corporate social responsibility? EPA?? OSHA??? FAA???

I certainly agree that we need new regulations to limit mercury and CO2 emissions and to deal with coal ash. But more than that, we need EPA, OSM, and the State regulatory agencies to actually APPLY and ENFORCE the existing (and any new) regulations. It will be just as easy for industry to ignore new regulations as they have done with existing regulations for far too long. EPA, at least, seems to have finally gotten some backbone after a decade or more of sleeping on the job. EPA and the other regulatory agencies need to remember what their central mission is and why they were created in the first place - to protect the environment (and by extension, the health and well-being of you and me). It is NOT their job to help coal companies stay in business or get their permits as quickly as possible. There are plenty of other organizations doing that. Sure, it may be hard to say "no" or to stand up to the powerful coal interests, but that is what they are supposed to do (on our behalf). If they CAN'T do that, let's just dismantle those agencies, revoke all the regulations, and go back to a Wild West mentality of every man (and woman) for themself. If it will cost the coal industry dearly to comply with environmental regulations (which, after all, protect us all), then so be it - let them fail and let more environmentally-friendly industries (e.g., wind, solar, geothermal) fill in the breach - that's what the free market is supposed to be all about anyway.

All of the above comments have merit in them and are quite significant in the human/worlds demise. However, there is more to this tale that has not been covered or even touched upon in the above commentaries. For in this instance, the noxious, ozone depleting (leading to global warming) gas from the immense numbered farmed livestock such as cattle which so to speak spews out each and everyday. In addition to this and not to mention but I will, the complications from the high and sometimes only diet choice mainstream America choices once again so to speak consumes. Resulting in overweight, heart problems, disease like diabetes and other systematic issues of health that we like cattle are being lead by advertisements and consumer norms to purchase, live on and in vast numbers consume.
Global warming is only one important facet of this seemingly complex (but really not ) puzzle/battle of choice, liberty and most important global human conditional survival. The condition is whether we chose survival/life, or we stay on the path of self destruction blinded by the corporation layered smog patties we are now wallowing in as we speak. Do us a favor, stand up and shout, rattle the cages of restriction, embrace life, and do it now.

well, since you mentioned agriculture, let's not forget about those of us who moved to the country in order to enjoy what nature HAD to offer and escape the insanity of the cities only to find that we are being bombarded on a daily basis with poisonous chemicles in the form of herbicides, pesticides,& fungicides from airplanes--there's no escaping. it has been very interesting (really heart-breaking) to watch the effects of this spraying on the environment. since it started on a large scale in the spring here in northwestern ohio, the swallows, wrens, robins, swifts and other bug-eating birds have disappeared. there are no honey bees, wasps, hornets, lightning bugs, moths, dragon flys, or damsel flys, no bugs except cicadas, horse flys and house flys. there are no raccoons, opossum, wood chucks.....there's NOTHING here anymore! it's a dead zone. there are no vultures and the pair of eagles that have nested near my home for 8 years are now gone because their food source, the fish, have nothing to eat so they're gone. i'm not going to go on about the effects that it's had on my health-it's been devistating for me.. but, the most interesting fact is that the farmers who have ordered this spraying live here in the area...they are my neighbors! they are not only committing genocide on their own families, neighbors and friends, they are committing suicide! but, apparently, the EPA deems this to be safe...sigh...absolute power corrupts absolutely.

To the person who moved to the country...
I know how you feel about the loss of the wildlife because of agriculture. I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley in California where there was every kind of frog, dragonfly, butterfly, bird, thousands of lady bugs in alfalfa fields, ground squirrels and jack rabbits and cottontails, and so on. Wildlife was abundant and taken for granted, until about 1965 when things changed in our area. My uncle who worked as a ranch hand told me the doves eyes were popping out and they were falling to the ground but not dead and he would have to go around with a shovel cutting their heads off to mercy kill them. Very hard for him who loved animals. The pesticides or fertilizers had changed, and the birds were eating it. Then he told me he could no longer raise the wild baby rabbits that he used to bring home. They would just die. Also, the field workers and their children, mostly Mexican, were coming into the hospital where my mother worked, poisoned from the spraying in the fields. Later when I was older I would visit family in the Valley and learned that even after all the wildlife was gone, and all that damage had been done, towns were putting herbicides in the irrigation canals to kill the weeds! When I was a child it was these canals that were an important habitat for wildlife and all the children played in them. It is too sad to visit the Valley, and I still have family who live there. It is one of the most polluted areas in the U.S. and seriously harms humans. About a third of the year they have high alert ozone days when they ask the people to stay indoors! I have moved to the country like you, and where I live now in northern California, it is very progressive. Even Can Trans who take care of the highways cuts the grass on the roadsides instead of using roundup which I've heard they do elsewhere. And where I live, there is abundant wildlife--deer, racoons, wild turkeys, falcons, osprey, swallows, all kinds of ocean birds, migrating birds, and sea animals, garden snakes, a variety of bees, shrews, and so on. And because of my experience in the San Joaquin Valley I don't use the "cides" at home because I don't want to kill things and won't support the chemical industry that killed all that life, so I buy pesticide free food, doing it as much to preserve wildlife in farming places as for my own health. Good luck to you. I'm sorry about what you are going through.

Well, we must not be getting sprayed as much down here. We've got everything on that list except maybe vultures and I don't know how to tell them apart from buzzards. Maybe we are better about spraying cause most folks around here are small farmers and not in the big agribusiness group.
All that might change if they get to build that experimental coal power plant in the next county. Not looking forward to that at all.

Big Oil and Coal own the government, and will continue to until we all remind the elected officials that they are supposed to be working for US and if they don't we will vote them out. Until that happens, it'll be business as usual in D.C.

Prepare to die..sheep don't fight the shearers..they submit..some get butchered for dinner..trick is to look sheepish but have wolves teeth..let the shearing and feasting begin.. get out of the cities.. the next killing ground is North American AGAIN..get goin skins.thats injuns...genocidal victims # 1..head for the hills and stock up on and TP..:) came from no where, goin no where, is about to lose it again..:) America has terminal cancer..ecodepressiophoma.
Gerald Celente of Trends Research Institute has something to tell you :) go now, read, watch vids..and then start packin. Lock and load.
Back to the land.
Hell comin. Let the sheep devour each other. Let the wolves of govt feast on their carrion. America is terminal. All her vassals are terminal. The elites are going to lose weight and hunger..banker ..try Krap Dinner tonight.. get used to it..:)
Don't go in the woods :) might get scalped. :) oh ..heh.. forests all gone.. oh oh..?? You clear cut the REZ ?? OMFIA we are screwed.!!

The fact that the question of profits vs. widespread human health could even be an issue is a testament to the power of money to corrupt. Is the EPA going to finally start representing the population as a whole? Time will tell.

The best predictor of future behavior is PAST behavior. To expect or even hope for any teeth towards corporations and their rape and pillage practices is SUPPORTED by our Govt. despite token pretenses to the contrary. Civility and the right to life is fought in the courts, which corporations now own thanks to our SUPREME COURT 5. It is a stacked deck and unless people, en mass, take it to the streets all efforts only create a bump in the road for soulless.

With all this pollution and climate change, G-d's creation is wasting away. Yes, it is the government's responsibility to monitor and punish the guilty parties, such as big coal, big oil, and corporations. Least we forget, we are partly guilty as we comsume these envinormently unsafe products.

It is wrong to blame people for using the ONLY energy sources they are ALLOWED to access.
The ONLY reason that wind, solar, geothermal tide and wave power do not currently provide the overwhelming majority of our electricity is that wind, sunshine, the Earth's natural heat and river/tide/wave water flows are FREE and cannot be monopolized.
I have been beating my head against the wall of the fossil-fuel paradigm and the power of those who profit from that paradigm for 30+ years and can only conclude that we will only restore and protect the ONLY known natural Life-Support system in the Universe if those in power can make more MONEY by saving it than by destroying it.
Greed is NOT "good"!

This will NEVER happen.

We have a government, bought and paid for by the corporations.

The EPA is just there to give a false sense of doing something for the people, while the corporations have a convenient scapegoat for doing nothing and saying to the people, " see we have followed all of the EPA regulations," which are obviously NONEXISTENT !

AND these regs are promised SOOOO far in the future as to be meaningless. Do we really have to wait TWO f@#$ing years for clean air?

The same thing is going on in the Marcelleus Shale disaster waiting to happen. The EPA is dragging its knuckles till it will be to late, while the industry says that it is safe and they are following are (nonexistent) regulations.

Nice scam if you can get it.

Hello Everyone,
I am a Hurricane Katrina evacuee now living in Hattiesburg Ms.. I was a weekend volunteer for 20 years at the Louisiana Nature & Science Center in New Orleans. The LNSC was destroyed
during Katrina. The purpose for the LNSC was to help people understand and appreciate their
relationship to the environment. While volunteering I developed a show & tell presentation for children and adults which I titled "Consider the Connection".
"Consider the Connection is now an online Stage Presentation with 3 interconnected/interactive 'PROPS' CTC123
Consider the Connection to:
Environmental Communicaion (CTC1)
The more knowledge we have.
The more connections we make.
The more ACTION we take!!!
Great article, Trip Van Noppen

We are not Liberals.That has become a ludicrous name tag.The environment is not a Liberal cause as the right would define liberalism.It is a logical and rational cause.We are in Eden but many have become blind to it.

Your comment makes me wish there was a "like" button.

This is the only planet we've got, and it just makes sense that we should take care of it. Sadly, a large number of people are greatly lacking in sense these days.

Well said. The environment doesn't only help and protect "liberals" it keeps us all alive. The sooner we can save ourselves from the mess the greedy and irresponsible have made.

Fellow Liberals:
Do we want peace and fairness and a future for our children? Of course we all do but I can’t keep telling my kids what the respected politician Al Gore implies over and over again: that unless we and our children take drastic action now, the planet is in danger. Try looking your children in the eyes and say “I commit you to death by CO2”. Why is fear the only motivator. I’m embarrassed to be a liberal and I believe with all my heart that Climate Change is our Iraq War. The CO2 WMD’s were the climate change threats of death by a thousand climates, just to get the kids to turn the lights out more often? Energy and pollution are not the issues. Population and birth control are the underlying issues. At least show our kids to face the future of energy and pollution with courage, not needless panic. It's not progressive. Since voters are writing the final chapter in the CO2 mistake, lets not let this do to us what Bush did to the neocons. We need to jump off the CO2 ship and do what’s right for the planet, our children and our belief systems.
We don’t want to be remembered as the fear mongering neocon-like liberals of the CO2 environMENTAL era. But I think it’s too late anyways. Let’s get ahead of the curve otherwise this will keep us out of power for decades. The first party to renounce the CO2 theory and endorse birth control, will get the next majority government. The public has been misread as they are now fed up with this silly fear factor culture that gives the impression that we are leading this culture of hysteria.

EPA has stated that fine particulate matter (dust) is dangerous but refuses to do anything to stop it. Administrator Jackson has received photographs of what the state of Maryland is doing and ignored them. She has not even responded to the e-mails of April this year. In addition, the state of Maryland discharged hundreds of thousands gallons of mud, silt and animal feces into Rock Creek less than a mile from the D.C. line. This flows into the Potomac and the the Chesapeake Bay. Jackson also ignores this. This is how EPA ignores President Obama's instructions to protect the Chesapeake Bay. Her lack of interest has allowed Governor O'Malley, U.S.Represenative Van Hollen, and Montgomery County officials to ignore the pollution of the air we breathe and the waters of Maryland and the United States. No wonder the fish has lesions on them. What price do we pay when children are subjected to fine particulate matter at a state facility that is so dense that you can not see the them or the area around them. Even more important, why do the parents not care? At what point does this become reckless endangerment?

The biggest mistakes the environmental movement has made are making Climate Change the central issue at the expense of all the other polluting contents of the effluent from fossil fuels, and calling it "Global Warming".
Chicken Little isn't paranoid if the sky really IS falling.

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