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#Right2Breathe Recap: What Saved 160,000 Lives in 2010?

(Clean air is a life saver, which is why Earthjustice is working to ensure that polluters don’t stand in the way of safeguards against air pollution. Here’s a round up of some recent news in the ongoing campaign to protect our Right to Breathe.)

Use the #right2breathe hashtag on Twitter to track campaign updates.

EPA chief Lisa Jackson talks health on Capitol Hill
Tapped to testify on a bill that would shackle her agency and prevent it from doing its job to protect the American people, Lisa Jackson took an important message to Congress: Clean air saves lives and improves our health.

“Last year alone,” she said, “EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act saved more than 160,000 lives,” avoided 100,000 hospital visits and millions of respiratory illness cases, and kept Americans in work and at school. Clean air keeps us safe and healthy. Pro-polluter factions in Congress apparently think that isn’t a big deal, but I bet the 160,000 people whose lives were saved last year disagree.

American public wants EPA to do more, not less
A majority of Americans—63 percent, according to recent public opinion data—want the EPA “to do more to hold polluters accountable and protect the air and water.” That means actions such as reducing emissions of mercury, soot, benzene and other harmful pollutants from cement plants, industrial boilers and the juggernaut of all toxic polluters, coal-fired power plants. (On a side note, a new study from CERES and the Public Economy Research Institute at UMASS found that cleaning up dirty power plants could be a major boon for jobs and the U.S. economy.)

The aforementioned public opinion research also found that 77 percent of Americans want Congress to let the EPA do its job—which is to protect human health and the environment. Unsurprisingly, most Americans reject Newt Gingrich’s proposal to scrap the agency and replace it with an Environmental Solutions Agency. The takeaway? Americans to pro-polluter members of Congress: Out of the EPA’s way!

Texas mom tells Texas congressman: Hands off my clean air!
Alex Allred—board member at Downwinders at Risk, a Texas-based education and advocacy group, also an Earthjustice client—had a wonderful op-ed published last week in which she takes Rep. John Carter (R-TX) to task for trying to block air pollution standards that would improve air quality in Alex’s home of Midlothian, TX—and many other communities across the nation. Rep. Carter has no cement kilns in his district and never bothered to weigh in during a multi-year debate over new pollution limits for the dirty cement industry. Now, says Alex, “he wants to junk the whole thing just like that. That isn’t democracy. It’s usurpation. I fought hard to protect my family, congressman. Keep your hands off my Clean Air Act standards.”

Editorial boards defend clean air, public’s right to breathe
The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ran editorials last weekend that defend the public’s right to breathe clean air. The pieces were a heartening reflection that the need for clean air is a visible, national issue. As the NY Times editorialized:

[The EPA] will issue proposals not only on greenhouse gases but also ozone, sulfur dioxide and mercury, which poisons lakes and fish. These regulations are fully consistent with the Clean Air Act. Some of them should have been completed during the Bush years; all are essential to protect the environment. The agency’s administrator, Lisa Jackson, has moved cautiously, making clear that she will target only the largest polluters and not, as the Republicans claim, mom-and-pop businesses.