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When Hilton Kelley of Port Arthur, Texas moved back to his hometown more than a decade ago, he didn't realize that he'd spend the ensuing years battling for clean air. And on a muggy Tuesday afternoon, he drove 90 miles west toward Houston to attend yet another EPA hearing to comment on air pollution rules.

Kelley, 49, lives in an area where there are 20 facilities, small and large, continuously pumping chemicals into the air.

The state of Washington announced a deal with Canadian-based TransAlta Corp. last week to "clean up" pollution from mercury and oxides of nitrogen. But the plan is sorely lacking.

A coalition of faith, environmental and public health groups are working to see the TransAlta coal plant, the state's largest single pollution source, converted to cleaner fuels or shut down by 2015. Coalition members were not impressed by this sweetheart deal and have already taken their case to the courts.

Concerned Houston citizen Rosalie Guerrero recently visited a young mother who lives near a facility pumping chemicals in the air. The mother had given birth to a baby with half a brain. The baby suffered for 6 months before dying.

“I’d like to see how much that life costs,” said Rosalie, testifying at a U.S. EPA hearing in Houston on the detrimental effects of living near facilities that emit lead, mercury and cadmium in the air. “There is a cost associated with that.”

Clean air advocates, many sporting "Don't Trash Our Lungs" t-shirts, spoke out yesterday at public hearings in Los Angeles and Houston for much-needed reductions in toxic air pollution. Held by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the hearings focused on recent EPA proposals to cut emissions of hazardous air pollutants like mercury and other toxic metals at nearly 100,000 facilities nationwide.

<Update: BP has replaced the containment cap on its damaged Gulf oil well, after it had been removed the day before to be inspected, according to AP.>

Oil is once more gushing almost unrestricted into the Gulf of Mexico, after an apparent undersea accident today forced BP to remove the cap which has allowed the company to capture much of the oil that has been escaping from its damaged well.

According to various media reports, a remote operated submersible bumped the cap's vent, disrupting the system set up three weeks. This is just the latest in a series of mishaps thwarting BP's attempts to close the well after an explosion ruptured the wellhead more than two months ago.

According to reports in both the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, the removed cap is being inspected for any signs of hydrates formation, which can plug the cap. There was no estimate of when the cap might be replaced. A second oil removal system, that takes away up to 10,000 barrels a day and burns it off, is still operating. Total estimated outflow from the well is up to 60,000 barrels daily.
 

Yesterday a federal district judge granted a request by oil industry groups and blocked a six month moratorium on new offshore oil drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico put in place by the Obama administration. The judge ruled that the administration moved too fast and overreacted when it decided to stop deep offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency started the 90-day clock for public comments on its plans to set federal safeguards for millions of tons of dangerous coal ash wastee currently being stored in dry dumps and waste ponds. This means we've got three months to set the EPA on a straight course towards the first ever strong, federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash. And judging from the current proposal, it seems like the EPA can use our help.

Now that human technology has failed to keep oil out of Gulf coast wetlands, some scientists think the solution lies with one of nature's most ancient techniques—flooding of the Mississippi River.

The scientists have concluded that powerful river flows kept oil from the BP/Gulf spill from invading large areas of wetlands. But as winter runoff diminished, so too did the river flow, and now oil is making a destructive invasion. The strong flow could be restored, however, by simply adjusting dams upstream that are diverting water out of the river bed.

"The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now."

President Obama's words, delivered from the Oval Office on Tuesday night, read like a clear call for national unity as we gather strength to turn the corner to a new, better America. But at this point, they are only words. What we need is action.

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