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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.

ABOUT EARTHJUSTICE'S BLOG

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

Learn more about Earthjustice.

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21 March 2012, 3:26 PM
New public survey shows broad support for clean air standards

Breathing isn’t just a physiological necessity, relegated to the unconscious functioning of our reptilian brains. It’s actually quite popular. Darn popular!

I imagine that’s so because not all breathing is created equal. There’s the satisfying lungful of sweet, clean air (I hope we have all had that experience). And there’s the cough-inducing, eye-watering, lung-busting inhalation of dirty air. Sadly, far too many people are intimately familiar with this latter experience—which may help to explain why clean air is so popular. It’s in short supply in a lot of places where people live and breathe.

Sixty-six percent of voters nationally strongly support action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to curb smog, mercury and other dangerous air pollution, according to new public opinion research released today.

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23 December 2011, 3:41 PM
Coal plant pollution limits point to brighter future

The historic victory for clean air announced a few days ago—limits on the mercury, arsenic and other toxic emissions from coal plants—has been a long time coming. Congress called for these limits in 1990, but the coal power industry got to work undermining them straight away. As a result, instead of getting the breath of fresh air promised by Congress, Americans living in the shadow of a smokestack have been getting daily lungfuls of toxic air for 21 years.

It took determined litigation and public advocacy to break through the politics and industry's obstruction—the victory achieved on December 21, 2011 is the culmination of those long, hard years of fighting. Earthjustice got involved in the legal fight in 1994 and Jim Pew, a staff attorney in our Washington, D.C. office, has been dedicated to the cause for more than a decade, successfully arguing against attempts by the Bush administration to give power plants a pass.

This short video features Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan, neighbors—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a smokestack and the specter of a plume. Check it out, and if you feel moved to send a thank you to President Obama for issuing protections to cut down on the pollution coming from this bad industrial neighbors, you can do so here.

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21 December 2011, 1:52 PM
In new video, Obama explains how critical clean air protections are

The White House recently posted a video of President Obama discussing the new clean air protections that his administration released today to limit mercury, arsenic and other air toxic emissions from power plants. The President's words underscore how momentous this occasion is. The fight for these protections is more than two decades old. Earthjustice entered it in 1994 and has been pushing hard ever since. Check out the video below.

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21 December 2011, 10:31 AM
Protections to scrub coal plants' toxic emissions proposed after years of delay

To all who wondered what gift the Obama administration is giving the American public for the holidays: it's clean air.

The administration just announced the first-ever clean air protections against the nation's dirtiest polluters—coal-fired power plants. This is one of the most significant developments in the history of environmental protections and the 40-year old Clean Air Act.

Earthjustice has been a big part of this fight for more than a decade—our litigation helped cut through the politics and intense pressure from industry to scuttle these important protections. Today, we're proud that those years of work have resulted in a major victory for the health of the American public. We're also proud that nearly 50,000 Earthjustice supporters made their voices heard in a call for these protections and the right to breathe.

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07 December 2011, 12:47 PM
The nation's worst toxic air polluters need to be better neighbors
Hatfield's Ferry coal plant. Photo: Chris Jordan / Earthjustice

Imagine you live in a neighborhood full of families. There are many nice people, but a few households are real menaces. They're loud, they burn things in the backyard, and they drive around so fast that you're worried they're going to run someone down

The neighborhood bands together and one-by-one succeeds in getting these menaces to settle down. But there's a holdout—and it's the worst of all. The noise from that place is tremendous, the fires they burn are bigger than anyone's, and they drive with their eyes closed.

Meet the power plant family, America's worst toxic air polluters.

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30 November 2011, 2:56 PM
A strong call for coal plants in Chicago, and everywhere, to clean up
Ian Viteri, a community organizer with LVEJO, at the 50 States United for Healthy Air event.

What's it like to live in the shadow of a smokestack?

Ask Kim Wasserman, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and a resident of Chicago's Little Village neighborhood—a culturally vibrant area on the city's west side that many, including Wasserman, refer to as the "Mexican capital of the Midwest."

Wasserman and her family live less than one mile from the Crawford coal-fired power plant, which is owned by Midwest Generation. The same company owns another plant in Chicago, the Fisk, which is in the Pilsen neighborhood in the northeast part of the city. Pollution from these two plants has galvanized strong calls from grassroots groups—LVEJO, PERRO and others—for the plants to clean up their dirty ways. Wasserman makes the call beautifully in an op-ed published today in the Chicago Tribune.

It begins:

I'm Peter's mom. He's that 6-year-old on those ads on the "L" trains or on billboards around town. You know, the one with the inhaler, the one he's been using since he was 3. That makes him luckier than his older brother Anthony, who developed his asthma at 3 months. When Anthony had his first asthma attack, I didn't know much about it. When he was struggling to breathe you could see his little rib cage. I learned that that was a telltale sign.

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30 November 2011, 11:23 AM
EPA will issue final toxic air standards for power plants

Mark your calendars. Dec. 16 is going to be a big deal—particularly for families with children across the country. I know that Alvin, Simon and Theodore are getting Chipwrecked that day, but that's not what I'm thinking about. There's something even bigger coming down: the Environmental Protection Agency is going to release final standards to clean up mercury and other health-damaging toxic air pollutants from power plants.

Mercury is a serious threat to fetuses and young children—it can cause brain damage and other kinds of developmental problems. Power plants are far and away the biggest industrial sources of it. Collectively, in 2010, they emitted more than 33 tons of mercury. The EPA's draft standard, issued last March, would cut mercury emissions from power plants by 90 percent. Power plant pollution also causes serious respiratory problems—aggravated asthma attacks, for example—and even premature death. The EPA's draft rule would prevent as many as 17,000 premature deaths every year.

To draw attention to the upcoming announcement, the American Lung Association is running a hard-hitting commercial that highlights the impact of power plant air pollution on kids' health.

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17 November 2011, 3:38 PM
EPA's clean-up of toxic air pollution remains unfulfilled
Not only will clean air standards have a tremendous impact on the health of the American public, they will also create thousands of new utility jobs.
(Chris Jordan / Earthjustice)

In 1990, Congress gave the Environmental Protection Agency a very important homework assignment: protect the American public from mercury, lead, benzene, dioxins and other invisible toxic air pollutants, because what we can't see can hurt us.

Twenty-one years later, these dangerous pollutants are still pouring forth in large quantities from smokestacks across the country. Some of the nation's biggest polluters—cement kilns, industrial boilers and coal-fired power plants—are going to have to cut down on their toxic pollution as the Clean Air Act requires, have yet to do so.

In many cases, the reason is that the EPA has time and again failed to turn in its homework—critical clean air standards that require industries to install pollution controls that are readily available and affordable. Pressure and opposition from industry has routinely been a roadblock. In this way, polluting industries and their allies in Congress have played the part of the dog, scarfing the standards that would cause dirty industries to clean up their facilities. But even when the EPA has turned in clean air standards to clean up polluters, more often than not they are covered in industry's slobber—watered down and full of loopholes that benefit polluters.

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15 November 2011, 5:10 PM
Nearly 36,000 deaths could be prevented every year by tighter soot standards

Sometimes, little things cause big problems. The tiny particles in soot pollution are 1/30th the width of a strand of your hair, and yet those tiny particles may be responsible for the premature deaths of tens of thousands of Americans every year.

Earthjustice, Clean Air Task Force and the American Lung Association released a report today—titled Sick of Soot—that shows nearly 36,000 premature deaths could be prevented in the U.S. every year if the Environmental Protection Agency strengthens the health standards for soot pollution.

In 2009, following an Earthjustice lawsuit, a federal court found that the EPA's current standards are inadequate to protect public health and ordered the agency to update them. Nearly three years later, the EPA hasn't budged. So today, in addition to co-releasing Sick of Soot, Earthjustice went back to the same federal court—on behalf of the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund and National Parks Conservation Association—and asked it to set a deadline for the EPA to issue stronger soot standards.

"The EPA needs to start moving in a different direction," said Earthjustice attorney David Baron. "Sick of Soot points the way."

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01 November 2011, 1:24 PM
The economy needs regulation to get going
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)

Today, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)—that's "Ice-uh" for those unfamiliar with the congressman—ran a hearing in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about pollution from coal-fired power plants. The hearing unfolded roughly as expected, with one side—repped by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli—arguing that clean air standards are job-killers, and the other side—repped by Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe—countering that the tremendous health benefits of reducing toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants vastly outweigh the costs.

Now, enter Dr. Josh Bivens, the third witness at the hearing, who laid out an economic argument worth mentioning here, as it provided some refreshing clarity. Dr. Bivens, who works at the Economic Policy Institute, argued that now is precisely the time that we should be regulating big toxic polluters like the coal-fired power industry.

Because of the Great Recession, rather than spending their cash reserves on job-creating investments, big industries are just sitting on them. This is called a liquidity trap. Bivens argued that government regulations—e.g. clean air standards—are a great way to get these companies to start spending those reserves. In other words, the money that industry spends to comply with clean air standards will actually be highly beneficial for the economy. Factor in the substantial health benefits that accrue to the public when dirty coal plants install pollution control technology to control their toxic air emissions, and these clean air standards look even more like a no-brainer.

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