Sam Edmondson's Blog Posts

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

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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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17 February 2011, 4:34 PM
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) leads 32 other reps in call for clean air

The U.S. House of Representatives is a dark place right now. Many of its Republican members are maniacally focused on dismantling scores of health and environmental protections, using a budget bill to stowaway anti-environmental amendments that would never get passed on their own.

As Earthjustice’s Patti Goldman quipped: “Like fleas, they come with the dog, only these are far more than irritants.” Indeed, at risk is 40 years of environmental progress, including great strides in reducing harmful air pollution.

Thankfully, the House isn’t all dark. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)—along with 32 of his colleagues—sent a letter yesterday to EPA chief Lisa Jackson that calls for the strongest possible health protections against the toxic air pollution generated by industrial boilers. These boilers are used as on-site power plants at paper mills, chemical plants, oil refineries and other large industrial facilities. But they don’t just create heat and electricity to power the facilities’ operations… they also create air emissions full of mercury, lead, cancer-causing dioxins and soot.

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16 February 2011, 12:10 PM
Americans overwhelmingly want the clean air that Congress is trying to take away

Many of our elected representatives in Congress just aren’t working for the will of the people. Right now, in direct opposition to the opinion of a large majority of Americans, these members of our government are putting in overtime to roll back important limits on air pollution coming from some of the worst industrial polluters in the nation.

They seek to block implementation of health protections that will reduce emissions of mercury, lead, cancer-causing dioxins, soot and other harmful air pollutants, saving thousands of lives and billions of dollars in the process. (And that’s not all they’re up to—these efforts to kill clean air protections are part of a widespread campaign in Congress to kneecap environmental protections generally. See here and here.)

Americans overwhelmingly want air pollution protections for their health and the health of their children. Sixty-eight percent of U.S. voters “feel that Congress should not stop the EPA from updating Clean Air Act standards.” This according to poll results released today by the American Lung Association, conducted collaboratively by Democratic and Republican polling firms. These bipartisan pollsters wrote:

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15 February 2011, 3:09 PM
Join the campaign for clean air

Do you think that all Americans have the right to clean air? Then sign the Right to Breathe Declaration!

The Clean Air Act—signed in 1970 by Pres. Nixon and improved upon in 1990 by George H.W. Bush—has benefitted millions of Americans in its 40-year history. Just last year, for example, clean air health protections helped save the lives of more than 160,000 Americans.

More work remains to be done. Some of the dirtiest industrial polluters, such as coal-fired power plants, aren’t currently subject to any limits on their emissions of mercury, lead, soot and other dangerous air pollutants. Americans deserve health protections against this toxic pollution. Show your support by signing the declaration. Here’s a short video on the Right to Breathe.

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14 February 2011, 5:30 PM
Five state AGs send letter urging support for cement plant health protections
Cement kiln near Midlothian, TX. Photo: Samantha Bornhorst

Attorneys general from five states—New York, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts and Connecticut—sent a letter today to Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, urging a rejection of Rep. John Carter’s (R-TX) resolution to block health protections against cement plants’ toxic air pollution.

Led by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York, the quintet—which for their action to defend Americans’ health should be considered as a worthy addition to the “Fab Five” list—correctly note that reducing cement plants’ emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants will save lives and lead to the creation of American jobs manufacturing, installing and maintaining pollution control equipment.

Most importantly, these health protections will save the lives of 2,500 Americans every year—by reducing emissions of particulate matter from the cement industry by 92 percent. Cement plants’ mercury emissions—the third largest of all U.S. industries—will also be reduced by 92 percent. Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxicant that can impact a child’s ability to think and learn. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that more than 300,000 babies born every year may face a higher risk of developmental damage because of mercury exposure.

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11 February 2011, 4:45 PM
1,882 health pros demand clean air from Obama, House, Senate

This week, nearly 2,000 health and medical professionals from all 50 states and the District of Columbia told our elected representatives at the White House and in Congress to stand up for clean air. These professionals are intimately familiar with the impacts of air pollution on people—asthma, heart disease, stroke, cancer—especially such vulnerable groups as children and the elderly.

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10 February 2011, 3:30 PM
The Clean Air Act, that's what

(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.

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09 February 2011, 2:20 PM
EPA chief in Congress to defend clean air protections

EPA chief Lisa Jackson was on Capitol Hill today to testify before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. On topic was a bill from Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the committee, that would prevent the EPA from taking action on climate change.

Lisa Jackson rightfully acknowledged in her opening statements, however, that Upton’s bill is really just one piece of a “broader effort in this Congress to delay, weaken, or eliminate Clean Air Act protections of the American public.”

This broad effort includes Rep. John Carter’s anti-health resolution that would block the EPA’s limits on cement plants’ toxic air pollution. It also includes similar attempts to thwart health protections against industrial boilers' emissions of mercury, acid gases and other harmful pollutants. These and other safeguards will save lives and money and protect Americans’ right to breathe.

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08 February 2011, 3:57 PM
Reports strongly support first-ever EPA protections

Next month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will propose the first ever health protections against power plants’ toxic air pollution. No industrial source of dirty air poses greater risks to human health or the environment than these juggernauts, which have never been subject to federal limits on their emissions of mercury, arsenic, acid gases and carcinogens such as dioxins.

Power plants are also among the worst emitters of fine particle pollution (a.k.a. PM 2.5), a microscopic mixture of liquid and solid droplets suspended in the air that can penetrate deep into our lungs. Fine particle pollution takes a serious toll on our health—particularly on some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society such as children, the elderly, and low-income and communities of color who live downwind of a disproportionate number of these and other industrial facilities.

In a report released in Sep. 2010, the Clean Air Task Force presented data that project fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants would cause 13,200 deaths, 20,400 heart attacks, 217,600 asthma attacks, and more than 1.5 million days when people have to miss work in 2010. In all, these negative impacts to our health cost us more than $100 billion.

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08 February 2011, 11:26 AM
California's red rocks, once again home to the condor

A few hours south of San Francisco—and just east of the valley that was often Steinbeck’s stage—are the reddened remains of an ancient volcano known as the Neenach. This volcano, formed around 23 million years ago, according to scientists’ estimates, came to straddle the tense intersection between two massive crustal plates: the Pacific and the North American. Long ago, the movement of the Pacific plate along the San Andreas fault cleaved the Neenach and carried most of its mass 195 miles northwest to its current place, presently known as Pinnacles National Monument.

Teddy Roosevelt designated Pinnacles as a national monument in 1908, which until very recently was roughly the last time that a California condor hatched within the monument’s boundaries. (Pinnacles became involved in the condor recovery program in 2003 and reported in April 2010 the first successful hatching of a condor within the monument in more than 100 years.)

Now, 30 condors are inside Pinnacles’ borders and can often be seen circling its characteristic igneous towers, which rise sharply above chaparral-covered hills. The unique landscape, home to a variety of plant and animal species, is a draw for hikers, bird enthusiasts and climbers, who come to scale challenging routes up the volcanic breccia.

Views of the high peaks from Condor Gulch. Photo: Sam Edmondson
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07 February 2011, 2:56 PM
Editorial pages make strong defense of clean air health protections

Over the weekend, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times both ran editorials in defense of clean air. Set against the increasing number of congressional maneuvers to stymie the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its popular programs for clean air, it is refreshing to see two of the nation’s largest newspapers take a strong position in support of Americans’ right to breathe.

Among the EPA’s many important efforts to protect public health are limits on mercury and other toxic air pollutants from cement plants, industrial boilers and incinerators, and the worst of all mercury polluters, power plants. These health protections will save lives and money by making our air safer to breathe.

From the New York Times editorial:

The agency does have a heavy regulatory agenda. It 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.

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