Posts tagged: The Right to Breathe

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The Right to Breathe


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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.

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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.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
28 March 2014, 11:41 AM
Concerned communities fight back
Vice Mayor Linda Maio, joined by Mayor Tom Bates and Council member Darryl Moore, speaks out in support of resident opposition to a proposed crude by rail project. (Mauricio Castillo / Earthjustice)

Is crude by rail coming to a town near me?

For weeks, I’ve been asking myself that question as I kept hearing about the skyrocketing number of trains that are transporting crude oil throughout the U.S. to east and west coast export facilities.

And I’m not alone.

This week, I attended a protest by my fellow neighbors in Berkeley, California, to stop crude by rail shipments coming through our town. The crude oil boom is brought on by fracking in North Dakota and drilling in Canada’s Alberta tar sands. Both forms of crude are hazardous—Bakken shale crude from North Dakota is highly flammable and tar sands oil is extremely corrosive and also difficult to clean up.

Not surprisingly, once people hear how explosive and dangerous this crude can be when spilled, they really don’t want it traveling through their main streets…or anywhere else. But travel it does. Hundreds of miles, in fact, through rural towns and along main streets, along densely populated areas like Chicago and Albany, and even inside windswept and vulnerable wild lands like Montana’s Glacier National Park.

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View Jessica Hodge's blog posts
05 March 2014, 12:26 PM
Louisianans take action to find out what's happening with their dirty neighbors
Flaring at the Shell's refinery in Norco, Louisiana. (Photo courtesy of iWitness Pollution Map)

This guest blog post was written by Molly Brackin, with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade which works with communities overburdened by pollution.

Since 2000, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade has worked with communities throughout Louisiana that neighbor oil refineries and chemical plants.

Their mission is to support communities’ use of grassroots action to create informed, sustainable neighborhoods free from industrial pollution. The Bucket Brigade model is to equip communities most impacted by pollution with easy-to-use tools to monitor their environment and hold industry accountable.

Molly Brackin.

Molly Brackin is an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, where she serves as the Monitoring & Evaluation Associate. She holds a Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of New Orleans, where she specialized in hazard mitigation and disaster.

View Jessica Hodge's blog posts
18 February 2014, 2:34 PM
"A Lethal Dose of Smoke And Mirrors: Going home for better or worse"
Kelley holds a picture of the air pollution in Port Arthur, TX. (Matt Roth / Earthjustice)

Taking his work to the next level, Clean Air Ambassador Hilton Kelley has completed a book, A Lethal Dose of Smoke And Mirrors: Going home for better or worse, that chronicles his decision to leave Hollywood and take on powerful industrial polluters in his hometown, Port Arthur, Texas. Hilton—the first African-American man to win the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize—tells how he single-handedly made great strides to improve the health and environment in Port Arthur.

A city of some 50,000 residents, Port Arthur is situated on Texas’ Gulf Coast and was once home to the largest network of oil refineries in the world. Residents are surrounded by oil refineries, chemical plants and a hazardous waste incinerator, and they suffer ill health effects from living with disproportionately high levels of toxic air, including cancer-causing chemical compounds.

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View Jessica Hodge's blog posts
12 November 2013, 4:07 PM
November is Oil Industry Accident Awareness Month in Louisiana
Over 6,000 people live within two miles of the Valero Refinery, in Meraux, LA. (Photo courtesy of Louisiana Bucket Brigade)

Six accidents a week and more than two-million pounds of air pollution are what Louisiana residents lived with in 2012—and they can expect more accidents and more pollution. Louisiana’s 17 refineries reported 327 accidents in 2012. The evidence is mounting that many refinery accidents are not being reported, and some of those reported are only due to community member’s forcing industry into the light.

That is why the Louisiana Bucket Brigade teamed up with the United Steelworkers and others to release the report Mission: Zero Accidents that draws attention to the dangerous conditions residents and workers are exposed to near Louisiana oil refineries. Refineries underreporting and providing little to know information on the majority of reported accidents leave workers and communities vulnerable.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
10 October 2013, 11:32 AM
Health issues growing as wood furnaces become more commonplace
Outdoor wood furnaces for sale in Delaware. (Samuel Houchins)

Many Americans are looking to escape high heating bills and have found what seems to be the perfect solution: outdoor wood boilers. Commonplace now along rural roads, they look like sheds with chimneys on top, and circulate water into homes for heating systems or hot water.

But they aren't as innocuous as they may look. Which is why Earthjustice, on behalf of several health and environmental groups, filed a lawsuit Wednesday over the EPA’s failure to update standards for these units. But we aren't the only ones crying foul. Filing a similar complaint were the states of New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

The issue in a nutshell: these units emit high volumes of particulate matter (which can lodge deep within the lungs causing serious cardiovascular and respiratory harm) carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, hazardous air pollutants and carcinogens. We know all these chemicals are toxic soup for our lungs and health. And EPA’s failure to update the standards means that homeowners install thousands of new wood-burning boilers, furnaces and stoves each year that produce far more dangerous air pollution than cleaner units would.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
18 September 2013, 11:29 AM
Cleaner air starts with a button and ends with stronger pollution laws
Photo courtesy of epSos.de (Flickr)

Tired of breathing dirty air during your daily commute? Just turn on your car vent’s recirculation button, advises researchers from the University of Southern California. Their study found that pushing this little-used button—which typically shows an arrow with a car around it—can cut pollution levels by 80 percent as compared to pollution levels found out on the road.
 

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
05 September 2013, 10:20 AM
Clean air safeguard would save thousands of lives
A regional smog layer extends across central New York, western Lake Erie and Ohio, and further west. Winds bring ozone and chemicals that participate in its formation to areas downwind of emission sources. (NASA JSC)

On Wednesday, we filed a legal brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to allow a very important air safeguard to take effect. So what’s so important about the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and how does it work?

Let’s get to the numbers first. The rule saves lives, plain and simple. According to the EPA, the air safeguard would every year prevent:

  • 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths
  • 15,000 non-fatal heart attacks
  • 19,000 hospital and emergency room visits
  • 19,000 episodes of acute bronchitis
  • 420,000 upper and lower respiratory symptoms
  • 400,000 episodes of aggravated asthma, and
  • 1.8 million days of missed work or school.
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View Debra Mayfield's blog posts
15 August 2013, 12:19 PM
Citizen soldiers talk, unite ... and triumph

With some members of Congress doing less to protect the health and welfare of their constituents and more for the interests of industry, it’s easy for us ordinary folks to get disillusioned and throw in the towel. But then we turn towards the faces of our children, neighbors, parents and friends struggling with asthma from industrial pollution and tail pipe emissions. We see the lakes and rivers we swam and fished in as kids decimated and our drinking water supplies poisoned by poorly regulated and inadequately maintained coal ash disposal sites.

View Jessica Hodge's blog posts
02 August 2013, 12:28 PM
Partial victory leaves millions breathing dirty air
Overwhelming evidence shows that the current ozone standard does not protect children, the elderly and sensitive populations. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

The fight to protect communities from the increasingly disturbing effects of ozone pollution rages on. Just last week a federal appeals court gave us a partial victory when it ruled Bush’s 2008 ozone secondary, public welfare standard did not demonstrate how it would protect forests, crops and vegetation from ozone pollution. Unfortunately they also chose to defer to the EPA on the health standard, leaving millions breathing dirty air.

Mississippi and polluting industries had joined forces to claim the 2008 standard was too strict, while Earthjustice, public health groups and numerous states argued the standard was too weak. The court responded that:

[U]nlike Goldilocks, the court cannot demand that the EPA get things just right.

Well, we can.

View Chrissy Pepino's blog posts
13 June 2013, 10:47 AM
Cleaner fuels and cars mean cleaner air
Smog over Los Angeles, CA. (EPA)

“It's a scary moment to walk into a client's home or onto the freeway underpass where they live and see their 2-month old child struggling to breathe.”

Robin Kristufek has worked as a registered nurse in the Sacramento region for years. Her clients are not patients in hospital beds — but low income families and the homeless, whom she visits wherever they live. It's obvious to Robin that a disproportionate number of children living in poverty are afflicted with asthma and bronchitis — and some die of lung disease. Their health problems come from living near busy roads and freeways without trees or green spaces to help filter out particulates. They are forced to breathe in toxic pollution.

Clean Air Ambassador Robin Kristufek.

Clean Air Ambassador Robin Kristufek.