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The Right to Breathe

Jesse Marquez of the Coalition for a Safe Environment (third from left) shows EPA staffers and others a Wilmington oil refinery, shortly before the public hearing.

On a sunny Wednesday in Wilmington, California, this week, instead of spending the day at work or taking their kids to the beach, community members gathered to tell the Environmental Protection Agency what it is like living near large oil refineries. The stories kept pouring in; children who were too sick to be allowed outside, explosions that send neighbors scurrying to safety, a pre-school teacher explaining how she has to evacuate her kids when the odors get too strong, and parents who can’t afford the medicine their kids need.

Residents rally outside Berkeley City Hall to show opposition to a proposed crude by rail project.

Is volatile crude oil coming by rail 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 potentially explosive types of crude throughout the U.S. to East and West Coast export facilities.

And I’m not alone.

Flaring at a oil refinery.

This guest blog post was written by Molly Brackin of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an environmental health and justice organization. Since 2000, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade has worked with communities throughout Louisiana that neighbor oil refineries and chemical plants, and are overburdened by pollution. Their mission is to support communities’ use of grassroots action to create informed, sustainable neighborhoods free from industrial pollution.

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.
 

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:

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.

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.

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