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 Jared Saylor's blog posts
13 April 2011, 9:52 AM
Congress avoided a shutdown, but at what cost to protecting our air and water?

We avoided a government shutdown with last minute deals that seemed to please both parties. But as they often say here in Washington, D.C. “the devil is in the details.” And in this case, it’s an awfully vicious budget slashing devil that has emerged in those details.

According to the Wall Street Journal, (subscription required) even though the GOP didn’t get the big ticket budget cuts to major EPA efforts to curb global warming pollution, clean up mercury from cement kilns, and cut asthma-causing pollution from big industrial polluters like power plants and incinerators, they did get an overall reduction in the EPA’s budget by 16 percent from 2010 spending. That’s a major cut that will certainly hamper the agency’s ability to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink.

The Journal wrote:

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
12 April 2011, 4:21 PM
Former Republican senator defends the Clean Air Act

Clean air isn't a partisan issue, although that's admittedly easy to forget if you're following the ongoing congressional clash over clean air protections (which sometimes seems as wide as the gap between the Grand Canyon's north and south rims). The American public certainly isn't so divided. A large majority—which includes citizens who identify as Republican, Democrat and independent voters—wants clean air health protections.

A recent op-ed in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune serves as a good reminder that clean air is important no matter which side of the political divide you happen to walk on. In the Star-Tribune piece, David Durenberger, a former Republican U.S. Senator who voted in 1990 along with 88 of his colleagues to pass strong amendments to the Clean Air Act, refers to the Act as "one of the great public-health achievements of American history—especially for kids."

Indeed, President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act into law in 1970 with strong bipartisan support. And the amendments to which Durenberger lent his support in 1990 were similarly popular. These cooperative efforts between our elected Democratic and Republican leaders exemplify good governing and an accomplishment that has made the lives of all Americans better.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
11 April 2011, 3:10 PM
Decade-long effort to improve life in Port Arthur wins Kelley the "Green Nobel"
Hilton Kelley in Port Arthur, TX. Photo: Goldman Prize

Port Arthur, Texas is home to a high density of oil refineries, chemical plants and hazardous waste facilities that have made the Gulf Coast city one of the most polluted in America. Asthma and cancer rates in the largely African-American neighborhood known as West Side—which sits at the fenceline of Port Arthur's heavy industry—are among the highest in the state.

But thankfully, Port Arthur is also home to Hilton Kelley, a force-of-nature environmental justice advocate whose tireless efforts in his community have reduced the toxic burden that he and his neighbors bear. Kelley's inspirational work earned him a 2011 Goldman Environmental Prize, which every year goes to six outstanding grassroots environmental heroes (one from every inhabited continent). Mr. Kelley, alongside the five other recipients, will receive the North American award at a ceremony in San Francisco later today.

The 50-year-old Kelley was born in Port Arthur but left in 1979 to pursue a career as a stuntman and actor in television and film. On a visit home in 2000, Kelley was shocked by the decline his hometown was experiencing—though Port Arthur had faced poverty and air pollution in his youth, the prevalence of cancer and respiratory illness, crime and economic hardship he saw was devastating. Resolved to help his community, Kelley returned home and learned all he could about industrial air pollution—and how to stop it.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
08 April 2011, 3:09 PM
Affordable, effective technology exists to make our air safer to breathe

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed last month to clean up the toxic air emissions of coal-fired power plants, it wasn't a surprise. The date actually had been set for about a year, thanks to a court-ordered deadline won by Earthjustice and other groups. And for years prior to that deadline, a back-and-forth legal battle raged between a coalition of environmental and public health organizations—with Earthjustice in a leading role—and the coal-fired power industry's lobbyists and political cronies.

In fact, the effort to clean up power plants' emissions of mercury, arsenic and other toxics could legally drink a beer if it were a person. The seed of that effort was planted by Congress 21 years ago in amendments to the Clean Air Act.

So, don't believe the protestations from some sectors of the power industry that they can't possibly comply with these important health protections in time. These health protections have been coming to town for many, many years and would've arrived much sooner had the intransigence of industry not delayed them time and again.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
07 April 2011, 4:21 PM
New report highlights prevalence, cost of asthma and the need for clean air
Photo: Chris Jordan/Earthjustice

People who suffer from asthma often say an attack feels like breathing through a pool of water or with a pillow covering their face. Unfortunately, millions of Americans know all too well what that's like.

In the United States, asthma is a bona fide public health epidemic: 17 million adults and 7 million children suffer from the disease. Every year, our society pays in excess of $53 billion to treat it. Millions of asthmatics, including hundreds of thousands of kids, make visits to the emergency room for medical attention. And in thousands of severe cases, people die.

The scope of this epidemic, broken down by state, is laid out in a report released yesterday by Health Care Without Harm, The National Association of School Nurses, and The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. The report notes that environmental triggers like air pollution can cause and exacerbate asthma, so it's critically important that we defend existing clean air protections and work for new ones.

No argument here, but many of our elected leaders in Congress apparently don't agree.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
07 April 2011, 1:19 PM
DC Circuit Court rejects industry and state pushback of air rules

Amid the wrangling back and forth in Congress over our clean air protections, there is some good news for our air. This morning the DC Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an effort from industry groups and allied states  to suspend an EPA rule adopted last June that will limit dangerous sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants and factories. The court also denied attempts to delay implementation of this health protection. 

Exposure to sulfur dioxide is linked to asthma symptoms and respiratory illnesses, particularly in children, senior citizens and asthmatic patients. The EPA’s stronger standards will help prevent thousands of asthma attacks and hospital and emergency room visits. And since sulfur dioxide emissions transform into fine particles in the air, this standard will significantly reduce extremely harmful particulate matter pollution, saving thousands of lives.

View Jared Saylor's blog posts
05 April 2011, 12:55 PM
New ads in the D.C. region target attacks on Clean Air Act protections

House GOP members have been attacking clean air standards by pumping the stalled budget bill up with “riders” that remove the agency’s ability to clean up mercury, dioxins, arsenic and a host of other toxic chemicals from power plants, cement kilns, incinerators and the like.

But last week, a group called American Family Voices ran some compelling ads in the Washington, D.C. region targeting the value of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's efforts and the benefits of the Clean Air Act to get this pollution out of our lungs and out of the lungs of our children.

Here’s the ad:

View Chris Jordan-Bloch's blog posts
29 March 2011, 2:06 PM
The Fisk Power Plant in Chicago is the focus of a local political battle
The Fisk Power Plant in Chicago : Photo by swanksalot/flickr

When combined, the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plants are the largest source of pollution in Chicago, and local residents have been fighting for years for stronger health controls from these plants.

Recently, activists with the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO)made a huge step forward when they convinced a local politician to support stronger regulations on the plant. After nine months of constant pressure from the group, Alderman Daniel Solis decided to switch from backing coal to supporting Chicago's new Clean Power Ordinance. The law would regulate particulate and carbon dioxide emissions from all coal-fired power plants operating in Chicago. WGN TV in Chicago interviewed activists, politicians and power plant officials to produce this report on how the Fisk Power station is affecting both reisdent's health and an upcoming election.

Our kudos to PERRO for their pressure on Alderman Solis. Keep up the great work in the fight for the Right to Breathe.

View Sarah Jackson's blog posts
24 March 2011, 3:27 PM
Advocates and Earthjustice want more from EPA Administrator in Central Valley

When Bush II’s Head of EPA came to California’s Central Valley, he tried to hold secret meetings with industry and was met with a protest from clean air advocates angered by EPA’s long history of ignoring the Valley’s severe public health and environmental justice problems in favor of big business interests.

Yesterday, President Obama’s EPA Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, came to the Valley to meet with the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, a coalition of environmental, public health, and environmental justice organizations and community members fighting to improve air quality and social justice in an area dubbed “the Appalachia of the West.”

And even though her visit was a historic step in the fight to elevate the Valley’s dire social and environmental woes to the national stage, Jackson, too, was met with protest.

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View Chris Jordan-Bloch's blog posts
24 March 2011, 12:30 PM
Lisa Jackson meets with environmental advocates in Fresno

For years citizens of California's central valley have been asking for help and Wednesday, if only for a few hours, one of the most influential people in the country listened. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson travelled to a church in Fresno to hear the concerns of the people of the valley and what she heard was troubling to say the least.

In Arvin, one in four children has asthma. In Kettleman City a birth defect cluster has terrified a small town. In Delano farm workers and local citizens have been exposed to dangerous pesticides. And throughout the valley huge swaths of land are out of compliance with federal air quality standards and entire towns have undrinkable water. These were just a few of the concerns raised by members of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition (CVAQ) at Wednesday's meeting.

Although the news in the valley is bad, Wednesday's meeting was a positive development. Nearly 10 years ago, affected citizens, concerned medical practitioners and environmental groups  including Earthjustice got together to form CVAQ. Since then the coalition has worked tirelessly to raise the profile of the area's environmental and health problems. The fact that the top environmental official in the land made a trip to listen to local residents is no small feat. Both the members of CVAQ as well as Administrator Jackson deserve kudos for this.

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