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 Sam Edmondson's blog posts
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.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
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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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
04 February 2011, 1:50 PM
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson refutes colleague's attacks
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Let’s hear it for the champions of clean air!

We at Earthjustice have spent the past several weeks countering one clean air attack after another as several elected leaders have aligned themselves with dirty polluters. But there are some in Congress who are not thinking of lining industry’s pockets and instead thinking of protecting their constituents’ right to breathe.

Among them: Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) who in an editorial today takes on colleague Rep. John Carter (R-TX) for his attack on important air rules that would drastically cut the amount of mercury in the air.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
04 February 2011, 1:04 PM
Powerful op-ed from Alex Allred, mother of three, takes Rep. Carter to task
Alex Allred.

Alex Allred is a wife, mother of three, author, former Olympic bobsledder (!), and passionate advocate for clean air. Years ago, she and her family moved to Midlothian, Texas. Said Allred, “We moved here partly because we thought it would be a great place to raise our three kids.”

Shortly after the move, however, Alex’s son got sick with flu-like symptoms, pneumonia, and then double pneumonia. “He’d collapse on the floor. I’d pick him up and drive like a maniac to the emergency room.” It happened six times. The diagnosis given was environmental asthma.

The catalyst for her son’s sudden respiratory ailment rested in one of Midlothian’s distinguishing features: a large number of nearby cement plants. Allred ultimately got involved with Downwinders at Risk, a Dallas-based education and advocacy group on whose board she currently serves, and took her concerns over the unregulated toxic pollution from cement plants to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
03 February 2011, 4:41 PM
Recent reports detail sky-high mercury emissions of the worst toxic polluters

When it comes to mercury pollution, coal-fired power plants are king. Two recent reports—one from the Environmental Integrity Project, the other from Environment America—take a look at the scope of the problem.

EIP has meticulously tracked mercury pollution from power plants for years in their Dirty Kilowatts reports. But this year is an especially important time to focus on this unresolved pollution problem, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently on a court-ordered deadline won by Earthjustice and a broad coalition of environmental and public health groups to issue the first-ever health protections against emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from power plants. The draft health protections are due March 16, 2011.

According to EIP’s report—“America’s Power Plant Mercury Polluters: The Good, the Bad, and the Dirty”—the 50 worst mercury polluters generated nearly half of the power plant industry’s total mercury emissions. These 50 dirty plants emitted 33,280 pounds of mercury—a shocking number when you consider it takes only 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury to pollute a 20-acre lake to the point where fish are unsafe to eat.

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
03 February 2011, 3:06 PM
Legislators who do and don't partner with polluters
Rep. Fred Upton

Early last evening, Reps. Fred Upton and Ed Whitfield, along with Sen. James Inhofe, released a draft of the latest bill in Congress taking aim at air pollution protections.

This wasn’t a surprise, as they’ve been talking to press about their toils on legislation that would reverse current limits on carbon dioxide pollution. They are targeting the first-ever restrictions on CO2 on behalf of major polluting industries that until now have been able to spew this air pollutant unrestrained and at quantities unmeasured.

Volumes of current science show us that carbon dioxide pollution threatens our health. In addition to contributing to deadly heat waves and extreme climate conditions, it exacerbates smog pollution and worsens asthma and lung diseases.

Rep. Upton and his collaborators on this bill seem determined to wipe away these air pollution protections. But why? Like we keep saying, follow the dirty energy money in Congress to see who supports letting big polluters off the hook time after time.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
02 February 2011, 4:46 PM
New survey reaffirms that public wants clean air, health protections
President George H.W. Bush signs Clean Air Act Amendments into law on Nov. 15, 1990. (George Bush Presidential Library and Museum)

Sixty-three percent of Americans want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “to do more to hold polluters accountable and protect the air and water.” This according to a new survey conducted at the end of January by ORC International.

Rep. John Carter (D-TX)—fast becoming a household name around here—isn’t part of that 63 percent. In early January, Rep. Carter sponsored a resolution to effectively block EPA health protections that will limit emissions of mercury and other dangerous air toxics from cement plants. These protections could prevent the premature death of as many as 2,500 people every year when they take effect in 2013.

Notwithstanding the fact that Rep. Carter has seriously misrepresented the facts in his push to win support for his anti-health resolution, a large majority of Americans generally disagree with his approach. The ORC survey found that 77 percent of Americans—more than three out of every four—say “Congress (should) let the EPA do its job.”

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
01 February 2011, 2:43 PM
Also, congressman's dirty deeds and boilers' toxic air
Refinery photo by Pamela A. Miller.

(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 Defends Hazardous Waste Loophole
Back in 2008, the Bush administration exempted oil refineries from safety requirements designed to protect the public from the storage, transport, and burning of hazardous waste. Citizen groups including Earthjustice asked the current EPA to close the loophole, but last week, the agency signaled its support for the Bush-era exemption. This is bad news for communities that live near oil refineries. Wilma Subra of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network said “Communities in the Gulf region already suffer enough from refineries’ toxic pollution. The last thing we need is uncontrolled burning of their hazardous wastes.” A public comment period will open shortly—we’ll keep you posted on what you can do to help close this egregious loophole.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
13 January 2011, 2:46 PM
Congresswoman circulates letter opposing resolution attacking cement rules

Last week, this time, Earthjustice was responding to news of a resolution introduced by Rep. John Carter (R-TX), seeking to block important clean air protections. Using the Congressional Review Act, Rep. Carter aims to undo protective health standards that will reduce mercury and other toxic emissions from cement plants. If successful, Rep. Carter's resolution would strip health protections from thousands of people who suffer from respiratory and other health ailments caused by cement plants' pollution.

But today, we’ve found an ally in Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL), who submitted a letter to her congressional colleagues disavowing this effort.

Rep. Schakowsky calls on her colleagues to oppose Carter's resolution, emphasizing this important point: "I urge you to protect children’s health…" Rep. Schakowsky's letter details the many health benefits of cleaning up polluting cement plants, including the prevention of 2,500 premature deaths and reduction of health care costs by as much as $18 billion every year.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
06 January 2011, 5:02 PM
New reps waste no time in sticking up for big polluters at expense of Americans
A cement kiln in Midlothian, TX operates near a playground. Photo: Samantha Bornhorst

The Republican majority in the new Congress has named the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as its chief adversary and is now preparing to thwart by any means necessary the agency’s efforts to reduce pollution. Today, they took one of their first swipes at the agency.

Led by Rep. John Carter (R-TX), House Republicans are attempting to use an obscure procedure known as the Congressional Review Act to take down the EPA’s recently finalized standards to control toxic air emissions from cement plants—the third largest source of mercury pollution in the U.S.

But this crusade is far more than an attack on the EPA, which under Lisa Jackson’s leadership has become a whipping boy for the congressional allies of big polluters. It’s an attack on Americans and their right to breathe clean air.

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