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
30 December 2010, 1:12 PM
Clean air protections saved more than 100,000 lives this year

As 2011 approaches, scores of online outlets are eulogizing the Hollywood stars, musicians, authors, and other icons who died this year. While it’s only natural to reflect on what was lost, there’s also a powerful story to be told about a huge group of people who didn’t die—though it may not get the attention won by familiar names and faces.

According to estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 160,000 American lives were saved in 2010 by the Clean Air Act’s health protections. That tremendous number—roughly the population of U.S. cities such as Santa Rosa, CA, Sioux Falls, SD, and Springfield, MA—is the capstone in a year-end list of the eleven biggest clean air events of 2010, compiled by the American Lung Association.

ALA’s list highlights some of 2010’s monumental victories, including the first-ever toxic air emission standards for cement kilns—one of the largest sources of mercury pollution in the United States—and new limits on auto pollution.

View Sarah Jackson's blog posts
21 December 2010, 1:29 PM
Industry wields fear and money to stop health protections

It's always been amazing to me just how much money polluters are willing to spend to try to convince lawmakers and the American public that public health and safety regulations will cost them too much money.

Seat belts and airbags, now standard features in all cars and trucks, were fought tooth and nail by the auto industry, which claimed they would be too costly and unpopular. It took the federal government 20 years to stand up to industry pressure and finally require life-saving airbags.

Anyone remember when EPA was first going to require installation of catalytic converters to reduce harmful tailpipe emissions? GM cried catastrophe and Ford claimed it would be forced out of business altogether.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
16 December 2010, 12:52 PM
Excellent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette series looks at dirty air in western PA
Madi Kiddey and her sister, Abi, play near the Bruce Mansfield power plant. Photo: Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is a little more than halfway through an amazing week-long series called "Mapping Mortality" that focuses on air pollution in western Pennsylvania. Reporters Don Hopey and David Templeton spent a year interviewing more than 100 people, including Lee Lasich, who uses all of her fingers to enumerate the deaths of friends and neighbors from brain and pancreatic cancers in her Clairton, PA neighborhood.

The reporting is stellar, the photos are jarring, and the takeaway, unlike western PA's air, is crystal clear: air pollution is killing people. Pennsylvanians who live in the shadow of the state's sundry sources of pollution—including 40 coal-fired power plants—often exhibit rates of heart and respiratory disease, lung cancers, and premature death that are significantly higher than national averages.

Hopey and Templeton concluded that 1,435 people in the 14-county region they studied die every year because of diseases linked to pollution exposure. Pennsylvania residents such as Ralph Hysong grasp the connections: "In Shippingport people don't die of old age," he said. "They die of cancer or heart attacks or lung disease."

View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
14 December 2010, 5:19 PM
New, hostile Congress readies attack on clean air standards

What stands between Americans and clean air isn't science, technology, or the law. It's politics. Last month, I wrote that the incoming House leadership of the new Congress is already beating the war drum in anticipation of taking down the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the critical health protections it is required by law to enact.

This is a defining moment.

Earthjustice and our supporters, allies, and clients have worked tirelessly for more than a decade to secure numerous important health standards, and we are now closer than ever to realizing their substantial benefits. The politics might be hazy, but the law and the science are on our side. We are standing on a mountain of good court decisions that confirm the EPA's responsibility to issue clean air standards that protect our health.

Over the past two years, the agency has been working diligently—for the first time in quite a while—to be a credible protector of the environment. In the long-term struggle to protect all Americans' right to breathe clean air, we cannot allow short-term political pressure to change that.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
10 December 2010, 2:14 PM
EPA timidity, climate change bullying, butter-flavored flame retardants
BPA was recently discovered in cash. Photo courtesy of stock.xchng

BPA found in cash
BPA, that ubiquitous, hormone-disrupting chemical that's made its way into everything from baby bottles to can liners, can now also be found in money, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. A study released by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families found that 21 out of 22 $1 bills contained small amounts of BPA, which has been linked to cancer, diabetes and neurological problems. And since BPA is also found in cashier receipts, it might be time to cash in on the dollar.

EPA spooked by industrial polluter bogeymen
EPA suddenly is dragging its feet on implementing a whole host of new clean air rules, from regulations on soot and toxic emissions from industrial polluters to limitations on smog, reports Grist. The new rules, brought on by Earthjustice litigation, would cost pennies to implement compared to the billions in annual health benefits they're expected to deliver, but thanks to intense industry pressure it looks like for the time being clean air advocates will be left holding their breath.

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View Stephanie Maddin's blog posts
12 November 2010, 5:16 PM
Unions dispute industry excuses about labor shortage

It takes chutzpah to assert that there aren't enough skilled workers—during the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression—to comply with EPA regulations to reduce air pollution. But the power sector has done just that. For example, American Electric Power Co. has suggested that there are not enough specialized workers to comply with air pollution reduction regulations.

Thankfully, organized labor has forcefully rebutted these claims.

In letters to Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), an AFL-CIO affiliate for building and construction trades and the Institute for Clean Air Companies declared that power companies have access to enough skilled labor to comply with EPA requirements under the proposed "transport rule." Proposed in July 2010, the transport rule strives to reduce the amount of air pollution that travels across state lines. In order to comply with the proposed rule, power companies would be required to install and maintain air pollution control technology.

Here are some noteworthy declarations from labor that they have the people with the right skills to keep the power sector reliable and cleaner:

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
09 November 2010, 1:12 PM
EPA chief scolds reps for looking at only one half of the ledger

Clean air just isn't as popular as it should be. Though reducing air pollution saves lives and money, some lawmakers seem hell-bent on denying these benefits to the American public. They seem to believe that nothing should hinder polluters' ability to make a buck, not even the prevalence of asthma, birth defects, heart disease, cancer, and other ailments that results from dirty air emissions.

Take, for example, Texas reps Joe Barton and Michael Burgess. You may remember Barton as the man who called the $20 billion BP escrow fund a "shakedown." His ideology is apparently so extreme that he doesn't think the company responsible for the largest environmental disaster in a generation should set aside sufficient funds to help deal with the aftermath of the spill.

Last month, Barton and Burgess wrote to EPA chief Lisa Jackson with concerns that her agency's air pollution rules are all cost, which they outlined in an accompanying chart that pairs air pollution rules with their projected price tags. Thankfully, Jackson responded yesterday (subscription required) with a straightforward admonishment: you forgot to include the benefits.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
01 November 2010, 3:48 PM
Economists say industry-funded studies on air rules don’t make the grade

Thousands of lives and billions of dollars will be saved every year by new air pollution rules from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Polluting industries are lining up in opposition to these life-saving controls. In attempts to kill the rules, they've commissioned "economic studies" that forecast doom and gloom if the measures to reduce ozone, mercury, lead and other dangerous air pollution are implemented. Problem is, the industry-funded studies are polluted by nonsense.

That was the conclusion reached by economics professors from Dartmouth College, the University of California-Santa Barbara and the University of Wyoming after reviewing the studies' methods.

View Jared Saylor's blog posts
19 October 2010, 10:21 AM
Clean Air Act continues to be a bulwark of environmental law

Take a deep breath and say "Happy Birthday" to one of our nation's most successful environmental laws. The Clean Air Act turns 40 this year, and we should all be thankful for what this monumental law has accomplished.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the first 20 years alone of the Clean Air Act helped prevent:
• 205,000 premature deaths
• 672,000 cases of chronic bronchitis
• 21,000 cases of heart disease
• 843,000 asthma attacks
• 10 million lost I.Q. points in children, mostly by reducing lead in gasoline
• 18 million child respiratory illnesses

In 1990, a bipartisan Congress strengthened the Clean Air Act, adding requirements for the EPA to reduce a suite of toxic air pollutants like mercury, lead, benzene, arsenic, hydrochloric acid, dioxins, and PCBs, just to name a few.

View Sarah Jackson's blog posts
15 October 2010, 4:20 PM
Local air district must start improving air quality
Smoggy sunrise over San Joaquin Valley

After years of fighting with the EPA and the local air district to improve air quality in California's smoggy San Joaquin Valley—and often feeling like all of our progress was being made in court—we're finally seeing some change, at least at the federal level.

Through persistent administrative advocacy, we were able to convince EPA to reject the local district's do-nothing regulation covering sources that burn coal, petcoke, tires, biomass and municipal solid waste in the Valley.

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