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 September 2010, 3:02 PM
Uphold the Clean Air Act, groups ask
Photo: Fresno Bee

Across the United States—from California's Central Valley to Chicago, Houston and New York—people are breathing polluted air and suffering. Asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, birth defects and even cancer are the prices paid by residents in scores of American communities where polluting facilities operate.

Worst of all, this suffering is unnecessary. Cost-effective technology to dramatically reduce toxic air emissions exists, but some of the biggest polluters simply brush off obligations to clean up their acts and be better neighbors. This stubborn refusal to comply with the law is having an especially big impact on Latino citizens, as a recent letter to President Obama and Congress points out.

More than 25 million U.S. Latinos—66 percent of the total Latino population—live in places where federal air quality standards aren't being met. Rates of asthma in communities like San Diego's Barrio Logan neighborhood are four times the national average. The letter, signed by community groups representing more than 5 million Latino citizens in the U.S., urges the Obama administration and Congress to uphold the Clean Air Act, which the groups say "means jobs, better health and better opportunities for a brighter, healthier future."

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
27 September 2010, 12:45 PM
Sulfur dioxide causes asthma and other respiratory ailments

So, imagine breathing in a substance that not only exacerbates but causes known breathing problems such as asthma. You'd want the Environmental Protection Agency to do something about it, right?

Well, they did: in June the EPA reined in emissions of sulfur dioxide—a nasty chemical—from power plants and other sources. These new standards are expected to prevent thousands of asthma attacks and hundreds of emergency room visits every year.

Great, right? Industry doesn't think so.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
23 July 2010, 12:01 PM
Tell the EPA by Aug. 3 to protect communties from waste burning

City-dwellers are intimately familiar with the pros and cons of living with neighbors. Their heavy footsteps thunder overhead, their loud music penetrates the walls, and strange odors sometimes drift down the halls. These are nuisances, no doubt, but not all neighborly disturbances are so innocuous.

Consider, for example, communities across the country that live near chemical plants, paper mills and other polluting industries. Air pollution from these industrial neighbors often results in higher rates of asthma and other serious illnesses in local communities.

Sadly, a recent rule proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could leave such communities exposed to unregulated toxic emissions from the burning of scrap plastics, used chemicals, and other industrial wastes. These emissions contain pollutants like mercury, benzene, lead and dioxins that can cause respiratory illness, birth defects, cancer and other serious health problems.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
06 July 2010, 9:55 AM
EPA to set emission standards for 28 polluting industries

In 1970, the Clean Air Act first took aim at toxic air emissions from industrial facilities across the United States. Forty years later, it finally hit a major target.

Actually, 28 major targets. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today agreed to review and update Clean Air Act rules that rein in emissions of nearly 200 hazardous air pollutants released by 28 kinds of industrial facilities.

All those numbers will translate to one important thing: fewer toxic pollutants in our air that are linked to cancer, birth defects, anemia, nervous system damage, lung and respiratory ailments, and other illnesses. The 28 categories of industrial facilities include pesticide production operations, pharmaceutical plants and lead smelters.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
28 June 2010, 12:33 PM
Port Arthur, TX residents continually exposed to toxic emissions
Hilton Kelley of Port Arthur, TX.

When Hilton Kelley of Port Arthur, Texas moved back to his hometown more than a decade ago, he didn't realize that he'd spend the ensuing years battling for clean air. And on a muggy Tuesday afternoon, he drove 90 miles west toward Houston to attend yet another EPA hearing to comment on air pollution rules.

Kelley, 49, lives in an area where there are 20 facilities, small and large, continuously pumping chemicals into the air.

"We have become the dumping ground for America's toxic waste," said Kelley. The Port Arthur community is comprised of residents that often times need two or three jobs to make ends meet, he said. "It's an area of least resistance."

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
09 June 2010, 1:29 PM
Vote down Sen. Murkowski's resolution to bail out big polluters
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Yesterday the White House took a firm stand against an effort to undermine the 40-year-old Clean Air Act, reverse a Supreme Court decision, and block the federal fuel efficiency standards that were finalized this past spring, which will reduce the nation's consumption of oil by at least 455 million barrels.
 
The effort at hand is a seldom-used congressional "Resolution of Disapproval" by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), on the Senate floor for a vote tomorrow, June 10. The resolution, which was influenced by oil- and polluter-industry lobbyists, is at the center of a fury of political positioning and partisan politicking. Its purpose is to block the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases, authorized by the Clean Air Act and reaffirmed by the 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA Supreme Court decision.
 
In an official statement yesterday, the White House threatened to veto the resolution if it is passed by the Senate tomorrow. Meanwhile, Sen. Murkowski and her Republican allies held a press conference to solicit public attention and support for this vote. The rest of the Senate and, more importantly, the public, should see through their smoke-and-mirrors routine. After all, the connection between reducing our national dependence on oil and controlling fossil fuel pollution are two sides of the same coin.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
02 June 2010, 11:36 AM
Residents of Mossville, La. speak out in debut of a new CNN investigation
Aerial view of a chemical plant in Louisiana.

Breathing isn't a choice. Everyone does it, no matter where they live. But for many Americans, where they live has a tremendous impact on the quality of the air they breathe.

Take a look at Mossville, Louisiana for instance, which is home to 14 chemical plants. The town's residents are plagued by severe health problems like cancer and kidney disease attributed to pollution from these local facilities.

Tonight at 8 PM ET/PT, CNN will profile the toxic plight of Mossville and its residents in "Toxic Towns USA," which is part of a two-night special investigation called "Toxic America" that culminates a "year-long, stunning look into toxic chemicals, health and the environment," according to the network. The investigation will continue tomorrow night with "Toxic Childhood" at 8PM ET/PT.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
29 April 2010, 1:31 PM
California court stops refinery expansion over illegal EIR

<Update: This month, Chevron quietly let pass its final opportunity to appeal a California Court of Appeal decision that rejected the Environmental Impact Report for its expansion project at the Richmond Refinery.>

Most of us know what it's like to have a bad neighbor—but imagine one so bad that you're forced to regularly hide indoors from it.

Such a bully has long stalked the communities of Richmond, CA, but this week they got help—from the California State Court of Appeals. The court sided with residents against their nightmare neighbor, a Chevron Corporation oil refinery that's been pouring toxic pollution upon them for years, that would like to make things even worse by refining thicker, dirtier oil.

The court stopped Chevron dead in its tracks because its expansion plan relied on an Environmental Impact Report so deficient that the court ruled it illegal. It's not likely the end of this fight, but for Earthjustice and the folks it's standing up for, this is the best news they've had in years of struggle with Chevron.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
08 March 2010, 12:37 PM
A victory for Earthjustice and those who live near refineries, other plants
Tesoro Refinery fire. Photo by Jesse Marquez

You know when you're hiking up a mountain and you think you've reached the summit, only to turn the corner with the realization that you have further to climb? Well, Earthjustice and other clean air advocates have finally reached the summit, putting an end to litigation involving a loophole that gave industrial facilities a free pass to ignore pollution limits whenever plants start up, shut down or malfunction.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the American Chemistry Council (and others) a request to review the case, which Earthjustice won in December 2008.

The Supreme Court's decision is huge for us, but it's folks on the ground (the ones that live near these plants and their skyrocketing emissions) that are cheering the loudest -- people like Jesse Marquez: who lives three miles from a Wilmington, California Tesoro Energy Corp's refinery which caught fire last September because of a malfunction. Jesse was at the scene, taking pictures and recalling the terrible mixture of crude oil and diesel fuel filling the air for 6 hours.

That same month, Tesoro CEO Bruce Smith traveled to DC to lobby Congress to protest emissions reductions.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
05 November 2009, 2:22 PM
Earthjustice settlement is healthy news for Gulf Coast residents

Folks living in the Gulf Coast—and near stinky PVC plants—rejoice! Earthjustice has reached a settlement agreement to have the EPA begin regulating toxins coming from these plants, which are responsible for pumping approximately 500,000 pounds of vinyl chloride—a known human carcinogen—and other toxins into the air. In spite of the documented effects of these cancer-causing chemicals, the PVC industry's air emissions have remained largely unregulated for decades.

Most of the nation's 24 plants are in Louisiana and Texas—states with the dubious distinction of being home to six plants apiece. The remaining plants are in New Jersey, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Michigan and Oklahoma.

Edgar Mouton, Jr. 74, a lifelong resident of Mossville, LA, has lived for decades near a PVC plant. He is a member of Mossville Environmental Action Now, one of several client groups Earthjustice represented in a lawsuit.

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