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 Daniel Hubbell's blog posts
20 November 2012, 2:37 PM
Cancer-causing chemical threatens lungs of many
Chromium plating facilities emit high levels of the carcinogen into local communities.  (Neal Sanche)

Chromium shows up in surprising places in modern society—most notably on car bumpers and furniture to improve how they look. Too often, the facilities that do this kind of plating put the carcinogen hexavalent chromium into the air in local communities where they operate.

The highly toxic chemical was made infamous by Erin Brockovich’s work on a California case where hexavalent chromium leaked into a town’s drinking water. The case resulted in action against Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which settled for several hundred million dollars. Yet that case has hardly been the only incident, or the only way, that hexavalent chromium from these facilities can affect people’s health.

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View Debra Mayfield's blog posts
04 October 2012, 3:15 PM
Author asks, answers: If coal is so clean, why is it killing us?
Dr. Alan Lockwood is Emeritus Professor of Neurology and Nuclear Medicine at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

In the latest episode of Down to Earth, our own Jessica Knoblauch interviews Dr. Alan Lockwood, neurologist and author of the new book, The Silent Epidemic: Coal and the Hidden Threat to Health. Dr. Lockwood reiterates eloquently what we’ve known for decades: there’s nothing clean about coal.

Whether you’re mining it, moving it, washing it, burning it, or disposing of it, coal is dirty, dirty business. And one that is killing us.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
01 October 2012, 12:06 PM
Plus: Bacon blues, ocean critter jitters, burger smog and cattle candies
(flickr, cookbookman17)

Climate change may ruin BLTs and loaded baked potatoes
You know Americans may be a little food-obsessed when the only time we get concerned about climate change is when it affects our favorite meals. According to the USDA, this year’s drought is so bad that it’s expected to negatively impact next year’s pork production, reports Mother Jones, meaning that BLTs and pork chops may soon become a luxury item for many Americans. And forget about importing your bacon fix from Europe. Britain’s National Pig Association recently announced that a “world shortage of pork and bacon is now unavoidable” thanks to high pig-feed costs that are causing farmers to reduce their herd sizes. Though the association’s press release doesn’t specifically mention “climate change,” it does allude to “disastrous growing and harvesting weather,” which scientists only expect to get worse with increasing carbon emissions. In other words, if we don’t get our act together soon, it may mean good-bye, baconator®. Hello, tofu maker?
 
Consumers’ caffeine consumption gives ocean critters the jitters
Many people these days tend to be a little over-caffeinated, and it turns out that all of the sodas, coffee and energy drinks that people consume are having a similarly jittery effect on the world’s oceans, reports National Geographic. Conditions are especially amped up along the Pacific Northwest, home of Starbucks and many a caffeine-fiend, where researchers recently discovered caffeine pollution off of Oregon’s coast. Currently, caffeine’s impact on natural ecosystems is relatively unknown, though at least one researcher has found that the stimulant’s presence in water does tend to stress out mussels. Surely anyone who has knocked back too many cups of black gold can relate. But the problem isn’t just coming from the Pacific Northwest. Caffeine has also been detected in Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay seawater. The presence of caffeine is the oceans isn’t all that surprising though considering that most water treatment facilities typically don’t screen or filter for many pollutants, such as pharmaceuticals, detergents or estrogen-containing birth control pills. But given the growing evidence for elevated levels of human contaminants in the water, they may soon have to, or suffer the caffeinated consequences.
 

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
20 July 2012, 12:23 PM
Emotional testimony strikes a poignant chord
Parents, kids, doctors, community members and health advocates attended the EPA hearing in Sacramento, speaking in favor of strong limits on soot.
(Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

"This morning's testimony was so moving, I wish I'd had tissues with me," said one speaker. "It never occurred to me that I would need them at an EPA public hearing."

And yet, I saw more than a few tear-stained cheeks when Lydia Rojas recounted the heartbreaking story of how her 15-year-old daughter lost her life because of a severe asthma attack. Fighting back her own tears, Rojas asked the Environmental Protection Agency officials present to do everything in their power to ensure that strong limits are placed on the amount of fine particle pollution—a.k.a. soot—that's in our air.

The room was packed when I arrived at the public hearing in downtown Sacramento—the second of only two such events across the country focused on EPA's recent proposal to further limit emissions of deadly air pollution. The first hearing happened on Tuesday in Philadelphia.

Over the course of the day, dozens of parents, kids, doctors, community members and health advocates spoke in favor of strong limits on soot. Jose Hernandez, a high-school football player and runner from Fresno, told the EPA panel how the winter-air gets thick with pollution, making practice difficult. In addition to his own shortness of breath, he notices difficulties related to dirty air in members of the youth soccer team that he coaches. "I want to make sure that when I have kids, they have every opportunity for a healthy future," he said. "We need to clean up the air so my child can live up to his or her fullest potential." (See a photo slideshow of the public hearing.)

Paul Cort speaks at the EPA hearing. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

Earthjustice attorney Paul Cort: "The thing that sticks with you most about the hearing today are the stories from people who are describing how air pollution affects them personally." (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)
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View Sarah Burt's blog posts
28 June 2012, 3:20 PM
Vessels must avoid dirtier fuels off state coast

Twenty seven million Californians—80 percent of the state’s population—are exposed to emissions from ocean-going vessels, resulting in serious health impacts such as cancer, respiratory illnesses like asthma, as well as increasing the risk of heart disease. California estimates that the ships’ direct particulate emissions cause 300 premature deaths across the state every single year, even after excluding cancer effects.

The Ninth Circuit’s 2011 decision in Pacific Merchant Shipping Assn. v. Goldstene involved a shipping industry challenge to the Vessel Fuel Rule. The Ninth Circuit rejected industry’s claims that the ARB regulation is preempted by the federal Submerged Lands Act and contravenes dormant Commerce Clause principles. By denying certiorari, the Supreme Court has decided to let the Ninth Circuit’s decision stand.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
21 June 2012, 2:25 PM
Huffington Post details injustice facing Mossville residents
Mossville, LA.

Last year, the EPA proposed an air rule that would finally limit the amount of cancer-causing chemicals residents in Mossville, Louisiana would have to breathe from the polyvinyl chloride plant nearby. So it came as a blow when the EPA released a final rule that imposes weaker limits at the CertainTeed plant in Mossville—a facility that emits 19 tons of poisonous air pollutants a year.

Turns out we aren’t the only ones finding fault in the EPA’s behavior, as seen in this gripping Huffington Post story detailing the stark reality of a community being destroyed by the toxic fumes it breathes.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
20 June 2012, 3:49 PM
Papers come out in support of strong standards to control deadly pollutant

The historical significance of the Environmental Protection Agency's recently proposed new limits on fine particle pollution, colloquially called soot, wasn't lost on a number of editorial pages. Soot is a known killer—the science clearly indicates soot's connections to premature death, heart and lung damage, and potentially even cancer and developmental and reproductive harm.

The New York Times wrote: "New standards are long overdue. In 2006, the E.P.A. reviewed the standards but decided to leave them where they had been set nearly 10 years before… This was a favor to industry groups that did not want to make new investments in pollution controls. The agency's scientific advisory committee, which had recommended tighter standards, was so incensed that it issued a rare public rebuke."

Ultimately, it took a judge's rebuke to stir action at the agency. A court order won by Earthjustice on behalf of the American Lung Association and National Parks Conservation Association was a boot to the EPA's backside—just the encouragement needed to get things back on track after years of scientific denial and foot-dragging.

The San Francisco Chronicle editorial page reacted acidulously to the EPA's announcement: "It only took a court order and five years of delay for them to do the right thing."

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
20 June 2012, 12:30 PM
Victory for clean air and public health

There are some straight spines left in the U.S. Senate, which today voted down a resolution from Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) that would have effectively exempted coal-fired power plants—the nation's worst air polluters—from Clean Air Act controls that limit mercury and other toxic emissions. This is a critical victory in the decades-long effort to protect communities from the egregious amounts of health-damaging pollutants that coal plants put in our air.

In contrast, Sen. Inhofe and some of his coaleagues—pardon me, colleagues—have bent over backwards for our nation's most recalcitrant industrial polluters time and again, tone deaf to the fact that coal plant pollution sickens and kills tens of thousands of people every year. In fact, the senator said recently that the Environmental Protection Agency's recently finalized protections against toxic air from coal plants are "not about health." Yet that's exactly what they're about: limits on coal plant air pollution are projected to prevent up to 11,000 deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 childhood asthma attacks every year.

But from the senator's perspective, these benefits are "negligible."

"I find it impossible to relate to the senator's view that such benefits are 'negligible,' and thankfully, a majority of senators appear to as well," said Earthjustice attorney Jim Pew, who has worked for more than a decade to obtain the mercury and air toxic standards for power plants, and who is currently defending them from industry attack on behalf of the NAACP, Sierra Club, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Clean Air Counsel.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
19 June 2012, 2:38 AM
Edgar Mouton spent final years seeking health safeguards against PVC pollution
Edgar Mouton

Edgar Mouton lived much of his 76 years in Mossville, Louisiana, and for the past decade fought doggedly to obtain federal protections from the toxic pollution that pours into Mossville from the largest concentration of PVC and vinyl manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and a host of other hazardous industrial facilities. As a great-grandfather and leader of Mossville Environmental Action Now (MEAN), Mr. Mouton worked to prevent the rising rates of cancer, respiratory disease and other illnesses suffered by residents of the historic African American community in southwest Louisiana.

Sadly Mr. Mouton, passed away June 7 without the EPA fulfilling what it had once promised his community.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
18 June 2012, 3:50 PM
Bill is dangerous scheme to exempt power plants from clean air laws

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is spearheading an egregious effort in the Senate to exempt the nation's worst air polluters from the Clean Air Act. He is floating a resolution that would block recently finalized limits on the amounts of mercury, arsenic and other health-damaging pollutants that coal- and oil-fired power plants can emit. It's up for a vote on Wednesday.

Today, thankfully, the White House indicated that it will veto Inhofe's dirty air disaster if it manages to pass the Senate.

The senator, shockingly, has described the benefits of these landmark protections as "negligible." But there's nothing negligible about the prevention of up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,600 heart attacks and 130,000 childhood asthma attacks every year.