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Air Toxics: Mercury & Power Plants

The White House recently posted a video of President Obama discussing the new clean air protections that his administration released today to limit mercury, arsenic and other air toxic emissions from power plants. The President's words underscore how momentous this occasion is. The fight for these protections is more than two decades old. Earthjustice entered it in 1994 and has been pushing hard ever since. Check out the video below.

"It's like hell. Living in hell," says Marti Blake, when asked about being neighbors with a coal-fired power plant. "It's filthy, it's dirty, it's noisy, it's unhealthy."

For the past 21 years, Blake has lived across the street from the Cheswick Generating Station in Springdale, PA. A family situation left her trying to find a place quickly, and a simple brick home in the small town only 20 minutes from Pittsburgh seemed fine.

Marti Blake lives near the Cheswick coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania and has suffered serious health complications.

To all who wondered what gift the Obama administration is giving the American public for the holidays: it's clean air.

The administration just announced the first-ever clean air protections against the nation's dirtiest polluters—coal-fired power plants. This is one of the most significant developments in the history of environmental protections and the 40-year old Clean Air Act.

This Friday, the Obama administration has the historic opportunity to rein in a coal industry that has been allowed to pour toxic emissions like mercury, benzene and arsenic into our lives without limit.

There’s little question that the administration will set limits – the law requires it and the courts have ordered it. The question, and the opportunity facing Obama, is how strong those limits will be.

Imagine you live in a neighborhood full of families. There are many nice people, but a few households are real menaces. They're loud, they burn things in the backyard, and they drive around so fast that you're worried they're going to run someone down

The neighborhood bands together and one-by-one succeeds in getting these menaces to settle down. But there's a holdout—and it's the worst of all. The noise from that place is tremendous, the fires they burn are bigger than anyone's, and they drive with their eyes closed.

What's it like to live in the shadow of a smokestack?

Ask Kim Wasserman, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and a resident of Chicago's Little Village neighborhood—a culturally vibrant area on the city's west side that many, including Wasserman, refer to as the "Mexican capital of the Midwest."

Mark your calendars. Dec. 16 is going to be a big deal—particularly for families with children across the country. I know that Alvin, Simon and Theodore are getting Chipwrecked that day, but that's not what I'm thinking about. There's something even bigger coming down: the Environmental Protection Agency is going to release final standards to clean up mercury and other health-damaging toxic air pollutants from power plants.

The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, FY 2012 (H.R. 2584) is chock-full of riders that protect polluters, not people. This bill makes excessive budget cuts and policy decisions that compromise public health, especially the health of environmental justice communities already disproportionately impacted by pollution. The outrageous cuts have brought together more than 70 groups on a letter to outright oppose H.R.

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