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Washington, DC

Flaring at a oil refinery.

This guest blog post was written by Molly Brackin of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an environmental health and justice organization. Since 2000, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade has worked with communities throughout Louisiana that neighbor oil refineries and chemical plants, and are overburdened by pollution. Their mission is to support communities’ use of grassroots action to create informed, sustainable neighborhoods free from industrial pollution.

Farmworkers pick strawberries in Wayne County, NY.

After more than two decades, the Environmental Protection Agency announced revisions to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, an outdated standard intended to protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure.

While advocates welcomed signs of life in the Obama administration’s progress to provide stronger protections from pesticides for approximately 2 million farmworkers, the proposal raises questions about the EPA’s understanding of the population the WPS is meant to serve.

Mario Vargas, a farmworker organizer from Ohio, his daughter Myra Vargas (middle), and Alexis Guild of Farmworker Justice walk past the U.S. Capitol in July of 2013, as they head to a meeting in the Hart Senate Office Building.

When Mario Vargas showed up at the Washington, D.C., offices of representatives from his home state of Ohio in July, he shared stories from farmworkers who are getting sick from pesticides. Joined by his daughter and girlfriend, they made the rounds talking about how it feels to inhale pesticides while pregnant, how farmworkers don’t know what their basic rights are, and how many workers are afraid to tell the truth about what is really going on in the fields.

Those who push an extreme anti-environmental agenda often use the concept of freedom to promote their ideas. They are not concerned with your freedom to breathe clean air or to drink clean water. Instead they want to give corporations the freedom to exploit natural resources without regard for the adverse impacts, and they want to ensure that polluters have freedom from accountability for the potentially deadly impacts of their actions.

It’s been five years, but hard to forget: On December 22, 2008, just after midnight, the town of Harriman, Tennessee woke to the flood of more than one billion gallons of toxic coal ash sludge that burst through an earthen dam on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant. It was one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history—its volume 101 times larger than that of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. One resident described the boom of the breach as something supernatural, like the sound of the end of the world.

Today, the highest court of the land will hear argument in a case that is important to anyone with lungs.

Here’s the issue in brief: after a court of appeals invalidated the U.S. EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), environmental groups, the EPA itself and various states, asked the Supreme Court to get involved.

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