Posts tagged: Health and Toxics

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Health and Toxics


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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 Lisa Evans's blog posts
16 February 2011, 7:53 AM
Theft of protections against toxic coal ash is on House agenda
Aerial view of coal spill in Kingston, Tennessee

The highwaymen of the 112th Congress are trying to take away the authority of the EPA and rob the will of the people on a variety of critical public health and environmental issues by attaching riders to the House budget bill (the Continuing Resolution). The spending legislation introduced by the House Appropriations Committee this week would not only slash billions of dollars from programs protecting public health by ensuring clean water and air, but it would also undo or block key environmental initiatives.

While belt-tightening is a necessity, the special interest giveaways and legislative earmarks protecting big polluters are no less than highway robbery. Their attempt to pillage vital health protections guaranteed by our federal environmental statutes threatens the quality of our air and water, and places our most vulnerable communities and citizens at great risk.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
15 February 2011, 3:53 PM
Legislative amendments target air, water, public lands and wildlife

Teabag by teabag, the anti-environment faction in the House of Representatives has filled its federal government spending bill with amendments that will cripple protections for our water, air, natural resources, wildlife and public health. 

Not since the darkest days of the Bush administration have we seen such an onslaught on the environment—and the hits are still coming. By mid-day today (Tues., Feb. 15), the list has grown to include attacks on a number of endangered species, including wolves and salmon, and on the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to keep lethal pollutants out of the air we breathe and the water we drink. Some amendments are outright handouts to our nation’s worst polluters.

The spending bill will fund the government so that it can continue operating after March 4, but first the Senate must pass the bill. Today, Pres. Barack Obama warned that he would veto the bill as constructed.

The following is a list of the most harmful provisions and amendments proposed so far:

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
15 February 2011, 3:09 PM
Join the campaign for clean air

Do you think that all Americans have the right to clean air? Then sign the Right to Breathe Declaration!

The Clean Air Act—signed in 1970 by Pres. Nixon and improved upon in 1990 by George H.W. Bush—has benefitted millions of Americans in its 40-year history. Just last year, for example, clean air health protections helped save the lives of more than 160,000 Americans.

More work remains to be done. Some of the dirtiest industrial polluters, such as coal-fired power plants, aren’t currently subject to any limits on their emissions of mercury, lead, soot and other dangerous air pollutants. Americans deserve health protections against this toxic pollution. Show your support by signing the declaration. Here’s a short video on the Right to Breathe.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
14 February 2011, 5:30 PM
Five state AGs send letter urging support for cement plant health protections
Cement kiln near Midlothian, TX. Photo: Samantha Bornhorst

Attorneys general from five states—New York, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts and Connecticut—sent a letter today to Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, urging a rejection of Rep. John Carter’s (R-TX) resolution to block health protections against cement plants’ toxic air pollution.

Led by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York, the quintet—which for their action to defend Americans’ health should be considered as a worthy addition to the “Fab Five” list—correctly note that reducing cement plants’ emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants will save lives and lead to the creation of American jobs manufacturing, installing and maintaining pollution control equipment.

Most importantly, these health protections will save the lives of 2,500 Americans every year—by reducing emissions of particulate matter from the cement industry by 92 percent. Cement plants’ mercury emissions—the third largest of all U.S. industries—will also be reduced by 92 percent. Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxicant that can impact a child’s ability to think and learn. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that more than 300,000 babies born every year may face a higher risk of developmental damage because of mercury exposure.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
11 February 2011, 4:45 PM
1,882 health pros demand clean air from Obama, House, Senate

This week, nearly 2,000 health and medical professionals from all 50 states and the District of Columbia told our elected representatives at the White House and in Congress to stand up for clean air. These professionals are intimately familiar with the impacts of air pollution on people—asthma, heart disease, stroke, cancer—especially such vulnerable groups as children and the elderly.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
11 February 2011, 6:37 AM
Radiated bird brains, Clorox cleaning, peak oil Wikileaks
A recent USDA decision allows farmers to plant genetically modified sugar beets. Photo courtesy of Uwe Hermann.

USDA gives Big Ag some sugar in GE beet decision 
In a move that directly contradicts the finding of a U.S. federal judge, last week the Department of Agriculture said that farmers could start planting their genetically modified sugar beets, reports the New York Times, despite concerns raised over GE crops by environmental and organic groups. The decision to allow farmers to plant the beets before a (legally required) environmental impact assessment was conducted was most likely brought on by fears that blocking the crops’ planting would result in a sugar shortage, an odd concern for a country who's known to have a bit of a sweet tooth

Clorox freshens up stance on ingredient disclosure
Hooray! This past Tuesday, cleaning company Clorox announced it would allow consumers to know just what’s in all of those cleaners and cleansers, reports the LA Times. The announcement comes after sustained pressure by environmental and health groups, including Earthjustice, which argue that consumers have a right to know what’s in their toilet bowl cleaner. After all, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

View David Lawlor's blog posts
10 February 2011, 3:38 PM
Examining the environmental impacts of Central California’s oil industry
Nodding donkeys near Maricopa in Kern County, California. (Photo: Antandrus)

It was nearly midnight, but it wasn’t dark. Standing more than a mile away in an illuminated watermelon patch, I could hear its spectacular roar; akin to the release of liquid propane burning off into a hot air balloon. And I could feel it. The searing heat radiated from the blazing column, transforming the landscape into an open-air sauna. I snapped a few photos, hopped back in my car, and navigated through a maze of oil field service roads back to the highway.

The 1998 Bellevue blowout in Kern County, California’s Lost Hills Oil Field was big news in the southern San Joaquin Valley where I grew up. Oil is the ever-present background hum to life in Kern County. The nodding donkey—or pumpjack if you want to get technical—dots the county’s hills and roadsides, pumping heavy crude from wells thousands of feet beneath the earth’s surface.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
10 February 2011, 3:30 PM
The Clean Air Act, that's what

(Clean air is a life saver, which is why Earthjustice is working to ensure that polluters don’t stand in the way of safeguards against air pollution. Here’s a round up of some recent news in the ongoing campaign to protect our Right to Breathe.)

Use the #right2breathe hashtag on Twitter to track campaign updates.

EPA chief Lisa Jackson talks health on Capitol Hill
Tapped to testify on a bill that would shackle her agency and prevent it from doing its job to protect the American people, Lisa Jackson took an important message to Congress: Clean air saves lives and improves our health.

“Last year alone,” she said, “EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act saved more than 160,000 lives,” avoided 100,000 hospital visits and millions of respiratory illness cases, and kept Americans in work and at school. Clean air keeps us safe and healthy. Pro-polluter factions in Congress apparently think that isn’t a big deal, but I bet the 160,000 people whose lives were saved last year disagree.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
09 February 2011, 2:20 PM
EPA chief in Congress to defend clean air protections

EPA chief Lisa Jackson was on Capitol Hill today to testify before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. On topic was a bill from Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the committee, that would prevent the EPA from taking action on climate change.

Lisa Jackson rightfully acknowledged in her opening statements, however, that Upton’s bill is really just one piece of a “broader effort in this Congress to delay, weaken, or eliminate Clean Air Act protections of the American public.”

This broad effort includes Rep. John Carter’s anti-health resolution that would block the EPA’s limits on cement plants’ toxic air pollution. It also includes similar attempts to thwart health protections against industrial boilers' emissions of mercury, acid gases and other harmful pollutants. These and other safeguards will save lives and money and protect Americans’ right to breathe.

View Vernice Miller-Travis's blog posts
09 February 2011, 7:47 AM
Federal oversight needed to clean up Chesapeake Bay

(This is the latest in a weekly series of 50 Tr-Ash Talk blogs discussing the dangers of coal ash. Earthjustice hopes that by December 2011, the third anniversary of the TVA coal ash spill, the EPA will release a coal ash rule establishing federally enforceable regulations ensuring the safe disposal of this toxic waste. Vernice Miller-Travis is the Vice Chair of the Maryland Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities.)

One of the biggest environmental challenges in Maryland is protecting and improving the quality of the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. There are hundreds of rivers and streams that traverse our state, many of which feed into the Chesapeake Bay. Though we are a thoroughly modern state, we are also a state that has a large agricultural base, and a huge part of our economy is based on seafood, which generations of Waterman have fished out of the Chesapeake Bay. We are famous for our blue crabs and oysters.  

Here in Maryland, we are having our own version of a national debate at the local level. The vast majority of our electric power is produced at coal-fired power plants across the state. Already, several documented instances of violations of the Clean Water Act have been identified at coal ash landfills and impoundment sites in our state. Maryland is home to multiple coal combustion waste sites that have contaminated drinking water wells and polluted surface waters and the environment with arsenic, cadmium, selenium, nickel, thallium and other toxic pollutants.

Our state Attorney General’s office and the Maryland Department of the Environment have filed a lawsuit against Mirant Mid-Atlantic, LLC and Mirant Maryland Ash Management, LLC for violations of the Clean Water Act at the Mirant Faulkner coal combustion waste landfill in Charles County, and the Mirant Brandywine coal combustion waste landfill in Prince George’s County not far from the banks of the Patuxent River, a major tributary to the Chesapeake Bay.

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