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50 States


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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 Jessica Hodge's blog posts
18 February 2014, 2:34 PM
"A Lethal Dose of Smoke And Mirrors: Going home for better or worse"
Kelley holds a picture of the air pollution in Port Arthur, TX. (Matt Roth / Earthjustice)

Taking his work to the next level, Clean Air Ambassador Hilton Kelley has completed a book, A Lethal Dose of Smoke And Mirrors: Going home for better or worse, that chronicles his decision to leave Hollywood and take on powerful industrial polluters in his hometown, Port Arthur, Texas. Hilton—the first African-American man to win the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize—tells how he single-handedly made great strides to improve the health and environment in Port Arthur.

A city of some 50,000 residents, Port Arthur is situated on Texas’ Gulf Coast and was once home to the largest network of oil refineries in the world. Residents are surrounded by oil refineries, chemical plants and a hazardous waste incinerator, and they suffer ill health effects from living with disproportionately high levels of toxic air, including cancer-causing chemical compounds.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
23 December 2013, 3:27 PM
Our litigation forces protections where political leaders fail us
Many environmental and public health safeguards still await approval, more than a year after the election. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The White House “systematically” delayed finalizing a host of environmental and public health safeguards for political reasons before the 2012 election, reported The Washington Post last February. With many of these rules still awaiting approvals more than a year after the election, the Post recently revisited its investigation into the politics of continued White House delays.

The latest article, by Juliet Eilperin, delves into the findings of a new independent report that concludes President Obama’s White House has injected new layers of White House intervention, politics, and control over basic federal agency duties and regulations. Among the hostages of this political slowdown are Environmental Protection Agency responsibilities to protect the public from toxic coal ash waste, cement factories and other industrial facilities, and smog.

While some in Washington, D.C., would see these environmental rules as opportunity for politicking and power play, elsewhere in the nation, communities and families are feeling the pain of delay.

View Jared Saylor's blog posts
11 September 2013, 11:52 AM
Power plants dump pollution into our water, but that could soon change
Patricia Schuba of Missouri. (Matt Roth)

Earlier this summer, I was talking to a colleague and friend in Missouri, Patricia Schuba. She lives only a few miles from the Show Me State’s biggest coal-fired power plant, Ameren Corporation’s Labadie Power Station.

She was preparing to come to Washington to testify before the EPA on a proposal to clean up toxic water pollution from power plants. But before she got on the plane, she had a meeting to attend in St. Louis where Ameren was proposing to build another 1,100-acre coal ash pond directly in the floodplain of the Missouri River.

“It never ends here in Missouri,” she said. “If they try and build another coal ash dump, we’re going to fight back. That’s something they don’t seem to understand. We’re never going to give up.”

Nearly 50,000 of you aren’t giving up either.

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View Debra Mayfield's blog posts
15 August 2013, 12:19 PM
Citizen soldiers talk, unite ... and triumph

With some members of Congress doing less to protect the health and welfare of their constituents and more for the interests of industry, it’s easy for us ordinary folks to get disillusioned and throw in the towel. But then we turn towards the faces of our children, neighbors, parents and friends struggling with asthma from industrial pollution and tail pipe emissions. We see the lakes and rivers we swam and fished in as kids decimated and our drinking water supplies poisoned by poorly regulated and inadequately maintained coal ash disposal sites.

View Chrissy Pepino's blog posts
13 June 2013, 10:47 AM
Cleaner fuels and cars mean cleaner air
Smog over Los Angeles, CA. (EPA)

“It's a scary moment to walk into a client's home or onto the freeway underpass where they live and see their 2-month old child struggling to breathe.”

Robin Kristufek has worked as a registered nurse in the Sacramento region for years. Her clients are not patients in hospital beds — but low income families and the homeless, whom she visits wherever they live. It's obvious to Robin that a disproportionate number of children living in poverty are afflicted with asthma and bronchitis — and some die of lung disease. Their health problems come from living near busy roads and freeways without trees or green spaces to help filter out particulates. They are forced to breathe in toxic pollution.

Clean Air Ambassador Robin Kristufek.

Clean Air Ambassador Robin Kristufek.
View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
17 May 2013, 9:35 AM
Ambassadors from every state arrive en masse to buttonhole congress reps
The grassroots campaign involved ambassadors from every state, plus D.C. and Puerto Rico.

A few days ago, a fierce army invaded Washington, D.C. to ask our representatives for something very simple: restore our right to breathe clean air.

This modest proposal came from more than 100 “clean air ambassadors” who know the cost of dirty air all too well. Take Hilton Kelley from Port Arthur, Texas, which is home to more than five large refineries, six chemical plants and an incinerator. In his community, one out of every five households has a child suffering from asthma and other contaminated-air-related illnesses. One day, after having moved away from his home town years ago, he looked in the mirror and asked himself, “If I’m not going to do anything about the conditions in Port Arthur, how can I expect anyone else to?”

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
15 May 2013, 7:51 AM
More than 100 clean air and water advocates gather in D.C.

When our elected officials continue standing in the way of clean air and water—it’s time to shake things up. Which is why more than 100 physicians, tribal and labor leaders, clergy, nurses and parents are in Washington, D.C., for a 3-day visit with Congress, united as 50 States United for Healthy Air.

This legion of clean air and water advocates are meeting with members of Congress to call for greater protections from smog, coal ash, carbon and other dangerous air pollutants.

It’s a big day for our lungs and our health.

View Stephanie Maddin's blog posts
24 December 2012, 11:49 AM
Health of thousands put on hold by weak agency action
Alexandra Allred. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

“…My son's school would be named in a USA Today report as being in the upper 1 percent of the most toxic schools in the nation—the same school I butted heads with cement plant executives about being under the toxic plumes while children were at recess.”

– Alex Allred,
50 States United Clean Air Ambassador from Texas

We are taught as children to play fair and to follow the rules. Apparently, everyone doesn’t get the same life lessons. For communities in the shadow of cement plant pollution, the rules of engagement seem to change when it comes to Clean Air Act protections. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency decided to both weaken and delay an already overdue standard to clean up toxic cement plant emissions.

The decision was legally indefensible with a federal court requesting small technical changes to the standard. These plants emit dangerous levels mercury, lead, dioxin, benzene and fine particulate matter (soot) and are responsible for up to 2,500 premature deaths each year.

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View Stephanie Maddin's blog posts
14 December 2012, 4:56 PM
Rule will save up to thousands of lives
Soot is composed of tiny microscopic particles that penetrate deep within the lungs often triggering respiratory harm and even premature death. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

No one likes to breathe dirty and polluted air. Unfortunately, for some communities there may be little to no choice.

But today, the EPA took a step in the right direction to clean up soot pollution and protect millions of Americans forced to breathe dirty air. Administrator Lisa Jackson announced a tightened standard that will limit soot pollution in many major metropolitan areas across the country, cleaning up the smokestacks and tailpipes that belch out this dirty pollution.

The current standard, set in 1997, is outdated, prompting our legal action against the EPA. Last year, we partnered with the American Nurses Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Hip Hop Caucus, and the National Council of Churches to collectively call on Congress and federal regulators to protect citizens from preventable air pollution. This effort, dubbed 50 States United for Healthy Air educated stakeholders on the need for strong clean air protections for all Americans. Thankfully, some voices on Capitol Hill got the message and called on the EPA to set forth strong soot standards.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
30 November 2011, 2:56 PM
A strong call for coal plants in Chicago, and everywhere, to clean up
Ian Viteri, a community organizer with LVEJO, at the 50 States United for Healthy Air event.

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."

Wasserman and her family live less than one mile from the Crawford coal-fired power plant, which is owned by Midwest Generation. The same company owns another plant in Chicago, the Fisk, which is in the Pilsen neighborhood in the northeast part of the city. Pollution from these two plants has galvanized strong calls from grassroots groups—LVEJO, PERRO and others—for the plants to clean up their dirty ways. Wasserman makes the call beautifully in an op-ed published today in the Chicago Tribune.

It begins:

I'm Peter's mom. He's that 6-year-old on those ads on the "L" trains or on billboards around town. You know, the one with the inhaler, the one he's been using since he was 3. That makes him luckier than his older brother Anthony, who developed his asthma at 3 months. When Anthony had his first asthma attack, I didn't know much about it. When he was struggling to breathe you could see his little rib cage. I learned that that was a telltale sign.

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