Posts tagged: air

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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.


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 Alexandra Allred's blog posts
05 October 2011, 12:35 PM
Bill to exempt cement plants from Clean Air Act is dirty business
Cement kiln in Midlothian, where I live.

My name is Alex Allred. I live in a town that is surrounded by three cement plants. Two of our elementary schools were declared among the most toxic in the nation. Today, the House of Representatives is debating a bill—H.R. 2681—that could have a big impact on my health, my family's health, my community's health, and the health of communities all across America that are in the shadow of cement plants.

I worked with Earthjustice for many years to get the Environmental Protection Agency to issue strong air pollution standards for cement plants—the 2nd worst mercury polluters in the nation. Mercury exposure can cause birth defects and damage babies' developing brains. When the EPA finally did issue those strong standards last summer, we rejoiced. But H.R. 2681 threatens to take all of that away. It would exempt cement plants from the Clean Air Act and encourage those facilities to burn tires and other industrial garbage without controlling the toxic pollution that results.

H.R. 2681 will hurt families like mine but won't do a single thing to preserve or create jobs. Its supporters claim it is a cure for what ails us economically, but they haven't produced any evidence to support that. Meanwhile, EPA findings and independent studies consistently show that clean air is good for the economy! I know firsthand that it is good for my family.

I'd like to make an offer to the supporters of H.R. 2681: If you think that clean air isn't important, I invite ... no, I beg you to come to my home town. Please. I have been trying to sell my home for years. Please come buy my house. Allow me to leave my town that is surrounded by three cement plants, that has two elementary schools that were named as being the most toxic elementary schools in the nation! Come to my hometown and go to some of the fundraisers for children who are having unexplained seizures, see what it's like to attend funerals for 15-year-olds, and visit with a growing number of children with disabilities. Don't just read the reports or hear the pleas of concerned parents. Come. Visit. See for yourselves.

5 Comments   /  
View John McManus's blog posts
04 October 2011, 2:37 PM
Court refuses to hear challenge to rule brought by homebuilders group
Air pollution

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively upheld a unique air pollution rule that requires developers in California’s polluted San Joaquin Valley to mitigate for the added air pollution their new development brings.The rule was created by the San Joaquin Valley air district in a desperate move to do something about the out-of-control air pollution in the region.

The rule requires developers to mitigate for the pollution created by both the construction equipment used to build the project as well as the new automobile traffic generated by the development. The National Association of Homebuilders fought the rule hard, seeing that if the rule stood here, other heavily polluted jurisdictions around California and across the nation might adopt similar measures. Earthjustice attorney Paul Cort, representing the Environmental Defense Fund and Sierra Club, intervened in the Homebuilders’ legal challenge to defend the rule.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
04 October 2011, 1:59 PM
Dirty burning bills up for a vote this week

Quick! Somebody tell Tipper Gore that "clean air" and "public health" are now considered dirty words. Well, at least in the U.S. House of Representatives. If the House had a swear jar, I'd bet such utterances would be as punishable as your garden variety expletives.

Here's why: The House is voting this week on two bills that will trample clean air and public health if passed. H.R. 2250 and H.R. 2681 exempt industrial boilers, incinerators and cement plants from the Clean Air Act and actually encourage many such facilities to burn industrial garbage—think tires, scrap plastics, used chemicals and other waste—without controlling, monitoring or reporting the air pollution that results.

Imagine if you came home from work one day to find your neighbor setting fire to a heap of garbage in the backyard, fumes drifting over the fence into your yard and your home. You'd be outraged, no doubt, and rightfully so. Should the reaction be any different if the neighbor just happens to be a cement plant, a chemical plant or some other big industrial facility?

View John McManus's blog posts
30 September 2011, 11:39 AM
Earthjustice asks court to cancel lease of massive coal mine

Earlier this week, Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine went to court to argue that the state of Montana was legally required to consider steps to minimize the consequences of burning more than a half-a-billion tons of coal before leasing it to St. Louis-based Arch Coal, Inc. Earthjustice is representing the Montana Environmental Information Center and the Sierra Club in a lawsuit asking the court to cancel the lease so that the state may study options for minimizing or avoiding the environmental consequences of this massive strip mine.

Arch Coal also has leased coal on adjacent private lands, which combined with the state-leased coal, amount to 1.3 billion tons. If developed, the Otter Creek strip mine would be one of the largest coal mines in the country. Arch is making plans to ship at least a portion of this coal to Asia by way of west coast ports. Once burned, the coal will emit billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, not to mention mercury, lead and a host of other nasty byproducts.

1 Comment   /  
View Liz Judge's blog posts
30 September 2011, 8:46 AM
Here are the videos and statements they don't want you to see
Maria Gunnoe: "When the coal industry destroys Appalachia’s water it’s said to be in the best interest of our homeland security."

“They are blowing up my homeland,” said West Virginia coalfield resident Maria Gunnoe on Monday morning, in her sworn testimony on the impacts of mountaintop removal mining before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.

I feel the vibrations of the core driller in the floors of my home; and the impacts of the blasting near my home are horrendous. This is absolutely against everything that America stands for.

When someone destroys water in a foreign country it is called an act of war. When the coal industry destroys Appalachia’s water it’s said to be in the best interest of our homeland security.

My nephew reminds me of what surface mining looks like from a child’s eyes. As we were driving through our community, he looks up and says, ‘Aunt Sissy, what is wrong with these people? Don’t they know we live down here?’ I had to be honest with him and say, ‘Yes, they know. They just simply don’t care.’

Maria’s powerful and moving testimony was a part of the House Subcommittee’s field hearing in West Virginia entitled “Jobs at Risk: Community Impacts of the Obama Administration’s Effort to Rewrite the Stream Buffer Zone Rule.”

3 Comments   /  
View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
30 September 2011, 12:17 AM
Clean air haters, Yellowstone meltdown, killer cantaloupe
Photo courtesy of sk8geek

Monsanto’s new broccoli designed to fight company’s own environmental pollution
Perhaps dismayed by the public’s outcry to genetically engineered (GE) crops and their environmental effects, last October America’s favorite biotech company, Monsanto, released a non-GE product that combines two different types of broccoli to create a sort of super broccoli that’s chock-full of nutrients, reports Grist. The problem, of course, is that broccoli is already considered a super food. According to the USDA, one medium stalk provides 200 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C, 16 percent of recommended dietary fiber, and 10 percent of recommended vitamin A in the form of betacarotene. Broccoli also contains folate, potassium and several other minerals, providing 6 percent of daily calcium and 4 percent of daily iron needs. Heck, it can even prevent cancer. Talk about fixing something that ain't broken.

In addition to silly redundancy, Monsanto’s desire to provide a vegetable that helps “maintain your body’s defenses against the damage of environmental pollutants and free radicals,” is just plain ironic, as Grist cleverly points out, considering that the company’s cash cow—herbicides—have been shown to cause some of the very illnesses that eating broccoli can prevent. If selling a product that causes illness and then turning around and selling another product to prevent that illness seems, well, wrong, then it won’t be much of a surprise to find out the rest of Monsanto’s seedy past.

Climate change threatens Yellowstone National Park
Within the next century, Yellowstone National Park may be as hot as the LA suburbs thanks to climate change, reports Reuters. A recent study by Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and Greater Yellowstone Coalition found that warming in Yellowstone, one of the world’s last largely intact ecosystems, is likely to increase wildfires, kill large swaths of trees and damage areas vital to grizzly bears and other threatened species. And, as a vacation hotspot for tourists, failing to reverse the warming trend could put a dent in the region $700 million annual tourism economy. Despite the dismal predictions, the good news is that there’s still time to make choices that will influence how climate change effects Yellowstone, like preserving wildlife corridors and increasing resilience to damaged habitats. Earthjustice is working hard on both of these fronts in the Crown of the Continent, a 10-million-acre expanse of land that encompasses some of the largest blocks of wilderness in the contiguous United States, including Yellowstone. See for yourself what we’re protecting

2 Comments   /  
View Ted Zukoski's blog posts
22 September 2011, 9:24 AM
Visits to National Park - By Smog - Increase
Can you tell which side shows the smoggy day at the Grand Canyon? NPS photo.

Our National Park system—the first in the world—has been dubbed "America's best idea." But that great idea, which offers millions a respite from our industrialized life, is now beseiged more than ever by a symptom of that life—smog.

The National Parks Conservation Association published a report last week showing that the number of bad ozone (smog) days in national parks has risen over the last three years. Flagship parks like Great Smoky Mountains, Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Canyon, and Big Bend all had ozone violations over the last six months. Sequioa/Kings Canyon National Park suffered the worst—choking on smog for more than two months.

Smog is bad for the Parks—obscuring famous and magnificent views and depositing pollutants that foul lakes and streams.

But it's not so good for the visitors either, since its tied to all sorts of lung and heart disease. High enough ozone levels trigger recommendations for people to stay indoors and limit outdoor exercise, which kind of ruins the whole national park experience.

2 Comments   /  
View David Lawlor's blog posts
21 September 2011, 2:49 PM
Bills would eliminate pollution controls for boilers, cement plants
Cement kiln

Try this the next time you go camping at your favorite state or national park: dump into your campsite’s fire pit a few tires, a little plastic, a dash of chemical solvents and some random industrial waste—then strike a match and let the inferno begin.

Oh sure, you’ll be sending toxic pollutants into the air but, hey, when the ranger comes by and asks you if you’re crazy, just tell him that you’re taking your cue from the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Today, that committee passed two bills that, if signed into law, would rewrite the Clean Air Act and threaten the health of the American people.

3 Comments   /  
View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
16 September 2011, 9:38 AM
BP cheapos, dirty air downplays, climate change illness
Coral reef at Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of Jim Maragos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

UN top scientist predicts coral reefs' demise by end of century
Coral reefs, often called the “rain forests of the oceans” due to their rich biodiversity, have been around for millions of years, but these ecosystems may be experiencing their last century, reports The Independent. Climate change and ocean acidification are the main factors causing coral reefs’ demise, says University of Sydney professor Peter Sale, who studied Australia’s Great Barrier Reef for 20 years. And though humans are no strangers to wiping out species, Sale points out that this will be the first time that we’ve actually eliminated an entire ecosystem, one that is home to 25 percent of the ocean’s marine life. In addition, coral reefs support people, about 275 million in fact, who depend on reef ecosystems for food and livelihood. Even more alarming than losing these beautiful, bio diverse hotspots is the fact that reef disappearance tends to precede wider mass extinctions. Says Sale, "People have been talking about current biodiversity loss as the Holocene mass extinction, meaning that the losses of species that are occurring now are in every way equivalent to the mass extinctions of the past. I think there is every possibility that is what we are seeing."

Report finds BP’s cheapness, greed contributed to oil spill
There are a lot of consequences of being cheap: alienating friends, missing out on amazing experiences, wasting time pilfering through shoddy clothes in bargain bins. But recently, a 16-month investigation found that frugality has a dark side with the conclusion that BP’s efforts to limit costs on its deepwater well in the Gulf of Mexico contributed to a blowout that killed 11 people and tipped off the largest oil spill in U.S. history, reports the Washington Post. The report from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement lists “dozens of mistakes, misapprehensions, risky decisions and failures of communication” that led to the BP disaster. In other words, BP put profits before safety. In a statement released on Wednesday, BP agreed with the report’s conclusions, adding that “the Deepwater Horizon accident was the result of multiple causes, involving multiple parties, including Transocean and Halliburton,” At least BP is generous in sharing the blame. 

1 Comment   /  
View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
02 September 2011, 9:23 AM
Obama administration pushes ozone health protection reconsideration to 2013
Weak Bush-era ozone health standards will be maintained by the Obama administration.

In July, we were mighty disappointed when the Obama administration announced a fourth delay of the ozone rule. That disappointment is tenfold today after the Obama administration announced that it would not strengthen weak Bush-era ozone health standards. Instead the administration is going to maintain the status quo until at least 2013, which means thousands of Americans who suffer from lung and breathing diseases are at risk.

What a shame.

In his statement, President Obama mentioned the Environmental Protection Agency’s actions on the environment this year: reducing mercury from power plants and improving the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, as well as cutting pollution that travels interstate. While all of these environmental measures are needed, much more needs to be done. And the Obama administration knows this. The administration knows full well what a stronger ozone standard means: cutting ozone from the current 2008 standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) to the new 70 (ppb) standard was estimated to save up to 12,000 lives, prevent tens of thousands of asthma attacks and hospital visits, and prevent hundreds of thousands of lost school and work days.

9 Comments   /