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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fallen far behind in one of its most important responsibilities: to protect the American public from toxic air pollutants. The New York Times recently reported on a new study from the agency's Inspector General which found that the EPA is currently violating federal law by failing to put these protections in place.

Four mothers from the Seattle area will Climb Against Coal this weekend.

Their voyage up Washington's iconic Mt. Rainier will be a protest of sorts to call for the closing of the TransAlta coal plant by 2015.

TransAlta is the state's largest single source carbon dioxide emissions. Besides global warming pollution, the plant also emits toxic mercury that fall directly on Rainier's snowfields which feed the entire Puget Sound watershed.

If you live in the Seattle area, please join us in send off celebration on Wednesday, July 14 from 5:00-7:00pm at Ella Bailey Park, 2601 W Smith St, Seattle (Magnolia neighborhood).

Click here for a YouTube introduction to the moms who are climbing for a greener future, or meet Genevieve below:

Earthjustice wishes these brave souls a safe and inspiring climb.

In 1970, the Clean Air Act first took aim at toxic air emissions from industrial facilities across the United States. Forty years later, it finally hit a major target.

Actually, 28 major targets. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today agreed to review and update Clean Air Act rules that rein in emissions of nearly 200 hazardous air pollutants released by 28 kinds of industrial facilities.

<Update 7/1: All BP oil spill cleanup and containment efforts are on hold as wind and waves from the former Hurricane Alex push through the oil spill area. Although the storm stayed 600 miles to the west, it still had enough punch to not only stop the cleanup but actually push oil deeper into coastal wetlands and onto beaches.>

When Hilton Kelley of Port Arthur, Texas moved back to his hometown more than a decade ago, he didn't realize that he'd spend the ensuing years battling for clean air. And on a muggy Tuesday afternoon, he drove 90 miles west toward Houston to attend yet another EPA hearing to comment on air pollution rules.

Kelley, 49, lives in an area where there are 20 facilities, small and large, continuously pumping chemicals into the air.

Concerned Houston citizen Rosalie Guerrero recently visited a young mother who lives near a facility pumping chemicals in the air. The mother had given birth to a baby with half a brain. The baby suffered for 6 months before dying.

“I’d like to see how much that life costs,” said Rosalie, testifying at a U.S. EPA hearing in Houston on the detrimental effects of living near facilities that emit lead, mercury and cadmium in the air. “There is a cost associated with that.”

Clean air advocates, many sporting "Don't Trash Our Lungs" t-shirts, spoke out yesterday at public hearings in Los Angeles and Houston for much-needed reductions in toxic air pollution. Held by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the hearings focused on recent EPA proposals to cut emissions of hazardous air pollutants like mercury and other toxic metals at nearly 100,000 facilities nationwide.

You can breathe that sigh of relief.

At the end of the hours-long debate on the effort by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) effort to keep the U.S. EPA from controlling greenhouse gases, 53 senators came out in support of America's right to clean air. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) said the Murkowski resolution was a choice between "real science and political science."

The vote of 53-47 killed the resolution but did not end the debate on whether the EPA should monitor our nation's global warming emissions. (More on that later).

Juliet once said to Romeo: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Were Juliet as concerned by toxic air pollution as love, the fair Capulet might have instead philosophized: "That which we call hazardous waste by any other name would pollute as much when burned."

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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. Learn more about Earthjustice.