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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."

Breathing isn't a choice. Everyone does it, no matter where they live. But for many Americans, where they live has a tremendous impact on the quality of the air they breathe.

Take a look at Mossville, Louisiana for instance, which is home to 14 chemical plants. The town's residents are plagued by severe health problems like cancer and kidney disease attributed to pollution from these local facilities.

The Department of Energy today released a proposal to require that all new and renovated federal buildings across America meet a host of sustainable design, siting, and construction requirements. These standards will ensure that when a new post office goes up in your town, or when your local courthouse gets a building makeover, or when your military base builds a new facility, it will be green.

Americans can breathe a sigh of relief today, thanks to new rules announced by the Environmental Protection Agency that will reduce toxic air pollution in communities across the country. The rules come three years after Earthjustice and others stopped the Bush administration from deregulating toxic emissions from industrial boilers, incinerators, and process heaters.

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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.