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This column by Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen appeared in Alternet.

Americans who love to grumble about regulations now have some they can cheer about. The New England Journal of Medicine is reporting that we now live an extra five months, thanks to regulations that have cleaned up air pollution over the last few decades.

A bunch of utility operators are still trying to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to let them pour poisonous mercury into the air - but after today, they are standing alone. The Obama administration said it is withdrawing its support, and in fact, wants the court to drop the case.

Label this a victory for Earthjustice, its clients, and those thousands of citizens eating mercury-contaminated fish and forced to breathe in all the toxic fumes that the Bush administration would allow. Over eight years, that amounted to 700,000 pounds of mercury and other toxic stuff. We sued to stop this awful practice and won, but Bush's lawyers partnered up with the utilities and appealed to the Supreme Court so that it could continue.

Now, if the Court agrees, we can start breathing easier.

A study in this month's "American Journal of Agricultural Economics" shows a significant correlation between rising numbers of factory farm animals and increased infant mortality. The study found that an increase of 100 million pounds of farm animal flesh meant 123 more infant deaths for every 100,000 babies born. That means our shift in the last half century away from sustainable family farms and toward highly concentrated factory farms has put our babies in jeopardy.

First the bad news. Over the last decade, hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies from all over the world have clearly established a direct link between dirty air and increased risk of death from lung disease. In 2002, for example, California state scientists estimated that microscopic particles of airborne soot from auto exhaust cause more than 9,300 deaths in the state each year. That's more Californians than die from AIDS, homicide and traffic accidents combined.

With the election of Barack Obama, our nation's long, dark environmental night appears to be ending. By all early indications an era of opportunity will replace eight years of opposition in which Earthjustice was forced to play a mostly defensive role.

This is the moment we've been waiting for, and with your continued support, we are set to pursue ambitious goals on behalf of the environment.

We found it curious when the DC-based National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) sued a local air pollution board in California. Why would a big national trade association care about a local air pollution rule?

Well it turns out, NAHB had hoped to stop "Indirect Source Review" rules from spreading to other jurisdictions across the nation.

What do San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound, and Chesapeake Bay have in common? They provide a distinctive signature to some of America's greatest cities, of course. Residents and visitors to San Francisco, Seattle, Baltimore and Washington love to walk along, play beside, and boat across these waters. All three have storied histories and strong citizens' organizations fighting to protect and restore them.

A few months ago, we told you about the Lafarge cement kiln in Ravena, NY giving itself an environmental award, despite being the largest mercury polluter in the state. Well, it looks like Lafarge may actually reduce mercury emissions according to new plans to update their plant. Construction, however, won't even start until 2013.

Unfortunately, Lafarge doesn't seem to be doing this to be a good neighbor; they claim the decision came from "a broad set of business considerations." We definitely encourage cleaning up this plant, but the proof is in the pudding. As our attorney Keri Powell said, we'll continue to "make sure the pollution controls they install will be sufficiently protective."

Stay tuned for more updates on this kiln and our work to clean up mercury pollution across the nation.

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About the Earthjustice Blog

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.