Posts tagged: Clean Air Act

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Clean Air Act


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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 Sam Edmondson's blog posts
15 June 2011, 3:25 PM
Sarah Bucic, props in hand, defends right to breathe before Congress

Last month, Sarah Bucic—a nurse from Delaware—went to Washington, D.C. as part of the "50 States United for Healthy Air" event to defend the right to breathe clean air. Today, she went back to do it again.

Midway through her testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sarah—who testified on behalf of the American Nurses Association—pulled out a straw and held it up. It was skinny, the kind you might use to stir your coffee or tea—a toothpick passed through one end would more likely get stuck than fall through the other side.

Air doesn't fare much better. During an asthma attack, Sarah said, a person's airway constricts to roughly the size of that straw. In nursing school, she and her classmates were instructed to pinch their noses and breathe only through the straw to simulate what an attack feels like. Her demonstration was a powerful moment.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
13 June 2011, 4:29 PM
Coal plant giants shoot unhealthy pollution across state lines

In the world of professional basketball, height is good. Look no further than Dirk Nowitzki, the 7-foot Dallas Maverick whose combination of stature, speed and shooting ability was a decisive factor in his team's championship victory over the Miami Heat last night. Go Mavs.

In the world of coal plant smokestacks, however, height is bad. The Government Accountability Office (GAO)—Congress's investigative arm—isn't winning any championships, but it did hit a big shot with recent findings that tall smokestacks are one reason air pollution is readily blown across state lines.

Interstate air pollution is an important issue because states bear individual responsibility for meeting federal air quality standards. If a state is doing its best to control air pollution sources within its borders but still failing to meet federal standards because bad air is drifting in from another state, well, I imagine that state would be as mad as Lebron James was after last night's loss.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
09 June 2011, 4:22 PM
Researchers find links between air pollution and poor performance in school

The report card was a jumble of Cs and Ds. As my coworker gazed over his kid's latest performance in school, a mixture of anger, disappointment, frustration, guilt and uncertainty flooded him. "Where did I go wrong?" he mumbled. No doubt his kid felt a mixture of emotion, too.

Report cards can be grueling for parents and kids alike. Poor performance in school is a hot button social issue, and one that's been studied and debated from many angles—but we may be giving short shrift to one of its roots: air pollution.

A research team led by the University of Michigan's Dr. Paul Mohai recently looked into the links between air pollution and academic success, and the results are alarming.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
08 June 2011, 3:11 PM
Health professionals square off with industry mouthpieces at senate hearing

The hearing room on the 4th floor of the Dirksen Senate Office building was packed—so packed that some onlookers stood in the back of the room to see the action unfold. All had gathered earlier today for "Air Quality and Children's Health," a hearing before members of two subcommittees of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Before a panel of senators sat five witnesses—two of them with the shameful purpose of arguing against air quality standards that protect children's health.

Tension crackled throughout the room when Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) grilled witness, Margo Thorning: "Is your advice for parents of children with asthma to just get a job?" He followed up with the observation that many children of employed parents still struggle with the effects of asthma.

View Liz Judge's blog posts
02 June 2011, 2:49 PM
"The Last Mountain" opens this weekend in DC and NYC
"The Last Mountain" movie poster

The buzz is heightening. The Sundance official selection documentary The Last Mountain is arriving at theaters across America beginning this weekend in Washington, DC, and New York City. Throughout June, it will open in 18 other cities, bringing this film -- on the frightening effects of destructive mountaintop removal mining-- to the biggest metropolitan markets in the nation.

The film is a powerful glimpse into the bombing and razing of mountains in West Virginia for coal, the corrupt politics that enable that destruction, and the people and communities at the foot of the exploded mountains who are paying the real price, and suffering the real costs, of one of America's greatest and most enduring environmental tragedies.

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View Alexandra Allred's blog posts
27 May 2011, 12:19 PM
Obama administration publishes plea for strong air pollution standards

Editor's Note: The following blog item, written by Earthjustice "Clean Air Ambassador" Alexandra Allred, first appeared on The White House blog. Allred's 11-year old sonTommy suffers from chronic asthma. Allred journeyed to Washington, D.C. earlier this month to advocate, for keeping and strengthening clean air protections, in the halls of Congress and to the Obama administration.

Early in his term, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized an important health-protective standard that cleans up the smokestacks of cement plants, among other things, to better protect my son! This is very important to us as we live in Midlothian, Texas, the "Cement Capital of Texas," where three cement plants spew dangerous pollutants that can trigger asthma attacks, cause neurological damage, destroy organs, damage the nervous system and much more. 

If you read my son Tommy's book, How I Met the President, you will learn that he developed chronic asthma from breathing toxins in the air from our local cement plants, and as a result, met the President. While our experiences did not unfold that simply, as Tommy likes to say, "That was how we met President Obama!"

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
24 May 2011, 12:31 PM
Community members in Philly and Chicago speak out for health protections

Environmental Protection Agency hearings today in Philadelphia and Chicago drew crowds of clean air advocates—including a man who described the "smell of death" from a coal-fired power plant in his town.

The hearings are focused on a proposal to clean up mercury and other toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants, our nation's worst polluters. While these citizens are on hand delivering messages to the EPA in person, you can add your voice by sending a public comment via email.

Earthjustice staff are at the Philadelphia hearing to testify and hear citizens who want cleaner air and healthier communities. One such citizen is Sarah Bucic of the Delaware Nurses Association, who was also a Clean Air Ambassador at the 50 States United for Healthy Air event held in Washington, D.C. this month. Sarah expressed concern about the impact of toxic air pollution on children's health: "Mothers should not have to worry if their air and water is safe or if their own breast milk contains toxicants," she said.

Ed, a fisherman from St. College, PA, told the EPA staff on hand that his favorite stream in the state is the Susquehanna, but he can't eat the fish he catches because mercury levels are too high. It pains him to explain this to his young nephew when they go fishing.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
23 May 2011, 12:16 PM
New report on coal plant pollution underscores national problem

Jamestown, VA is a fixture of American history. Founded more than 400 years ago, it was the first permanent English settlement in what became the United States. Today, not far from there, The Old Dominion Electric Cooperative is looking to make history of a different kind. It wants to build what would be the largest coal-fired power plant in all of Virginia. But if built, something new will settle in the region: a large cloud of harmful air pollution.

And indeed, a report released today by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation shows that if this chapter of history is written, it will have a profound and negative impact on the region's future. Pollution from the plant will lead to dozens of deaths, hundreds of asthma attacks and more than $200 million in regional health care costs every year. Moreover, the Chesapeake Bay, a suffering icon of the eastern seaboard, would be further polluted with mercury as well as nitrogen oxides.

The story in Virginia told by the CBF is a microcosm of the rest of the country, where coal plant pollution is claiming lives, polluting waters and costing the public billions of dollars. The Environmental Protection Agency is holding its first public hearings tomorrow, in Philadelphia and Chicago, on a recent proposal to cut toxic air pollution from the nation's coal-fired power plants.

View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
19 May 2011, 10:31 AM
Community representatives make the case for clean air

Nobody gets through a day without breathing. Not executives in the coal-fired power and cement industries, which are polluting our air daily. Not the legion of lobbyists they hire to patrol the halls of Congress in defense of dirty air. And not the members of Congress who, hand-in-hand with these special interests, are marching the Clean Air Act off a cliff.

At the very same time that these women and men draw breath, they are working to derail and delay clean air protections with a vigor that suggests there isn't a set of functioning lungs between them.

To confront this audacity, Earthjustice helped to bring a diverse group of doctors, nurses, faith and tribal leaders, and environmental justice advocates to Washington, D.C. earlier this month for an event dubbed 50 States United for Healthy Air. These 80 Clean Air Ambassadors, who came from all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, met with members of Congress, the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency to defend our right to breathe. Rev. Dr. Michael Stinson, one of the ambassadors, stated their purpose clearly: "We are people from all 50 states with a passion for one issue—clean air."

As part of an online storytelling project, Earthjustice staff asked the ambassadors to express in a sentence what clean air is to them. Their sentences read like axioms, as they elucidate core realities and challenges of this issue.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
17 May 2011, 2:06 PM
Protections against boiler pollution are put on hold after polluter pressure

Shame on the Environmental Protection Agency. Yesterday afternoon, the agency decided that it would postpone indefinitely a new health standard finalized a few months ago that would reduce toxic air pollution from industrial boilers. These small power plants are used at larger industrial facilities like oil refineries and chemical plants—more than 13,000 of them are in operation across the country. In the aggregate, they are among the worst emitters of mercury, chromium, lead, arsenic, dioxins and other hazardous air pollutants.

But rather than clean up their pollution, the EPA decided instead to cave to the polluters and some members of Congress who began ramping up the pressure during the mid-term elections. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Since December, the administration has slowed review and implementations of several closely watched regulations, including two affecting the powerful coal industry: ash disposal and mountaintop-removal mining.”

It seems to be politics as usual with this EPA. According to the agency’s own assessment, the projected pollution cuts from industrial boilers would have saved up to 6,500 lives every year, and outweighed the costs to industry by $22 billion to $54 billion annually. But the delay in implementing these pollution cuts will now cost 6,500 lives, 4,000 non-fatal heart attacks and 4,300 hospital and emergency room visits for every year that we wait.

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