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Clean Air Act

A few months ago, Earthjustice campaign manager Kathleen Sutcliffe came to me with an interesting request—she wanted to tell an uplifting story about fracking. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a drilling technique that involves blasting chemically treated water into the earth to release oil and gas trapped in underground rock formations.

Today, another indication comes that some members of Congress don't breathe the same air as their constituents. Politico is reporting (subs. req'd) that House Republicans will soon introduce legislation to delay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to reduce the amount of cancer-causing, asthma-inducing, premature death-dealing pollutants in the air we all breathe—some congresspersons excepted, apparently.

Clean air isn't a partisan issue, although that's admittedly easy to forget if you're following the ongoing congressional clash over clean air protections (which sometimes seems as wide as the gap between the Grand Canyon's north and south rims). The American public certainly isn't so divided. A large majority—which includes citizens who identify as Republican, Democrat and independent voters—wants clean air health protections.

Port Arthur, Texas is home to a high density of oil refineries, chemical plants and hazardous waste facilities that have made the Gulf Coast city one of the most polluted in America. Asthma and cancer rates in the largely African-American neighborhood known as West Side—which sits at the fenceline of Port Arthur's heavy industry—are among the highest in the state.

People who suffer from asthma often say an attack feels like breathing through a pool of water or with a pillow covering their face. Unfortunately, millions of Americans know all too well what that's like.

In the United States, asthma is a bona fide public health epidemic: 17 million adults and 7 million children suffer from the disease. Every year, our society pays in excess of $53 billion to treat it. Millions of asthmatics, including hundreds of thousands of kids, make visits to the emergency room for medical attention. And in thousands of severe cases, people die.

The Senate just voted to reject four—count 'em 1-2-3-4—bad amendments that would strangle and block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from being able to limit dangerous carbon dioxide pollution from the nation's biggest polluters.

These Dirty Air Acts went down in the upper chamber today because enough of the Senate still obviously believes that the well-being, future and health of Americans are more important than corporate special interests.

(This is the second in a series of Q & As with Earthjustice staff who work to protect our nation's forests and their critical natural resources and wildlife. Protecting our national forests, in particular, is essential for the future of our nation. The Obama administration recently proposed new planning rules that may leave our National Forests in peril.

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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.