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.
The Latest On: Clean Air Act
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.
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.
We talk about the importance of clean air a lot on these digital pages, but I could never express that sentiment as eloquently as the Clean Air Ambassadors who went to Washington, D.C. last week. Take, for example, the words of Dr. Lynn Ringenberg, a pediatrician from Tampa Bay, Florida.
Coal cares. It really does. So we're told, at least, by a new website that offers free inhalers to asthmatic youngsters. The Puff-Puff inhalers come adorned with all sorts of kiddie icons: Elmo, Dora the Explorer and a little old heartthrob by the name of Justin Bieber, who takes breath away in a different way.
Question: What happens when you mix Lady Gaga, clean air and a Basque flash mob?
Answer: This video.
Gipuzkoa Zero Waste, a group organized against a waste incineration plant that will be built in San Sebastian, Spain, spent seven months organizing the song and dance routine—which is set to the tune of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” More than 2000 people participated in the demand for clean air.
In the words of asthma sufferers, asthma feels:
“Like you’re in a pool of water. You can’t breathe. And when you try to breathe it don’t work.”
“Like you put a pillow over your face and pushed it. It’s horrible! You feel desperate because you can’t breathe.”
“Like you wish you could still be playing outside, where the air could be cleaner.”
The Clean Air Ambassadors who arrived yesterday in Washington, D.C. have some amazing stories to tell, and I spent the better part of yesterday hearing them. Alexandra Allred from Midlothian, TX described a day she spent outside with her son Tommy—a day when he didn’t suffer his usual respiratory issues and could play carefree, like a kid again. “I had my son back,” she told me.