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 November 2011, 5:10 PM
Nearly 36,000 deaths could be prevented every year by tighter soot standards

Sometimes, little things cause big problems. The tiny particles in soot pollution are 1/30th the width of a strand of your hair, and yet those tiny particles may be responsible for the premature deaths of tens of thousands of Americans every year.

Earthjustice, Clean Air Task Force and the American Lung Association released a report today—titled Sick of Soot—that shows nearly 36,000 premature deaths could be prevented in the U.S. every year if the Environmental Protection Agency strengthens the health standards for soot pollution.

In 2009, following an Earthjustice lawsuit, a federal court found that the EPA's current standards are inadequate to protect public health and ordered the agency to update them. Nearly three years later, the EPA hasn't budged. So today, in addition to co-releasing Sick of Soot, Earthjustice went back to the same federal court—on behalf of the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund and National Parks Conservation Association—and asked it to set a deadline for the EPA to issue stronger soot standards.

"The EPA needs to start moving in a different direction," said Earthjustice attorney David Baron. "Sick of Soot points the way."

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
01 November 2011, 1:24 PM
The economy needs regulation to get going
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)

Today, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)—that's "Ice-uh" for those unfamiliar with the congressman—ran a hearing in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about pollution from coal-fired power plants. The hearing unfolded roughly as expected, with one side—repped by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli—arguing that clean air standards are job-killers, and the other side—repped by Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe—countering that the tremendous health benefits of reducing toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants vastly outweigh the costs.

Now, enter Dr. Josh Bivens, the third witness at the hearing, who laid out an economic argument worth mentioning here, as it provided some refreshing clarity. Dr. Bivens, who works at the Economic Policy Institute, argued that now is precisely the time that we should be regulating big toxic polluters like the coal-fired power industry.

Because of the Great Recession, rather than spending their cash reserves on job-creating investments, big industries are just sitting on them. This is called a liquidity trap. Bivens argued that government regulations—e.g. clean air standards—are a great way to get these companies to start spending those reserves. In other words, the money that industry spends to comply with clean air standards will actually be highly beneficial for the economy. Factor in the substantial health benefits that accrue to the public when dirty coal plants install pollution control technology to control their toxic air emissions, and these clean air standards look even more like a no-brainer.

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View Jessica Goddard's blog posts
26 October 2011, 10:10 AM
Climate change effect on oceans

If ancient Greek polytheism defined our belief system, we would be well into an era of ritual sacrifices seeking to pacify the sea god, Poseidon.

Island and coastal cities fear full submersion as oscillating and extreme weather patterns take headlines more than ever. Hurricanes and tropical storms are growing in size and destructiveness. Costal reefs are in peril as calcium carbonate (“food” for coral reef skeletons) disappears with rises in ocean acidity and sea pollution. Sea ice is melting and receding in the Arctic and Argentina. And land ice (frozen fresh water) continues to melt at an accelerated rate in Antarctica. Climate change and increased surface temperatures are impacting our oceans as you read.

We at Earthjustice are leaving the skeptics behind. Let’s consider the facts: the average reach of ice in the Arctic in September 2011 (yearly minimum) was 4.61 million square kilometers. That’s 2.43 million square kilometers below the average from 1979 to 2000. This reflects an average monthly decline of 11.5 percent per decade. In Antarctica, NASA satellites show an annual decrease in ice coverage of more than 100 cubic kilometers (24 cubic miles) since 2002.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
25 October 2011, 2:08 PM
Congress hides behind weak economic numbers
Lisa Heinzerling

In the back and forth between climate skeptics and conservationists, we’ve clearly got two things on our side (although many of our foes would argue this): science and the law.

This point was clearly delineated during a panel discussing the congressional attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency (and the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act) at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Miami last week.

“Those rules are required by law,” said Lisa Heinzerling, a Georgetown law professor who is a former EPA official and most notably argued the landmark Massachusetts v. EPA Supreme Court case.

Heinzerling was referring to several EPA rules that GOP lawmakers have taken aim at, among them one that would rein in pollution from cement plants, and another rule to curb pollution from industrial boilers.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
14 October 2011, 2:45 PM
House of Reps steers country toward the rocks

Somewhere along the road from their home districts to their offices in Washington, D.C., our Congressional representatives got their wires crossed. The American public sent them forth with a mandate to run the country, but instead, they're ruining it.

Toward the end of September, the House passed the first piece of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) Toxic Agenda: H.R. 2401, the so-called TRAIN Act—an absolute wreck of public policy. It ties to the tracks and threatens to run over two clean air standards that would prevent up to 51,000 premature deaths every year and generate $420 billion in annual economic benefits by cleaning up dirty coal plants.

Does America support Cantor's agenda? Do we want to board a crazy train bound for a future of dirty air, more disease and shorter lives? The answer, not surprisingly, is No. NO.

Recent polling shows that 75 percent of voters—including 62 percent of Cantor's party—think that the Environmental Protection Agency, not Congress, should make decisions about clean air standards. Large majorities are also against delaying (67 percent) or blocking (76 percent) the clean air standards that Cantor's TRAIN wreck is colliding with.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
12 October 2011, 1:45 PM
Breathing turns out to be a bipartisan business

The title of this post isn't a revelation. If it's surprising at all, it's only because there is one highly visible place where it just isn't true: Congress.

The Republican leadership is working hard to make the legislative branch of our government a kind of Bermuda triangle where clean air standards disappear mysteriously down a smokestack never to be seen again. For example, the House of Representatives last week voted 262 to 161 to outright exempt cement kilns—one of the largest sources of mercury pollution in the nation—from the Clean Air Act.

If the bill in question (H.R. 2681) were to become law, it would ensure that between 900 and 2,500 people die preventable deaths due to air pollution every year. Thousands more would suffer from asthma and heart attacks, cases of bronchitis and other respiratory distress. Despite these unconscionable impacts to the public's health, only two Republicans in the entire House opposed the bill—less than 1 percent of all House Republicans.

OK. So supposing that members of Congress are actually the direct representatives of the people, do you think that less than 1 percent of registered Republican voters in the U.S. support clean air protections? Absolutely not!

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
11 October 2011, 10:17 AM
After rejecting ozone standards, groups challenge EPA's decision

Yes, we did it. For the past month several reporters have been asking us about our litigation plans following the EPA’s scrapping of a stronger ozone standard Sept. 2  as directed by the White House.

Today we represent the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council and Appalachian Mountain Club in a petition filed against EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and the U.S. EPA.

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View Alexandra Allred's blog posts
05 October 2011, 12:35 PM
Bill to exempt cement plants from Clean Air Act is dirty business
Cement kiln in Midlothian, where I live.

My name is Alex Allred. I live in a town that is surrounded by three cement plants. Two of our elementary schools were declared among the most toxic in the nation. Today, the House of Representatives is debating a bill—H.R. 2681—that could have a big impact on my health, my family's health, my community's health, and the health of communities all across America that are in the shadow of cement plants.

I worked with Earthjustice for many years to get the Environmental Protection Agency to issue strong air pollution standards for cement plants—the 2nd worst mercury polluters in the nation. Mercury exposure can cause birth defects and damage babies' developing brains. When the EPA finally did issue those strong standards last summer, we rejoiced. But H.R. 2681 threatens to take all of that away. It would exempt cement plants from the Clean Air Act and encourage those facilities to burn tires and other industrial garbage without controlling the toxic pollution that results.

H.R. 2681 will hurt families like mine but won't do a single thing to preserve or create jobs. Its supporters claim it is a cure for what ails us economically, but they haven't produced any evidence to support that. Meanwhile, EPA findings and independent studies consistently show that clean air is good for the economy! I know firsthand that it is good for my family.

I'd like to make an offer to the supporters of H.R. 2681: If you think that clean air isn't important, I invite ... no, I beg you to come to my home town. Please. I have been trying to sell my home for years. Please come buy my house. Allow me to leave my town that is surrounded by three cement plants, that has two elementary schools that were named as being the most toxic elementary schools in the nation! Come to my hometown and go to some of the fundraisers for children who are having unexplained seizures, see what it's like to attend funerals for 15-year-olds, and visit with a growing number of children with disabilities. Don't just read the reports or hear the pleas of concerned parents. Come. Visit. See for yourselves.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
04 October 2011, 1:59 PM
Dirty burning bills up for a vote this week

Quick! Somebody tell Tipper Gore that "clean air" and "public health" are now considered dirty words. Well, at least in the U.S. House of Representatives. If the House had a swear jar, I'd bet such utterances would be as punishable as your garden variety expletives.

Here's why: The House is voting this week on two bills that will trample clean air and public health if passed. H.R. 2250 and H.R. 2681 exempt industrial boilers, incinerators and cement plants from the Clean Air Act and actually encourage many such facilities to burn industrial garbage—think tires, scrap plastics, used chemicals and other waste—without controlling, monitoring or reporting the air pollution that results.

Imagine if you came home from work one day to find your neighbor setting fire to a heap of garbage in the backyard, fumes drifting over the fence into your yard and your home. You'd be outraged, no doubt, and rightfully so. Should the reaction be any different if the neighbor just happens to be a cement plant, a chemical plant or some other big industrial facility?

View John McManus's blog posts
30 September 2011, 11:39 AM
Earthjustice asks court to cancel lease of massive coal mine

Earlier this week, Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine went to court to argue that the state of Montana was legally required to consider steps to minimize the consequences of burning more than a half-a-billion tons of coal before leasing it to St. Louis-based Arch Coal, Inc. Earthjustice is representing the Montana Environmental Information Center and the Sierra Club in a lawsuit asking the court to cancel the lease so that the state may study options for minimizing or avoiding the environmental consequences of this massive strip mine.

Arch Coal also has leased coal on adjacent private lands, which combined with the state-leased coal, amount to 1.3 billion tons. If developed, the Otter Creek strip mine would be one of the largest coal mines in the country. Arch is making plans to ship at least a portion of this coal to Asia by way of west coast ports. Once burned, the coal will emit billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, not to mention mercury, lead and a host of other nasty byproducts.

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