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A power plant located next to a waterway.

Gathered on a grassy knoll outside the Environmental Protection Agency, an unlikely group of advocates came together to support a basic human necessity. These campaigners, representing organizations ranging from the National Hispanic Medical Association to the Catawba Riverkeepers, found a common denominator in the importance of appealing for a strong ELG standard—making a statement that clean water is essential for everyone.

There is a running joke in my hometown about the glowing green fish and three-headed salamanders in Lake Julian. Nestled in the center of Arden, North Carolina, and surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, this lake was once the picturesque centerpiece of the quaint Southern town. But thanks to the pollution from Progress Energy’s nearby coal ash pond, these jokes aren’t far from the truth.

President Obama is good at bold words, and he’s delivered quite a few of them on the need for action on climate change in the last nine months. There was his speech upon being re-elected; his 2013 State of the Union (in which he promised to act unilaterally on climate change if Congress wouldn’t); and most recently his speech at the Brandenburg Gate in which he rightly labeled climate change “the global threat of our time.”

Recent sampling of paths constructed of coal ash near J.L. Wilkinson Elementary School in Middleburg, Florida reveal high levels of vanadium, a hazardous substance linked to cardiovascular disease and nervous system damage. Vanadium levels were up to seven times higher than levels deemed safe for residential soil by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

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