Posts tagged: Congress v. The Environment

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Congress v. The Environment


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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 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 Emily Enderle's blog posts
21 October 2011, 10:48 AM
Pals of polluters vote to let coal ash poison our water supplies
Clean-up operations in the aftermath of the 2008 Kingston coal ash spill. (TVA)

On Friday, in a 267–144 vote, a majority of House members voted to keep allowing coal ash to pollute our drinking water. The passage of the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act (H.R. 2273) lets states choose to adopt a disposal standard less protective than those for household garbage.

The bill fails to protect communities from drinking water polluted by arsenic, hexavalent chromium and other cancer-causing chemicals or disasters like the TVA spill. It doesn’t even take the most basic step of eliminating wet disposal ponds, which both EPA’s proposed options include. Further, it doesn’t create a federally enforceable baseline standard and serves solely to establish a toothless regime that treats this ash with fewer protections than household garbage.

Under the leadership of Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), the GOP-controlled House has taken aim at public health and transparency, undermining the efforts of the EPA to use the best available science to complete their public rulemaking addressing coal ash.

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 Terry Winckler's blog posts
14 October 2011, 11:33 AM
Earthjustice President Denounces Vote in Congress
The House has passed legislation that would prevent the EPA from strongly regulating coal ash.

Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen is strongly denouncing a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives today, passing H.R. 2273, which would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from strongly regulating coal ash:

"Nearly three years after the tragic spill of more than 1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash in Kingston, Tennessee, it’s obvious that federally enforceable safeguards for the disposal of this toxic waste are long overdue. In fact, 267 members of the House of Representatives have taken the disturbing step of moving us even further away from this important public safety goal.

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 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 Liz Judge's blog posts
30 September 2011, 8:46 AM
Here are the videos and statements they don't want you to see
Maria Gunnoe: "When the coal industry destroys Appalachia’s water it’s said to be in the best interest of our homeland security."

“They are blowing up my homeland,” said West Virginia coalfield resident Maria Gunnoe on Monday morning, in her sworn testimony on the impacts of mountaintop removal mining before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.

I feel the vibrations of the core driller in the floors of my home; and the impacts of the blasting near my home are horrendous. This is absolutely against everything that America stands for.

When someone destroys water in a foreign country it is called an act of war. When the coal industry destroys Appalachia’s water it’s said to be in the best interest of our homeland security.

My nephew reminds me of what surface mining looks like from a child’s eyes. As we were driving through our community, he looks up and says, ‘Aunt Sissy, what is wrong with these people? Don’t they know we live down here?’ I had to be honest with him and say, ‘Yes, they know. They just simply don’t care.’

Maria’s powerful and moving testimony was a part of the House Subcommittee’s field hearing in West Virginia entitled “Jobs at Risk: Community Impacts of the Obama Administration’s Effort to Rewrite the Stream Buffer Zone Rule.”

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View Brian Smith's blog posts
29 August 2011, 12:05 PM
American people reject agenda by large majorities

Today, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor declared war on regulations that he and his Tea Party backers do not like. Of the ten proposed rollbacks, seven are environmental. Regulations declared “harmful” by Cantor include rules to reduce pollution from power plants, industrial boilers, cement plants, coal ash, ozone, particulate matter and greenhouse gases.

Delaying or cancelling these new pollution standards will seriously impact public health and shorten the lives of thousands, if not millions, of Americans due to pollution related illness.

Luckily, the American people soundly reject Cantor’s attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency. In February, a poll found that 77 percent of Americans (including 61 percent of Republicans) support the notion that "Congress should let the EPA do its job."

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View Emily Enderle's blog posts
29 July 2011, 7:07 AM
H.R. 2584 compromises public health, esp. in environmental justice communities
Millions of Americans are already suffering from asthma. (Chris Jordan / Earthjustice)

The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, FY 2012 (H.R. 2584) is chock-full of riders that protect polluters, not people. This bill makes excessive budget cuts and policy decisions that compromise public health, especially the health of environmental justice communities already disproportionately impacted by pollution. The outrageous cuts have brought together more than 70 groups on a letter to outright oppose H.R.

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