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Congress v. The Environment

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.

On Thursday morning, the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, will begin a two-part hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) policies on mountaintop removal mining. The committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) is calling the hearings “EPA Mining Policies: Assault on Appalachian Jobs – Part I and Part II.

The faces of Earthjustice's Mountain Heroes, those courageous people from the coalfields whose lives are afflicted by mountaintop removal mining and who are standing up against it, are now staring down politicians in Congress and their staffs, as well as White House and agency staff, reminding them that they are allowing this abuse to continue. 

Well, it's true that here on a blog, the currency is words. We're supposed to tell stories through our prose. But today I'm going to go easy on the blog and yield the storytelling to a small collection of witty, beautiful, foot-stomping and surreal art by people who are mastering other mediums to talk about mountaintop removal mining:

Last week we wrote about an effort by three Republican members of the House of Representatives to repeal the Roadless Area Conservation Rule that protects nearly 60 million acres of unspoiled lands on the national forests and to deny the Bureau of Land Management's authority to declare its unspoiled areas "wilderness study areas" and protect them until Congress can decide whether to give them permanent protection.

How should America's 190 million acres of national forest be managed?  Nine Republican congressmen, led by Rep. Stevan Pearce of New Mexico, have the answer in a bill introduced last month:  Forests are for logging. And to hell with everything else.

The bill, H.R. 1202, is short and not-so-sweet. The meat of the bill is a single sentence: 

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.

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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.