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A thousand political fires are burning in Washington, D.C., as members of the House of Representatives hijack the budgeting process. They aim to torch critical environmental safeguards—from endangered species protections to standards that keep our air and water clean.

Their strategy? Since Congress has to pass a spending bill that funds government agencies—the EPA, Forest Service and others—anti-environmental representatives think they can slip bitter pills into the bill and make the country swallow.

Anyone who has seen the “Planet Earth” episode on jungles has witnessed the colorful plumes and remarkable displays of the Birds of Paradise.

But when you’re hiking (read: struggling) through the dense growth of Papua New Guinea’s rainforest, one of the world’s largest at over 100,000 square miles and home to 38 of the 43 Bird of Paradise species, it’s pretty difficult to catch a glimpse these magnificent birds.

A major new scientific study shows significantly higher rates of birth defects in areas of heavy mountaintop removal mining, even after controlling for a range of other contributing factors. The study found that living near a mountaintop removal site poses a much greater risk to unborn babies than smoking during pregnancy. More than double the risk!

The 112th Session of the House of Representatives is at it again, doing what they do best: writing legislation to strike and block the clean air and clean water laws that keep us alive and healthy.

It was a dark day in the House of Representatives, today, as the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure passed a bill that would flush away decades of water safeguards and protections, along with our powerful federal system for ensuring that any waters in this country are safe to drink, fish, and swim in.

Last month, Sarah Bucic—a nurse from Delaware—went to Washington, D.C. as part of the "50 States United for Healthy Air" event to defend the right to breathe clean air. Today, she went back to do it again.

Midway through her testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sarah—who testified on behalf of the American Nurses Association—pulled out a straw and held it up. It was skinny, the kind you might use to stir your coffee or tea—a toothpick passed through one end would more likely get stuck than fall through the other side.

Air doesn't fare much better. During an asthma attack, Sarah said, a person's airway constricts to roughly the size of that straw. In nursing school, she and her classmates were instructed to pinch their noses and breathe only through the straw to simulate what an attack feels like. Her demonstration was a powerful moment.

The hearing room on the 4th floor of the Dirksen Senate Office building was packed—so packed that some onlookers stood in the back of the room to see the action unfold. All had gathered earlier today for "Air Quality and Children's Health," a hearing before members of two subcommittees of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Before a panel of senators sat five witnesses—two of them with the shameful purpose of arguing against air quality standards that protect children's health.

This week more than 600 concerned citizens will participate in the largest mass mobilization against mountaintop removal mining that this country has ever seen, Appalachia Rising: The March on Blair Mountain.

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