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.
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The buzz is heightening. The Sundance official selection documentary The Last Mountain is arriving at theaters across America beginning this weekend in Washington, DC, and New York City. Throughout June, it will open in 18 other cities, bringing this film -- on the frightening effects of destructive mountaintop removal mining-- to the biggest metropolitan markets in the nation.
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.
Coal company tries to brainwash school kids
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.”
Alex Allred and her family are surrounded by cement. Not concrete, which is made from cement, but the big industrial facilities that crush and heat limestone to make cement. She lives in Midlothian, TX, an area known locally as “The Cement Capital of Texas,” a distinction that Alex and her family cannot appreciate. Her son eight-year-old son, Tommy, has asthma. His visits to the hospital emergency room are too numerous to remember. His asthma attacks hit him like a tank, unexpected and relentless.
The Clean Air Ambassadors who arrived yesterday in Washington, D.C. have some amazing stories to tell, and I spent the better part of yesterday hearing them. Alexandra Allred from Midlothian, TX described a day she spent outside with her son Tommy—a day when he didn’t suffer his usual respiratory issues and could play carefree, like a kid again. “I had my son back,” she told me.
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.