Posts tagged: environmental justice

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environmental justice


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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 Sam Edmondson's blog posts
24 May 2011, 12:31 PM
Community members in Philly and Chicago speak out for health protections

Environmental Protection Agency hearings today in Philadelphia and Chicago drew crowds of clean air advocates—including a man who described the "smell of death" from a coal-fired power plant in his town.

The hearings are focused on a proposal to clean up mercury and other toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants, our nation's worst polluters. While these citizens are on hand delivering messages to the EPA in person, you can add your voice by sending a public comment via email.

Earthjustice staff are at the Philadelphia hearing to testify and hear citizens who want cleaner air and healthier communities. One such citizen is Sarah Bucic of the Delaware Nurses Association, who was also a Clean Air Ambassador at the 50 States United for Healthy Air event held in Washington, D.C. this month. Sarah expressed concern about the impact of toxic air pollution on children's health: "Mothers should not have to worry if their air and water is safe or if their own breast milk contains toxicants," she said.

Ed, a fisherman from St. College, PA, told the EPA staff on hand that his favorite stream in the state is the Susquehanna, but he can't eat the fish he catches because mercury levels are too high. It pains him to explain this to his young nephew when they go fishing.

View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
19 May 2011, 10:31 AM
Community representatives make the case for clean air

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.

To confront this audacity, Earthjustice helped to bring a diverse group of doctors, nurses, faith and tribal leaders, and environmental justice advocates to Washington, D.C. earlier this month for an event dubbed 50 States United for Healthy Air. These 80 Clean Air Ambassadors, who came from all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, met with members of Congress, the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency to defend our right to breathe. Rev. Dr. Michael Stinson, one of the ambassadors, stated their purpose clearly: "We are people from all 50 states with a passion for one issue—clean air."

As part of an online storytelling project, Earthjustice staff asked the ambassadors to express in a sentence what clean air is to them. Their sentences read like axioms, as they elucidate core realities and challenges of this issue.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
11 May 2011, 10:00 AM
Pictures tell a story of the future Clean Air Ambassadors want to see

We talk about the importance of clean air a lot on these digital pages, but I could never express that sentiment as eloquently as the Clean Air Ambassadors who went to Washington, D.C. last week. Take, for example, the words of Dr. Lynn Ringenberg, a pediatrician from Tampa Bay, Florida.

Dr. Lynn Ringenberg

Lynn Ringenberg: This photo really has special meaning to me because it was taken at a beautiful, pristine beach in Florida with a baby that was about a year old—one of my resident's children. I've been a pediatrician for over 30 years, and although kids are 33 percent of the current population, they're 100 percent of the future. And we need to make sure to protect that future, and especially their health. The Clean Air Act is the way to do that.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
10 May 2011, 9:25 AM
Spoof site draws attention to asthma epidemic through humor
The Bieber model of Puff-Puff inhalers.

Coal cares. It really does. So we're told, at least, by a new website that offers free inhalers to asthmatic youngsters. The Puff-Puff inhalers come adorned with all sorts of kiddie icons: Elmo, Dora the Explorer and a little old heartthrob by the name of Justin Bieber, who takes breath away in a different way. The inhalers are meant to help "American youngsters with asthma…to keep their heads high in the face of those who would treat them with less than full dignity."

It wasn't until after I'd finished the Asthmaze (which you can struggle through in the Kidz Koal Korner) that I was struck by a suspicion that the website is a parody. Actually, I'd also already colored in the Puff and Ash dress-up cartoon before the realization hit, but I love playing with crayons.

And indeed, soon after I set the crayons down, a statement from Peabody Energy, the target of the parody website, hit my inbox.

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
04 May 2011, 1:27 PM
House subcommittee on water sets stage, but does America buy the act?
Rep. Bob Gibbs

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.

Judging from the name, do you think this hearing by the representative body of our democratic government will be fair and balanced? Reasoned and informed? Democratic?

Just in case you think a fair and informed hearing is an outside possibility, I present to you:

Exhibit A: The Witness List:

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
04 May 2011, 8:12 AM
One in 10 children, one in 12 adults suffer from asthma.
Courtesy Univ. of Maryland

Asthma Awareness Month kicked off with grim news. The New York Times reports today that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report that finds almost one in 12 Americans and one in 10 children are suffering the effects of asthma. The report showed that African-American children are most acutely affected, with nearly one in five afflicted, a significant increase from just 10 years ago when one in nine African-American children were diagnosed with asthma.

This sharp increase baffles researchers, but the numbers do not lie: more Americans are suffering from asthma than ever before. It’s likely that many reading this blog either suffer from asthma  or know a friend or family member who does. There are many triggers for an asthma attack, such as second-hand smoke, mold or dust. But, big polluters like cement kilns and power plants play a prominent role as well. These facilities pump tons of fine particulate pollution and smog into our air, worsening air quality, triggering asthma attacks and causing asthma to develop in the most vulnerable populations: our children.

The CDC reported that Midwest and Northeast states are suffering the highest incidences of asthma rates in the country.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
03 May 2011, 6:38 AM
Clean Air Ambassadors share inspiring stories, speak truth to power

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.

William Anderson, an ambassador from Nevada and Chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiutes, described the coal fly ash that shrouds his community in a haze of toxic dust, choking local residents and concealing the nearby mountains behind a curtain of miasmal fog.

Kimberly Hill of Detroit, MI told me about residents who live near the Marathon oil refinery, which is expanding to refine tar sands crude oil from Canada—one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on earth. Tucked under a toxic blanket, these residents suffer from respiratory disease and unusual forms of cancer.

The ambassadors’ stories spring from pollution, disease, loss of loved ones and other unsavory challenges that life presents. But more importantly, their stories are charged with hope, perseverance and bravery. Many of the ambassadors arrived to tell their tales having never set foot in Washington, D.C., that inner circle of government life where power concentrates imposingly, and too often to the exclusion of the very people whose votes put the powerful in office. To walk in those halls and sit in those offices to tell Very Important People how vital clean air is to one’s community is an act of bravery by which I am awed and humbled.

View Liz Judge's blog posts
25 April 2011, 3:17 PM
A cartoon, a jammin' new tune and some fine-art photography tell the story
A screen shot of Mark Fiori's site and mountaintop removal cartoon animation

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:

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
11 April 2011, 3:10 PM
Decade-long effort to improve life in Port Arthur wins Kelley the "Green Nobel"
Hilton Kelley in Port Arthur, TX. Photo: Goldman Prize

Port Arthur, Texas is home to a high density of oil refineries, chemical plants and hazardous waste facilities that have made the Gulf Coast city one of the most polluted in America. Asthma and cancer rates in the largely African-American neighborhood known as West Side—which sits at the fenceline of Port Arthur's heavy industry—are among the highest in the state.

But thankfully, Port Arthur is also home to Hilton Kelley, a force-of-nature environmental justice advocate whose tireless efforts in his community have reduced the toxic burden that he and his neighbors bear. Kelley's inspirational work earned him a 2011 Goldman Environmental Prize, which every year goes to six outstanding grassroots environmental heroes (one from every inhabited continent). Mr. Kelley, alongside the five other recipients, will receive the North American award at a ceremony in San Francisco later today.

The 50-year-old Kelley was born in Port Arthur but left in 1979 to pursue a career as a stuntman and actor in television and film. On a visit home in 2000, Kelley was shocked by the decline his hometown was experiencing—though Port Arthur had faced poverty and air pollution in his youth, the prevalence of cancer and respiratory illness, crime and economic hardship he saw was devastating. Resolved to help his community, Kelley returned home and learned all he could about industrial air pollution—and how to stop it.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
07 April 2011, 4:21 PM
New report highlights prevalence, cost of asthma and the need for clean air
Photo: Chris Jordan/Earthjustice

People who suffer from asthma often say an attack feels like breathing through a pool of water or with a pillow covering their face. Unfortunately, millions of Americans know all too well what that's like.

In the United States, asthma is a bona fide public health epidemic: 17 million adults and 7 million children suffer from the disease. Every year, our society pays in excess of $53 billion to treat it. Millions of asthmatics, including hundreds of thousands of kids, make visits to the emergency room for medical attention. And in thousands of severe cases, people die.

The scope of this epidemic, broken down by state, is laid out in a report released yesterday by Health Care Without Harm, The National Association of School Nurses, and The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. The report notes that environmental triggers like air pollution can cause and exacerbate asthma, so it's critically important that we defend existing clean air protections and work for new ones.

No argument here, but many of our elected leaders in Congress apparently don't agree.