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Environmental Protection Agency

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.

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.

In the words of asthma sufferers, asthma feels:

“Like you’re in a pool of water. You can’t breathe. And when you try to breathe it don’t work.”

“Like you put a pillow over your face and pushed it. It’s horrible! You feel desperate because you can’t breathe.”

“Like you wish you could still be playing outside, where the air could be cleaner.”

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.

More than half of U.S. residents—154 million people—suffer from polluted air that is often too dirty to breathe. This troubling statistic comes by way of the American Lung Association’s most recent State of the Air report. In 366 counties across the country, residents are inhaling dangerous levels of ozone pollution and fine particles, which are a major cause of premature death.

Several House members and right-wing bloggers believed they struck gold after House members indulged in a bit of chicanery at an April 15th Environment and Energy subcommittee hearing on a bill to remove EPA’s authority to establish strong coal ash regulations. The ruse started when Rep. Cory Gardner (R, CO) excerpted a single sentence from a 242-page Regulatory Impact Analysis prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposed rule to regulate disposal of coal ash.  

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:

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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. Learn more about Earthjustice.