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Environmental Protection Agency

Juliet once said to Romeo: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Were Juliet as concerned by toxic air pollution as love, the fair Capulet might have instead philosophized: "That which we call hazardous waste by any other name would pollute as much when burned."

Breathing isn't a choice. Everyone does it, no matter where they live. But for many Americans, where they live has a tremendous impact on the quality of the air they breathe.

Take a look at Mossville, Louisiana for instance, which is home to 14 chemical plants. The town's residents are plagued by severe health problems like cancer and kidney disease attributed to pollution from these local facilities.

Last week, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) released a long-awaited discussion draft of their climate and energy bill, the American Power Act. Among the bill's big giveaways to polluters was a surprise invitation to exempt dirty old power plants from clean-up requirements for soot, smog, and toxics such as mercury.

Coal-fired power plants generate enough coal ash every year to fill a train stretching from the North Pole all the way to the South Pole. There is enough coal ash being stored in ponds and landfills to fill 738 Empire State Buildings, or flow continuously over Niagara Falls for three days straight. It's no mystery that we create staggering amounts of coal ash, the dangerous byproduct of burning coal to fuel our energy demands.

It's been a long time coming, but they're finally here: the EPA announced today plans to set the first ever federal safeguards for coal ash, one of America's most dangerous wastes. But what they really did was announce two plans: one good and one bad. The agency will accept public comment on both plans and then decide which to pursue.

Americans can breathe a sigh of relief today, thanks to new rules announced by the Environmental Protection Agency that will reduce toxic air pollution in communities across the country. The rules come three years after Earthjustice and others stopped the Bush administration from deregulating toxic emissions from industrial boilers, incinerators, and process heaters.

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. Einstein, who had a particular knack for coming up with enduring and timeless ideas, may find application in our country's energy landscape today.

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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.