Posts tagged: mercury

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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.

ABOUT EARTHJUSTICE'S BLOG

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 Marty Hayden's blog posts
16 December 2011, 4:31 PM
Arctic rider snuck into year-end funding legislation
(Florian Schulz /visionsofthewild.com)

It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about the great big man in the red suit and last-minute Christmas shopping.

I’m talking about the House GOP majority trying to deliver on their year-long assault on environmental and public health protections in the last two bills that will be passed by Congress this year.

The first is the omnibus spending bill that was passed by the House and Senate today. For the past two weeks, the GOP House Leadership and Appropriations Chairs have had a priority list of anti-environmental policy riders they had to have in any final spending bill. Some of those at the top of the list included blocking measures to require the clean up of industrial boilers and incinerators, cement kilns and power plants, and attempts to railroad Clean Water Act protections for streams, rivers and lakes. Removing protections for gray wolves in Wyoming and the Midwest were also on the list.

Thanks to the efforts of the White House, and Senate and House Democrats, none of these anti-environmental riders will become law in the final spending bill. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the Arctic. A last-minute, backroom deal tacked on a measure that excludes oil companies from complying with Clean Air Act protections in the Arctic.

View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
12 December 2011, 12:06 PM
First-time rules for coal-power toxics are due Friday
How tough will President Obama be on coal plant pollution?

This Friday, the Obama administration has the historic opportunity to rein in a coal industry that has been allowed to pour toxic emissions like mercury, benzene and arsenic into our lives without limit.

There’s little question that the administration will set limits – the law requires it and the courts have ordered it. The question, and the opportunity facing Obama, is how strong those limits will be.

For more than two decades, the powerful coal industry has dodged stricter pollution limits while countless other industries have cleaned up their acts. They have operated without national restraints on the amount of mercury and other toxic air pollution released from power plant smokestacks. The court order ending this free pass is the result of relentless Earthjustice litigation.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
07 December 2011, 12:47 PM
The nation's worst toxic air polluters need to be better neighbors
Hatfield's Ferry coal plant. Photo: Chris Jordan / Earthjustice

Imagine you live in a neighborhood full of families. There are many nice people, but a few households are real menaces. They're loud, they burn things in the backyard, and they drive around so fast that you're worried they're going to run someone down

The neighborhood bands together and one-by-one succeeds in getting these menaces to settle down. But there's a holdout—and it's the worst of all. The noise from that place is tremendous, the fires they burn are bigger than anyone's, and they drive with their eyes closed.

Meet the power plant family, America's worst toxic air polluters.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
30 November 2011, 2:56 PM
A strong call for coal plants in Chicago, and everywhere, to clean up
Ian Viteri, a community organizer with LVEJO, at the 50 States United for Healthy Air event.

What's it like to live in the shadow of a smokestack?

Ask Kim Wasserman, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and a resident of Chicago's Little Village neighborhood—a culturally vibrant area on the city's west side that many, including Wasserman, refer to as the "Mexican capital of the Midwest."

Wasserman and her family live less than one mile from the Crawford coal-fired power plant, which is owned by Midwest Generation. The same company owns another plant in Chicago, the Fisk, which is in the Pilsen neighborhood in the northeast part of the city. Pollution from these two plants has galvanized strong calls from grassroots groups—LVEJO, PERRO and others—for the plants to clean up their dirty ways. Wasserman makes the call beautifully in an op-ed published today in the Chicago Tribune.

It begins:

I'm Peter's mom. He's that 6-year-old on those ads on the "L" trains or on billboards around town. You know, the one with the inhaler, the one he's been using since he was 3. That makes him luckier than his older brother Anthony, who developed his asthma at 3 months. When Anthony had his first asthma attack, I didn't know much about it. When he was struggling to breathe you could see his little rib cage. I learned that that was a telltale sign.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
30 November 2011, 11:23 AM
EPA will issue final toxic air standards for power plants

Mark your calendars. Dec. 16 is going to be a big deal—particularly for families with children across the country. I know that Alvin, Simon and Theodore are getting Chipwrecked that day, but that's not what I'm thinking about. There's something even bigger coming down: the Environmental Protection Agency is going to release final standards to clean up mercury and other health-damaging toxic air pollutants from power plants.

Mercury is a serious threat to fetuses and young children—it can cause brain damage and other kinds of developmental problems. Power plants are far and away the biggest industrial sources of it. Collectively, in 2010, they emitted more than 33 tons of mercury. The EPA's draft standard, issued last March, would cut mercury emissions from power plants by 90 percent. Power plant pollution also causes serious respiratory problems—aggravated asthma attacks, for example—and even premature death. The EPA's draft rule would prevent as many as 17,000 premature deaths every year.

To draw attention to the upcoming announcement, the American Lung Association is running a hard-hitting commercial that highlights the impact of power plant air pollution on kids' health.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
17 November 2011, 3:38 PM
EPA's clean-up of toxic air pollution remains unfulfilled
Not only will clean air standards have a tremendous impact on the health of the American public, they will also create thousands of new utility jobs.
(Chris Jordan / Earthjustice)

In 1990, Congress gave the Environmental Protection Agency a very important homework assignment: protect the American public from mercury, lead, benzene, dioxins and other invisible toxic air pollutants, because what we can't see can hurt us.

Twenty-one years later, these dangerous pollutants are still pouring forth in large quantities from smokestacks across the country. Some of the nation's biggest polluters—cement kilns, industrial boilers and coal-fired power plants—are going to have to cut down on their toxic pollution as the Clean Air Act requires, have yet to do so.

In many cases, the reason is that the EPA has time and again failed to turn in its homework—critical clean air standards that require industries to install pollution controls that are readily available and affordable. Pressure and opposition from industry has routinely been a roadblock. In this way, polluting industries and their allies in Congress have played the part of the dog, scarfing the standards that would cause dirty industries to clean up their facilities. But even when the EPA has turned in clean air standards to clean up polluters, more often than not they are covered in industry's slobber—watered down and full of loopholes that benefit polluters.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
10 November 2011, 12:33 PM
Regulators dismiss residents' concerns about cement plant in Kansas

As part of the Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities series, NPR investigated the toxic air pollution being pumped out of the Ash Grove cement plant in Chanute, Kansas, a town of roughly 9,000 people.

The Ash Grove facility, which emits some 500 pounds of mercury a year when operating full blast, is not violating any air pollution standard. In fact, it essentially has permission to pollute the air with four times the allowed amount of certain toxic pollutants. The reason: loopholes in the form of permits that allow cement plants to burn hazardous waste as fuel. The problem:  these kilns can pump out several times the amount of lead, cadmium and mercury that is allowed by actual hazardous waste incinerators, according to NPR.

“The problem with cement plants that burn hazardous waste is that they are not designed to burn hazardous waste,” Earthjustice's Jim Pew was quoted in the segment saying. “In my view it’s a loophole for the cement industry.”

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
14 October 2011, 2:45 PM
House of Reps steers country toward the rocks

Somewhere along the road from their home districts to their offices in Washington, D.C., our Congressional representatives got their wires crossed. The American public sent them forth with a mandate to run the country, but instead, they're ruining it.

Toward the end of September, the House passed the first piece of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) Toxic Agenda: H.R. 2401, the so-called TRAIN Act—an absolute wreck of public policy. It ties to the tracks and threatens to run over two clean air standards that would prevent up to 51,000 premature deaths every year and generate $420 billion in annual economic benefits by cleaning up dirty coal plants.

Does America support Cantor's agenda? Do we want to board a crazy train bound for a future of dirty air, more disease and shorter lives? The answer, not surprisingly, is No. NO.

Recent polling shows that 75 percent of voters—including 62 percent of Cantor's party—think that the Environmental Protection Agency, not Congress, should make decisions about clean air standards. Large majorities are also against delaying (67 percent) or blocking (76 percent) the clean air standards that Cantor's TRAIN wreck is colliding with.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
12 October 2011, 1:45 PM
Breathing turns out to be a bipartisan business

The title of this post isn't a revelation. If it's surprising at all, it's only because there is one highly visible place where it just isn't true: Congress.

The Republican leadership is working hard to make the legislative branch of our government a kind of Bermuda triangle where clean air standards disappear mysteriously down a smokestack never to be seen again. For example, the House of Representatives last week voted 262 to 161 to outright exempt cement kilns—one of the largest sources of mercury pollution in the nation—from the Clean Air Act.

If the bill in question (H.R. 2681) were to become law, it would ensure that between 900 and 2,500 people die preventable deaths due to air pollution every year. Thousands more would suffer from asthma and heart attacks, cases of bronchitis and other respiratory distress. Despite these unconscionable impacts to the public's health, only two Republicans in the entire House opposed the bill—less than 1 percent of all House Republicans.

OK. So supposing that members of Congress are actually the direct representatives of the people, do you think that less than 1 percent of registered Republican voters in the U.S. support clean air protections? Absolutely not!

View Alexandra Allred's blog posts
05 October 2011, 12:35 PM
Bill to exempt cement plants from Clean Air Act is dirty business
Cement kiln in Midlothian, where I live.

My name is Alex Allred. I live in a town that is surrounded by three cement plants. Two of our elementary schools were declared among the most toxic in the nation. Today, the House of Representatives is debating a bill—H.R. 2681—that could have a big impact on my health, my family's health, my community's health, and the health of communities all across America that are in the shadow of cement plants.

I worked with Earthjustice for many years to get the Environmental Protection Agency to issue strong air pollution standards for cement plants—the 2nd worst mercury polluters in the nation. Mercury exposure can cause birth defects and damage babies' developing brains. When the EPA finally did issue those strong standards last summer, we rejoiced. But H.R. 2681 threatens to take all of that away. It would exempt cement plants from the Clean Air Act and encourage those facilities to burn tires and other industrial garbage without controlling the toxic pollution that results.

H.R. 2681 will hurt families like mine but won't do a single thing to preserve or create jobs. Its supporters claim it is a cure for what ails us economically, but they haven't produced any evidence to support that. Meanwhile, EPA findings and independent studies consistently show that clean air is good for the economy! I know firsthand that it is good for my family.

I'd like to make an offer to the supporters of H.R. 2681: If you think that clean air isn't important, I invite ... no, I beg you to come to my home town. Please. I have been trying to sell my home for years. Please come buy my house. Allow me to leave my town that is surrounded by three cement plants, that has two elementary schools that were named as being the most toxic elementary schools in the nation! Come to my hometown and go to some of the fundraisers for children who are having unexplained seizures, see what it's like to attend funerals for 15-year-olds, and visit with a growing number of children with disabilities. Don't just read the reports or hear the pleas of concerned parents. Come. Visit. See for yourselves.

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