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 Sam Edmondson's blog posts
04 October 2011, 1:59 PM
Dirty burning bills up for a vote this week

Quick! Somebody tell Tipper Gore that "clean air" and "public health" are now considered dirty words. Well, at least in the U.S. House of Representatives. If the House had a swear jar, I'd bet such utterances would be as punishable as your garden variety expletives.

Here's why: The House is voting this week on two bills that will trample clean air and public health if passed. H.R. 2250 and H.R. 2681 exempt industrial boilers, incinerators and cement plants from the Clean Air Act and actually encourage many such facilities to burn industrial garbage—think tires, scrap plastics, used chemicals and other waste—without controlling, monitoring or reporting the air pollution that results.

Imagine if you came home from work one day to find your neighbor setting fire to a heap of garbage in the backyard, fumes drifting over the fence into your yard and your home. You'd be outraged, no doubt, and rightfully so. Should the reaction be any different if the neighbor just happens to be a cement plant, a chemical plant or some other big industrial facility?

View Emily Enderle's blog posts
29 July 2011, 7:07 AM
H.R. 2584 compromises public health, esp. in environmental justice communities
Millions of Americans are already suffering from asthma. (Chris Jordan / Earthjustice)

The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, FY 2012 (H.R. 2584) is chock-full of riders that protect polluters, not people. This bill makes excessive budget cuts and policy decisions that compromise public health, especially the health of environmental justice communities already disproportionately impacted by pollution. The outrageous cuts have brought together more than 70 groups on a letter to outright oppose H.R.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
19 July 2011, 10:36 AM
More than 600,000 people say power plants should keep it clean
Supporters of strong mercury standards for power plants could fill up Fenway 17 times over. Photo: Jared Vincent/Flickr

How many Americans does it take to clean up dirty coal-fired power plants?

639,000.

A coalition of public health, environmental and social justice groups delivered that number of public comments to the Environmental Protection Agency today at an event in Boston. This is a historic amount of support for air pollution standards that are projected to reduce mercury, soot and other dangerous pollution from coal-fired power plants—saving up to 17,000 lives every year in the process. Earthjustice supporters contributed more than 45,000 of those public comments, and for that, we're very proud… and thankful.

Just how big is this outpouring of support? Well, that many people could fill Boston's historic Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, more than 17 times over. In fact, 639,000 people is greater than the population of Boston—and many other major American cities. A city of 639,000 would be the 21st largest city in America.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
24 June 2011, 10:43 AM
On public health protections, administration wants us to play the waiting game

Imagine two tiny figures perched on a politician's shoulders—one scientific, the other political.

The scientist whispers in the politician's ear: "You can save 6,500 lives every year with these health protections!"

The tiny politician counters, "You can save those lives, but who will save you from the powerful industry lobbyists outside your door?"

So with an election approaching, the right thing to do—pursuing environmental policy that will save lives, not placate industry—becomes the thing that isn't done. And the tiny scientist is brushed off. New evidence of that approach came today.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
16 June 2011, 3:23 PM
Controversial air loophole encourages dangerous waste burning

Not all burning is bad. For example, campfires rule—when they are done sensitively. I don't mean with tenderness, but rather with attention paid to the ecosystem and the importance of the fallen wood within it. Those fires bring light, heat and comfort to our small corners of the wild.

But in other corners of the world, bad burning reigns, and the Obama administration has given it a new throne. The Obama Environmental Protection Agency is making the unprecedented assertion that burning industrial waste as a fuel—akin to coal or natural gas—is a form of recycling. This Bush-era line of logic will allow and in fact incentivize burning of industrial waste—things like scrap plastics, used chemicals and industrial sludges—in around 185,000 unregulated boilers across the country. These pieces of equipment aren't subject to pollution controls, air monitoring, or reporting requirements.

Should companies choose to burn waste in one of these boilers—and no doubt many will, as it will be a cheap way to make their waste go away—nearby communities will face increased emissions of mercury, benzene, dioxins and other hazardous air pollutants, and worse yet, they most likely won't even know it. Industry has pressed long and hard for such a gift, but the Obama administration is the first to give it so freely. Today, Earthjustice filed suit against the EPA to challenge this egregious loophole.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
15 June 2011, 3:25 PM
Sarah Bucic, props in hand, defends right to breathe before Congress

Last month, Sarah Bucic—a nurse from Delaware—went to Washington, D.C. as part of the "50 States United for Healthy Air" event to defend the right to breathe clean air. Today, she went back to do it again.

Midway through her testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sarah—who testified on behalf of the American Nurses Association—pulled out a straw and held it up. It was skinny, the kind you might use to stir your coffee or tea—a toothpick passed through one end would more likely get stuck than fall through the other side.

Air doesn't fare much better. During an asthma attack, Sarah said, a person's airway constricts to roughly the size of that straw. In nursing school, she and her classmates were instructed to pinch their noses and breathe only through the straw to simulate what an attack feels like. Her demonstration was a powerful moment.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
08 June 2011, 3:11 PM
Health professionals square off with industry mouthpieces at senate hearing

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.

Tension crackled throughout the room when Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) grilled witness, Margo Thorning: "Is your advice for parents of children with asthma to just get a job?" He followed up with the observation that many children of employed parents still struggle with the effects of asthma.

View Alexandra Allred's blog posts
27 May 2011, 12:19 PM
Obama administration publishes plea for strong air pollution standards

Editor's Note: The following blog item, written by Earthjustice "Clean Air Ambassador" Alexandra Allred, first appeared on The White House blog. Allred's 11-year old sonTommy suffers from chronic asthma. Allred journeyed to Washington, D.C. earlier this month to advocate, for keeping and strengthening clean air protections, in the halls of Congress and to the Obama administration.

Early in his term, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized an important health-protective standard that cleans up the smokestacks of cement plants, among other things, to better protect my son! This is very important to us as we live in Midlothian, Texas, the "Cement Capital of Texas," where three cement plants spew dangerous pollutants that can trigger asthma attacks, cause neurological damage, destroy organs, damage the nervous system and much more. 

If you read my son Tommy's book, How I Met the President, you will learn that he developed chronic asthma from breathing toxins in the air from our local cement plants, and as a result, met the President. While our experiences did not unfold that simply, as Tommy likes to say, "That was how we met President Obama!"

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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 Sam Edmondson's blog posts
23 May 2011, 12:16 PM
New report on coal plant pollution underscores national problem

Jamestown, VA is a fixture of American history. Founded more than 400 years ago, it was the first permanent English settlement in what became the United States. Today, not far from there, The Old Dominion Electric Cooperative is looking to make history of a different kind. It wants to build what would be the largest coal-fired power plant in all of Virginia. But if built, something new will settle in the region: a large cloud of harmful air pollution.

And indeed, a report released today by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation shows that if this chapter of history is written, it will have a profound and negative impact on the region's future. Pollution from the plant will lead to dozens of deaths, hundreds of asthma attacks and more than $200 million in regional health care costs every year. Moreover, the Chesapeake Bay, a suffering icon of the eastern seaboard, would be further polluted with mercury as well as nitrogen oxides.

The story in Virginia told by the CBF is a microcosm of the rest of the country, where coal plant pollution is claiming lives, polluting waters and costing the public billions of dollars. The Environmental Protection Agency is holding its first public hearings tomorrow, in Philadelphia and Chicago, on a recent proposal to cut toxic air pollution from the nation's coal-fired power plants.