The historic victory for clean air announced a few days ago—limits on the mercury, arsenic and other toxic emissions from coal plants—has been a long time coming. Congress called for these limits in 1990, but the coal power industry got to work undermining them straight away. As a result, instead of getting the breath of fresh air promised by Congress, Americans living in the shadow of a smokestack have been getting daily lungfuls of toxic air for 21 years.
The Latest On: Clean Air Act
The White House recently posted a video of President Obama discussing the new clean air protections that his administration released today to limit mercury, arsenic and other air toxic emissions from power plants. The President's words underscore how momentous this occasion is. The fight for these protections is more than two decades old. Earthjustice entered it in 1994 and has been pushing hard ever since. Check out the video below.
"It's like hell. Living in hell," says Marti Blake, when asked about being neighbors with a coal-fired power plant. "It's filthy, it's dirty, it's noisy, it's unhealthy."
For the past 21 years, Blake has lived across the street from the Cheswick Generating Station in Springdale, PA. A family situation left her trying to find a place quickly, and a simple brick home in the small town only 20 minutes from Pittsburgh seemed fine.
(Earthjustice attorney Erika Rosenthal represented the organization at U.N. climate talks that wrapped up Sunday in Durban, South Africa.)
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.
Tom Frantz grew up in California’s central valley. The once sparse rural area is now the source of food for millions of Americans, and throughout his life Tom has seen the bucolic pastures of his childhood transform into modern-day mega-farms.
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."
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.
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.