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Clean Air is a Fundamental Right

Clean Air is a Fundamental Right

Clean air is a fundamental right — our lives depend on it. But air pollution threatens that right, and with it all of the little moments that make life special: blowing out candles on a birthday cake, spending a day outside with friends, or playing with our kids in the front yard.

Recently, after more than a decade of delay, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed health protections that will ensure coal-fired power plants, some of the worst air polluters in the country, have to limit mercury and other toxic pollution that damages our health.

Every year, Americans young and old get sick because of air pollution. Thousands die. It’s the job of the EPA to help keep that from happening. During EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s recent appearance on “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart put that issue front and center. He trained his quick wit on the polluter mantra that industry simply can’t afford to comply with clean air protections when he inquired “Can we not die but also they live?”

The simple answer to this somewhat convoluted question is that we can live and industry can continue to function with these protections in place. Choosing between pollution controls that save lives and a strong economy is a false choice. In fact, pollution controls can lead to a strong economy. American workers are needed to build, install and maintain those controls, and once those controls are installed, people across the country will no longer pay for pollution with their health. Controlling air pollution reduces our health care costs and leads to a more productive society.

The EPA projects that these health protections will prevent as many as 17,000 premature deaths every year. They will also prevent 11,000 heart attacks and 120,000 cases of aggravated asthma. And a recent study from UMASS-Amherst found that reducing air pollution from coal-fired power plants could create 290,000 jobs on average in each of the next five years.

Power plants are far and away the worst emitters of mercury, which destroys the brains of young and unborn children — as Administrator Jackson noted. Power plants also emit large amounts of fine particle pollution, which can cause respiratory and heart problems, as well as premature death.

During the interview, Lisa Jackson said “Environmentalism isn’t a spectator sport. You actually have to stand up and demand that we be vigilant in protecting our air and water.” The audience applauded and Stewart responded “people enjoy air and water, apparently.”

Yes, they do — when it’s clean. Millions of Americans have been living with this toxic burden for far too long. It’s time for coal plants to clean up, but they won’t unless we demand it. Send a message to the EPA and demand that they finalize the strongest possible protections against toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

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Photo courtesy of EarthJustice
NOTE: This is a guest post from Sam Edmondson, Campaign Manager at Earthjustice.

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31 comments

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8:01PM PST on Jan 21, 2014

Isn't it more / rather the case that ... ? "Right to water" aka [carbon credits]
Wikipedia: The number of people lacking access to improved sources of drinking water (an imperfect proxy indicator for safe drinking water) is 780 million and more than 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation services. . The resolution laments the fact that (at the time of adoption in 2010) 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and that more 2.6 billion do not have access to basic sanitation.[5] This formulation underscores the existing confusion over access to improved sources of drinking water and access to safe drinking water. In reality, an estimated 3 billion people lack access to safe drinking water - safe being defined by the guideline values contained in the WHO Drinking Water Quality Guidelines.
Given the fact that water access is a cross-border source of concern and potential conflict in the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean and parts of North America amongst other places, some Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and scholars argue that the right to water also has a trans-national or extraterritorial aspect. They argue that given the fact that water supplies naturally overlap borders, States also have a legal obligation not to act in a way that might have a negative effect on the enjoyment of human rights in other States. The formal acknowledgement of this further legal obligation could prevent the negative effects of the global "water crunch" (as a future t

4:39PM PST on Jan 21, 2014

I am new to this site. I want to share something that I have come across that is capable of cleaning the emissions from vehicles by up to 50%. As I am sure you all know that there is not a lot out on the market today that consumers can do to decrease the CO2 that gets released into the air. This could be a great boon to the amount of pollution that we, as consumers, put into the air.
Please check it out www.earthmags.com/susanwest
Thank you so much for your attention and consideration
openingbud

10:08AM PST on Dec 11, 2011

......C'mon, let's recuperate our Eden! GO GO GO!

11:01PM PST on Nov 13, 2011

Clean air is wonderful and needed for good health.

7:50AM PDT on Oct 25, 2011

Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.
(Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

6:07AM PDT on Aug 11, 2011

thankas...great article

11:58PM PDT on May 25, 2011

I don't think our Municipal Council ever enforces our town's by-laws, even when one phones the By-Law Officer. They seem to enjoy air pollution and noise pollution - always act surprised when one reports a problem. That's surprised when they return your phone call after a few days.....

3:34PM PDT on May 25, 2011

great article thanks for sharing!!!

12:58AM PDT on May 25, 2011

thanks for sharing.

10:24PM PDT on May 24, 2011

A long time ago in college I went on a field trip to the Simpson Paper Mill outside of Houston TX. They had giant pulp processors that were installed in the 1950s and I ask them if they were going to set up to use recycled paper instead of fresh wood pulp that they had a rail car line to bring in [ this was in the late 80s].

They said no because they didn't think it would be worth the cost to replace the old pulp mills. It was just too expensive. This same company was dumping dioxin [its one of the things used to turn raw wood into white paper] into the Houston Ship Channel and while it was "filtered" by pouring it though a series of rocks and other stuff, though I only saw the rocks. Anyone who lives in the area can tell you how polluted the water is , though Simpson is only one in a huge list of polluters there.

There is the problem and the mentality though. They don't have to live there, they don't have to breath or drink the consequences of their crimes or watch the forest they decimate to make paper. The people who make these choices live in nice places far from the rotten fruit of their labor. To them its only numbers and we are only pest and consumers to be harvested or dealt with just like anything else.

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