This opinion piece was written for Earthjustice and is reprinted here with permission.
Two decades ago, Congress promised the American public major reductions of the most dangerous air pollutants—toxics such as mercury, arsenic and lead that cause major health problems and can lead even to premature death. Today, after a long struggle in which Earthjustice proudly participated, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took historic action to clean up the worst of all toxic air offenders: coal-fired power plants.
Administrator Jackson was joined at the podium by Charles D. Connor, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, O. Marion Burton, M.D., president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Jonathan Truwit, M.D., a critical care and pulmonary medicine specialist at the University of Virginia Medical Center. These public health professionals each made compelling cases that reducing coal plants’ toxic pollution will save lives and improve our health.
As the mother of a child with asthma, Jackson understands firsthand the impact air pollution can have on people, particularly vulnerable populations like kids, the elderly and individuals with pre-existing respiratory problems. Jackson noted that these health protections will prevent up to 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms every year.
Earthjustice attorney Jim Pew has been integrally involved in ensuring these long-awaited health protections are delivered to the public. He represented other groups in successful litigation that overturned a weak health standard adopted during the Bush administration. These efforts ultimatelyled to the establishment of a deadline (today) for proposing this critical toxic air pollution standard.
Upon the EPA’s announcement today, Jim commented:
The fight for the right to breathe is not yet won, however. When the EPA takes public comment on its proposal, you can be certain that the polluters that will be forced to clean up under these standards will push back hard. We cannot allow them to weaken, delay or block these protections.
Your individual voice will be instrumental in this process. Consider attending a public hearing on the proposal, tentatively scheduled for Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia. Sign the Right to Breathe Declaration and we will keep you informed of how to contact the EPA and make your voice heard.