The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Encourage your Senators to Implement Strong Air Standards
by Marnie Urso
My work on mercury pollution began one cold December morning in 2003 when I bundled my four month old baby in her bunting and drove through the slosh to Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland along the Lake Erie shore. Upon arrival, I joined dozens of protesters to greet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Secretary at the time, Mike Leavitt. Secretary Leavitt had descended upon Cleveland to promote the new Bush Administration rules to regulate mercury pollution from power plants.
At first, you would think that a new mother and environmental activist would welcome such news. After all, coal-fired power plants are the single largest source of mercury pollution, arsenic and acid gases, and account for 25 percent of all toxic metal emissions in the U.S. These pollutants are linked to cancer, heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and premature death. Coal-fired power plants are responsible for 99 percent of all mercury emissions from the power sector in the U.S. Mercury pollution poses particular risks to children, affecting their ability to walk, talk, read and write.
Unfortunately, the Bush Administration’s proposed rules were severely flawed and fell far short from what was necessary to protect people, animals and the environment from toxic mercury pollutants. Instead of seizing the opportunity to protect the public health from this harmful neurotoxin, as mandated by the courts, the Bush Administration took the opportunity to protect the polluters. Those rules were eventually tossed out by the courts because they did not adequately protect the public’s health.
Fast forward to a sunny brisk spring day in 2011, when I dropped off my 7 year old daughter at school and headed to Cleveland’s Rainbow Babies and Childrens’ Hospital. There I met with parents, children, health professionals, and environmental health advocates to applaud the Obama Administration’s new mercury regulations that will for the first time cut mercury emissions from power plants nationwide by 91 percent, reduce arsenic and acid gases by 91 percent, prevent 12,200 trips to the hospital and save up to 17,000 lives each year once implemented. Hundreds of Audubon members and concerned citizens from across Ohio spent that spring and summer submitting comments on the proposed protections. We all eagerly awaited the final rules that were scheduled to come out in July.
I watched as the Plain Dealer editorialized that the mercury rules were too much too fast and I then celebrated my daughter’s eighth birthday in August. She was, along with other children in Northeast Ohio, still being subjected to the dangers of high levels of mercury pollution. Unfortunately, as we prepare for the winter holidays, nothing has changed in how mercury is regulated, as the U.S. EPA has delayed the implementation of its rules to reduce mercury emissions from power plants. Further there is pressure from many in the Congress to delay and weaken them even further or eliminate them all together.
The mercury contamination problem in the U.S. is so widespread that as many as one in six women of childbearing age is likely to have mercury levels in her blood high enough to put her baby at risk for mercury poisoning. The health benefits associated with these updated standards are $59 billion to $140 billion in 2016. This means that for every dollar spent to reduce pollution from power plants, we get $5 to $13 in health benefits. The U.S. EPA needs to stand its ground and move forward with the strongest air toxics protections possible to defend public health and protect children from toxic mercury pollution.
We need to keep the promise we made to future generations and implement rules that will clean the air by reducing harmful air pollution toxins like mercury, arsenic, carbon dioxide and ozone. We need leadership that will oppose the polluters who say our kids are not worth the cost of reducing these dangerous emissions. Clean air programs have provided strong public health protections that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives and prevented countless asthma attacks, heart attacks and early deaths.
Contact U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) at 202-224- 3121 and tell them that we have waited long enough. Our families should be able to breathe fresh air and drink clean water without worrying about mercury in their bloodstream or soot in their lungs. Tell them to support the implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule, and stop further delay.
For more information, visit www.audubon.org.
Marnie Urso is the grassroots coordinator for Audubon Ohio. The mission of Audubon Ohio is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats in Ohio by promoting conservation and biodiversity through education and advocacy. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
by Jordan Davidson
Taking action to stop the mercury from rising is a matter of life and death in the U.S., according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances.
By Alisa Opar
For Chinook salmon, the urge to return home and spawn isn't just strong — it's imperative. And for the first time in more than 65 years, at least 23 fish that migrated as juveniles from California's San Joaquin River and into the Pacific Ocean have heeded that call and returned as adults during the annual spring run.
By Jessica Corbett
Dozens of students, parents, teachers and professionals joined a Friday protest organized by Extinction Rebellion that temporarily stalled morning rush-hour traffic in London's southeasten borough of Lewisham to push politicians to more boldly address dangerous air pollution across the city.
Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Moment / Getty Images
By Bridget Shirvell
On a farm in upstate New York, a cheese brand is turning millions of pounds of food scraps into electricity needed to power its on-site businesses. Founded by eight families, each with their own dairy farms, Craigs Creamery doesn't just produce various types of cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss and Muenster cheeses, sold in chunks, slices, shreds and snack bars; they're also committed to becoming a zero-waste operation.
By Jessica A. Knoblauch
Summers in the Midwest are great for outdoor activities like growing your garden or cooling off in one of the area's many lakes and streams. But some waters aren't as clean as they should be.
That's in part because coal companies have long buried toxic waste known as coal ash near many of the Midwest's iconic waterways, including Lake Michigan. Though coal ash dumps can leak harmful chemicals like arsenic and cadmium into nearby waters, regulators have done little to address these toxic sites. As a result, the Midwest is now littered with coal ash dumps, with Illinois containing the most leaking sites in the country.