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Environmental groups are suing the EPA over a rule change that could allow major polluters like coal-fired power plants to turn off pollution controls. Jonathunder / Wikimedia Commons

Seven environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Ohio Citizen Action, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday, The Hill reported.

The lawsuit seeks to reverse the agency's January decision to repeal the "once-in always-in" policy, which said that all "major" sources of air pollution, like power plants or factories, would always be regulated according to stricter standards, even if they took steps to reduce pollution.

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Ohio Citizen Action

Ohio Citizen Action will honor Staughton and Alice Lynd with its highest recognition, the Howard M. Metzenbaum Award, on Saturday, Feb. 18, at the College Club in Cleveland, Ohio. Staughton and Alice Lynd of Niles, Ohio are lifelong participants in movements for social change in the U.S. and beyond. During their extraordinary partnership of more than half a century, they have earned a reputation as dedicated historians, legal scholars, and tireless advocates for peace and justice. Together they have fought for racial equality, peace and the rights of workers and prisoners—and against exposure to toxic hazards and the death penalty.

The Lynds’ tireless activism has inspired and motivated generations of people. In the early 1960s, the Lynds moved to Atlanta to join renowned historian, author and activist Howard Zinn in the fight for civil rights and educational opportunities for African-Americans. Afterward they relocated to New England when Staughton accepted a teaching position at Yale University. They both became deeply involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement, with Staughton chairing the first March on Washington and Alice counseling young draftees and editing a book of the personal accounts of conscientious objectors.

The couple came to Youngstown in 1976 to advocate for workers whose grievances had not been addressed by either their employers or their unions. Staughton filed suit on behalf of workers and unions against U.S. Steel, which had closed its local mills with careless speed. Alice too received a law degree and they both began working for the local Legal Aid agency.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the couple supplemented their legal work by documenting the oral histories of people seeking justice across the globe from Nicaragua to Palestine. They also nurtured grassroots groups such as Workers Against Toxic Chemical Hazards.

Once they retired in 1996, Staughton and Alice became interested in the industry that had replaced Youngstown’s steel mills—prisons. By developing relationships with the leaders of the 1993 Lucasville prison riot, they not only shed light on the root causes of the disturbance, but went on to highlight inhumane treatment of high-security prisoners. Their work advocating for prisoners led directly to work against the death penalty.

Today the Lynds remain active and outspoken, harnessing their radical passion with wisdom and experience. They have authored several books and are sought after speakers on a range of pressing social issues.

“Ohio Citizen Action is so pleased to be able to recognize and honor the steadfast commitment of Staughton and Alice Lynd, not only to a group or a cause, but to a place and the ideal of justice that has characterized their lives and their partnership for more than 50 years,” said Executive Director Sandy Buchanan.

“Just like Senator Metzenbaum, the Lynds are the embodiment of principled tenacity and tireless persistence in the fight for what is right.”

The award event will begin with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by presentation of the award. The program will be a forum, featuring a discussion led by the Lynds entitled “Occupy Now, But What’s Next?”

For more information or to purchase tickets to the event, click here.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Ohio Citizen Action

by Sandy Buchanan

Six environmental and community organizations have asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to undertake a formal review of the City of Cleveland’s draft air permit for its proposed garbage incinerator on Ridge Road, citing deficiencies in the Ohio EPA's draft permit and the City of Cleveland’s conflict of interest as both the proponent and reviewer of the permit.

As mentioned in an earlier article on EcoWatch.org, Cleveland’s city-owned electric company, Cleveland Public Power, is proposing to bring in garbage from the city and Northeast Ohio region to be “gasified” by using a type of incineration technology new to the U.S. Cleveland Public Power has applied to the Ohio EPA for an air pollution permit for the facility. According to the application, the incinerator would become one of the largest sources of air pollution in Cleveland, especially for soot and mercury.

The groups—Environmental Health Watch, Earth Day Coalition, Northeast Ohio Sierra Club, Ohio Citizen Action, Center for Health Environment and Justice and Natural Resources Defense Council—asked the U.S. EPA for an environmental justice designation for the community, which would require additional scrutiny of the proposal. They also asked the Ohio EPA for a 60-day extension on the public comment period for the draft permit, which now expires on Jan. 13, 2012.

For more information, click here.

Ohio Citizen Action

by Sandy Buchanan

The City of Cleveland’s proposal to build a new garbage incinerator at its Ridge Road transfer station is drawing opposition from neighborhood residents, environmental groups and public health professionals. Cleveland’s city-owned electric company, Cleveland Public Power, is proposing to bring in garbage from the city and Northeast Ohio region to be “gasified” by using a type of incineration technology new to the U.S.

Cleveland Public Power has applied to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for an air pollution permit for the facility. According to the application, the incinerator would become one of the largest sources of air pollution in Cleveland, especially for soot and mercury. Dr. Anne Wise, a physician at Neighborhood Family Practice, a medical clinic just a few blocks away from the proposed incinerator site, said, “Children who live in highly polluted communities tend to have more asthma and respiratory problems than those who don’t—even controlling for things like parental smoking habits. Why should our kids who already have high lead, high levels of asthma, our seniors who are already struggling with lung and cardiovascular diseases in proportions much greater than outside of Cleveland, why should they be subject to these risks even more? They count. They shouldn’t be seen as collateral damage.”

According to the city, the incinerator could increase truck traffic up to 550 trucks per day—which would mean a garbage truck coming in every one and a half minutes. Claudette Wlasuk, who lives near the proposed facility, said, “The traffic is my big concern because you can’t argue about those fumes. The trucks worry me because I am so close to the incinerator, especially if they come from I-480 to Ridge Rd.”

Residents have launched a yard sign campaign with red, black and white signs that say “No Cleveland Incinerator,” and are preparing for meetings and public hearings. Earth Day Coalition, Environmental Health Watch, Northeast Ohio Sierra Club and Ohio Citizen Action have co-sponsored community meetings in Cleveland with recycling and waste reduction expert Neil Seldman, president of the Institute for Local Self Reliance, and Teresa Mills, who led the successful campaign to close the Columbus incinerator.

Neil Seldman, who has worked with cities and small businesses around the country, recommended that the city investigate alternatives to incineration, which would boost the city’s recycling rates and create jobs. The developer of the proposed Ridge Road facility is Peter Tien, the same individual who was the key figure in Cleveland’s failed attempt to set up an exclusive contract with the Chinese Sunpo-Optu light bulb manufacturer. Tien has received a contract for $1.5 million from Cleveland Public Power to apply for an air permit and design the facility. Cleveland Public Power said they are waiting for information from Tien on how much the facility will cost. The latest estimate was $180 million.

Citizens and environmental organizations have challenged the city’s attempts to hide much of the information about the facility as a “trade secret.” After eight months of keeping key data about the proposal out of the public version of the air pollution permit application, the city finally released an unredacted version on Nov. 15, after Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Shannon Fisk forced the issue with the Ohio EPA. Fisk’s letter also challenged the city’s attempts to avoid tougher air pollution restrictions by claiming they will operate the facility in such a way to come in just a fraction under several key emissions thresholds. This maneuver would mean that citizens would not be able to sue to enforce environmental laws, and that the incinerator could add to the overall air pollution of the area without forcing other air polluters to reduce their emissions. Because this facility is experimental, no prototypes exist for residents to examine. But the track record of garbage incinerators in the U.S. is dismal.

The permit for a facility known as Mahoning Renewable Energy in Alliance, which Cleveland Public Power said would have been comparable to the proposed Cleveland plant, was withdrawn in March 2011. The campaign against the facility was led by a local manufacturer of food packaging products who did not want toxic emissions from the facility contaminating his products.

Interested in getting involved? Here’s how—Contact Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson at 601 Lakeside Ave., Cleveland, Ohio 44114 or 216-664-3990, and Cleveland City Council at 601 Lakeside Ave., Room 220, Cleveland, Ohio 44114 or 216-664-2840, and let them know why you object to the proposed incinerator.

Join the citizens’ campaign against the incinerator by putting up a yard sign, circulating a petition or participating in neighborhood meetings. Contact Dave Ralph at 216-970-7724 or dralph@ohiocitizen.org, and visit www.ohiocitizen.org and click on Cleveland incinerator.

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