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Urge Obama to Score Another Victory for Our Health and Environment

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Urge Obama to Score Another Victory for Our Health and Environment

Union of Concerned Scientists

In December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized standards to limit the amount of mercury and other toxic pollutants that power plants can spew into the environment. As President Obama said the day the standard was announced, it was "a good day in the fight to protect our environment for the generations of Americans to come."

Toxic air pollutants from power plants—mercury, lead, arsenic and others—are linked to health problems such as cancer, heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and even premature death. Mercury, for example, is a potent neurotoxin that poses a threat to fetal and infant brain development. And coal plants are far and away the greatest source of mercury air emissions in the U.S. This historic standard will lower mercury emissions by 90 percent, help avoid up to 11,000 premature deaths per year, and contribute to a much-needed transition to a cleaner electricity system.

The Obama administration played a major role in securing this historic standard, and they have the opportunity to score another similar victory for our health and environment this year—the EPA is currently drafting standards to limit global warming emissions from power plants. But the fossil fuel industries are pressuring the Obama administration to release weak standards that will do little or nothing to protect our health and environment from climate change.

Thank President Obama for protecting the public from toxic air pollution, and let him know that you expect the EPA to release strong standards to reduce global warming emissions from power plants in 2012.

Make your letter personal by adding in your own thoughts and concerns. Every letter makes a difference, but customized letters have the greatest effect.

Read more about the standards and an analysis from Union of Concerned Scientists expert Rachel Cleetus. Learn more about regulating toxic air pollutants from power plants under the Clean Air Act and the steps the EPA must take to reduce global warming emissions.

For more information, click here.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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