Toxic States, Lethal Legislation

Last week, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) released new data identifying the “Toxic 20” states with the most air pollution. This week, those findings have special meaning as Congress debates the Interior appropriations bill that includes language that delays cleaning up the toxic pollution from power plants (not to mention a bunch of other dangerous provisions that put Americans’ health and environment at risk.)

As today’s Toledo Blade explains in a cutting editorial, the measures the House is considering will make this and other problems worse:

House GOP lawmakers are doing everything in their power to delay or stop the "mercury rule" the Environmental Protection Agency needs to clean the nation's air. More broadly, the EPA and the environment are in the political cross hairs to an extent not seen in years.

Ed Perry, a retired biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and an outreach coordinator with the National Wildlife Federation, says: "This is the most amazing assault on clean air, water, and wildlife I have seen in my 40 years of working on conservation issues."

This month, the GOP-controlled House passed a bill that would gut the EPA's power to set water standards for states. Never mind that water from one state can flow downriver to degrade the next.

The measure would roll back important provisions of the Clean Water Act, which for nearly 40 years has made tremendous progress in improving the quality of America's waterways for drinking, fishing, and recreation. Every Republican in Ohio's House delegation voted for this extremist legislation.

Beyond the Toledo Blade, the new “Toxic 20” data resulted in hundreds of news stories and editorials around the U.S., including these:

PA. ranks high again in power plant pollution, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 21, 2011.  “Another pollution report, this one focused on health impacts of toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants, says Pennsylvania has some of the worst toxic air pollution in the nation, second only to Ohio upwind.”

Coal-fired plants get some heat, Indianapolis Star, July 21, 2011.  “Indiana's huge fleet of coal-fired power plants generates a massive amount of energy for homes, factories and stores but at a steep environmental cost. All of those plants combined spew into the air one of the highest amounts of toxic pollutants of any state in the nation, according to a new report.”

S.C. on environmentalists’ ‘Toxic 20’ list, The State (Columbia, SC), July 21, 2011.  “The Palmetto State ranks 11th in the “Toxic 20,” a list of states that released the most toxic industrial air pollution in 2009, the Natural Resources Defense Council says. Toxic air pollution includes metals, such as lead and mercury – the latter of which has rained back to earth, tainted Lowcountry fish and prompted state health advisories. Toxics also include acid gases that make breathing more difficult.”

Report: Florida is one of three states with most toxic air, Miami Herald, July 20, 2011.  “Although most of Florida gets its electricity from natural gas or nuclear power generating electrical plants, the amount of dirty air that comes from coal and oil-fired plants exceeds the pollution from other states that are more dependent on those plants but have taken greater steps to clean up the pollution.”

NC ranks high in pollution from power plants, Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times, July 20, 2011.  “Duke Energy's coal-fired Cliffside plant, which is on the border of Rutherford and Cleveland counties, emitted more hazardous air pollutants than any other plant in the state, according to the report: 3.5 million pounds.  Most of the report's top-ranked states have one thing in common: coal. More than half of North Carolina's energy comes from coal-fired power plants, the largest source of mercury, arsenic and other toxins in air pollution.”

But some of the “Toxic 20” coverage zeroed right in on the threat posed to children:

“Toxic 20”: Ohio, Pennsylvania Top List of States With Worst Power Plant Air Pollution, ABC/Good Morning America, July 21, 2011.  “According to the report by the private non-profit group, power plants are the single largest industrial source of toxic air pollution in 28 states and the District of Columbia. In Pennsylvania, airborne toxins from coal- and oil-burning plants account for 82 percent of the air pollution. ‘Power plants are the biggest industrial toxic air polluters in our country, putting children and families at risk by dumping deadly and dangerous poisons into the air we breathe,’ Dan Lashof, director of the NRDC's Climate Center, said in a statement.”

New air pollution report calls Illinois one of the “Toxic 20’, WBEZ (Chicago Public Radio), July 21, 2011.  “Dr. Lynn Ringenberg of Physicians for Social Responsibility cited a report released last year by the National Association of Nurses that put the responsibility of increased asthma rates in children on the shoulders of power plant companies. ‘The pediatric asthma prevalence for the state is (200,000) to 300,000 kids, with close to 20,000 that had ER visits last year, so that's pretty significant," she said. "You're in the top six, seven, in the country with asthma prevalence’.”

Fortunately, someone is trying to help Americans understand the danger posed to the health of children posed by the attack on clean air.

On Monday, American Family Voices, a non-profit advocate for middle and low-income families on economic, health care, and consumer issues, today launched a new television and online advertising campaign hitting Congress for taking up a spending bill that eliminates public health protections against air pollution and guts the Environmental Protection Agency.

The ad, “Somewhere Else,” began running Sunday and will continue to air this week in the Washington, D.C. market and on national cable television outlets. AFV plans to expand the ad to congressional districts of members who support the House’s Interior and EPA spending bill for 2012 (H.R. 2584).

The ad highlights the benefits of EPA public health protections by highlighting that 160,000 early deaths related to air pollution — including 230 infant deaths — were prevented in 2010.

To view the ad, click here:

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