Articles Tagged with pollution

smog-219x300In the summer of 2008, the Chinese city of Beijing hosted the Olympic Games. The event has frequently been called the most polluted Olympics ever and many remember seeing the images of Beijing skyscrapers barely visible through a thick layer of hazy smog. What many Americans may not know, however, is that the same type of air pollution from Particulate Matter emissions has been linked to the premature deaths of many women and men right here in the United States.

According to a study published this year, more than 30,000 deaths in the United States in a single year may have been caused by exposure to Particulate Matter air pollution. The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS Medicine, examined deaths in 2015 to determine how many could be attributed to exposure to Particulate Matter air pollution. Researchers estimated that Particulate Matter pollution was responsible for the deaths of 15,612 women and 14,757 men in 2015 alone. The risk of premature death was greater in areas with lower income and higher poverty rates than in wealthier counties. Communities of color and communities where fewer residents had completed a high school education were also at greater risk.

What is Particulate Matter?

According to a new report, the state of Illinois has the most leaking coal ash dumps in the United States.

utility-power-plantCoal ash is the waste that is left over after coal is burned. Most coal ash is created by coal-fired power plants that combust coal to produce electricity. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), living next to a coal ash disposal site can increase your risk of cancer. It can also increase your risk of developing other health problems such as heart disease, reproductive issues and neurological damage in kids. This is because coal ash often contains numerous heavy metals and carcinogens, including arsenic, lead, and mercury.

Coal ash is one of the biggest types of industrial waste produced in the United States. The EPA notes that in 2012 alone, 470 coal-fired electric utilities generated around 110 million tons of coal ash. For decades, the utility industry disposed of this waste by irresponsibly dumping it unlined ponds and landfills where coal ash chemicals are free to seep into groundwater.

trump-2546104_1920-300x211Since taking over, the Trump Administration has wreaked havoc on the environment, destroying environmental protections left and right. Trump has targeted rules that he thinks are burdensome to big business, even though environmental protections are generally good for the economy. Closing his eyes to this fact, Trump issued the “Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.” This Order directs the heads of agencies, like the EPA, to review all existing regulations “that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources, with particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources.”

Trump’s Executive Order has certainly been efficient at endangering the earth. As of June 2019, the Trump Administration has rolled back or is in the process of rolling back over 80 environmental rules and regulations. These rollbacks and proposed rollbacks reach every aspect of the environment, from emissions to endangered species. Rollbacks currently in effect include:

  • Lowering fines for automakers who do not meet average fuel efficiency standards

chimney-3705424_1920-1024x646Talk about federal government overreach! The EPA is planning to weaken rules that allow local communities to have a say in deciding how much pollution in their backyard is too much.  If the agency’s proposed changes go into effect, local individuals and community advocates would no longer be able to appeal to a panel of judges EPA-issued pollution permits that they oppose. More precisely, the new rule would allow the industrial polluter to appeal to the panel to INCREASE its allowed pollution, but the affected community could not appeal to REDUCE the pollution! The proposed rule change is so bad that even industry lawyers seemed surprised by its inequity.

This outrage is just the latest act of environmental sabotage by the EPA since Donald Trump took office.  Other efforts to roll back environmental regulations that protect public health include a rule weakening regulations of greenhouse pollution from power plants (hello, climate change), a coming plan to weaken rules on tailpipe pollution, and a proposal to open most of the US coastline to oil drilling.

Environmental law experts say the proposed rule change will give polluters an even stronger influence over the EPA and could lead to more lenient pollution permits which would hurt poor and minority communities who tend to live closer to polluters than more affluent citizens. The end result for many communities would be that they would no longer have a voice in decisions–made by the pro-pollution EPA– that would affect their homes and their health.

Want to Pollute in Illinois? Go Ahead, Governor Rauner Won't Stop YouApparently unconcerned that Illinois is one of the top 10 states for industrial air and water pollution in the country, Governor Rauner’s administration is failing to police and penalize industrial polluters. Put more bluntly, Rauner and his EPA are giving polluters a pass.

The Illinois EPA, unlike the US EPA, cannot penalize polluters on its own. It can investigate and negotiate informally with companies, but if a deal cannot be reached, it has to refer the matter to the Illinois attorney general, who can file a civil or criminal complaint. This is the Illinois EPA’s most powerful enforcement tool.

Unfortunately, this is where Rauner’s administration is failing the state. The Illinois EPA has cut back sharply on referring cases to the state’s attorney general. According to a Chicago Tribune analysis of enforcement data, Rauner’s EPA has averaged only 80 referrals a year to the attorney general, compared to 189 for Blagojevich and 144 for Quinn during similar time periods. The result is that, since Rauner became governor in 2015, Illinois has sought only $6.1 million in penalties from polluters-about one-third the amount demanded during the first three years under his two predecessors. (And the amounts sought were paltry, even under previous governors.)

If you care about the environment’s impact on our life and health, should you care about whether Judge Neil Gorsuch, who President Trump has just nominated, is approved for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court?

Yes. You absolutely should. Here’s why:

(1) Trump has a plan to dismantle environmental regulation [cite to my blog of earlier this week]. That plan includes Trump’s determination to encase in American law his scientifically fraudulent view that climate change/global warming is a “hoax”. To leave no room for doubt on this, Trump appointed to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) a man named Scott Pruitt, who, as the Attorney General of Oklahoma, has sued the EPA some 14 times, mostly arguing that EPA has no right to regulate the petroleum industry. That’s the industry most responsible for global warming. In plain terms, Pruitt doesn’t want the EPA to have the power to stop polluters from polluting. And, courtesy of our new President, he’s going to be in charge of the EPA in a few days.

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