Demanding Action from the EPA
Last month, I had the opportunity to join Club leaders at two of EPA's three Mercury and Air Toxics Rule public hearings, in Philadelphia and Atlanta. This was a critically important opportunity for the Club to help ensure that the EPA and the Obama administration heard resounding public demand for ending the free ride for coal and oil fired power plants to spew deadly and dangerous pollutants into the air. From what I witnessed, and have heard about the other hearing in Chicago, I have to say: "Mission Accomplished! Message Delivered!"
It was so gratifying to see Club organizers and chapter and group leaders working in concert and collaborating so effectively with partner organizations to mobilize diverse voices to pack the hearings all day, to speak at press events, and to focus media attention on the tangible benefits of the rule for real people. I am especially struck by the wide cross-section of civil society coming together to call on EPA to put public health first, ahead of industry demands for yet more delay in cleaning up dirty plants.
In addition to many Club volunteers and staff, some traveling long distances to be able to comment to EPA in person, a sampling included:
- Rev. Mitchell Hescox of the Evangelical Environmental Network and Rabbi Daniel Swartz and other leaders from the faith community;
- physicians such as Dr. Kevin Osterhoudt from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Atlanta pediatrician Dr. Yolanda Whyte, as well as Dr. Mellinger-Birdsong on behalf of the American Assoc. of Pediatrics;
- young mothers, like Gretchen of Philadelphia, and prospective mothers speaking out about the risks of power plant pollution to unborn and young children;
- academics, including an Emory Univ. neuroscientist, who presented well-documented evidence of the impacts of lead and mercury on the developing brain;
- Georgia State Representative Pedro Marin and former Representative Sam Zamarippa, representing largely Latino districts in Atlanta, who asked Club intern Elizabeth Lopez to read their letters of support for strong air toxics rules into the record to improve the air quality for their constituents; and
- recreational anglers, and representatives from the EJ community emphasizing the special risks of mercury poisoning for communities reliant on subsistence fishing.
A couple of participants left a special impression on me as I think of all the people stepping up on the issue. The first was Simon Montelongo, a young teen member of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, who learned of mercury contamination of fish on fishing trips with his grandmother, described studying the path of pollution through the food chain in school, and expressed support for cleaning up the power plants so one day members of his tribe will be able to take their children fishing to waters where the fish are safe to eat. Secondly, there was Herbert Williams who opened his Atlanta barber shop for the standing-room-only mercury hair-testing event at noon. When I caught his attention just long enough to add my thanks to him for providing the venue, he said he was very glad to do it. "Clean air and a clean environment are very important to me."
You can read more about the hearings in Scrapbook
There is still time for you to add your voice calling on EPA to adopt the proposed rule intact and on time.
38 Miles Per Gallon — in 1943
I know many of us had the opportunity to take advantage of the Memorial Day weekend for some rest and recreation, catching up with friends and family, and reflecting on the service and sacrifice, past and present, of our military and their families. I took the opportunity to visit a new park in Philadelphia and take along a recently arrived compilation of letters between my father, who was Army Air Force pilot, and the family back home, mainly my grandfather.
My grandfather clearly struggled for newsworthy content — there is an overabundance of coverage of the weeds in the victory garden and the crabgrass — but it was wonderful fun to come across the references to the old Crossley car he was using for short trips to work and for errands. While he referred to it as a "bunch of junk" he was clearly pleased to report to my father, especially given the gasoline rationing at the time, that he had it greased and oiled and figured out his gas consumption to be 36-38 mpg. That was in August 1943. That puts into all the more sharp a perspective for me how incredible it is that nearly 70 years later, with the decades-long handwringing over oil dependence, and the wars, the U.S. fleet mileage average is a pathetic 21 mpg. By now, the technology is readily available and oil dependence has proven all the more disastrous, and nonetheless it will take strong public demand for the Obama administration to step up and put the country on the path to the kind of achievable but ambitious fuel economy standards the situation demands. As much as we need to invest heavily in transportation solutions other than cars, we also need to ensure that the cars on the road are the most efficient possible. Right now the Department of Transportation is taking comment on the environmental impacts of setting new vehicle fuel efficiency standards. We, and our friends and family, can all help ensure Secretary Lahood hears overwhelming support for a vehicle standard of at least 60 mpg by 2025. Take action here.
Leadership Skills for Work with Diverse Communities and Coalitions
Finally, I want to highlight a great capacity building opportunity for chapter volunteer leaders — the Club's new diversity training program, entitled "Leadership Skills for Work with Diverse Communities and Coalitions." This training series will enhance your chapter's ability to build connections and relationships with diverse communities and community organizations, and pursue shared goals. Launch is scheduled for later this month. Contact Greg Casini to find out more.
-- Robin Mann