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Scrapbook: Big Turnout for EPA Mercury Hearings

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Sierra Club Scrapbook

June 02, 2011

Big Turnout for EPA Mercury Hearings


In late May, the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign turned out hundreds of concerned citizens to EPA hearings in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Atlanta about proposed new safeguards against mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. Above, activists at the Philadelphia hearings; below, ralliers in Chicago.


The Club worked with a broad coalition of environmental, public health, faith, and community groups to mobilize activists to testify at the hearings and rally outside the EPA venues. Below, Sierra Club Conservation Director Sarah Hodgdon and Environmental Justice & Community Partnerships Director Leslie Fields testify in Philly.


Mothers, fishermen, faith leaders, doctors, sportsmen, children, and others spoke out and testified against air pollution from coal plants that is making them sick. The rallies included mercury hair-testing events at a barber shop in Atlanta and "moms' stroller brigades" in Chicago and Philadelphia. Below, the Chicago stroller brigade.


Mercury—which comes mostly from coal-fired power plants—can cause severe neurological and developmental problems in children, babies, and developing fetuses.

"As a mother, I'm worried about the constant threat my children face from the pollution that coal-fired power plants put in our air and water," said Gretchen Alphonso, below at right, in her testimony in Philadelphia. "I make sure to feed them healthy food, use plastic toys and bottles that are BPA-free, and baby-proof every drawer in my house down to the last knob. It makes me angry that despite my best efforts at living a healthy lifestyle, my body and my children's bodies are being invaded by toxins from all angles."


Coal plants in Pennsylvania emit more than 15,000 pounds of toxic mercury every year. Below, Club organizer Nicole Ghio lets her feelings about that state of affairs be known in Philadelphia.


Lev Guter, an Arkansas-based organizer with the Beyond Coal campaign, attended the Atlanta hearings. Residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, and Kentucky were among those who joined Georgians in traveling to Atlanta.

"It was inspiring to see people come from so far away," Guter said. "The damage pollution like toxic mercury does to our health is a major concern for many Americans."


At noon, activists marched down Forsythe Street in downtown Atlanta, above, to the Vintage Barber Shop, where the Sierra Club and Environment Georgia hosted a press conference and a mercury hair-testing event. Below, Sierra Club President Robin Mann, at center, speaks at the press conference.


In Chicago, Beyond Coal organizer Becki Clayborn, below with bullhorn, said the hearing room was packed all day thanks to the coalition making sure that residents knew about the hearing, showed up, and got a chance to speak. "We had over 350 participants," she says, "nearly 100 of whom came in from Wisconsin and Michigan. An additional 200 people signed in at the Green Room, and half of them identified themselves as being with the Sierra Club."


Clayborn said only two of the hundreds of citizens who testified objected to the proposed new EPA safeguards. "And people really enjoyed our baby buggy brigade—a march on a nearby corner for moms and kids supporting EPA's actions." Below, Club organizer Christine Nannicelli and Illinois Chapter Energy Chair Verena Owen at the Chicago hearing.


"I think that the impressive turnout at the hearings across the country sends a clear message to the EPA," said Georgia-based Beyond Coal organizer Eric Glynn. "We don't want to subsidize coal company executive's bonuses by sacrificing our health. In order to protect public health, the EPA must finalize the mercury standard it has proposed."


Learn more about mercury and what the Sierra Club is doing to stop polluters, and tell the EPA that you support strong standards for mercury and other toxics.



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