Muscatine Mother for Clean Air - Stories from Rural Iowa

From time to time I run across editorials, letters to the editor, and other random environmental news that I find interesting.  This piece I found particularly compelling and I wanted to share. It comes from a community activist in Muscatine, IA who is really fighting to improve air quality in Muscatine – and throughout the state. Her name is Michelle Marine and you can read her blog at: Simplify, Live, Love

By: Michelle Marine 

In 2006, my husband and I and our four children moved to his hometown of Wilton in Muscatine County. We've lived in lots of large cities, both in the US and abroad. We chose rural living for a variety of issues, one being for an overall healthier lifestyle. I was saddened to learn that the air quality here in rural Iowa is sometimes worse than in the big cities we lived in the past. I started a blog at Simplify, Live, Love.

The blog focuses on frugal living, homeschooling, grammar, and living green. I became interested in the air quality issue after realizing how badly the air smells at our house in Wilton some days. I researched the issue more in depth when Healthy Child, Healthy World asked for bloggers to blog on air quality.

I was shocked at what I learned about the air quality in Muscatine County. Muscatine County has the highest levels of particulate matter, a hazardous air pollutant. Our residents are exposed to the lowest air quality levels in the state of Iowa. And as we know, many of our friends and neighbors suffer from air-pollution related illnesses, including an unclassifiable upper-respiratory disease physicians have come to call the “Muscatine Crud.”

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Show Up and Speak Up for Climate Change Legislation

Congress is heading back home for the August recess this week. Apparently our Senators need to rest after they failed to take up both a clean energy and climate bill and an oil spill bill.

Legislative inaction must be more tiring than I realized.

Still, I don’t view this month as a cooling off period. If anything, it’s time to turn up the heat.

Over the next few weeks, Senators will be holding “town hall meetings” in their states. Last year, these meetings came to define the health care debate. This year, they could help us reshape America’s energy policy.

If you are like me and you are still stunned that the Senate refused to pass a bill that would have created nearly 2 million new American jobs, put our nation at the forefront of the clean energy market and helped end our addiction to oil, then go to a town hall meeting and tell your lawmakers what you think.

Tell them that it is in America’s best interest to embrace clean energy now.

And while you are at it, please tell them to block attempts by some Senators to weaken the Clean Air Act-the 40-year-old law that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives-in an effort to further delay reductions in global warming pollution.  

Some naysayers claim that voting on visionary legislation is a risky proposition when we are this close to an election. They are wrong, and history proves it.

As I wrote in a recent blog post, 13 of the most powerful environmental laws were passed during the fall of an election year or in the lame duck sessions following elections.  

We can pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this fall, but only if we demand it of our lawmakers.

Use this August to make your voices heard. You can find your Senators’ schedules by checking their Senate websites, as well as their candidate websites – Republican or Democratic.

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Stop the Senate from Gutting the Clean Air Act!

Just when you thought the U.S. Senate couldn't do any less for clean energy and the environment than it's (not) done so far, we now face the real possibility of what would amount to a “stop-work order” on the 40-year-old, wildly successful (e.g., studies finding benefits outweighing costs at a 40:1 ratio), Clean Air Act.

That's right: believe it or not, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is moving ahead with a sequel to Sen. Lisa Murkowski's nefarious attempt, earlier this summer, to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s power to protect the public health from dangerous pollutants, including harmful greenhouse gases.  Just as bad, Rockefeller's proposal would keep America addicted to oil and other old, polluting energy technologies, while delaying or derailing our switch to a clean, prosperous energy economy.  

Essentially, what Rockefeller is proposing would tell the EPA – at least for two years, although we know that justice delayed is often justice denied! – that it has to be asleep at the switch, that it must not hold polluters accountable, that it must look the other way whole Big Oil and Big Coal trash the environment. Is that the lesson the Senate learned from the Gulf of Mexico disaster?  Really?

Fortunately, not everyone is so clueless as the U.S. Senate appears to be right now.  For instance, in yesterday's Politico, two energy investors – one Democrat, one Republican – explained what's at stake in clear, compelling language.

We are not experts in vote counting or horse trading. But we do know how investors and markets will respond if Congress ultimately fails to put a market-based price on carbon. The response from capital will be brutal: Money will flow to places like China, Europe and India — and U.S. jobs will go with it.

The path to creating more U.S. jobs is simple: Pass legislation that eliminates uncertainty and levels the playing field, and investors will fund projects that create good jobs here at home. Rules bring certainty, certainty spurs investment, and investment creates jobs.

[…]

Take it from investors: Removing the uncertainty, and taking a more thoughtful approach to energy policy by putting a market price on carbon, can bring home new investments and jobs — and ensure that America leads the clean energy economy.

Instead, it now looks like the Senate not only won't be moving us forwards, but instead will be trying to move us significantly – and disastrously – backwards. What's truly stunning about this possibility is that, right now, the science of climate change is clearer and more disturbing than ever.  Heat waves are getting worse, the ice caps are shrinking faster than ever, and scientists are telling us that the world is setting new temperature records almost every month, every year, and every decade.   In addition, the results of our insatiable thirst for fossil fuels were demonstrated starkly and tragically, both in a West Virginia coal mine as well as in the Gulf of Mexico, on TV screens all across America in recent months.  As if all this isn't bad enough, we also could run out of water.

The American people know this situation can't go on. In fact, recent polls show large majorities supporting an energy bill that would “[l]imit pollution, invest in domestic energy sources and encourage companies to use and develop clean energy…by charging energy companies for carbon pollution in electricity or fuels like gas.” In other words, this is a case where good policy – limiting greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing our national security, safeguarding public health, jumpstarting a clean energy revolution – and good politics – strong poll results for doing just that – appear to align.  Yet, the U.S. Senate appears ready to ignore both good policy and good politics, and actually move to make matters worse by gutting the EPA and letting polluters like BP off the hook.

Don’t let them do it.  Call your Senators right now and tell them “hell no” to the “Let Polluters Pollute with Impunity Act.”  Also, while you’re at it, call the White House and tell President Obama that, if such a measure reaches his desk, he will veto it – no ifs, ands, or buts.

Take action today for a cleaner, stronger, and more sustainable future. Join NRDC Action Fund on Facebook and Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest environmental issues and actions you can take to help protect our planet.

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EPA's Climate Announcement is Most Significant Yet

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized its proposed finding that carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations, setting the stage for regulating the pollutants under the Clean Air Act.  The landmark announcement comes as world leaders kick off two weeks of negotiations in Copenhagen on a global climate treaty.

“This is the most significant step the federal government has taken on global warming.  The Clean Air Act is tried and true.  It has a nearly 40-year track record of cost-effectively cutting dangerous pollution to protect our health and environment.  EPA can now put this proven law to work as one critical tool in the fight against global warming,” said Eric Nost, fellow at Environment Iowa.

More than two and a half years ago, the Supreme Court ordered the EPA to determine if global warming pollution threatens public health or welfare – a conclusion supported by a worldwide scientific consensus.  Today’s action puts EPA on track to take long-overdue steps to reduce global warming pollution from cars, coal-fired power plants, and other large pollution sources under the Clean Air Act.

The announcement comes nearly a year after proposals to build new coal-fired power plants in Marshalltown and Waterloo were canceled.  The plants would have emitted millions of tons of carbon dioxide each year.

“The EPA's decision is definitely the next step in confronting Iowa's contribution to global warming. The Senate also must act to set overall pollution-reduction goals and to accelerate the move to clean energy, but it’s up to EPA to crack down on pollution from cars and mega industrial polluters like the state's fleet of aging and inefficient coal-plants.  By improving energy efficiency and transitioning to clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar, the U.S. and Iowa can both cut pollution and create new jobs,” said Nost.

“We applaud President Obama and EPA Administrator Jackson for complying with the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision and embracing the basic facts on global warming that scientists around the world have acknowledged for years,” concluded Nost.

The following is the timeline leading up to today’s decision:

  • 1999: EPA was first petitioned to regulate global warming pollutants from new cars and light trucks under the Clean Air Act.
  • 2003: The Bush EPA denied the petition.
  • April 2007: The Supreme Court found, in Massachusetts v. EPA, that global warming pollutants are pollutants as defined by the Clean Air Act, and held that EPA mustdetermine whether these pollutants from new motor vehicles cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.
  • December 2007: The EPA prepared a proposal finding that global warming pollutants endanger public welfare, but the Bush White House did not allow the proposal to be released.
  • April 2009: The EPA released its proposed finding, which the agency is finalizing today.

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Environment Iowa is a citizen-funded environmental advocacy organization that works to protect the state's clean air, clean water, and open spaces.

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