On May 26, Georgians made their voices heard. As one of only three sites nationwide, Atlanta played host to an Environmental Protection Agency public hearing on their new coal-burning emissions standards. It was a great opportunity to speak out as hundreds of residents urged prompt implementation of this common-sense rule.
As recently as the Bush administration, we have even seen non-compliance aided and abetted by a deeply flawed standard that was actually struck down in court.
In contrast, the Obama administration is moving aggressively to right those wrongs and put in place standards of compliance that could reduce harmful emissions nationwide. Until now, the EPA has taken action to reduce mercury emissions from all the highest-emitting sources – except power plants. With the proposed new standards, the EPA is saying clearly that it is cleanup time and that includes coal-burning power plants, which in 2009 released more than 70,000 pounds of mercury.
The EPA’s proposed health protections will dramatically reduce emissions of mercury, arsenic, lead, dioxin, particulate matter and other dangerous and deadly pollutants that travel a path from coal smokestacks to our lungs, food and water supplies. These pollutants have been implicated in triggering asthma attacks, causing developmental disorders, damaging organs and even causing cancer.
The goal is to safeguard public health. As such, the new rule would give power plants three years to adopt proven, widely available technologies to control and cut harmful emissions. One-year extensions would be available for companies that can’t meet the deadline. This is a fair and measured approach to helping fix a problem that has been allowed to fester for more than 20 years.
EPA is making it clear – it’s cleanup time – and the public is letting them know, loud and clear – that we agree!
Rep. Hank Johnson represents the 4th Congressional District that includes DeKalb County and portions of Rockdale and Gwinnett counties. He earned a 100 percent score by Environment America, a leading environmentalist advocacy group, for his pro-environment voting record, which includes legislation to establish a cap-and-trade climate change mitigation policy, invest $80 billion of Recovery Act funds in clean energy and green transportation, and protect more than 2 million acres of public lands and national treasures.
Dr. Robert Bullard is the founder of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University and a member of the Joint Center’s Commission to Engage African Americans on Climate Change. He is a professor and author of 15 books that address sustainable development, environmental racism, and urban land use, among other issues.