Published: Wednesday 13 June 2012
Congress had moved quickly to pass bills on water safety and bioterrorism, and the EPA thought it was “on the right track” to pass a bill on chemical security as well.

Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency chief under George W. Bush, urged the EPA Tuesday to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to impose stricter safety standards on American chemical facilities vulnerable to accidents or terrorist attacks.

“I cannot understand why we have not seen some action when the consequences of something happening are so potentially devastating,” Whitman said in a teleconference that included representatives of labor and environmental groups.  

As Bush’s EPA administrator, Whitman was prepared to unveil a proposal requiring chemical plants to use safer processes in the months after 9/11. Under the Clean Air Act’s general duty clause, Whitman said, the EPA had the authority to require hazard reduction at facilities at risk of catastrophic chemical releases.

But the plan was scuttled by the White House, which maintained that chemical hazards could be better addressed by legislation, Whitman said. Congress had moved quickly to pass bills on water safety and bioterrorism, and the EPA thought it was “on the right track” to pass a bill on chemical security as well.

Bob Bostock, Whitman’s homeland security adviser at the time, said EPA officials expected litigation from the chemical industry if it used the general duty clause. “It wasn’t so much that we were afraid we’d lose the litigation,” Bostock said. “We didn’t want to be tied up in litigation for years and years, leaving this unaddressed.”

Legislation never came. Now, Whitman and others are pressing the EPA to act on its own. In March, the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council wrote a 

Published: Saturday 7 April 2012
“As we clean up the smokestacks of power plants, we can’t just shift the pollution from air to water and think the problem is solved.”

Environmental groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency in federal court Thursday over the EPA’s failure to regulate disposal of toxic coal ash.

“Politics and pressure from corporate lobbyists are delaying much needed health protections from coal ash,” Lisa Evans, a lawyer with Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm, said in a statement. “As we clean up the smokestacks of power plants, we can’t just shift the pollution from air to water and think the problem is solved. The EPA must set strong, federally enforceable safeguards against this toxic menace.”

Coal ash is the collective term for the solid remnants left over from the burning of coal at more than 500 power plants nationwide. It contains compounds such as arsenic, chromium, lead, and mercury, which have been linked to cancer, birth defects, gastrointestinal illnesses, and reproductive problems.

2009 investigation by the Center for Public Integrity revealed the havoc that coal ash has wreaked near ponds, landfills, and pits where it is dumped. Even the EPA has identified 63 “proven or potential damage cases” in 23 states where coal ash has tainted groundwater or otherwise harmed the environment. But critics say no meaningful federal regulations have been put in place.

The issue gained renewed attention after a dam holding billions of gallons of coal ash collapsed in eastern Tennessee in December 2008, destroying houses and water supplies and dirtying a river. Following the spill, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson pledged to set federal standards.

The EPA 

Published: Thursday 22 December 2011
“Under the Clean Air Act, many other sources of air pollution have been cleaned up, but power plants were so important to the economy that they long had a pass.”

Unveiling a historic rule, the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced the first national requirement for the nation's coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions of mercury, arsenic, cyanide and other toxic pollutants.

The landmark ruling took more than 20 years for EPA to finish. Under the Clean Air Act, many other sources of air pollution have been cleaned up, but power plants were so important to the economy that they long had a pass.

About 60 percent of the nation's plants, however, already comply with the new requirement because of state rules. The remaining 40 percent are a major source of pollution, producing more than half the mercury emissions in the country, the EPA said. The ruling will require coal-fired power plants to add pollution control equipment or close. Many plants already scheduled to close are 50 years or older.

EPA estimated that the new requirement will prevent as many as 11,000 deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 cases of childhood asthma each year.

"This is a great victory for public health, especially for the health of our children," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in an announcement ceremony at Children's National Medical Center.

Mercury harms the nervous systems of fetuses and young children, reducing their ability to think and learn as they grow up. Other toxic pollutants from the plants have been linked to cancer and other diseases. Soot, or particle pollution, can cause heart and lung diseases.

"The dirty, soot-spewing coal plant will soon become a relic of the past — a dirty industrial dinosaur," said Frank O'Donnell, president of the watchdog group Clean Air Watch. "Today's action ensures that the cleanup of coal-fired power plants will be the signature clean-air achievement of the Obama administration."

EPA estimates that it will cost companies $9.6 billion to comply. It said the health benefits would ...

Published: Wednesday 14 December 2011
The agency’s dysfunctional Office of Civil Rights sits on complaints for years.

Three years into Lisa Jackson’s tenure as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than a dozen formal complaints alleging air pollution is disproportionately harming low-income, minority communities remain unresolved. Each of these complaints has languished — in some instances, for more than a decade — in the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights despite Jackson’s stated commitment to environmental justice.

“We must include environmental justice principles in all of our decisions … especially with regard to children,” Jackson wrote in a January 2010 memo outlining the agency’s top priorities.

But EPA documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News and interviews with activists and residents reveal that the administrator’s words have brought little relief to underprivileged communities overburdened with pollution.

OCR — whose leader reports directly to Jackson — has in its files a total of 38 unresolved complaints dating to July 1994, according to a list published 

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