Posts from September 2011

A Polluter TRAIN Headed Right For Our Children

Imagine this scene: Some maniacs have tied your children to a train track–then hopped on the train, released the brakes, and sent a mighty engine roaring down the track. Right for your children.

That’s what’s going on in Washington DC right now.

The train is, literally, the TRAIN Act of 2011, and next week, the House will vote on a bill (HR 1705) that was designed to cripple Clean Air Act regulations and intimidate the Environmental Protection Agency. The TRAIN Act requires a committee of cabinet secretaries to re-analyze the costs of public health protections. That’s right: RE-analyze. For a third time. Because when a bill is introduced, its costs are analyzed during the comment period, and again by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The TRAIN Act is a delaying tactic created to protect polluters’ right to pollute. We must take action now to stop this shameful bill.

The TRAIN ACT is busy work for politicians whose stated goal is to block any and all environmental protections–no matter what the cost to our children’s healthMercury, lead, arsenic, acid gases–these are the poisons spewing from coal plants that EPA, in any administration, is required by law, under the Clean Air Act, to regulate. These are regulations that save hundreds of thousands of lives, and cut health care costs by trillions of dollars.

On top of it all, polluters and politicians want you to believe that regulations kill jobs and cripple the economy. This is absolutely untrue.

We do not have to choose between jobs and clean air. We can have both.

Tell your representatives to do their jobs. Not create busy work–and blow smoke. Their job is to protect people.

Air pollution isn’t just dirty. It is poisonous. As a mom, I’m furious–and you should be too. Politicians can play politics with each other all they want. But they cannot play politics with my children.

Parents have a chance to make a difference, this week and next. Mothers’ voices will make a difference. Let Washington know that you are paying attention. Let Washington know that you want pollution to be controlled. Let Washington know that clean air saves lives.

Write to your representatives and let them know that they must stop that TRAIN speeding towards our children. Tell them to stop playing politics with our children.

PLEASE JOIN MOMS CLEAN AIR FORCE and tell your local representatives to vote NO on the TRAIN Act.

Obama, Ozone, and Political Horse-Trading

President Obama has just announced a controversial decision(because we’re all paying close attention over the Labor Day weekend, of course) not to raise the ozone standards for air pollution–in spite of pressure from environmentalists and his own head of EPA, Lisa Jackson. He is responding, instead, to requests from House Speaker John Boehner, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; opposition to the regulation was focused on the expense  to businesses of meeting it, which they claimed was somewhere in the range of $20 to $90 billion annually.

I’m not going to jump into an Obama Bash here. Maybe it’s the sunny skies, but I’m remaining deliberately optimistic. Perhaps the president is getting ready to do some political horse-trading. By being responsive to business concerns about what opponents claim would have been the most expensive regulation to come out of E.P.A. by far, he can’t be called a Democrat who supports any and all regulations. The thinking might go: You can have those ozone regulations–which are set to be revisited in 2013, anyway–but I want those new mercury regulations for coal-fired power plants. We can afford those.

The flip side of my optimistic argument is that the White House is buying into the “regulations cost jobs” trope; many politicians now link “job-killing” to every use of the word “regulation”, regardless of the inaccuracy. So far, there hasn’t been any proof that the implementation of ozone standards would have cost jobs. In fact, it may well have added employment, and driven engineering innovation. Any way you look at it, this is a huge win for polluters.

Horse-trading or caving: we’ll see a clear trend over the next few months, as other pollution regulations come up for discussion. The ozone decision bodes ill for those who are opposing the upcoming Keystone pipeline, despite an impassioned letter from the governor of Nebraska. If the president is accepting the “jobs versus environmental protection” framework, he will be forced to choose jobs, and get that pipeline built. That jobs v. environment framework is not, and has never been, accurate. It is a spin imposed by corporate polluters and their lobbyists, one that is all too easily understood and accepted by voters–and it is gaining traction. Enviros have not done a good enough job explaining why and how regulations actually create jobs.

One thing is clear, regardless of the smog. Now, more than at any other time since President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act into law, we have to keep the pressure up on Washington to remind everyone that clean air is a priority. Like they say in Texas, Ya gotta dance with the one that brung ya. We have to support the president in doing the right thing–and pressure him relentlessly when we think he’s doing the wrong thing.

Join Moms Clean Air Force to send a strong message: Air pollution isn’t just dirty. It’s toxic. Let Washington know that we want regulations that protect the health of our children.






Is Amtrak Ready for Global Warming?

Three days after Irene slammed the East Coast, Amtrak reopened for business, and I boarded a train for a trip I have taken countless times over the last twenty-five years. The journey from Providence, Rhode Island, to New York City, is a train ride I love, no matter how unreliable or maddeningly slow the service might be–and there have been some real doozies, six or seven hours for a trip that shouldn’t take longer than three hours. And that’s on the express. But after Irene, the passage held none of its usual charm. Instead, it seemed to border on an act of lunacy that we should still be riding that train at all.

The route is one of the country’s most beautiful, and most heavily traveled. It skirts the coast of Connecticut for many miles; I always sit on the east side of the train because the views are breathtaking. Over the years, I’ve gazed out the window as ospreys returned to platforms set up in salt marshes, their messy nests spilling off the sides. The nests were intact after the hurricane. Small, quiet ponds were covered with water lilies. Coves and inlets were calm, with kayakers joining the ducks and geese.

A few large motorboats were smashed up against boulders, reminding us of the folly of ignoring storm warnings.  Trees were uprooted and lay toppled by the side of the tracks. Cormorants standing on the skeletal remains of trusses fanned their capelike wings to dry. Bulldozers raked across sandy beaches, cleaning up for Labor Day crowds.

We passed sprawling power plants, their red and white striped stacks jaunty against the blue sky, and playgrounds, school bus yards, ferries, shipyards and day care centers, church steeples, beacons to sea farers, jutted over the landscape–all of life is laid out along this major artery.

But there is a new addition to the scenery. For many miles, the track is barely above sea level. We crawled along so as not to threaten construction crews hard at work all along the coast–on rigs, in cranes, in bulldozers. Even though we didn’t get the worst of what turned out to be a tropical storm, Irene–and her predecessors–had left her mark. Much of the track was shored up with riprap, boulders used to armor the coast against the pull of tidal surges. Slabs of cement were being lifted into place to protect stretches of tracks. Wire cage rock walls had been erected in some places.

It seemed almost laughable.

Any fisherman will tell you that a roiling ocean, even during something as common as a nor’easter, will shove boulders aside as though they were marbles. Child’s play. As we chugged along, two hours behind schedule, I wondered with some tenderness at how primitive is human hope–“Here,” we seem to be saying to the gods of storms, “take these boulders, take these cement slabs, but spare our tracks.” Who are we kidding? There is no reinforcement strong enough for the perilous severity of storm surges and rising oceans.

What are we thinking of, keeping such vital infrastructure so close to the sea? Of course we can’t just shut down the line and walk away. But we should be rebuilding only with future disruption in mind, and that will take more than wire cages full of rocks. Environmentalists study adaptation to global warming, discussing the opening of migration corridors for animals that will have to move northward to avoid killing heats, or to follow their food source. What about human adaptation? Amtrak’s troubles foreshadow trouble for life along the coast. We’re going to need more than a few tons of riprap to adapt to the storm warnings to come.

Mother Love is a Force of Nature

Moms Clean Air Force has a newly designed website, and I’m delighted to welcome you to our community. We’re creating a movement for people who see air pollution as a straightforward, urgently important health issue.

Our goals are simple: educate people about why air pollution is still a big problem; raise awareness about what’s at stake politically; inspire people to take simple, fast action to send Washington a message.

We know moms are busy. But moms are also extraordinarily protective of their children’s health. We specialize in Naptime Activism.

Our bloggers take our message into their communities, reaching millions of readers. We network on Facebook and Twitter. Our growing community includes nurses, doctors, scientists, politicians, novelists, journalists, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, knitters and bakers–concerned moms, dads, sisters, brothers, daughters, and sons.

Air pollution is harmful to everyone with a beating heart.

Air pollution contains toxins that harm people’s brains, lungs, and hearts. It is affecting our food and water. Children are especially vulnerable to toxic pollutants; Latino and African American babies suffer disproportionately from poisoned air. While there are lots of things we can do, as individuals, to keep our children safe at home, no one can control the air they breathe. We need regulations for that.

We’re all for respecting reasonable, efficient government budgets. But we don’t want our babies thrown out with the bathwater.

President Nixon’s Clean Air Act of 1970, and the agency he founded, the Environmental Protection Agency, have accomplished a great deal in cleaning American air and water. But the work isn’t done. The sky might be blue, but that doesn’t mean it is clean. In forty years, we’ve learned much more about invisible pollutants that wreak havoc on our health, causing neurological and developmental problems. Asthma rates among children are skyrocketing.

Air pollution isn’t just dirty. It is poisonous. Polluters are fighting for the right to pollute!

The Clean Air Act and the EPA are facing an unprecedented attack by some politicians and coal and oil industry lobbyists. That’s because emissions from coal-fired power plants are the single largest contributor to mercury toxins in our air.

Many responsible coal plant owners have done the right thing and cleaned up their toxic air emissions. It hasn’t hurt their bottom lines at all–they’re making record profits. The EPA has created thousands of jobs for Americans in the last forty years–in sectors from research to enforcement to engineering to new technology development.

Air pollution can be cleaned up. Please join Moms Clean Air Force to make our voices loud and clear. Send politicians a forceful message: Strengthen and enforce pollution regulations!

Polluters have power, money and political influence. But moms have love. And that’s the strongest force of all. Now we have to use it.

Join us at Moms Clean Air Force, please!

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