Stop the War on Health
By Adrianna Quintero In their last action before this upcoming election, the House of Representatives approved a bill today that hits the environment and our health squarely in the face while profiting the powerful coal industry. This legislation groups five bills that put our air and water at risk by overturning critical clean air and safe water standards including preventing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from setting standards for greenhouse gas (GHG), standards for automobiles and heavy duty trucks, delaying the implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard; and preventing EPA from setting federal level standards to govern the management and disposal of coal ash waste. GOP supporters mobilized support for this bill decrying actions taken by the administration to protect the health or our families as job-killers disregarding the fact that protecting our health – all of us, not just some of us—must be at least as important as jobs. Since I spend most of my time working with the Latino community and closely with Voces Verdes, I know that for people who have to live and breathe the pollution spewed by coal powered power plants (who are often disproportionately minority communities) and eat the mercury contaminated fish that puts our brains at risk—protecting our air and water is no joke. For those communities, rates of pollution-related illness are alarming: one in six African American kids struggles with asthma, compared with one in 10 nationwide; while Latino children have higher levels of mercury in their bodies compared with non-Hispanic white children, and 43 percent report living or working near toxic sites like coal fired power plants(up from 34 percent in 2008). Without our health we have nothing. So while we should be concerned about job losses, we must also recognize that market forces, including other energy sources like natural-gas and cleaner sources of energy like wind and solar are changing the future of coal and Americans understand this. A recent poll shows that 64 percent of Americans support congressional efforts to move towards a clean-energy economy. Among Latinos, the support is even stronger with ninety percent of Latino voters strongly supporting clean energy over fossil fuels and 83 percent of Latinos agreeing that coal plants and oil refineries are a thing of the past. Businesses similarly support a move towards clean energy. Yesterday, Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy, a national, non-partisan clean energy network called on Congress to extend the nation’s key tax incentive for wind energy, the Production Tax Credit (PTC). They joined 19 companies, including major consumer brands and several Fortune 500 firms, who wrote to Congressional leaders encouraging them to extend the Production Tax Credit (PTC), a key provision supporting renewable energy. Our businesses need certainty in policy in order to invest and compete. Our communities need clean air and water to thrive. Congressional intervention to protect polluters over people ignores what the majority of Americans want and puts us and our country’s ability to compete at risk. This article also appeared on The Huffington Post. Read it here. Adrianna Quintero is the founder and director of La Onda Verde, a program designed to provide Latinos everywhere bilingual access to environmental information and the tools with which to get involved and fight global warming. La Onda Verde is the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Latino Advocacy and Outreach Program.