States are facing environmental issues that have the potential to affect minority and low-income communities disproportionately and fatally. Effects from state action on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidelines for the Clean Power Plan and fracking, trickle down to vulnerable communities and could help combat an overwhelming obstacle to toxic free environments and resulting health issues. A 2012 report by the NAACP found that coal power plants tended to be disproportionately located in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. A 2010 report by the National Research Council estimated 1,530 excess deaths per year were caused solely by particulate matter pollution resulting from coal power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency proposed new regulations to the states with the aim of reducing carbon emissions by 30% in most states by 2030. Similar to basic rights to attain resources and opportunities, people have a right to live in toxic free environments. Polluted neighborhoods lead to elevated levels of asthma and other environment-related diseases. Encouraging states to find solutions to reduce CO₂ and other harmful pollutants increases quality of life and decreases health problems.
Hydraulic fracturing or fracking, is the process of injecting a mix of water, sand, and chemicals into the ground at high speeds to extract oil. Fracking activity can potentially pollute drinking water sources for communities. In California, over 95% of oil and gas extraction occurs in Kern County. In Kern County, 3 billion gallons of fracking wastewater has contaminated the water aquifers that provide water to the residents. The health impact fracking can have on communities is the main reason states and the federal government should heavily regulate fracking and mandate procedures that have the least environmental impact on surrounding communities.
What’s the deal with Flint, Michigan?
President’s message to States: “Clean it Up.”
No one man should have all that power: Clean Power Plan
Across the country, the color of your skin can dictate your likelihood of contracting allergies, developing breathing problems, and even access to clean water. However, like most environmental justice issues, the Clean Power Plan cuts across the border in economic justice, with new potential jobs within renewable energy, and health justice. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently finished accepting comments (advice from communities and people like you!) and will soon propose new regulations to the states with the aim of reducing carbon emissions, in most states by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030. What does that mean for you? Well, it means cleaner air, cleaner water, and a healthier you. A reduction in CO₂ is a reduction in asthma, breathing problems, and premature deaths. Power plants and other pollutant-causing structures are often located in or near communities of color, causing greater disparities in health. Creating plans that utilize renewable energy reduce greenhouse gases and can impact communities of color the most.
It sounds reasonable, so why are states fighting the plans so hard?
Many states have to figure out ways to reduce emissions (which come from a number of sources like cars or industrial plants), without putting people out of work or bankrupting their treasuries. However, we can do our part to decrease the likelihood that communities of color are not disproportionately impacted regarding access to clean air or water.
How do I get involved?
If your state is resisting the EPA’s plans, there are a number of ways to be involved to clean up your community. Some states are bringing legal cases to challenge the EPA’s authority in how their state should respond to greenhouse gases. One way to impact these cases is by working with local organizations that are developing amicus briefs (which is basically a written statement to a judge or group of judges about why they should support or not support a side in the case). Another is to talk with your state representatives and senators and see what they are doing around this work.
How do I reach out to my state representatives and senators
We’ve been told to Fight the Power, but sometimes, we need to embrace the conversation. Each state capitol has a website you can visit and find out who your elected officials are. Most states have that information available by searching your zip code.
Once I have them, how do I advocate for this?
Working within organizations is one way to help advocate for raising the minimum wage. Sharing your story or the stories of others can make a world of difference in pushing the needle forward. For tips on citizen lobbying click here.
What the Frack?
You’ve heard the term but really, what is fracking? Hydraulic fracturing or fracking, is the process of injecting a mix of water, sand, and chemicals into the ground at high speeds to extract oil or gas. There are several types of hydraulic fracturing, but some are considered more dangerous than others. The chemicals used in fracking, the amount of water used, the impact on air quality and other factors make fracking a threat to the environment. Click here to read more information from the Environmental Protection Agency on fracking.
What Do You Mean “Threat to the Environment”?
Fracking requires toxic chemicals that are poisonous to humans and animals. These chemicals can enter groundwater and other bodies of water and make it unsafe for aquatic animals. Fracking has also been linked to earthquakes. According to a report by the Seismological Society of America, earthquakes have been linked to areas where fracking occurs. Click here to read more about the impact of fracking.
If Fracking is that bad, then why can’t we fix it?
Currently, many regulations and laws do not include fracking to reduce the effects. The Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act are two examples of federal laws that can help to regulate fracking to ensure it is carried out as safely as possible. Like other oil and gas regulations, some states have been looking at buffer zones to keep drilling companies from setting up within a certain distance of homes, schools, and major places of business.
How can I take action?
Here’s what organizations have been doing to raise awareness on the effects of fracking.
http://earthjustice.org/features/unfracktured-communities. You can also join the fracking movement at http://www.americansagainstfracking.org/join-the-movement.
I want to do something in my community, where do I start?
Local organizations where you can get involve- http://www.americansagainstfracking.org/about-the-coalition/members
I want to attend or create a rally, how do I start?
Join americansagainstfracking.org and work with coalition members for support
Attending a rally? Here are some poster ideas – http://grassrootsinfo.org/issues/hydraulic-fracturing-fracking/fracking-advocacy-posters
I want to be involved in some way, how can I stay active?
You can track fracking data across the states using the Fracktracker app.
How do I reach out to my state representatives and senators?
Each state capitol has a website you can visit and find out who your elected officials are. Most states have that information available by searching your zip code. You can also reach out to your members of Congress.
Obama Cuts Methane Emissions
EPA Rule to Cut Coal Emissions
EPA Rule to Cut Coal Emissions (NAACP Report)