Nearly 138.5 million people—almost 44 percent of the nation—live where pollution levels are often dangerously high and millions of children and adults with asthma suffer every day.
Most air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels—in factories and power plants, steel mills, and cars and trucks. Much of the damage comes from coal-burning power plants like this plant near Rock Springs, Wyoming. Not only is coal burning responsible for one-third of U.S. carbon emissions—the main contributor to climate disruption—but it is also making us sick, leading to as many as 13,000 premature deaths every year and more than $100 billion in annual health costs.
Thanks to the Clean Air Act, the air is cleaner than it was in the 1960s. But we still have work to do to move away from this dangerous source of energy. Citizens working together and the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal grassroots campaign have reduced coal’s share of U.S. electric power generation from about 50 percent in 2007 to about 33 percent today. (The Wyoming plant above announced that they would scrap their plans to construct a new unit and are looking at a combination of natural gas and wind power projects.) City by city, people are retiring their local coal power plants and turning to renewable sources of energy.
Local Air Issues
Make solar strong in the Northeast
The solar industry in Maine and Massachusetts is under attack. Without comprehensive solar policies and solar incentives, elected leaders can block movement toward clean energies.
Bring back solar to Nevada
Rooftop solar is essential to building a clean economy in Nevada. Recent anti-solar rulings by the Public Utilities Commission and lack of leadership from elected officials have set America’s sunniest state back, favoring monopoly utilities over a clean energy future.
Close Indian Point
Indian Point's nuclear power is neither clean nor green. Hudson Valley communities have called for closure of the plant for decades due to environmental and safety concerns. Now is the moment for elected officials to push for its complete closure. Shutting down Indian Point gives New York the opportunity to secure its green economy future.
Breathe clean in Utah
Air quality in Utah has suffered from increasing development and numbers of cars, homes, businesses and industry, all of which drive fine-particle pollution well above safe levels. Elected officials have made headway in the fight for breathable air, but more needs to be done to cut down on pollution.
Chemicals, coal ash and waste seep into our common waters. More than half of our nation’s rivers and streams are in either fair or poor biological health, but we continue to dam and pollute. California is suffering from an epic drought, and we have tapped our streams and rivers to the bone.
Local Water Issues
Stand up to oil
Oil companies stand to make huge profits from new fossil fuel terminals in the Pacific Northwest, while local communities and waterways bear the risks. Elected port commissioners and state officials need to stand up to big oil and say no to risky new infrastructure.
Yes to the Plastic Bag Ban
Research shows there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050 unless we intervene. Single-use plastic bags are not good for our coastlines, oceans or marine wildlife. The California public now has the chance to say yes to a ban on plastic bags, putting the health of our oceans above convenience.
Shut down the Line 5 pipeline
Aging oil pipelines threaten the pristine waters of the Great Lakes. Enbridge’s Line 5 is operating illegally, and their pipeline poses an unacceptable risk to our water, ecosystems, health and economy. State leaders have the responsibility to eliminate the risk of a catastrophic oil spill and shut down Line 5.
Toughen Georgia's pollution regulations
Georgia has two of the top three dirtiest fossil-fuel electric plants, is the most coal-dependent state in the country and is home to over 70 coal ash ponds with some of the weakest coal ash disposal regulations in the U.S. With poor regulations in place, communities around Georgia are facing health nightmares from contaminated waterways and polluted air. Policymakers have a responsibility to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and enforce policies that defend the public.
Healthy soils feed our families and sustain our ecosystems. Healthy soil, like forests, also captures tons of carbon per acre every year. According to a 35-year Rodale study, the world’s soil and grasslands could absorb enough carbon to begin to reverse global warming. Our grasslands, and the soil beneath them, might just help save our world.Yet due to drought and desertification, each year 29.7 million acres of land are lost—an area that could have been used to grow 20 million tons of grain.
Yet due to drought and desertification, each year 29.7 million acres of land are lost—an area that could have been used to grow 20 million tons of grain. And 50 million people (1.5 times the population of Canada) may be displaced within the next 10 years as a result of desertification. In California’s Central Valley, farmers are dealing with a five-year-plus drought, and they have been forced to let more than a million acres of cropland turn to dust. The ground we depend on is often contaminated, turning to desert or blowing away.
Local Soil Issues
No Trans-Pecos Pipeline
Big Bend in Texas is one of the last undeveloped areas in the country. The Trans-Pecos Pipeline threatens to bring a dirty industry into this pristine landscape. Elected leaders need to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and defend Texas’ Big Bend.
Stop GMO pesticide testing
At least 27 schools in Hawai'i are located within one mile of GMO crop testing fields being sprayed with dangerous pesticides. Big agriculture has overtaken Hawai'i’s landscape and is putting communities at risk. Hawai'i needs leaders to put the public first and say no to GMOs and pesticides.
Fight the public lands heist
Legislation targeting the transfer of public land to state-owned or private entities, backed by wealthy private interests, has plagued the Montana legislature. Policymakers have been slow to speak out against repeated assaults on public lands. Elect leaders who will fight for Montana’s public lands for all.
Reject the Atlantic Coast Pipeline
Running over 600 miles long, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would fragment forests from Virginia to North Carolina and open up more land to natural gas development in Appalachia. Elected officials have the opportunity to defend Appalachia and enforce stricter regulations for energy development on our public lands.