As the NAACP State Conference President for Connecticut I am responsible for hearing and addressing all types of concerns. In Connecticut far too many of the complaints I hear relate to deprivation of what should be a basic human right for all, the right to breathe clean air. For African American communities, in particular, these rights are being violated.
The racial disparities in air quality lead to disparities in health and quality of life. Seventy-one percent of African Americans live in counties in violation of air pollution standards. An African American making $50,000 per year is more likely to live in an area cited for bad air pollution than a white American making $15,000 per year. Seventy-eight percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal fired power plant. Arsenic, dioxins, lead, mercury and other pollutants are spewed daily from various industrial facilities such as incinerators, power plants, factories, etc., putting people at risk across the country. For example, a Clean Air Taskforce report on power plant pollution found that emissions from all power plants in the U.S. are responsible for 30,000 premature deaths, 7,000 asthma-related emergency room visits, and 18,000 cases of chronic bronchitis each year.
When opponents denounce safeguards against pollution, such as the Clean Air Act and associated regulations with labels such as “job killing”, they disregard the high monetary cost of inaction and who is paying those costs. Consumers are already paying for the less-publicized costs of toxic air quality: mounting health expenses, lost days of school to care for sick kids, poor performance for lead exposed kids who have learning challenges, lost days of work due to illness and trips to take children to the doctor, etc.
Currently, regulations under the Clean Air Act, such as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule which aim to reduce pollution in our air, are under attack by polluters and certain legislative initiatives in Congress aimed at blocking the functionality of the Clean Air Act. These rules are essential for sensible reductions in air pollution. Supporting these rules would save up to 330 lives and will prevent heart attacks, hospitalizations, and ER visits in Connecticut every year.
Craig Kelly, Former NAACP President and longtime Bridgeport resident has stated that,
“They run the plant (Bridgeport Station) in the evening, at night so no one’s able to see what comes out. For the most part they don’t do it during the day, because it would be too obvious. I’m hoping that at some point, the EPA, or maybe the Department of Justice can look at it and say, maybe we can turn around and find some way to put a filter on top of the stack that’s letting these fumes, these poisonous substances, into the air. It’s very, very difficult. It’s just off the chart in terms of the illnesses that black and Puerto Rican people have within this community. It is something that needs to be addressed. Hopefully like minds will prevail and say “ok” we need to do something to make a difference in the lives and the quality of lives of the people that actually live here.”
Opposing the implementation of the Clean Air Act and its associated regulations would limit the EPA’s ability to enforce clean air standards that protect us from significant amounts of harmful air pollution.
In July of this year, the NAACP 102nd Annual Convention delegates unanimously passed a resolution calling for affirmation of strong regulations to safeguard clean air. These safeguards protect the health and wellbeing of the people living in communities affected by air pollution, who are disproportionately African American.
Enough is enough. We must maintain existing safeguards, as well as implement and strengthen standards that protect our communities. The NAACP Connecticut State Conference of Branches strongly urges our Senators and Representatives to support clean air safeguards and oppose proposed measures in Congress that put their constituents at risk.
Let Connecticut lead the way to cleaner air.
Scot X. Esdaile, President
NAACP Connecticut State Conference