Tag Archives: Clean Air Act

Environmental and Community Groups File Petition Demanding Federal Limits on Toxic Oil & Gas Well Air Pollution

CONTACT:

Liz Judge, Earthjustice, 415.217.2007ljudge@earthjustice.org

Shazia Manji, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles (PSR-LA), 213-689-9170smanji@psr-la.org

Lauren Whittenberg, Environmental Defense Fund, 512-784-2161lwhittenberg@edf.org

 64 Environmental and Community Groups File Petition Demanding Federal Limits on Toxic Oil & Gas Well Air Pollution

Concerned about health impacts of drilling rush, groups push EPA to act swiftly 

 

WASHINGTON, DC – A large coalition of 64 local, state and national groups filed a petition today urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect public health by setting pollution limits on oil and gas wells and associated equipment in population centers around the U.S.

 The public interest law organization Earthjustice filed the petition on behalf of local and national groups with members and constituents across the U.S., including Clean Air Council, Clean Air Taskforce, Downwinders at Risk, Environmental Defense Fund, Global Community Monitor, Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, Sierra Club, and WildEarth Guardians.   The petition explains why the EPA should issue rules that would require oil and gas companies to limit toxic air pollution from oil and gas wells in urban, suburban and other populated areas as the Clean Air Act expressly provides.

 In recent years, the pace of oil and gas drilling has increased drastically. As of 2011, oil and gas wells in the U.S. numbered more than 1.04 million. Current estimates project that as many as 45,000 new wells could be drilled each year through 2035. 

Available data suggest that at least 100,000 tons per year of hazardous air pollution from oil and gas well sites—such as benzene, formaldehyde, and naphthalene—are currently going freely into the air. These pollutants have been linked to respiratory and neurological problems, birth defects, and cancer.

“More than 150 million Americans now live near oil and gas wells or above shale areas where companies are looking to drill or engage in hydraulic fracturing, and EPA needs to set standards that restrict the hazardous air pollutants they put into the air,” said Earthjustice attorney Emma Cheuse, who filed the petition on behalf of the groups. “Oil and gas wells release chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, and respiratory disease, and EPA should protect our communities, especially our children, from exposure to these hazards.”

“As fracking encroaches upon communities throughout the American West, we need relief from unchecked toxic air pollution,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director.  “Oil and gas wells might seem small, but together they are endangering our health and welfare in rural and urban areas alike, poisoning the very skies that make the West such an amazing place to live.”

“Since 2010, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality here has been promising to increase regulation and inspection of the booming oil and gas exploration and development occurring at unprecedented levels, even for Texas,” noted Cyrus Reed of Sierra Club’s Texas Lone Star Chapter. “But despite some baby steps, oil and gas development remains largely unregulated and the Texas legislature has handcuffed the agency from taking additional regulatory steps. It’s time for the EPA to step in and do what Texas leaders have been unable to do: protect Texans from the unmitigated emissions of toxic air pollutants which poison our lungs and cause smog throughout cities like Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Midland.” 

“Every Oklahoman has the right to clean air to breathe. Currently Oklahoma air continues to deteriorate and instances of illnesses directly connected to air quality such as asthma continue to increase.  A significant cause for this is the dramatic increase in oil and gas drilling in our state over the past decade,” said Sierra Club Oklahoma Chapter Director David Ocamb.

“Californians’ air, health and food supply are under assault from increased oil and gas production using fracking, sanctioned by our Legislature and Governor Brown,” said Denny Larson, Executive Director of the Global Community Monitor based in Richmond, CA.  “It’s time for EPA to do its job and enforce the Clean Air Act and end the loophole that is poisoning our air.”

“Oil and gas wells release chemicals that have clearly and definitely been linked to health harms from nose bleeds and head aches to cancer, birth defects, and respiratory disease,” saidJames Dahlgren, MD, an internist with a sub-specialty in toxicology and member of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles.  “I’ve witnessed the harm these toxics cause to people and given everything we know about these pollutants, the EPA must take action to protect communities from exposure to these clear hazards,” he added. 

“Almost a decade of un-and-under-regulated fracking has transformed North Texas into a sacrifice zone for the gas industry, with conservative estimates of over 1,000 tons of hazardous air pollution being released annually from industry sources. Breathing this toxic air pollution has left a well-documented trail of illness and disease throughout the Barnett Shale. EPA needs to do its job and protect frontline victims of fracking by reducing the toxic fallout from the practice,” said Jim Schermbeck of the Dallas-Ft. Worth-based clean air group Downwinders at Risk.

“Pennsylvania residents living near shale gas operations deserve much stronger public health protections from EPA,” said Matt Walker, community outreach director of Clean Air Council. “EPA’s current standards for flaring at new oil and gas wells do not address the many other types of ongoing operations at oil and gas wells that emit significant amounts of toxic air pollution. The Council and its members urge EPA to act quickly to greatly limit air pollution from oil and gas infrastructure. 

“Our nation should not ask communities to trade clean air for cheap energy,” said Mark Brownstein, Environmental Defense Fund’s Associate Vice President & Chief Counsel, US Climate & Energy. “Anyone living near an oil and gas development deserves to know that all necessary steps are being taken to avoid hazardous air pollution.  Strong regulation is necessary to provide that assurance.”

“The scientific evidence is piling up to support what people around the country have been reporting for years: fracking-related air pollution can threaten the health of neighboring communities,” said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The oil and gas industry must not be allowed to continue spewing poisons into the air. EPA needs to step up to protect the health of Americans living near fracking operations across the country.”

 

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RESOURCES

 

 

RESOURCES INCLUDED AT THE END OF THE PETITION:

 

In Appendix A: Emissions and Covered Population Centers

  • Table 1 – NSPS v. NESHAP Coverage Comparison: Regulation of Wells and Associated Equipment
  • Table 2 – Oil and Gas Sector Summary: Comparison of Emissions Controlled by EPA’s Final Rule (“Controlled”) vs. Emissions that Could Have Been Controlled by EPA’s Final Rule But Were Not (“Not Controlled)
  • Table 5 – Presence of Active Oil and Gas Wells in — (1) Combined Statistical Areas (CSAs) with population greater than 1 million and (2) Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) not located in such a CSA

 

In Appendix B: Maps

 

  • Map 1 – U.S. Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 2 – U.S. Oil and Gas Wells and Population Centers
  • Map 3 – California: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 4 – Colorado: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 5 – Pennsylvania: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 6 – Texas: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 7 – Ohio: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 8 – Louisiana: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 9 – Michigan: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 10 – New York: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 11 – Oklahoma: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers

 

In Appendix C: List of health and other studies.

 

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Sierra Club Urges Advisory Board to Recommend Strong Standard to Cut Smog Science-Based Guidelines Needed to Protect Children’s Health

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 26, 2014

Contact: Anna Oman, (202) 650-6061

Washington, D.C. – Today the Sierra Club urged the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee to recommend a strong, science-based standard to protect Americans from smog. The Committee provides independent advice to the Environmental Protection Agency as it seeks to update the country’s smog pollution limits according to the Clean Air Act.

“Our children have waited long enough for strong protections from dangerous smog,” said Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign Director Mary Anne Hitt. “We know that smog triggers asthma, sending tens of thousands of children to the emergency room every year. Asthma is the number one health reason that American children miss school, and it costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars each year in missed work, medical care, and even premature deaths. With the technology readily available to dramatically reduce smog, it would be unconscionable not to act. It’s time to clean up our air and protect our families.”

Smog (also called ground-level ozone) is a widespread air pollutant that, when inhaled, harms the delicate lining of our lungs, and has been likened to getting a sunburn on your lungs. Smog pollution is particularly harmful to children, seniors, and persons with asthma, whose lungs are especially sensitive. Research has shown that exposure to smog causes respiratory problems including asthma, may even affect the nervous and cardiovascular systems, and can lead to premature death.

“Six years ago, the Bush Administration sided with big polluters and set standards that were weaker than what EPA and independent medical experts knew were needed to protect our children’s health,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “President Obama promised to strengthen this standard, and the American people should not have to wait any longer for action to clean up dangerous smog pollution.”

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Sierra Club comments to the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Council on the smog standard can be viewed here.

Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club tells EPA: Protect Texas children by lowering the ozone standard

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began public hearings this week in North Carolina to consider whether to lower the national health standard on ground-level ozone. Formed on hot sunny days by emissions of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide emissions– primarily resulting from the burning of fossil fuels in power plants, cars and industry – ground-level ozone directly impacts lung function and can lead to asthma, bronchitis, early death and a host of other health-related illnesses. Particularly at risk are the very young, the very old and those with preexisting health conditions.

Not surprisingly, filed public comments showed strong support among environmental and health advocates like Sierra Club and the American Lung Association for lowering the standard, while utilities, coal companies, the Texas Public Policy Foundation – an industry-funded conservative think tank – and even the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said the science does not support lowering the ozone standard. A full copy of the Lone Star Chapter’s comments can be found here.

At issue is whether or not the EPA should lower the level of pollution in the ambient air  at which an area would be considered to be in violation of the national air quality standard. The current standard of 75 parts per billion – measured as an average over eight hours — was developed in 2008 under former President Bush, while the new proposed standard would range between 60 and 70 parts per billion and has been under discussion in the public, in the White House, in Congress and in court ever since.

 The Sierra Club filed extensive comments supporting lowering the standard to 60 PPB based on hundreds of peer-reviewed health studies showing children and others do exhibit reduced lung function and real health effects at a level of 60.

 If a standard of 60 were adopted, it is likely that all major urban areas in Texas – based on the last three years of ozone data – would fail to meet the standard, including Houston and Dallas – which are currently out of compliance with the standard – along with Austin, San Antonio, Laredo, Corpus Christi, Tyler-Longview, Waco, Beaumont-Port Arthur and El Paso. Even cities in the Lower Rio Grande Valley – generally far removed from large industrial sources – might violate such a standard. 

Though a new, lower standard would be challenging for most of the state to meet, no Texas citizen should have to breath outdoor air that is unsafe.  Fortunately, there are solutions. Within our cities, generally the largest amount of pollution that leads to high levels of ground-level ozone comes from vehicles. Texas can and should continue to clean up our cars and trucks by not only making sure we meet the federal standards for new vehicles but also by fully allocating the money from the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, which provides grants to clean up older mobile vehicles. There will be nearly $1 billion of TERP funds that could be allocated to clean up our mobile sources of pollution when the Legislature meets again in 2015.

We also must take strong action against major point sources of pollution. According to the TCEQ’s 2012 Point Source Emissions Inventory, about one-third of all nitrogen oxide emissions from industrial sources in Texas come from coal-fired power plants. Nonetheless, out of the 32 boilers in Texas that burn coal that are not scheduled for retirement, 24 lack basic control technology known as Selective catalytic reduction (SCR), a type of scrubber which removes much of the nitrogen oxide pollution. These coal plants without modern pollution control belched more than 78,000 tons of nitrogen oxide into our airways, leading to higher ozone levels throughout Texas. We would note that a special case are the coal plants owned by Luminant, which are large and located primarily in areas that influence ozone formation in Dallas and Waco. In 2007, they were purchased by a holding company known as EFH, which made a commitment to add SCR on many of their units, including Martin Lake, but have thus far failed to do so. Collectively, the Martin Lake units contributed more than 11,500 tons of nitrogen oxide in 2012, the highest single source in the state. Requiring that all such units install modern pollution control on their stacks – or retire – could significantly reduce these emissions.

We must also implement new regulations to clean up emissions from oil and gas fracking activities. The Railroad Commission of Texas is permitting some 20,000 oil and gas wells every year, the majority of which are being fracked. The well completions, flaring and venting of gas, plus their operation, processing, transportation and storage of the oil and gas and related materials is literally leaking thousands of tons of nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere, leading to the creation of more ozone over our city centers. This problem is particularly pronounced in San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth due to the fracking boom. Yet our air quality regulations are outdated to deal with this new source of pollution. Finally, while many of our cement plants have updated their control equipment, about half have not, and they are major contributors to ozone formation throughout Central Texas, contributing about 16,000 tons of NOx per year.

Other solutions include making future buildings more efficient, growing renewable energy and energy efficient appliances and retrofitting existing buildings. These solutions have not been fully explored in Texas.

Yes meeting a new ozone standard would be challenging, but if our leaders at the White House, in Congress, at the Pink Dome and at our own agency – the TCEQ – will actually work on solutions rather than delay implementing a lower standard– we can reduce ozone levels, improve health, save lives and create jobs.

Obama Administration Finalizes Cleaner Tailpipe Standards

Note: Dallas and Houston area already are considered non-attainment areas for high levels of ground-level ozone during the hot summers, but areas like Beaumont-Port Arthur, San Antonio, Austin, Corpus, Waco and Tyler-Longview-Marshall on occasion violate the standards and likely would be considered non-attainment if they strengthen the standard as expected. This action on car and truck pollution by the Obama Administration will be tremendously helpful in Texas. If we can get our cars and trucks as clean as possible, we can do the same in the oil patch, and in those big old coal plants. We need all the sectors to clean up their mess if we are ever going to have air in our cities that is clean enough to breath safely. 

https://content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2014/03/obama-administration-finalizes-cleaner-tailpipe-standards

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

March 3, 2014

 

Contact: Maggie Kao, maggie.kao@sierraclub.org

 

Obama Administration Finalizes Cleaner Tailpipe Standards

 

[Washington, DC] Today, the Obama Administration finalized cleaner tailpipe standards that will reduce smog-forming pollution from cars and trucks. Smog, also known as ozone, is a toxic compound that causes a wide range  of health problems, from asthma attacks to heart disease.  These standards, also known as “Tier 3,” will require refiners to reduce the sulfur content of gasoline and automakers to use advanced pollution control technology, starting in 2017.  

 Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune released the following statement in response:

“Today, more than four in ten Americans live in places where the air is sometimes dangerous to breathe, due in part to pollution from cars and trucks. When these cleaner tailpipe standards go into effect in 2017, Americans will breathe easier, and they will feel the benefits of cleaner cars and trucks almost immediately.  

“Despite Big Oil’s attempts to derail and delay these commonsense, public health standards, the Obama Administration stood firm. These new standards will save lives, reduce asthma attacks, clean up air pollution, and create American jobs.

“The Sierra Club and our 2.4 million members and supporters applaud President Obama for finalizing cleaner tailpipe standards to strengthen his legacy of cleaner, more efficient vehicles, and commonsense public health protections.”

 

Proposed EPA Regulation could force Cleaner Energy and Protect Health

In a world and nation where water and energy are two things our growing population is starving for, an issue that combines both is of the utmost importance. This is why I’d love to inform you about a recent regulation proposed by the EPA that would place limits on the amount and type of toxic metals and other pollutants that can be discharged by steam electric power plants (coal, oil, and natural gas) into our waterways. These regulations, dubbed Effluent Limitation Guidelines, will have the greatest effect on coal plants so I will address it as pertaining to coal henceforward.

Toxic waste discharged from power plant

Toxic waste discharged from a coal plant

This bill is extremely important in guiding the future state of human and environmental health as well as the phasing into cleaner sources of energy. It is going to be implemented but what has yet to be decided is which option out of four will be chosen to be implemented. “The four options are based on varying levels of treatment for seven different waste streams generated by the plants and differ in the stringency of the treatment controls to be imposed” said the congressional research service. There are allegations being made that the White House Office of Management and Budget is attempting to weaken the proposed standards in response to coal industry demands. The coal industry will obviously be fighting for the least strict regulations, which brings in the underdog, “we the people”, to stand up for more regulated water pollution.

I will now make a claim as to why it is so important that the strongest regulation (option 4 out of 4), which will reduce annual pollutant discharge by 2.62 billion pounds and reduce annual water usage by 103 billion pounds, needs to be implemented.

These regulations need to be in the strongest form possible because, as a study conducted  in North Carolina by Duke University revealed, coal plants have implemented scrubbers and other technologies to reduce the amount of toxic air pollution (coinciding with the Clean Air Act) but those pollutants are just ending up in the waste water that the coal plants produce, defeating the purpose of the “CLEAN” Air Act. The study also uncovered other disturbing information: the highest concentration of contaminants were found in a waste water pond that was being directly released into a primary drinking water source for Charlotte, North Carolina. After testing the water, the scientists found a couple of areas that exceeded the EPA guidelines for safe drinking water and aquatic life. These unhealthy levels were also found in two popular recreational lakes in the northern part of the state. This is just 1 example.

Why doesn’t the Clean Water Act regulate this water pollution problem?

For one, existing guidelines that limit the pollutants emitted into the water by coal plants have not been updated in over 30 years. Also, many regulators have said the Clean Water Act is inadequate because is does not mandate limits on the most dangerous chemicals in power plant waste and it is also claimed to have loopholes that the energy industry takes advantage of. In addition to that, 90% of 313 coal plants that have violated the Clean Water Act since 2004 were not fined or penalized by federal or state regulators, according to a New York Times Analysis of EPA records.

There is countless information that supports the need for this nation-wide water pollution regulation in its strongest form, so I proceed… Here is a link to fish consumption advisories in Texas due to water pollution. All the water bodies surrounding my hometown, including some I have previously caught fish in (and eaten), are polluted with the following advisory given for a couple: “Persons should not consume any species of fish from these waters”.  Although coal plants cannot be solely blamed for this (as it is hard to trace back pollution), they are definitely a large contributing factor. Some other unfortunate statistics found in a report produced by a coalition of environmental and clean water groups: “Of the 274 coal plants that discharge coal ash and scrubber waste water into waterways, nearly 70% (188), have no limits on the amount of toxic metals like arsenic, mercury, boron, cadmium, and selenium they are allowed to dump into public waters.” When you consider this pollution which produces horrible health effects such as reduced growth and development, cancer, organ damage, nervous system damage, and death, one begins to hope that policy decisions regarding this pollution are really going to be made on our behalf.

I digress from the smorgasbord of depressing health and environmental data on this pollution and focus on what this bill will do. It will:

1.  Set national standards that limit the amount of toxic chemicals discharged into our waterways by coal plants and is based upon technological improvements in the industry over the last 30 years.

2. Require coal plants to monitor and report the amount of pollution dumped into our waterways. (We deserve to know this!)

The strongest proposal is common-sense, affordable, and is already being used by some coal plants. This regulation will force coal companies to internalize the cost of pollution, justly relieving that burden from the health of our communities and precious water sources. If you feel strongly about this issue, make your voice heard! It will take a strong force to overcome the corporate interests that are going to fight their hardest for the lowest regulation for what they can dump into our waters.

Things you can do:

1. Make a meeting with your Senator or Representative to let them know you support the strongest regulations

2. Write a Letter to the Editor and submit it to your local newspaper

3. Educate your friends!

More information on the bill can be found here

SAVE THE DATE: September 29th-30th The 12th Annual Renewable Roundup is Back!

Renewable Roundup 2012!

At a Glance…

WHAT?!?!: The 12th Annual Renewable Roundup is a sustainability symposium centered around green living, alternative energy education, family festivities, and sustainable lifestyle practices for our future. This event wouldn’t be complete without it’s A-list of Guest Speakers, Hands-on Workshops, Eco-friendly Vendors, Progressive Exhibitors, Tasty Food Demonstrators, and Supportive Sponsors.

WHERE?!?!: Fredricksburg, Texas

WHEN?!?!: The last weekend in September. Saturday September 29th 9:00am – 6:00pm and Sunday September 30th 9:00am- 5:00pm

HOW?!?!: For more information on how to get involved with the Roundup as a either a participant or patron, visit http://theroundup.org/.

WHO?!?!: Everyone and anyone is invited! We encourage all individuals and families to come out to this great event looking to learn about sustainable living practices. This event is proudly brought to you by a joint effort from TREIA, Texas Center for Policy Studies, and The Texas Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter.

Learn How, Here!

In Depth…

DETAILS/ARTICLE: 

Great News!  The annual Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair will be taking place again this year in the beautiful and historical town Fredericksburg, Texas! Organized by the Texas Renewable Energy Industry Association, in collaboration with the Texas Center for Policy Studies and the Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club, Renewable Roundup is a collaborative event centered around individuals, organizations, and companies passionate about sustainable living.  The event planning committee is working hard on making this year’s show the best ever. The underlining theme of this weekend event strives to promote cleaner and smarter ways of using our resources while educating the public about “Greener” lifestyles and options. This event serves as both a conference and festival, as it enlightens, entertains, and publicizes those interested in a brighter greener future. We would love to have you at this extraordinary event the 4th weekend in September (Sept. 29 &30). Please check out our website http://www.theroundup.org/ to find out more or contact Event Coordinator Laura Rice at info@theroundup.org.

INVOLVEMENT:

  • Attend!
  • Apply to be a Guest Speaker
  • Host a workshop the Friday before the gates open on Saturday morning
  • Reserve a booth or exhibit space to advertise and or promote a sustainable idea or product
  • Advertise
  • Sponsor the event
  • Volunteer at the event
  • Come to the VIP kick-off party Friday evening

Can’t Wait to See Everyone There! 🙂

-Danya Gorel Sierra Club Intern

~Special Thanks to Mentor and Conservation Director Cyrus Reed~

Haze, Haze, Go Away!!

Have you ever stepped outside and felt like it was hard to breathe? Or as you entered the city, have noticed a blanket of “fog” covering it? Well what you are feeling and seeing is haze. Haze is caused when sunlight encounters tiny pollution particles in the air. Some light is absorbed by particles. Other light is scattered away before it reaches an observer. More pollutants means more absorption and scattering of light, which reduce the clarity and color of what we see. Haze occurs everywhere but surprisingly, lately the amount of haze has increased particularly at our National Parks such as Big Bend National Park and the Guadalupe Mountains.

Haze causes health problems and degrades visibility in American cities and parks. The majority of Haze comes from coal plants and refineries. These power plants emit huge quantities of pollution into the air creating Haze.

The Clean Air Act requires the State of Texas and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce and eliminate this haze. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a rule, however Texas’s oldest and dirtiest power plants would be exempted from installing readily available, modern pollution controls under the proposed rule. The EPA’s proposed rule would not only jeopardize the Regional Haze Rule, but it will also continue to put our national parks such as Big Bend and the Guadalupe Mountains and the health of all Texas at risk of suffering from Haze.

The EPA’s proposed rule is currently on hold and is being reviewed. The Sierra Club’s campaign to “Save Big Bend and the Guadalupe Mountains” has been putting friendly pressure on the EPA. As part of the campaign the Sierra Club has sent a record number of 7,400 comments to the EPA about this issue. The EPA has said that it will announce its decision on the haze rule in November.

In the meanwhile, the Sierra Club is having a retreat to Big Bend National Park on May 11-13, 2012.  At the retreat, people will be able to see the beauty and treasure of the park while also learning some useful grassroots skills and meeting some other environmental enthusiasts. Everyone is welcome to come! If you are interested or simply have further questions you can email Stephanie Cole at stephanie.cole@sierraclub.org or call (512) 477-1729.

Haze has become a serious issue. With your help we can make sure our health, livelihood, and national parks are protected.

Like the song goes, “Haze, Haze, go away. Please don’t come back another day”

–Lauren Fedele, Sierra Club Intern