(Columbus, Ohio – July 14, 2011) Concerned Columbus residents and community groups gathered to protest American Electric Power's (AEP) opposition to the clean air laws that protect the health of families across Ohio.
If AEP is successful at blocking sensible limits on toxic air pollution, as many as 17,000 lives could be lost every year. In response, activists delivered almost 40,000 petition signatures to AEP's headquarters all asking the question:
"How many lives lost is too many? AEP - What's your number?"
The utility giant has been lobbying to block new sensible regulations that would lower the amount of dangerous pollution, like mercury, that power plants can emit. Columbus-area residents at today's rally said they were worried -- and angry – at their electricity providers' actions.
"AEP and their high priced lobbyists wrote draft legislation that would weaken and delay new clean air rules. If passed, it would permit the release of mercury, acid gases and arsenic that would contribute to as many as 17,000 deaths, 110,000 asthma attacks and 850,000 missed work days every single year. We want to know, AEP: what's your number?" Said Andrew Sidsigner, the Columbus Organizer for 350 Ohio.
"In 2008, AEP emitted more mercury than any other American utility. This is a serious concern because mercury harms the brains and nervous systems of babies and developing children," said Brian Rothenberg, Executive Director of Progress Ohio. "I'd ask AEP to spend less time lobbying for toxic emissions and more time reducing them," continued Rothenberg.
The rally took place outside of AEP's headquarters in downtown Columbus, near a giant billboard which highlights the number of lives that will be cut short each year by AEP's draft legislation
Power plant pollution also includes other dangerous substances, including ground level ozone and particulate pollution – generally called smog and soot. Those substances trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory problems, and cause the "code orange" and "code red" days when Ohioans are warned to stay indoors because of unhealthy air.
The new clean air rules that AEP is opposing would significantly reduce the amount of those toxins and give all Ohioans healthier air to breathe. Other utilities around the country are already working to lower their pollution levels, while AEP is devoting its resources to opposing clean air rules.
This has been an escalating public education campaign including: local residents uploading viral videos about what they think, several visibility events, door to door efforts, TV ads, and several billboards around Columbus to draw attention to AEP's efforts to block sensible limits to toxic air pollution.
You can learn more about the campaign at www.edf.org/whatsyournumber or on Twitter with the hashtag #WhatsYourNumber.