2010 Advocacy Successes
Our successes this year are a reflection on the dedicated volunteers who make our advocacy efforts possible. Through your visits, calls and emails to legislators, our representatives understand what it is like to live with COPD, to manage a child’s asthma or to care for people living with lung cancer. By giving a voice to people living with lung disease, we’ve been able to pass lung-friendly policies. We thank you for your continued support, and wish you a happy and healthy new year. View this information as a printer-friendly PDF here.
Advocates achieve results in Washington, D.C.
In April, lung health advocates from across the U.S. traveled to Washington, D.C. to urge lawmakers to make lung health a national priority. As part of our annual United for Lung Health Advocacy Day, advocates joined together to share ideas and pursue legislation that provides meaningful results to the lung health community. Our coalition partners met with the offices of 19 Illinois representatives in Congress, and the results were powerful. After our visit, membership in the congressional COPD caucus increased, and more legislators signed on to sponsor the National Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act as well as other lung-friendly bills.
Continuing efforts to clean up power plants
We continue to lead the charge in cleaning up harmful coal-fired power plant pollution. As part of the 50-member Chicago Clean Power Coalition, we worked with Alderman Joe Moore to introduce legislation in the city council to clean up the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plants. The plants emit thousands of tons of deadly air pollution every year and cause health problems for nearby residents. To date, 16 aldermen have co-sponsored this important legislation, and the ordinance has been assigned to a committee. We also joined EPA's federal lawsuit against Midwest Generation to compel the company to stop excess soot emissions and follow Clean Air Act requirements at their plants.
U.S. EPA awards our diesel pollution efforts
In July, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented Respiratory Health Association with a leadership award for our ongoing efforts to clean up diesel exhaust. We have worked closely with Illinois EPA to implement more than 100 successful clean diesel projects throughout the state, and we were highlighted for our work in enacting idling reduction ordinances as well as our efforts to secure more than $31.1 million in funding for diesel reduction projects in Chicago through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Improvement program in 2010 and 2011.
Self-carry inhaler legislation passes
With our advocacy efforts and support, the Illinois legislature unanimously passed House Bill 5836 to remove a barrier to students managing their asthma at school. Now, students can carry and administer their quick relief asthma inhalers as long as they submit a copy of their prescription and a note from their parent or guardian, whereas previously students required a note from a doctor. This law is the first of its kind in the U.S. and paves the way for more states to pass this important legislation. (View our Back to School with Asthma page for more information.)
Speaking out at EPA power plant rule hearing
In August, our staff and supporters testified in support of a new U.S. EPA rule aimed at cutting coal-fired power plant pollution. The rule is designed to cut harmful sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from coal-fired power plants in 31 states, including Illinois. Once implemented, EPA estimates that each year these rules will save more than 14,000 lives and prevent 240,000 asthma attacks and 26,000 hospital and emergency department visits. Respiratory Health Association played a key role in bringing clean air advocates and people living with lung disease to the hearing, and we worked with the media to broadcast the importance of these rules.
Cleaning up Metra's pollution
In November, we worked with Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Hawthorne on an investigative piece about poor air quality inside Metra trains and stations. According to the Tribune's testing, air pollution inside Metra cars can be 72 times higher than outside air. Respiratory Health Association President and CEO Joel Africk participated in a press conference with Senator Durbin urging Metra, U.S. EPA and OSHA to look into the matter. In response, Metra has set up a task force to investigate the problem and propose new ways to improve air quality. We have joined the task force and are urging Metra to use cleaner ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, install idling controls on all of their locomotives, invest in cleaner trains that meet the strictest U.S. EPA standards and use after-treatment pollution controls.
Raising awareness for COPD
Throughout the year, we had an overwhelming amount of support from people living with COPD. Through our events, they wrote letters to the editors of numerous local papers and hundreds of letters to elected officials, and they joined us to meet with members of Congress to discuss lung-friendly policies. With their many efforts, people living with COPD provided our elected officials and the public with unique perspective and insight into the impact of the disease on their own lives and their community.
Protecting clean energy policies
Illinois is legally required to generate 25 percent of its power from clean, renewable sources by 2025, and Respiratory Health Association is ensuring that we are on track to meet the requirement. In the spring, we worked with other organizations to stop a bill in Springfield that would have reclassified burning tires as a renewable energy source to generate electricity. Defending how clean, renewable power is defined in Illinois law ensures that we increase the proportion of our electric power that comes from non-polluting wind and solar energy.
Urging CTA to use pollution controls
After Respiratory Health Association urged Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) for years to clean up their bus fleet, CTA finally applied for and was awarded $11.9 million in federal transportation funds to be spent from 2011 through 2013 to clean up hundreds of buses with exhaust pollution controls. In late 2010, CTA received approval to get the entire funding award in 2011, so the process of retrofitting hundreds of buses will happen much faster than originally planned. This means cleaner air for all people in the Chicago area, and it will provide CTA staff with a cleaner, safer work environment.
Fighting exemptions to smoke-free laws
In late 2010, casinos and other special interest groups began seeking exemption to the smoke-free law. Our staff and volunteers worked diligently to pass the historic smoke-free laws in 2008, and we continue to be vigilant of the rights of workers to breathe clean air. So far, no exemptions to the law have passed through the legislature, and we continue to monitor these efforts.
For more information on our efforts, view our Advocacy pages, list of 2010 lung health highlights, research pages or community programs pages. To get involved with our advocacy efforts, contact Matt Maloney: