The killers were silent, but the sensors at my feet were screaming out their names.
I was in a plane flying over the Houston Ship Channel to see air pollution.
A Baylor University scientist had invited me. The cramped single-engine had barely room for me and the sensors coughing out data on the nitrogen dioxide, particulates and hydrocarbons being cooked into ozone by the autumn swelter.
On the ground below, someone was having an asthma attack.
No biggie – unless that person died. And if so, it’s the price of commerce. Right, Mr. President?
Asthma is one of the facts of life in Houston. Google “Houston asthma” and understand.
Often those life-or-death health crises are from a snoot-full of benzene, a prime byproduct of petrochemicals.
However, when it gets up above in the milky blue sky over the Gulf, it’s just so much profit.
That’s how the Trump administration is looking at air pollution – profit on high not to be impeded by any consideration of breathers below.
The administration’s own Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges that lifting restrictions built into the Clean Air Act will kill hundreds of Americans.
Republicans’ apparent answer: “So what?”
The restrictions in question are about coal-fired power plants.
Coal: The market is turning away from it. Technology is finding ways around it, and yet a nation’s air policies are held hostage to election-year posturing about it that helped Trump gain a few electoral votes.
Trump calls it “beautiful, clean coal.” There’s nothing clean about it. What’s known as clean-coal technology is oxymoronic, at least compared to alternatives.
What coal-fired plants were required to do under President Obama’s provisions of the Clean Air Act was to burn it as cleanly as is technologically possible.
What the Trump plan does is remove requirements under which aging coal plants were going to have to do that.
At least one-third of the coal-fired power plants in the country are not subject to advanced pollution controls, according to the EPA. They would be off the hook to get clean under this order.
Now, a memo to Team Trump: Who allowed some numbers-cruncher at the EPA to tell the American people that this change could cause as many as 1,400 Americans to die by 2030?
Couldn’t these figures, and the numbers-cruncher himself, be deep-sixed somewhere? Maybe where they keep the figures on Trump’s Russian money-laundering?
Yes, many would die, says the EPA. Ah, the collateral damage of rewarding coal-mining states for their patronage.
The fact is, at every turn, Trump is willing to let Americans die in the face of his deregulatory fury.
Fifteen states are suing to block the administration’s proposal to lift Obama administration restrictions on heavily polluting trucks, which calculated that its measure would save 1,600 lives a year from respiratory distress.
You may not trust those figures or those people from whom it came. The question, then: What is your threshold for being concerned? Five lives? Two hundred?
Back to the airplane that carried me over the Houston ship channel that day. We were aloft to gauge how far pollution traveled from the many plants in that petrochemical hive.
Pollution from that locale travels whole time zones, sharing asthma-causing chemicals and particulates far and wide.
This brings us to more ridiculousness from Trump. Last month the administration revealed a proposal that would allow states to set their own standards for pollution from coal-fired plants, as if air can be divvied up like a nice little subdivision.
But it can’t. The air, clean or dirty, envelops all, belongs to all. Use your voice, while you can.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.