Archive for March, 2011

There are various legislative amendments – and bills, and such that I am  keeping an eye on.  Why?  Because that’s just what I do.  I like to know what my elected officials are trying to do.

This means bills concerning the Clean Air Act and the EPA (and of course ANYTHING to do with military families)  Today, I’m looking at legislation and amendments being introduced, by members of both parties,  that are basically trying to cut the EPA’s ability to keep our air clean.  These include blocking the EPA from enforcing new “cafe standards” for cars – which force the car makers into making our cars more efficient.  When we were car shopping, one of the attributes of cars we were concerned with and that helped us make up our decision, was the gas mileage/efficiency.   NOT just because we want to pollute less, but also, very much – because we wanted to SAVE MONEY! We get 45 mpg in DC/NoVA traffic – that’s pretty impressive! We enjoy not spending a fortune to go on trips. Now, if car manufacturers weren’t forced to make changes, they weren’t going to make them.  I remember the days of seatbelt laws being enforced, the car manufacturers had a fit – it was going to cost too much!  then air bags – it was going to create all sorts of problems.  Standards for gas efficiency – it means there’s more money in MY pocket, instead of a corporation’s pocket.  Now personally, I like that.

Other amendments are trying to stop enforcement of the laws already in place about clean air standards – cutting down on methane and carbon pollution from power plants and other industrial sources.  As you know, I’m also blogging about Clean Air at Mom’s Clean Air Force.

Now, if you can, and if you care, give a call to your Senator and Congressperson – let them know you don’t favor cutting the ability of the EPA to keep our air clean, to keep the money you earn in your pocket, instead of in your gas tank.  The Amendments are being proposed in the  Small Business Bill.  What on earth amendments that will only be beneficial to the top polluters in the country are doing in a Small Business (like mine?) Bill – that’s a whole other topic.


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Blue Star Families gave some linking love to LIFT – Like It For TIME – the push to persuade TIME Magazine to realize that Military Families deserve to be TIME’s Person of the Year for 2011.  The new project – LIFT, LINK, LOVE! asks for everyone to send a link – one of those paper chain links that we all use to count down deployments.  The address is at the site – go take a look.

The BSF link reminds us that the Week of the Military Family is approaching – April 4-10.  So – what are YOU doing to bring attention to Military Families and their issues?  sending a link would be a great start.

Please, make some links, and send the idea to all your non military friends – because that’s the real idea here.  NOT to be a project FROM military families – but a project FOR military families.

Grab the scissors, the markers – get the kids involved (Cub Scout Project?  School Project?)  Let’s make this chain HUGE!


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When this Milspouse agreed to mutter about the Clean Air Act with Mom’s Clean Air Force, I had a few reasons for doing so.  The chief reason was the opportunity to write about something I really love – the environment.  Ask anyone who knows me, I’m one of THOSE.   We recycle; we drive a hybrid; we take mass transit when at all possible;  we buy organic and try to support local farmers who raise their crops organically – you get the picture.

Moving around as we do (and as military families, we all do, right?) we have so much to take into consideration.

  • Distance to post; check.
  • Distance to Metro or bus; check.
  • Safety; check.
  • Military friendly rental owner: check.
  • Pet friendly; check.

As I was househunting, I had my check list.  Then, I found it.  Great place – but then I looked up.  An Incinerator?  Seriously?

So I did some research – called the town and county – did some googling… and found out that this one has a great reputation, that their emissions are very low.  Now I have a couple of reasons for doing a lot of double checking;  My husband, and my granddaughter.

My husband has been around a lot of burn pits in his last three deployments and his lungs are probably already somewhat stained around the edges.   I would rather not expose his lungs to even more particulate and toxins.

Our granddaughter – she’s five, and the best grandchild on the planet, really!  She was born a little early and has had some lung problems in the past.  When she comes to see us, do I want to have her exposed to those particulates and toxins?  Those little lungs, that little brain developing, as a good grandma, they need to be protected, right?

I can’t do this for other particulate emitters – like a power plant that might be twenty or 50 or 200 miles away.  That’s what I want to rely on the EPA to do; to help me make sure that the air my husband breathes when he gets back from his next deployment; the air my granddaughter is breathing when she hurtles down the slide on the playground;  the playground sand she digs in; is as clean as possible, is not toxic.

I’ve always known that the prevailing winds are bearing  particulates and pollution all over the country.  The biggest emitters of mercury, one of the most toxic poisons that contaminate our lakes and rivers, are coal fired power plants.  There are about 450 of them, scattered around the country.   About 55% of the plants in the country are already complying with the new proposed rules, so it’s NOT impossible!  There are all sorts of filters, there are ways to check and test the fuel that is being used.  There is even something called a “baghouse” which is an interesting name for some really big filters – fabric filters that catch most of the  particulate bits that are going out the stack of the power plant, on which the mercury, arsenic, formaldehyde and lead are flying through the air.

The proposed rules are to tighten up emission standards for mercury, acid gases,  and all other particulates that come out of power plants.  They will prevent over 90 percent of mercury from coal burning power plants from being dispersed into the air, and reduce 90% of  those acid gases (like hydrochloric acid!) from being emitted as well.

The welfare of our families is the most important thing to all of us.  Making sure the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat is safe; is crucial.  We can’t do it alone, we need to rely on each other as well.  To keep industries from contaminating our air and water – we need the EPA.  These Clean Air Act proposed changes are an important step for the EPA, for all of us.  Your comments are important.

Here is the place to add your comments – email address: a-and-r-docket@epa.gov

The emails should reference these Docket ID numbers.

Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0044 (NSPS action)
Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0234 (NESHAP action)

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A few weeks ago we were waiting for PCS orders, and went through the usual you will be going to this fort, that fort, over here, over there… I am one of those people who makes arrangements – I research everything [ yes, alright, sometimes I am obsessive.. or I can’t make up my mind because I need to research just one more thing] So I started the usual… planning the trip [ get cat friendly hotels… get a big traveling cage for cranky cat] emailed some friends to find out what they knew about Fort Whatsis. The online house hunting started then and after checking the area, BAH rates, and getting on Military By Owner – the stark realization that actually at that place, it might actually be better to live on post. We’ve done the whole trailer park thing, and as for apartments – we are sick of hearing everything from the side upper and lower neighbours!

Lists were started – if we go here, then we store some of the stuff, need a climate controlled place… if we go there, we’ll need another car, or we’ll need a 4wd! Is there a branch of our favourite grocery store in the area? Is there a farmer’s market? A decent bakery? An LYS (Local Yarn Store)? How about the airports, can I get a direct flight to our son’s town, my parent’s town? Is there a good vet? Physical therapist for my back?

But this time, there was one less worry, one less thing to think about, to plan. I didn’t have to worry about leaving a job, or finding a new one. I’m a virtual assistant, my clients are in various places, and I don’t think they would care if I was in one place or another! I need a good computer connection, power… and that’s all. Everything is on my laptop. Or on the hard drive backup.

For a milspouse, this is a great feeling – we wouldn’t have the usual dip in the money flow during the move. The stress of unpacking, getting used to a new place, and job hunting [did I pack that suit, where are those shoes….] applying, interviewing, hoping that the employer doesn’t figure out I’m a milspouse, second interviews, waiting for news while unpacking some more.

Now I’m not saying it’s perfect – there’s the scrambling to find clients, doing a bunch of work that doesn’t bring in money, the jobs that fall through or that don’t work/happen.. lots of money going out for a website, cards, classes.. But it’s an option, that’s working for us right now.

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Clean air! It’s everyone’s right, to have air that is clean and that won’t hurt us to take a deep breath, right? That is the reason we have the EPA and The Clean Air Act. So why should I care about this – it’s the law already, we fought that battle back in the 70s, and in the 80s and even in the 90s. Why are you bothering me with this? We’ve become accustomed to having air we can breathe, safely.

Many years ago, when this Milspouse muttered in Minnesota, I worked for a group of lawyers who worked for the Pollution Control Agency. The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes published an advisory, stating that pregnant women, young children and even women who were thinking of becoming pregnant shouldn’t eat a lot of fish out of any of those lovely lakes. Placards at the lakes told us that all those people who fish should toss them back, not just because of conservation of the fish stock – but because the mercury levels were so high! Mercury? The mercury we used to see in thermometers? Now, you ask, what does this have to do with the Clean Air Act – I should be talking about the Clean WATER Act. No, not this time; this mercury isn’t naturally occurring.  Airborne particles from coal fired power plants are precipitating those mercury levels into the “danger for pregnant women” zone.

The EPA is proposing a ruling and update to the Clean Air Act targeting those toxic air pollutants that are the most harmful – like mercury, arsenic, dioxin, lead, acid gases and other heavy metals. These are usually spewed out by coal fired power plants that don’t have any limits on what they emit. Now this rule has been under consideration and development for 20 years. In that time some power plants have been fitted with the necessary filters, and are online, working efficiently but in a cleaner fashion than those unfiltered.

Opponents to these regulations are trying very hard to prevent the EPA from enforcing these new rules under consideration. BUT on the other hand, those who care about our health are on board with making these new rules the law, like The American Medical Association, the American Lung Association; the American Heart Association; the American Academy of Pediatricians; the American Nurses Association.

I’m part of a new movement – Moms Clean Air Force* – as a mom and grandma, I believe in clean air for our families. I’m combining two passions here, military families and their welfare, and environmental causes. The young children of this country, who are the population most likely to have asthma from “bad air”, who get the constant respiratory illnesses from bad air, and whose little bodies are most likely to be polluted by the dioxins, the mercury and lead that can harm their brain development; those children deserve clean air, deserve to be able to breathe safely. My granddaughter deserves to be able to run around in the clean air, not wheeze and sneeze from pollutants.

Our military children, when they live in this country, deserve to be able to breathe safely. After all, some of us have lived in countries where the air isn’t that clean, where we can’t be sure what they are breathing in. We’ve seen our spouses come back from “downrange” and other places, talking about being able to breathe so much better when they are back. Some of us are seeing the effects of bad air that our service-member breathed in affecting their breathing now. Let’s keep that clean air here in the USA, let’s make sure that the air we all breathe is as clean as we can possibly make it.

The EPA News Release is here

That link will lead you to other EPA links about this new rule. You can get the 900 page proposed rule as well as very helpful interpretation documents if you don’t want to devote your week to reading the whole thing!

Here is the place to add your comments – email address: a-and-r-docket@epa.gov

To make life easier on the person sorting these, and to make sure that your comment gets to the right place, emails should reference these Docket ID numbers.

Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0044 (NSPS action)
Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0234 (NESHAP action)

*Disclosure: I am receiving a small honorarium for my time writing, speaking and participating in events as part of the Moms Clean Air Force. But you know I wouldn’t do this, if I didn’t believe in it. I believe, as I always have, in being a good caretaker of the planet while I’m here, and leaving it a better, cleaner place for my child and grandchild.

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Last summer, Chief and I spent some good quality time at museums (air-conditioning was a bonus, it was HOT).  We live in the DC area – there are a TON of them around here, and many of them are free.  But one that we really wanted to visit was Williamsburg.

Now Colonial Williamsburg is a “destination” type museum.  A piece of Old Williamsburg, with reenactors and other Federal Era buildings from all around the country brought in.  It is a walking around, drop in to the blacksmith shop for a demonstration, or to the weavers for a lesson in wool/yarn/weaving and women’s roles, watch the parade down the main street with fife and drum, type of museum.  And it’s a blast.  But, it’s expensive! $25 – $35 for admission.  That puts a serious crimp in the style!

But – thanks to the Blue Star Families program Blue Star Museums, we got in FREE!  All we had to do was walk up to the ticket counter, show ID and voila… free ticket.  Now not all museums are like that, some require you to get the tickets at MWR or the community center.  Call ahead to find out what the chosen museum wants.

Even a free museum may have an exhibit you want to see that is not free – like the Louis Comfort Tiffany exhibit we went to  at a Museum in Richmond.  Again, we showed our ID and there we were, walking through Tiffany Glass for gratis.

Luckily, this program is not only happening again this year, they’ve expanded it.  It starts on Memorial Day and more museums are in the program.  Now I’ve heard from friends that although it says  for Active Duty Military – many locations are including National Guard and Reserve families as well – you need to check before you go.

The New York Times featured a story on the program.  So this summer, when it’s hot and the kids are whiny, and the pool is so crowded you can’t move… take in an air-conditioned museum.  for free.  I like that price!


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Yesterday, while in FRG Leadership training [oh that’s a whole new story, more later] I heard some great news.

Do you remember this? https://milspousemutterings.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/check-yes-or-no/ Go ahead, read that and come back. As I said – great news!

Welcome back. Now then, as you read in that piece, Admiral Mullen was pushing to have that check box removed – the check box that meant your service member could prevent  the FRG or FRSA from contacting you. This box caused all sorts of angst and agita, spouses weren’t hearing from their FRG and missed out on briefings, meetings, freebies, the FRG leaders were powerless to do anything about it, and as one of the comments on the previous post said –

“. . . being approached at the welcome home ceremony by a po’d wife who said to my face “thanks for nothing” was an eye opener. I had no idea she even existed. Why? Her spouse did not allow us to contact her.”

According to my trainer yesterday – that box is GONE on that form. The servicemember needs to give the accurate information requested and the FRSA/FRG leader can contact the family member.

I can hear the groans from here! More emails from your FRG – more invitations for scrapbooking parties that you aren’t interested in, more fundraising begging emails. Probably so. BUT – it’s pretty easy to hit DELETE. That momentary irritation is a small price to pay to make sure everyone is getting information they need. If you really don’t want to hear from the FRG leader or the FRSA – it’s not hard to ask them to delete you from the mailing list! But those lost young spouses, will hopefully get what they need. More information, and contact numbers for them to call.

Like I said – Good News!  Your thoughts?


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