“CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA — Jacqui Patterson, director of the environmental and climate justice program at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), began her testimony at the Environmental Protection Agency’s public hearing on Wednesday with a story about her father.

Years ago, Patterson said, her father developed a cough that slowly but steadily worsened to the point where he needed to be on a constant stream of oxygen. A doctor diagnosed him with pulmonary fibrosis — a chronic and progressive lung condition normally associated with smoking. Patterson’s father had never smoked a day in his life, but he did live within 10 miles of a coal-fired power plant. Patterson’s father eventually died from his illness; a few years later, her mother died from a rare form of cancer possibly also tied to environmental pollution.

“How many more people do we have to bury before we as communities of color are granted equal protection under the law?” Patterson asked during her testimony.”

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