Burning trash for the planet? Climate cash sets off branding frenzy.

Fumes from burning trash and toxins fill the air in Chester, just south of Philadelphia. For over three decades, Covanta Energy, located in a historically Black community, has trucked in Philadelphia’s waste and spewed out harmful dust across the town.

Generations of residents have well-documented health effects; children have asthma rates five times the national average. Local activists including Zulene Mayfield (second photo) continue to fight against fierce lobbying efforts by the trash-to-energy industry. Mayfield abandoned her now-shell of a row home across the street from the facility because she said the air was so toxic.

As the Biden administration allocates billions of dollars in new climate subsidies, environmentally challenged industries such as trash incinerators are sharpening their green pitches, including Covanta.

“This is dangerous,” said Darlynn Johnson, 40, (fourth photo) a lifelong resident of the neighborhood and mother of four – three of whom have been diagnosed with asthma. Her youngest Darriel is one-year-old. “With him being out here, I know he is going to be diagnosed next. This is not okay.”

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Reporting by Evan Halper
Photo editing by Haley Hamblin

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