by Jackie Weidman
Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe just announced that the Senate will vote next Wednesday on his resolution (SJR 37) to stop the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standard. Inhofe’s fevered push for this resolution is no surprise, considering that he’s received $688,417 in contributions from electric utilities and mining companies during his congressional tenure.
The Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, a rule finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency in December 2011, would require steep reductions of mercury, lead, arsenic, and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants, the largest human-caused source of mercury emissions in the United States. These contaminants are linked to birth defects, brain damage, learning disabilities, cancer and other serious ailments.
EPA predicts that mercury and air toxics reductions will save 11,000 lives annually and prevent more than 100,000 asthma and heart attacks yearly, resulting in net economic benefits of up to $80 billion annually. On top of these benefits, investments in the manufacturing, installation, and operation of pollution-control equipment to clean up these pollutants will create jobs.
Mayors, public health groups and small business recognize the overwhelming benefits from reducing mercury pollution.
Some 91 mayors across the country, including New York City’s Michael Bloomberg, Los Angeles’ Antonio Villaraigosa, and Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel, sent a letter to the EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, stressing that “this long overdue safeguard will reap tremendous benefits for our communities.”
A broad coalition of public health and civic organizations oppose the Inhofe CRA and support the mercury regulations, including the American Lung Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Small Business Majority and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
And yesterday, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) stood up for the health of Tennesseans, saying “the rule will pretty much finish the job of implementing national clean air rules that will greatly improve the health of Tennesseans…. We don’t want to permanently have three of the top five asthma cities in the U.S.”
He also acknowledged that utility companies have known that the standard was coming since 1990.
Meanwhile, Republican-backed political action committees (super PACs) are aggressively in favor of the Inhofe resolution. The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and its new sister super PAC, American Commitment announced a similar multimillion-dollar campaign to push the CRA through state office visits, phone calls, and television ads targeting specific senators.
The Chamber of Commerce released a ridiculous ad earlier this week asking, “will the EPA turn off your air conditioner?” The ad ignores all credible assessments of the impact of the rules, including one from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation showing these regulations will not jeopardize reliability.
Last fall, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) attempted to pass a similar Congressional Review Act resolution blocking the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, but it failed in the Senate by a vote of 41 to 56.
Next week, it’s time for Senators to stand up against Inhofe’s CRA. It’s nothing but an irresponsible, industry-supported attack on American’s right to clean air.