Today, the Senate votes on Sen. James Inhofe’s measure to derail the first Environmental Protection Agency regulation to reduce mercury pollution and other toxics. The EPA projects the new standard will prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths. The push by the coal industry’s GOP allies isn’t likely to move forward, however, with a White House veto threat on the table.
Mitt Romney’s campaign has once again drawn where the candidate stands on reducing mercury pollution, and it doesn’t happen to be on the side of most Americans. Though a majority of Americans support the standard, Romney and other Republicans have argued on behalf of the coal industry, which has lobbied aggressively against the EPA. Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul told the National Journal:
“Governor Romney has made clear that he opposes the Utility MACT…. President Obama cannot claim to support clean coal while imposing regulations that his EPA admits would prevent another coal plant from ever being built.”
Romney’s position reversal is the latest example of the candidate’s etch-a-sketch transformation. As governor, Romney said pollution is akin to “killing people,” and Massachusetts joined several states to sue the EPA for the very regulations Inhofe wants to derail.
In 2003, Romney unveiled regulations that would require older power plants to reduce mercury pollution, “putting Msssachusstetts in the forefront of reducing air pollution.” The state’s Department of Environmental Protection proposed its own mercury standard, to capture 95 percent of the mercury by October 2012. At the time Romney touted, “Our comprehensive mercury reduction efforts are a major step towards eliminating mercury pollution and will have a positive effect on the environment and public health for many years,” according to a press release from Romney’s office.
Romney and the 35 dirty Senators backing Inhofe’s push are out of step with public opinion. A new United Technologies/National Journal poll finds that 57 percent of Americans support the EPA’s finalized rule. The rule draws broad bipartisan support in the poll, as well, with 57 percent of Republicans in support of the rule with more time to comply.
Here’s the pre-Etch-A-Sketch Romney standing in front of a Massachusetts coal-fired power plant, explaining that he would “not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people”: