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Attorneys General Defend Our Right to Breathe

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14 February 2011, 5:30 PM
Five state AGs send letter urging support for cement plant health protections
Cement kiln near Midlothian, TX. Photo: Samantha Bornhorst

Attorneys general from five states—New York, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts and Connecticut—sent a letter today to Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, urging a rejection of Rep. John Carter’s (R-TX) resolution to block health protections against cement plants’ toxic air pollution.

Led by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York, the quintet—which for their action to defend Americans’ health should be considered as a worthy addition to the “Fab Five” list—correctly note that reducing cement plants’ emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants will save lives and lead to the creation of American jobs manufacturing, installing and maintaining pollution control equipment.

Most importantly, these health protections will save the lives of 2,500 Americans every year—by reducing emissions of particulate matter from the cement industry by 92 percent. Cement plants’ mercury emissions—the third largest of all U.S. industries—will also be reduced by 92 percent. Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxicant that can impact a child’s ability to think and learn. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that more than 300,000 babies born every year may face a higher risk of developmental damage because of mercury exposure.

Earthjustice did a Q&A with Dr. Jane Hightower, a mercury expert, where you can learn more about the dangers of mercury exposure.

The health benefits of reducing cement plants’ air pollution are estimated at between $6.7 billion and $18 billion annually. In other words, reducing this air pollution won’t just save lives; it will also protect our pocketbooks. Overall, the benefits of the rule outweigh the costs to industry, projected at $350 million, by as much as 51-to-1.

We hope more state AGs join these defenders of the public’s health in support of our right to breathe.

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