Senators Joe Manchin III (D-WV) and Dan Coats (R-IN) introduced legislation today that would let power plants avoid complying with life-saving clean air standards. Power plants are the nation’s worst air polluters. The current lack of clean air standards for these facilities leads to the deaths of tens of thousands of people every year and causes many more cases of respiratory disease, heart disease and other serious ailments.
The Manchin-Coats bill indefinitely delays standards to reduce mercury, smog, soot and other toxic air pollution from coal and oil-fired power plants and would lead to at least 73,360 preventable deaths. Incredibly, the bill goes even further: it strips the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the authority to finalize and approve implementation plans for these standards and instead hands them over to power plant operators, the Department of Energy and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) for approval. This provision completely robs the agency responsible for protecting the public from air pollution—EPA—from determining how these Clean Air Act protections are put in place. Below is a statement from Stephanie Maddin, Associate Legislative Counsel for Earthjustice:
“The Manchin-Coats bill amounts to a terrible trade: the health of our children and thousands of American lives for the surplus profit of already rich corporate polluters who want to avoid complying with life-saving clean air standards. We deserve more than that, and poll after poll has demonstrated that the public expects better leadership from their elected representatives.
“The EPA estimated that cleaning up these dirty power plants will be a net job creator. Beyond that, the American economy is far less productive when workers are sick. Cleaning up coal- and oil-fired power plants will lead to a healthier workforce and stimulate the American pollution control industry. Contrary to what the sponsors of this bill and their corporate backers might say, now is precisely the time to adopt clean air standards for power plants. The money that industry will spend to clean up—miniscule compared to the economic benefits that society will derive—will very likely have a positive impact by kickstarting our stalled economy. Promoting pollution isn’t a jobs plan, it’s an assault on the public’s health that is simply unacceptable.”