Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) legislative effort to exempt the nation’s dirtiest industrial polluters from the Clean Air Act ended in defeat today. The senator sought to block recently-finalized limits on power plants’ unrivaled emissions of mercury, arsenic and other toxic air pollutants with a Congressional Review Act resolution. This obscure legislative maneuver would have nixed these clean air protections and prevented the Environmental Protection Agency from proposing similar limits in the future.
Jacqui Patterson, Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program said: “This cynical maneuver would have disregarded the well-considered solution put forth by the EPA and refined by the hundreds of thousands of American citizens who came forth during the rule’s comment period. We are pleased that the standards to protect the health and well-being of our communities were upheld today.”
Earthjustice attorney James Pew, who has worked for more than a decade to obtain the mercury and air toxic standards for power plants and who is currently defending them from industry attack on behalf of the NAACP, Sierra Club, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Clean Air Counsel said:
“The Senate took a stand for public health by rejecting Sen. Inhofe’s polluter-friendly resolution. Reducing power plants’ toxic pollution will prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,600 non-fatal heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks in children every year. I find it impossible to relate to the senator’s view that such benefits are ‘negligible,’ and thankfully, a majority of his colleagues appear to as well.
“The coal-fired power industry is rich and well-connected politically. It has taken every advantage of that influence to avoid cleaning up its pollution, despite the fact that effective technology to do so is widely available. In fact, many forward-thinking companies have already reduced their dangerous emissions without shuttering their plants—exposing as a lie the main ‘sky-is-falling’ argument of those who support the rights of polluters to keep on polluting. The American public is sick, quite literally, of paying for coal-plant pollution in higher medical costs and the avoidable deaths of their loved ones.”
Power plants are peerless when it comes to toxic air pollution. Coal-burning plants are responsible for about 50 percent of man-made mercury emissions in the U.S. Mercury poses grave threats to children and fetuses, including damage to their ability to think and learn. Estimates indicate that nearly 300,000 newborns every year have been exposed to potentially dangerous levels of mercury. The rules finalized by the EPA in December will cut mercury emissions from power plants by 90 percent.
“Nearly 1 million people spoke out to support these life-saving protections,” added Patterson of the NAACP. “Senator Inhofe’s plan was not only extreme, it was out of touch with what the public wants: clean air and better health. It’s time for the dirty actors in this industry to play fair, follow the law and take steps to reduce their pollution.”