EPA’s New Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Survive Senate Vote

WASHINGTON, DC, June 20, 2012 (ENS) – Today, the U.S. Senate rejected a resolution that would have prevented the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing the first national standards to protect Americans from power plant emissions of mercury and toxics such as arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule, often called the Utility MACT rule because it requires that power plants use Maximum Achievable Control Technology to limit emissions, was turned back on a bipartisan vote of 53 to 46. Five Republican Senators and 48 Democrats voted to reject the resolution.

Big Rivers Electric Corp’s coal-burning power plant in Kentucky (Photo by Michael Davis)

The resolution was proposed by Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from the oil and gas producing state of Oklahoma who serves as ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Inhofe vowed that he will continue fighting to put a stop to “President Obama’s war on oil, natural gas, and coal.”

“While we were not able to put a stop Utility MACT today,” said Inhofe, “our momentum continues to build, as a growing chorus is rising up against the Obama-EPA’s radical green agenda.”

The EPA says the standards will reduce emissions “by relying on widely available, proven pollution controls that are already in use at more than half of the nation’s coal-fired power plants.” The final Mercury and Air Toxics Standard was published February 16, 2012

Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, said, “I am very pleased that the Senate stood strong for protecting the health of our children and families by defeating a proposal that would have prevented the EPA from implementing landmark clean air protections. The utility CRA would have allowed polluters to release more toxic, poisonous emissions into our air, leading to premature deaths, heart attacks and asthma. Today’s vote was a win for public health, and I will continue to fight any effort to weaken the Clean Air Act.”

Public health and environmental groups called the vote a victory for clean air.

Paul Billings, vice president for policy and advocacy of the American Lung Association, said, “Today, a strong bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate stood up for the health of our children and rejected attempts by big polluters and their allies in Congress to rollback clean air safeguards that protect the public from toxic air pollution.”

“The American Lung Association is heartened to see support on both sides of the aisle in favor of protecting the health of children and families from toxic pollutants like mercury, arsenic, acid gases, and formaldehyde,” said Billings.

“Had it passed and become law, the measure would have permanently blocked the scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing safeguards that will cut toxic air pollution. The long overdue Mercury and Air Toxics Standards became final earlier this year and were developed to comply with a Congressional mandate to reduce toxic air pollution more than 20 years ago,” he said.

National Wildlife Federation President and CEO Larry Schweiger said, “The Senate today stood up for clean air and safe water, clearing the final hurdle for the Environmental Protection Agency to do its job and safeguard our air and waters from toxic smokestack pollution. With support from more than 900,000 Americans, EPA is taking common sense action to keep mercury and other toxics out of our air and out of our water. We can and must do a better job protecting our rivers, streams and lakes from mercury that makes the fish we catch unsafe to eat.”

Schweiger called the new standards “a job engine” and said they are expected to result in 46,000 construction jobs and 8,000 utility jobs as plants upgrade to cleaner technologies.

The EPA estimates that the Power Plant Mercury and Air Toxic Standards will prevent 130,000 childhood asthma attacks; more than 6,000 cases of acute bronchitis among children; as many as 11,000 avoidable premature deaths; and 4,700 heart attacks, annually.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.