Senate supports clean air measure
Supported by Vermont's Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, the Senate voted today to back a new Environmental Protection Agency rule controlling mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a member of the Senate environment and energy committees, spoke against a resolution by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) that would have blocked implementation of the EPA mercury rule.
Before the resolution was defeated by a vote of 53 to 46, Sanders discussed the impact of the measure on the environment, public health and jobs.
“I want to create jobs, not cut jobs, and what we’re talking about is creating meaningful, good-paying jobs as we retrofit coal-burning plants so they do not poison the children of Vermont and other states around the country. To Senator Inhofe and others, I say respectfully, stop poisoning our children. Let them grow up in a healthy way,” Sanders said.
Power plants are responsible for one-third the mercury deposits in the United States. Mercury can cause children to have brain damage, mental retardation, blindness, seizures, and the inability to speak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Leading medical organizations have said that the Inhofe resolution would have left millions of Americans permanently at risk from toxic air pollution from power plants that directly threaten pulmonary, cardiovascular and neurological health and development.
“We also are talking about what is a very serious problem in my state, and that is asthma,” Sanders added. “I go to a lot of schools, and I ask how many kids are suffering with asthma, and many, many hands go up. So thank you very much, we do not want to see more asthma in Vermont or in other states that are downwind.”
Regarding the impact of the mercury rule on jobs, Sanders cited estimates that meeting the new mercury standards would result in investments by the coal and utility industries in pollution controls that will create 290,000 jobs over each of the next five years. As chairman of the Senate Green Jobs Subcommittee, Sanders chaired a hearing that looked at a utility that created 1,385 jobs retrofitting just one coal-burning power plant.
“The truth of the matter is that if we are aggressive if cleaning up these coal power plants, we can create and we have already seen created many good, decent-paying jobs,” Sanders said.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said: "The EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards represent a true breakthrough in environmental policy. This rule offers clear benefits to every American, and it is especially important to Vermonters, who disproportionally suffer from the devastating effects of mercury and other toxic air pollutants. Although my home state has no major sources of mercury, Vermonters have been besieged by this insidious poison, which drifts across our borders from other states.
"The EPA estimates that each year, toxic air pollutants cause up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 cases of childhood asthma, among other illnesses. Mercury, a truly unwelcome addition to our daily lives, has had catastrophic effects on the health and well-being of all Americans, as well as a ruinous impact on our Nation’s pristine natural environment. There is no known safe level of exposure to mercury – it is harmful to humans in even the smallest amounts. Tragically, mercury’s most devastating effect is on those victims least able to protect themselves: unborn and newborn children. Mercury has been shown to cause developmental disabilities and brain damage, resulting in lowered IQ’s and learning problems, such as attention deficit disorder. Sadly, these affects are permanent and irreversible. They lead to a lifetime of trips to the emergency room, costly medical interventions, personal and family heartbreak, and lost potential.
"The American people want their air and water to be cleaner and healthier and most certainly free of toxic pollutants. Vermonters and Americans want this for all of us. Safe water and safe air to breathe should be a valued legacy of our lives in this blessed Nation."
WASHINGTON, June 20, 2012