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Kelly Henderson’s Blog

Virginia Senators Fail to Stand Up for Clean Air

Kelly Henderson

Posted June 21, 2012

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“Virginia is for lovers” - but apparently not for lovers of clean air. Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb fell short on an important vote Wednesday to protect clean air standards. The Senate successfully defeated Senator Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution of disapproval of EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS). These standards for the first time set national limits on power plant toxic air pollution such as neurotoxic mercury, arsenic, lead, acid gases, and cancer-causing dioxins. Mercury is a dangerous brain poison that damages brain and nerve development in children and fetuses. Needless to say, this vote was yet another attempt by corporate polluters & their allies to prevent the EPA from setting life-saving standards to protect children and communities from dangerous mercury and other toxic air pollution. While a majority of Senators voted against Senator Inhofe’s harmful CRA, my Senators, from the lovely state of Virginia, voted for more mercury and other toxic pollution from power plants.

Having grown up in a state known not only for its rich cultural history but also for its natural beauty, I would think that my Senators would be dedicated to protecting Virginia’s environment and the health of its citizens. EPA estimates that the MATS will prevent 300 premature deaths every year in the state of Virginia alone. By voting for the CRA, Warner and Webb also rejected the up to $2.5 billion in health benefits that EPA’s standards would bring to Virginia by 2016. What’s more, the Senators voted against protecting our state’s children from neurotoxic mercury pollution. Virginians know the impact of mercury pollution all too well: Virginia had 83 waterbody-specific fish advisories for mercury contamination as of March 2011 – meaning that the fish in our state’s waterbodies are often not safe to eat.

In response to Senator Warner and Senator Webb’s votes, my colleague, John Walke, said that “[i]t is shocking and disgraceful that Senators Warner and Webb voted to eliminate health safeguards protecting Virginians and all Americans against dangerous air pollution that causes asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes and cancer, and that poisons the developing brains of children and fetuses. Senators Warner and Webb joined an extreme assault that fortunately failed; but unfortunately, the[y] failed their constituents and their responsibilities to lead.”  

According to NRDC’s newest report, “The Price of Pollution Politics,” Virginia is also the home to three large power companies: AEP, GenOn and PPL, who collectively spent $25,720,000 lobbying Congress in 2010-2012, including (but not limited to) advocating on proposals to block or delay implementation of EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and carbon pollution standards.

It is important for Virginia’s Senators to stand up to big polluters and protect the health and well-being of their constituents. Read more about these power companies’ attempts to block clean air legislation in my colleague, Pete Altman’s, blog.

I plan to email my Senators and let them know that their vote was deeply disappointing and that as their constituent, I was not happy with how they voted. If you reside in Virginia, I hope that you will join me in doing the same.

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skip BrickleyJun 21 2012 11:22 PM

It is irresponsible to implement the level of environmental controls that shut off the livelihoods of milliions of workers in the coal and oil industry. You should rethink a more responsible approach to your EPA agenda that to just shut off the valve to people's livelihoods.

Maria BeloborodovaJun 22 2012 02:16 PM


What about the livelihoods of people being poisoned by these wretched toxins? When I think "livelihood" I think "health". The coal industry is out of control, and could care less about its workers, or the communities it's affecting.

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