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Clean Air Win on Mercury and Toxics Despite Dirty Votes

Pete Altman

Posted June 20, 2012 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment

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There are some things we like to think of as sacrosanct…mom, apple pie…the right of kids to be born and grown up without being exposed to dangerous amounts of brain poison.

Fortunately, a majority of the US Senate agreed with that today, voting down 53-46 yet another attempt by polluter allies to prevent the EPA from setting life-saving standards to protect our children and communities from dangerous mercury and other toxic air pollution.

As a result, power plant operators will have to clean up their plants and cut their pollution, which the US EPA estimates will save as many as 11,000 lives and prevent as many as 130,000 asthma attacks, every year. The value of the air quality improvements for people's health alone totals $37 billion to $90 billion each year. That means that for every dollar spent to reduce this pollution, Americans get $3-9 in health benefits.

It is hard to imagine how as many as 46 Senators can justify voting to allow power plants to keep dumping nearly 400,000 pounds of toxic pollution into our air every year.

The votes of two Senators in particular were huge disappointments because they should have known better: Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb. The EPA estimates that in Virginia alone the new standards would prevent up to 300 premature deaths and create up to $2.5 billion in health benefits in 2016. Both Senators voted against the health of their constituents today.

On the other side of the ledger were Senators who voted to uphold the stronger health protections, despite tremendous pressure from the coal lobby, including Senators Alexander (TN), Ayotte (NH), Baucus (MT), Brown (MA), Brown (OH), Casey (PA) , Collins (ME), Snowe (ME), Conrad (ND), Franken (MN), Hagan (NC), Klobuchar (MN), McCaskill (MO), Stabenow (MI), Levin (MI), Pryor (AR), Rockefeller (WV) and Tester (MT). Well done, and thank you!

If you are represented by one of those heroes who stood up for kids’ health, give them a call and say thanks.

If you live in Virginia – give Senators Warner and Webb a call and let them know that their votes were a big disappointment. 

The US Senate switchboard is (202) 224-3121.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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