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Who Are the Dirty Thirty?

Pete Altman

Posted June 8, 2012

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Between now and June 18, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on a proposal to repeal the Environmental Protection Agency's recently-issued safeguards to protect kids and their families from the mercury and dozens of other toxins spewed by U.S. power plants.

The attack on our health is being led by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Ok.), who claims to have 29 other supporters in the Senate - enough to force a full vote on the issue according to the obscure rules of the Congressional Review Act.

But the senator refuses to name his "Dirty Thirty." 

We think that if any elected official is going to help revoke a clean air health standard that that will protect kids' developing brains and save tens of thousands of lives, their constituents should know who they are. 

Which is why our Clean Air Director John Walke, wrote Inhofe on Wednesday requesting the names of the Dirty Thirty the Senator says are committed to using the Congressional Review Act to gut EPA’s first-ever mercury and air toxics standards for power plants. 

So far, we haven't heard back.

But Politico's Morning Energy did report that:

We agree that senators should be on record — whether it is standing with the far left Obama EPA or those who believe we should ‘hold the line’ and rein in the EPA, as one Senate Democrat recently claimed she wants to do,” spokesman Matt Dempsey told ME.

He did not, however, release the names of the co-sponsors. (emphasis added.)

Later in the day, E&E’s Greenwire (subscription only) reported that

Inhofe's office has not yet released the names of his supporters on the resolution, but spokesman Matt Dempsey said his boss might do so before the resolution is brought to the floor. He added that transparency is as important to Inhofe as it is to the environmentalists…

That’s good to hear. Since Senator Inhofe's staff says it supports transparency, we're going to focus on asking them to disclose the Dirty Thirty rather than blanket the hill with requests for Senators to ‘fess up.

Stay tuned for more on the "Dirty Thirty." After all, if those Senators believe in doing the bidding of big polluters, at least they should have the guts to stand up and say so.

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Jim KJun 11 2012 09:13 PM

Couldn't possibly be that there was some science involved, instead of just kneejerk OMG!!!!MERCURY IS EVIL!!!

AnonJun 11 2012 09:47 PM

Dude, Mercury is poison. There is no debating that...What planet are you from?

BSJun 12 2012 07:02 AM

I wasn't planning on commenting, but after that personal attack against Jim K, I think I will.

While everyone understands that mercury is a chemical that can cause serious health problems, dose is important, and that's likely what Jim was referring to.

I'm not familiar with the EPA ruling mentioned in the article, but there is some level of mercury emissions that can be considered "safe" (i.e. the dose people will receive will not be dangerous).

The main reason the NRDC supports the EPA requirement is because they want to shut down all coal power plants, not because of any science that backs up the EPA rule.

anonJun 12 2012 12:09 PM

Mercury accumulates in the body over time, there is NO dose of mercury that is "safe" for consumption ever...

BSJun 12 2012 12:46 PM

So then I take it you also belive we need to ban fluorescent lights (CFLs and the more widely used tube lights), seafood, etc?

Even the EPA has published the concentration of mercury in the blood that is considered safe.

Also, your comment that mercury accumulates over time is only a half truth. First, the mercury injested has to actually be absorbed. Then, most of it leaves via normal bodily functions. The remainin mercury can stay in the body for a month or more, but it is still removed over time.

See what one can learn when doing research using reliable sources?

GettingInformedJun 12 2012 03:47 PM

Dear Jim K,

Your insightful comments inspired me to become informed, and so I decided to take a bit of a peek at the science.

It seems that, well, burning of coal is a major contributor to environmental mercury contamination. Apparently it builds up in the environment over time if we keep emitting it. Meaning of course that low level emissions can gradually build to increasingly toxic levels.

I think in light of that, we're all in agreement that we'd prefer less mercury all around, rather than more, eh?

BSJun 12 2012 07:14 PM


There are always cost-benefit analyses at play in decisions like these. Saying "less is better" is obvious in an idealistic sense, but also naive. If we shut down all coal plants tomorrow, it would cause some unknown number of people to die. At this point, mercury is manageable and coal is already on the decline.

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