The Common Good

Congress Stops Subsidizing the Utility Industry with Children’s Health

In a full vote Wednesday morning the Senate rejected a measure intended to roll back the Environmental Protection Agency's implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), a rule that would limit mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants. 

As Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said, “We don’t want to make the Great Smokies the Great Smogies.” 

For tEPAhe past four years, we have heard angry cries and even threats over the government bailouts for big banks, the auto industry and others during this economic downturn. Senators and representatives have lost their jobs over these bailouts. Yet Congress has been giving special breaks and what amounts to subsidies to the coal-fired utility industry for more than 20 years. It’s not taxpayer money but the health and life of our children that is being spent. 

One in six babies are born with enough mercury in their tiny bodies to cause IQ loss, brain damage and a potential host of other health problems. According to Dr. Leonardo Trasande in a peer-reviewed medical publication in May 2011, the economic cost of such impacts was $5.1 billion in 2008. The largest domestic source for mercury remains coal-burning utilities.

Coal is not cheap.

In August 2011, the nonpartisan research and analysis unit of Congress wrote that it has given special consideration to coal electric generation for more than 20 years. In fact, other industries rightly have been regulated to clean up their air pollution, including mercury, while coal-fired utilities have been given a free pass to keep polluting and harming our children. Today the U.S. Senate said enough is enough.

Since 2005, Evangelical Environmental Network has worked to overcome the mercury poisoning of the unborn. In the last year EEN has run media campaign featuring radio, TV, and billboard ads, as well as emails to over 10 million evangelicals and Catholics, in key states to raise public awareness of the dangers of mercury and urging Christians to contact their elected officials to protect the unborn from this poison.  

EEN has worked with the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and over 100 senior evangelical leaders to lift up the impacts of mercury on the unborn.  

Today is a great day for our kids and the unborn. The U.S. Senate did the right thing by rejecting efforts to kill mercury regulations at the expense of our children’s health, 20 years was too long to wait but we’ve finally done the right thing by regulating mercury from power plants for the first time.

Mitch Hescox is the President & CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network

Chemical factory image,  Nickolay Khoroshkov / Shutterstock.com

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