Blowing Smoke: Cuccinelli Disavows Benefits of EPA’s Mercury Rules

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    What do coal-fired power plants and AG Ken Cuccinelli have in common? They both blow smoke. Unfortunately, it’s not certain which form of smoke is more dangerous for Virginians. On the one hand, coal-fired power plants don’t know they are killing thousands of individuals each year. They’re not sentient human beings. Ken Cuccinelli, on the other hand, is a (quasi) sentient individual who has to be fully aware that regulating mercury will dramatically reduce American’s exposure to this toxic substance. Or is he?

    In an interview earlier today on The Kojo Nnamdi Show, Cuccinelli claimed that the EPA has produced no demonstrable benefits that “holds up for the mercury piece” that would justify sending electricity rates “through the roof.” No demonstrable benefits, really? How about thousands of saved lives and prevented birth defects, learning disabilities, and respiratory diseases as demonstrable benefits?

    Moreover, Cuccinelli claims to care about the well-being of “poor” Virginians like those living in the Appalachia and Southside areas, so much so in fact that he has not come out publicly in opposition to lifting the uranium mining ban in Virginia. Moreover, why doesn’t Cuccinelli complain about the seemingly frequent rate hikes asked for by Virginia’s utilities and rubber-stamped by the VA State Corporation Commission?  

    During the same interview on The Kojo Nnamdi Show, Cuccinelli made another unsubstantiated claim: Since 1998 there has been a nearly 60% reduction in mercury output in the U.S. without direct regulation. Aside from the fact that Cuccinelli sites no references for his claim (maybe it was the same conservative think tank that disavows global climate change?), how many lives would have been saved, among other factors, had there been an 80% reduction, assuming for the moment that the 60% cited by Cuccinelli is accurate. That is, what if government regulation helped reduce mercury output by 80%, 90%, 95%, instead of 60%, how many Americans lives would be better today?  

    The last time I checked, the federal government’s first priority is saving lives, not a few dollars here or there. Of course, what is “a few” dollars might equal out to quite a bit of dough, but how much would you pay to bring a loved-one back to health, to give that individual a chance to live a happy, uninhibited life free of mercury poisoning? The EPA uses the figure of $7.9 million as the value for the life of each American individual. I’m curious to know what Cuccinelli’s own estimate for the value of a human life is worth.