Tag: air pollution
Not only is Sen. Jim Inhofe's bill to block new Environmental Protection Agency mercury standards horrible public policy that would kill a lot of people, a new United Technologies/National Journal poll finds it's wildly unpopular with voters:
A new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll finds that 57 percent of the public supports a recently-finalized Environmental Protection Agency rule controlling mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants as long as companies are given more time to comply.Again, I'd ask Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb: This is a hard call? Really? Which part is a tough call, the part where it lets corporate polluters profit by treating America's air and water like an open sewer? The part where people with asthma die? Or the part where it's incredibly bad politics?
The poll found that a similar majority-55 percent-thinks EPA should be able to control greenhouse-gas emissions that most scientists agree cause climate change. Just slightly more than one-third of the public-36 percent-said Congress should stop EPA from such regulation. A federal court is expected to rule soon on whether the agency is within its right to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions.
The poll's findings put a majority of Americans out of step with Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member James Inhofe, R-Okla., who is sponsoring a measure coming up for a vote on Wednesday that would nullify EPA's mercury rule entirely. Just under 20 percent of survey respondents said the Senate should vote to uphold the rule as it stands now, while only 14 percent said the Senate should vote to get rid of it.
Pollution from coal-fired power plants is a major cause of asthma attacks. Historically in America, rather than address those causes, we enjoy "cheap" electricity, then let people get sick - 20 million Americans a year have asthma attacks, with 2 million of those being treated in the emergency room, and 5,000 people a year dying. Economists call those people externalities - costs that don't show up on your power bill.
Thirteen years after public health and conservation groups started pushing the Clinton administration to strengthen clean air standards, the Obama administration finally delivered last December, unveiling new rules. But electric utilities and their allies, led by Sen. Inhofe, are trying to block the rule, giving $9,313,822 to Congress so far this cycle alone (61% to Republicans). Virginia parents, despite their inability to write the large checks demanded in this post-Citizens United world, are fighting back:
The ad focuses attention on a recent Department of Labor study showing that transitioning away from dirty sources of energy to clean technology development and innovation in turn creates jobs. In fact, the Labor Department study concludes that the transition to cleaner energy and technology has already created 3.1 million jobs (Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 2012).Over 800,000 Americans have already told the Environmental Protection Agency that they support the new rules. It only takes a minute, so please speak up for clean air right now.
"Clean air protects health and enhances our economy," said Martin Hayden, vice president of policy & legislation at Earthjustice. "According to a Brookings Institute study, between 2003 and 2010, the clean tech sector outperformed the national economy as a whole, expanding 3.4 percent annually. Letting the EPA enforce the Clean Air Act and limit dangerous air pollution spewing from smokestacks will not only make it easier for Americans to breathe, it will also boost the clean technology sector and help create more jobs."
"Whether aimed at toxic air pollutants like mercury or dangerous carbon pollution, there are multiple benefits from job-creating clean air standards," said Joe Mendelson, global warming policy director at the National Wildlife Federation, the sister organization of NWF Action Fund. "EPA air standards that clean up power plants are good for our economy, the health of our families and communities, addressing climate change and for protecting wildlife and their habitat."
Norfolk City Council has refused to take a firm stand against a proposed new coal-fired power plant that would cause dozens of premature deaths in the city each year:
A representative from Norfolk Southern - which transports lots of coal - argued that it would be premature for the council to vote on the resolution so early in the project's permitting process. He's wrong. The Dendron power plant, as planned right now, would cause damage downwind. No amount of time will change that.The new plant doesn't just face serious public health questions - it also faces major economic ones. At a time when natural gas is far cheaper & wind is creating far more jobs, why should we invest $6 billion in Virginia ratepayer money in a polluting coal-fired power plant?
Norfolk City Council's interests lie in protecting its people, its water supply, its food sources from farms throughout the region. The potential for huge amounts of new pollution, for tons of carcinogens to infiltrate our environment through smog, wind and rain, calls for adamant, continuing, loud opposition.
Norfolk instead got embarrassment and questions about the allegiances of city leaders.
Now a coalition of public health and environmental groups including the League of Conservation Voters and Mom's Clean Air Force is asking, what if more politicians knew what it was like to suffer from asthma made worse by air pollution? Tell your members of Congress you support the Environmental Protection Agency's new industrial air pollution standards.
In fact, you're your own target audience. You need to be able to talk about it in a way that people who don't know facts & figures either can understand. Don't worry about framing the issue or dazzling with statistics - tell a story.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) had the quote of the year back in January, summing up the fight against polluter-funded GOP attacks on the Clean Air Act: "There is a case to be made that, in the contest between corporate profits and children's lungs, someone should be standing up for children's lungs." Last week on the Senate floor, Sen. Whitehouse expanded on the case with a series of simple yet vivid examples.
If you don't have time to watch the clip, check out the full transcript at ClimateProgress.org.
Cross-posted from The Green Miles
The key thing to remember is that these are some of the most heavily subsidized jobs in the U.S. economy. They are subsidized at a level that makes anything Obama did with the stimulus bill look like pocket change.The Alexandria plant alone was estimated to kill 37 people & sicken hundreds of others every single year. But the coal industry keeps looking for someone to blame, and it's not just on the human costs of its pollution. As Coal Tattoo's Ken Ward Jr. reports, coal companies are desperately trying to pin falling Appalachian production on regulations & conservationists. That's instead of accepting the simple fact that the low-hanging fruit of Appalachian coal has long since been picked and what little is left is getting more & more expensive to blast out. For today's coal industry, reality is hard to face.
Why is that so? Well, it's widely known by now, at least in economist circles, that the coal power industry grossly underpays for the damages it does. That's the unanimous conclusion of a flurry of new research that's been done on the question: see, e.g., the National Research Council (NRC), Harvard Medical School's Paul Epstein, or last week's bombshell from Yale's William Nordhaus and colleagues, which found that coal-fired power plants do 21 cents of unpaid damages for every single kilowatt hour of power they produce. Economists call these costs "externalities," but really they amount to subsidies -- the public is paying these costs on the coal companies' behalf. [...]
And these subsidies are not investments that pay back over time, like loans to innovative renewable energy firms. These subsidies come in the form of babies with birth defects, asthmatic kids, and adults with respiratory and heart ailments. These subsidies pay negative returns. They subtract value. All in the name of propping up a dying industry.
I know it's not surprising that Republicans - even ones the media likes to call "moderates" like Sen. Collins - are trying to take us back to the Bush-Cheney era playbook of letting the free market make the rules. You know, the strategy that gave us the worst job creation results on record.
But still, this sentence stood out:
Collins noted that her bill would exempt some regulations needed to deal with emergencies, such as threats to public health and safety.So Sen. Collins is fine with 6,600 Americans dying prematurely as long as they do it in the quiet corner of a hospital out of the public eye. But if it's going to be a big news story, suddenly every life is precious. Rotting from the head down is right.
President Obama's recent about-face on new national ozone standards demonstrates again how beholden he is to special interests, not the interests of the American people. One could even argue that President Obama is betting on winning over the "independent" vote by following through on such business friendly policies, let alone the business community itself. But it seems clear that the so-called independent American voter is a conservative wrapped in non-partisan political garb. President Obama has been unable to appease these individuals and it appears that whatever steps he takes, it won't be enough to win over this bloc of voters.
The fact that President Obama caved in to the misleading rhetoric of big business leaders is as much a disappointment as it is a further confirmation of the myth that shrouds environmental protection and economic growth. Yes, in the short term environmental protections and regulations will cost serious capital for some businesses. But in the long run the returns will mostly outweigh the costs in financial terms. In human health terms, the gains will absolutely trump any costs that are incurred to clean up America's business act.
Americans came to expect such short-sightedness and lack of political courage from the last U.S. president. Even though President Obama has been less than perfect in his environmental record, many liberals and progressives still hoped and believed that he would soon return to the proper course of policy action. Instead, the president has ensured that Americans will live with preposterously unhealthy air for at least another year. How many lives will be lost as a result? What value can possibly be placed on these losses?
The American dream of an economically prosperous utopia of individual freedom and benevolent consequences has become a cynical nightmare symbolized by severely damaged bodies of water, audacious levels of air pollution, continuous nonrenewable energy problems, broken unions, racism, and other forms of bigotry and parochialism. It is a country where Karl Rove has become a hero of the left relative to the Tea Party buffoons. A country where politicians like Rick Perry can even be seriously considered for the most powerful political position in the country. Not much seems right-side-up anymore, and the pessimism that follows may jade an entire generation of Americans, if not more. If so, who can begin to predict what the ramifications will be of an America wary of the future and self-conscious about its progress as a nation?