Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mercury Poisoning-- A Thing Of The (Republican) Past?


Part of the GOP's deranged version of libertarianism-- the faux "freedom" we talked about earlier-- is a world where selfish and greedy sociopaths have no rules and no regulations holding them back from maximizing profits, no matter what they do to the environment or anyone else. And Obama hasn't always been as stalwart a champion against these dangerous predators as the people who elected him had reason to hope he would be. That's why there was so much general rejoicing among mainstream Americans yesterday when the EPA announced a new rule that will protect Americans from mercury poisoning from coal- and oil-fired power plants. Republicans (and their Blue Dog and ConservaDem allies), on the other hand, are throwing a shit fit. It matters not a whit to them that the new rule will save save tens of thousands of lives annually and prevent birth defects, learning disabilities and respiratory diseases.

The League of Conservation Voters put it like this:
The Obama administration has set the first-ever national standards for mercury and other toxic air pollution for power plants. These historic new health standards will save lives, prevent illnesses like asthma and bronchitis, avoid hospitalizations and missed days at work, and create jobs in pollution control technology.

Our children have waited long enough to breathe clean air without the threat of inhaling toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants. The Obama administration’s new standards will help protect us from many airborne toxins, including mercury, arsenic, lead, dioxins, acid gases and other harmful pollutants.

...The significance of these new standards cannot be understated. The negative health impacts of toxic air pollution are well-known and documented-- and the EPA is estimating that these new standards will save thousands of lives, prevent up to 120,000 cases of childhood asthma and avert 11,000 cases of acute childhood bronchitis every year starting in 2015.

Bernie Sanders, who, as a member of the Senate environment committee, has been fighting this battle for years, stressed, "The EPA rule would prevent the release of about 90 percent of the mercury in coal and cut emissions of other toxic substances, such as arsenic." He told his Vermont constituents yesterday that he "strongly supports the Clean Air Act standards announced today that will slash toxic air pollution, such as mercury and arsenic, from our nation's power plants. . . This clean air rule is long overdue, and I commend EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for protecting our families’ health and wellbeing."

The battle isn't exactly over; Republicans will fight hard to turn back the clock on behalf of Big Coal and the Chamber of Commerce. Oklahoma reactionary Sen. Jim Inhofe is already spreading lies that the country's electric power system is endangered by the new rules, which he claims will force power plants to shut down. But there isn't a single power plant that is shutting down, not one, not anywhere. But when did reality ever get in the way of right-wing propaganda? Off the record, most utilities executives say there'll be little impact on reliability as the industry moves to meet new 21st-century standards. The CEO of American Electric Power, Mike Morris, did go on the record, though, saying that investments in cleaning up the plants create jobs, “no question about that.” For every dollar spent to reduce pollution from power plants, Americans will receive $3 to $9 in health benefits. That's a good return on the dollar, although anathema to sociopathic libertarians.

Graham Parker was taling about a different kind of mercury poisoning, kind of:

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