The fight for strong protections against mercury pollution begins all over again. Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) has just filed a Congressional Review Act against the historic Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. He intends to kill this this rule, even though it protects people from mercury, arsenic, lead, and acid gases, among many other horrors. The fight is backed by people with deep ties to the coal industry–and by Congressional representatives who may have spent all of twenty minutes getting briefed on this matter, but who take it for granted that what hurts their coal constituents is much worse than what hurts our children.
I had no idea how long and drawn-out the process can be for some regulations. The historic new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, crafted by Administrator Lisa Jackson’s team and signed December 16, 2011, was twenty-one years in the making.
It got through an extensive comment period, and it has been thoroughly vetted by economic teams who have scoured it for efficacy, affordability, and job creation–at least 46,000 new jobs for updating plants and 8,000 long-term utility jobs!
It has been examined by utility industry leaders, most of whom have assured us that it will not make our electric service unreliable.
It has been vetted by doctors, nurses, health officials and scientists–people who spend their entire lives studying how potent neurotoxins cause premature birth, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks, lung and heart damage, stroke and premature death.
Twenty one years of preparation–not enough? On February 16, this historic new rule was posted in the Federal Register. That posting triggered a countdown of sixty legislative days–days when Congress is working. And believe me, those days bear absolutely no relation to when the rest of us are working. What with breaks, recesses, and what not, sixty legislative days could easily carry us to June.
During those days, Congress can try to overturn the rule using the Congressional Review Act–which, if it passes, would mean that EPA can never again propose a substantially similar rule. There are also numerous other ways Congress can delay or dismantle the rule and we can expect many types of attacks. Senator Manchin of West Virginia has introduced the Fair Compliance Act–yet another effort to delay implementation, even though leading executives of utilities have said publicly that they have had plenty of time to come into compliance–and that, using American-made techonology, they have already done so.
The second countdown that begins when the rule is published is the rush to sue. States, industries, utilities, and other groups can file lawsuits to overturn or delay the rule and are almost certainly preparing to do so.
The game of Chutes and Ladders begins. We climb towards victory, for our children, and we slide down the chute again, as polluters fight to claim victory.
We have to make lots of noise–as much as the pro-pollution forces. We have to let our political representatives know that they bear a moral responsibility for cleaning poisons out of our air. We have to let our President know that he, too, must stand strong and protect these new standards.
And we have to show our children that we love them enough to try just a little harder to make sure their air is safe and clean. After all, who are they going to learn about citizenship from, if not their parents?