This piece was originally posted at The Rapidian:
In February of this year, the Environmental Protection Agency, under the guidance of Director Lisa Jackson, introduced new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) into the Federal Registry. Almost immediately, Oklahoma Senator Inhofe filed a Congressional Review Act. Inhofe’s fight to prevent EPA’s new Mercury and Air Toxic Standards will endanger all of our children and have a severe impact on the unborn child. Thankfully Michigan has two senators that support clean air and strong mercury standards.
Mercury is one of the most toxic poisons known to science. Ingesting even small amounts of it can cause a long list of serious health threats. Mercury can cause brain damage in infants and affect a child’s ability to walk, talk, read and learn. Fetuses exposed to mercury during pregnancy are the most severely affected, with low birth-weights, seizure disorders, profound developmental delay, visual loss and hearing loss.
Ever wonder why pregnant women are advised to cut down on eating fish? Tuna, like other large fish, are contaminated with mercury. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of toxic mercury. They emit 72% of all mercury air pollution in the United States. When a coal smokestack is not filtered, mercury is released into the air. The mercury drifts through the air and falls down into rivers and our beautiful Great Lakes. The mercury is then absorbed by fish and dispersed throughout their bodies and accumulates in the fatty tissue.
Over forty years ago Republican President Richard Nixon listened to our parents and signed The Clean Air Act into law. It is the Environmental Protection Agency’s responsibility to uphold this important law that protects us all. Unfortunately, The Clean Air Act does not cover pollution from mercury. On December 21, 2011, the EPA announced the first national standards to limit mercury, acid gases and other toxic pollution from power plants. In February 2012 these new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards were entered into the Federal Registry.
After twenty years of research and public comment, the EPA is able to estimate that the new mercury standards will save up to 410 lives in Michigan each year and 46,000 lives nationally. The standards will also provide about $3.4 billion in health benefits to Michigan each year, primarily in the prevention of premature death. The EPA has also announced that the manufacturing, engineering and installing of these new pollution controls will provide 46,000 short-term jobs and 8,000 long-term jobs.
Just last month, Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe announced that he would kill the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards and officially filed a resolution under the Congressional Review Act, labeled S.J. Res. 37. If the majority of the senate voted alongside him, our children’s health would be at risk. The Environmental Protection Agency ultimately will never be able to pass new mercury standards in the future.
Mom’s Clean Air Force is a community of moms who stand together to protect our children’s right to clean air. We fully support the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. Immediately upon hearing that Senator Inhofe had filed a CRA, we sent out a “Call to Action” to our entire membership. We made it easy for all our parents to take immediate action by simply visiting our website and clicking a button to send a note to their Senator asking them to oppose Mr. Inhofe’s initiative to block needed mercury standards. Tens of thousands of moms, and dads, did just that.
Here in Michigan, our Field Organizers rallied parents to make phone calls and attend letter writing parties throughout west and SE Michigan. On June 7th we received confirmation that both Michigan senators, Stabenow and Levin, would vote “No” on S.J. Res. 37, and would fully support clean air and our children’s health. Our senators heard us and they listened!
When parents believe in something with all of their heart, they take action and they can make a difference. We all worked together to combine our voice of Mother Love and told Washington to “Listen to your Mothers.”
To show our appreciation to both Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, a few Moms Clean Air Force parents got together on both sides of the state to deliver thank-you cards to their offices. In West Michigan, three other parents and their children joined our Field Organizer Starla McDermott to visit Sen. Stabenow’s Grand Rapids office. We delivered twenty personal thank-you note cards and drawings from local children and a few Moms Clean Air Force t-shirts. In Southeast Michigan, Vee was able to take a group of moms to Carl Levin’s Detroit office to deliver their thank-you notes on Monday, June 18.
For two days the U. S. Senate was on the floor to debate S.J. Res. 37. Senator Carl Levin, D-MI was quoted saying “…this rule protects the health of Michigan residents by requiring commercially available technology to be installed at power plants that currently do not have these controls in place. The rule will result in significant air quality improvements, protecting public health and our lakes from harmful pollution. Its payback is significant in health and in economics. Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont stated, “To Inhofe and others I say respectfully: stop poisoning our children!”
Five Republicans voted against the Inhofe CRA Resolution, including Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, who stated that “on this rule — this clean air rule and the earlier interstate rule — I believe EPA is right.” This goes to show that this is a health issue, a bi-partisan issue, not a Democratic or Republican issue.
The outcome? We won! Fifty-three U.S. Senators voted against Inhofe and his counterparts. On June 20, 2012 the EPA’s new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards were protected and now the EPA can move forward to ensure all coal-fired power plants begin the processes needed to prevent mercury from pouring into our Michigan air and into our rivers and lakes.
This is what Moms Clean Air Force is about. We are a strong community of parents who want the very best for our children, and that includes clean air. We will continue to tell Washington: “Listen to your mothers” and we will be heard. Join us!