Children Pay the Price for Tactics Against Clean Air

BY ON June 23, 2011

This week, House Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky, announced that House Republicans planned to release legislation in August that would slow the implementation of a proposed EPA rule to regulate hazardous air pollutants from coal-fired power plants.

Whitfield’s reasoning? To examine “whether or not technology is really available” to meet the guidelines.

Whitfield knows perfectly well that the technology is available. Many CEOs of utilities nationwide have already installed modern–and made in the USA–technology to scrub smokestacks, in expectation of new EPA rules, some of which have been in the works for twenty-one years. These utility leaders signed a group letter to the Wall Street Journal supporting the EPA’s new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. How many more decades does Whitfield need? Perhaps the polluters need to learn some lessons from their clean coal colleagues.

Apparently Whitfield is interested in reassessing the Clean Air Act. But that’s exactly what EPA has been doing. It’s job is to constantly reassess the Clean Air Act, as new science and new technology evolve, and that’s why EPA is proposing new standards to protect people from Mercury and Air Toxics coming from some coal plants.

Polls show that the American public supports the Clean Air Act. Hundreds of medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Lung Association, have formed a coalition to support tougher restrictions on mercury and air toxic emissions. Apparently Whitfield does not agree with the public or medical professionals.

The American Lung Association released a report on the State of the Air. Kentucky’s rankings were abysmal–and should be an embarrassment for anyone representing that fine state.

Counties in the 1st district–Whitfield’s–brought home grades like these in ozone pollution (formed of gases from tailpipes and smokestacks and other sources): Trigg- F; Simpson F; McCracken- D; Livingston- D; Henderson F; Christian county- F.  Kentucky shows up on the lists of Most Polluted American Cities for ozone and for year round particle pollution.

Whitfield is from Hopkinsville, Kentucky in Christian County–where my father was born and raised, and where his father ran a manufacturing company and owned a small farm. I have a happy attachment to the place. My family has been Republican, deeply conservative, for generations. But they sure were for stewardship of their land, air and water.

Kentucky is sixth in the nation in coal power generation. It is clearly important to Kentucky’s economy. There is plenty of research showing that cleaning emissions is good for jobs, and for the economy. The new standards will not kill coal. But coal does not have to kill people.

There are 15 proposed applications for new coal plant  in Kentucky. Some proposals have already been sent back for “failing to properly address national ambient air quality standards.” Sure would be easier with lax rules.  Kentucky has a very long and ignoble history of environmental problems with their coal industry. It should be a leader in coal power generation.

“We don’t really have expectations that we can repeal all of this,” said Whitfield. (Unlike his ambitious Republican colleague Michele “Proud Mother” Bachmann, who announced the Mother of all Repeals in calling for the end of the Clean Air Act.)

It is time for Kentucky’s leaders to stop playing political games with the health of Kentucky’s–and America’s–children. Extremist rhetoric against regulating toxic emissions is simply irresponsible. Some would say heartless.

TOPICS: Asthma, Coal, Economics, Mercury Poisoning, Politics, Pollution