Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On EPA’s Utility Air Toxics Rule (Utility MACT) Regulating Power Plant Emissions Of Mercury And Air Toxics
I commend the Environmental Protection Agency for doing the right thing, under tremendous special interest pressure, in standing up for the public’s interest. The Utility Air Toxics Rule to control toxic air pollutants such as mercury is a health and environmental breakthrough for the American people, and especially for Vermonters. Finally, after 20 years of dodging regulation, coal- and oil-fired electric power plants, the largest contributors of these toxics, will be held accountable for the pollution they emit, just as many other industries are.
These controls are particularly important to Vermont, which is why I have long fought to reduce mercury pollution and protect public health. Though we have no major sources of mercury, we are on the receiving end of much of the rest of the country’s pollution. So much, in fact, that the mercury data crucial to the development of this rule came from the atmospheric monitoring station at Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center, for which I secured funding. Unfortunately, deep budget cuts will hamper EPA’s data gathering from this location, making it difficult for the EPA to get the full swath of information needed to keep the public safe, and informed.
In Vermont, the devastating effect of all this mercury pollution is most evident in our waterways. While we celebrate greatly improved fishing on Lake Champlain, we also know that large game fish from every water body in Vermont, including Champlain, are so heavily contaminated with out-of-state mercury that Vermonters are warned against eating them. That needs to change, and these new actions will help.
Pollution control technology is already widely available, affordable, and in use at many plants nationwide. We cannot allow outdated technology to endanger lives and stifle the innovation, investment and productivity that new technologies offer. It is time for those older power plants that have failed to install this life-saving technology to catch up with the 33 percent that already comply with all of EPA’s emission limits, and with the 60 percent that already comply with EPA’s mercury limit.
Without these safeguards, the public would continue to shoulder the cost of dirty industries, with their health, their children’s health, and sometimes with their lives. These poisonous emissions lead to more than 17,000 premature deaths every year, and they compromise our children’s brain development. But with clear and effective Clean Air Act rules, we see tremendous benefits: cleaner air, healthier and more productive citizens, and the creation of thousands of good-paying clean jobs. Skilled laborers are standing ready to fill the 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term utility jobs that the Utility Air Toxics Rule will create. This is about five times more jobs than the controversial Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline would employ. And unlike the pipeline, these clean air improvements do not gamble with the public’s health and our environment.
For the hundreds of thousands of Americans suffering from heart attacks, bronchitis, asthma attacks and even worse, the EPA must act now to implement the Utility Air Toxics Rule. We have the opportunity to create thousands of jobs that will make this nation safer and cleaner. I look forward to fewer poisonous power plant emissions drifting over us to settle in Vermont’s backyards.
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Press ContactDavid Carle: 202-224-3693
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