Support clean air standards

by Valerie Skinner — Environmental Task Force leader, MPIRG

Large power companies and their lobbyists told us that our lights would go out if the Environmental Protection Agency placed common sense restrictions on power plant emissions. These plants spew mercury as well as lead, arsenic, acidic gas and other toxic chemicals into our air.
Clearly, there is a logical flaw somewhere when Americans think they have to choose between air that wonâÄôt kill you and living without functioning lights. Fortunately for us, President Barack Obama and the EPA didnâÄôt believe the power companies and moved forward with stronger legislation to limit mercury emissions by 90 percent. Thanks to his decision, weâÄôll all breathe cleaner air and eat safer food. And, as an added bonus, our lights are still on.
When power plants burn coal to produce electricity, they release the powerful neurotoxin mercury into the atmosphere. Not surprisingly, this causes health and developmental issues, especially in children and pregnant women. Even in small amounts, these pollutants can cause cancer, heart disease, brain damage, birth defects and death.
Each year, these clean air standards could prevent 4,700 heart attacks, up to 130,000 asthma attacks and 3,100 emergency room visits âÄî and save up to 11,000 lives.
If you still need more reasons to support these rulings, by 2016 the health benefits are estimated to be between $37 billion to $90 billion. This translates to $3 to $9 in health benefits for every dollar we spend on reducing pollution. On top of that, this legislation will also create thousands of new jobs in developing, constructing and maintaining new power plant technology.
Minnesota Public Interest Research Group applauds the EPA for standing its ground and protecting our right to breathe clean air. We also applaud Obama for valuing health and safety over industry profits, and call for our state SenatorsâÄô continued support of the Clean Air Act.