by Kelsey Staberg, Sierra Club Intern
On Friday, September 23rd, Representatives McCollum, Ellison and Walz stood up to the pro-polluter majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and voted against legislation that exposes Americans to toxic mercury, and creates detrimental health problems caused by smog and pollution for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans each year.
If signed into law, the TRAIN Act (H.R. 2401) will weaken the EPA’s ability to limit mercury and other air toxics from power plants, and would require an additional government committee to analyze the cumulative economic impacts these policies will have on the American people. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that implementing H.R. 2401 would result in net discretionary savings of $43 million over the 2012-2016 period. A large proportion of these financial costs will directly be imposed manufacturers and businesses, particularly energy intensive industries; but the impact on energy and fuel prices for consumers, employment opportunities, and the reliability of energy supply that are associated with the TRAIN Act remains unknown.
In addition to the financial burden the TRAIN Act will generate, there are a number of health burdens that will affect the general public. This Act rejects the EPA’s attempt to reduce coal as key energy source; the burning of which puts 25,300 lives at risk each year due to toxic air pollution. Smog, soot, and other air toxics have a pernicious affect on Americans suffering from heart disease, asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases. The EPA estimates that the Clean Air Act rules that inhibit the emissions of air toxics and pollutants will prevent 230,000 premature deaths by the year 2020, and dramatically reduce other medical expenses.
It’s both disappointing and outrageous that a majority in the U.S. House would vote for this bill, claiming that the costs of basic pollution protections that Minnesotans have relied on for 40 years are too high, but I’m relieved to know that three members of our Minnesota delegation recognize that a healthy economy begins with healthy people. Allowing corporations to dump toxic pollution into the air we breathe will not lead to economic recovery. I commend President Obama for his vow to veto this bill, and urge Senators Klobuchar and Franken to also reject the House’s most dangerous attack on the Clean Air Act since the law was enacted.