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Senate votes in favor of clean air protections
June 20th, 2012
01:40 PM ET

Senate votes in favor of clean air protections

Senate Joint Resolution 37, the Senate bill that would overturn the Environmental Protection Agency's controversial Mercury and Air Toxics Standards or MATS, was voted down Wednesday by a margin of 46 to 53.

Introduced by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) in February, the resolution was a challenge to the country's first national protections rule designed to limit the amount of heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and other toxic air pollutants released by power plants that burn coal and oil - toxins many suspect cause cancer and other health problems.

But Inhofe said the bill was specifically designed to kill the coal industry and the good paying jobs it provides. He led the charge to repeal the protections and vowed to keep fighting what he called the Obama administration's "damaging regulatory regime."
"Our momentum continues to build, as a growing chorus is rising up against the Obama-EPA's radical green agenda," Inhofe said. "Whether it's EPA regulations hurting farmers, a 'crucify them' philosophy against American energy producers, or an admission from EPA officials that their rules, designed to kill coal will be 'painful every step of the way,' this much is clear: EPA is earning a reputation for abuse. During the course of this debate, we exposed the economic pain of EPA's rules, gaining the strong bipartisan support of business groups and labor unions, of Democrats and Republicans from states that will feel the heavy hand of the federal government as it puts them out of business."

But John Walke, clean air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, was encouraged by Wednesday's vote.

“Today's bipartisan Senate vote is a victory for health, clean air and common sense,” said Walke. “Despite fear mongering by the coal industry, some utilities and their allies, the Senate has rejected an irresponsible effort to repeal mercury and air toxics protections that are backed by science and required by law. The House Republican Leadership should take note and cease its efforts to undermine the Clean Air Act - efforts the public does not support.”

According to the EPA, power plants are the biggest source of toxic releases into the air, including 50% of mercury emissions and 77% of acid gas emissions. When that mercury reaches water it changes into a highly toxic form of methylmercury. This builds up in fish, and those eating that contaminated fish are exposed. The agency says exposure to methylmercury is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, unborn babies and young children.

Existing plants will have four years to comply with MATS. The EPA estimates about 1,400 units will be affected - 1,100 coal-fired units and 300 oil fired units at approximately 600 power plants. They say many of these plants already meet some part of the standards.

In the House, a vote on a bill that would rewrite smog standards is expected this week.


soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Charlotte

    If Inhofe and his ilk had their way, Upper Big Branch and Deepwater Horizon would be everyday occurrences.

    June 20, 2012 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • regis990

      It's true...just ask anybody here in Oklahoma about Inhofe and the Tar Creek clean up.

      June 20, 2012 at 17:12 | Report abuse |
    • purnellmeagrejr

      It's amazing; isn't it? Wy in the world are they called conservatives when all they want to conserve is their place at the top of the dungheap.

      June 21, 2012 at 14:26 | Report abuse |
    • purnellmeagrejr

      Whty aren't the Lemmming Republicans callling this, "Obama AIR?"

      June 21, 2012 at 14:47 | Report abuse |
  2. WB

    Republicans are really trying to turn back the clock on environmental emission standards? Really? How far back in time do they really want to go? We know they want to go back before a woman's right to choose. They seem like they'd be okay with going back to before the Civil Rights Act. Do they want to go back to slavery days? Do they want to go back to when everyone thought the world was flat?

    Seriously, people. What are these Republicans trying to do to our world?

    June 20, 2012 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Natalie

      Voting GOP is voting for ignorance....pure and simple. Wake up, people!

      June 20, 2012 at 17:04 | Report abuse |
  3. JustAO

    Here we go again Republicans. What do you have to offer Americans? Every credible analyst, expert, and economist says that Republican ideas do not improve or enhance America's socio-economic standing in the world. So why do we keep Republicans in our government creating our laws?

    Republicans forever think that protecting powerful corporate interests and the wealthy at the expense of everyone else relates to prosperity for everyone. When has that EVER happened in history?

    June 20, 2012 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Bill ONeill

    More job killing higher energy cost regulations from Obama and company. It's no wonder the economy is so stagnant.

    June 20, 2012 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AshburnResident

      Can you provide some substantial evidence on how many jobs are lost because of these specific clean air regulations? And how many companies went bankrupt while implementing the clean air regulations?

      June 20, 2012 at 14:41 | Report abuse |
    • Linda

      Please, the Republicans have been using that same old line for decades. Show us the facts. And, show us the facts the GOPs are doing anything jobs creations. If the GOP is so interested in jobs, why is your man Romney such a job killer and your man Trump loves to say "You're Fired."

      June 20, 2012 at 15:40 | Report abuse |
    • Eddie the Barber

      Bill – you make a good point. But the way I see it, you could either have it surgically removed from your head – OR – you could just wear a hat and shut you mouth and maybe no one will notice.

      June 20, 2012 at 15:56 | Report abuse |
    • TedJ

      Hollow, old rhetoric. Coal Kills. Mercury kills. Lakes are poisoned for literally generations. Shameful tragedy

      June 20, 2012 at 16:00 | Report abuse |
    • John P

      People like you are dangerous; not to mention extrememly light in the head.

      June 20, 2012 at 17:07 | Report abuse |
    • purnellmeagrejr

      You speak from darkest ignorance – probably radio inflicted. Nothng President Obama has done has hurt you in the slightest way; like so many chronic whiners it's always about something if not unreal, then is at least, abstract. I consider your post similar to something I post when I get annnoyed at the baloney so many tosss at Presdent Obama

      Casualties on American Soil due to Islamic terrorism during Bush 1 term approx 5,000
      Casualties on American Soil due to Islamic terrorism during Obama 1 term approx 17

      I I admit there's a bit of sophistry in the post, but hey, it's not every day that one gets the opportunity to engage in some sophistry. Fact is, President PObama is doing a goood job gettting the country through would could be catastropic time.

      June 21, 2012 at 14:35 | Report abuse |
    • WhatNow

      You got that wrong, it's not the economy that's stagnant it's the water and air. Let me guess, you are pro-life, but not for actual living people. You people should just get a bumper sticker that says "Profit before People".

      June 21, 2012 at 15:15 | Report abuse |
    • Coal Miner's Wife

      Doesn't effect jobs? Really????
      Tell that to the 750 men who lost their jobs the past few days. Doesn't effect jobs? How about the estimated 50,000 coal miners who will be losing their jobs before September. REALLY???

      June 22, 2012 at 16:55 | Report abuse |
  5. r

    Republicans = Taliban

    June 20, 2012 at 14:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. patNY

    Inhofe should be tried for treason! Of course he doesn't care if all this stuff gets put back into the air, because prevailing wind patterns blow it all East, mostly NE, i.e., those darn liberal blue states he wants to drown in acid rain.

    June 20, 2012 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. j

    The irony. Fight against these horrible environmental laws, enacted by a super liberal president – Richard Nixon – and supported whole heartedly by EVERY president thereafter until GWB.

    June 20, 2012 at 14:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. a

    Inhofe has never found an environmental bill he could support. He believes science is witchcraft. The loon has been on a never ending crusade to gut the EPA since elected to the Senate.

    We all pray for the day he will crawl under a rock and never be heard from again.

    June 20, 2012 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Eddie the Barber

    It's pretty clear right? Who's for the little guy walking down the street under the smoke stack and who's trying to protect him? Why is it that so many people don't get it? Inhofe and Romney and the Republicans want everything deregulated so that big business and industries can have their way.

    Inhofe and Romney and the like should be made to drink an 8 ounce glass of mercury and then have their mouths ducktaped to the exhaust pipe of a running semi-truck for 5 minutes and I bet they'll change their minds about deregulation of the clean water and clean air acts. I've got the duck tape if someone can supply the mercury.

    June 20, 2012 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John P

      Yes, why not just go back to the Mad Hatter days?

      June 20, 2012 at 17:09 | Report abuse |
  10. TedJ

    Still disappointing that so many short-sighted voted FOR this bill.

    June 20, 2012 at 15:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. chill

    That's the GOP for you. They are all about protecting the unborn until it interferes with a power company's profits. The power industry has gotten away with dumping for decades with one subterfuge after another. You want to burn coal or oil, then pay the WHOLE price and put in the scrubbers to remove these poisons.

    June 20, 2012 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Lando

    I bet you, this guy Inhope would not even build a house or drink water in a coal infested enrironment. A typical "dont care"
    Repubiban..

    June 20, 2012 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Greater Good

    Republicans should be forced to live in a hot room full of smoke and sludge for a year...and THEN let's watch them argue that it has no discernable health impact on humans.

    June 20, 2012 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Friend of Coal

    I'm for coal and natural gas, I like having electricity!!! ;)

    June 20, 2012 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • The Real Tom Paine

      That's nice. Can we drill and dig for them both in your backyard, then? Let's see your property values plummet, and then ask you if you still love electricity generated with a 19th-century technology, ok?

      June 20, 2012 at 16:53 | Report abuse |
  15. Gregor the Terror

    This speaks more to me about my rights end at your doorstep. No utility has the right to pollute the air or water that we consume. It's as simple as that. If I wanted to install a smokestack in my backyard that emitted this stuff, could I get a permit? Should I be allowed to? No, my right to do what I want to do ends on my property line and anything; air, water, noise, etc. that intrudes outside of that is not within my right.

    June 20, 2012 at 18:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Proud American

    You bunch of tree hugging, pot smoking liberals are whats killing this country. Just wait and see what happens to this economy with 4 more years of your man in the White House!!! You bunch of wellfare loosers dont even care what the price of electricity goes to since the government pays your bills anyway while you sleep warm and cozy and the rest of us get out in the cold and work to keep your sorry asses warm!!!!!

    June 20, 2012 at 22:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sara

      You're an idiot. I bet you live in a gated community and make your money off of destroying the environment in some way, shape, or form. Or you make your money off of pharmaceutical drugs or cancer treatments. Wonder which it is? The fact that you think the only people that voted for Obama are on welfare is hilarious. Shows your ignorance. The Dems are nowhere near perfect and yes their are certainly problems with welfare that need fixing but the GOP's deregulate policies are why we are in this mess to begin with. And if by chance you are middle class and support GOP you are an even bigger idiot cause your screwing yourself.

      June 21, 2012 at 08:44 | Report abuse |
    • WhatNow

      Actually, all the people I know who support the environment are educated and employed.

      June 21, 2012 at 15:27 | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      Hey, Im a pot smoking, job creating, republican. Pot is the only thing that lets me deal with all the job killing regualtions i deal with on a daily basis.

      July 11, 2012 at 22:04 | Report abuse |
  17. jdun

    Simple question- Why should any corporation have the right to pollute the air we breath and water we drink? Jobs? Profit? Think about it, the right to pollute. Today there are all kinds of ways to reduce pollution from these smokestacks, but they cost money to put in place which may cut corporate profits. Reminds me of GM in the 60's fighting against seat belts because it hurt profits. How many lives could have been saved? 30 years from now we won't believe we had this argument about saving the environment.

    June 21, 2012 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Gaetr1118

    ok kids lets think this one over ..... If we pollute the air we breath and destroy the land we live on what happens to us .... If every one dies how much can these companies profit?

    June 21, 2012 at 20:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. larry5

    It's interesting to see what the liberals do when confronted with someone that disagrees with them. They resort to name calling and character assignation. They see how well it works withing the Obama administration and just repeat the process. At least this kind of talk helps to identify a liberal and shows his character. It's no wonder they side with the EPA. The EPA is about control and agenda and has little if anything to do with serving the people of America. They fined a neighbor for clearing brush at the request of the local fire department that saved his home and then fined him again when he cleaned up the debris left behind as the fire moved through our neighborhood. The mess had to be cleaned up because it was required by the county permit process to rebuild and that had to be started within 1 calendar year to collect on the homeowner's insurance. He was turned over to collection before the first hearing. The EPA is out of control and must be stopped.

    June 23, 2012 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. nyx cosmetics

    Many thanks for this particular site, valuable piece of writing. I actually loved reading it and will definitely talk about it with everyone.

    June 24, 2012 at 22:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Ed

    i hope this means the United Mine Workers will support Mitt Romney. Or do big unions just blindly follow their supreme leader even if he is taking thier jobs away forever?

    July 11, 2012 at 22:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. DaleinIL

    One has to be several kinds of dumb to want to deregulate industry and bring back pollution. No one remembers the the river that caught fire(Cuyahoga?), things like massive dumps of horribly hazardous waste(love canal), fish kills, dies forests from acid rain etc, etc, etc?

    Willfully dumb is no way to go through life.

    July 15, 2012 at 06:28 | Report abuse | Reply
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