Saturday June 23, 2012

Environmental victories are increasingly rare in Washington, so one that took place this week that largely went under the radar should be celebrated. New Environmental Protection Agency regulations to control emissions and other toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants survived a Senate effort to overturn them even though there is no real argument to be made against regulation of these pollutants.

The Clean Air Act is now 42 years old, and has survived various challenges by those who claim it hurts the economy and costs jobs. That the economy has grown 200 percent and pollutants have dropped 60 percent over the past 42 years puts the lie to these claims, although they were resurrected by Senate Republicans this week in opposition to the tough national standards to control power plant emissions of mercury, arsenic, nickel and other pollutants. Because these pollutants contribute to asthma and bronchitis, the rules will help reduce health care costs.

Independent Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont, the chairman of the Senate Green Jobs Subcommittee, made a good case that the new regulations will actually create jobs, pointing to a utility that created 1,385 jobs retrofitting one coal-burning power plant to meet the new EPA rules. Creating clean energy jobs while cleaning the air are powerful arguments in favor of the new EPA regulations. "Thank you very much, we do not want to see more asthma in Vermont or in other states [like Mas sachusetts] that are downwind," said Sena tor Sanders before the vote.


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The effort to overturn the regulations was defeated by a 53-46 vote, with both Massachusetts Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown opposed to the measure. Senator Brown was one of only five Republicans who voted against this anti-clean air initiative. Our environment survived a challenge, but there will be more.