A big Senate vote this week will determine the fate of mercury safeguards that continue to garner overwhelming support from Americans nationwide. This past weekend the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously passed a resolution (PDF) supporting the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) mercury pollution standards. This comes on the heels of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's letter to the EPA, signed by 91 of his fellow mayors, in support of these critical public health protections.
Millions of Americans believe EPA is doing the right thing in requiring that coal companies clean up their act when it comes to mercury pollution. This week, supermodel and super mom Elle Macpherson joined us with a column on CNN.com about the importance of these public health safeguards in protecting our children.
But now, as expected, pro-coal legislators are taking the fight to Congress. This week Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) is introducing a Congressional Review Act (CRA) - S.J. Res. 37 - to block these mercury standards. A vote is expected Wednesday.
These long overdue safeguards are poised to protect millions of Americans - particularly pregnant women and young children - from dangerous air pollutants like mercury, arsenic, cyanide, nickel and acid gases. These are practical, cost-effective standards that will improve our air quality and have enormous public health benefits.
In contrast, Inhofe's proposal uses an obscure procedure aimed at sidestepping Congress' traditional hearing, committee and debate processes. If Senator Inhofe's resolution were to pass, it would void the mercury pollution protections and potentially block the EPA from ever again regulating toxic air pollution from power plants.
Senator Inhofe is clearly more attached to his big coal donors than to the public health of Americans. He recently even named me and - believe it or not - my two-year-old daughter Hazel during a speech on the Senate floor about mercury, as he tried to marginalize those of us who are speaking out to protect our children's health. You can hear him talk about us at minute 17:55 of this clip from CSPAN.
Senator Inhofe goes on to talk about the Sierra Club's work to move beyond coal and to support EPA's mercury safeguards, about how we encourage people to bring their children and their asthma inhalers to public hearings to show the faces of coal pollution's health effects.
Yes, that is exactly what we do, because we want those who are affected to speak up - and they have been doing so by the hundreds of thousands. It's clear that Americans want these public health safeguards, which is why a record 800,000 people sent in comments to EPA supporting the mercury standard.