June 27, 2012

Mercury protections withstand repeal attempt

The Senate rejected another attempt to block vitally important public health safeguards. Forty-eight Democratic Senators and 5 Republican colleagues voted against Senator Jim Inhofe's (R-OK) Congressional Review Act resolution, S.J. Res 37, which would have blocked the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard. Forty-one Republicans and 5 Democrats voted for it to stop the mercury protections.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, or MATS, was finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency in December 2011. It would require steep reductions of mercury, lead, arsenic, and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants, the largest domestic source of mercury emissions in the United States. These plants spew 53,510 pounds of mercury into the air each year. Mercury and other airborne toxics are linked to birth defects, brain damage, learning disabilities, cancer, and other serious ailments.

The 46 Senators who voted in favor of blocking these important health protections received over $12.5 million in direct campaign donations from the coal and utility industries throughout their congressional careers. The senators who voted against the resolution received just $4 million, according to Center for Responsive Politics data.

Senators who opposed mercury safeguards received an average of $273,500 in contributions, while supporters of protections received an average of $83,000 from the polluting companies.  In other words, Senators who wanted to block clean air standards received over $3 in campaign cash for every $1 received by supporters.  These contributions don't include any donations to Super PACs that support them.

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