Capps Amendment to H.R. 2584: Protecting Our Children's Health from Deadly Toxic Air Pollution

Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) is offering an amendment to the House EPA-Interior spending bill that protects our children’s health from dangerous mercury pollution.  Please call your Representative at 1- 877-573-7693 and tell him or her to vote “YES” on the Capps amendment to H.R. 2584, the House appropriations bill for EPA and the Interior Department.

I’m not the first to comment on the horrendous EPA appropriations bill that would gut many of our nation’s health and environmental protections.  Nonetheless, it’s worth singling out one especially irresponsible and lethal assault on American's health and our air quality: an amendment by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) that was tacked onto the EPA  appropriations bill in subcommittee to block life-saving EPA standards to cut mercury and toxic air pollution from dirty power plants.

Among other things, the Lummis amendment would weaken the Clean Air Act by blocking forthcoming protections to sharply cut mercury and toxic air pollution like arsenic and lead from power plants that burn coal and oil.  

Power plants are far and away the single largest industrial source [.pdf] of mercury, arsenic, and acid gas pollution in the United States.  Mercury is a dangerous brain poison that especially harms the development and learning abilities of children and the unborn.  This Lummis amendment would wreak years of deadly delay by preventing the clean-up of over eighty toxic air pollutants emitted by power plants.  EPA determined over a decade ago that clean-up standards were necessary to protect the American public, and the Lummis amendment would only extend this already years-long delay.

Blocking EPA’s proposed Mercury and Air Toxics standards for power plants by even two additional years would mean:

  • up to 34,000 premature deaths;
  • 22,000 heart attacks;
  • 240,000 more asthma attacks; and
  • 24,400 more hospital and emergency room visits.

These numbers only assume a two year delay of EPA’s life-saving rule.  The reality is that the Lummis amendment in fact authorizes an indefinite delay of these protections, potentially sending mortality numbers from this amendment alone into the hundreds of thousands.

But today, Congress has the opportunity to support our families and protect our children’s health.  The Capps Amendment to H.R. 2584 would strike the Lummis amendment's attempt to block and delay the Mercury and Air Toxics standards for power plants.  In doing so, the Capps amendment would save thousands of lives from the dangers of mercury and other toxic air pollution.

It is no surprise that the American people favor reducing mercury and air toxics from power plants.  In testimony [.pdf] to Congress yesterday, EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe noted that “since March, [the EPA has] received over 800,000 comments from across the country in support of regulating mercury emissions from power plants.”

As I noted above, the appropriations process thus far has been a parade of horribles.  Some of our nation’s elected representatives are cavalierly trading our nation’s health and environmental protections in favor of a free pass for big polluters. 

The Capps amendment is one of the bright spots in this process.  It provides an opportunity for members of Congress to protect the American people from the dangers of toxic air pollution. 

The American people support cleaning up mercury and toxic air pollution from power plants. House members should support the Capps amendment to ensure Americans will gain the benefits from these lifesaving protections that we all deserve.

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