Inhofe Seeks to Throw Mercury Protections Overboard

Late last week, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) introduced S.J. Res. 37 – a congressional resolution seeking to disapprove and throw out the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new air pollution standards that limit mercury and air toxics from power plant smokestacks. If the resolution were to pass, it would prevent the new rules from going into effect and block EPA from issuing any type of replacement rules. The end result would be that coal-burning power plants continue to spew harmful mercury, arsenic, and other toxic pollutants without any national limit.

Each year EPA’s new air toxic pollution rules will protect wildlife and prevent 11,000 thousand premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 cases of childhood asthma and 6,300 cases of acute bronchitis. And it will prevent mercury exposure to children that can adversely affect their developing brains – including effect on their ability to walk, talk, read and learn.

Mercury-laden Fish in Oklahoma Lakes

Interestingly, Senator Inhofe’s homepage features a nice picture of Lake Hefner, Oklahoma.  Not advertised by the Senator’s website is that in July of 2010, a study by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (OK DEQ) found 16 lakes in Oklahoma where some species of fish contain levels of mercury above what is considered safe. As a result, the state governmental agency published its statewide fish consumption advisories to protect Oklahomans from consuming too much mercury –laden fish caught by anglers from the state’s lakes.

An Oklahoma DEQ Slide Show on Mercury provides this advisory:

Mercury Levels in Largemouth Bass Are a Problem Image
Oklahoma Statewide Consumption Advisory for Mercury. In order to protect the most sensitive populations, pregnant or nursing women, women of childbearing age and children younger than 15 years of age are advised to eat no more than one meal per week of predator fish.Predator species of fish in Oklahoma include all species of black bass (largemouth, smallmouth and spotted), striped bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, walleye, saugeye, and flathead catfish.

As NWF’s Game Changers report has catalogued, the species of concern listed in Oklahoma are iconic to many sportsmen and women across the country and it is why over hundreds of hunter and angler groups from across the country have to written Congress to stop attacks on the Clean Air Act like Senator Inhofe’s new resolution.

Sen. Inhofe Siding with Polluter Money

So why does Senator Inhofe want to allow power plants to spew mercury and toxins into the air without national limits? Like many in Congress, he is choosing to side with polluter money instead of the public.

Oklahoma is home to five coal fired power plants that each generated over 400 MW of power. One such power plant, the Northeastern Plant, is owned by American Electric Power (AEP). In 2010, a report benchmarking power plant air pollution (see page 34) found AEP power plants to be the largest collective source of mercury air pollution among all the nation’s largest utilities.

Between 1998 and 2011, AEP spent over $10M lobbying Congress, including plenty over the last year, to rollback air pollution standards like EPA’s new mercury and air toxic limits.  For his part, Senator Inhofe has received nearly half-million dollars from electric utility industries in campaign contributions (including some from AEP) during his career including a whopping $280K this election cycle.

Stand Up for Limits on Air Pollution

You can help NWF stop this “pay for pollution” game. Tell Congress that you support EPA’s new mercury limits and you want to protect the air we breathe.

Take ActionJoin thousands of NWF supporters in taking action to stop mercury and carbon pollution from power plants smokestacks that harms our nation’s wildlife — from fish to moose to polar bears.